I Do Not want My Grandfather’s Church Nor Captain Kirk, by Pastor Klemet Preus

While theology does not change, management style and theory do. And these days we are experiencing a leadership style which is painfully similar to that of my Grandfather’s church but without effectiveness.


The Baby Boom took place from 1946-1964. Those born before the baby boom tend to have a top down leadership theory and style. Those at the top make decisions which those under them carry out. In this system, leaders, if they are to function at maximum efficiency must have the authority to appoint subordinates, instruct them, direct them, replace them if necessary and basically lead through giving directions. The quintessential leader of this generation is Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. He made decisions without really consulting too many people. He rarely sought the council of his detractors and he was always flying by the seat of his pants. He delegated as little as possible insisting that he was really the one to carry out most of the crucial tasks. When McCoy is complaining “Darnn it Jim. I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker,” you know that too few people are doing the work.  


This is president Kieschnick’s style – kind of. He is top down in his approach. He was the president who, in encouraging us to give our money to the synod wrote, “You’ve got it. We need it. Let’s have it.” Is that top down? You bet. When the Board of Communications Services called someone to be the assistant editor of the Lutheran Witness, President Kieschnick nixed the choice because he did not like the board’s appointee. In his fundraising visits President Kieschnick has to make the direct appeals himself. This cannot be entrusted to others. And, while President Kieschnick apparently does have his advisors, most seem to be cut from his cloth. He even beseeched the convention in 2001 to elect men of his ilk to other positions of leadership. Those vice presidents who served during his first term were used sparingly if at all. In fact the 2004 convention was the first convention in recent memory in which no vice president chaired the assembly. His first vice president was consulted neither on the Benke matter nor on other matters of crucial importance to the synod such as CCM appointments. President Kieschnick would no more listen to guys like Daniel Preus or Todd Wilken than James Kirk would heed the council of a Klingon.          


The difference between Kirk and Kieschnick is that Captain Kirk was actually willing to endanger himself for the sake of his goals and his comrades. He fought the Klingons hand to hand. He would never have hung a colleague out to dry. Are you listening David Strand? He never intimidated by innuendo or through his minions. He did it face to face by the force of his own person. Would it have taken Kirk five years to sit down and talk to NICL? No way. He would have initiated dialog immediately and would have had the confidence to be the chief spokesmen in dialog. Top down leadership must be courageous and competent.


Baby Boomers tend to be drawn to a more synergistic style of leadership. They want a leader who will invite the advice of detractors, who will surround himself with people who are experts in many diverse subjects. Baby Boomers want a leader who will say, “You’ve got it. We need it. How can you teach us to get it?” Baby Boomers don’t necessarily need a leader who has all the answers when it comes to administrative decisions. They want one who will listen to a multitude of answers and sift through them. The quintessential leader for the Baby Boom generation is Jean Luc Piccard of the Starship Enterprise. He was captian in “Star-Trek: The Next Generation”. His style was to call a meeting of all his senior staff. Here he would pose the problem, analyze it with his staff and listen to possible solutions. And his staff was a thoroughly diverse group made up of aliens, Klingons, Robots and – even some detractors. Piccard knew that you can never solve problems without making room for all within the decision making mechanism.


Of course this style actually requires a bit of trust and respect. You can’t call your detractors “speed-bumps.”   You can’t ignore them for years on end. You can’t refuse to consult anyone you think will disagree. You can’t hoard power or grasp it. You don’t push, you – well – you lead.


I’m a Boomer and I enjoyed both Kirk and Piccard. Kirk was much more exciting than Piccard. But Kirk got fat, raised horses and lived off the past. And while he had power he endangered the ship recklessly. Piccard. Ah, Piccard. I wish we could find a Piccard for the church. I sure am getting tired of my grandfather’s church.      

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.


I Do Not want My Grandfather’s Church Nor Captain Kirk, by Pastor Klemet Preus — 28 Comments

  1. Top Down… that says it all.

    And, with President Kieschnick’s Restructuring plan about to be unveiled, I can almost hear Captain Kirk calling impatiently to his chief engineer, “Scotty, I NEED MORE POWER!”

    But you know what they say about power: it corrupts. And absolute power…?


