An Hour (or three) with Pastor Tim Rossow, by Rev. Jack Gilbert

On July 30, 2010, I had the privilege of meeting with Pastor Tim Rossow at Bethany Lutheran Church and School in Naperville, Illinois. In communicating with him through the Brothers of John the Steadfast blog and by private e-mails, we decided that a face-to-face meeting would serve us best. I am currently serving as the assistant pastor at Carmel Lutheran Church in Carmel, Indiana. The reason we chose to meet was to smooth out some misconceptions and false assumptions that spawned from Pastor Rossow’s article “LCMS Council of Presidents Chooses to Focus on a Functionally Non-Lutheran Parish as a Model for the Synod,” dated March 11, 2010 and found here.

Having recently graduated from the St. Louis seminary (class of 2009), I am certain that I have much to learn when it comes to serving the Lord and His Church as a pastor in the LCMS. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at Carmel Lutheran Church, and I wanted to address some issues that Pastor Rossow brought up in his article with respect to the church I am serving through my first call.

While we had interacted in the past, we did not quite reach agreement through the website or through our e-mails. I was regularly sending him an e-mail by which I hoped we could resolve some or all of the problems I had with his article, but this proved unfruitful for over four months. Thankfully, an opportunity arose for me to be in the Naperville area, and Pastor Rossow graciously accepted my proposal that we meet. A major motivation for me to meet personally with Pastor Rossow came from my reading of his own attendance at a past meeting with soon-to-be former President Gerald Kieschnick. In the meeting held on March 27, 2008, President Kieschnick “expressed his regret that he did not meet or talk personally with the authors of [TTMBO] prior to his May 30, 2003 memo. He also noted that doing so could possibly have spared everyone a lot of grief.” In seeing this, I thought the precedent of a fellow member of the Body of Christ seeing an error in jumping to conclusions without meeting or talking personally with involved parties was a good one to lean back on, and found this to be even more fitting due to Pastor Rossow’s presence at this meeting. (If interested, read more here.)

Please know that I have done my best to record what Pastor Rossow and I discussed and agreed on, specifically pertaining to the problems I had with his article. Below you will find the four major points of contention I had with the article in question, and I have provided the agreements we came to according to my memory. I will note that Pastor Rossow explained his view that the article he wrote in which he named Carmel Lutheran Church was more about the idea of churches in the LCMS not representing Lutheran doctrine and practice properly, rather than Carmel Lutheran Church specifically. We disagreed on this, because I find that naming a church and her pastor solidifies it as a very real example and removes any theoretical aspects from the conversation. (Pastor Rossow may wish to clarify here or there, which I will welcome warmly.)

  1. It was agreed that certain words Pastor Rossow originally claimed to be missing from the Carmel Lutheran website (after spending 45 minutes at the site) are, in fact, there. Clearly they are not as easy to find as all would wish. It was also agreed that a church’s website is not the best place to go in order to obtain a full or proper understanding of what is taught and believed there.
  2. It was understood that in his separate presentation, Professor Tony Cook did not identify Carmel Lutheran Church as anything at all, let alone as “an example of emergent church theory” as falsely surmised by Pastor Rossow. In fact, Professor Cook’s presentation came before the Carmel Lutheran presentation. His contact information is available here if anyone should wish to pursue this subject with him.
  3. It was explained that Pastor Rossow did not read the pastor’s letter in Carmel Lutheran’s newsletter for March 2010, though he did use portions of this newsletter as evidence against Carmel Lutheran Church. Of note is the fact that some of the words and ideas he claimed to be missing were specifically discussed in this portion of the newsletter. Similarly, he did not recognize my name as one of the pastors at Carmel Lutheran at the time of writing the article or in interacting with me in the comment section below, though my name and picture can be found both on the website and in the pastor’s letter of that issue of the newsletter (page 2). We also discussed the fact that he and I had been interacting off and on through the Brothers of John the Steadfast website and private e-mails since December of 2009.
  4. The title of Pastor Rossow’s article implies that the COP thought all churches in the LCMS should be like Carmel Lutheran, as he claims she was held up as a “model for the Synod.” As the Reporter article clearly indicated, the presentation given by the pastors and some staff members of Carmel Lutheran revolved around her church planting history and practice. If anything, Carmel Lutheran was there as a model for parishes currently involved in or considering future involvement with planting new churches, presumably due to spacial reasons. It was agreed that given the nature of our presentation to the COP, the title of the article could have been more accurate.

