Trouble in River City? by Publius Aequillus

Earlier this week, I heard my third report of President Kieschnick’s video presentation to district conventions. I couldn’t believe it. Apparently the video presents Kieschnick as the “Music Man” who declares there is trouble in River City. I can only hope that Kieschnick forgot the details of the movie as it’s a really, really bad comparison for him to make.

A pseudonymous someone who saw him and the presentation at an earlier convention submitted an analysis that I’d like to share with you.

In the Music Man by Meredith Wilson, a traveling salesman, con man, known as Professor Harold Hill comes to the town of River City, Iowa. He claims that he can train children to be musical if they purchase their instruments from him. However, as soon as he has received the money and delivers the instruments, he leaves town without training the children or forming a band. He is a charlatan who doesn’t deliver on what he promises. When Professor Hill arrives in River City, he sees a billiard hall and declares, “There is trouble in River City” – a game with fifteen balls is the devil’s tool. However, the only “trouble” in River City is really Professor Harold Hill, a man who doesn’t deliver on what he promises.

Ironically, at the District Conventions, President Kieschnick presents a video of himself, as the “Music Man” who declares there is trouble in River City, that is, the Missouri Synod. Apparently, President Kieschnick identifies with Professor Harold Hill. The parallels between the District Video and the Music Man are prescient. In the video President Kieschnick declares the trouble facing the Lutheran Church ranging from the moral decay of society, religious pluralism, lack of denominational loyalty, declining membership, etc. In a portion of the video, the President proclaims, “There is trouble in River City.” Presumably, the President, his leadership team, and the restructuring proposal will provide the answer to Missouri’s trouble.

Just as in the Music Man, one of the main sources of “trouble” in River City is Professor Harold Hill himself, i.e., President Kieschnick. It is not that the items the President identifies are not problems facing the church; it is more that the proposed solutions cannot address them since the real problem has not been addressed. The real problem is that the theological challenges facing the LCMS are not addressed by structure or leadership theories and methodologies. Talking about the gospel is not the same as proclaiming and delivering the gospel. Supporting law based solutions that seek greater control as in the current restructuring proposal will not provide unity for Missouri but only create more trouble for Missouri.

By the end of the Music Man, Professor Harold Hill’s love for Marian, the town librarian, causes him to come clean when he leads the River City band. Harold Hill is redeemed and the musical ends with Harold embraced by Marian. May President Kieschnick follow suit and be redeemed, falling in love again with the church of his Father’s, the Missouri Synod, leaving behind the trouble he has brought her.


Trouble in River City? by Publius Aequillus — 25 Comments

  1. In the musical, the “Trouble” song is Professor Hill’s attempt to convince the residents River City to buy his non-existent musical instruments. He plans to take their money and skip town.

    You’d think with the hundreds of thousands of dollars LCMS Inc. pays its consultants, someone would have caught that.

    Or, maybe the consultants are playing Prof. Hill’s game as well.


  2. It takes a bit to amaze me but I’m sitting here, agog. Does anybody have a link to the video? Does PK actually perform as a Harold-Hill-type character? Is anybody at the Violet Vatican counseling him that this is, in the words of the younger generation, LAME? And in the words of my generation, INSULTING and lame?!!

  3. Todd Wilken wrote “Consultants”

    Is that what the church should call folk who make a living, regardless of creed, faith, or denomination, take money, sometimes excessive amounts, from folk and tell them how to “grow a church”, “make the church relevant” or “fan the flame?” I have a few other words for them, but my post would probably be deleted. I cannot believe how gullible the people of God are!!!

    When a huckster come to town you don’t ask him for the names of consultants he would work with you put him and his consultants on the same train out of town and telegraph ahead that the “shysters” are a-coming!

  4. From the corporate world I can report that there is a boundary where executives can lose the last vestiges of contact with reality. This is often most visibly expressed as they demand large salaries and bonuses as the corporation is about to go under – the extraordinary part being they seem to believe that they are worth the compensation because of their leadership skills.

    I can also report that such egotistical executives are the ones mostly likely to make shorty, funny videos featuring themselves.

