BJS Reviews Issues Etc Interview with Dr. Martin Noland

We at BJS have created a new column where we hope to review one program from Issues, Etc. periodically. Our hope in doing this is to help people to understand what types of programs are available on Issues, Etc. and perhaps to generate interest in the show by new listeners. We also hope to make it easier for you to introduce Issues, Etc. to friends or members of your church; you can print these out and hand them to people who might be interested in the topic. Listen to the show to learn more about this topic, or go to the On Demand page on Issues Etc for other programs.

Recently Pastor Todd Wilken interviewed Dr. Martin Noland about a new program put out by the LCMS Mission Department called Transforming Churches Network or as I will refer to it TCN. Dr. Noland is a
Lutheran Pastor and former President of Concordia Historical Institute.

Dr. Noland noted that the TCN is an organization within the LCMS Mission Department whose objective is to address the lack of statistical growth in congregations that have reached a plateau or have declining statistics. They say this indicates an inward focused congregation and being inward focused is the problem, so they need to make them outward focused.

The TCN remedy in a nutshell has two parts.

  1. A representative from TCN or a consultant will look around the congregation and make recommendation.
  2. Congregations are to dump their by laws and constitution and turn their congregation from a voters assembly type polity to a three member board of directors, which is chosen by the pastor, and which will legally control everything.

Pastor Wilken asked why the LCMS Mission Department is worried about congregation’s constitutions. Dr. Noland views this as major problem and said he has not seen evidence that TCN has passed through the proper channels of the CCM, CST, CTCR or the Council of Presidents.

The fathers of the LCMS had the wisdom to realize that everyone is sinful and so it is not a good idea to put too much power in the hands of one person or a small group within a congregation. That is why our congregations were set up with a polity which allows for accountability and checks and balances between voters and congregational leadership. Should we give up our present polity and replace it with the model put forward by Transforming Churches Network for the sake of the possibility of more statistical growth, or should we stick with our tried and true methods of working together as a congregation? I think if you listen to this program you will better be able answer this question.

Listen to the show to learn more about the TCN, or go to the On Demand page on Issues Etc for other programs. At Issues, Etc., we love our OnDemand listeners!


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.


BJS Reviews Issues Etc Interview with Dr. Martin Noland — 21 Comments

  1. We at CLCC have moved to address this issue by releasing free to anybody wanting a PDF copy of the first two parts of our LCMS Church Polity seminar. Part I is on our website at under Articles, Part II should be posted any day now. Part III, The Call Process is in final construction and review and should be available in a couple of weeks, mid-April at the latest.

    Parts I and II address how we arrived at the polity we have and how it is manifested in our churches today. I have copies of the files also.

  2. This really wasn’t enough time to treat the issue, as TCN is a growing phenomenon in our circles. TCN has its own “Ning” site, just like the Wittenberg Trail.

    Our district (South Wisconsin) has taken the “Revitalization” model and tweaked it (somehow – I don’t understand how). And is calling it “Rejuvination”. Before they made this adjustment, I saw a powerpoint from one of our district personnel about the life-cycle of a congregation, and how some congregations are dying… of course, it was really all about statistics as Dr. Noland said.

    The whole process seems to be based on a book by Baptist Paul Borden, called “Hitting the Bullseye…”. You can read about it on here:

    I’d also like to see more discussion of just why LCMS people are so eager to adopt non-Lutheran programs, music, styles and such. Even when we try to modify or “baptize” them, is it really a good idea?

  3. Rev. Chryst said, “I’d also like to see more discussion of just why LCMS people are so eager to adopt non-Lutheran programs, music, styles and such. Even when we try to modify or “baptize” them, is it really a good idea?”

    Tom, I think it gets down to the idea or reaction of pragmatism. Other people are doing things that seem to work, they’re in Christian churches, ergo it must be blessed by the Spirit. Sure, it may need some tweaking but we’re so super smart we can take flawed stuff that’s working & make it even better!

    Maybe that’s a simplistic view of it but I think it’s pretty close to what’s going on. I think a lot of it, too, has to do with people who don’t believe that doctrine & practice actually matter & that they go together. Who knows how much David Luecke has influenced this current generation with his “evangelical style, Lutheran substance” nonsense.

    I also think some of this is also sheer desperation on the part of people who have lost faith that God actually works through Word & Sacraments. It doesn’t seem to be working so obviously we must be doing something wrong, or else God is doing something wrong, so let’s get busy & help Him out.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. “I also think some of this is also sheer desperation on the part of people who have lost faith that God actually works through Word & Sacraments. It doesn’t seem to be working so obviously we must be doing something wrong, or else God is doing something wrong, so let’s get busy & help Him out.” — revgeorge

    Exactly. I have had an Elder of a congregation tell me that “Word & Sacrament weren’t increasing the membership, so we’ve got to try something else.”

  5. I think it’s just plain old Lutheran self-loathing. Which is at heart Word-Sacrament loathing.
    Granted, there are those whose fears are based on their congregations plateauing or declining and are indeed ‘desperate’ to do something helpful.
    But there are always others who, like certain political counterparts, can’t let such a ‘crisis’ go to waste, and who’ll proclaim ‘Vacuum!’ and seize the opportunity to fill said ‘vacuum’ with something more to their liking; and something which, in their hearts, they always preferred anyways.
    In their thinking, Missouri-Synod is so 160 years ago. The Reformation is so 500 years ago. The Crucifix is so 2000 years ago. These are old, embarrassing relics of old embarrassing days, that only lead us down old, irrelevant roads. Carpe diem.
    I don’t think they’re even being clever or crafty about it; they’re becoming more exposed, and loving it.

