You may be interested in an fascinating analysis of the Ablaze! program from an LCMS mission executive. The Rev. David Vaughn served as director of Ablaze! Connection and is currently getting his Ph.D. in Public Policy at Saint Louis University. It looks like he came into the ministry through some alternate route certification at Concordia Seminary in 2007 after retiring from Anheuser-Busch, where he was director of the College of Sales and Marketing. He’s on the board of Family Shield Ministries.
He wrote up a policy analysis of the program for Missio Apostolica, a journal published in May and November for members of the Lutheran Society for Missiology. The journal is intentionally devoted to first-hand reporting from mission fields and discussion of studies and research in the same. This story, which I don’t believe is available on-line (yet) is from the November 2008 issue (Vol. XVI, no. 2, (Issue 32)). So run down to your nearest theological library to have at it. [[BJS just obtained a copy and posted it here.]]
The article itself runs over a dozen pages and critiques the failures of the Ablaze! movement. I can’t say I agree with many of his ideas for how to fix the program, but I appreciate his experience as a self-described “insider” even as he writes from the perspective of a “policy analyst.”
He basically says that if Ablaze! is — as LC-MS leadership has said — “all about evangelism,” a “movement as opposed to a program,” “requires changing the way the LC-MS in general, and LC-MS World Mission in particular, approach their work,” and “intended to grow the sustainable capacity of the LC-MS in general . . . to do evangelism for the long term” then it’s not succeeding. And then he gives ideas for how to improve the, um, movement.
He says the LCMS as a bureaucracy has provided more than a few obstacles to achieving these goals. He notes the lack of leadership in making Ablaze! a movement rather than a program. Here’s what he says about the last goal:
Contrary to traditional thinking in the church, sustainable capacity building is not more people, more dollars, more buildings, and more programs in for-profit or public sectors. . . . using Fan into Flame donation dollars to fund existing district staff is not capacity building but rather an attempt to protect the institution.
As I said, his solution to the over-bureaucratization of LCMS, Inc. can be read as a recommendation to follow simply a different change-management model.
Still, the failures in the bureaucracy at LCMS, Inc. are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.