The reason I write this now is because I hope that anyone who read or commented under that article will recall Pastor Rossow’s willingness to “set the record straight” if his characterization could be proven wrong. As one of the pastors, and more generally, as a fellow member of the Body of Christ, I wanted the readers here to know that this conversation took place and that clarifications were made and agreed upon. While Pastor Rossow explained in our time together that the articles at the Brothers of John the Steadfast blog have a shelf-life of around 36 hours, the churches and pastors discussed therein very commonly outlive the articles written about them! This can, in some cases, bring about undue damage to one’s reputation. This is even truer when articles are taken down without retraction or correction. While Pastor Rossow discussed the possibility of putting together an article to summarize the meeting we had, I have taken the initiative in doing so after waiting one month and assuming he is occupied with other projects.

I encourage the readers and writers at this blog to engage in actual discussion before publishing or commenting on an article. Certainly there are practices at Carmel Lutheran that some readers here will disagree with. If you wish to discuss them with me, I ask that you please send me an e-mail (available, among other ways, through Norm Fisher upon request). While there are variations from parish to parish within the LCMS, we are united as the Body of Christ, and we are called to pray for, encourage, build up, and if necessary, rebuke one another according to our Lord’s teaching.

Be assured, the meeting Pastor Rossow and I had was a wonderful and loving conversation between brothers in Christ—precisely what I had prayed for and expected! He is an intelligent man who comes off as very driven by his love of and concern for authentic Lutheranism. I look forward to meeting with him again in the future if the Lord wills.

Rev. Jack Gilbert
Assistant Pastor, Carmel Lutheran Church
317.814.4256 x 213

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


An Hour (or three) with Pastor Tim Rossow, by Rev. Jack Gilbert — 62 Comments

  1. Please let me tell a story. I went to the last Tre Ore Service nearby. Of course, there were many pastors speaking. One pastor in particular was a very dynamic speaker, and his message was more “purpose driven.” Aside from the fact that the focus should always be (especially at a Tre Ore Service) on Christ’s sacrifice, a few laypeople made comments on how wonderful this guy was. These were people whom I would have considered “very confessional.”

    My point is that much of the laity is ignorant. I am not saying this as if I am so much better or as a “put-down” to these people, but blame poor/non-existent catechesis and the fact that most people think catechesis is over in the eighth grade. As a result, pastors owe it to their parishioners to be very careful what they teach/promote. Third use of the Law is not bad. But we need to be CONVICTED with the Law and rescued with the Gospel first.

    Beth Moore and the like endanger souls by conveying that God will find us acceptable and reward us if we “love Jesus” enough. What about the Beth Moore fan that gets the terminal cancer diagnosis? The first question will be, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” “Did I not love Jesus enough?” The whole point of Lutheran theology and of Scripture is that we CAN’T love God enough. Praise be to God that Christ Jesus took care of that for us.

    Yesterday’s Gospel, Luke 14:25-35, will be interpreted by the Beth Moores of the world to say that WE have to bear our crosses. Jesus’ whole point was that unless we perfectly bear our crosses, we have not kept the Law. We will have crosses to bear, no doubt, but they do not make us pleasing to God. We get to priviledge of bearing our crosses, not the requirement of bearing them. We are a “pleasing aroma rising like incense to Heaven” because of what Christ did for us at HIS cross, HIS empty tomb, and the font.

