An Allegory On Restructuring, by Pr. Klemet Preus

(Editor’s note: Pr. Preus’ spot in the Brothers’ Cafe has several posts about synodical restructuring that you may want to re-read.)

One upon a time there was pastor. He had been leading a church for a half a dozen years or so when he started hearing grumbling and complaining.

 

“The church isn’t growing,” some were saying. “We called you because you were a missionary pastor with a mission heart and we have lost more members during your tenure than any other time in history.”

 

Others complained because of the church’s finances. “We used to be solvent, in the black and supporting all sorts of educational and missionary endeavors. Now we are always nagging people for money, cutting back on all but administrative staff and basically paralyzed financially”. “You were supposed to move us forward in terms of stewardship and we are worse off than ever.”  

 

Still others were concerned over questionable personnel decisions to which the pastor had acquiesced. Some even suspected he was directly responsible. They had issues with the decision to fire certain popular and effective evangelists who were now working elsewhere. There seemed to be a “brain-drain” on the church’s most valuable resource; her leaders. Former council members and board members were unused or quietly sent away. Others were criticized and accused. The pastor seemed to be comfortable working with only his closest and most supportive friends. Anyone who was not a crony of the pastor was unused in the church. People complained that the pastor and leaders, while claiming to put Jesus First, were mostly putting themselves first. The pastor who claimed vision seemed painfully short-sighted.

 

A mood of darkness pervaded the congregation.

 

The pastor was worried. “What shall I do?” He thought. “I could actually lose my job over this lack of success. I’m too old to go back into the parish and too proud to be any other kind administrator. I know what I will do! I will suggest that we change the bylaws. We’ll have an entire restructuring of the congregation. Maybe I can convince the people that the real problem is not my lack of leadership and vision. Yeah that’s it! I’ll appoint a committee of my best and most trusted friends and allies in the church and we can debate our structure. Maybe then people will forget that we are failing in our mission, in stewardship, in achieving unity and in just about every other measurable aspect of the church’s work.”

 

So the pastor appointed a committee and gave it a long and impressive name which people had a hard time even remembering and he asked this committee to come up with all sorts of ideas to change the structure of the congregation.

 

But evangelists still were silenced. Finances were still tight. The congregation was still shrinking and continued to be divided. People were worried, even alarmed. And most thought that a discussion on bylaws and structure was not the solution to the profound problem of leadership that faced the church.

 

He who has ears to hear. Let him hear.    

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Comments

An Allegory On Restructuring, by Pr. Klemet Preus — 43 Comments

  1. Well said, and kudos to you Pr. Preus. Sort of a “look there, not here” situation. Any more commentary and news of the meetings would be greatly appreciated.

  2. “We called you because you were a missionary pastor with a mission heart and we have lost more members during your tenure than any other time in history.”

    COULD IT BE THAT HE CHALLENGED THEM TO BE REAL GREAT COMMISSION PEOPLE…AND ALL THE NAVEL GAZERS DECIDED TO BAIL OUT?

    “You were supposed to move us forward in terms of stewardship and we are worse off than ever.”

    COULD IT BE THAT HE CHALLENGED THEM TO BE TITHERS AND NOT TIPPERS…AND THEY WALKED AWAY WITH THEIR WALLETS?

    I WILL CONCUR THAT BYLAWS AND STRUCTURE ARE NOT THE SOLUTION–THOUGH THEY CAN BE SYMPTOMS OF THE PROBLEM. AT THE SAME TIME WE MUST FREE PEOPLE FROM MEETINGS AND MOVE THEM INTO MINISTRY.

  3. Martin Luther,
    What are “REAL GREAT COMMISSION PEOPLE”?

    Are you a “REAL GREAT COMMISSION PERSON”?

  4. In the Great Commission, Jesus calls every Christian to step out in faith and spread the Good News. This is faith in action! People who obey this command change their spiritual lives forever! It could be spreading the Good News to a neighbor or moving to another country to reach the people there. It could be sharing with less fortunate kids down the street or spreading the Word in a town two hours away. Wherever we go, every faithful Christian is compelled through obedience to share the Gospel. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, where has He called you to go? Who has God put on your heart to share the gift of salvation? What small or large steps can you take, with the knowledge that Christ will be by your side, “to make disciples of all the nations”?

