The Transforming Churches Network: Part 6, Turning the Church Upside Down, by Scott Diekmann

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

Last time, we took a brief look at the Transforming Churches Network (TCN) use of the dialectic process to effect change in a congregation, including the pastor’s “vision.”   Today we’ll examine how these changes line up with what Scripture teaches.                            


We’ve already noted in Part 3 that the basic assumption of TCN, that the growth of a church (or lack thereof) is a barometer of its spiritual health, is an un-doctrinal statement.   In Part 4, we examined the TCN consultation report.   In it, the congregation is required to suspend specific bylaws so that a new structure (or polity) can be created for the congregation.   This structure, called the Accountable Leadership Model, ends the democratic model of the voter’s assembly, in favor of a top down pastor-as-CEO model.   This type of governance was popularized by Baptist John Kaiser in his book Winning on Purpose.   This model contains serious doctrinal flaws, two of which we’ll examine now.   First, it assigns duties to the pastor that the pastor should not be assigned, and removes duties from the pastor that are his primary calling.   Second, it creates an environment in which the parishioners become the ministers of the congregation.


In the Accountable Leadership Model, the pastor’s role is to lead the church, his primary function being to train and equip leaders.   A Board of Directors (BOD) is established who “govern the church” (from 3 to 7 people including the pastor), staff members manage the church, and the parishioners carry out the ministry of the church.   The pastor-turned-CEO concept leads to a view of the Church as a business rather than the Body of Christ.   It is frequently called an “organization,” and is run on a business model.


Historically, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregations have maintained a democratic structure, with officers elected and decisions made by the voter’s assembly.   While the structure of a congregation is not something that is Biblically mandated, the democratic model has served the LCMS well.   In 2001, the Synodical Convention reaffirmed C.F.W. Walther’s book Church and Ministry as the official position on such churchly matters.   In it, Dr. Walther, the first President of the LCMS, stated:


For when our Savior Christ says, “Tell it to the church,” He by these words commands the church to be the supreme judge. From this it follows that not only one state, namely that of the bishops, but also other pious and learned persons from all states are to be appointed as judges and have decisive votes (page 343).


Voter supremacy is therefore the official congregational polity of the LCMS.  To change to a pastor-as-CEO model ushers in a host of problems.   The checks and balances that are inherent in the normed LCMS congregational polity are destroyed, crowning the pastor the supreme authority on all things.   When the church is run like a business via the Church Growth Movement (CGM) ideal, the visitors become consumers, and the Gospel becomes a product which needs to be attractively packaged so that it will sell.   The pastor becomes the task master whose job it is to prod the leaders into action with his “vision casting” (a term best left to Word-Faith gurus and New Agers), and in what is the ultimate role reversal, the parishioners become the pastor.


Perhaps most importantly, the pastor-as-CEO model confuses the right hand and left hand kingdoms, granting him powers which are not granted to him in Scripture.   The pastor is not called to lord it over the congregation.   He performs those duties which have been granted to him in the Word, the duties of the right hand Kingdom, which God rules by the Gospel.   Those duties include preaching, administering the Sacraments, forgiving and withholding of forgiveness of sins, and guarding the flock.   The pastor is not elevated above the parishioners; however, to quote Lutheran theologian Dr. Francis Pieper:


Since the ministry is the office of teaching God’s Word, while man’s word is forbidden in the Christian Church, obedience as to God Himself is due the ministry as far as it proclaims the Word of God.   He. 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves”; Luke 10:16: “He that heareth you heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me.”   To obey pastors beyond God’s Word is not commanded, but strictly forbidden to Christians (Matt. 23:8; Rom. 16:17).   Also adiaphora are not decided by the pastor or the pastors, but settled by the entire congregation of any place by mutual agreement.   (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 459)


Church matters that pertain to the left hand kingdom, which God rules by His Law, such as “Should we put a new roof on?” or “Do we need a bigger parking lot?” are matters which should be left to the members of the congregation.   When the Pastor is given all power to make and rule on such things, he exceeds his Scriptural authority.   The Accountable Leadership Model is therefore an un-Scriptural model and should not be used.


In a business, the CEO is held accountable by the Board of Directors.   In the Accountable Leadership Model as it is being set up by TCN, it is much more likely that the BOD is a rubber stamp for the pastor’s “vision.”   In most cases, the members of the BOD are nominated by the pastor, so they are naturally going to be supporters of his “vision.”   If the TCN script of proposed bylaws is followed, BOD members “must successfully complete a training course taught by the Senior Pastor covering the mission, vision, and structure of the Church.”   The primary role of the Board is to write concise Guiding Principles that the pastor is to follow.   These Principles include three areas, Mission Principles (“What ends the Church exists to achieve”), Boundary Principles (What you’re not allowed to do to accomplish the Mission Principles), and Accountability Principles (“How the Board is to establish the Guiding Principles and to monitor the Pastor’s compliance with them”).   Ironically, the pastor is also to “lead the Board by guiding its discussion of mission and boundary principles.   Thus the Principles the pastor is to follow are based on his own input, a rather circular design in which the fox guards the hen house.


