Supporter of President Kieschnick says Some are Intimidated by Blue Ribbon Proposals, by Pr. Rossow

March 26th, 2010 Post by

Pr. Charles Mueller Sr. wrote a recent article posted on the “Jesus First” website trying to persuade people to support the Blue Ribbon Task Force proposals for change in the LCMS. He asserts that larger congregations already act in the spirit of the proposals of President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force by linking together to improve effectiveness (Proposal #3; for the final report of the Task Force click here). He says this linking “scares some” and that they “feel intimidated.” (The entire article is appended below.)

Those concerned with large churches linking together are not scared or intimidated by such a practice. They are concerned about the scriptural doctrine of the church. The Blue Ribbon Task Force says that we ought organize around mission and demographic considerations and this is what Pastor Mueller is defending. He asserts that there are eight different types of parishes in the synod and he with the Blue Ribbon Task Force assert that that this sociological demarcation ought to be the rationale for the structure of our synod.

But the church is wherever people are gathered around the preaching of the pure Gospel and the administration of the sacraments according to Christ’s command (Augsburg Confession, Article VII) no matter how many of them there are gathered. There are not eight “ministry styles,” but only one – the preaching of Christ crucified and the administration of His sacraments. Viewing the church for corporate and sociological effectiveness and around congregational “ministry style” and size undermines this very theology of the cross which is at the heart of the doctrine of the church.

But Pastor Mueller’s article is not interested in examining the church according to doctrine. Read his analysis below and you will see that he is more interested in sociology and psychology. This is the way supporters of President Kieschnick view the church, in scientific and statistical ways.

Actually, I doubt that critics of the sociological and corporate model of the church don’t even mind if larger churches get together for discussions of issues that are peculiar to them. I know I don’t mind it. Thrivent sponsors a large church conference every year and because I am a pastor of large church, I take interest in the agenda each year and am interested in attending. I have yet to go since the agenda is often dominated by these sociological concerns, but it seems like a good concept. It is OK for like-sized churches to get together and discuss common concerns. We just do not want the church organized around this notion and I am a little uncomfortable if their discussion includes commentary on how they intimidate and scare smaller churches.

For 2,000 years the church has survived without psychology and sociology but now in this last generation, a group of pastors, including President Kieschnick have become smitten with these two modern sciences and Pr. Mueller’s article illustrates this new and faulty approach to the church.

Pastor Mueller also tries to convince us that President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon proposals favor bottom up initiatives. I guess the argument is, if we can only organize around like-minded ministry styles we will have a clearer, stronger voice in synod and congregations will be more empowered. That is just not the case. The proposals do not favor the local congregation.

Even though the Final Report of the Task Force uses the word “congregation” countless times, one wonders why because the proposals take authority away from the congregations at every turn. The congregation is no longer at the heart of the convention delegate process – the district will now determine who the delegates are (Proposal #10). The congregations no longer pick their circuit counselors but must choose from a list generated by the District President (Proposal #3). Most centralizing of all is the grand and glorious Proposal #18 that gives control of some 80% of the synod’s budget to the president and takes away the ministry boards that the congregation elected delegates currently elect.

Delegates and members of LCMS congregations, read carefully the rhetoric of Pastor Mueller, Jesus First and other supporters of President Kieschnick. Acknowledge that sociology, psychology and a corporate mentality certainly have a place in the church, but when they become the primary way we talk about the church, the church is in peril of losing Christ, His Word and His Sacraments. Those concerned about these Blue Ribbon proposals are not “scared” or “intimidated.” They live under the cross and wish for the institutional church to dwell there as well.

Changes in Congregations Should Lead to Changes in Synod’s Structure

By Charles S. Mueller, Sr.

      The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States was founded in 1847 to support congregations in their ministries. In the eight score years since then, the congregations making up the Synod, now numbering over 6,000 in comparison to the original 12, experienced many changes, each in their own way. It makes sense that Synod’s structure should adapt itself to new circumstances. The proposals of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance go in the direction of de-centralization, yielding a leaner structure of boards and staff.

      For the first one hundred years the LCMS was made up of congregations that that came in one of two sizes: small or large. In either case they functioned in essentially the same way. If they could speak loudly enough, pastors were interchangeable regardless of parish size or location. All did parish ministry the same way. One size fit all. What they did was the same thing: gather and care primarily for Lutherans.

        By the 1950s it became increasingly clear that all parishes and their ministries were not alike. A number of different congregational types were developing. Some were Preaching Stations. Others were Family Parishes, or Pastor Parishes, or Organizational Parishes, or Resource Parishes or Community Parishes to cite but a few types. They were what their names suggested. Over time it became clear that they were not organized the same way, nor for their health sake, could they be. While sharing a common faith they did not do church the same way. That stirred institutional unrest and tension. And more and more were becoming intentionally missional.

