Don’t Pastor Like Elon Musk
Facebook’s motto for its developers used to be “Move Fast and Break Things.”
Since entering Twitter headquarters on October 26 with a sink, Elon Musk seems to have borrowed from Facebook’s old playbook. He’s laid off half the staff, made Twitter verification a paid service, issued ultimatums, and faced mass resignations. Last week, rumors swirled that Twitter would shut down as early as last Thursday night.
Some think that Musk has miscalculated. Others think that Musk is simply following a playbook to rescue a failing company.
Whatever you think, I have an important message to you: don’t pastor like Elon Musk.
You don’t need to move fast. Just as Jesus is patient with us, you can be patient with your people. I believe Ray Ortlund is right: people need gospel plus safety plus time. On the time issue, Ortlund nails it:
Time: no pressure. Not even self-imposed pressure. No deadlines on growth. Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly. A lot of “space” for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level. God is patient.
This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time. It’s where we’re finally free to grow.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As one man writes, patience is a pastor’s superpower. You can change programs or music styles quickly. You can make broad, sweeping changes to staff or leaders. But you can’t change a church’s culture quickly, or change someone’s heart in a hurry. If you’re going to pastor in a way that builds health, that takes time. No wonder so many of the Bible’s metaphors for ministry are agricultural. You have to cultivate and grow what matters most.
You don’t need to break things. The immature pastor questions everything that came before and talks about disruption and innovation. The wise pastor takes time to love, learn, and listen. I’m not telling you to duck issues. Maturity demands that we confront difficult problems, but wisdom demands that we learn to pick our battles. Sometimes we put up with what isn’t important so we can focus on what is.
Pastors don’t need to model themselves after Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. You can pastor just fine without reading Patrick Lencioni or Jim Collins. Of course, learn from anyone you can, but I don’t know why we would prioritize business magnates and gurus over the Bible or from the best of pastoral wisdom from the past two thousand years. Read Pope Gregory’s The Book of Pastoral Rule (and if you don’t know why, this article will explain). Read Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students or Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles. If you want to learn from a great leader, find a wise, old pastor with a good track record and ask them to teach you from their walk with God and their love of people.
The church needs good pastors. Generally speaking, good pastors move slowly. They preach, pray, love, and stay.
Pastor for the long haul. Love your people. Show patience and care. Whatever you do, don’t pastor like Elon Musk.
Update: This post is probably written to my younger self. In my earlier years, I think I could have benefited from this post.
It's not written as a defense of unhealthy churches, or as an argument to just keep the peace. Difficult issues must be confronted. Sometimes you will need to leave a church because it's too unhealthy. But even when pastoring a difficult church, don't underestimate how slowly churches change and how much love is required even as you confront what's broken within that ministry.
God knows what you're going through, and God cares.