As in all businesses, pay is now based on performance, and performance is determined by how many “seekers” come through the front door: “The Board shall determine the compensation of the Senior Pastor based on achieving the mission principles and respecting the boundary principles.”   The pastor becomes a hired hand.   And just like any other business, “Ineffective pastors are asked to move on.”   The senior pastor is granted hiring, firing, directional, and salary decisions for all staff, including associate and assistant pastors, who are also labeled “staff.” “Staff will be evaluated by the Senior Pastor on the basis of their performance in leading their ministries to be effective in reaching the lost, raising-up leaders, and growing their ministry’s impact upon the community.”     This guarantees the senior pastor’s dictatorial powers, since it is the person who has the power to “hire and fire” who has ultimate control of the “business.”   Former boards are dismantled.   The Board of Elders – gone.   The Board of Evangelism – gone.   The School Board – gone.   The Church Council and Finance Board – gone.   The voter’s assembly survives as a rubber stamp to ratify the annual budget and call a senior pastor.   (The senior pastor has the option to use survivors of the previous boards as “support staff.”)


None of this is Scriptural.   Pastors are not employees who can be fired on a whim because the “numbers” are down.   All pastors are called by God – the congregation acting only as God’s instrument.   No pastor has the authority to “hire” another pastor – that would usurp God’s own authority acting through the congregation – this is why it’s called a Divine Call.   And the call of a pastor is a life-long call, to be terminated only for teaching false doctrine or leading a scandalous life.


Associate and assistant pastors are treated as just another employee.   The senior pastor is given the authority to hire other pastors (the preferred method), or he selects “the worker he believes to be best for the ministry,” and the congregation ratifies his decision.   TCN justifies this un-Scriptural invention by stating that all called workers have a “provisional call” and serve under the authority of the senior pastor, claiming that “this has been a part of our history as a church body” (online reference).   It is odd that a layman would notice that their statement is inaccurate, but the LCMS pastors who head TCN would not.   A provisional call has never been an acceptable call method in the LCMS – it is Biblically unsound.   Even the 2003 Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) report on the Divine Call, which deviated from the Scriptural path at certain points, completely dismisses the concept of a provisional call:


Calls should never be issued under certain prescribed conditions. For example, a call should not be extended to a pastor contingent on his achieving particular objectives such as numerical growth, the successful completion of a capital building project, the utilization of a particular program, or the attainment of certain budgetary goals. Such conditions directly infringe upon the divine character of the call issued by the church, and detract from the central task of the office.


They go on to quote a 1988 CTCR opinion that says “unconditional calls have always been the rule in the Synod. In fact, in the opinion of the CTCR, conditional calls are inconsistent with Lutheran theology because they appear to contradict the nature of the divine call as unconditionally given by God through a Christian congregation.”   It is understood by those pastors who participate in the TCN paradigm shift that if they are not “producing fruit,” they will leave or be asked to leave for the sake of the “mission.”   Regarding a similar situation, C.F.W. Walther had this to say: “But the preacher who gives a congregation the right to call him in this way, and to dismiss him at will, thereby makes himself a hireling, a servant of men” (online reference).


TCN is simply trying to “pull the wool over our eyes.”   This should not come as a surprise.   When you try to shoehorn in a polity that is based on false doctrine, you can assume that the “shoe” won’t fit.   For all of those non-Lutherans who have contributed to the final form of TCN, the pastor is viewed as someone who is there for order’s sake.   Since they don’t believe in the power of Word and Sacrament, they don’t view the pastor as the called steward of God’s mysteries.   You can’t blame the Baptists, Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Fellowship of Grace Brethren, non-denominational, secular, and Mormon authors who have influenced TCN for our problems.   That blame rests squarely on our own shoulders, we, the Church of the Augsburg Confession.


While the Accountable Leadership Model grants to the pastor authority he should not possess, it also takes away from him the duties that Christ called him to perform.   His ministerial functions are stripped from him (other than Sunday morning duties) and given to the congregants: “The role of the congregation will be to conduct the ministries of the church” (online reference).   Calling on shut-ins – gone.   Calling on visitors – gone.   This too is un-Scriptural.   This every-person-a-minister goal of the Church Growth Movement completely deconstructs the article of faith know as vocation.


Again quoting Dr. Pieper:


It is not a human, but a divine command that Christians perform the works of their spiritual priesthood; accordingly, preach the Gospel not merely in their homes, but also in their intercourse with their brethren and with the world.   Likewise it is not merely a human, but a divine regulation that Christians who live at one place fellowship with one another, form a congregation, and appoint men equipped with the necessary teaching ability to preach God’s Word in the name of the congregation both publicly (in the public assembly) and privately (to individual Christians).   (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 443)


This is the way that evangelism has been done throughout the history of the Church.   God’s blessings flowing from pulpit, altar, and font through the Office of the Holy Ministry, as well as laymen serving their fellow man through their various vocations.   Altar, pulpit, and font are the penultimate source from which the Word and Christ’s forgiveness of sins and blessings proceed into the world.   Laymen meet the needs of their neighbor, whether physical or spiritual, through the ordinary circumstances of their lives.   To attempt to assign to the laymen the pastoral functions in the Church makes it appear that church work is somehow more valuable and important than other daily work we perform, which is every bit as important in God’s eyes.   All our works serve Him when done in Christ – we become masks of God.   The every-person-a-minister concept denigrates the priesthood of all believers and appropriates the duties of the Office of the Holy Ministry.   Again, the Accountable Leadership Model is an un-Scriptural model and should not be used.


