Years ago, President Kieschnick’s supporters billed him as a modern-day Nehemiah. Correspondent Publius Aequillus (probably not his real name) composed some thoughts about that comparison:
At the leadership of Nehemiah, the assembly of the people said, “Amen” and praised the Lord. (Nehemiah 5:13) Nehemiah was an incredible leader, who had the favor of the Lord and of his people. He rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem in 52 days. He stopped unfair mortgage practices and defeated the enemies of the Lord’s people. For this reason, Nehemiah has become somewhat of a model for the modern church leadership movement. He has become someone to emulate and study.
Back in 2004, Stephen Carter wrote that the Missouri Synod needed a God-given leader like Nehemiah, a leader who was ready to build and to fight. Six years ago, Carter identified President Jerry Kieschnick as Missouri Synod’s God-given leader, Missouri’s Nehemiah, a leader with a strategy. Since President Kieschnick would like to be judged on his leadership, let’s examine how he compares to Nehemiah.
A cursory examination of Nehemiah shows that he was successful at raising the funds necessary to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. He was able to obtain funds from the King of Persia and from the people he led. He was also able to rally the people of Israel around a common vision.
A cursory examination of the state of the LCMS during President Kieschnick’s tenure shows that the financial condition of the Synod has done nothing but deteriorate. The economic crisis of late 2008 and early 2009 only can be offered as a partial explanation. The Synod’s current financial situation largely is the result of poor leadership, a failed vision, and a lack of unity. The Fan into Flame fund raising campaign is an utter failure – costing more in consultants and fundraisers than it has netted. The Ablaze “movement”, while presenting an honorable goal of reaching 100 million lost souls by 2017, employs tactics more at home among Baptists and Pentecostals than among Lutherans. There is no compelling theological vision for the future of the Synod that the majority of our church can support.
How many millions of dollars have been spent on consultants, conferences, and committees on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance? District after district has responded to the BRTFSSG’s survey less than enthusiastically. The Synod does not want to be restructured. No compelling reason has been offered why it is necessary. Restructuring will not result in greater unity of the Synod, rather, it will result in less freedom for pastors and congregations by putting more control into the hands of the President of Synod. Some are under the impression that restructuring is necessary for the financial well being of the Synod. Yet the Treasurer of the Synod holds a different opinion. In the June 2009 Reporter, Synod Treasurer Tom Kuchta wrote, “In my opinion, the current recommendations by the BRTFSSG will have an immaterial effect on the financial operations of the Synod.” In other words, the President’s restructuring proposal will not improve the Synod’s financial situation.
There are holes in the walls of Jerusalem. Even the President of the Synod acknowledges this as he goes around district conventions proclaiming, “There is trouble in River City.” (See Trouble in River City) The leader hailed as “Nehemiah” in 2004 has failed. It’s Time for new leadership in the Synod. Theological and pastoral leadership that proclaims the comforting word of the Gospel that can unify us. It’s time to have a pastor and a theologian as Synodical President.
Upon hearing about the condition of his ancestral city, [Nehemiah] wept and mourned for days and continued fasting while praying to the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4) Every Reformation of the church has begun with repentance. May the Lord grant our entire Synod a spirit of repentance. May we have a true “Nehemiah” arise who weeps and mourns over the condition of the Lord’s church. May we have a “Nehemiah” arise who comforts the Lord’s people with the Gospel.