Great Stuff — Fascist roots of the Church Growth Movement

Found over on Intrepid Lutherans:


“Yea, hath God said?” Gen. 3:1
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” John 18:38
“…Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” Col. 2:2-4

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” -William Jefferson Blythe Clinton
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.” Prov. 26:4-5

“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State” -Benito Musolini
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Mr. Chris Rosebrough, Cap’n of the Pirate Christian Radio network and host of the daily show “Fighting for the Faith,” has been doing yeoman’s work identifying the tendril root of fascism in the post-modern church leadership movement. Understandably, readers may recoil at the word fascism, since it is misused in modern discourse. However, Rosebrough’s context is deliberate and accurate, highlighting America’s founding on the Enlightenment (“we are endowed by our Creator”) and contrasting with the subsequent Anti-Enlightenment (e.g. Kant: reality is unknowable; Hegel: truth is synthetic; Rousseau: individuals don’t exit, only society; Nietzsche: morals determined by community.)


Social engineer and management guru Peter Drucker, explains Rosebrough in the episode above, adopted the former worldview at weekly dinner parties held by his father for Vienna intellectuals between the World Wars. (To put it in the Martin Luther College vernacular, that was Drucker’s “ministry crockpot.”) Drucker’s 1933 essay, “The Unfashionable Kierkegaard,” — to be read only after three cups of coffee — identifies social responsibility as man’s path between the hopelessness of mortal life and the hope of eternity. Drucker presses forward in the 2nd half of the 20th Century by shaping social organizations to fill the duality (eternal & mortal) of man.   In this 1989 interview, Drucker explains that people desire communities, and that churches should deliver what the market demands, but without worrying about doctrine or theology.

So where does the Church Growth Movement fit in here? There’s a thick black thread beginning from Drucker’s mentorship of Bob Buford’s Leadership Network, Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek, and Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven trainwreck. From that hydra, prominent names developed: Modalist TD Jakes, homosexual-affirming Andy Stanley,  Craig Groeschel, Mark Driscoll and others in the post-modern Emergent Church.  It isn’t merely the adoption of management, marketing, and endless consulting and conferences which Drucker fostered into the megachurch movement. It is the abandonment of Sola Scriptura.


The following links are to outside sources for background reading. Proper Christian discernment is encouraged.  Below is the podcast of the presentation by Mr. Rosebrough, and the second link includes additional source material.


Fighting for the Faith — Resistance is Futile

Christianity Today — The Business of the Kingdom Management guru Peter Drucker thinks the future of America is in the hands of churches.

Christianity Today — MANAGING TO MINISTER An interview with Peter Drucker

Holy Bible Prophecy — Drucker’s Discipleship by Elliott Nesch What the Emergent Church, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels Have in Common

New Yorker — THE CELLULAR CHURCH How Rick Warren’s congregation grew.

Fast Company — How Willow Creek Is Leading Evangelicals by Learning From the Business World Willow Creek, one of the nation’s largest and most powerful megachurches, leads evangelicals by learning from the business world’s best.

“In order to make your church grow you must change the primary role of the pastor from minister to leader.” 
Pastors.COM — Break Through These 3 Barriers to Growth

(The link above also shows Warren twisting Col. 3:19 to infer that God commands church growth, but that’s another essay.)

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Fascist roots of the Church Growth Movement — 22 Comments

  1. Norm, thanks so very much for the post!!! Resistant is futile, you will be…. So very timely, for so many, sadly.

    Scott Diekmann, in his series, about TCN, mentioned Kjos Ministries, series on Purpose Driven. Here is the link:

    If members, laity, or Pastor’s, should find themselves, in such a place, for standing steadfast & firm; for what is good, right & true, & have planted their feet, so that the earth may move but their feet will not, & meet w/this, should know many have. For those who are now in the endevor, should be told & know full well, what will come, if you choose & do stand against, this.

  2. I am afraid that a proper response to Chris Rosenburgh’s talk cannot be contained within a single comment on a blog. However, I will haphazardly attempt to raise a little awareness as to the lethality of Enlightenment thought, itself.

