McChurch: Managing or Making Disciples

I thumbed through the three-inch binder of standard operating procedures. Sitting in the employee lounge of my small-town Mcdonald’s restaurant, I thought to myself, “Do I want to do this?” I was fresh out of high school, enrolled in a community college, and employed as a part-time youth pastor. After six months of working the grill duties, I worked up the nominal ladder of responsibilities. I was subsequently looking at a management position at our little corner lot fast-food chain. I took the promotion and soon found myself being the youngest manager of a McDonalds in Texas. In contrast to my job as a youth pastor, there weren’t many differences.

I think back to my management days and see a similarity between the pastoral practices which are arising in the church and the motivations of the fast-food industry. This is not an indictment against managers, but I feel that many ministries have defaulted to training and managing people rather than fathering and pastoring them. Although a pastor may make a great manager in a secular job, management is not the commission Jesus gave to His apostles.

I’ve worked for a few ministries since I began preaching. While I greatly value each pastor I’ve worked with, some used their ministry to lead me in character growth while others used my gifts to advance their ministry. Let me note that I probably wasn’t the most experienced youth pastor. However, I noticed a greater sense of allegiance and faithfulness in me toward pastors who looked beyond their own ministry into developing me. I believe that my generation views modern church culture critically because they go to church to be faithful disciples, and they leave as well-managed employees.

Genuine fathers in the faith are hard to find. So many, it seems, are flaunting the title of being a spiritual father or mother while merely managing gifted believers to build their renown. The titles of bishop, apostle, and prophet are causally self-proclaimed in hopes of commanding a following. Few seem to know how to father or pastor those who are attracted to their leadership. What makes the difference between a spiritual manager and a spiritual father?

Fathers are committed to a disciple’s success despite their own. A manager will look at the benefit or loss one will contribute and make a cost-effective decision. Managers will let go of employees while fathers preserve and develop sons. Fathers sacrifice their revenue for the welfare of those they love; managers sacrifice employees to ensure the bottom line will not be deficient.
A good father teaches his sons to honor authority. Managers shrewdly promote their own business and compete to keep their favored workers by disparaging others.
A manager will evaluate growth by an employee’s productivity. Fathers evaluate growth by recognizing a son’s development of character. Fathers don’t look for servants to work for them; they encourage sons to serve the church family.
Fathers make personal sacrifices of their time to train and impart their wisdom. A manager will only be responsible for employees during hours of operation. They relinquish responsibility when an employee leaves their place of business. A father will have a few faithful sons with strong character. A manager will have many disposable employees. A manager will punish failure and promote success, but a father will use failure and success to encourage humility.
We are in a time where church managers are plentiful, and fathers are few. The difference between the two is reflected primarily in those they cultivate. Managers make employees who can duplicate their activity. Fathers raise sons who reproduce their nature.
It’s easy to begin in ministry with the right motivations to father and mentor young believers, but the temptation to build a good, business-like church can redirect the motives of a leader’s heart. The temptation to have a larger attendance and financial stability can turn a good pastor into a nominal manager. The pressures of notability in a community can eventually distract one from the simple and powerful calling to make disciples.
I don’t write this as a criticism of hard-working pastors. I hope to challenge ministers to examine their motives in church relationships. Are you a follower of Jesus that’s building the lives of people, or are you a pastor-manager building a “McChurch”? Those who are not in a ministry position are equally responsible for seeking out fathers who will equip them to do the work of ministry.

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