Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11: (NIV) “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

2 Timothy 2:23 - 25 (NIV) - 23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"The Emperor's New Clothes", aka, "Senior Pastor Syndrome"

The blogger "Junkster" posted a hyperlink here on this blog to an article entitled "Senior Pastor Syndrome", written by a blogger who goes by "Prodigal John", and writes an insightful blog entitled "Stuff Christians Like".

I thought the "Senior Pastor Syndrome" article was so relevant to issues I blog about, that I contacted Prodigal John to ask him if I can post his article here in its entirety, and he agreed. In this article PJ discusses how Senior Pastors can catch "CEO Disease".

Symptoms of this disease? A pastor who is "untouchable", who surrounds himself with "yes men", has a "board of trustees" that he selects and who alone hold the power to call for his dismissal, who has ministers on staff that tell the congregation that to criticize "Pastor" is to criticize Jesus Christ, whose sermons are nauseatingly hypocritical and self-serving, who preaches sermons about himself and how great he is and how persecuted he is at the same time, who behaves like a boor and a bully in the pulpit week after week and its obvious he can't see it, and obvious that no one dares tell him - and who can't even preach a sermon on God's love without getting ticked off at the congregation - these might be symptoms that a pastor has "CEO Disease".

And check out my comments below at the end of PJ's article.
Here's is "Prodigal John"'s article:


I write advertising for a living. One of the things you do when this is your job is send everything you write to lawyers for a legal review. This is not my favorite part of what I do. As you can imagine from reading this site, sometimes lawyers beat my words like they are a pinata overstuffed with sarcasm and mildly amusing wit.

Once, at a company outside of Boston, I sent our head lawyer a ten page document containing thousands of words for a new branding campaign. A few days later, I got an email. Here is the entire message he sent me:


I wanted to write something equally rude back. I wanted to say, "Ohhhh is it already 'one word Wednesday?' I want to play! I want to play! OK, how about I respond with 'WHY?'" Or I wanted to say, "Whoa, enough of that legal jargon. Can you please explain things in terms I will understand? Can you please simplify your thoughts?

But I couldn't say anything but "thanks for the feedback" because this guy was untouchable. He was roommates in college with the guy that started the company I worked at and so he got to do what he wanted in any way he saw fit. (By the way, if you wear a bow tie to work, like this guy, you should be jolly and happy. Jerks should not be allowed to wear whimsical bow ties. That makes no sense.)

I was admittedly angry at first, but then I realized that I should feel bad for him. Because of his status, he was not living in the real world. He was suffering from what they call "CEO disease." People wouldn't tell him the truth. People only told him what he wanted to hear. Like the emperor in the fable, "the emperor's clothes," no one was honest with him. He was insulated in this fake world where his actions and words were not challenged at all. So he had grown foolish and disconnected over the years. The scary thing is that this happens to Senior Pastors too.

I wish this wasn't true. I wish this was just me flossing about an idea not a real issue, but I think it's true. Somewhere along the way, as a church grows, members can often move from respect to inappropriate levels of reverence for their minister. They stop challenging the messages. Stop questioning the decisions. And you don't have to look very hard to see examples.

One massive minister was caught in an affair a few months ago. In his initial attempts to defend his innocence, he answered questions about why he often got a hotel room by himself in the city he was from. He said that he used the hotel rooms to write his books in, that's all. What? Are you kidding me? His wife, his staff, his accountability partners, the people in his life that cared about him, never questioned that behavior? If I ever told my wife that I was getting a hotel room in downtown Atlanta for the weekend so I could get some quiet writing done, she would laugh out loud and tell me to go to Starbucks for a few hours. And then she would laugh some more, just muttering to herself and shaking her head, "ha, hotel room in Atlanta. Ha."

Another minister in my neck of the woods was given a Rolls Royce as a gift by his church. I'm not even sure where to start with this one. I admit, I prefer to sit on baby seal skin leather seats and I like the dashboard of my car to be virginal cherry wood from a small cove on the coast of Portugal, but that just how I do things.

How does it happen? How does Senior Pastor Syndrome sneak in? I think it starts in marriage. Growing up, a lot of the marriages I witnessed at church and at friends' houses had some pretty clearly defined roles. The husband was the hero. The wife was the cheerleader. His role was to be super awesome. Her role was to tell him he was super awesome. I can laugh about that now, but for a few years that really damaged my own marriage.

The first time my wife tried to criticize me, out of love, inside I thought, "What? What is she doing? I'm the hero! The cheerleader doesn't criticize me." It took a while for us to tear down these harmful roles and have a real relationship.

If you're a pastor, this is a good time to do a reality check. Are you getting critical, loving feedback? Or are you driving a Rolls Royce right now because you are so super awesome? And husbands, does your wife have the freedom to tell you the truth?

Mine does now, most of the time. We're admittedly a work in progress. Yesterday, after I read her my "dear dads" post I wanted to put on this site, she told me it was no good. And she was right. It wasn't. So I didn't post it. But that was the truth and though I fail at that often, that's where I want to live.
While both CEO's and "Senior Pastors" might suffer from "CEO disease", I believe it has to be MORESO a problem with Senior Pastors, especially of the SBC mega churches than it is with corporate CEOs. This is because CEO's actually report to a Chairman, and they are accountable to an independent board of directors or trustees who demand results. CEOs don't select their own boards from their trusted "yes men". They have corporate nepotism policies that prevent them from hiring relatives under their direct supervision. CEO's don't have people showering them with praises calling them "God's man", and his close advisors don't shield him from criticism by telling his detractors he is "God's annointed" and "touch not thine annointed CEO". He can't answer his detractors by saying "I'm accountable to God Almighty, not to YOU!"