Article V of the Augsburg Confession gets to the heart of evangelism:


So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted.   Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22].   He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.   This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.


The LCMS Church Growth Study Committee reports:


Therefore, it is spiritually harmful:


– When the modern concept “everyone a minister” is equated with the priesthood of all believers: a) This denies the true priesthood of all believers, which is exercised not only in worship and prayer, but also in daily vocation (i.e., the work of one’s earthly calling, Christian witness in daily life, parental teaching in the home, etc.) (1 Pet. 2:9; Rom. 12:1–2); b) It confuses individual Christian lives with public offices in the church. (Acts 6); c) It can be used to undermine Jesus’ gift of the office of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments (pastoral office) (Eph. 3:7–10, 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28–29 (AC V, XIV, XXVIII [8]).


– When congregations or small groups are encouraged to regard fellow lay Christians or church staff personnel as their pastors rather than those men properly trained, qualified, called and ordained to the pastoral office.


– When the pastor is viewed as a chief executive officer, administrator, or director whose primary purpose is to train laity to do the real pastoral care.


– When the church is operated as a purely secular corporation, with the pastor functioning as the “C.E.O.,” the elders being reduced to a Board of Directors, and the congregation treated as workers, all organized according to a business plan to market a product.


– When the “Priesthood of All Believers” is taken to mean “every member a minister.” This view denigrates the secular vocations (in implying that everyone ought to be engaged in ministerial functions to serve God, as if their existing callings were not equally spiritual in God’s sight). It also can be used to denigrate the pastoral vocation (in implying that everyone can do what the pastor has personally been called to do).


The Transforming Churches Network turns the Church upside down: “Individuals sharing the Gospel of Jesus with individuals who do not know Jesus as Savior is where all growth in God’s Kingdom takes place” (online reference).   The congregants become the ministers of the congregation, a position that Jesus reserved for the called and ordained servant of the Word.   The pastor becomes one of the congregants, ruling with the business formulas of the left hand kingdom.   Formerly, the gifts of God flowed from altar to nave, the congregation then responding with its sacrificial offerings of thanksgiving, prayers, and praise.   Now that order has been reversed.   To quote Pastor Rolf Preus, “…It has reversed the proper evangelical order. The ministry has become, not what God offers to us, but what we offer to him. The ministry is then centered in us, not in the gospel and the sacraments, that is in Christ” (online reference).  


Next time, we’ll look at one other way in which the Mission Revitalization Process turns the Church upside down, by turning the Gospel into Law.



A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.    Psalm 127:1  


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 6, Turning the Church Upside Down, by Scott Diekmann — 31 Comments

  1. Remind me of the song from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”: “A Secretary is Not a Toy.” How about “A pastor isn’t a C-E-O…” When will we ever learn?

  2. “When you try to shoehorn in a polity that is based on false doctrine, you can assume that the “shoe” won’t fit.”

    This statement is a little misleading. The ALM polity is not based on doctrine, true or false, but on one model of profit/non-profit organizations/corporations in the US which is more or less the standard in our current context. The Carver model, which is what most LCMS congregation use now, is no different, except that it was made popular in the 1980’s, when the LCMS largely adopted it. Similarly, the earliest models from Walthers’ day resembled amalgamations of town-government forms. None of them is biblical. All might be abused.

    It is important also to recognize also that “democracy” in its purest form is a “governance” that has *no* checks and balances in it at all. There are *no* checks and balances in a “majority vote take all decisions” governance model. There is only majority rule.

    There are not a few other items mentioned in this article which are not necessarily mandated by a congregation seeking to use an “Accountable Leadership Model” of governance, though with certainty one who undiscernedly swallows Kaiser’s semi-pelegian presuppositions whole will find it difficult to apply such a model through a confessional Lutheran lens.

    pax vobiscum

  3. Looks like any congregation suckered into TCN will be “restructured” and any preacher who signs their “covenant” will have to buy the rest of the “Blue Ribbon” dog&pony show.

    What’s to prevent telling the next convention, “Guess what. All this has already occurred while you were arguing about surveys we had no intention of reading whether they were taken at conventions or otherwise.” ?

  4. Revfisk, I beg to differ with you re: ALM & Carver. I doubt very much that most congregations are using Carver. Perhaps Districts may be, but certainly not cong’s. As far as ALM is concerned, it is based on SOMEBODY’s false doctrine of the ministry. It may be Borden’s, or it may be business-model, but it does not square with our understanding of the Ministry (See A.C. v). Everything flows from that. The called pastor cannot function as a CEO.

