The Transforming Churches Network: Part 4, Taking the Plunge, by Scott Diekmann

(Scott’s posts are archived on the Regular Columns page under the title “Apologetics: Apply Liberally.” This is the  fourth post  in a series on the TCN program. It is also posted on his website Stand Firm.)



The Consultation weekend is when the Mission Revitalization Process really gets rolling.   While there are some preliminary steps, once your congregation has decided to invite the Transforming Congregation Network (TCN) into their midst, this is the defining event.     It is described as “an intervention designed to lead to systemic change.”

Briefly, the consultation begins on Friday afternoon when the pastor and staff are interviewed by a group of “trained consultants” and a “Focus Group” is held.   On Saturday the congregational leaders are interviewed, further analysis is conducted, and training on “healthy congregations” and other topics occurs.   On Saturday evening the lead consultant (a pastor) and his team write the consultation report.   Sunday morning, the pastor of the congregation preaches about his “vision,” followed that afternoon by a “Town Meeting” in which the results of the consultation report are presented to the congregation.

After the consultation, the pastor initiates a 4-6 week “season of repentance, forgiveness and renewal,” consisting of “teaching, prayer, and fasting, leading up to a Congregational day of repentance and renewal.   The purpose for the Day of Prayer and Repentance is to offer prayers of confession for this congregation’s apathy toward those people that God misses most.”  

At the end of the 4-6 weeks, the congregation decides on whether they will commit to the prescriptions of the TCN Consultation Report.   Once the congregation agrees, it is on its way to permanent assimilation into the Church Growth Movement (CGM) paradigm.   It’s an all or none proposition, because they must agree to comply with all of the prescriptions of the consultation.   What the congregation may or may not know, is that the pastor has already signed a covenant before the consultation ever took place in which he commits to the transformation process.   (Consultants and members of the future Board of Directors of your church must also sign a covenant.   What happened to the days when a Christian just let his “Yes” be “Yes” and his “No” be “No,” as Jesus commands in Matthew 5:37?)  The covenant begins: “It is my intent to fully and actively participate in the Transforming Congregations Network (TCN). As a member of TCN, I commit to the following activities….”   Among other things, the pastor promises to start a Learning Community with the church leaders, bring the church leaders to TCN training events, initiate a “prayer team” to pray for the Pastors’ Learning Community and the Leader Learning Community, begin Groups Ablaze! in the congregation, and begin TRIAD strategy.   In other words, the congregation is already on its way to becoming a TCN “customer” whether they know it or not.

Presented below is a composite of the Consultation Report, which is quoted from actual reports.   If your church were to participate, your report would be similar.   While the reports vary, there is always some combination of prescriptions related to vision, inward focus, leadership development and structure.   The one prescription that is inescapable, is the requirement to change your church structure to the Accountable Leadership Model.   It is this structure that creates many of the doctrinal problems associated with TCN, as we’ll see in the following days.


TCN Consultation Report


The Consultation Team has very much appreciated the openness of the staff and members of the congregation with whom we met. We thank God for your ministry and look forward to seeing how the Lord will use your congregation in the future to touch hundreds of people in this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The following is our report to the members of XYZ Lutheran Church based on this weekend’s visitation.


Strengths of your Congregation

– A comment about the caring nature of the members.

– A compliment of some sort to the pastor.

– Three other compliments of some sort.   Every report has five strengths listed, no matter how many or how few the particular congregation may actually have.


Concerns   [These are variable, but generally reflect some combination of the following]

1. Lack of vision – The congregation lacks a clear, unified, compelling, God-given vision.   While pastor and people have individual ideas and visions for the future there is no single vision that guides all aspects of the congregation over an extended period of time. This lack of vision has kept the congregation from reaching its full potential in fulfilling the Great Commission.

2. Inward focus – The congregation has fallen into the habit of taking care of themselves, providing for their comfort and personal preferences at the expense of reaching out to the people of this community who are living without faith in Christ and thus destined for an eternity in Hell. Thus they have failed to fulfill their calling to participate with the Lord Jesus in the task of making disciples of all people.

3. Lack of Leadership Development – There is no clear process to recruit, equip and empower new leaders for the congregation. Therefore current leaders are overworked and or are working in areas for which they are not gifted nor from which gain satisfaction.

