I thumbed through the three-inch binder of standard operating procedures. Sitting in the employee lounge of my small-town McDonalds restaurant, I thought to myself, “Do I really want to do this?” I was fresh out of high school, enrolled in a community college, and employed as a part-time youth pastor. I had only been employed for six months. Starting on grill duties, I worked up the nominal ladder of responsibilities, and was subsequently already looking at a management position in 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.
After many years of being in ministry, I think back to my time as a manager and realize a similarity in the pastoral practices that are arising in the church. This is not an indictment against managers, but I feel that many ministries have defaulted to training and managing people rather than fathering or truly 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 under, some used their ministry to advance my character while others used my gifts to advance their ministry. Let me note that Iprobably 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 become faithful disciples and they leave as a well-managed employee.
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 own renown. The titles of bishop, apostle, and prophet are causally self-proclaimed in hopes of commanding a following. Few seem to actually 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 in spite of 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. Fathersevaluate 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 to employees during hours of operation. They relinquish responsibility when an employee leaves their place of business. A father will have a few 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 promote humility.
We are in a time where church managers are plentiful and fathers are few. The difference between the two is reflected primarily in the ones they raise up. Managers make employees who can duplicate their activity. Fathers raise sons who duplicate 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. My hope is 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 to seek out fathers who will equip them to do the work of ministry. We cannot settle for managers who will simply keep us busy.