A Real TCN Questionnaire from a Real LCMS TCN Congregation Is Telling

In case you are not following the comments on yesterday’s post  of the TCN presentation at Concordia, St. Louis, here is something you ought to read about what sorts of things TCN does in a parish.

October 15th, 2009 at 06:35 | #44
From “Concerned about the LCMS”

I’m just a layman too whose church has been through the TCN consultation. Scott Diekmann’s pieces are right on the mark. The “process” scares me and that it is spreading through the Synod and being presented at the seminary is more than worrisome. We just got a survey from TCN that asks that we rate the pastor, worship and church in general on a host of “core competencies.” Some of the statements include,

“In his sermons, often tells stories about people whose lives have been transformed.”

Not one word about Law and Gospel anywhere in the survey.

“Leads the staff to fully execute board-established mission principles.”

“All aspects of our worship services are designed to show deep reverence for God situations.” (What is a “God Situation?”)

“We have at least one worship service during the weekend that would meet the cultural expectations of most of the people in our community.”

“Our worship services are “alive.””

“Positive impact in our community has become a measure of success in our church.”

Reaching the lost is certainly a worthy goal and Jesus commands us to go and tell, but this “process” throws the baby out with the bathwater. I’ve heard because the LCMS is declining, we “have to do something.” But something isn’t “any old thing.” I am truly confused as to why so many Synod leaders think it is a good program. The weaknesses seem obvious.

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.


A Real TCN Questionnaire from a Real LCMS TCN Congregation Is Telling — 27 Comments

  1. We do well to be concerned. My guess is that these are just the tip of the iceberg, no metaphor intended. I’d like to see more.


  2. In reference to: “We have at least one worship service during the weekend that would meet the cultural expectations of most of the people in our community”….

    Then why did LCMS sell KFUO, which was a great outreach to the community? I understand that there were serious problems in leadership and I agree that it should be more direct in its’ Gospel message, but why not fix that and continue spreading the Gospel to the ‘intellectual’ crowd and to artists? I guess they are not deserving of the Gospel message?

    Who exactly is LCMS reaching out to? Do they have some sort of special dispensation to only reach out to a particular segment of the population?

  3. Christian Classical,

    For the last 25 years the LCMS has been split right down the middle. Elections for the presidency for instance have been won or lost by an average of .5 – 5% margins. You can slice that 50/50 split a number of ways. One way to understand it is that 50% of the LCMS favors a populist/contemporary approach to church and 50% favors a traditional/liturgical approach. For the last several years the former have been in charge (by the narrowest of margins) and so they have been able to control much of the spin and many of the administrative decisions. They are the ones promoting this TCN stuff and other populist programs.


  4. Beside the misplaced priorites (sounds like buying a car “because it’s yel-low!”), I don’t get how anybody can speak words such as those quoted without an overwhelming desire to wash their mouths out with a very strong form of alcohol.

  5. Core competencies. Execute. Transformed. God situations (? me too). Cultural expectations. Impact. Measure of success.

    These are the words of a nebbish, used to sound important. Gag.

    (Now where’s that bottle of Purell?)

  6. Have the pastors on John the Steadfast decided to stick this out in hopes that they can implement change rather than pull away? Do you ever receive ‘heat’ from the administration for your views? If you do not feel you can answer this publicly, I understand.

    I have received heat at my church for my views, which seem to parallel the views of those I’ve read here.

  7. All of this TCN talk about worship assumes that Sunday morning is the best time to reach the lost. I seriously dispute this. Since when is the Divine Service the time and place to reach the lost? All baptized chidren of God rub shoulders with the lost in their daily vocation. Also, we could reestablish the office of “evangelist” (Rev. Ken Klaus?) in each District and have circuits put on good old fashioned Lutheran style evangelistic meetings in civic auditoriums, stadiums, etc. Just trying to think outside the box a little:)

  8. Christian Classical,

    Several pastors have been wrongly run out of their congregations by the laity and the bishops have not intervened, although some do. I have gotten some heat from the Synod President, none from my bishop (who embraces and promotes many of these questionable practices).

    We try to carefully report the facts, steer clear from personal attacks and slander and so I am not sure what they can do. Actually, they can do a lot if your congregation does not support you. I have a supportive congregation so that helps.


  9. Paul,

    You are right. You do not need to redo your church to make a prospect list. The pastor simply needs to ask his members, as you describe them, the one rubbing shoulders with others, for names and then he or trained laity speak with them or you have the evangelsim meeting you describe although statistics have proved that they are not very effective.