  5. In a normally functioning congregation there are plenty of checks and balances. The Pastor, for instance, works in conjunction with the Board of Elders. The Church Council is composed of people from the various boards who work together and discuss the business of the church. All of them report to the voters. While the voters have authority, they are guided by those who report to them, and, depending on what is being voted on, may also be guided by the Pastor in spiritual matters. The Voter’s Meeting is presided over by the President of the Congregation, who insures order and fairness. All of this is abdicated to the Pastor, and to a limited degree, the BOD, in the Accountable Leadership Model.

    What is of far greater importance is the role reversal of the pastor and the parishioners. Argue about “polity” all you want, any form of polity in which the Pastor is not shepherding the flock is a violation of his call and a willful disregard of Scripture. Parishioners are not ministers – to say that they are disregards vocation. These are the central issues which cannot be wallpapered over. The whole thing is based on false doctrinal presuppositions.

  6. Mr. Diekmann,
    While I agree with most everything you have said here, your “While the structure of a congregation is not something that is Biblically mandated, the democratic model has served the LCMS well” seems to miss the point that it is the “democratic model” that has put the Ablaze(tm) enthusiasts into the leadership positions from which they are inflicting this TCN mess on the LC-MS. These are men who are both serving with the full authority of the LC-MS in convocation, and dead wrong.
    I’m certainly not saying that the ALM polity is a step up, because every criticism you’ve made about it is true, but it is arguably the “Democratic model” that has sold the LC-MS up the river.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  7. I’m not sure it’s the democratic model that is to blame for Abaze! and its spinoffs Matt. It is an underlying lack of understanding, or abandonment, of our Confession that has led to Ablaze! I would say that our polity has become too politicized as it now stands, but the ideal model for the correction of that is called repentance, and I don’t see much of that going around any more.

  8. Defining terms is always of the utmost importance. To say that a Pastor is not a “Chief Executive Officer” period is actually a denial of Art. V, AC. One must ask “CEO” *of what?* CEO of “church growth”? Of course he’s not. But the Pastor *is* the Chief Executor of Word and Sacrament Ministry. “That we may obtain this faith, the predikampt was established.”

    All heresies begin as knee-jerk overreactions that condemn something that should not be condemned in order to protect something that should be protected.

    I am in no way saying that the ALM in and of itself is an answer to all your/our problems. But I fear that believing “democracy” *is* – that checks and balances always exist naturally in congregations that govern themselves through majority rule – is also a dangerous proposition. If your congregation functions so cleanly, woot to you! But we sound dangerously reformed when we start calling “governance” models “doctrine”:

    I prefer the confessional Lutheran approach.

    “…Regarding the Pope I hold that, if he would allow the Gospel, his superiority over the bishops which he has otherwise, is conceded to him *by human right* also by us, for the sake of peace and general unity of those Christians who are also under him, and may be under him hereafter.” from Smalcald signatories, and well summarizing the Treatise on the Papacy penned by the same author to which I am avowed as a confessional Lutheran pastor.

    It is the democratic model that leads to “politicized” polity. Roberts Rules of Order exist because democracy is always a fight. Good Christians centered in Word and Sacrament can make good use of it. But it is in no way the only godly model of Church governance – to say otherwise is simply not Lutheran.

  9. Whether you want to talk about Polity or Theology, here is a part of the model bylaws being pushed by the LCMS. The pastor is hardly the CEO of Word and Sacrament Ministry in this model. If you think that’s what this means, you’re in for a diappointment. It’s all about growth–nothing about W & S ministry–there is nothing about W & S in ANYTHING I’ve read about TC. Period.

    It is the purpose of these Bylaws to provide a stable and effective organizational structure to aid this Church in accomplishing its mission. The sections that follow specify a model that keeps the roles of Senior Pastor (also referred to simply as the Pastor), Board, Staff, and Congregation distinct and effective for church health, church growth, and church multiplication. These Bylaws shall be reviewed annually for any changes to the structure that may increase the effectiveness of the Pastor and the Church.
    (a) The role of the Congregation is to serve as the primary ministers of the Church.
    (b) The role of the Board is to establish Guiding Principles for the Pastor’s leadership.
    (c) The role of the Pastor is to lead the Church to accomplish its mission.
    (d) The role of the Staff is to manage the ministries of the Church, directed by the Pastor.

    It’s based on a total disregard of A.C. article V

  10. The nifty thing about doing writing, is that since I’m the one who wrote it, I’m also the one who knows what I meant. I’m not saying the ALM is based on doctrine, but that TCN’s use of it is based on doctrinal assumptions, i.e. their belief that the Pastor should BE THE ONE WHO LEADS THE BUSINESS JUST LIKE IN A CORPORATION AND SHOULD JETTISON HIS ROLE AS PASTOR. I’m glad you think that the Pastor should be the person who shepherds the sheep in things related to the right hand kingdom Pastor Fisk. But TCN argues that the Pastor should lead the left hand kingdom instead, a “doctrine” straight from the pit of hell. You are switching terms when you insert CEO into AC V Pastor Fisk. If you don’t agree with TCN’s switching of Pastor and layman roles, then you should probably make your arguments in favor of the Accountable Leadership Model in the comments section of a post that’s strictly about the Accountable Leadership Model, rather than one that’s about TCN.