  6. Susan R, what you say is so often, sadly, true. There are quite a few people who think they are more enlightened & progressive than the rest of us. That’s why they won’t just go away & leave us alone because they think they’re dragging us into the future for our own good. And that’s why they can so often gleefully declaim, “Oh, you old fuddy duddies are dying off anyway & good riddance to you. Once you’re gone we can really do something with the church.” That’s their love in action.

  7. Is it possible to borrow ideas from other sources regarding how to run the “business” of the congregation without poisoning Word and Sacrament ministry? My sentiment lie with many of the observations here. However, Jesus did tell us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Can we look at practical ways to make people feel more welcome at our congregations without changing our theology or liturgy? maybe different worship times depending on our congregation’s location? Greeters? improved internet sites? Could we teach bible classes with power point or even more advanced interactive technology?

    Please don’t misunderstand, I am a Lutheran Christian by conviction, an adult convert and a historian who loves the liturgy and the Confessions.

  8. Dr. P.,

    I think you are right on. Let me go out on a limb here with an example. I actually think that Luther would not have opposed screens in the sanctuary. I do not have the time to defend that proposition right now – maybe later, but for sure, there are all sorts of things that we can do that do not violate authentic Lutheranism.

    BTW – I do not use screens in the sanctuary and do not endorse them mostly because they carry so much other baggage that cannot be overcome.

    Sorry to hit and run here, but I wanted to go on record that you have a good point. Some of the confessional guys are the most creative peopel I know, e.g. Stefanski, Cwirla, McCain, etc.


  9. This ‘dragging us into the future’ business: I don’t think ‘our good’ is on their radar. We just get dragged along, or we drop out, or die fighting them for our churches.
    They’re not interested in what we think or believe; they’ve heard all that all their lives and have done with it.
    We are more and more exposed, through our participation in groups like BJS, CLCC, Augustana Ministerium, etc. They know who we are, know all the ropes and know their own power (which has increased), and, if necessary, come to get us, or, if more helpful, run over us or past us or around us.
    That’s why I say engagement [with them] is futile. They do whatever it takes. The good of anyone is not the question. It’s the power accumulated that’s important, and only insofar as it can be increased into control.
    If they’re already not interested in the treasures of the Reformation, and not interested in preserving them, they have no heart for ‘our good’. They are not mere agents of change, but agents of control. They’ve been mixing their cement for a long time, and are nearly ready to pour it on and let it set.
    It’s despotism, but ‘in Jesus’ name.’ Intentions ‘for our good’ are merely useful cover. A most clever deception.

  10. Susan R, well, yes, they don’t really mean it for our good, just as most busybodies & change agents in other areas of life aren’t doing it for the people’s good, no matter how much they harp on it; it is, as you say, about power & control.

  11. It is unfortunate that the TCN chose to use the word “transform” in their title. Scripture is very clear about who does the transforming of the Church and it isn’t a network.

    Romans (12:2) “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

    I would think they would be a bit more humble in choosing a goal.

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Matthew 18:17 prescribe that excommunication be done by the congregation, not a 3-man committee?

    If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church [ekklesia]. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
    Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)

    If congregations change their constitutions to give a 3-man committee legal control over everything, including excommunication, how do they reconcile that with the passage above?

  13. Adino said, “If congregations change their constitutions to give a 3-man committee legal control over everything, including excommunication, how do they reconcile that with the passage above?”

    They don’t reconcile it with Scripture. Scripture takes a back seat to their organizational plans. Lip service is given, & I’m sure some creative excuse will be put forward as to why Scripture doesn’t apply in this case or, even better, this way actually upholds Scripture!

  14. Reconcile with scripture? Scripture’s so millenia ago.
    It’s the same tactic–with the same result–as those in other communions who would impose gay or female clergy on powerless congregations. Different issues, same tactics.
    *Not* pushing outwardly liberal agendae–just things like church growth and alternative worship–is perhaps another clever cover of a truer motivation: to drive a wedge between congregations and scripture, in order that congregations are dependent upon their ‘leadership’ and not their Lord.
    ‘Dear Leader’ instead of ‘Dear Lord.’

  15. I went there, Aegidius Hunnius, Jr., and this is what I found:
    ‘Envisioning Day’
    ‘visioning process’
    ‘will create a sense of urgency among the members’
    ‘Ministry Council’
    ‘a learning community’
    ‘Assimiliation Director’
    ‘Accountable Leader model’
    Am searching the scriptures for any such prescriptions/models/methods/programs/verbiage. Will get back to you, chapter and verse, asap.
    Come, Lord Jesus.

  16. Adino,

    Just a point of clarification, they are not advocating that these congregations change their constitutions. They are advocating that congregations GET RID of their constitutions altogether. In their eyes, what the church consists of is entirely up for grabs and left open to interpretation.

  17. Oh, the pain that I feel in my heart. Go to the link provided – click on Sunday bulletin – click on 11 AM Woship

    Come quickly Lord Jesus – Come Lord Jesus.

  18. Marcy,
    Try a Sunday in my home parish and you will think that that 11:00am service is “hypo-european, high church”. Why they even use prayers that aren’t popping off from all over the assembly. I wish ours was only using the songs of evangelicalism.

  19. Here’s some transformation *for you*:

    Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

    Philippians 3:18 (ESV) For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    And, as mentioned earlier, it’s God, not some ‘network’ who does the transforming.

    I think the Philippians 3:18-21 one is particularly good, especially with the extra context of 3:18-19, especially v.19. Unfortunately, with the focus on numbers and statistics (their god … their belly … earthly things), this may implicate the TCN folks?

    Lord have mercy.

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