Audio Recording of TCN Presentation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, by Pr. Rossow

TCN (Transforming Churches Network) is a church consulting exercise that the LCMS Ablaze folks created in order to fix 2,000 of the churches that they have deemed dysfunctional in the LCMS. (They believe 80% of all LCMS churches are broken.) To better understand what TCN is all about you can listen to the  attached audio recording of its chief consultant, Pastor Terry Tieman, giving a  presentation  to seminary students at Concordia, St. Louis on Monday.  (The first 90 seconds have some annoying background noise but after that it is a really clean recording.)

Here are a few things you should listen for as well as coming up with your own critique that we hope you will share in the comments section below.

  • The presenter, Pastor Tieman, focuses mostly on the second of the five typical prescriptions for a TCN congregation: turning outward. He does not focus on the more controversial aspects which you can read about in Scott Diekman’s critique (see below).
  • The Biblical term “repentance” is hi-jacked and given new meaning. In the Bible  repentance refers to the need for individuals to confess their sin before God.  In Pastor Tieman’s presentation and in TCN it refers to entire congregation’s, even church bodies needing to “confess” that they have been inward looking.
  • Succesful pastors are those that have grown their churches. The measure that TCN uses is not faithfulness to God’s word, but how large your church has grown.
  • Outreach is based on an assessment of the needs of the community, not the one thing needful that God’s word teaches.
  • Notice the language that Pastor Tieman uses. It sounds more Baptist than Lutheran. For example he talks about making a “kingdom difference” and notice also his closing prayer.
  • The most profound thing to notice is the underlying, simple and heretical logic of TCN. It goes like this. “You seminarians know the Gospel and you know doctrine. But if you have a church that is plateaued or dying (80% of all LCMS congregations according to Ablaze) then you need to apply the sociological principles of TCN. The doctrine of the Gospel is OK by us but it is not the real deal for transforming  the church.”

I could go on and on with this critique. You will notice that there are some beneficial things that Pastor Tieman teaches. For instance, our churches do need to be outward looking. This is not a bad thing. However, to encourage Christians to look for opportunities to share the good news with others does not require a transformed congregation that reorganizes around a hierarchical model and which replaces faithfulness to the Gospel with growth in numbers, changing the pastors role from preacher/teacher to leader/CEO and the like. To get prospects for evangelism does not require that the congregation become focused on the needs of the community. It simply takes members telling the pastor about folks in their web who could benefit from an evangelism call or it takes days, months, sometimes even years of encouragement from that layman to the unbeliever to come to church and hear the evangel preached from the pulpit. TCN has a laudable goal but  highly questionable tactics.

This audio recording is only an introduction to the program. Pastor Tieman leaves out many of the most controversial aspects of the program such as the congregational and pastoral covenants, the dialectical method applied for change and others. We strongly encourage  you to read Scott Diekman’s nine part series  on TCN for a more comprehensive understanding of TCN and for  an incredibly insightful  Biblical critique. You can read Diekman’s critique on our site (click here) or as a pdf (click here.)

Here is the audio recording of Pastor Tieman’s presentation:


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.


Audio Recording of TCN Presentation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, by Pr. Rossow — 60 Comments

  1. I noticed that Dr. Utec is in charge of the field work program at the seminary. I wonder how many students are being placed in confessional churches in the St. Louis area.

  2. @C.S. #52

    The better question is how many confessional churches are there in St. Louis? How many are available to place students?

    We are full of the experiment type facilities here. I use the term facility since they no longer look like a church, act like a church, or even claim the title Lutheran in name.


  3. CS – Very few. For one example, Rev. Wil Weedon has been requesting a field worker for at least ten years, and been denied. It’s one thing to not get a new field worker every year, but to be completely shut out for a decade, (and counting) especially when the pastor and the parish are both outstanding, it’s hard to see Utech’s unwillingness to assign anyone to St. Paul Hamel as anything other than an anti-confessional grudge.

  4. I also would like to add that the guys that I have met from the sem have been on the right track. Not a whole lot of nonsense. But maybe I only meet that type of student since i don’t go to the brewhouse church.


  5. John,

    The problem is not when they are at the seminary. The problem is when they start to get antsy and itching ears a few years after they graduate and start to give in to the laity who want to make changes so they can be like the church down the street.


  6. Pastor Rossow–

    No doubt the laity have, in some instances, had an inflluence on some pastors. But please don’t be too hasty to blame all of us laymen for much of this flight to be like the church down the street. In the 70’s and 80’s (perhaps yet today), a large no. of pastors did graduate work at Fuller–the Kent Hunters and others. A pastor friend told me it was “a steady stream” and it was encouraged by synod. The Church Growth virus has infected the LCMS for 30 or more years–I can name any number of programs that I have personally been involved in. None of them came from the laity. (And none of them “worked.”) The list of synod luminaries (including now-Pres. K) who endorsed Kent Hunter’s “Confessions” (See Klemet Preus’ review in LOGIA), is not composed of laymen. No, much of this has come from synod, from liberal sem grads who went underground as pastors after the walkout, and emerged as DP’s and synodical execs later, some of them (1st VP, for instance) still active. “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission” was the synod’s latest response in 2001, I believe, but if I recollect, it has been removed from the LCMS website, and is no longer in print. However the CTCR’s critique of FTSOCC (at the direction of Pres. K) is still there. What does that tell us?

    No, it’s not us lay-folks who bear the blame. It’s the synod, the districts, and many pastors, who for whatever reason, do not trust God’s Means of Grace to be effective, and who, have been banefully influenced by Christian Radio and TV, and the culture. It’s, as then-Pres. Kuhn observed in 2001–years of poor catechesis–hardly the laity’s fault. If the laymen bear any responsibility, it’s for their silence and acquiescence, and for their failure to excercise their faith. As one of those laymen, I accept the responsibility for my own silence in the past. But no more…

  7. @Pastor Tim Rossow #56

    I disagree.
    Personally I believe that the Pastor that instructs his student has more influence on his student Preacher’s future. He is the last example of what a Pastor should be. Does the layman inflict pressure on the Pastor, you betcha. Will the pastor use the layman to push agenda and change OH YEA.

    I went through this Pastor /CEO stuff 24 years ago when I was only 26 and on the board of elders. I can tell you it didn’t come from the congregation, it came from the top. Those who came for instruction went the same way. Not all but some. And the DP took a firm stand on the fence. If it wasn’t suggested from the top (Synod, the Sems and Pastors) the layperson wouldn’t follow. The sheep follow. So does the student.

    I can be a pain. I ask a lot of questions, and not afraid to do so. I’ll never go back to that time when I was 26 with a CEO Pastor.


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