    And yes…I would consider myself a Great Commission person.

  5. Dr. Luther of Blessed and Holy Memory-
    if the Great Commission you are speaking of is St. Matthew 28:16-28, you will notice that there are eleven men present (His chosen apostles), and that the passage speaks of nothing regarding stepping out in faith, but rather for these eleven to make disciples of all the nations by baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching these disciples made through baptism all the things Jesus had taught the eleven there present. Where exactly in the text of Scripture does Jesus speak of compelling through obedience the sharing of Gospel or putting things on the hearts of believers? I guess I am missing it.

    Pr. BT Ball

  6. The allegory falls short in only one small point – the office of Synodical President is not covered by the Office of Holy Ministry. The SP is not truly anyone’s pastor in his current office. I think that is a good thing and criterion for “firing him” is truly “at will” – the biblical criteria for removing him from office, as if he were a pastor with a call to a congregation, does not exist.

    It might be as easy as everyone simply turning their backs on him.

  7. ‘People who obey this command change their spiritual lives forever!’
    This loses me, and it loses me twice.
    ‘People who obey this command’ are not people moved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or by virtue of the change within them because of faith. They are simply ‘people moved by the law.’
    Also, I don’t know what a spiritual life is, so I don’t think I’d recognize a change in it, that I didn’t recognize ‘the hour I first believed.’
    That phrase, ‘change their spiritual lives forever’, sounds like I’d evangelize for my own spiritual benefit, over and above my neighbor’s. Like it’s a bargain I make with God: I’ll go and tell, but I expect results. Results I can see; people I can count. Etc.
    ‘Wherever we go, every faithful Christian is compelled through obedience to share the Gospel.’
    Faith compels us. Or so I thought I believed. Maybe my bad?
    ‘It could be sharing with less fortunate kids down the street or spreading the Word in a town two hours away.’
    Or it could be seeing your kids to baptism, to divine service; teaching them the catechism at home; being a faithful, patient spouse and parent; being a conscientious and trustworthy employee or employer; a diligent soldier; a good housekeeper; a faithful attendee to the Word of God preached rightly; a careful discerner of God’s Word and how it’s preached; one who’s mindful of one’s own enthusiasms; one who’s careful not to throw stones at his brothers and sisters who are indeed keeping the faith and not running after results for the sake of results; etc.

  8. Dr. Luther-
    no.

    So how about answering the questions I posed about the text? And I apologize for my typo above, it is St. Matthew 28:16-20.

    Pr. BT Ball

  9. I really resent this strain (apt word, btw) of Christian thinking, that our chief aim as the church is reaching the lost, not giving–as well as preserving–God’s gifts, chief among those being the utter truth given for our salvation.
    I really resent that, in congregations made of both the weak and the strong, it’s the weak being siphoned off–led astray–for the purposes of this ‘new’ enthusiasm for growth/lost sheep, call it what you will.
    In the hopes of finding the lost, it’s the weak being led away from the pure gospel to a new reading of the law, that says they aren’t doing enough (or that the pastor isn’t doing enough); that’s leading them to error in their thinking about who they are and what their ‘mission’ is, and, in the end, is simply exploiting their weaknesses for the gain of the body of the Synod, not the body of Christ.
    It’s a serious, sinful breach of brotherly love and of brotherhood. It creates dissension and distrust, even hatred, among us, while it does nothing to tell the supposed waiting sinner who Christ is, or what He’s accomplished.
    It’s entirely the same as a pyramid scam, that can only rely on more and more being duped into some process that at last profits them nothing. They’ve only been kept busy-busy-busy at being missional and reaching out with the not-so-good-news that Christ commands, Christ expects, Christ is disappointed in our numbers, Christ wants more.
    When would such a Christ be satisfied? That Christ is scary as Hell.
    I don’t doubt one day we’ll see in our vestibules posters of a scowling Jesus, pointing His finger as if to say:
    ‘Christ Wants You!
    What Have You Done Lately, To Save Your Brother?
    Not enough!
    Do more!’
    Scary as hell.

  10. And Susan…

    What have you done? That should be a scary question.
    We are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

    Remember, works do not gain salvation. But faith without works is dead.

