I’m on the Board of Trustees at my church and attended a mildly contentious meeting a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing mundane policies and the like when a member of the board exclaimed: “It’s not our decision! It’s the CEO’s decision! He’s sitting right here!”. He then pointed to the end of the table where the pastor sat. I was somewhat stunned because it totally WAS our decision (at least in my mind).

Upon reflection, though, the growing duality of the pastor’s position struck me hard.

1) Shepherd or CEO: Shepherds consider the needs of the flock and tend them with loving care, concentrating on their spiritual growth. As a former C-level executive, what were my main concerns: revenue generation and expense control. Does that translate into the pastor as the one who decides which programs get the axe when times are tough? The one who is held accountable for the number of bodies at a service or event rather than the quality of the spiritual experience at that event or service?

2) Monarchy or Oligarchy: Just like any other organization, a small percentage of the people are doers or leaders. The rest are followers or bystanders. Decisions can’t really be made by truly democratic means or nothing would ever get done. Most religious organizations have something more akin to an oligarchy: a few key people making decisions for the rest of us. When the pastor ascends to a CEO position does he or she continue to rely on the wisdom of the other church leaders? Or is there a growing sense of autonomy and authority?

Maybe in today’s economy pastor’s have to learn to be CEOs. Wouldn’t it be interesting if CEOs learned from pastors?