  2. I seem to remember some issues after Benke joined in the inter-faith ceremony after the Sept. 11th disaster. If I remember correctly numerous pastors signed a letter to Synod concerning Benke saying we all share one God, which included Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. I believe GK then attempted to get district leaders to chastise all who signed. I don’t know how far it went but I do remember the stress it caused for some who thought they were going to be pushed out of their calling. Please correct me if I’m wrong about this my memory and writing skills are not my forte’. Regardless, this was my first inkling that there were problems within Synods “leadership”.

  3. John S,

    Your memory is correct although I think those who were watching things carefully saw problems with President Kieschnick before the Yankee Stadium issue.

    The letter you are talking about was put out by the confessional group that I have belonged to for the last 15 years – The Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans (NICL). It was called “That They May be One” (TTMBO). NICL writes a twice monthly column for this website. You can go to https://steadfastlutherans.org/blog/?cat=22 to view it or just go to the “Regular Columns” button and scroll down.

    Four of us pastors from NICL had a three hour meeting this Spring with President Kieschnick to discuss his rebuke of us and all who signed the document (3,000 people). To his credit, President K. apologized for calling us schismatic. To his shame, which he admitted, it took him five years to respond to our request for a meeting and also to his shame, he did not admit that it was unscriptural for President Behnke to participate in the ecumenical and syncretistic affair at Yankee Stadium.

    Pastor Rossow

  4. The thing is, though, the baby boomers are starting to hit 60 or so and retirement. The Gen Xers are coming to age 40.

    There are a lot of Gen X pastors on the clergy roster of the LCMS. And they are involved and often more rabidly confessional and liturgical than the percentage of the baby boomer pastors that didn’t go church growth.

  5. After 50+ years of wandering around this increasingly destitute and dying Planet Synod, I’m getting ever closer to “Beam me up Scotty”

  6. Or, do you remember the episode where Kirk is stranded on the native american planet and begins to think he is a god? That seems strangely familiar too.


  7. Or, do you remember the episode where Kirk is stranded on the native american planet and begins to think he is a god? That seems strangely familiar too.


  8. It seems to me that even more than a Piccard type of leadership, what is sorely needed by the LCMS today is a very pastoral leadership. A pastor does not need to “win.” A pastor simply wants what gives glory to Christ and is for the ultimate good of the flock which has been commended to his care. A pastor – ideally – listens humbly. And prays. And consults Scripture, the Confessions, and the pastoral counsel of other pastors.

    Where leaders begin to think of themselves as “leaders,” there is no “leadership style” which will suffice. By definition, they have to either win (at all costs, usually) or they will be given the worst label a leader can receive: “ineffective.”

    A true pastoral leader does not need to resort to an endless list of “programs” so that the Church may “be effective.” He knows that true “effectiveness” is something which only God can measure as He looks into the hearts of men, women, and children. A true pastoral leader does not think that he needs to “make” (read manipulate) people make a “decision” (for Christ, for more $$, etc.). In fact, a true pastoral leader does not even want to manipulate people.

    A pastoral leader tries to live out what he confessed and promised at his ordination, namely, that God is at work in people’s hearts through the Law (to convict of our sins) and through the Gospel in the Means of Grace (to draw them to His love and mercy). Accordingly, a pastoral leader, though he may have administrative duties, nevertheless always commends people to things spiritual. He does not try to adopt a worldly model into the Church’s business.

    This is what makes leadership in the LCMS and other church bodies such a crucial issue today. Everyone seemingly wants to adopt a “Kirk-style” or “Piccard-style” or even a “servant-leader-style” leadership model. What the Church needs, I firmly believe, is a pastoral leader who does not let anything get in the way of the proper care of the immortal souls for whom Christ died. This was, by God’s grace, one of the things which made the late Dr. A. L. Barry so beloved to some and so undesirable to others.

    I could say much more b/c this is something which I have been thinking about for a very long time. May God grant us “leaders” who have truly pastoral hearts.

  9. Any chance that Mr Strand (and/or any others) might have an epiphany and come over to the “dark side”?

    Any chance it might happen before the elections at the next convention?

  10. Funny. For all the talk of the baby-boom-happy-friendship-servant-leadership, it seems to me that the boomer-Christian-leaders (like their counterpart hippies who became the yuppies they once would have maligned,) wield their “team” power with far greater totalitarian viciousness then any “heir pastor” of the last generations could have dreamed. I dare you to question Rick Warren in his own parish. Seriously. The Pope has to listen to advice more often.

