Personal Testimony from a Reader about The Alley’s Way of Doing Church

(Editor’s Note: The following is a very powerful testimony as to what is actually going on at Woodbury Lutheran Church and its offspring, The Alley. We have have devoted a lot verbiage to this issue in the last week but nothing has been as insightful as the following that we pulled off the comment section of our last post on The Alley. President Kieschnick – we know you read this website – I hope you read this. The things described below  are going on under your watch and apparently this is just more of the LCMS moving away from  our grandfather’s church as you desire. On another matter, I think Kyle is going to turn out all right. Ironically, one of the most generous financial supporters of BJS is a physics graduate from the bay area – you will know what that means when you read the post script at the end of the comment.)

A Comment from Kyle K. (for all the original post and the other comments click here; Kyle K.’s comment is #25.)

Dear Gentlemen (and women),

I have not had the time to read every single comment that has been made regarding the Alley. So much of what I have to say is probably superfluous…but it may be of interest to some.

You see, unlike Pastor Messer, whose comments have been spot on, I HAVE talked with Pastor Ben personally. In fact, I was a member of Woodbury Lutheran Church (WLC) for 10 years. I was there in my formative years (I’m 26 now), when Pastor Paul Pfotenhauer retired and Pastor Dean Nadasdy replaced him. I was there when Pastor Ben Griffin was called and before the Alley came into existence.

As long as I can remember, WLC has always been about making you “feel” close to God. Sure, they want you to grow in your faith, just as honestly as any confessional Lutheran church would…but how that happens from a WLC stance is decidedly different than simply being nourished by Word and Sacrament.

The WLC “worship style” was always one of praise music, where the music director prayed ex corde as he played twinkly music; we were encouraged to lift up our hands to glorify God as we sang these songs; Lenten services always included a “testimony” from a member of the congregation about what God has done in their lives. In 4th grade, I was taught in Sunday School that if I had never asked Jesus into my heart, then I was not saved.

Each of these points above can be explored in some detail–we don’t need to talk about them here. All this to say, “experience” was the name of the game. I despaired not being able to find a special place in my life where God had turned my life around–that is, I had no testimony. I despaired because I was told I should “feel” a peace at knowing that I had been born again–but I felt no peace. I was grumpy on a Sunday morning and didn’t feel like lifting up my hands in praise–was I not saved?

Between my junior and senior years of college, I had to choose between several career routes–was I going to the seminary, or was I going to do something else? I talked with Pastor Ben to discuss these options. And although I can’t remember exactly what we had discussed, I remember him being very thoughtful and very encouraging (sad to say, I can’t remember what about, though). Upon leaving his office, I was given a book called “The Emerging Church” by Dan Kimball, which he thought was wonderful.

I didn’t mean to get personal here about the pastor; I have no intention of impugning his character. But to Mr. Boatman: Yes, I have talked with Pastor Ben. But that’s not the point. What more is there than Christ and Him crucified? I go to church not to get others saved, but to be served by our Lord and Savior Himself. As for saving others, may we boldly confess Christ in our vocations at work, at home, and everywhere else, and then let’s rely on God’s Word to do the work (Isaiah 55 all the way).

I’m now in a wonderfully confessional church in Cupertino, CA, [in the Bay area] blessed with pastors who hold steadfastly to the Word and acknowledge our Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of the Word of God. I’m, of course, still learning what it means to be a Lutheran–but now I don’t “feel” peace, I KNOW peace because I can point to something outside of myself as my salvation.

My testimony now? Christ died for my sins. That’s all I need.

I am baptized,


P.S. I chose particle physics instead of the seminary.

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.


Personal Testimony from a Reader about The Alley’s Way of Doing Church — 15 Comments

  1. “I’m now in a wonderfully confessional church in Cupertino, CA, [in the Bay area] blessed with pastors who hold steadfastly to the Word and acknowledge our Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of the Word of God.”

    Must be Our Savior Luthertan in Cupertino??

  2. In 4th grade, I was taught in Sunday School that if I had never asked Jesus into my heart, then I was not saved.

    I find this very disturbing.

  3. Hi Walter and Pastor Rossow,

    Yes, my wife and I are now at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Cupertino.


  4. I can identify with Kyle here…youth group functions I attended (late ’80s NID) featured testamonies of how people “came to Jesus”. In small groups we were encouraged to speak of such things as well. Looking back, It is a wonder (only by the grace of God) that anyone makes it out of these gatherings remembering that Christ alone has done all the work. I know it took me a while to get over it!

  5. I really enjoyed Pastor Messner’s writings the other day because I’ve been there, done that. This being said, I relate to what was written here, and very much so. The tragedy of such doctrine is the absence of assurance.

  6. So,… what does this say about The Alley? I hear criticism of Woodbury Lutheran Church, but what about The Alley?

  7. Bill,

    I believe the point is “like father like son.” Even more so in this case since with The Alley Woodbury set out to create a church even more different than traditional Lutheranism than itself.

    This testimony also certifies the first concern raised about the Alley, i.e. that they are seeking to be the unchurch church. Pastor Ben was endorsing as must reading a book on the emerging church, the unchurch church.

    Pastor Rossow

  8. I love this story!

    Please be assured that the Lord needs scientists to labor in his vineyard as well. For too long we have surrendered the scientific vocations to unbelievers and we are beginning to pay the price.

    Thank you, Thank God, for your witness.

  9. “Every prince, nobleman and city should boldly forbid their subjects to pay the annates to Rome and should abolish them entirely;[1] for the pope has broken the compact and made the annates a robbery, to the injury and shame of the whole German nation. He gives them to his friends, sells them for large amounts of money, and uses them to endow offices. He has thus lost his right to them, and deserves punishment.”

    Martin Luther, “Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate (1520)”, published a year before Luther’s excommunication in 1521 (Decet Romanum Pontificem) by the Roman Pope.

    80] But they themselves should remember that riches [estates and revenues] have been given to bishops as alms for the administration and advantage of the churches [that they may serve the Church, and perform their office the more efficiently], as the rule says: The benefice is given because of the office. Therefore they cannot with a good conscience possess these alms, and meanwhile defraud the Church, which has need of these means for supporting ministers, and aiding studies [educating learned men], and caring for the poor and establishing courts, especially matrimonial.
    Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,
    The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops, 80

    “…All this evidence makes clear that the church retains the right to choose and ordain ministers. Consequently, when bishops either become heretical or are unwilling to ordain, the churches are compelled by divine right to ordain pastors and ministers for themselves. Moreover, the cause of this schism and dissension is to be found in the ungodliness and tyranny of bishops, for Paul warns that bishops who teach and defend false doctrine and impious forms of worship are to be considered accursed.”
    + Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops,72 +

  10. David-

    Ditto on #5. I can sympathize with Kyle’s experience of feeling bad because he didn’t have a “testimony” about a dramatic conversion event. However, I thankfully did not come under that kind of pressure in a purportedly Lutheran Sunday School class.

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