4. Ineffective Structure – The present governance structure of the church divides authority from responsibility while providing no accountability. This has resulted in an ineffective system that produces few measurable results for making disciples. The current governance structure stifles creative ministry on the part of members.

5. Other concerns might include:

– Inadequate facilities

– Unhealthy relationships

– Sense of powerlessness due to fiscal indebtedness

– Disconnected ministries

– Poor communication

– Discipleship



1) Outward Focus- Upon the acceptance of the following prescriptions, the congregation will initiate a season of repentance, forgiveness and renewal for the congregation. The Congregational coach will assist Pastor ABC in leading the congregation through 4-6 weeks of teaching, prayer and fasting, leading up to a Congregational day of repentance and renewal. The purpose for the Day of Prayer and Repentance is to offer prayers of confession for:

● Idolatry connected to an inward focus on members’ comfort,

● Apathy and or disregard toward those people that God misses most in this community,

● Rededication to God’s mission of making disciples in this community.

The leaders and congregational members are encouraged to offer silent and public prayers asking God to forgive them personally and collectively for failing to participate in making new disciples of Jesus Christ on a regular and consistent basis. The Day of Prayer will be held no later than [date].

This refocusing process will include surveying the community and hosting community based focus groups with the goal of understanding the needs of the people living within the area surrounding the church facility. This task will be completed by [date].

Launch 2 new interest/affinity groups by the end of the year and 7 more by [month, year].

Begin the planning process to initiate a second worship service which is designed to attract the people of [City]. The first Sunday of 2 services begins on Easter Sunday [year].

Beginning in [year] the congregation will annually hold at least 6 off church campus events which are completely focused on people of this community.

Pastor ABC will preach an [Church season] sermon series on the missional outward nature of God’s church.

2) Vision- In order to gain a clear, unified, compelling, God-given vision, the congregation will:

a) By [date], engage, with input from the DEF District, a facilitator who leads a visioning process. This visioning process will include community surveys and community based focus groups with the goal of understanding the needs of the community and people living within the area surrounding the church facility.

b) Once developed, pastor and staff will communicate the vision for ninety days throughout the congregation.

c) At the end of the ninety days of intentional vision casting the congregation shall meet to consider adoption of the vision. The target deadline is [month, year].

d) Leadership will continually insure that every member knows and is committed to carrying out the vision.

e) All existing and new ideas, facility plans, programs and ministries must be evaluated in light of this vision and any that do not enable the congregation to move closer to achieving this vision shall be stopped or not implemented.

3) Leadership Development – By [date], Pastor and Board must implement a process to equip staff members in their attempts to recruit, equip and train the future leaders of the congregation.

Pastor ABC shall convene a monthly learning community consisting of 5-7 leaders of XYZ Church by [date].

Pastor ABC will participate in the Pastor’s Learning Community until its completion.

4) Structure – Effective with the acceptance of these prescriptions the congregation will prepare to adopt the Accountable Leadership Model. The Pastor and leaders will lead the congregation in suspending those particular bylaws that describe how the congregation functions in its ministries. These bylaws, by vote of the congregation, will be put in abeyance for three years. At the end of the three years, the congregation will vote to either return to the bylaws or adopt new ones that are written to reflect how ministry is currently being done at that time. The vote to suspend these articles will be held in conjunction with the vote to accept or reject this report.

The Model will be implemented beginning [date], with the Pastor assuming leadership and articulating the congregation’s vision to the members. The Board will hold the Pastor accountable for the achievement of the vision of the congregation and will set boundaries for the Pastor’s ministry. They will also support his work. The Staff leaders will report directly to the Pastor, and the Pastor will hold them accountable for the goals they have set. The Pastor will meet weekly with the Staff leaders as they empower and direct the congregation membership in carrying out its ministry. The present organizational by-laws will be put in abeyance while this Accountable Leadership Model is implemented.

In this new model of governance, there will be a Board of Directors of 3 people plus the Pastor. [Up to 6 people plus the pastor.] These 3 will represent an outward focused mission and the new vision when it is adopted. Their role will be to govern the church. The Pastor’s role will be to lead the church. The role of staff members will be to manage the church. The role of the congregation will be to conduct the ministries of the church.

By [date], the pastor will nominate five members to serve on the Board. [In one instance, the congregation nominated the board nominees.]  The congregation will select 3 of the five to serve as the Board. Potential members must meet the following criteria:

Members who are weekly participants in worship and Bible study.

Members who are striving to or are giving a tithe.

Members who understand and support the mission and vision of the congregation.

5) Other prescriptions have included:

– Building & Grounds

– Making Connections & Bridges to the community

– Healthy Relationships

– Children’s Ministry

– Fiscal Health

– Improve Participant and Member Retention

The congregation will vote to accept or reject these prescriptions by [date]. We strongly urge a time of prayer and serious deliberation prior to making this decision. Upon acceptance of this report, the DEF District commits to “walk along side” XYZ Church by providing a “coach” for a minimum of one year to help the church implement these prescriptions.




We want to thank you for the opportunity to consult with you. We believe that by God’s grace your best days as a congregation are ahead of you with the implementation of these prescriptions.


Consultation Reports available on the internet:


photo credit: Wiro

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.


The Transforming Churches Network: Part 4, Taking the Plunge, by Scott Diekmann — 27 Comments

  1. Here is the heresy at the root of the entire system:

    “The leaders and congregational members are encouraged to offer silent and public prayers asking God to forgive them personally and collectively for failing to participate in making NEW disciples of Jesus Christ on a regular and consistent basis.”

    It is this one insertion into Scripture of one tiny little word that has bent the TCN model awry. Every other error can be traced back to this semi-pelegianism.

  2. You know,
    If it weren’t for the “covenant signing,” and the constitutional changes, it might be really fun for a particularly squared away Confessional congregation w/ a faithful pastor to sign up for one of these. Perhaps by giving a consistent Confessional witness throughout the process they could reach “those people that God misses most” (the Schwarmeri.) If not, it might still be a hoot and would keep the jackals off weaker prey for 4-6 weeks.
    Perhaps that’s the purpose of the “covenants.”
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  3. Yes, the covenant signing is the initial betrayal.
    From there, it’s like Chicago-style voting: betray early and betray often.

  4. Not only is the emphasis on “NEW” disciples, but the rest of the passage is ignored. What about baptizing and teaching to cling, guard, treasure? What about the sheep already in the fold? What do they get? “Jesus saved you, so get to work!” The Great Commission according to Borden and LCMS goes like this: “Go and make new disciples” Period. My daughter said this looked like a “replacement sheep” program.

    Susan, did you get the stuff?


  5. I did, Johannes, and thank you very much.
    What grief we bring upon ourselves, and on our brothers and sisters in Christ, in making the church our plaything.

  6. Revfisk, and others: what is the problem with the Season and Day of repentance. I am extremely uncomfortable with them, but I know Walther preached at least two sermons for a Day of Repentance in two different congregations. Certainly, repentance is to be preached (and forgiveness, too). So why am I so uncomfortable? What SHOULD we do, in lieu of these events? They have a somewhat manipulative character, and almost a revivalistic flavor. So, from a biblical, confessional, theological perspective what’s wrong here, and what ought to be done? Help!!

    Johannes (perplexed)

  7. I am not Revfisk, nor do I play him on television.

    However, in answer to # 7 –

    A Day of humiliation and prayer in itself is not a problem. I think you’re on the right track in saying they’re manipulative and revivalistic. We should be repenting of the right things, not for transgressing some rules made by men.

    What’s to be done is that we should resist this with all our strength. At their very best, these things are unnecessary. AT their worst, they are destroying the Body of Christ by viewing the making of disciples as a product of our work, not God’s. They lead to lack of faith since they make the actual Means of Grace secondary to our own works.

    If you’re stuck in the process, speak out faithfully against revivalism. If your congregation has swallowed this, hook, line, and sinker, then speak out faithfully. That’s the best we can do. If no one listen to you, your conscience is clear.

  8. Now we’re getting somewhere: “Rules made by man.” The resisting part is difficult, if not daunting. You’re up against the establishment of synod, and the push of mission execs, who have forgotten and lost faith in the power of God’s Word. Believe me, I’m trying!

