Emerging Profession: Resisting Maintenance of the Spectacle (3)


Under the weather for the past few days.  Thanks to everyone who commented on this topic.

How’s the spectacle maintained? and what difference does it make.  Since this whole thing is a conversation, not a dissertation, my thoughts will be fluid.  In other words, no footnotes.

The spectacle of the CEO-pastor is maintained by constant deference to American Business culture and the legality of non-profit corporations.  

We are inundated with conferences on ‘steps’ and ‘principles’ of leadership and management.  The culture of North American churches is steeped in the language of corporatism.  This is the air we breath.  My contention is not that we live in this world.  I am more concerned with the spectacle of the CEO-pastor as a possible un-just social relation that simply mirrors the social, political, economic inequities in our society. Where pastors hide under the ‘legality’ or ‘law’ of the CEO.  As we learn from the deconstructionist ‘law’ oftentimes hides deeper structural injustices.  Or as the apostle Paul once taught us: not the letter of the law but the spirit of the law.  The law, it seems, oftentimes follows behind justice.  I see the temptation of being swallowed up by narratives of competition, success, and acquisition that are counter the fruits of the Spirit.  I am reminded some years ago when two large popular churches based in Atlanta had students in competition for ‘souls’ on their respective campuses.  They saw themselves as part of competing camps or corporations striving to get the best part of the ‘soul’ market.  Episodes like this are just an expression of the larger issue being discussed.      

So…while many pastors point us to the legality of their positions as CEO-pastors there is a greater issue involved than the legality of their positions.   The social, political, and economic relation of their positions to their churches and their larger communities.

I do not believe it is enough to point to the ‘legality’ of your ‘right’ to claim yourself a CEO.  You must do the hard work of deconstruction and repentance.  The hard work to see if your embracing of leadership philosophies from American Business culture are anti-thetical to the upside down kingdom of God. 

Is your CEO-leadership style in harmony with the covenantal demands of God’s justice-making convenant?  Solidarity with the oppressed, mercy, justice, love, shalom, vulnerability, reconciliation, charity, grace, etc.. 

Or do you maintain the spectacle of the CEO by hiding behind a mountain of leadership books, conferences, and Constitutional laws?  

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4 thoughts on “Emerging Profession: Resisting Maintenance of the Spectacle (3)

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  1. In answer to your last question, the maintenance of spectacle in the corporation-churches is not so much brought about by the “CEO model” of pastoral leadership. I think what is going on here is something more fundamental. In the information ecoconomy, it is the need to delimit and specify your audience that is driving the shift to this niche-marketing strategy of consumption/production (in this case, the product panders to and posits spiritual needs). The Pastor-as-CEO, in other words, is the reaction to an information-driven economy…An economy that shuts out the unintended (and unwanted) audience. He is the result (not the cause) of the tacit need of a congregation to homogenize and create a burgeouis cluster of sameness in the information sea. The CEO-figurehead enables the corporation to shut out the members it deems unecessary and even detrimental to its existence. See Christopher Bernagge’s article “The Twin Perils of Church Marketing” in this month’s issue of the Matthews House Project:

    http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/

    This is why I am so intrigued by Rev. Billy and his “Shopacalypse” Crusade. He is (unknowingly perhaps) using the CEO model to collapse the blind drive toward sameness. Its a fascinating inversion of intent.

    What should strike us about the corporation-church is its sinful insistence on sameness. WE need to slay that beast first…not the peacock.

  2. In answer to your last question, the maintenance of spectacle in the corporation-churches is not so much brought about by the “CEO model” of pastoral leadership. I think what is going on here is something more fundamental. In the information ecoconomy, it is the need to delimit and specify your audience that is driving the shift to this niche-marketing strategy of consumption/production (in this case, the product panders to and posits spiritual needs). The Pastor-as-CEO, in other words, is the reaction to an information-driven economy…An economy that shuts out the unintended (and unwanted) audience. He is the result (not the cause) of the tacit need of a congregation to homogenize and create a burgeouis cluster of sameness in the information sea. The CEO-figurehead enables the corporation to shut out the members it deems unecessary and even detrimental to its existence. See Christopher Bernagge’s article “The Twin Perils of Church Marketing” in this month’s issue of the Matthews House Project:

    http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/

    This is why I am so intrigued by Rev. Billy and his “Shopacalypse” Crusade. He is (unknowingly perhaps) using the CEO model to collapse the blind drive toward sameness. Its a fascinating inversion of intent.

    What should strike us about the corporation-church is its sinful insistence on sameness. WE need to slay that beast first…not the peacock.

  3. I will attempt to avoid making generalizations about Pastors; however, I do see a rise in the world’s view of church as big business vs a place of restitution. I too have witnessed a college campus ministry being controlled and monopolized by one denomination. The same campus called for a church day, where churches in the city were invited to showcase their church to incoming students. Church standards are being altered like credit card company ads, like music in department stores, and like Geico commercials; they seek to expand their influence by dangling treats in the faces of the people. At the top of this plan is some person that fears being fired, or is seeking to validate his/her call to ministry by beginning and maintaining a “MEGA MINISTRY”. Unfortunately having a lone ranger at the very top creates the appearance of and sometimes the actual existence of class struggle within churches. I’m not sure if I answered the question, but I did vent a little.

    Shalom

  4. I love this series of posts. Agamben has an excellent take on Debord in _Coming Community_. If you haven’t checked this book out, i encourage it.

    Nice blog…

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