      Further, these different kinds of parishes needed and developed different kinds of clergy leaders who required a broad range of skills, many not taught at the seminaries. But the LCMS organizes its congregations geographically not by size or operational style or mission intent. In the end congregations of one given style found themselves with more in common with similar congregations in another district than with many congregations in their own districts. Even within a certain size parishes deal with a wide range of ministry challenges like financial resources, generational distribution, cultural context and urban and rural locale.

      Eight Different Types of Congregations

      Today there are at least eight different types of congregations in the LCMS. (Data in support of this assessment has been around for years.) The pastoral/staff/lay leadership requirements of each type of congregation and it size- and location-specifics can vary markedly from one congregation to another. In many ways the most demanding and complex effective leadership requirements today are needed by clergy called to serve congregations worshipping less than 100 people per Sunday. Even within that size dimension there are parish with a with a wide range of ministry components and variances (e.g. rural/urban, generational, cultural) vary.

      The bottom line is that our Synod can no longer muddle along in how to support congregations. If we try to we will only decline further and faster. We need to explore the matter of congregations in depth while there is still time. We need to do this openly and together driven by the Great Commission and avoid doing it covertly and alone.

      Ministry Realignment

      Recognizing this as a need many of our larger LCMS congregations are already linking with similar sized parishes across the nation in the hope that by working together they can help their pastors and parishes, improve in ministry and outreach effectiveness. This scares some. They feel intimidated. Instead of distancing ourselves from this kind of development we need to search for ways to rescale and expand our efforts in ministerial realignment to the benefit of congregations of various sizes, of significant ministerial variety and of service locale. The LCMS needs to vigorously investigate and strategize how its parishes in all categories may best be developed, linked and served regardless of district membership or geographical location.

      Where should the impetus for such realignment come from? Top-down is cumbersome and would be resisted by many. After 160 plus years it seems quite clear that sustained congregational change happens best and the quickest bottom-up.

      Synod shines brightest when it helps such development happen. A lot of institutional bureaucracy is not needed. Agreed? That being so, doesn’t it make sense to start bolstering congregations by realigning our structure to just a Commission on National Mission and a Commission on International Mission—both mission-of-the-church oriented? (“Jesus First Newsletter,” Issue 61, March 21)






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  1. March 26th, 2010 at 09:02 | #1

    After a quick skim of the document and my reading here, would it be safe to state this supposition?

    “The Blue Ribbon Proposal attempts to re-district and re-arrange districts into groupings that shift voting power at Convention in a way favorable to the more liberal leaning side of the LCMS.”

    Having been in a small rural LCMS congregation in western Iowa and continued to visit them on occasion, I can say the synod does little or nothing to aid these congregations. Synod is ignored for the most part and God be praised, the confessional Lutherans of these local congregation continue to preach and teach the word of God. If anything, the synod has had a negative effect on these local rural confessional congregation in sending mixed messages on church practice in pseduo-Lutheran congregations following their own liberal leanings.

    Instead of worrying about LCMS numbers as if that were some measure of success placed before God, the measure should be holding to sound confessional preaching and teaching of God’s word and removing the doctrinally poor practices.

  2. Travis
    March 26th, 2010 at 10:44 | #2

    He says there are 8 types of Parishes. He lists 6: Preaching Stations, Family Parishes, Pastor Parishes, Organizational Parishes, Resource Parishes and Community Parishes. I wonder what the other two are and what the 6 he listed really mean. Are there congregations full of only pastors? Are there congregations that are only concerned with organization and not Word and Sacrament Ministry? Are there congregations that are only for families and not single people or the widows?

  3. STEVEN BOBB
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:43 | #3

    ” Today there are at least eight different types of congregations in the LCMS. (Data in support of this assessment has been around for years.) ”

    Says WHO? A link to the such “data”, in this e- era, is a prerequisite to make such a point.

    ” Synod shines brightest when it helps such development happen. A lot of institutional bureaucracy is not needed. Agreed? That being so, doesn’t it make sense to start bolstering congregations by realigning our structure to just a Commission on National Mission and a Commission on International Mission—both mission-of-the-church oriented?”

    Taking all of the Boards and Commissions and mashing them into just two “Commissions”, all the members being appointed lackeys of the PoTS will be like the formation of the Dept. of Homeland Security when Congress took all kinds of organizations, from the Secret Service to the Coast Guard and Immigration and Customs, and mashed them together. The cost for the whole has become multiple times more than the cost of the parts. We can expect no savings as Synod, Inc. will still want staffing and offices for all the same activities, even if the top layer is only 2 “simple” boards.

