Church Growth / WCA long-term impact on a church.

Below is a comment that came in regarding the WCA article on the BJS site that we felt was worthy of  posting on the homepage. The author has been verified by us and we know who it is, but obviously because of the situation he does not want the congregation or himself identified.

This shows the situation in a congregation that years ago bought into the Church Growth movement and became a member of the Willow Creek Association. The writer of this note is a Pastor who came into this situation and is attempting to deal with the aftermath. I think he points out very well what we look forward to in churches that have started down this path.

I know I’m a little late to this discussion, and I don’t know if anyone is still reading it, but I have a very recent perspective.

I am an orthodox, confessional Lutheran pastor, serving as the interim pastor at one of these LCMS WCA congregations. They have been fractured and badly wounded by the last several years of imbibement of very poor theology… despite their halcion days of “growth” and their recent hemorraging of members. They now have elders and leaders who are uncatechized in the Lutheran witness to the Faith, and are looking for the next batch of snake oil from WC to save them from the consequences of the last batch they downed.

For several months, I have been giving them a steady diet of Law and Gospel, exegetical preaching from the lectionary texts (most of the staff didn’t even remember what the lectionary was.) I have found two fascinating things– first, that the wounded people in the pews have been hungrily receiving Christ centered, cross focussed sermons like withered souls who were starving to death… and second, that the leadership is now decidedly torn by what seems to be healing and a return of ostracized members, against their desire to follow their previous models from WC.

I keep this confidential, because there is great pain and suffering that is going on out there in the Body of Christ. The LCMS will soon– and maybe already– need to be prepared to pastorally tend all the wounded sheep of Christ who have been abused by this errant theology run amok. The mega-church model of shallow evangelicalism was already dying before the LCMS belatedly bought their expiring goods… now we’ll belatedly be dealing with the fallout.


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Church Growth / WCA long-term impact on a church. — 14 Comments

  1. So what’s the problem? When our Synod’s fourth VP invites those who oppose the administration’s plans to leave (see “Funding the Mission”), and TC says “Good riddance” to the “bosses” and “alligators” (See Borden’s “Direct Hit”), then those who have been wounded will follow suit. It’s all about “New” disciples only–the rest–well, the “staff” can take care of them. The pastor-as-coach model is “in”, and the shepherd model is out. When players don’t measure up, they’re benched, or traded, or cut. That’s just the way it is. Get with the program! Win one for the Gipper! Jesus saved you, so get to work!

  2. Thank you, Norm, for this post.

    We clearly have lost sight of the difference between worship and evangelism. Where in the Bible does it say that worship is to be used as evangelism?

    What is clear to me and to my classical musician friends who are believers is that a big lie has been bought…the lie that ‘preaching to the lost’ with the mega-church model of shallow evangelism is, at least in part, actually driven by the need (dsire?) for money rather than saving souls. Or numbers of tushies in seats. Or both.

    Is there ANY Lutheran material out there besides that of Marva Dawn that intentionally teaches the difference between worship and evangelism? Using the small group model, it would be of great help if there were. (hint, hint) Perhaps the small group model is part of the shallow evangelism model we all are railing against, but it might be good to begin where people are, and they are lost. Jesus met us where we were….(the difference is that He didn’t leave us there, but the mega-church model does leave us in the world.)

    It seems to me that SOMEONE ought to be writing studies for laypeople on these subjects to begin undoing the damage. It ought to be a pastor in LCMS since Marva Dawn, a woman, is not going to be taken seriously. But it has to be a Pastor with great sensitivity and gentleness to teach.

    I have just spent hours this morning praying and crying out to God about this topic of pain, suffering and confusion in our congregations (and in myself) because of the lies of Ablaze. While I rejoice that some within Synod can see through it, there are so many more who have bought into the lies, which I believe are from Satan himself, that I get very discouraged.

    The worst part of all of this is, when I and many of my classical music friends have questioned aspects of the entertainment-driven Willow-Creek model, we have received ridicule. I’ve had it happen and many of my friends have also. Ridicule is, as Todd Wilkens has so rightly pointed out elsewhere, part of the Saul Alinsky model in Rules For Radicals. Since we are classical musicians, it is assumed we have an agenda to have classical music in the church. That is far from the truth, but that is how we are marginalized so the agenda of the leaders cannot be challenged. Because we are laity, we can’t fight this battle on the same grounds, and thus are not taken seriously. But we see the truth of what’s going on, oh so very clearly. It’s true crazy-making behavior. How do we respond? We pray and talk to each other, building each other up in the Word and wait for this to end.