    I don’t understand how one can possibly think of Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers as those who support the notion of objective truth. The philosophies of the Enlightenment, specifically their epistemologies, run counter to a proper understanding of Natural Law and objective truth. How can Mr. Rosenburgh reconcile Locke’s Tabula Rasa theory with that of human nature? Tabula Rasa suggests that “individuals” are born with blank slates for minds that are then inscribed with the “objective” truths found in nature. These Enlightenment thinkers thought that the “individual” could then assess, via reason, what those truths were. Enlightenment thinkers like Locke, Hobbes, and Hume (just to name a few), were empiricists in the philosophical/epistemological definition of the word. In this way, they slowly undermined the value of tradition, and the communities that held to those traditions, by suggesting that the lonely individual could determine truth through their reason. How does this not lend itself anymore to fascist or pragmatist theories on education? Man is, essentially, reduced to a formula when he is reduced to a blank slate. Insert fascism, communism, pragmatism, etc….

    The path of reductionism was a well beaten one by the time these empiricists were done. It is this very path, and the symptoms thereof, that the existentialists, nihilists, and fascists are responding to. They thought, correctly, that mystery and wonder must still exist beyond the grasp of reductionism and hyperintellectualism (theology that denies the true presence or Mary as Mother of God, only Mother of Christ. Basically, theology that has employed empiricist and reductionist thought to the extent that they mess up their Christology). However, instead of returning to the pre-nominalist understanding of philosophy, theology, and epistemology, they [fascists and the like] decided to impose conjured truths from their examinations of history (Hegel), will to power (Nietzsche), blind leap of faith (Kierkegaard), or society/the state (Dewey/Mussolini). But as one can see they have not left the essence of Enlightenment thought, insofar as they have not submitted themselves to universals, specifically a fixed human nature with an appropriate teleology connected to it.

    In this way, the Enlightenment is in the genealogy of fascism, Enlightenment forerunners being scholasticism, via moderna, and nominalism. These are the true impurities of religious thought (besides sin itself). Furthermore, one cannot accept the empiricism of Enlightenment thinkers and also hold on to the promises communicated and received through God’s Word and Sacraments. The symptom that is the American mega church, is not the result of the American church letting go of Enlightenment, but is because the church has left the truth about Word and Sacrament—which are constantly under attack by empiricism to this day.

    I do believe that Mr. Rosenburgh is correct in identifying some fascist characteristics in American mega churches and the prevailing belief that “fellowship is everything.” However, I think that it is incorrect to suggest that the Enlightenment is any better suited to address these problems in light of the fact that it has given us a lot of these problems in the first place. I salute your passion for the Church. I respect your interest in history. I acknowledge you as a brother in Christ. Thank you for your work in the service of God’s kingdom.

    Some books I recommend are “Ideas have Consequences,” by Richard Weaver, “Tradition,” by Josef Pieper, and “A Humane Economy,” by Willhelm Ropke. Also, Alisdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue” and Ortega’s “Revolt of the Masses” are recommended.


  3. At times like this, in regards to subjects as these, I always, pull out, my printed copy of Scott D’s TCN series. It was here on BJS, it’s probably in the archives. But, it was timeless then so much the more now. TCN may be gone, but once you welcome, that in, it is practice, not doctrine, but practice. Otherwise, the cost is too great for Synods. Easy for indviduals as cost, but not for Synods.

    Norm, if acceptable, is there any way, to link Stand Firm’s series on TCN? The entity may be defunct, but the teaching & it’s affect, are still very much, far too, still relavent.


  4. Daniel,

    Thank you for taking the time to write a reasoned response.

    I would like to clarify something before I proceed with my own comment. I do not think that returning to the rationalism of the Enlightenment is the path to take here and is not the remedy we need to pursue. In fact, solutions and remedies were not brought up due to the limitations of time and venue during my lecture.

    That being said, we have far more in common epistemologically with the Enlightenment than we do with the Counter-Enlightenment. (That does not mean that the Enlightenment is our ally. It means we’ve got more to work with apologetically.) The Counter-Enlightment stream that Drucker swam in, on the other hand, was steeped in Kant’s reaction to the Enlightenment as inherited from his love of Kierkegaard. This irrationalism denies the ability to bridge the noumenal and phenomenal and a result is a philosophical epistemology that is utterly antirational and subjective.

    Kant’s epistemology is most certainly a reaction to the rationalism of the Enlightenment but his epistemology and its denial of the ability of a subject to know anything about any object is what is what opens pandora’s box. The Enlightenment denied that miracles are possible. But Kant and the Counter-Enlightenment he helped spawn taught that objective truth isn’t knowable. Moses Mendelssohn hit it on the head when he identified Kant as “the all-destroyer.” Even though the Counter-Enlightenment is a reaction to the Enlightenment the two are as epistemologically different as night is from day.