  4. Johannes
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:53 | #4

    Perhaps the Congressional Budget Office is taking on some side jobs.

    Johannes (fiscally and structurally hyper-conservative)

  5. Dutch
    March 26th, 2010 at 13:02 | #5

    “Synod shines brightest when it helps such development happen”
    (What?! Shines brightest?, by who’s light? Christ is Head & Light of His Church, & only by HIM do things “happen”, not by Synod, how arrogant are these people?!)

    “Agreed?”
    (Not on your bloody blue life, I don’t!)

    Why is it, I get the feeling, that if these should be passed, the totals & implications are going to resemble what I am seeing on Fox News, Telegraph, Daily Mail & Drudge, w/Healthcare? Gee, I wonder why….oh, yeah, humility vs arrogance & self driven vs foundationally driven. How far away is July?!

  6. Rex W.
    March 26th, 2010 at 20:00 | #6

    “For the first one hundred years the LCMS was made up of congregations that that came in one of two sizes: small or large. In either case they functioned in essentially the same way. If they could speak loudly enough, pastors were interchangeable regardless of parish size or location. All did parish ministry the same way.”

    And that’s when the LCMS grew, right?

    “By the 1950s it became increasingly clear that all parishes and their ministries were not alike. A number of different congregational types were developing. Some were Preaching Stations. Others were Family Parishes, or Pastor Parishes, or Organizational Parishes, or Resource Parishes or Community Parishes to cite but a few types. They were what their names suggested. Over time it became clear that they were not organized the same way, nor for their health sake, could they be. While sharing a common faith they did not do church the same way. That stirred institutional unrest and tension. And more and more were becoming intentionally missional.”

    And we have been in decline ever since, right?

    “Where should the impetus for such realignment come from? Top-down is cumbersome and would be resisted by many. After 160 plus years it seems quite clear that sustained congregational change happens best and the quickest bottom-up.”

    And where did the impetus for the BRTFSSG come from? I do not remember my congregation being involved in any discussions to get this task force started. Do you?

    And by the way, I have never known anything coming from “bottom up” being the quickest. It may be the best…but it is never the quickest.

  7. March 27th, 2010 at 01:32 | #7

    This was said above:

    But Pastor Mueller’s article is not interested in examining the church according to doctrine. Read his analysis below and you will see that he is more interested in sociology and psychology. This is the way supporters of President Kieschnick view the church, in scientific and statistical ways.

    As for sociology and psychology being sciences, they are nothing of the sort, they are not part of the Humanites nor of the Sciences. These two subjects, if you can even call them that, are man made ‘philosophies’, subject to Subjective analysis and reasoning and in no way factual in any sense of that term.

    Science is that which is observable in a predictable way and pattern ” Certainty grounded on demonstration ” Berkley,

    Art attained by precepts, or built on
    prirtciples.
    Science perfects genius, and moderates the fury of
    the fancy which cannot contain itself within the
    bounds of reason. Dryden

    Sociology and Psychology are subjective in that they are based not on objective facts based on observable demonstrable patterns which are certainly predictable but instead are according to ones fancy and imagination.

    Using these pseudo-sciences as a basis for determining anything in the Church, based as they are on man’s wanting a subjective prediction already determined and wanted is nuts.

    Revelation, as determined by God, from Eternity, and revealed in His objective Word is our sure guide.

    But being Reformed as to the Doctrine of the Word, these men see the Word as subjective to what they want it to believe and not on what it reveals of and in itself.

    These jackasses have learned well from the devil how to so eclipse the sun in the hearts of many a Missourian.

  8. March 27th, 2010 at 01:46 | #8

    Deacon Hughes,

    I do agree that psychology and sociology are pseudo or at best semi-sciences.

    TR

  9. March 27th, 2010 at 17:46 | #9

    Pastor Rossow it is sometimes helpful to remind ‘Christian’ Psychologists of the basis or non-basis of their Philosophical Discipline, as they have a habit of presuming upon the factual discipline of Science to the detriment of both.

  10. mames
    March 28th, 2010 at 18:45 | #10

    A brilliantly concieved strategy, to cry at your opponent, “na na na na na na, your a little fraidy cat.” The outright arrogance and real judgementalism of this so called leader is downright irritating. How dare he jump to such a conclusion. He is guilty of the sin of “reading” the heart of another. He owes us all an apology and a long break from his churchly duties, at least until he grows up.

    Our argument is centered around the retention of Law and Gospel and our sacramental nature. If we follow thier lead we will end up like any other mega churh, American evangelical outfit. Pass the grape juice and crackers.

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