    Bring back the fear, and maybe we’ll begin to appreciate the gospel.

    What’s the good news if you don’t know the bad? What’s grace if you don’t know your need?

    And why is everyone here so afraid to EVANGELIZE??

  11. JD,
    Don’t forget vs. 13
    For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. – Php 2:13

    We, as saints and sinners, often are unable to decern our good works which is God working in us to HIS good pleasure.

    And how do you know that blatant Evangelizing is the good works God is to do in me or not?
    Sam

  12. I want to applaud the persons running this blog that they entertain the comments from different points of view. It’s more than the Synodical leadership is willing to do.

    I would like to say that I agree we all need to be sharing the Good News. But the WHAT, HOW, and the WHY is as important as the TO WHOM isn’t it?

    Harrison 2010

  13. “Martin Luther”

    You obviously didn’t go away as you promised on another thread. So much for keeping your word!

    You are quick and eager to point fingers, painting with a broad brush that so many of us aren’t doing enough to “step out”.

    Another challenge for you: tell us what exactly (not generalities, please) you do that the rest of us don’t do?

    Pleeeeeeeeeease be specific!

  14. ‘What have you done? That should be a scary question.’
    What’s scary is that quite possibly a Lutheran asked it of me.
    I guess accusing your brothers and sisters in faith stands as that which you have done. Good on you. And way to EVANGELIZE.

  15. But what if people are not given to do ‘ministry?’ A very nebulous term that is. What if people are given to receive the free gifts of God & give their lives to Christian service in their daily vocations? What if ‘ministry’ is the last thing they should be doing, because they haven’t been called to do it & thus are displeasing God while laboring under the delusion they’re helping Him out?

  16. Oh, BTW, what sort of ministry are you doing, Faux Martin? Why are you here on this website when people are DYING & GOING TO HELL?! Shouldn’t you be out saving them? Get busy! God’s done His bit, now do yours.

    Got a job? Better quit it. Think how many people are DYING & GOING TO HELL while you sit around earning money for yourself!

    Got a wife? Better divorce her. Think how many people are DYING & GOING TO HELL while you selfishly spend time with her!

    Same goes for children. Give ‘em to an orphanage because people are DYING & GOING TO HELL while you spend time with them.

    I’m snapping my fingers, Faux Martin, & each time people are DYING & GOING TO HELL while you sit here sniping at us supposed losers who don’t care about people. How can you live with yourself?!

    Go & do your part in the new monasticism.

  17. Comment 17: But what if people are not given to do ‘ministry?’

    How about thinking of ministry as whatever you do for others in the name of Jesus?

    As far as what I do–each and every day I pray that the Lord allows me to disciple someone–and reach a lost person–following His encouragement in Acts 1:8 and Matthew 25:34-40.

  18. All of this discussion on what to do, what not to do, what should you do, etc. etc. etc., could easily be settled if we properly understand what Luther (the real one, not the faux one) said on the subject of VOCATION.

    VOCATION. In other words, “calling.”

    We all have a calling in this world. Some of us are called to full-time church work. Many of us have not. Some, like myself, HAD BEEN called to full-time church work, but are now working in the secular world. This is beside all the other “callings” that we are called to … spouse, parent, child, employer, employee, etc. See Luther’s “Table of Duties” for other examples.

    So, what is a Christian supposed to do with his vocation? First and foremost, s/he is to do his/her work faithfully, to the best of his/her God-given ability. This is the first way that we witness to our faith to those who do not believe. Secondly, we then take whatever opportunity God places before us to witness to our faith, in terms of Law and Gospel. Now it is important that the Christian does these things IN THE PRESCRIBED ORDER … because if the unbeliever sees that the Christian is unfaithful and slovenly in what he or she does, because he or she it witnessing to his or her faith before his or her work gets done, the witness is diminished severely if not negated.

    Yes, this doesn’t sound a whole lot like Gospel; but remember, were talking about sanctifiation stuff here, not justification stuff. One more thing: Christians are not supposed to fret and fuss about finding things to do, because our Lord will bring to us precisely what we are to do to bring Him glory and bring witness to our neighbor. All we are to do, is just do what is before us.