    Enlightenment rationalism is not compatible with Christianity. But Counter-Enlightment irrationalism is not only incompatible with Christianity it is incompatible with human existence because it removes all restraints on our sinful human nature. The Counter-Enlightenment removes the first use of the law as curb. But the Enlightenment not only keeps it intact it appreciates its function.

    I would strongly recommend two books on this subject:

    Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen R. C. Hicks

    The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition by Zeev Sternhell and Mr. David Maisel

    Lastly, if we’re going to talk about solutions they’re going to be found in scripture AND more importantly for us Confessional Lutherans they will be found in the Large Catechism.

    We must insist that it is NOT self-evident that men have a right to life and property. But that these rights are God-Given and provable from scripture and more specifically from the ten commandments. The commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Kill means that my individual life is given to me by God and cannot be taken from me without due process. The commandment that states Thou Shalt Not Steal means I, as an individual, have a God given right to enjoy the fruit of the work of my vocation and no man has a right to take it from me by force or pretense. Our rights are not axiomatic as the Enlightenment argued but they are God-Given and revealed in His word. And these truths are knowable and transcend all communities and are therefore binding on all human beings.

  5. Thank you, sir,

    Both for your timely response and your commitment to the Lutheran Confessions. I accept your clarifications and definitely understand how the constraints of time often limit full explanations.

    I would like to pose a question, though. Does one have to have knowledge of the Ten Commandants in order to know that they “Shall not murder?”

    Secondly, I think I see an apprehension towards “rights” language, which even if you don’t, I am apprehensive of rights language. But for the sake of contemplation, does one have different rights after they are justified/in the Church (catholic/universal)? Basically, does this mean that those outside of the Church do not have these rights/duties?

    May I call to mind that the Lutheran Confessions write “God does create and preserve nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked.” So how does one willfully sin if they cannot know what is appropriate to their nature and what is against their nature. (Nature being understood as the teleological functioning and end of man) What do the Confessions mean when they say “God does create and preserve nature” if it does not mean that the nature of man, the teleological structuring and end of man is knowable to all men? (Romans 1) Could this then mean nothing less than man has a nature to which he is born and he has knowledge of it, yet “willfully sin[s]” against. And, if one were never to come into contact with the Ten Commandments, would they have no understanding of what is inappropriate to their nature? How would they know sin?

    These questions are important to ask, especially in liberal democracies where a state church is not sponsored to instruct all citizens in a church. Yes, I think you are correct in saying that it is not SELF-evident that men have these “rights” yet I would not say that it is not altogether unknowable to HUMANITY, and that this knowledge is passed down through traditions and religions. Please do not misunderstand me to say that I believe salvation is knowable to all men and to all religions. However, the law is knowable to all men. The law of what is appropriate to ALL of God’s creation is known to all of creation and their conscience condemns them. Why else would you see the manifestations of man’s attempts to “deal” with their sin problems in the form of cults and other religions unless there was something innately within the fallen world that convicted him, telling him “this is not sufficient?” Why is it that other cultures have accurately made laws against killing, stealing, rape, etc…?

    Also, I would like to add that Martin Luther affirms that the Decalogue is indeed God’s law but that it is testifying to God’s law written in nature. That in fact, the Decalogue is composed, in part, of what we can accurately call Natural Law.

    Forsaking this understanding of natural law is ultimately what leads to genocide. If we (Christians) have different rights on this earth than the pagans, does that not imply that the pagans are not humans? Well, one might say that they have the same rights but they do not know these rights. However, we simply must point back to Holy Writ (Romans 1, the Decalogue, and other passages) as well as the Lutheran Confessions and acknowledge that it is not correct to say that man is ignorant of his sin but rather, all men know the law and willfully sin against it.

    Once again, thank you for your response and the reading recommendations. I look forward to picking them up. Furthermore, I appreciate your zeal for our faith and your commitment to intellectual discourse. I understand that you may have other things to attend to and I do not demand an immediate answer but, would appreciate your consideration of these questions and comments. Feedback would be appreciated but is not necessary if you have other things to attend to.


  6. Dutch :At times like this, in regards to subjects as these, I always, pull out, my printed copy of Scott D’s TCN series. It was here on BJS, it’s probably in the archives. But, it was timeless then so much the more now. TCN may be gone, but once you welcome, that in, it is practice, not doctrine, but practice. Otherwise, the cost is too great for Synods. Easy for indviduals as cost, but not for Synods.
    Norm, if acceptable, is there any way, to link Stand Firm’s series on TCN? The entity may be defunct, but the teaching & it’s affect, are still very much, far too, still relavent.

