Since last week I took on a Jesus I’m not too big on, I figured I’d balance everything out by exploring a Jesus who is nearer and dearer to my heart than I really enjoy admitting. So without any further ado, may I present to you
CEO Jesus (a.k.a. Corporate Jesus, Business Model Jesus)
This is a Jesus who’s been growing in popularity in the Church since the 1970s, and we can probably attribute both the seeker movement and the megachurch to his activity. It was around that time leaders in the church really began to look to corporate America for guidance and inspiration. So we began to see churches with Mission Statements (and later Vision and Process and a host of other flavors of statements) and Core Values. We began to hire according to skill sets, even creating positions like Administrative Pastor. Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin have joined Max Lucado and Rick Warren as must-reads for any church leader (and when the heck is Mitch Joel going to get on that list? Come on, people!).
This hasn’t been all bad; indeed, it may have been inevitable. Given that our culture is so shaped by the culture of Corporate America, we should have expected some degree of syncretism. And leaders like Bill Hybles and Andy Stanley are shining examples of faithful incarnation of the Gospel in corporate culture.
But Corporate Jesus is really all about making you a better person. He has worship services and encourages us to church shop until we find a place that meets our needs. He wants us to worry about whether or not we like the music or how well the sermon feeds us. This body of CEO Christ creates rockstar senior pastors and pop-perfect worship bands.
A good friend of mine recently interviewed at such a church, and during their Sunday gathering, his wife commented that he probably wasn’t cool enough to be a part of their leadership. She was only partially joking.
The CEO Jesus is slowly working his way down the corporate church ladder: more and more churches are embracing strengths-based ministry, in which a person is profiled and then invited to serve where their unique combination of gifts and talents will best benefit both them and the larger church corporation ::ahem:: excuse me, larger church body.
Here’s my problem with CEO Jesus: I love him.
I love this model of church. The reason we borrow so heavily from business is because their models work. Really well. I have become a much better minister thanks to Marcus Buckingham and Tim Sanders’ mentoring. Made to Stick and Communicating for a Change pretty much revolutionized my preaching.
And I really do believe that we love God best when we are good stewards of all the gifts we’ve been given, including our strengths and talents.
But what about the fact that the Gospel is not primarily about me? What about the fact that I’m called to die with Jesus, not promote myself or my company (dang it, I mean church!)? What about the fact that his strength is enough for me, that his strength is made perfect in my weakness, not my top 5? (that’s a Strengthsfinder reference for the uninitiated)
This is a tension the Body of Christ must take seriously.
We walk a tight rope and falling to either side is deadly. On one hand, we have the consumer church culture and rockstar, too-cool-for-school church leaders. We run the danger of becoming a cheap, plastic generic Church made not in China (maybe we’d be better off taking a lead from Chinese churches?) but in focus groups and opinion polls. On the other side, however, we run the risk of becoming ineffective. I know that word is unpopular; we’re not supposed to measure God’s work because it’s somehow unfaithful.
In response to this problem Andy Stanley once said,
One time Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children. How did they know how many people there were? They counted them!
We should always be asking ourselves if we’re doing the most we can with the resources and energies we have. If our vision is really God’s vision. If it’s a BHAG (pronounced bee-hag, from Jim Collins – Big Hairy Audacious Goal). If it’s something we can do on our own – the way CEO Jesus would want us to, or if we’re actually going to have to step out in faith and trust the real Jesus, who promised that we’d do even greater things than he, who promised never to leave us or forsake us and in whose name we will not rest until the whole world has been reconciled.