While I was reading up on alternative worship, I happened to run across the following. It hit home for me….
In his book Dining with the Devil, Os Guiness writes of an alarming observation made by a Japanese businessman: “Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager.”…
As CEO pastors, we are taught to lead the church as we would a corporation. We sit behind desks in our offices writing out vision and mission statements and lists of our church’s top ten values. We form management teams and executive steering teams. We run our churches efficiently like we would run a company, with cell phones on our belts and Palm Pilots in hand, walking with a purposeful CEO gait. –Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations (Zondervan, 2003) pp. 238-239.
Administration is central to who I am as a minister, so this caused me to ask myself some questions about what it means to be a manager-minister. I didn’t come up with any answers, but my questions reminded me of a talk Barbara Merritt gave in June, 2004. Merritt, the senior minister at First Unitarian in Worcester, Massachusetts, addressed the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalist ministers, asking us:
I am wondering, “Does being a religious leader work for you? Does it work for me? When you imagine religious leadership, what role does grace play? What is it that you control?”
That is the subject I wish to consider with you today. Is being a strong minister, or a responsive leader, or an entertaining religious leader enough? I don’t mean, “Is the ministry a satisfying profession?” or, “Does it pay your electric bills?” or, “Is it an honorable way to make a living?” I am not asking whether the liberal ministry is an effective or helpful agency of change in people’s lives, or to the larger community. (My answer to all those questions is “Yes.”)
What I mean by my question is: Does our ministry work as a spiritual practice?…Is the exercise of religious leadership a spiritual practice that is taking you where your heart and mind want to go?…
Merritt takes her questions off in a somewhat different direction than I want to go. But now I want to know what it is that manger-ministers are trying to control. I also want to know if we manager-ministers are exercising our leadership so that we are going where our hearts and minds want to go. And I would like to know why Christian and post-Christian leaders look more like corporate executives than holy people.
I’d love to know what you think. If you’re a minister, are you more likely to be mistaken for a corporate executive, or for a holy person? If you’re a member of a congregation, what about your minister(s) — corporate execs or holy people? If you don’t do organized religion right now, would you be more likely to join a religious institution that has a manager-leader, or a holy-person-leader?