    But, again–“rules made by man” is much of what troubles me. Thanks, Rev. Eckert

  9. Ironically, this whole ‘process’ does nothing but curve an already inwardly-curved congregation even further inward.
    They’re being more than asked, but outright shamed into looking to themselves for solutions to very real problems.
    Christ? Fuhgeddabouthim. Look to yourselves, what you’re doing, what you’ve failed to do, and, even worse, look to your leaders. Embrace the process–it’s your only hope. It is your new gospel.
    I wonder what the new process will do for you when you’re sick and dying. Will your leader hold up a helpful to-do list before your closing eyes?

  10. When you’re sick and dying, there won’t be a pastor at your side. Not the person who personally fed you Christ’s body and blood, baptized your children, and fed you all God’s forgiving Word. Maybe a fellow parishioner will be there – that person might be called a “leader.” No pastoral commendation of the dying from God’s undershepherd. Hard to tell what will be said. It probably won’t be something about “beggars all,” or to remind you of your Baptism. It’s not a reassuring feeling is it.

  11. Ahhh, Scott at #11, you have put your finger on it! Despite attempts to cleverly disguise it, this is NOT about individual, immortal, blood-bought souls! Rather, this is about selling a program. This is the first, the central, and the final problem with all of this stuff (as with all of “church, INC,” in my opinion): they care more about selling the program/cure/process rather than about the souls for which the dear Savior died! May the Lord grant us leaders who are pastors with pastors’ hearts for both the sheep of the Shepherd AND for those sheep whom the Shepherd still wants in His sheepfold. Shepherds is what we need! ANYTHING less than shepherds will leave the body of Christ wanting and in neglect. God help us.

  12. Now that I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I realize why I’m so uncomfortable with the Season and Day of Repentance. This is “the sin of the day.” I know of one church where the “confession” that day is about whatever sins came up in the readings–the “sin of the day.” This is the same thing: Today the congregation will repent of failure to be concerned about the lost. Next month, they’ll be told to repent for lack of stewardship (or whatever). And besides, who is the LCMS (or Paul Borden) to describe the lost as “those whom God misses the most”? How do they know whom God misses the most, anyway? Talk about lousy theology!!
    Utter “bogusity”!

  13. Kinda makes me think of a wife who is plain, accustomed to being in the background, and faithful, being told by her husband to pretty herself up a little and make herself more appealing; more tempting–to others!
    In plain speaking, is it not making a whore of the church?

  14. Can anyone envision St. Paul using the TCN program for the church at Corinth? When I read the Pauline epistles, I can not seem to juxtapose TCN with the writings he recorded. (PS – I consider this a blessing rather than a failure.)

  15. Johannes, and all,

    I think you are uncomfortable with the “day of repentance” because you smell the rat. I think this is why SJSteadfast and IE have taken up the cause – they smell a rat. You know there’s something going on under the surface, and so your trying to find it. This I commend. And I agree. As I have said, there is one big, smelly rat.

    But, I also know that in looking for the rat (because we know there is one,) it is a habit of humans to call things rats that are not. I remember this happening in the LBW/LW battle. You can read about it in “Lutheran Worship, History and Practice,” from CPH. At the time, the LCMS was so hurried to find the problems in LBW and sever their ties with it that they ended up making a bunch of rather weak/forced arguments, often missing the mark. In their zeal to find the rat, they called things that aren’t rats “rats.”

    My concern is that we will do the same thing here.

    To answer Dennis, yes, I can envision St. Paul doing exactly what TCN is an attempting to do. I cannot in anyway envision him doing it with the theology that TCN does it. But he did exactly this: he intervened.

    1. He wrote a letter intervening in the incurvatis madness in Corinth, and he called them to account on their lack of vision. They wanted the wisdom of man as their vision. He said, no, you must know nothing but Christ and him crucified. That is the vision of the Church.

    (As was pointed out above, this is why TCN does make inward focused congregations into further inward focused congregations. By taking the eyes of the people off “how can WE serve ourselves” and making the focus “how can WE convert our neighbors,” they have not truly made the congregation an *extra nos* congregation. Getting the vision right, as St. Paul did, is imperative.)

    [Notice, the problem is not having a vision, the problem is having man’s vision.]