    But I get the point that’s being made, and I see the value of Picard vs. Kirk. It’s a good metahpor, yet within limitations.

    I would point out the Picard STILL had absolute authority within his vocation – under the authority of those over him. When the chips were on the table, the decision he rendered was it. Picard’s genious is that he listened to those who were wise, and pooled that wisdom into his decisions. But 99% of the Enterprise played no roll in those decisions. It was the appointed leadership. And, in the end, it was him alone. Those who disagreed still followed. This was (will be?) the military. Insubordination is simply not allowed.

    This is where I see the boomer-everyone-rules attitude as exceedingly dangerous to many of our parishes. It would seem that, by rule, there is no official leadership ALLOWED, ESPECIALLY from that pastor. A culturally inbedded sort of mob rule, does, like cancer, seek to protect itself at any costs no matter how the body might be damaged in the process. But I would hesitate to call this Kirk at all. I would call this the spawn of a Ferengi-Klingon hybrid, assimilated to the borg and then taken over by the Dominion.

    That is to say, I will take grandfather’s submission to authoritarianism in some things (especially those things adiaphora,) over the enmeshed Galactic warfare I have seen in too many hyper-democratic congregations who have forgotten that presidents DO preside, and a Shepherd’s don’t main job is not to follow the sheep. Why? Because someone does need to lead/rule. It’s the created order. That sinners abuse this reality doesn’t mean we can cast off the 1st and 4th commandment.

    Please don’t think that I’m saying we therefore ought to rejoice in a Kirk at the helm of Missouri. But we ought to be careful, lest in dealing with his reckless blowing up of Starfleet property, we abolish office of Starship Captain, and so throw into jeopardy the war against the Klingons who keep saying they’re friendly while plotting our demise.

    A mixed mixed mixed metaphor to be sure. 😀

    All said and done, point well taken, Pastor Preus. An excellent piece!

  11. Rev. Wollenburg:
    I’d love to read more of what you have to say on the topic.
    It’s always appeared to me to be a primary part of ‘the Lutheran difference’ among Christian confessions: the role–the entire concept of–the pastor: the shepherd, the teacher, the preacher, the Christ-giver. An office-holder; not the prime examplar Christian or the chief administrator or visionary of a congregation. Nothing to offer, really, but Christ.
    That’s also one of the primary losses we suffer as we fall more and more under the spell of American evangelicalism and the post-denominational pipe-dream: understanding *what* the pastoral office brings is as opposed to worrying *who* the pastor is.
    It’s the office, stupid.

  12. Rev. Preus,

    excellent analogy. However, I must strenuously disagree on one point: It was not a robot on Picard’s crew, it was an android. But other than that, a fine job.

    God grant us true leadership, and soon.

  13. Thanks, Susan, for your kind words. You are correct. God has given us the Office of the Ministry for the purpose of bringing Christ to people who desperately need Him. “Leadership” which is not pastoral is doomed to fail. Any “pastor” who is postured as CEO or the like simply cannot fulfill his office — If one tries to “meld” the two concepts, the attempt is doomed to failure — they exclude one another. Yes, more on that some other time, to be sure.

  14. Kirk was supposed to be modeled on the sea captains of the great Age of Exploration, both real (like Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh) and fictional (like Horatio Hornblower). His situation was supposed to be similar: Isolated in immense, uncharted and dangerous territory, he had to assume almost absolute personal authority and expect almost absolute loyalty from those under his command for the sake of survival.

    By the time the Star Trek:The Next Generation premiered, the original series had come to be seen as too testosterone-driven (they wanted to attract more female fans), so the new hero, Picard, was made more of a diplomat and team player. But underneath the different style was the same substance: Picard, too, could be decisive and was willing to accept full responsibility for his decisions.

    As to how that applies to the president of the LCMS, make of it what you will.

  15. Jim Claybourn asked: “Any chance that Mr Strand (and/or any others) might have an epiphany and come over to the “dark side”? Any chance it might happen before the elections at the next convention?”

    I suppose anything could happen, but remember, at Synod Inc. moral epiphanies are frowned upon. Career synodicrats survive by keeping them to a minimum.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath.


  16. During a recent conference out of town, the group I was with was talking about integrating the various generations that we now have working together. For the first time ever, we have four generations in the workplace at once.