  5. As I sit here as a lay delegate in the Wyoming District Convention, I had the opportunity to view the video first hand. I jotted down some notes about the theme, or key words used in the video.

    Urgency – Dr. K spoke to the declining morals in the US AND LCMS congregations. He accuses some congregations in the LCMS that they have lost the urgency to save the lost. And, we must respond to the urgency in an urgent manner so we can become effective in sharing the love of Christ in the 21st Century. Apparently, the change of structure will accomplish this.

    Change – this change will embolden the LCMS to “vigorously make known the love of Christ” Dr. K touted this as the goal of the BRTFSSG. The change in structure will aid in “seeking for Christ, those that are lost.”

    The message – According to Dr. K, the change in structure will help in getting the message out. The message Dr. K says to get out, is that “His love is here for you.” That is it.

    In addition to the BRTFSSG, Dr. K promoted the Ablaze program stating it is both confessional and scriptural, and how both these programs, once again, will vigorously make known the love of Christ.

    That is is for now 🙂

  6. Thanks, Kiley. Astounding stuff. A guy who claimed he couldn’t support himself and his wife in suburban St. Louis on $160,000/year, calling me and mine “immoral”? No, no, no money of mine goes to the LCMS while he and his posse are in power.

    Also, Bubbles observes accurately. And I will call “blessed” anybody who’s able to post the video on line. Meredith Willson, phooey – it sounds weirder than Wes Anderson!

  7. He seems to reduce spreading the Gospel to a little checklist of things to do and then *poof* people will be converted. If we follow these laws by doing these programs and saying these things our job of spreading the Gospel will be done and our churches will overflow, since large churches are of course effective. We will be able to feel better being us and know that we did our job so if it didn’t work it wasn’t our fault.

    Besides taking the Holy Spirit out of everything it always seemed to me that spreading the Gospel was something you do because it is just so great and you want to help other people. This is only true though of sound doctrine. Watered down theology is not nearly as inspiring in of itself so people need an extra push to show that they are doing God’s work and helping to bring in more money.

    If all of our pastors preached solid Law/Gospel sermons and thoroughly educated their laity all of the other problems synod is worried about will be taken care of. I guess it really comes down to supervision. When pastors are allowed to stray with their congregations, surprise, we aren’t walking together.

  8. Oh, this is rich! This opens up a whole panoply of parodies, and with one of my favorite musicals! I will have to use the Think System and come up with some!

    Charlie Henrickson
    The wag tailoring the doggerel

    Tune: “Seventy-Six Trombones”

    Seventy slick brochures set the church ablaze
    And a hundred “Attend!” cassettes fanned the flame
    They were followed by reams and reams
    Of the finest Church Growth dreams
    And the rules to help us play the game

    Seventy slick brochures taught the swarming throng
    And a hundred “Attend!” cassettes led the blind
    There was every Rick Warren piece
    It was a golden fleece
    There were forms of every shape and kind

    There were purpose-driven principles in guilt-edge garb
    Driving us, driving us, driving us like slaves!
    Scores of “Other” choruses from Dave and Barb
    Every bar riding emotion’s waves!

    There were seven highly habits in a DVD
    Driving us, driving us–purposely we strained!
    Services of every style and ministers who strolled the aisle–
    It drove us perfectly insane!

    Seventy slick brochures came from Saddleback
    With a hundred “Attend!” cassettes still to play
    We were up Willow Creek
    When our boat began to leak
    And we lack a paddle still today!

  10. Father Henrickson,

    Truly wonderful! A show-stopper!

    Perhaps you could get your congregation to perform it? I can picture you jumping out of the pulpit to lead them marching down the aisle.

  11. I’m still just incredulous that anyone could use Music Man for POSITIVE comparisons. Whatever consultant was paid $10K or whatever for this deserves every penny. Imagine if you could convince people to sell themselves as hucksters and charlatans and get paid for it . . .

    Of course, there’s always the option that no consultant was involved and President K and his own staff thought this was a good idea.

    That is too horrifying to accept. I mean, I know that Kieschnick is no theological giant but if you can’t understand the meaning behind a musical . . . GAH! This isn’t a Bergman film.

