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: