Jesus, C.E.O.?

By: James Flynn
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus chose the words “salt” to describe His disciples.  Salt was used in Bible days to preserve food much like refrigeration does for us today.  But what happens when the refrigerator breaks or the salt “loses its savor.”  When refrigerators cease to cool and salt ceases to preserve or flavor, both become useless.  So it is with our Christian world.  When Christian churches, values, or culture become indistinguishable from the worlds culture and values, it is a sign that the salt is losing its savor.  I believe that is becoming true in the world of Christian leadership theory and practice.

God has a habit of reintroducing forgotten truth to His people.  One of the recent examples has been God’s reintroduction of the idea of leadership and leadership training as central to Christian ministry.  Starting in the 1990s, there was a growing emphasis placed on leadership, its theory, and its practice in ministry.  It is no coincidence that this mirrors the time when corporate America began to recognize the importance of leadership in business and secular culture.  One can see the proliferation of leadership books in the corporate world and in ministry during this time.  I remember reading a book called “Jesus, C.E.O” by Laurie Beth Jones in the mid-1990s.  At first, the title intrigued me.  Certainly there were lessons we can take away from seeing Jesus in ministry as a stellar leader.  At the same time there was also something a bit unsettling with the association of our precious savior with the title “C.E.O.”

Don’t get me wrong – I cut my pastoral teeth on leadership training and teach leadership in the School of Divinity here at Regent University.  I direct the Doctor of Ministry program in Leadership and Renewal.  I love this stuff, my concern is the subtle pride that has crept in under the guise of leadership training and infected many ministry leaders and their churches.  Like any disease, the infection has its symptoms.  Some of the symptoms that I see are an undue emphasis numbers and size as an indicator of success as well as the lavish lifestyles that seem to go with that “success.”  All of that is hard for me to reconcile with the values I see in the Scriptures. At the same time, an emphasis on “prosperity” and being ‘King’s kids” seems to have collided with the C.E.O. model of leadership to produce a mutant strain of leadership that no longer resembles the picture of Jesus I see in the Scriptures. Is it really  Jesus, C.E.O., or have we remade God in our image?

We have gleaned some wonderful results from the introduction of  leadership and leadership training to ministry, but the key is balance.  We tend to gravitate toward extremes in the Christian world as if it is all or nothing.  The church is both an organization and an organism – it must be viewed as both to prosper, and there is great danger if one or the other is overemphasized.  I was once exposed to a church where leadership training was the hallmark of its mission.  Everyone was trained to be a leader.  Everyone developed their own vision for their own ministry.  Then, when  everyone tried to recruit people in the church to follow their vision, there was no one left help, because they were too busy being leaders.  The church was “CEOed” to death within in short amount of time. It amounted to a bunch of mini-C.E.O types trying to assemble flowers to fulfill their vision.  The church’s focus quickly turned inward and it began to implode.  Could it be that it is most important to learn to be a leader by serving first, supporting the vision of another, and then once the character and heart of a servant has been formed, answer the calling to lead?

God made man in His image, but since that time, man has been remaking God in his image.  When we remake God in our own  image, the salt begins to lose its savor and becomes useless in doing its job..  Leader, it is time to get salty again.  It is time balance what we have learned about leadership with a healthy dose of humility and a servant’s heart.  The world doesn’t need another C.E.O. right now, but rather leaders that bleed for the lost and hurt to serve the needs of those around them.  Jesus, C.E.O.?  That is so 1990s..  Jesus, humble servant?  Now that’s a “salty” proposition!

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James Flynn
This entry was posted by on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Faith & Culture, Renewal Studies, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses to “Jesus, C.E.O.?”

  1. Enoch says:

    “The world doesn’t need another C.E.O. right now, but rather leaders that bleed for the lost and hurt to serve the needs of those around them.” Very well said, Dr. Flynn. Cannot agree more.


    • James Flynn James Flynn says:

      Thanks, Enoch.

      I guess my heart is bleeding for the lost sheep out there right now. They have been forsaken by the world in many cases and their hearts broken by disappointment. Isn;t it ironic that the church has the solution – God’s love and empathy. If we could get that right, what a wonder that would be – the world would flock to us. These people need shepherds with lots of love – we can never ignore the business aspects, but we have to get the pastoring part right first!

      • Enoch says:

        Dr. Flynn, Amen to that. May the Lord’s burden and cry for the lost world become ours as well.

  2. Joyce Ojiaku says:

    Your comment Dr. Flynn, “When we remake God in our own image, the salt begins to lose its savor and becomes useless in doing its job.” This is an outstanding comment!
    Remaking God in our own image = manipulation and pride. As leaders, we must meekly come before God and seek His forgiveness for the arrogance that has plagued us. We ought to search our hearts under the microscope of the Holy Spirit, recognizing and repenting of our stubbornness and superiority. We must become authentic about our failing and deal with them at the foot of the cross. Any leader with this way of life faces strangulation and no revival in the flock and his/her ministry; he’s unable to change and acclimatize to the changing needs of the ministry.

    • James Flynn James Flynn says:

      Your response represents a true pastor’s heart. I know your love for the sheep in pastoral ministry. I think that is at the heart of what I am feeling – need to love the sheep and be near to them – that is not the impression I get from the “C.E.O.” word picture. It seems “C.E.Os” have their place, but it is not in the pasture with the sheep!

  3. Antipas Harris Dr. A says:

    Jim, I LOVE IT!!!!!

    • James Flynn James Flynn says:

      Thank, Antipas.

      There seems to be such a thirst today in the land for relationship, because so many are from broken homes and thirst for meaning and intimacy. We have the answer for what they long for if we can just hear their cry and respond. They are skeptical of government and big business, but would love a shepherd or other sheep to hang out with. God help us if we are too spiritual to do that!