  12. I agree with everthing on this blog Mr. K is the big problem with synod. His attack on KFUO is almost unpardonable. There is only right in the traditional Lutheran doctrine as taught when I was a youth. I see the deviation and recognize the increase of ME not Christ in the new Lutheran teachings. God Bless and keep us in his word.

  13. “I cannot believe how gullible the people of God are!!!

    When a huckster come to town you don’t ask him for the names of consultants he would work with you put him and his consultants on the same train out of town and telegraph ahead that the “shysters” are a-coming!”

    Comment by Elnathan the younger

    I cannot believe how gullible convention delegates are!!!
    They’ve elected this particular charlatan three times now.

  14. Helen–
    I have been a delegate to the last three conventions that elected Professor Hill — I mean Dr. K., and I don’t like getting blamed for ALL of us for electing him. He has had, at best about a 52% majority, and his main backer is Jesus First–a highly political party in the LCMS. His opposition is/was disorganized, disunited, discouraged, and very very frustrated. I’ve seen church politics at its very worst, and JF is at the top of the list. Please, please–don’t blame ALL of us!! And besides–electing a conservative pres. will not solve the problem–the JF boards, etc. will make life extremely difficult for him, as they did for Barry.

  15. EXCELLENT points Johannes.

    President Kieschnick’s wins have been very narrow and people don’t pay enough attention to the boards that run various LCMS programs.

    Incidentally, the Blue Ribbon Commission recommends replacing the boards with more centralization under the president. So instead of having members elected or appointed, we’d have hand-picked boards. If you have a good president, that’s not a bad thing. If you have a bad one, it’s disastrous.

  16. Folks,
    I hate to open old wounds, but as we get set for another election it’s worth mentioning that in at least two of the three elections carried by DP Kieschnick, a segment of Confessional delegates voted for him to avoid electing sound Confessional Lutheran men that their leaders warned them were the “wrong sort of Confessionals.”

    Right thinking people can disagree with my assessment of past elections, but we are not going to reclaim our Synod unless we are really united this time.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  17. Another Music Man tune for Dr. Kieshnick:


    There were trendy cafes
    But I never paid attention,
    No, I never saw them in church
    Till there was you.

    There were Pastors in shorts
    But they never rated mention,
    No, I never saw them in church
    Till there was you.

    Then there were drumsets,
    And there were vapid praise ditties,
    In place of
    The sweet fragrant sounds of the Liturgy.

    There was church politics
    But it wasn’t my intention.
    No, I never thought it required
    Till there was you!

  18. #19,
    I don’t think it is posted anywhere, I have been unable to find it, but a request for a copy has been made and hopefully will arrive shortly.


  19. We can chuckle all we want, but if you read Scott Diekmann’s posts on “Transforming Churches”, which he likens to kudzu, you will have to agree that there is indeed “trouble in River City” and of course, it is largely due to Prof. Hill. I strongly suggest his whole series (he’s up to #6 out of 8 or 9 today) for all the Steadfasters (#1 is already on this website). I’ve been thru TC personally and I think it’s worse than kudzu–it’s a mutant virus of CG. His post #3 on the subject is downright scarey. And we haven’t even investigated Natural Church Development yet–more of the same, and just as dangerous.

  20. Correction–it’s Post #2 that is so scarey, just arrived on this website today. Ooops, and sorry!!

  21. ‘…it’s worth mentioning that in at least two of the three elections carried by DP Kieschnick, a segment of Confessional delegates voted for him to avoid electing sound Confessional Lutheran men that their leaders warned them were the “wrong sort of Confessionals.”’

    I am aware that less than 5 points in the other direction would have avoided all this from the start. So each of the 47.5% who voted confessional had better be talking unity (for a change) and beating the bushes to round up that other 5. You can argue Bud vs Miller lite later. By now, it’s a matter of Lutheran doctrine vs ersatz baptist in Missouri.
    If ersatz wins again there won’t be room for Bud, Miller, Shiner Bock or home brew!

  22. …it’s worth mentioning that in at least two of the three elections carried by DP Kieschnick, a segment of Confessional delegates voted for him to avoid electing sound Confessional Lutheran men that their leaders warned them were the “wrong sort of Confessionals.”

    Without specifics this is little more than gossip.

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