    Dutch–TCN is hardly “gone.” It is alive and well, and like kudzu, as Scott so aptly describes it, continues to grow and infect our districts. When I heard Chris’ program, I immediately thought of TCN, as you did. You can still find it on the LCMS website, altho some of the more egregious aspects seem to have been expunged (or camouflaged). Nevertheless, it’s still there, and quite distasteful. And that’s putting it mildly. In fact, I am hoping that Chris will perhaps soon give us one of his typically insightful analyses of TCN. And then, perhaps, some of its offspring…..

  7. Win,

    TCN is in my sights for follow a follow up. TCN is part of the greater Druckerite network and I have documents that demonstrate that Ablaze™ was in fact a turnkey solution/product that was originally crafted by Leadership Network. I also have a Leadership Network document that proves that Kieschnick was sharing financial information and other ‘metrics’ with them.

    Stay tuned.

  8. Win,
    I know it isn’t gone. Once you “invite” that stuff (being polite) in, and it is adopted, even by only a few, it is impossible to get gone.
    LCMS has TCN, WELS has Charis, which begat Church & Change, which begat, Change or Die. Same names, same stuff.

    Do ya happen to remember, President Harrison’s analogy of the train cars, in regards, to this?
    1st is E-CA, next is LCMS, and the WELS.
    SW, NW (WELS) districts, overlap, with South Wisconsin in LCMS. I’ve learned, the hard way, we overlap. Unless ya move out of state, you’re stuck. And you can fight, but we who choose to, will loose. Often to great pain & heartache.

  9. Daniel,

    You’re right, I do not have a lot of time to spend writing a response, at the moment.

    So let me make a quick comment.

    Those who fully subscribe to a Counter-Enlightenment worldview would never be compelled by an argument from Natural Law that one was putting forward in order to restrain human behavior and actions. They would immediately identify an argument from Natural Law as modernistic and Cartesian and violently react against it. It is also important for us to understand that this same Counter-Enlightenment worldview is rapidly becoming the default way of thinking in the culture around us. Just a few weeks ago a high school freshman girl explained to me how language doesn’t have real meaning and is culturally crafted. When I asked her where she learned this she said “I don’t remember exactly but I think I learned this from MTV and school.”

    All that being said there are at least three different aspects to this that need to be discussed.

    1. The apologetic task in conjunction with proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins to our neighbors who buy into this worldview.

    2. The ecclesiastical issue as it pertains to resisting and rebuking ecclesiastical innovations that cater to and assume a counter-enlightment worldview and its eschatological outlook.

    3. Left Hand Kingdom – with the collapse of the Enlightenment worldview there is a philosophical/political vacuum that those who are Counter-Enlightment in their worldview are rushing to fill. Without strong voices and solid arguments to defend the idea of individual rights in our public square it is only a matter of time before we vote to revoke those rights or have them forcefully taken from us. You may not agree with the Enlightenment and its emphasis on the individual but believe me when I tell you that you are NOT going to like the alternative that the Counter-Enlightment is poised to thrust on us.

    If we’re going to take our time and discuss this topic further then I suggest that we keep these aspects/subtopics distinct.

  10. I would only say guilt by association is not an argument and violates the eighth commandment. People cannot be simply assigned to a movement and then judged in hindsight by whether we like the results of the movement. Enlightenment thinkers, counterenlightenment thinkers, etc were wrong about a lot ofthigs, but were right about some things as well, and each should be judged on their own merits. It seems to me the whole point of this effort is simply to justify calling cowo fascist, with all the inferences that carries with it. It’s a specious and uncharitable argument.

  11. Thanks Chris for your reply. And with the distinctions that you just provided I think you really cleared up a lot for me. I was speaking more to the third point in my comments, specifically my last comment.

    It’s very true that the wild abandonment of the external Word for more sentimental feelings, and sometimes hysteria even, is gripping a large portion of the American church. Such rejection of the external Word is very much reminiscent of the Fascists attempts to cast off the “slave morality” of “organized religion.” The shameful thing is that many American evangelicals are the very ones who are attacking “organized religion,” as manifested in the emergent church movement.

    Once again, thank you for your clarifications and taking the time to share with us.