    “While the structure of a congregation is not something that is Biblically mandated….” I’m not forcing any polity onto anybody. You want to change your congregations’ polity, and you can convince them to go along with it, go for it! It may work fine, it may not. I think your practice will influence your doctrine, and that of your parishioners. You want to hang out with coaches who teach false doctrine, even if they have LCMS tatooed onto their foreheads, go ahead. I prefer to avoid the risk of taking something that’s false and trying to bend it around so far that now all of a sudden it’s true. The Confessional Lutheran approach, at least for this Confessional Lutheran, is to avoid it (TCN) in the first place, which I think is a really sound Biblical approach. When I think of TCN I think of the rule for windshear: “Avoid, Avoid, Avoid.” You may very well not be trying to be the CEO of the left hand kingdom, but if you’re not, then you’re not following the blueprint. Your district may allow things other than what that blueprint is, which is another witness to the lack of unity which the LCMS embodies.

    I don’t think revitalization should be based on Church polity – I believe it should be based on Scripture.

  11. Nowadays, we substitute ‘regret’ for ‘repentance’.
    We regret bad decisions; we eschew repentance for bad actions.
    Regret changes nothing, because it has admitted nothing. And it fails to turn the ‘regrettor’ back.
    From repentance, we return; regret simply helps us to like the lemonade we’re left with.
    Regret begs others to tolerate the sin. It is a sorry excuse for being sorry.
    There’s no way to reconcile the adoption of TCN with confessional Lutheranism. And retro-fitting that adoption with other intentions and regret won’t accomplish a return.

  12. I am still unsure who a man-made decision to allow the bearer of the Office of the Ministry to also oversee elements of the left-hand kingdom congregation for the sake of the right hand Church in that congregation, is a doctrine from the pit of hell. Whether it’s a bad idea or not is a different issue.

    When people laid their possessions at the Apostles’ feet and shared all things in common under their rule, was this the pit of hell making it’s way into the early Church?

    I fear we go to far in our condemnation, that is all.

  13. I’m trying to figure out who said that polity of any kind is a doctrine. The polity prescription of TC is BASED on a faulty doctrine, or no doctrine at all. As I said above, coming from a Baptist, who has no knowledge or understanding of the Means of Grace, the polity he and his LCMS minions recommend is antithetical to our whole understanding of the Holy Ministry, the purpose of which is to build faith. Putting the pastor in the role of the CEO of all things worldly, making the members the “ministers” effectively turns the church upside down. It’s a lousy polity. Perhaps a review of ordination vows, call documents, and supplement to the diploma of vocation would help clear up this discussion. Check ’em out.

  14. And another things. I seem to recall that later in Acts, the Apostles delegated some “worldly” tasks to seven deacons. They declared, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God [that is building faith] in order to wait on tables.” Seems they kind of stuck to A.C. V., polity questions aside.

  15. It is important for accuracy to note that today’s practise of Voter’s Assemblies in the LCMS is NOT Waltherian. Why? Quite simply because women are allowed to vote- that changes the dynamics of everything. Therefore these reactions(which indeed do not cure the root of the problem)should be seen in the context of trying to bring order to the chaos of today’s feminized, emotionally charged assemblies.

  16. Is it just me, or is what I said significantly different from Rev. Fisk’s understanding of what I said?

    What I said:
    “I’m not saying the ALM is based on doctrine, but that TCN’s use of it is based on doctrinal assumptions, i.e. their belief that the Pastor should BE THE ONE WHO LEADS THE BUSINESS JUST LIKE IN A CORPORATION AND SHOULD JETTISON HIS ROLE AS PASTOR. I’m glad you think that the Pastor should be the person who shepherds the sheep in things related to the right hand kingdom Pastor Fisk. But TCN argues that the Pastor should lead the left hand kingdom instead, a “doctrine” straight from the pit of hell.” (emphasis added)

    What Rev. Fisk said:
    “I am still unsure who a man-made decision to allow the bearer of the Office of the Ministry to also oversee elements of the left-hand kingdom congregation for the sake of the right hand Church in that congregation, is a doctrine from the pit of hell. Whether it’s a bad idea or not is a different issue.”

  17. Brethren and Sisteren:

    Here’s a little something from a good friend of mine. Perhaps it sheds some light on our discussion:

    “The ways in which I see the congregational structure required by the Transforming Congregations program doing violence to the traditional relationship between the LCMS congregation and the Pastor are:
    I.) The Pastor becomes the CEO of the little business called the congregation. The role of the Pastor is as Manager of managers. All the staff members report to him and are trained by him. All staff tasks are assigned by him. Under his direction all efforts and activities become purpose driven against predetermined, measurable objectives. Word and Sacrament ministry during public worship becomes his only contact with the congregation. The Pastor becomes the enabler of the staff as they respond to his direction.
    II.) “The staff becomes the Trainers of lay leaders. The laity do the ministry required within the congregation: leading groups; visiting shut-ins; visiting prospective members; visiting lapsed members; cold calling (by phone or in person); determining community needs; designing programs and securing staffing and funding to meet community needs.”