    I thank God for the pastor who wrote the article quoted above. I will pray for him. He needs it.

  3. BTW, for anyone interested, read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. It is very scary. Most disturbing is Alinsky’s dedication….to Lucifer.

  4. Thank you Pastor Pax.

    About 8 wks ago I had my heart broken over this issue, and I am currently dislocated in the NID. I brought this to the attention of the Pastors and Elders. Basically, I was treated as a nuisance. I hit a brick wall when I attempt to explain this stuff to folks.

    The congregants love their pastor and their small groups and forgot about Justification Alone and the efficacy of the Word. The congregants enjoy their anthropocentric group church with heterdox reading materials and their newfound “righteousness” in works. They are even into “meditating”, I found it in their small group literature. What a mess!

    God blessed me with some discernment, others are not so fortunate.

  5. @LCMS Christian, Classical musician #3

    I have read excerts from his book and many others who are promoting the same thing. The LCMS is one of the last large church bodies who havn’t joined the global church in the NEW WORLD ORDER. By the way, is coming to a town near you. Once you understand this, you understand the forces tugging at the Missouri. You can go to the UN website and look up how all the liberal churches (elca included) are involved in eliminating what they call hate speech and promoting population control, sustainable development and diverse spirituality. We are fortunate by God’s grace, that the LCMS kicked out the globalist/theological liberals in the 70’s. The globalist use a techque called the Heglain Dialectic which is to complicated for me to explain here, but in short, it’s the process of consensus. Saul Alinsky promotes the same technique in his book. You have brought to my attention somthing I didn’t see, this CG and TCN is nothing more than the Heglain Dialectic (process of consensus) being used to bring about the so called “needed change” in our congregations. This technigue is started by questioning everything, like Satan did with Eve (Scary). Satan gets Eve to question. She then states God’s law and her own flawed understanding added (her antithesis). Satan then brings in his antithesis, “You shall not surely die”. Then next “Eve saw that the tree was good”, synthesis (consensus) was then achieved with Adam and we all know what came next. The TCN process does the same thing. It starts by making you question everything with there surveys, then the Dialectic Process is worked in through the small groups, with the outcome already determined. Through what little research I have done on this, the best way to combat this is getting involved and being the “stick in the mud” in these meetings. DO NOT GO ALONG WITH ANYTHING!!!! Stay with scriptural responses (thus it is written and thus says the LORD) an DO NOT WAIVER. Once you begin to go along with the consensus process, it’s all over. Stay the course, until they throw you out, but by God’s grace, you might take a few along with you.


  6. @Mapus
    The small group program in a LCMS/Willow Creek hybrid church employs the dialectical praxis. How else would you move a whole congregation off message as being Christo-centric and accepting the Fallen Dominion stuff to the Stewardship Ethic? It’s a theological paradigm change of eternal significance. The hybrid church grows because it is man-centered, and all these groups really like being worldly, it massages egos of these congregants to believe they are really righteous, loving, caring people doing God’s will. It popular, relevant, and has the requisite numerical growth statistics. The CG enthusiasts have no clue because they are theological light weights. @Michael Mapus #5

  7. (imitating a particular devotee of Saul Alinsky) Let me be clear…

    Thank God this church was able to call a confessional pastor back to the pulpit of this congregation. Keep up the good work, fine anonymous pastor. Will pray for you and your flock.

  8. re: lcms christian classical musician # 2:

    I believe The Fire and the Staff by REv. Klemet Preus might fit what you are yearning for. It addresses the topic of worship v. evangelism, and what true evangelism is (the Divine SErvice, in that sense, truly is evangelism, i.e. the proclamation and distribution of the Gospel).

    And, he’s an LCMS pastor, to boot!