    2. From the other concerns listed in the above document which are models for change in various congregations, think of the application:

    A. Lack of leadership development (understood as retaining your leaders): “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim 5) “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13)

    Many congregations drive out pastor after pastor, and learning to let a Pastor do his job is a biblical reality. This can be applied to all the power struggles that go on in congregations.

    B. Ineffective Structure – “But all things should be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14) This is a classic verse in the Lutheran understanding of the need for human structures in congregations as they exist in the left hand kingdom. In many (not all) congregations, chaos, emotion and the most manipulative people reign. This was the case in Corinth to a degree – Paul needed to stop the superapostles who were undermining the apostotlic authority within the Church.

    C. Inadequate facilities – not exactly biblical per say. But if we are going to throw fits about church in coffee shops and bars, then we must recognize that some congregations abuse their facilities in other ways too, either through idolatry or neglect.

    D. Unhealthy relationships – This is what Paul’s letters to Corinth was largely about, especially the second one. If there is war in a congregation, it needs to be dealt with, and an outside authority figure is often key to bringing objectivity, especially when the pastor is involved in the fight.

    E. Sense of powerlessness due to fiscal indebtedness – Congregations that are small often make their “mission” paying the budget – which means, keeping the building up and paying the pastor as little as we have to. Read 2 Corinthians 9. This is nigh on very close to what Paul is dealing with: trying to get the congregation to think about the needs of others first. Shall we really decry this?

    F. Disconnected ministries – any action by the congregation which works against the Word and Sacraments of Jesus and serves its own ends and agendas is a danger to the Church. Is it not?

    G. Poor communication – Have the mind of Christ. Be quick to listen, slow to speak. When people don’t know what’s going on in the congregation, this often leads to fights, etc. Why did Paul write the second letter to Corinth? To stop the poor communication which was spreading gossip and undermining the Gospel.

    H. Discipleship – if people are not being brought into their baptismal life weekly and taught the Word, is this not an issue? Every letter Paul wrote is about this.

    3. —->>>>>>> Now…please understand, I am not saying TCN will exactly be using these categories the way I have describe Paul using most of them. In fact, TCN by itself will NOT use them this way. But this is all the more reason we who love the confessions should not decry the surface of the issue, but strive to call out the rat itself.

    I said earlier that the problem is the insertion of the word “new” in to the great commission between “make” and “disciples” (which, ironically, is ONE word in the Greek: “Disciple” as a verb). It was noted earlier that they cut off the end of the verse, but that is not entirely fair – as adult baptisms is high on their priority list (and yes, I know, infant baptisms should count too and they are short sighted to ignore this.)

    The point is, hermeneutically, they give the latter verses less weight BECAUSE of that word “new” or “more” which drives their interpretation from start to finish. It gets all the weight and all else (throughout the entire program) is interpreted through it. That’s the rat. It controls the entire system leaving little claw marks and its smell on everything.

    Matt Mills noted that a confessional Pastor ought to enter the system to see what he might do. If you haven’t figured it out, I and my congregation are in the middle of it. Note: I have signed no covenant (so that is not exactly a requirement.)

    You can follow the process via my Enewsletters, which can be viewed at

    We have had our weekend intervention, and the consultant team, (which belongs to the English District in this case) did a very good job allowing myself and my theological concerns with the program to channel the process towards really issues in the congregation. And this bringus up perhaps the most important point I can make (if you haven’t written me off): when a congregation uses this program, THE PASTOR AND PEOPLE get to interpret the words that are used.

    *This means that it will largely fall on the theological acumen of the pastor as to where the congregation will go with the prescriptions.* In our case, it is a chance for a small, struggling congregation in Philly (one of the very few left), to take its eyes cumulatively off itself, and get them back on Jesus, the author of our Faith. So far it has been a catalyst event, helping us to (begin to) break old habits quickly, to come under the headship of our Lord together, and to remember that we exist to know nothing but Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of our sins, and not only our sins, but the sins of the whole world.

    We vote on the prescriptions at the end of May. At this point, I think they will pass – and this because, from start to finish, this process has been about ceasing to be a congregation with “Lutheran” on the sign but our agendas in the house, and becoming steadfast confessors of the pure Gospel to the whole of Philadelphia.