  2. Boogie,
    I get what your saying. But, laity…ignorant is the wrong word. Laity=sheep. Now, I joke about being a stump dumb sheep here, quite a bit, but I wasn’t ignorant before, I was trustingly blind. Who is held accountable, for instruction or lack of? Who is the Shepherd & who is the sheep? If the shepherd is so easily lead astray, what hope do the sheep have?

    Sheep aren’t ignorant. Sheep need to be lead, to do anything, even to preserve their lives, not just indiviually, but as a flock-remember flock together, they go as a herd. Look at how many dog breeds there are, just to herd sheep. Sheep don’t realize, their eating or drinking things that can make them ill or kill. Sheep don’t know when they are in a pasture or near a cliff. Sheep need to be lead & they follow, it’s what they do.
    No watchful shepherd or herdsman, they follow whatever or whoever takes that position. Sheep are not capable of seeing a threat until it is upon them. That’s naivety & false trust, not ignorance, weak yes, ignorant, no. We’re taught from little on, to trust our Pastor’s, Elders & those above them. And rightly so, that Office, is the Divine Office, what is the position of Elder, both should be included, shouldn’t they?
    But many of both, to the regret of many a sheep & lamb, should never have been trusted by their sheep or with a flock. And that, starts at the top & then filters down. It’s one of the many reasons President Harrison, is President. But that’ just my HO.

  3. @Rev. Jack Gilbert #15
    Brother Jack,

    I must wonder for a moment with this question–have you read ALL the Lutheran sources that are out there before heading to non Lutheran sources for Bible study material??? I have not in 34 years used non Lutheran sources because I have not finished reading all those written by good solid Luthrean past and present. I have taught Bible studies based on the BOC and found an increasing number of people attending each week; I have used many of the Luthean church fathers for Bible study as well and have put them on the level of the people to whom they are directed; I have even taught a class using Luther’s sermons which will long and involved for the most part the people have found interesting. I would suggest therefore, that until you have exhausted all the great sources of Lutherans you not start your ministry heading to the wrong side of Bible study.

  4. @Dutch #52
    I see your point to an extent and apologize if I caused offense. I would comment more, but don’t want to get into a “spittin’ match,” as these discussions can go South in a hurry.

  5. Hey Boogie,
    No offense, foul, & no worries! We’re good here! But, each has it’s place & each place has a person. Accountability of each, has been so clouded, skewed, and blurred, it’s hard to place position & accountability, unless we use Scripture & Luther.

    Let me put it this way. My hubby asked me once, during a peculiar conundrum of another who came to me for aid,
    “If you were allowed to bring back either your Dad, or Pastor Schaefer, who would you choose?”
    That, was by far, the toughest question, I’ve been ever, been asked.

    Trust me, life & limb questions, I’m used to. Now, no Dad ever knew his daughter, as well as mine did. No daughter was ever closer, loved or respected (& respectfully feared) their Dad. It doesn’t get closer than my Dad & I. I’ve been blest beyone measure, w/the Pastors I’ve had, including my Dad’s last Pastor, Pastor Smith, (Waupaca-Illinois, is Home now). I was just as known & just as trustingly dependant on those Pastors, as I was my Daddy, just in a different way. That is as it should be Boogie. Shepherds, have a flock of lambs, for the most part. A few mature sheep, but mostly lambs. Lambs & children are similar. They look to you, they depend on you, they trust w/out doubt, they believe everything you say & do, is right & true, both learn by watching, not just being spoken to. That, is what that Office, is to me, & so many just like me. I know, not because I was instructed per say, because I watched, saw, and was known. There was no doubt, I was protected, shepherded, instructed, encouraged, admonished, & at times, rebuked, by Pastor Schaefer, Pastor Clausing, and Pastor Smith. I trusted them, because of the Office Boogie, & because of their conduct, words, & actions representing that Office.

    Boogie, I’m going to let you guess, who I chose. I think your first, will be the correct answer.