  10. What stikes me about the questions is how they are worded. A pollster can get almost any result they desire depending on how they word the questions. This is a perfect example of such a thing. They have already determined what “answer” should be received. They constructed the questions to obtain those “answers”. Viola! When the survey is completed the “answers” will tell them that most want what the TCN is peddling.

  11. The St. Louis Seminary has an interesting dichotomy in some respects at this point in time. The first class you have, Pastoral Ministry, has Hybel’s book Being a Contagious Christian and Warren’s Purpose Driven Church as required reading. The final classes in the practical department are Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Leadership, which promote Callahan’s Twelve Keys to An Effective Church, Peter Drucker, and other business and church growth models. Every other class I ever participated in at the Seminary was first-class, but these surprised me and also operated in contrast to much of what we learned in our other classes.
    I think an earlier post concerning TCN said that the leader had his degree from Fuller, which is the school where C. Peter Wagner was (is?) on faculty, who is a father of the CG movement. He and fellow faculty member, the late John Wimber, were also proponents of the Latter-Rain Movement, which is a Pentecostal movement. This also where Rev. David Luecke worked and picked up his principles for the book Evangelical Style, Lutheran Substance, which was a part of introducing CG to the LC-MS in the 80s.

  12. Do they even read any real Lutheran or patristic stuff there? It tells me we cannot count on time (read: retirement of baby boomers) as a solution to our theological issues. The St. Louis seminary has not done pre-certification formal theological interviews since about 1995. They still do at Fort Wayne and the two Canadian (LCC) seminaries. I’m sure they do plenty of of psychological-sociological and “leadership” stuff though.

    How many courses in liturgy or hymnody are required in seminary nowadays? Do they read any Walther, Loehe, Sasse, or Chemnitz as part of a required curriculum?

  13. Pr. Frahm,

    CSL has re-introduced the theological interviews. They did a trial run for the class that graduated in 2007, were required in 2008 (when I graduated) and I assume that it has not been dropped.

    In regards to “Walther, Loehe, Sasse, or Chemnitz”, much of it depends upon the professor. Walther is widely used for homiletics (Law and Gospel) and Systems 4 (Church and Ministry) and US Lutheran history, Loehe wasn’t used much at all while I was there. Sasse was used by several professors, especially in Systems 4. It would depend upon the professor and class in regards to Chemnitz.

    Hence the dichotomy at CSL. There are a few classes and professors that push/support the CG stuff. They happen to be in the practical theology department. Most of the other classes are excellent. There are professors at the seminary that are working to instill a Lutheran mind into the students so that much of the junk is seen for what it is.

  14. @Johannes #1

    ( editor: this was found at: http://gracelutheranmi.org/blog/?p=4 )

    I did some snooping around and this is what I came up with so far. This is from Grace Lutheran Church in Merrit Island FL. from about a year ago. Warning, It’s quite long.

    Transforming Congregation Network (TCN) WeekendPosted in September 20th, 2008 by gracelutheran in UncategorizedTransforming Congregations Network (TCN)Weekend –

    What a weekend. Filled with conversations, teaching, transparency, and the great commission. Life if filled with so many things that keep us busy. Time goes by very quickly and it is hard to keep track of all the things that we do. Days, weeks, months and years can go by like a blur, but there are moments and times that are truly transformational and pivotal in life. A pivotal moment like this occurred in the life of our church last weekend. The TCN group came to our church to help us take a look in the mirror. To help us to see who we are, where we seem to be going, and how we should make corrections to our path.They did not disappoint. They identified the five greatest strengths of our congregation:


    Fellowship/family feeling – Grace Lutheran Church (GLC) exudes an authentically warm fellowship and family feeling. The way the members eagerly share their lives with each other is an inviting characteristic for guests among them. This truly expresses the love of Christ that is shared and celebrated in the worship and other gatherings.

    Pastor’s Preaching/teaching/worship leadership – Pastor Boetcher relates to the congregation in his messages. The listener is able to take what he hears and apply it to his life from Monday through Saturday. These messages are part of a worship service that is meaningful to all. Pastor’s Bible classes explore the depth of the Scriptures in a manner that is enlightening and spiritually uplifting.

    Open Arms Preschool and the Director – GLC had the foresight to recognize the importance of Christian care and education for young children as a mission outreach. The experienced director is committed to maintaining an excellent Christian childcare that welcomes children and their families from the community into this ministry of GLC and into the open arms of Jesus.

    Facility and its potential – The facility enables GLC as a new mission congregation to have a fully operational childcare facility to serve the community. The facility also gives the congregation multi-purpose space with its common area, classrooms and gymnasium to be a missional facility poised for numerous outreach opportunities; including but not limited to worship, sports leagues (such as basketball), concerts and various other fellowship events.