    It goes on from here, but I think he captures the essence of much of my objections to TC.

    Johannes (and friend)

  18. I’m seeing a few criticisms of the Carver/Borden/TCN model that I don’t think are entirely fair:

    First – that the pastor shouldn’t become a “CEO”
    My response to this is that before any meaningful discussion can take place regarding the role of pastor vs. the role of CEO, the ladder must be defined. If the definition comes loaded with business jargon, stripped of any mention of Word and Sacrament ministry, then much can and should be criticized. In reality the called pastor is, by definition, the executive of Word and Sacrament ministry. He is divinely ordained to carry out that function, and as such, is not rightly subject to any other “chief,” spare the Lord himself.

    Second – that the model “pastor as leader, board as governing body, congregation as ministers” excludes from the pastor the hands-on, day-to-day ministry to God’s people. This is simply not the case, unless a pastor and his people are badly misguided. There is nothing essential to this form of church polity that excludes a pastor’s active ministry presence with God’s flock, whether in the home or the hospice. I read a criticism sometime recently that a parishioner at one of these transformed churches won’t ever see a pastor at his or her deathbed, but rather just another “lay minister.” This is simply not the case, again, unless a pastor was disinclined to be present there regardless of the church’s chosen polity. Nothing about this (or any) polity structure determines whether a pastor will make visiting the sick, shut-in, and dying a priority. What this structure does determine is that the called pastor, who swore to be faithful to these tasks in his ordination, will be the prime influencer of the congregation’s mission priorities, which had better include such ministry to God’s people in need as well as to those who are not yet numbered among the saints.

    I don’t see how designating that every member ought to grow in their personal responsibility to carry out the ministry and mission of the church removes anything from the role of the called pastor. I see this shift as a much needed call to action to complacent Christians who can’t be bothered to speak openly about their faith outside the church because “the pastor’s supposed to do that,” and who ignore the needs of the needy because, “the pastor has a budget for that,” or who won’t even review the Catechism with their children because “that’s the pastor’s job.” I would argue that every Christian should be involved in these or similar tasks in the life of the church. I would also argue that they are each areas of ministry. It does not follow that the lay people carrying out these tasks then become ministers, at least to any extent that the pastor is excluded as the (i.e. unique) minister. He is simply no longer seen as the only one who has a part in visiting, caring, and reaching out.

    Finally, on whether or not the pastor should have greater authority (and corresponding accountability) over left-hand matters in the church: this is a serious question that needs to be addressed according to each unique situation. For whatever it’s worth, I could spend more time on Bible studies and sermons, visiting the membership and getting to know the disparate populations of my parish if I had more influence (perhaps even authority) over some of the civil matters of the congregation. The truth is that nothing in the church is completely detached from ministry, therefore, everything in the church is at least partially the pastor’s concern. When the civil minutia consume hours of meeting time, the energies of the pastor, and the willingness of lay people to serve, the left hand kingdom has grown disproportionately. I have yet to see a collection of committees with competing agendas and personalities solve such dysfunction with the types of turf wars that are commonplace in many of our churches.

  19. Rev. Eggleston makes some valid points. However, I’d like to point out, that based on my personal experience with TC, the Gospel is treated as information only, and there is absolutely NO mention of Word and Sacrament ministry and of any of the duties normally associated with the pastoral office that Rev. Eggleston mentions. This is why many of are so concerned with TC. I have copied below the suggested bylaws from the LCMS website. At least one congregation that I am familiar with has adopted these bylaws, lock, stock, and barrel! It is cause for concern. No pastor can do all the left-hand stuff prescribed and also the right hand stuff he is called to do. He is serving two masters!!

    LCMS’ own bylaws below (in part):

    The primary role of the Members shall be to serve as the ministers of the Church: reaching out to unchurched people first and also caring for the needs of one another within the Church…

    Article 8 – CHURCH BOARD ROLE
    The primary role of the Board shall be to provide accountability and support for the Pastor by writing concise Guiding Principles in three categories:
    (a) Mission Principles shall define for the Pastor what ends the Church exists to achieve.
    (b) Boundary Principles shall define for the Pastor what means may not be used in pursuit of achieving those ends.
    (c) Accountability Principles shall define for the Chairperson how the Board is to establish the Guiding Principles and to monitor the Pastor’s compliance with them. The Board shall determine the compensation of the Senior Pastor based on achieving the mission principles and respecting the boundary principles. The Board shall influence all other operating and financial decisions through written policy in the Guiding Principles. The Board shall leave the leadership of the Church to the Pastor and shall leave the management of the Church to the Staff under the direction of the Pastor. In matters that require Board action by law, the Board shall routinely approve any motion of the Pastor or Chairperson without discussion unless a Member believes it violates the Guiding
    Principles, in which case the action shall be discussed before a vote. Action of the Board shall be by simple majority of all Members, whether or not present and voting. Voting shall be conducted in a similar manner as a congregational vote, described in Section 6 of these Bylaws, or as required by state law.