  19. Dr. Luther-
    a word of encouragement to stick with what the words of scripture actually say.

    Our Blessed Lord was not speaking to everyone or encouraging everyone when he spoke the words of Acts 1:8. He is particularly speaking to the eleven as Acts 1:13 identifies them. They were the witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on them particularly to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Peter himself states in the same chapter that one more should be added to the apostolic number and the apostolic ministry so as to be a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22 compare Acts 1:8). We are not eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ, but have received the apostolic preaching of it.

    The church is built on the foundation of the apostles (Eph.2:20) and as such we confess one apostolic church. The church from the beginning has been devoted to the apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42) because it is the very teaching of Jesus which these men received (Mt. 28:19-20) Of course along with the 12 in Acts 1&2, one is added to the apostolic number. He received from Christ the doctrine and also was a witness of his resurrection. (See 1 Cor.11:23 to cite one passage about receiving the doctrine and Acts 9 and 1 Cor.15:8-11 for his eyewitness.)

    In addition, our Lord does not tell us to “disciple” someone, but rather to make disciples by baptizing, by teaching (Matthew 28:19-20).

    Again, perhaps the problems in our synod can be directly attributed to being too fast and too loose with the Scriptures, and so very often making things into new laws and commands which in the Scriptures they are no such things. Let’s get back to the Word.

    And how about answers to the questions regarding Mt. 28:16-20 back in post #5? If you have the opportunity.

    Pr. Ball

  20. @ Susan…

    Accusing, is pretty much the point of this entire site, from what I’ve read. Now, rebuking and correcting according to the Scripture. That’s an entirely different matter.

    Do you mean to say, that I could not be a “true” Lutheran if I were to ask what you are doing in Jesus name…

    Cheap grace is taking it for granted that you can do whatever you please and be forgiven. Cheap faith is thinking that God doesn’t expect anything out of a regenerate heart. Faith without works, is dead. His words, not mine.

  21. @ BT Ball…

    Do I hear you right? That only the 12 are called to be witnesses of Jesus and the rest of us are to be witnesses of the church????

  22. Comment 5 & 23: Where exactly in the text of Scripture does Jesus speak of compelling through obedience the sharing of Gospel or putting things on the hearts of believers? I guess I am missing it…Our Blessed Lord was not speaking to everyone or encouraging everyone when he spoke the words of Acts 1:8. He is particularly speaking to the eleven as Acts 1:13 identifies them.

    WHOA! How did we get to this command/commission being only for the original hearers?

    And…what about the words: GO…TEACH…BAPTIZE…seems pretty compelling to me! But maybe He wasn’t speaking to me?!

  23. Dear Pseudo-Martin Luther,

    I respectfully ask you to change your nom du plum. Since I like the use of pseudonyms, may I suggest a few for you? Here they are…Andreas Karlstadt, Michael Sattler, Thomas Muntzer, Melchior Hoffman, Sebastian Franck, Caspar von Schwenckfeld. All these gentlemen were Luther’s contemporaries and would fit your theological position more accurately.

  24. I’m not saying works save. I’m saying that faith will be evident by works.

    You can have works without faith.
    But you can not have faith without works.

    And that should be a convicting statement to all of us. Lord, help our unbelief.

    This isn’t an argument against faith-alone. It is a challenge for us to look deep into our own hearts.

  25. JD,
    Who is the arbiter that decides what I do is good works, You? Me? Martin Luther (of this list)?
    No God is. Eph 2:10. God ordained the good works we would do. We may not know what they are but we must have faith that we are carrying out his will when we try and fulfill our vocation to the best of our abilities. And when we fail, and we will fail, the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ washes that sin away!
    Sam

  26. What I don’t understand, as one who grew up in a Pentecostal denomination and was tortured to despair by these types of Laws that we HAVE to DO in order to be a Christian to the point where I was convinced that it was impossible to be a Christian until I matured, is why are so many Lutherans, at least I assume your a Lutheran JD and ML, are jumping at the chance to abandon the assurance of Salvation for personal Glory. All this talk about Evangelism and good works is REALLY about personal Glory.

    Lutheranism AKA Biblical Theology is the assurance of Salvation. Why taint that assurance with all of this push towards good works that is visible by our fellow man?

    Do we not have the faith in the Promise of God that we will do good works even though we may not recognize our works as such or that our fellow man does not recognize our works as good? at least not as good as his?

