I saw a posting from the Resurgence, the online mouthpiece for Mars Hill (i.e. Mark Driscoll) a few days ago and wanted to wait until after Christmas to blog about it. The story caught my eye because of the title: An executive pastor calling. You might wonder what an executive pastor is (as opposed to a senior pastor, or a youth pastor, or any of the hundreds of extra-biblical offices we find in institutional churches). An executive pastor is usually someone with financial and/or business acumen who manages the money and operations of a "church". Usually a church has to be pretty big and pull in lots of money to warrant one. I actually applied for a position as an executive pastor back in the day, given my eagerness to be involved in ministry and my private sector business experience in financial services it seemed like a good fit. Alas they discovered from my questionnaire answers that I was a dreaded "Calvinist" and that my theology just wouldn't fit. I am glad in retrospect.
Anyway, the post in question is the story of Sutton Turner and includes the requisite story of how wealthy and successful he was until his conversion and calling as an executive pastor. Much to his chagrin it turns out that the church that hired him was in pretty shaky financial straits and needed someone to fix it. That is when we come to the money quote (emphasis mine):
I had to tell Pastor Joe that he would be up against a huge mess unless somebody made some changes very, very fast. I was completely shocked when Pastor Joe turned to me and said that I was the man for the job.
The financial bind that threatened my church wasn’t the result of any malicious activity or misappropriation. The guy in charge of operations simply didn’t know how to run a business.
Um. Yeah. Perhaps that is because the church was never intended to run like a business?
Whether unwittingly or not, Sutton Turner (who shockingly happens to have a new book out called Invest: You gifts for His mission, weird how that happens) reinforces what many of us have been saying for a long time, namely that the institutional church of organized religion operates more like a corporation than a family, less like a people of God than a people checking off a box on their religious checklist with as little inconvenience and discomfort as possible.
If the church treated money as it should, we wouldn't need "executive pastors" because we wouldn't be sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in our bank accounts, hundreds of thousands of staff and billions of dollars worth of real estate. We wouldn't have this racket where big name celebrity "pastors" endorse the books that they all seem to pump out on a regular basis that apparently are written by ghost writers a lot of the time or plagiarized (again note that Sutton is employed by Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll's "church" and Mark has come under some fire lately for, um, failing to properly cite the work of someone else). If we were doing the mission of Christ as His ambassadors our need for financial security in the church and ease of donation via mainly anonymous "Giving Buttons" on church websites would go away. We would not seem more concerned with perpetuating the system and keeping the lights on at our local church so that believers can "worship" in comfort than we are with seeing the lost come to know Christ.
Corporations can't operate like the church and the church can't operate like corporations. That should be self-evident. The sad reality that it is not to so many people says volumes about how far astray we have gone.