    Depth of God’s blessings – The Spirit of the Lord has endowed the individual members of GLC with a depth of faith in the joy of their personal salvation through Jesus Christ, which is further reflected in their desire to be fruitful in the ongoing work of His Kingdom. Along with that faith, He has abundantly granted to His people, gifts, abilities, talents and skills to be used in service to Him, and for the benefit of all His kingdom. It is also refreshing to observe the spirit of the congregational leadership who are willing learners and demonstrate the energy to try new things.

    These strengths identify some very wonderful things that God has been doing among us over the last 5 years. They provide us hope and affirmation that God is truly at work among us! In addition to just telling us what we are doing well they also identified areas of concern. As with any church, organization, and body (human) there are always areas that are in need of attention. The five areas of concern that they discovered are: (Listed in priority order by the TCN Consultation Team)


    Lack of Vision – The congregation lacks a clear, unified, compelling, God-given vision. This has resulted in an inward focus and a lack of an intentional outreach mindset and behavior as evidenced by a lack of overall marketing/advertising plan, no intentional discipleship development plan and inadequate planning and follow through in general. This lack of vision has kept the congregation from carrying out its primary purpose – making disciples.

    Leadership Issues – We have found no intentional process for the recruitment, development and care of competent joy-filled leaders at GLC. A real need exists to provide leadership development/training to maximize their effectiveness. This concern relates to professional staff and lay leadership alike.

    Accountability/Structure – Ministry is hindered and significant potential is lost due to an ineffective governance structure. It divides responsibility from authority and provides for no accountability. This frustrates leadership and impedes outward focus and efficient accomplishment of mission goals.

    Sense of powerlessness due to Fiscal indebtedness – The congregation has an inordinately large sized loan for a new mission congregation. This outstanding loan amount causes a sense of powerlessness for the congregation, which is exacerbated by the childcare ministry operating at less than capacity and thus losing money each month. The monthly amount of debt service dominates the budget and available funds, leaving little or no funds for outreach or any other ministry activities.

    Inadequate worship setting – the present worship setting in the gymnasium is both aesthetically poor and lacking in practical aspects. The “chancel” is dark and separated from the gathering. The sound system is adequate but the acoustics in the gym are too “live” which causes a distortion of both the spoken word and music. Music is limited due to a lack of instruments and musicians. Also, the community of worshippers is lost in the vast space within the gym which is devoid of intimacy. This setting detracts from the worship experience for both members and guests resulting in a decrease in worship attendance.

    These are huge! No one from our congregation was surprised by these areas of concern. They articulated the things that we had been talking about for some time, but had not necessarily been able to put down into words. They are overwhelming. They did more than just tell us what was wrong. The TCN team gave us some guidance, and even a road made to help us along the path to congregational health. They identified these areas and gave us prescriptions to deal with each of these, just like a doctor to a sick patient,

    Here are their prescriptions:

    1. Vision – In order to gain a clear, unified, compelling, God-given vision, the congregation will:

    Once developed, pastor and staff will communicate the vision for ninety days throughout the congregation.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 June 1, 2009.

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

    Goal setting and strategic plan implementation will follow.

    To get the congregation off the ground and outward focused they will:

    By January 15, 2009, engage, with input from the FLA/GA 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.

    Host 2 events off of your church campus by Easter April 12, 2009, and 2 more by November 1, 2009, which are evangelistic/servant events and are completely focused on people of this community. Beginning in 2010 the congregation will host at least 6 of these events annually.
    A task force will be in place by June 1, 2009 to initiate 3rd places – small groups, interest groups for the purpose of attracting new people to the congregation.
    2. Leadership – By May 1, 2009, Pastor and Board must implement a process to equip staff members (under Pastors leadership) to recruit, equip and train the future leaders of the congregation.

    Pastor will participate in the Pastor’s Learning Community until its completion.
    Pastor Boetcher and congregational coach shall convene a monthly learning community consisting of 5-7 GLC leaders by February 1, 2009.

    3. Accountability/ 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 amending those particular bylaws that describe how the congregation functions in its ministries. These bylaws, by vote of the congregation, will be amended for no more than three years. At the end of this time, the congregation will vote to either return to the original bylaws or adopt new ones that are written to reflect how ministry is currently being done at that time.