    Sam

  27. ‘It is a challenge for us to look deep into our own hearts.’
    That’s pietism, not Lutheranism. My heart is challenged already. Personally, I don’t go there, least of all when I’m looking for anything to give to Jesus.
    I come to Jesus as I am.
    Not as I think I ought to be.
    (Nor as you think either, for that matter.)
    Btw, your church library called. They want their Small Catechism back, if you’re finished not learning it.

  28. JD-
    what that particular text in Acts 1 is giving is that the 12 were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and this is something distinct from what we Christians today do in confessing the faith we have been given. See for example John 20:30-31, 2 Peter 1:16, 1 John 1:1-3 where the apostles write about their eyewitness testimony, writing and preaching that we might believe.

    We confess in our own lives the truth that was preached and testified to by the apostles- that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and we confess to people this truth from Christ himself. This we receive from Christ in the prophetic and apostolic scriptures – the very Word of God. That is what we testify to and confess and even bear witness of in our lives, what was seen and written and then given to us – the prophetic and apostolic Word, inspired by the Spirit is the means of grace.

    What I was also attempting to point out is that some particular passages of scripture pertain to the office of ministry. Not all are given the office to preach and to baptize etc. as has been mentioned above- vocation is the key to understanding much of this.

    Hope this clarifies a bit.
    Pr. Ball+

  29. Comment 32: What I was also attempting to point out is that some particular passages of scripture pertain to the office of ministry. Not all are given the office to preach and to baptize etc. as has been mentioned above- vocation is the key to understanding much of this.

    A bit of a stretch…only pertains to the office, etc? How is that we can pick and choose what is for us…and not for others? Seems pretty narrow to me…and can be construed as letting the people sit back and let the pastor do it for them.

  30. Then that would be mis-construing, wouldn’t it? And shame be upon those who so miscontrue.
    As for picking and choosing who does what: the scriptures do that picking and choosing.
    But being a called and ordained preacher is not the only means of relating the gospel to the un-gospeled. The only way to precisely give the precise gospel, which is a precise message of Christ crucified for the sins of the world, whether the world knows it or not or cares or not, is to serve the gospel. Which, thanks be to God, the liturgy does, and which, thanks be to God, a proper (and not so difficult-to-grasp) comprehension of vocation does as well.
    Proper witness/evangelism is being Christ’s in all we do at all times and in all places, over and above us forsaking the church’s doctrine and practice for those who haven’t given the true gospel–let alone doctrine and practice–the first serious thought.

  31. RE Comment 34: The only way to precisely give the precise gospel, which is a precise message of Christ crucified for the sins of the world, whether the world knows it or not or cares or not, is to serve the gospel. Which, thanks be to God, the liturgy does, and which, thanks be to God, a proper (and not so difficult-to-grasp) comprehension of vocation does as well.

    The ONLY way? Wow!

  32. What’s another way of giving the gospel without giving the gospel?
    And thanks for the Wow!

  33. My point is this: is it possible for a non-liturgical service to do it? By your statement, the answer is “No.” I choose not to tie God’s hands to one form. And a proper comprehension of vocation seems to limit His abilities as well. Jesus says “I am the way…” It would seem that a christo-centric presentation of the gospel(no matter the form/style)would serve the gospel. But then again…what do I know…

  34. Twister: the word game.
    You speak to what I didn’t say and defend what I didn’t attack. I said nothing in regard to a non-liturgical services, nor what they do or don’t do.
    Once again, presumptions do the work mere reading comprehension won’t do.

  35. It would seem that a christo-centric presentation of the gospel(no matter the form/style)would serve the gospel. That does answer your query.

  36. So much of this law-speak compels me, the sainted Dr. Luther is not available to answer — I am reminded of a loud fart in a quiet theater!

  37. I just got here. But here’s some food for thought: Anyone who has read Borden’s “Direct Hit”, the basis for “Transforming Congregations”, cannot help but be struck by the similarity of the new synodical structure proposals to the congregational “prescriptions” that Borden promotes. Our LCMS “consultants” lazily and uncritically prescribe Borden’s stuff practically verbatim to the unwitting congregations. Scarey. Everyone should read “Direct Hit.”

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