Brothers, We Are Not CEO’s

John Piper released a book in 2002 entitled, Brothers we are not Professionals. The book was in response to an increasing trend of the professionalization of the pastorate that Pastor John observed as he looked out across the evangelical landscape. The hard hitting challenge was for pastors to live out their calling in the self-sacrificing, God-exalting manor in which the Bible speaks.

As I look out over the landscape of much of the modern black church, I am disheartened as I observe the increasing trend of Pastor as CEO; men who have seemingly traded the hard labor of the biblical office for the time-consuming, profit-focus of the boardroom.

I can’t be certain, but I suspect this growing trend may find it roots in what has been traditionally called the “social gospel.” The social gospel purports that the good news we as Christians are to proclaim is simply that Jesus has come for the purpose of improving communities, education, and other social constructs. This gospel, which is no gospel at all, has resonated within the African-American church for decades, as she has sought to deal with a history that is replete of social and racial injustice. Church leaders and churches in black communities inevitably address these social concerns because the people they minister to face these ills as their everyday reality. Much of these efforts are to be commended. These churches want to live out the implications of the gospel, namely a love for God and neighbor. There is a genuine desire to live out .

But somewhere along the line — and this always tends to happen — there was a leaning to, or perhaps more accurately an emphasis on, one side of the spectrum. And for much of the black church the drift was more toward the social side than the gospel side. That shift continues to have detrimental implications for the black church. The affect I would like to highlight in this post is this idea of “Pastor as CEO.”

As churches began to identify the needs of the community, they simultaneously developed programs that would best address those needs. Schools were started that addressed the lack of educational equality, food pantries and social activist groups began to form, giving people a voice that had for too long been silenced.

As one knows, with the development of organizations and other social programs comes the need for structure and oversight. Instead of that responsibility falling to qualified individuals within the congregation, these responsibilities fell to the one who had the most influence, the one who was the most vocal, the one who could command a room. It fell to the pastor. Pastors found themselves as deans of schools and as coalition chairs.

“Pastors found themselves as deans of schools…”

While African-Americans have come a long way, there are still a host of social inequalities within our communities.  Many black churches continue to see addressing varied inequalities as their primary responsibility. However, instead of building schools and seeking to fight social injustices with coalitions and such, we now see the building of fitness centers, credit unions, production studios and worldwide ministries. One could say that this is a result of a shift toward the prosperity gospel, and I would agree. But it could be argued that the prosperity gospel was birthed out of the social gospel, as African-Americans gained influence and rising income gave rise to a “we have arrived” type attitude.

Of course, the need for oversight and structure still exists and perhaps even more so within larger organizations/businesses. And who do these responsibilities fall to? The pastor. The pastor then becomes entangled in the affairs of these corporations and is pulled away from his primary calling, namely the shepherding of God’s people.

Rather than spend the rest of this post calling attention to the negative fruit this shift in the pastorate has produced, I want to encourage pastors to remember what the Bible has called them to. Truth be told, this post could easily be called, “Brothers we are not, athletes, rappers, maintenance men, or consultants…” All pastors face the temptation of neglecting the weighty tasks the Bible calls them to.

Faithful pastors should be devoting themselves to:

Shepherding God’s people | Pastors are to care for the sheep God has entrusted in their care; loving them, guiding them, praying for them, correcting, and encouraging them. Pastors are not the sheep’s employer, they are their shepherd (; ; ).

Studying the Word | Pastors are to give attention to studying the Word of God to show themselves approved. If the pastor does not have time to study the Word, then he doesn’t have time to be a pastor (; ; ; ). 

Preaching the Word | Pastors don’t just study the word for their own sanctification but so that they can stand before the people and proclaim what saith the Lord. A pastor must be a herald of the gospel, committed to preaching the whole counsel of God, for this is the means by which God builds his church. (; ; ; ).

There are many other things that pastors do: counsel, provide leadership and vision for the church, and develop leaders. But if the pastor is not committed to the tasks outlined above, perhaps he needs to reevaluate his calling.

Brothers, please note that this post is not an indictment against CEO’s.  Our country needs men and women who are both gifted in the areas of management and committed followers of Christ. We want men and women with biblical convictions in the boardrooms of corporate America. But we don’t need CEO’s in the pulpit. We need men who are committed to the Word of God and committed to shepherding His people, for that is what the Bible calls them to. Brothers we are not CEO’s. We are, by God’s grace, pastors.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (ESV)

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (ESV)

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (ESV)

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (ESV)

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (ESV)

27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (ESV)

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (ESV)

11 Command and teach these things. (ESV)

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (ESV)

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (ESV)

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV)

Philip Duncanson
Philip Duncanson serves as an elder at East Point Church in Atlanta. Holler at him on Twitter: @PBDuncs

C’mon Up!