    The Model will be implemented beginning September 1, 2009, 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 amended while this Accountable Leadership Model is implemented.
    In this new model of governance, there will be a Board of Directors of three people plus the Pastor. These three 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 June 1, 2009, the pastor will nominate, with input from the congregation, five potential members to serve on the Board. The congregation will select three 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.
    4. Fiscal Health – Upon approval of these prescriptions, the congregation will implement a financial task force which will formulate a proposal for increasing income through a variety of means. Continual Biblical Stewardship education coupled with a capital fund drive must become a priority. This proposal must be shared with leaders from Fla/Ga District and/or LCEF. This plan will include the means for achieving full capacity in Open Arms. For purposes of financial operational integrity, the functions of Treasurer, Church Secretary and Business Manager must be separated and carried out by three individuals, preferably volunteers.

    5. Worship setting – With the help of your congregational coach, launch a task force to visit and interview at least 4 churches that have made various settings into worship spaces. Formulate a plan to make GLC’s approved worship center warm, inviting, acoustically and visually pleasant. We recommend finding a name other than “sanctitorium”. The new improved GLC worship center to be unveiled Easter of 2009. This will be funded through special gifts, memorials or the reallocation of existing designated funds.

    I am greatly interested in your feedback and insight into these ideas and prescriptions. I encourage you to write your thoughts, questions, and comments on the blog below to help us as we wrestle with this transformation process. We will be making our decision one these prescriptions on or before November 9th, 2008.

    May God truly Transform us into the image of His Son and guide us to be about making disciples of all people! Amen

    in Jesus love, Pastor Jason

  15. Michael–yes I’ve seen this one and a few others that are posted on cong’s website. If anyone has any doubts about what this program is about, this should lay those doubts to rest.

    For those of you who have not seen this stuff before, read Prescription #3, “Accountability/Structure very carefully. Rev. Tiemann spoke to this accountability issue quite a bit in his presentation. It is the most dangerous and odious of the prescriptions because it (1) emasculates the office of the Holy Ministry (2) turns the laity (formerly the Royal Priesthood) into gophers, (3) effectively neuters the Means of Grace, and (4) turns the congregational polity on its head.

    I’d still like to see a few more of those questions that “Concerned” has brought before us.


  16. The survey goes on for nine pages, four of them relate to the pastor. The first page talks about leadership issues. Here is a sampling from each section. Some are innocuous.

    “Organizes church members into voluntary staff.”
    “Equips church staff to carry out the church’s mission and vision.”
    “Mentors/coaches members to engage in ministry.”

    The next page talks about the pastor’s prayer/devotional life.

    “Is deeply committed to his own spiritual growth.”
    “Is a man of prayer.”
    “Has an open heart to receive counsel from wise, Godly men.”

    The next page is about the church’s vision.

    “Is passionate about the urgency of achieving the church vision.”
    “Regularly tells real life stories about the needs in the community.”
    “Is passionate about seeing church members embrace the church vision.”
    “Believes it is church members, not staff, who ultimately carry out the church vision.”
    “Shares stories of his experiences in the community.”
    “Leads staff to fully execute board-established mission principles.”

    The next page is about the pastor’s role in the civic community.

    “Is actively involved in the civic community.”
    “Seriously tries to understand the ministry needs of our civic community.”
    “Is a role model in spiritually engaging people in everyday work and life situations.”
    “Is involved in the lives of friends and neighbors who are not currently members of the church.”

    Then the questions are about Worship Services,

    “Our pastor’s sermons are inspiring to first-time visitors.”
    “Our pastor’s sermons inspire church members.”
    “When we plan worship services, we consider lost people who may be attending.”
    “Our worship services include elements aimed at reaching the hearts of lost people.”
    “If a stranger visited one of our worship services, they would see genuine love among members of this congregation.”

    Then there are questions about prayer life,

    “If our church is anything, it is a praying congregation.”
    “Members continually pray for un-churched people beyond our church walls.”
    “People in our church pray for each other in good times and bad.
    “The pastor models a life of prayer.”

    Then there are questions about the Board of Directors. It is assumed the Accountability Model was adopted.

    “We adopted a Church Board governance structure to help accomplish the church vision.”
    “The Board holds the pastor and staff accountable for effective leadership.”
    “All our ministry activities stick tightly to the guiding principals.”
    “The Board sets goals, then holds the pastor and staff accountable to achieve them.”
    “Our pastor and staff operate within the boundaries set by the Board.”

    Then questions about our Outreach Focus

    “A main focus of our vision is to reach out to our community with the gospel.”
    “Our congregation has shifted its focus outward, toward serving people in our community.”
    “Blessing our community is important to our church members.”
    “All our ministries are now measured by their impact on those who do not attend our church.”

    The final page asks about changes in the last six months.

    “Overall things in our church are generally heading in the right direction.”
    “We see signs of growing attendance in Sunday worship services.”
    “We are growing spiritually as a church.”
    “More new members are starting to join our church.”
    “Our church has become more active in our community.”