  12. @boaz #10

    I enjoyed reading this post and the well informed comments. I think this is an excellent topic for this board. I think Norm did a great job of trying to point this discussion toward the textbook definition of fascism. I think this is worth talking about especially in this day when so many church bodies and denominations measure true orthodoxy by commitment to the “program” and not to the Word.

    I think this is especially interesting since I have heard confessional Lutherans accused of being fascist multiple times. With a history of “Volk” theology and exaggerated “order of creation” theology having led millions of German Lutherans to support and embrace fascism of the worst kind, this topic should certainly be discussed without concerns for social taboo’s lest the mistakes of the past be repeated.

    I would like to read a discourse of how conservative Lutheranism can fall into this also. Personally I think it would be by thinking too highly of the Synod and allowing it to become the “church” instead of the definition contained in the Word and the confessions.

  13. @boaz #10

    The term “fascism,” is not property of either the right or the left, altho much negative baggage accompanies it. It is a favorite of the political left, which has historically employed it to paint others in a negative light. However, upon close examination, “Fascism” simply describes a particular system or mindset. The political Left did not like Ludwig von Mises’ description of Fascism as “Guild Socialism” (See his “Human Action”). And Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” met with similar disapproval. Political Liberals and Conservatives alike should beware Fascism in any form, including its close relative, Socialism, as both are inimical to individual freedom.

    When one listens carefully to Chris’ religious description of the term, (while viewing the PP slides) it is readily apparent that, as he shows, the religious form of Fascism is just as dangerous to Christian liberty, as the political form is to Political liberty. One can go to the website of any number of LCMS churches, and see clearly the influences of the “Community” aspect of Ecclesiastical Fascism that Chris describes as so inimical to Christian Freedom. I’ve had plenty of experience with CoWo, Church Growth, and their offspring. I contend that Chris’ “take”, is not “guilt by association,” (ecclesiastical McCarthyism, if you will), and is neither specious or uncharitable. I further contend that, far from violating the Eighth Commandment (a common charge these days), Chris has indeed, “Put the best construction” on everything.

    “Theologians of the Cross call a thing what it is,” said Luther. Chris has proven himself to be an able Theologian of the Cross.

  14. Boaz,

    I have not put forward a Guilt By Association argument and it is a breaking of the 8th commandment for you to infer that I did. I provided primary source documents in my lecture as well as links to supporting resources that demonstrate and reveal the philosophical underpinnings of the movement as set forth by those who gave birth to it and those who are currently leading it.

    If you’re going to offer a critique of my lecture then engage the content of it. But to brush it aside and claim that its Guilt By Association is a breaking of the 8th commandment and academically lazy.

  15. My critique is of the whole effort of people tying things they don’t like to fascism. Its become a meaningless insult.

  16. Drucker had far more influence on corporate America and management philosophy than the church. If I go around talking about the fascist roots of American business or the fascist roots of general motors, I might have a point, but nobody will listen because of the inflammatory language. What’s the point of that?

  17. For the “Church Growth Movement” fans within the LCMS:

    “Take it from a Gen-Xer who isn’t buying your products or your hype, either, the boring spate of expensive crap you’ve peddled for 25 years didn’t do much to take money from our pockets, and all of the scrambling to cater to spoiled Gen-Y, many of which are your children, will be for naught when that generation finally wakes up in their 30s, realizes they aren’t kids anymore, and laments that they spent so much of their youth taking money they didn’t have to buy garbage like $500 smartphones with $70/month plans, $100 cable TV suites, $50/month Roadrunner Internet hookups, dozens of $60 videogames, $150,000 college educations, etc. Your generation has sold them out by conning them into buying things they don’t need when they should have been preparing for the future . . .”


    Neil Postman had a term for this: The “adult child”.

    Television “….pitches both news and advertising at the intellectual level of ten-year-olds.”


    I would argue that the Druckerites have succeeded in marketing Christianity to 18-35 year olds in the same way.

    The LCMS should be encouraging young people to grow into responsible adults that start stable, traditional families as soon as possible.

  18. Since this article was posted from Intrepid Lutherans, will the synopsis, of their Conference in Oshkosh, be posted?
    Rather timely, for both Synods, I think.

  19. Rather timely, this link. It’s the Core, WELS, you tube, WhoDunnIt? Part 2

    Yeah, there is good, right & true reason, this article & piece from Fighting for the Faith, was posted on Intrepid Lutherans.

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