We are in the third chapter of David Fitch’s provocative, if not accusatory, study called The Great Giveaway. This chapter deals with pastoral leadership and the thesis of this chapter is very simple, and it is one that should be given serious attention: too many evangelical churches have given away the biblical vision for a pastor by surrendering the biblical model of servant-leader to the “leader-public speaker-pastor-CEO” (74).
Fitch contends that the current fad of structuring the pastoral role as a CEO comes overtly from the business model (and he points his finger down the road from his own local church to Bill Hybels) because such Christian leaders think (to use Maxwell’s expression) “leadership is leadership” wherever it might be found. But, is it?, asks Fitch. Pastoral theologian, John Frye, thinks not, and I’ll post soon on his book Jesus the Pastor.
Fitch thinks the CEO model for pastoral leadership is modernist. [For Fitch, to label something as “modernity” is to bag it; I have my doubts.] And his point, which is important, is that too much of the CEO model is rooted in sociology’s desire to study data so as to predict outcomes, with the implication that leaders can control outcomes by techniques. This is potent stuff, in my estimation.
Because the CEO model focuses on success, character formation is subordinate to efficiency, success, and numerical growth.
Fitch’s best stuff here is a short section on “Leadership according to Scripture” in which he makes the stunning point that Jesus overtly, and not just one time, made it clear that leadership among his followers was not to be a transfer of power structures from the reigning cultural drama but instead of a completely new order: the order of servanthood. (And Fitch makes it clear that “servanthood” is not yet another model for effectiveness — servanthood is an end, not a means.) “Jesus instructs the church to resist modeling its own leadership in any way on the secular notions of leadership that exist outside the church” (81).
Pastors need to re-shape their image of what it means to be a leader and it begins, Fitch contends, in seminary training and pastoral training (not all pastors are trained in seminaries these days).
So he makes suggestions:
1. Reinvigorate ordination into service of Christ’s Church (rogue ordinations)
2. Seminaries need to be places for spiritual formation
3. Form confessional groups for pastors
4. Nurture emerging leaders and bi-vocational clergy
5. Establish multiple leadership
6. Grow authentic leaders
My criticism of this chapter is this: I doubt Fitch even needs the “modernity” wedge to hammer into his argument. All he needs is this: we are attracted today to the CEO model; Jesus taught that leadership was not derived from cultural, power structures but from servanthood; that is what we need to be about. The modernity wedge he uses falls flat for me. The CEO model is driven by power, pride and success; the “lordship” models of the Romans and the Gentiles, at which Jesus pointed his finger, was driven by pride and power. The issue is pride and power, not modernity. Not that it doesn’t have its own role to play in our current configuration, but Fitch has a tendency to label something “modernity” and be done with it for that reason. I think each culture has its good and its bad; “modernity” is no better nor worse than “postmodernity.”
My second criticism is that I think he overplays the “servant” model, for there are other terms used for pastors, and some of them are freighted with authority and leadership — like “bishop” and “elder” and “pastor.” Some balance, not really against his major notions, would be gained by exploring NT leadership through other terms.