  17. Thanks, Concerned. You have done us a great service, and it’s as many of us thought. Pure church growth, and barely Christian, let alone Lutheran.

    What is missing from all this CG gobbledy-gook?

    God’s Word
    Holy Communion
    You can add another hundred or two to this list

    Nothing–nada–gar nichts. Not a single mention of any of these. But–all the CG buzzwords are there. Hmmm Did I see “health”? Maybe not. How about “effective?” Oh yes, there it is.

    This is disgraceful.

  18. Having spend 35 years working in corporate America I can only say that if companies in this country actually used a format similar to those survey questions listed by responder #18 they’d be in even worse financial condition than they are today. There’s no focus – the survey reflects an organization that is attempting to be all things to all people. I’ve seen evangelical congregations actually apply this kind of model and they flop around like a fish out of water, committees treading all over each other performing redundant tasks, failing at the very core responsibility to which they are called – effectively preaching the law and gospel.

    The more I read about how things work in Pr. Rossow’s congregation the more I’m convinced that he’s truly following the NT Biblical model, being the true shepherd of his flock, making sure they’re not going off in one of the many divergent directions the strong evangelical influence around here tempts us to do. We can only hope for more like it.

  19. George–I think you might be slightly mistaken. It appears the survey questions probably have responses like, Strongly Agree, Agree, Kind of Agree, Don’t Agree, Strongly Disagree. Then, after tabulating, collating, folding, spindling, and mutilating the results, and stirring them in a lukewarm crockpot (as in “That’s a crock”), the answer is (are you ready?)–“You need TCN. Make your pastor the CEO, and all will be well.”

    These questions/statements are about as objective as “When did you stop beating your wife?” My guess is that even Pastor Rossow’s church would come out sorely needing an injection of TCN. If only Walther and Wyneken had had TCN–think where we’d be today.

  20. In response to the above “plan” for the church in Merritt Island, who holds TCN accountable? With such hyperbolic goals, how can the faith in such a context be handed on generation after generation? Such is the madness in the wake of our hedonistic abandonment of begetting children and delaying marriage until our thirties! Abortion also looms large in this horizon of empty pews/chairs.
    Perhaps the American church should study Christian communities in places like Kerala, India with its Mar Thoma Christians, the Coptic Church in Ethiopia or even the Orthodox Church in Greece where the faith has been passed down (traditioned) for almost two thousand years.

  21. Father–perhaps nobody has read the fine print yet. Who holds TCN accountable? Well, you would hope the DP’s would, but that’s not realistic. Circuit counselors?

    Anyway, in the “fine print” (actually in Borden’s “Direct Hit”), he calls for another dose of TC in say, ten years or so, kind of a “booster shot.” By then, they’ve thought up a few more law-based prescriptions, etc., etc. Since we’ve bought into Borden’s philosophy hook, line, and sinker, it’s reasonable to assume the 10 year follow up is in the program.

    You saw it here first.


  22. An LCMS form of “hope and change”. Hope in what/who, change to what? Adapting to a different form is one thng but changing God’s theology in the process is anathema and should not be tolerated. An absence of preaching on original sin, Law and Gospel and emphaisis on the means of grace is unacceptable. Preaching about the “triumphant (temporal) life” is nothing more than a BIG LIE. Faith in Chirst gives us hope for eternity while all around us is failing including ourselves, it is NOT a seeking for temporal perfection which can never be found in a sinful fallen world. What our culture(s) need is TRUTH and active Christian love, not pious “positive” thoughts which last only as long as it takes to arrive at breakfast after church.

  23. Price of Peace in Douglasville Ga is in the information gathering part of the TCN process. The presentation to our congregation was similar to what I see used in business to eliminate opposition and to emotionally drive consent. After reading the required questions and list of needed documentation, I really knew something was wrong. I looked on-line at the first six churches with TCN prescriptions posted. Instead of a unique set of recommendations, each had the same concepts built in with the suspension of the constitution as central goal. I have sent an e-mail to our Pastor, Church Board and Board of Elders voicing my concerns about this program. I became Chairman of our board after the TCN resolution passed . Please pray for my church. Any advice you can give me in how to say “the truth in love” will be greatly appreciated.

  24. Praying for you, Ronald. I only know of one success where the laypeople and elders rose up and stopped TCN when the pastor was fiddling with it.

    Find Scott Diekmann’s materials on his blog, Stand Firm, here, and other places. TCN takes advantage of poorly catechized laity and pastors preaching something other than killing Law and reviving Gospel to foment distrust in the Word and make the congregation worldly. Get informed, and speak to them in love, that you are concerned that these changes will distort the truth about how Christ works in our lives.

    Praying for you.

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