    That said, I *do not* recommend the process to the faint of heart or the theologically malleable. Adult converts to Lutheranism tend to be a tenacious breed – such am I. It has not been a jolly walk in the park. It has been a fight – largely with the materials – but a fight nonetheless.

    I commend Scott Diekmann, and all of you who are concerned for the agenda driving TCN. You are right to be concerned. I do not advocate for that agenda in the least.

    But, I do see the problems which TCN wants to address, and I firmly believe we need Lutheran answers to these problems. TCN does not always give us those answers, but it is neither devoid of all wisdom. Congregations cannot continue to sit on their assets and argue about their own pet agendas until the pastor is homeless or taken a safer call (like the last 5 pastors probably have) and there is no more Gospel preached to them or anyone for miles in every direction. These congregations must be called to repentance, and it is truly a matter of vision: we need to be brought to Christ and him crucified as the heart and core of who we are as Church.

    Again, please feel free to dialog with me on this issue. I don’t pretend to see every angle. Follow the process via our newsletters, pray for us, and hold us to account. Only, don’t let the rat steal from us what is good and useful just because that rat has touched it.


    I have not in this post talked at all about the “Accountability Leadership Model” of governance, which is part of the package and one of our prescriptions at St. John. I would be happy to do so at another time.

    Having studied the model carefully, I come away with a confessional Lutheran position on it: there is no mandated model of governance for the Church. Some are better than others, and this usually is about context. The Carver model (which is what most LCMS parishes use) is not a magic protection from liberalism. The ALM is not a magic bullet for incurvatis. Like most tools of the left hand kingdom, the rub is in how you use them.

    Those of you who are assessing the model, I encourage you, don’t go the route of the reformed in your thinking. Neither pretend that the Carver model was Walther’s model – it is fairly recent itself. Use your theology to do more than see how revivalists abuse the model: think about how confessors can use it.

    Pastor as CEO. CEO of WHAT? Chief Executive Officer of Word and Sacrament Ministry?….YES. Here we are using the Biblical word, “Overseer”.

    Neither is the system is not without checks and balances. In fact, the congregation gets to set those boundaries early and hard-lined, if they so wish.

    But…today is my day off and I really should do something relaxing. lol.


    I do hope you’re still listening to me. I feel I might be taking quite a foolhardy risk to go public in this forum on this issue. And I’m more than aware that the “liberal” argument is always, “we can use it for good,” “chew up the meat, spit out the bones,” etc. But I also think we who want to defend the faith and teach the truth need to be careful we’re not shooting at shadows. If we want to convert the revivalists, we cannot argue against things that are not really problems.

    I am not advocating that every congregation use TCN – don’t. I am saying, let’s not fight the wrong fight. Let’s find the root of the problem and fight against that. The root is how you interpret Matt. 28, particularly the word “matheteusate”.

    Pray for us. Pax Christi. Pax vobiscum.

  16. Revfisk,
    My suggestion was more that healthy Confessional Lutheran Congregations should sign up in order to witness to the Schwarmer, and fill (ok waste) time they could be spending leading less stalwart congregations down the bunny-trail de jour. In general I suspect that the good that can be extracted from this process might be more safely and easily extracted from a different source. Still, I take your point on the human source of our common congregational structure, wish you well, and eagerly await the results.

    et cum Spirito tuo Pastor
    -Matt Mills

  17. Thank you Matt.

    I’d love to see the “different source” to extract the process from! I somewhat hope to develop one.

  18. Scott correctly identifies this “Day of Repentance” thing as “Identification Repentence”. Aha!–there’s a name for it. All we need now is Finney’s “Anxious Bench” and we’re there. It’s all in the “New Measures” that the LCMS is selling these days.
    Maybe somebody will write a “Transforming Transforming Churches” paper?

  19. Rev. Fisk,

    Your arguments seem to be to a certain extent written to justify your own actions. You state that TCN is not for the theologically malleable, and that you do not advocate the TCN agenda. Our Confession demands only theologically pure materials be used in our congregations. Unless I misunderstand you, you’re in agreement that TCN falls far short of this mark.