    Article 11 – SENIOR PASTOR ROLE
    The role of the Senior Pastor is to lead the Church to accomplish its mission. The Pastor shall lead the Congregation by teaching biblical truth, casting vision, and advancing the mission. The Pastor shall lead the Board by guiding its discussion of mission and boundary principles. The Pastor shall lead the Staff by directing them in their management of all Church operations. With regard to compensation based on performance, the Pastor shall be accountable to the Board. With regard to job retention and approval of major decisions, the Pastor shall be accountable to the Congregation. The Pastor shall hire, direct, compensate, and fire any and all Church Staff in compliance with the Guiding Principles established by the Board.

  20. Rev. Eggelston,

    It is very refreshing to hear critique cast in such a positive way. We tend on this site to fall for the logical fallacy known as “black and white,” i.e. everything is either totally right or totally wrong. As Johannes said above, your comments are very insightful and however our churches are organized we need to keep in mind what you have said.

    Your insights however do not justify TCN. You may not intend them to which would make your comment even more delightful, since it would simply be a heloful corrective, making sure that in our zeal to uphold
    Augsburg VII and XIV we do not lose our common sense.

    Everything you highlight as good and salutary can be accomplished without TCN and in the traditional voters assembly model of the LCMS. I have not sold my soul to the traditional voters assembly model but I do find that in a mature congregation that understands that the Word of Christ is the supreme authority in the church and that the pastor is the teacher of that word, it works wonderfully as a check and balance against abusive pastoral authority and as a means of making sure that every member is well informed about the workings of the congregation and does thier part (notice how it is possible to describe the service of the laity without refering to thier non-existent “ministry”).

    We have been able to highlight the role of the pastor in our congregation by getting rid of the church council and simply having two main boards: trustees and lay elders. (We also have a board of finance and a board of day school policies.) The trustees take care of the property. My influence there is through my assistant and through the day school principal. I never have to attend those meetings. Our church constitution states clearly that spirtiual matters take precedence in the congregation and those are handled by the pastors and the elders. As the head pastor, I lead that board. The elders are there to make sure that in my leadership they are hearing the voice of Christ and are also there to help me think through the ideas that I have for most effectively and properly adminstering Christ’s word and sacraments.

    There is much more I could say on this matter if there were time. In short, let me say again that all the things you defend in TCN do not need the domineering, corporate structure that TCN demands.


  21. Pastor Rossow,

    I offer my sincere thanks for your thoughtful reply. I can understand some of your concern for the TCN model; to be fair, I must admit that I have my own.

    What you are describing as a traditional voters’ assembly sounds like it has at least some elements of accountable leadership in regards to the role of the pastor. At the least, it sounds healthy and functional, which must be commended. It seems that by restructuring your congregation’s polity without a church council, and by taking specific steps to provide avenues for the called pastor to teach the various boards and staff, the pastor is the leader of the church. It sounds as if you influence the different boards through whatever means are appropriate, given their skill level in the civil matters and their commitment to the spiritual matters, which take precedent as you (advised by your elders) determine.

    If I have mischaracterized the functioning in your church, I apologize. What you describe though is the intended outcome of a transformed church: dysfunctional structures removed, functional structures adopted, re-recognition of the called pastor’s role as leader (as opposed to the council’s employee, the elder’s lackey, or the congregation’s servant).

    Transformed simply means to change form. Doing away with a church council in favor of something that will work better in a particular setting is one type of transformation. If that change in polity results in a renewed mission focus (whatever the local congregation determines is mission to be) then I say it’s a good thing.

  22. ‘(whatever the local congregation determines is mission to be)’
    Doesn’t TCN determine the local congregation’s mission? Isn’t the mission to grow–to increase in members?
    Which, in itself, makes a local congregation merely that: a congregation. But it no longer behaves as a church.
    If it gathers itself around a mission to grow, rather than gathering around word & sacrament, it might as well be a labor union or a national brand of blue jeans.

  23. Rev. E,

    No need to apologize.

    This is a very helpful line of duscussion. I hope to return to it a little later. For now I need to get to some other things. I hope we can continue it.

    Here’s a preview of what strikes me initially. The dropping of a church council is not just a generic transformational change. It is a confessional change because it gets rid of a key element in a corporate approach to church and replaces it with a more family-like, spiritual element namely the pastor and lay elder board. TCN is a corporate approach to church which is actaully counter to confessional Lutheranism. More to come…


  24. Johannes,

    Thank you for posting those sample by-laws. I had read those a week or so ago, and was troubled by them. I concur with your concern for the lack of regard they appear to pay to Word and Sacrament ministry.

    For whatever it’s worth, my congregation’s current constitution and by-laws (which originated similarly from an LCMS sample set) likewise pay almost no attention to Word and Sacrament ministry. The closest they come is in specifying our congregation’s confessional standard (Canonical scriptures, ecumenical creeds, and the Book of Concord), though no mention is given to how these standards and norms ought to influence the ongoing ministry, priorities, and business of the church.

    It could be argued that by calling only a pastor who subscribes to the confessional standard will result in Biblical, confessional priorities throughout the business of the church. However this is seems more likely to happen when the pastor’s leadership role is clarified and protected within the polity model, rather than placed in contention with the left-hand priorities that will inevitably take precedence in an unguided church democracy.

