The January Reporter ran a very positive article about the Transforming Churches Network. I didn’t learn terribly much from the article and the group uses enough jargon to make a federal bureaucrat blush, so a trip to their web site requires some good translation skills. But Scott Diekman has written extensively about the group. In this post here at the Steadfast site, he praises TCN’s staff for their attempt to grow the church but criticizes some of the church growth methodology they use. He’s written a total of nine essays that look critically at the non-Lutheran basis of the network and some of their more controversial practices. You can find them all here.
Now, none of these controversies were mentioned in the Reporter article, of course. But I thought this letter to the editor in the February Reporter was fascinating. The letter writer is David Berger, librarian of the Concordia Seminary and all around great guy. Here’s his letter:
To lay to rest any concerns expressed in various quarters about the TCN corporation and its work, especially given its close relationship to LCMS World Mission, the following assurances are important:
- Because every aspect of helping congregations to “look outward,” i.e., to proclaim the Gospel beyond their doors, has theological implications and is grounded in theological presuppositions, all TCN consultants and personnel subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions, and its resources (print and online) conform to Lutheran doctrine and practice.
- TCN vigorously promotes Word and Sacrament ministry, including thorough catechetical instruction (teaching) and Baptism of children and adults, as foundational to both a congregation’s outward focus and its internal spiritual health.
- TCN recognizes that the varied services in [the Synod’s hymnals], grounded in Scripture and in the historic practice of the communion of saints, clearly communicate and teach the Gospel; TCN thus discourages altering worship form and content to appeal to those whose first need is to be instructed in the faith, including how that faith is expressed and fed in the Divine Service.
- TCN promotes an open congregational polity that encourages all members to be alive in their faith in the work of the congregation and advises against vesting governance in a small, centralized body or in the pastor, whose call is to serve as spiritual shepherd of the flock.
- TCN upholds the scriptural principle of Christian vocation, i.e., the life of a Christian is one of faithful service to neighbor and family; in fulfilling various callings with our God-given abilities, we are “masks of God” through which/whom He calls others to Him. Cf. Eph. 4:11 ff., 1 Thess. 4:10 ff.
- TCN acknowledges that evangelism, God’s work of calling people to faith, neither supersedes nor replaces the Gospel itself — the good news of Christ’s saving work for sinners — as the heart and core of the church’s proclamation.
- Finally, TCN counsels against using membership size or growth as a standard of “accounting” for the faithfulness and spiritual health (or “success”) of a pastor or a congregation (cf. Eph. 1:4-14, Romans 8:28-30) and warns against turning grateful and loving witness, either corporate or individual, into a Law-driven activity.
Is it possible to check on these details and provide assurances regarding TCN theology and practice in a follow-up article?
And in a perfect display of how unresponsive Synodical leadership is, the Communications staff asked Dr. Terry Tieman, director of revitalization with LCMS World Mission and executive director of the Transforming Churches Network, to investigate his own organization. Here’s his detailed, substantiated, fully fleshed out response:
TCN can assure Reporter’s readers that it is in compliance with the above agreement and will continue to do all that it can, by God’s grace and power, to be a blessing to the LCMS.
Well I feel better now. I’m sure you do, too.