Somewhere along the line, many churches wanted to define church roles based on a business model. The church council might be the board of directors, and the senior pastor is often seen as the CEO. I guess church members are the customers then? Or maybe the unchurched? God? And the product is salvation or good deeds or hope?
But I bet you've never been at a business meeting when someone suggested the use of a church model rather than a business model. Odd, since churches might be the oldest business. And you could probably argue that whenever someone other than God acted as CEO, things didn't go so well.
We are kind of stuck with the capitalist version of the corporate church, and you could make an argument it's been going on for centuries. I can't imagine God-as-CEO would have demanded huge cathedrals built on the backs of working people. Whether it's the Pope or a local pastor as the CEO, the glory (as well as the blame) comes to them rather than God.
Even before COVID, many of the old-guard churches in America were suffering. Church councils saw this as a business challenge. Cut costs and become more lean or experiment with new ideas. But new ideas are a bit difficult in a business where the guiding documents were written a couple thousand years ago. Pretty much before businesses even existed. But paying the CEO less because of declining numbers somehow seems unfair. So many churches end up being dying businesses with just enough money to pay the CEO.
When COVID happened, some of those CEOs seized the opportunity to lay blame on their own church members (customers?). While other businesses were forced to change how they operated or die, church CEOs pushed for fewer restrictions than elsewhere, and when some people stopped coming, those folks bore the brunt of the blame. But, more than likely, most of those people were already only doing Christmas and Easter along with some sporadic other Sundays when nothing more pressing was happening.
One CEO pastor in particular that I had the opportunity to see every week during and after COVID, blamed those who didn't show up during COVID and then kept blaming them when they didn't return when public meetings were deemed safe. Imagine the CEO of Apple blaming all the past customers for not purchasing the new iphone. And instead of apologizing for an inferior product or poor marketing, that CEO just kept blaming those same customers when they bought their next non-Apple phones.
Part of the problem might be that our general understanding of business is that you want to keep growing, while pushing for both short and long-term gains. But the Christian church already experienced exponential growth a long time ago. And the church’s long game is thousands of years longer than any other business on earth. Its market share isn’t based on specific demographics (like farmers who might need the tractor a company produces); it’s based on every single human being, living and dead. The point is that it’s probably very easy to become short-sighted when you’re the CEO of a church. Growth and profit are possible, but stability is probably a more realistic goal. The best pastors I’ve ever encountered seem to have a message that can resonate with anyone--right or left, male or female, old or young, member or visitor. Pastor-CEOs of Covid Times may have felt like they were in the middle of some kind of crusade against government meddling, but people were looking to them for a message of hope rather than despair. I mean, either we were all going to die (and go to heaven) or we were going to get over it and return to normal.