And people don't call him first person, "CEO" (as in "Pastor").

CEO's operate in a highly competitive, cut-throat business environment, where their competition is after every fraction of a percent of their market share. They can't avoid dealing with the government under some "church/state" clause - they deal with government regulators watching their every move. They must pay corporate income and property taxes. CEOs have share holders to whom they are accountable. CEO compensation package is not a mystery, its known to every share holder who wants to know, every penny.

CEO's and their companies have to respond to anonymous and non-anonymous complaints. In fact they encourage employees and customers to submit complaints in many forms, as they crave feedback so they can address problems, real or perceived. They must comply with whistle blower laws that prevent them from punishing their internal critics who seek to bring to light corruption in the corporations.

And, get this: Corporate CEO's have to lead an organization into actually delivering a service or product that people like, and that benefits people or other companies; they don't raise their revenue by telling people "God said for you to give 10% here in this book in the Old Testament, and guess what, God wants you to give it to MY company, and uh, God will bless you for it. Amen?"

If one is a mega church pastor, he can certainly say: "Its good to be da king." Just make sure, King Pastor, you aren't walking around naked and no one dares tell you.


Anonymous said...

We should just fire all pastors like that, kick their yes men out of church, include their wives too, and then enforce a 200 member limit on all churches. (Perhaps we should invite Obama in to give the instructions.)

The only problem is that we will still have people with sin natures in the church.

And that folks, is the problem and it isn't going to change.

Thy Peace said...

The problem here is lack of humility and of love to brothers and sisters in Christ. Also in not showing favoritism to select insiders, who stroke one's ego. Dissent and questioning are not dirty words. They are the tools by which an inquiring mind grows and how in a society, checks and balances exist.

CoffeeTrader News & Views [Lin & Lindon] > The Authoritarian Disaster.

VTMBottomLine [Paul Burleson] > Preach The Word.

VTMBottomLine [Paul Burleson] > On Being A True Pastor.

Anonymous said...

I tend to think that the lack of humility and love to brothers and sisters in Christ extends to both sides of the aisle in this issue (as in most issues). Brunson and Rich both stand together in their guilt.

Perhaps you also need to remember that committees are usually selected or approved by a church vote so the possibility exists that the church selected exactly who they wanted.

Anonymous said...

One more thing that distinguishes CEO's from pastors:

The employees of the CEO do not pay to go there to work. They are paid to work FOR the CEO.

However, members must obey the pastor and pay him to lord it over them and beat on them for more money.

(They are not real bright, are they?)

Anonymous said...

Since I am sure that all pastors tithe back to their churches at least you folks can rest easier knowing that you are getting at least 10% of your money back. That is if your pastor tithes...

Anonymous said...

"I tend to think that the lack of humility and love to brothers and sisters in Christ extends to both sides of the aisle in this issue (as in most issues). Brunson and Rich both stand together in their guilt. "

Did you find it strange that Jesus pounded the Pharisees and not those following them? He simply told the followers the truth about the Pharisees.

Why? Because the Pharisees used their Oral law teaching to have power over the followers. They added to the Word and put heavy burdens on others they refused to take on themselves. They expected to be paid for this, too, through tithes.

"Perhaps you also need to remember that committees are usually selected or approved by a church vote so the possibility exists that the church selected exactly who they wanted."

So deceived begets deceivers? What is new or right about that? I am at a loss as to why you think this makes evil ok.

Just to show the logical fallacy of your position in more general terms, you would have to say that the people of the US elected Obama so we are not allowed to disagree with his policies. Is that what you mean?

Anonymous said...

I tend to think that the lack of humility and love to brothers and sisters in Christ extends to both sides of the aisle in this issue (as in most issues). Brunson and Rich both stand together in their guilt.

I agree! Rich has already been removed from the church. When will Brunson be removed?

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

I left off another distinction between CEOs and mega church pastors:

When CEO's are faced with mounting opposition and criticism over how the company is being run, they don't stand in front of the employees shareholders and say "See, all of this that is said about me...its PROOF that I am in God' will. When I am persecuted for leading this company, THEN I know we're moving in the right direction."

Anonymous said...

Since I am sure that all pastors tithe back to their churches at least you folks can rest easier knowing that you are getting at least 10% of your money back. That is if your pastor tithes...


If you believe in "not equal gifts but equal sacrifice" and in New Testament giving in accordance with one's income, then how can you rationalize a single mom with no margin giving 10% of her income while Mac, who has a huge margin, still only giving 10% of his?

It just doesn't make sense and is not new testament giving. (And mac even brags that he only gives 10% of his wealth, and maybe a little more on top of that. Gee thanks big generous mac. What percentage of your MARGIN are you giving? Some of us have no margin yet you beat us to give the same 10% you give. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I have been hurt and rejected what seems like more than my share by pastors and church leaders. But at the same time, I have compassion for them at the attacks they must get simply because they are at the level they are on. I think we should pray for these men (and women) to be able to maintain godly humility and to speak truth in love from the pulpits. There really seems to be a lack of humility and love for the sheep; many seem more concerned about having a bigger church or looking better than the church down the street. But they are human and therefore as spiritual leaders they deserve prayer and respect. I am not in any way saying to overlook things such as false teaching, false prophesies, etc... nor am I saying to overlook sin the pastor may be involved in. That is why they should have board members that will hold them accountable. But we must remember they are not to be idolized or put on a pedestal.