    Of the Boomers, born in the years 1946-1964, the speaker said that some of the key characteristics of their generation are; that they feel entitled to what they have, they like rules while believing the rules don’t apply to them and they believe and insist that everyone be team players (in the workplace. There were one or two more good ones but I don’t have them written down anywhere.

    While the speaker wasn’t talking about our (or anyone elses) beloved synod, don’t those traits look familiar?

  17. Continuing along the line of Todd Wilken’s “Star Trek” reminiscences:

    Indeed, the actor who played Kirk now raises horses. He’s also grown so fat that only the stockiest among his herd can bear him. He’s a crushing burden to most of those in his care.

    Would an SP with a Capt.Kirk style eventually burden his flock? I’m guessing, yes.

  18. I quote Pr. F. Baue: “All of the baby-boomers should just be taken out and shot.” That would mean those of us in Generation X would be the firing squad. ’nuff said.

  19. I’ve lost track of the titles since Gen-X (still not sure who that is).
    I’d just like to know which generation it is who’s all caught up in ‘making a difference.’ That sounds so lame, but it’s the source of so many ills.

  20. While management styles are significant, neither the “Jean Luc Picard” model or the “Captain James T. Kirk” model are necessarily right or wrong. What we need is that either one is confessional, faithful, etc. Doctrine is not a matter of democracy.

    GenXers are tired of the reactionary nature of baby boomers, liberal or conservative. Lutherans are evangelical catholics. We need to recapture our awareness of the catholicity of the Lutheran Confessions. And we also need to realize the evangelical nature of the catholic historic liturgy. To be evangelical in the best sense is to be sacramental as well.

    Some might say that Dr. Barry was a bit presumptuous to think that we could nicely turn the synod around without making any signficant number angry. I dont’ know if that was in his motives or not, but the state of the synod tells us that it will not be reformed neatly, nicely, or without fallout.

    But to focus on retaking the bureaucracy by electioneering, mailing out reams of paper to delegates, and all of that is misguided and puts our hope in churchly princes. Anyone who would do what needs to be done would have to count on being a one termer.

    Regardless of whether a liberal or conservative is in charge bureaucracies resist reform. The proposed changes to foster mission are only so much re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It won’t solve our theological division or our financial issues.

  21. Something I do know, however, about baby boomers, being one myself: we always have to be doing something. We love busy work. Busy schedules, with lots of complications. Even vacations. Especially vacations.
    And church is hardly immune to our busy-bodiness.
    Also, things that happen to us are things that have, apparently, never ever happened to anyone else at any other time, nor had such impact. It would seem that prior generations never had to contend with sudden death or the effects of aging or managing money or raising bright children. Or cooking dinner.
    We wear me out.

  22. I would add to that for both confessional and liberal or moderate baby boomers it so often comes down to personality. Gen X pastors and laity would often prefer to get out of the personality game. It isn’t about our tastes, but the gospel.

    It seems that the boomers are constantly re-fighting Vietnam by transferral. It becomes more of a culture war. The blind adherence to procedures, processes, and talking everything to death will choke us. Economical use of language to confess faithfully and directly will serve us best in preaching, catechesis, hymnody, and in addressing the theological issues of the day. But let us stand where we confess and be done with it.

    By-law driven busy work has blocked true reform by the Word of God for many decades. Surgical precision in dealing with critical issues is more called for in our day. Tabloid style exposes only waste energy. Inform the laity, discuss the issues but let us see where we stand – with the prophets of Baal or with the LORD?

    Remember, this comes down to the clear marks of the church among in our parishes, especially in the Divine Service.

  23. I am a baby boomer who is feeling a bit marginalized by this discussion. I feel I have been put in a tiny box where I don’t fit and now someone wants to shoot at me? I was feeling threatened by my own synod before as one who needs to be put out to pasture, but now? Does anyone know where we boomers go to feed if someone closes the door to the barn?

  24. I too am a “boomer” but I don’t feel marginalized as I am on of those distressed by the “boomers” who are the problem. Never fear Gayle, there are many strong confessional boomers and parishes where we can be fed.

  25. Again, funny. From below the GenXers, I don’t see a huge difference between them and the Boomers. GenXers keep wanting to distinguish themselves from their parents (which is the defining characteristic of boomers!)

    Not to say that my “next” “y” “millenial” “me” generation will be much better so long as the theologians of glory are running the Church, but I have a hard time believing GenX is the answer.

    Just my thoughts

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