Saturday, August 30, 2014

Leadership Toolbox: The Problem with Church as business

Business is booming for church PR and HR firms on the West Coast of the USA.

Up North in Seattle the De Moss Group, the nation's largest Christian ministry PR firm has been hired by Mars Hill Church at great expense to turn the heat down on the Mark Driscoll cauldron of criticism. Whether his recent repentance and standing down is godly sorrow or PR  crisis management is not clear, but suffice to say that there are a significant number people close to the situation who are skeptical about the sincerity of the process. It's easy to see how biblical integrity in restoring  a famously gifted preacher could be undermined by a PR company wanting to save bucks, butts on seats and ultimately the brand. Business principles and biblical processes have seldom been comfortable bedfellows, have they?

Further down the West Coast here in Southern California, there are many Christians with stones of righteous anger in clenched fists, ready to pelt the much maligned preacher up North for being a cut throat business-minded bully posing as a preacher. But if it is him who is without sin who should cast the first stone perhaps we should unclench our fists and do some honest soul-searching. In the milder South, we might be more mild and refined, but church, especially big church, is no less big business.

What that means is that we have to produce a high quality ministry product which means that we need to attract high quality ministry personnel. This often means that we have no time to mentor, train and raise up a crop of indigenous leaders from the soil of our own churches. The height of irony in this regard was seeing a post by a Mega church in our city wanting to fill a post for a 'Pastor of Discipleship.'

I just don't know if Jesus is really okay with us outsourcing the making of disciples, do you?

Now before I come off as self-righteous, let me acknowledge that I am not on principle against PR firms or employing church staff from outside. Five years ago during a messy church law suit we did hire a PR firm to help us represent ourselves well. In a libel culture it was helpful to have their expertise. However, when conventional PR wisdom undermined Biblical counsel we allowed Scripture to have the final say, which to be honest, was at great personal cost to us. I can also hardly afford to be against 'ministry imports' from time to time,  since I was brought in from the outside to be a pastor in the church I now lead.

My beef is with a perceived reluctance within churches to do the hard yards of raising up indigenous leaders.
The fruit of this attitude seems three-fold:
a.They defer the hope of those within churches who feel a vocational ministry call, which makes many hearts grow sick.
b.They avoid the messy process of mentoring young leaders, looking for some fantasy ministry knight in shining armor to rush in and rescue them from their ministry deficiencies. Such a person does not really exist.
c.They tend to employ hired hands rather than true shepherds, who leave as quickly as they arrive if the job does not find their fantasy ministry niche'.  These people may be skilled, even gifted, but seldom carry the ministry DNA of the church and it's leaders, and their character is untested.

My appeal is two-fold:
a. Every church invest significant time into the messy privilege of mentoring and risking with indigenous leaders, especially younger leaders. We have found the Porterbrook Network to be a great in-house training resource for developing leaders. We would love to help you get your leaders engaged in this course.
b. As leaders, we would do well to come to grips with books like Paul Tripp's "Dangerous Calling" and John Piper's "Brothers, we are not professionals," that insist upon ministry as calling before profession.

Let's trust God to help us raise up sons and daughters from the soil of our churches.

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