The answer, of course, is no, but one might be excused for coming to that conclusion after reading Andy Stanley’s assault on pastoral ministry in this lauded interview from 2007.
Stanley the Younger is a lead-by-example advocate of CEO pastoring and wants to run through the Bible with a large bottle of whiteout to get rid of the tricky bits that describe Christ-modeled pastoral ministry. Since Downing linked to this article last week, I haven’t been able to get this section out of my head:
Should we stop talking about pastors as “shepherds”?
Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to. But to bring in that imagery today and say, “Pastor, you’re the shepherd of the flock,” no. I’ve never seen a flock. I’ve never spent five minutes with a shepherd. It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant any more.
Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Think about that and how confidently it appears to have been uttered. This site has chronicled recent appalling disrespect shown to God’s Word by Furtick and his staff, and this Stanley quote shook me with the realization of just how riddled the Turnstile Church is with a low opinion of God’s written revelation.
Some related thoughts on Stanley and the horde of leaders who imbibe his wisdom:
- They worship culture more than the creator of culture. Who created the sheep? Who taught man to care for those sheep? Perhaps there was a shepherd standing nearby when Jesus spoke, but that’s only because before the foundation of the world God had ordained his profession and his activities that day. The illustration was the product of a Creator, not of a culture.
- They consider themselves equal to Christ. When Jesus said “Follow me,” Stanley apparently thought he was talking about Stanley, as in, “Follow Stanley.”
“Follow me.” Follow we never works. Ever. It’s “follow me.”
Stanley refuses to follow Jesus on shepherding, yet appropriates Jesus’ words to clear the deck for himself and bludgeon his followers into submission.
- They blaspheme the Word. Jesus is the Word, yet Stanley thinks the best he could do was search for an about-to-expire metaphor because it happened to be close at hand. Jesus was so inept with his references to shepherding that Stanley claims they were irrelevant as soon as Acts. “By the time of the Book of Acts, the shepherd model is gone,” he said. In other words, Jesus’ own words were stale by the time the New Testament was written. If we can dismiss Jesus so easily, why pay any attention to anything the other old, dead guys wrote?
- They strip the Word of inconvenient truths. The obligations of a shepherd don’t feel like they fit our more advanced times, so we shouldn’t even try to deal with them. Stanley cites Bill Hybels as inspiration for dismissing the Bible as too anachronistic.
It’s going to be the best corporate institution it can possibly be, and we’re not going to try to merge first century –
The church wasn’t an organization in the first century.
Not an organization? Don’t tell Paul or any of the supervising apostles in Jerusalem. How shortsighted was Jesus not to anticipate that the church would grow so much it would one day turn into an organization? You can’t expect too much business foresight from a young rural carpenter, though, so we’ll give him a break. He founded a pretty useful brand name, so we’ll keep him around.
- They misunderstand the role of the pastor. Stanley allows that we can still see glimpses of shepherding.
Nothing works in our culture with that model except this sense of the gentle, pastoral care.
Yes, the shepherd could be gentle, but he was responsible for the life of his sheep. He fed the sheep, disciplined the sheep, and even sacrificed his life for them. Does David strike you as a gentle-all-the-time kind of character? Me neither.
- They abandon the saints to the wolves. This was yet another important function of the shepherd, and how our aforementioned hero developed the skills that let him fell a giant. If the shepherd was a disposable metaphor, how do the references to heretics as wolves make sense? Note Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.
Note Paul’s last words to the church leaders on Ephesus in Acts 20:28-30:
Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.
I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
So much for being irrelevant by Acts. Most on point is Jesus’ reference in John 10 to leaders who abandoned their roles as shepherds.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
Yet according to Stanley and his brethren, shepherd is out, and
hired handCEO is in.
Good to know.
- They add their own wisdom to their religion. Although Stanley is all for doing away with shepherding, he insists on adding the CEO as an essential part of church leadership.
I think a big problem in the church has been the dichotomy between spirituality and leadership. One of the criticisms I get is “Your church is so corporate.” I read blogs all the time. Bloggers complain, “The pastor’s like a CEO.” And I say, “OK, you’re right. Now, why is that a bad model?”
It’s a bad model for the church because it’s not shepherding and it’s not Biblical. It’s an excellent model for Starbucks, though.
- They are building a mass of mindless followers. The followers must be kept quiet and uninformed.
As you increase the number of people, you have to decrease the complexity of the information. Congregational rule, when you’re trying to make a complicated decision, works against the principle. So consequently, the guy with the microphone and the clearest message always wins. The most persuasive person in the room is going to win. Whether right or wrong.
We don’t want good arguments to persuade people, then they might start doubting the leader. Think of all the time Paul wasted arguing his case to the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) when he could have been about his business of being a model CEO.
- They are building a guild of authoritarian leaders. Has it ever struck you how much time these head pastors (?) spend talking to us and each other about leadership? When was the last time they held a conference to talk about God in the fashion of a Piper? Steven Furtick noted the abundance of leadership talk and resources last week:
This generation has the most access to leadership development in the history of the world. We had better MAXIMIZE it.
For what? Historically, the combination of a little bit of religion, compliant followers and authoritarian leaders has usually led to bad outcomes.
- They are building a nursery for heretics. At times, we at PP are pressed to declare that folk like Noble and Furtick are burn-them-at-the-stake heretics. When we refuse to do so, we’re usually told to go away because we’re hyperventilating about stuff that doesn’t matter. For the last decade or so, astute observers of American evangelicalism have been complaining and warning about the church’s creeping anti-intellectualism. The Turnstile Church is what you get when you mix that anti-intellectualism with cultural flexibility–a church that looks like the culture it’s a product of, but that can’t see what might be problematic with that. Note how criticism is dismissed without ever–ever–engaging ideas or Scripture. If you can’t defend your ideas, if you refuse all challenges, how would you ever know whether the wolves have entered the fold?
We live at a time where massive churches are led by pastors who quote Scripture like it was Shakespeare (a few well-known quotes repeated over and over), distort it, ignore it or reject it. We are not yet at the stage where we have much blatant heresy, but we’re getting there.
What happens to the generation that comes after Stanley and Warren and Noble and Furtick? The generation that has been encouraged to ignore the study of Scripture. The generation that thinks authoritarian leaders are more important than pastors. That knows there’s no value in Leviticus. That thinks Acts talks about pastors on video screens. The generation that thinks most other local churches are either corrupt or inept. That thinks you can talk about God however you want to.
The problem is that by the time we get there, it’s too late. How do you bring CEOs back to the Bible when they don’t know what’s in it and don’t think it should govern them? By then, the game is lost.
So when do you raise the alarm? When do you scream bloody murder?
Now. You do it now.