The Reverend Michael Scott

Tom Arthur asks pastors if they would rather be like Donald Trump or Michael Scott. His own preference, unsurprisingly, is for Michael Scott, and here’s why:

‘I couldn’t put my finger on my preference for Michael Scott over Donald Trump until the most recent episode of “The Office.” Cohesion in the office falls apart as the sales department becomes more important in the company and ends up getting bigger paychecks. All of a sudden money and success come into the story. Michael says that this office breakdown is because they used to “make friends first, make sales second.”

Here’s my leadership takeaway. “The Office” is the kind of place where friendship takes precedence over almost every other goal. When I first started watching I wondered why the characters didn’t just quit and go work someplace else. But then I realized that there is a deep honesty in the show, and honesty leads to commitment. People are who they are, even in all their embarrassing glory, and somehow they keep working together (but do they ever actually do any work?). Somehow Michael Scott holds all these people together amidst their eccentric personalities and crazy dysfunctions.

That’s a different kind of success than the kind that Trump symbolizes, and it’s the kind of success that a pastor should be aiming for. Sometimes successful pastoral leadership looks quite different than what the world calls success. Sometimes it looks like Michael Scott’.

5 comments

  1. An interesting post. Neither Donald Trump nor Michael Scott (a fictional character in the American version of the TV show “The Office”) are useful models for ministry. The point made here about friendships is valid, but most plots of “The Office” involve the employees, in some manner or another, working to fix what their clueless, incompetent boss (Scott) has messed up. This provides the humor, which is at times painful to watch, because watching Scott run his branch office is riveting the way watching a train wreck or a car crash is riveting. He is so bumbling you can’t look away to see what craziness will come next in his wake. I confess that “The Office” is one of my guilty pleasures.

    There are pastors like Scott, who become the focus of their congregation’s ministry, because they are beloved despite their incompetency. This may be a testimony to the power of friendship, but obviously is not a good model for pastoral ministry. Taking care of the minister is hardly the mission of the church.

    That Donald Trump is not a good model needs no explanation, although sadly there are some “big box” church American pastors who may be using him as their model.

    Perhaps we could have been given two better choices!

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  2. I think you’re dead right Rick, especially in your second paragraph. That said, I think that the invitation to reflect on Michael Scott as a model for pastoral ministry (and, by extension, the office crew as a model of church), however incompetent, is an invitation worth taking up, for a number of reasons. Like Tom (and you) recall, there are much worse (and more popular) models doing the rounds.

    The Office is one of my ‘guilty pleasures’ too, having been introduced to it at roughly the same time as I got hooked on single malt, both highlights of my time in St Andrews.

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  3. Well, that is just two of the guilty pleasures we seem to share. And, I agree with you, Jason, there is something gracious about the interaction of the characters in the Office, although I am watching it on DVD’s seriatum and am way behind. I don’t actually watch mutch live TV except for sports.

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  4. What has struck my wife and I about this show is its difference from the British version. On that show, the Michael Scot character was vile in pretty much every way; you simply could not like him. Michael Scot in the US version of the Office is an idiot (no one disputes that) but he is always portrayed as fundamentally well-meaning, underneath it he is a guy trying to do right and the producers want you to see Michael that way (they cut the scenes where coworkers put him down too sharply). Anyway, whether this has anything to do with the above quote I really don’t know. I just had a big lunch and am creeping toward a coma while an afternoon of work stares me in the face – this was an excuse to not work for a bit longer and share a few thoughts with another Office lover.

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  5. Hi there Jason..

    I am still awaiting your response from a couple previous posts — I hope that you don’t ban me from your blog, as Will Willimon over at Peculiar Prophet has done just recently for disagreeing with him, but I want to press you to respond to my response, if you will.

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