  9. I too was caught up by a Pastor that was all Ablaze. I moved across town and attended a confessional Lutheran Church nearer my new home. I keep in touch with a small number of fellow christians from the old church and they have since called a new Pastor. The views of the former Pastor split the congregation right down the middle. The “Old Lutherans” and the “New Lutherans”. The OL’s knew something was up and tried to reason with the Pastor but to no use. The NL’s were not even given any instruction in the Small Catechism, they had no idea what was what concerning Law and Gospel. Pastor tried to make himself “THE LEADER” of the church. Time was not so long ago that we lay type people trusted our Pastors to take care of our Theology and Doctrine for us, but not now. I read all I can get my hands on, beginning with the scriptures and the the Book of Concord then move on to Walther and other writtings of Luther. This orginazation is literaly a God Send for laymen. We can not afford to be caught cooling our heels, Satan is prowling and he can sniff out a weak soul from an eternity away. God’s blessings to all and especially to our confessional Pastors especially to the man that cares for me and my family.

  10. Thank you all!!

    More than you will ever know I appreciate your words of wisdom. Thank you Rev. Eckert, for the book recommendation. I’m ordering it today. I am starved to learn. Thanks for your insights and encouragement to stand firm, Michael Mapus. You are right that we live in a consensus world. Your words clarify what is happening in LCMS leadership. We know something is wrong but we are held in the dark. I want to learn more of the truth. All of this is just confirmation of what I and my Christian classical friends have been discussing for years.

    Michael Mapus, I don’t mean to complain, but I get tired of fighting. I speak up against those who want the church to go happy clappy and am told I have an agenda. I speak up to show why classical music is worthy of being heard sometimes, because much of it speaks to Christ, but I’m told that is not right. I try to speak up for artists who need to know Jesus and that is ignored in many churches. Thank God for Him, His glory, and that he gave me my wonderful husband as my head, as my ally and encourager. God is not like this world. Praise be to Him.

    “…the State ‘has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State… for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges.'” Author/historian William Shirer, quoting Georg Hegel in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Pretty scary stuff…..

  11. @LCMS Christian, Classical musician #10

    I with you there. I to get tired of fighting and just want to move from Ohio to Wyoming, and live out the rest of my life raising sheep and attending a small confessional lutheran church. But eventually, even Wyoming won’t be safe.

    Rev 13:9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
    Rev 13:10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.


  12. What might be the lesson learned from the good pastor’s post here? Maybe it’s this: things have to get pretty bad before they may get better.

    Two things about this: first, people dealing with drug addicts know that they will ultimately refuse treatment so long as they have not hit rock-bottom. They might engage in therapy for a while, but so long as they think they can handle it, they won’t stay to the end and fall back into their problems again. Maybe there’s a lesson for us in the church. Some have to follow a certain path all the way to the end to see that it’s a dead end. Warnings from others; offers to help will not be accepted but rather rejected as arrogant before the bitter end is reached (what do YOU think? I don’t need YOUR help! I’m fine). As in Israel’s history, the cup of God’s wrath over man’s blindly forsaking God’s path had to be emptied all the way.

    Second, as we’re dealing with a group of people, not with an individual addict, there will unfortunately be people lost because of these experiments. Not all will be brought back. This too is like drug addiction affecting several people: not everyone’s story will have a happy end.

    “The remnant will be saved,” as the Apostle puts it in Rom. 9:27, quoting Isa. 10:21. This has not changed ever since the gospel was first proclaimed to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Most people have no use for the gospel, even most of “God’s people.” God’s path, and the church’s path, through history is “narrow-gauge,” not a ten-lane interstate (Matt. 7:13-14), as some want us to believe and seem to be able to engineer for a while. And that’s so not because we (or God) didn’t want everyone to be saved.

    Given that we’re discussing the LCMS structure right now, what should church structures actually look like that take this truth into account? Business people right now are down-sizing to weather the economic storm. What do we do? Inflate the bubble of deceptive, false growth on steroids till the bubble bursts and more people get hurt? Smaller might also be the way for us forward.

  13. Pastor Sonntag: Are you the pastor at Trinity Lutheran? I was browsing your website and am enjoying the teachings presented in the articles. This is a good practice to follow (wish more would do this), and is very helpful for lay-people like myself. Thank you.

  14. Very interesting input. You’re techniques are used widely in the fields of addiction. Not just to drugs and alky but also to all others. re:gambling, control, obsessive compulsive, eating, etc.

    One extra phenomenon I’d like to mention is Mass Hysteria which infects whole groups of people. It has been studied for centuries with no true explanation other than “the features of mass hysteria include no plausible cause found, ambiguous symptoms, rapid escalation of cases – often spread by line of sight – rapid remission of symptoms (hopefully).” ie: Saint Vitus Dance; Tanganyika Laughter, War of the Worlds radio program etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.