    Your statements here, in some respects, lend support to a program that shouldn’t be supported, and undermines our Confession. There is no doubt that some of the issues that TCN raises are viable issues, but the end does not justify the means, especially in spiritual matters. The means will influence the end; lex orandi, lex credendi.

    If there isn’t a “program” out there which answers these pressing questions (which I believe there is – see Part 9), then don’t get on the dance floor. Choose your dance partners wisely.

    Your eternal debtor in Christ,

    Scott Diekmann

  20. Scott,

    I appreciate your position very much and encourage you to hold to it. I suppose it can appear that I am supporting TCN, sort of. But what I really want us to do is cause us to think deeply about the issues on their own merits, on an issue by issue basis. That is, simply because TCN abuses something, does that mean that thing is unworthy of our attention?

    Perhaps I am looking for justification. I think I am more looking for encouragement to keep fighting the good fight. Confessional pastors face a broad scope of battles and dangers in our synodical context, (especially the many young pastors sent out to congregations that have been neglected and led astray for years or decades.) And there are few of us at all that do not have our consciences tested by decisions and actions that we must make week in, week out. Ideally, the idea of confessional subscription is one which creates trust amongst the confessors to engage all of their contexts for the sake of the Gospel. Of course, that language has been used and abused to no end in our day, and our ordination vows are taken all too lightly – so I understand, I think.

    But I speak up here because I have chosen to work within our synodical structure, using those tools that are there, to bring the confessions, the Word and the Sacraments to the fore of this particular congregation. I long for support in this matter.

    I do agree that the use of clear, doctrinally sound materials is called for in most of our constitutions, though not exactly in our confessions. It’s been so long since this was the case in many places – let alone in the materials coming from Synod, CPH, etc. When the Book of Concord cannot pass our doctrinal review process, one must admit we are in a conundrum. Who is it who decides these things? What level of discernment do we have? How do we teach discernment? These are questions that are not quickly answered.

    So far as dance partners go, currently, I am dancing with the English District of the Missouri Synod – not TCN per say. If there comes a day when I must stop doing that, I have bigger issues on the plate than those we’ve discussed thus far.

    My hope thus far has only been to express how complicated all the issues are today. There are faithful pastors in our synod who are fighting on a multitude of fronts, doing the best they can. Many face despair day after day. Many are ostricized from colleagues, friends, districts and people. They need our support as they strive to bring good, confessional practice into the places which God has called them via the avenues that are available.

    As we fight the battles which our vocations demand, I would have us be careful of friendly fire. Too often conservatives fight themselves, rather than the real enemy of us all.

    I do appreciate your frank and kind response.

  21. I understand what you’re saying Rev. Fisk. There’s an underlying TCN context here that isn’t separate from the issues you’re discussing, partly because it’s in this thread, and partly because, in your case, the two things are intertwined.

    There are times when working within the Synodical structure can be hazardous to your (spiritual) health – the “Transformation Process” is one of those times. Just because it’s got the LCMS impramtur on it, doesn’t mean it’s theologically acceptable.

    One other thought. If your congregation accepts the Accountable Leadership Model, what happens when you leave and the next pastor is less apt to hold to our Confession? This particular polity which TCN imposes on the congregation is one which is tailor-made for rapid change with little “accountability” to doctrine. I’ve been there and seen it happen, which is one of the reasons I wrote this series. I was a member of an LCMS church which had a similar structure and CGM paradigm. It’s now in disarray and shrinking – the opposite of what the experts tell us should happen. The sheep weren’t getting fed. Not the model we should be shooting for, as we’ll see in the future parts of this series.

    I’ve made my share of mistakes. As a pilot, my goal is to be conservative and not take chances. I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground. I’ve made my share of mistakes on spiritual matters too, and I’m sure I’ll make more. But I try to exercise the same caution regarding things spiritual. The stakes are a lot higher. If it smells like a rat, better to avoid it than try to wash the smell off later. Rat smell is difficult to scrub off.

  22. Rev. Fisk,

    I agree with your identification of the rat in TCN. I wasn’t far into Borden’s Direct Hit before it became clear that his unique reading of Mt. 28:19 which pretends Jesus’ command is to make NEW disciples is a serious problem that colors everything he says.

    Another issue you identify in your long epistle is that TCN is not appropriate for every congregation or every pastor. This is most certainly true, but it’s heresy from the TCN perspective. The goal adopted at the last LCMS convention is to revitalize 2000 congregations by 2017, and TCN is the primary instrument being used by our synod to accomplish this. (Last week an LCMS press release stated: “Revitalizing congregations – through the Transforming Churches Network that was formed to reach Ablaze! goals, 265 congregations are at some point in the two-year process; 24 districts are part of the network; 16 consultants and 54 coaches have been trained; and another 156 consultants are in training.” [See:

    Your picture of the rat leaving little claw marks and its smell throughout the program is a masterful one. It really fits what I’ve seen. Less creatively, when I read Direct Hit I noted that Borden does not share our understanding of either the Church or the Office of the Ministry–AC VII, VIII, and V. The rat gnaws away a little here and a little there. Borden would judge nothing vital missing. A Lutheran discovers the voids are in essentials.

    I certainly pray the Lord’s blessing on you and the work he’s entrusted to you at St. John, and that he would give you the discernment, patience, and strength necessary to avoid TCN’s pitfalls.

  23. John,

    I couldn’t agree more.


    Great question. The way that one uses the Accountability Leadership Model that protects the future is to make certain from the outset that the vision which mandates the actions of the Board and Pastor is “to be a confessing confessional Lutheran congregation,” and that this vision, like Art. III of our constitutions, is unalterable because it is God’s vision for the Church.

    I concur whole-heartedly that the promises of the CGM are fabricated – growth may come for a time, but never in the long run. The revivals always leave burnt over districts. These promises are not why we are making use of the English Districts offer to consult. Rather, we are using it as an opportunity to refocus everything the congregation does on the Word and Sacraments of Jesus Christ, for us and for the world.

    Again, thank you for your research, and thank you for making people aware of the many dangerous elements of TCN. I’ve been privileged to have members who are listeners to IE, and other conservative sources, who have been right there with me, asking the hard questions as we go. I relish the fact. This is *our* synod, pastors and people alike. The more people know what’s out there, the more they see who might be fleecing them and are prepared to question, the better.

    Thank you also for conversing with me in so amiable a matter. It has been very helpful. I relish the gut-checks.

  24. Brothers and sisters: The truncated version of the Great Commission (and addition of “new”) is but one of several fatal flaws in TC. The clear implication of this exegetical shell game is that the existing members don’t need Word & Sacrament feeding (we need “replacement sheep” as my daughter says). Setting numerical conversion goals is blasphemous, but our TC guru (LCMS pastor) instructed us to do so–and later, some members were quoting him. The Season and Day of Repentance are patently manipulative and revivalistic (Where’s Finney when you need him?). The visioning process is extremely subjective, yet we are told that the pastor will ascertain “God’s vision.” If you are going to use TC, your work of remaining a faithful pastor will never be done. If you can take some good out of the self-study, see yourselves more clearly and accurately, and use it to your benefit, that’s fine, but be warned–TC should come with a warning label–and Scott has provided it. It’s like the ads on TV–sometimes the side effects outnumber the benefits. Handle and use with care!


    p.s. revfisk–I can identify with your struggle–altho not a pastor, I have walked that walk. The sense of desperation in our cong. was palpable. If you can glean some good from TC, you will have done yoeman work, but it will take all the spiritual acumen you have, and gobs of physical and emotional energy, as well. J.

  25. >gobs of physical and emotional energy, as well.

    You’d ain’t kiddin’. True, true, true.

  26. I prefer (litotes) Pr. Klemet Preus’s idea of mission as oppossed to the TCN paradigm, quoted from his paper “Pietism in Missouri’s Mission: From Mission Affirmations to Ablaze!”, which Johannes suggested reading a while back:

    “A more positive view of missions would contrast significantly from what we had in the 60s and what we have in Missouri today. It would be a biblical and confessional view of the church’s mission: an understanding of missions which would extol the true evangelical doctrine, celebrate the Word and Sacraments as marks of the Church, rejoice in our institutional heritage as the Lutheran Church and gladly use the office of the ministry for that which God intended it. Until this becomes our mission I fear that the LCMS will remain stagnate and persist in its infighting as it continues to be neither confessional nor mission-minded.”

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