    My personal feeling is that when a quia subscriber to the Lutheran Confessions is charged with leading the church, directing the staff, and modeling ministry and stewardship to the congregation at large, the results will be God pleasing.

  25. Susan,

    Excellent point. “Mission” should be banned from our churchly vocabulary. It is not a Biblical word nor is it a churchly word. It is a corporate word that the growthers pack full of all sorts of non-churhly baggage. It is amazing how it has become accepted in churchly dialogue.

    It is harmful because it is one step removed from the Gospel. Evangelism is a biblical and churchly word and notice that it can be nailed to the cross. It is the Gospel (evangel) of Christ. Mission on the other hand, as you suggest is just a vague word about commitment.


  26. Regarding #21, I’ve been a member of LCMS congregations all across the U.S., most with the “traditional” sort of polity, but I’ve yet to come across an LCMS church where the pastor was considered the “council’s employee, the elder’s lackey, or the congregation’s servant.” I’m sure it could happen, but it doesn’t appear to be common. I’m not sure what everybody else thought, but I always have considered the pastor to be Christ’s servant, no matter what the polity.

  27. Rev. Eggleston suggests that “transformed simply means to change form.” In the context of TCN, as I demonstrated in Part 5, transformation involves a paradigm shift – not only a change of structure, but a different way in which people interact with one another, a reassignment of the pastor’s role and change of church polity, and a reassignment of the parishioners from people who primarily receive God’s gifts to people who primarily are busy with ministerial jobs. This paradigm shift is accomplish via change agents using the Hegelian transformation process. To say that this simply means to change form misrepresents what is going on here, and ignores the doctrinal threat inherent in the TCN model. TCN redefines our material principle to one of “mission.” If this redefinition occurs, the church slips towards apostasy.

    Rev. Eggleston says “It could be argued that by calling only a pastor who subscribes to the confessional standard will result in Biblical, confessional priorities throughout the business of the church. However this is seems more likely to happen when the pastor’s leadership role is clarified and protected within the polity model, rather than placed in contention with the left-hand priorities that will inevitably take precedence in an unguided church democracy.” He makes the assumption that the pastor has a left-hand leadership role. Certainly the pastor, in his day to day function in his parish will deal with many left-hand areas, but this is not what God called him to do. The Accountable Leadership Model will indeed clarify and protect the pastor’s leadership role – what it will not protect is the vocation for which he was called by Jesus Christ to perform, the undershepherd of the flock. Since in the TCN model the pastor is viewed primarily as a manager, his job is as expendable as that of any manager working at Wal-Mart. An individual church may not set their polity up this way, but if they’re true to the TCN form, if the pastor doesn’t perform (i.e. if the church doesn’t grow), he’s given his pink slip. This ability, “granted” by the church’s polity, was not granted by God. Christ’s servant cannot be fired in such a manner.

    Rev. Eggleston states: “My personal feeling is that when a quia subscriber to the Lutheran Confessions is charged with leading the church, directing the staff, and modeling ministry and stewardship to the congregation at large, the results will be God pleasing.” A quia subscriber might indeed end up with “results” that appear to be God pleasing, but wouldn’t he have arrived there, if he’s following the TCN model to the letter, via a route that is not God pleasing? The end does not justify the means. I would think that very few quia subscribers are going to be signing a covenant in which they agree to follow the entire TCN plan, because that plan isn’t a quia plan, and it may very well violate the oath they previously made with the Triune God.

  28. Whew! Reading through the previous comments has depressed me in large measure. Our congregation is in the midst of simply hanging onto existence. For some reason, the membership planets had aligned into church councils and school boards with husbands and wives all involved in one or the other. Even paid staff are married to those who have direct influence in church process. As a result, we could not move forward. Picture uncleaned restrooms because no one could bear to bring it up at council in front of the spouse. The district recommended we might try a new approach. We were assured by TCN that our congregation could approach the ALM in ways that were accepted by the voters. Do you really believe that shaking up the approach to leadership is such a bad idea when voters are so codependent and confusion abounds. Oh, well. I guess we wouldn’t be Lutheran if we didn’t have public knock-down drag-out fights over every quadrant of “church”. Guess we can avoid “making diciples” a little big longer while we duke it out over church structure. Peace be yours.

  29. Jay,

    If you were told that a structural change will fix these interpersonal problems in the congregation you were sold a bill of goods.


  30. Pastor TR-
    Thanks for responding. I’ve been away and just now checked the site.
    Your sentence included the words “structural change” and “bill of goods”. I get those constructs well enough.
    But the “interpersonal problems” comment is a bit glib. These are deeply entrenched issues choking our congregation.

    You wrote, back in May, that your congregation highlighted the role of pastor by eliminating the church council and having trustees and lay elders. Sounds similar to our plans for the future. We also are retaining voter’s assembly 4 to 6 times a year. Our biggest change comes with the elimination of church council.

    We were never told by TCN that structural changes would fix our interpersonal problems.

    There is a wideness in God’s mercy. Peace.
    Jay Reed

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