  6. @Tim Rossow #3
    @Tim Rossow #4
    @Pastor Tim Rossow #42

    Pastor Rossow,

    In comment 42, you addressed issues brought up first by Jim Pierce in comment 1. While I acknowledge that these are very important matters, as I pointed out in comment 15, he and I discussed this subject in the past. I also requested that conversations regarding the disagreements readers here have have with practices at Carmel Lutheran Church be addressed through private e-mails. However, I appreciate your expanding on it, as well as others who have contributed to that conversation. (By the way, Rev. Sterle, I have not in 1 year as a pastor exhausted all Lutheran materials and I thank you for sharing your approach to this matter with me!)

    With this in mind, I look forward to your explanation of what you don’t agree with regarding how the article itself was presented.

    Your words in comment 3:

    “I do not agree entierly with the way this is presented…”

    Your words in comment 4:

    “Even though I don’t agree entirely…”

    It was my intent and strong desire to record our meeting with care and accuracy, so I would appreciate your input as to where I may have fallen short. In comments 3 and 4, you seem to imply that you have disagreements with what I wrote or how I wrote it. What don’t you agree with? Please elaborate, and address the article itself, not the other matters that have arisen in the comment section.

  7. I get so frustrated with this “bury your head in the sand” mentality as if people in our congregations aren’t exposed to anything of which we as pastors don’t approve. Do they not watch TV? Do they not listen to radio? Do they not shop at bookstores? Do they not use the internet? Are they not in the world? Do they not have an intellect that asks, “I wonder why this person is popular. What are they saying that people like?”
    If the pastor is indeed like a father and the congregation is like the children (and I am positing a question which assumes an affirmative answer), what father would pretend that he will always be around to rescue his children from any and every danger? Isn’t that the height of arrogance? Isn’t it far better to ground them in the ways they should go but also address real life as it comes up? To help them mature, going from milk to solid food? If we don’t help them mature, able to discern for themselves, to see error for themselves and why it is error, are we not hindering their spiritual development and encouraging perpetual infancy, always dependent on being spoon-fed? And what kind of defenses do they have when (not if) danger comes along?
    We as spiritual fathers should not throw our children into situations unprepared (that is reckless and we are probably putting stumbling blocks in their way), but neither should we suppose that we can keep them out of those situations altogether.
    If someone asks me, “What do you think about this book?” I want to examine it with them and together, in light of Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions, hone our skills in testing the spirits and discerning light from darkness, truth from error. (And if multiple people are asking the same question, then a class is probably in order.) Hopefully, by our shared experience, I can model and they can follow so that next time they can try it themselves (as I believe Dutch described in the post about choosing between her father and pastor). Our Lutheran heritage has always prided itself (humbly, in thanks to God for His blessings through Christ Jesus, of course) in our academic rigor, in our dedication to truth and precision, in making a sound confession faithful to Scripture. With this foundation, we have never feared to enter the fray of debate with anyone.
    As a spiritual father of the congregation, this is what I want for myself and for my children as well.

    Pastor Gary Syth
    Faith Lutheran Church, Homer, Alaska

  8. Note: my comment about “the ways they should go” and “real life” may seem to imply a false dichotomy. That was not intended. The ways of the Lord are real life also.

  9. Gary,

    There is another more dangerous false dichotomy in your comment. I think you are saying we can either ban heterdox materials or use them with instruction. That is a false dichotomy. I show my children false teachings all the time. I do so in the context of using materials that are orthodox.

    When I teach my child that putting your hand in the fire is bad I do not have him put his hand in the fire. I show him what the good practice is and what the opposite of that would be.

    Likewise, when I teach my parishoners about false teaching I do not hand out heterodox materials, or even if I did, I would do so only to go through it word for word and show that it is fire, poison, etc. for the children and that they should stay away from it.


  10. Pastor Rossow,
    That dichotomy is not in my comment, I am not saying those are the only two options and if I were, you would be right to call it a false dichotomy. Please go back and read what I said (especially the last paragraph, which basically says the same thing you just did in the above response, such as “in the context of using materials that are orthodox” ) and stop trying to play the “Gotcha” game.

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