Square Pegs, Round Holes

Modern “megachurches” are normally led by a powerful pastor aided by a huge staff. His power is vested by the people, the majority of whom recognize a collection of spiritual gifts in their leader suitable for pastoring, and consider him “called.” But no one seems effective in these environments without being a bit of a rock star.

There’s no hiding the fact that these organizations need to be run like businesses to survive because of size and budget. On the other hand, expectations of parishioners are very high. It’s  typically then, “my way or the highway,” when setting the pace as a church CEO. Yes, there are corporate votes cast all the time, but no one ever stands up and gives a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” speech. The “ayes” always have it.

As a congregation, if you don’t particularly like something promoted by leadership, all you can really do is vote with your feet, but the majority commendably settle for the “necessary evils,” loving the brethren more.  In the end, it may seem that the best you can hope for in a “senior pastor” is a benevolent dictator who rules with a velvet hammer. But you pray for a man of God to rule in subjection to the Spirit of God. Blessed is the megachurch with such a man calling the plays.

Practically, the challenge with so many members is to mobilize the varieties of gifts in the body, not pay the power bill.  The problem is that once your pastor and staff are set, what do you do with those in the congregation who possess pastor-like gifts? Not all are gifted with what Paul calls “helps.” In an elder-led church that problem is potentially solved. In theory, men with discernment and wisdom who are godly and irreproachable should rise like cream to the top. But the leadership of a “megachurch” can hardly afford anyone “off the page.” Undoubtedly, those with pastor-like gifts will not be best used keeping the nursery or spreading mulch. They won’t complain about it, but they may be shelving their giftedness to teach and offer wise advice and counsel.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:16-18

Somehow, the smart leader of thousands and controller of millions needs to seek out and tap men who’ve mastered the art of “not thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think,” who are not wise in their “own estimation,” and who manage to remain “at peace with all men.” And remember they’re not normally the rich donors or top executives who might have the capacity to stroke big checks!

Every megachurch should try this experiment. Fill up your committees with elder-qualified “humble” types rather than CPAs and CEOs and see if you suffer. Don’t give vocations a second thought. I think you’ll be surprised with the results.

The writer attends a Bible-teaching megachurch north of Tampa known for its extraordinary work ethic in spreading the gospel and meeting the spiritual and physical needs of its city. Its pastor is beloved by all, having filled the pulpit for 30 years. The church has more than 20 pastors on staff and a congregation in excess of 10,000.

About Rick Reynolds

You'll find me in the far right hand corner of evangelical Christianity. I defy more categorization than that. Been studying the Word for 40 years and counting.
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