I Want to Transform My Church – Too True Video, by Pr. Rossow

Check out this video. It is too true. I just got it on the NICL (Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans) group e-mail. Thanks Craig.

The video is a critique of the pop culture transformation of the church. Maybe the church growthers who read this blog can tell us where it is off base.

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.


I Want to Transform My Church – Too True Video, by Pr. Rossow — 93 Comments

  1. And also, if we apply your logic to your video then it essentially asserts that everybody who has worship led a contemporary service is just a naive, uneducated, even manipulative attention seeker. That too is uncalled for and wrong. I know CoWo leaders that are well meaning but are a bit misguided.

    Is that not the essence of what has been posted here and other so called confessional sites concerning cw? That cw is nothing more than an emotional manipulation?
    BTW, the video I posted is actually done by a church mocking themselves not others, unlike the video in the OP.

    Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Maybe, but then I hold those who purport to be have and proclaim the truth to a very high standard. Believe it or not I do not disagree with everything in the video, but that is no reason tolerate error even if it is only one sentence.

    Joe Olson :
    @revaggie #41
    But that comment is directed at a fictional pastor in a video. It is satire, not an actual accusation. Lutherans used to have thicker skin.

    I do have a pretty thick skin. You should hear the things I have been called for sticking with the truth of Scripture and the Confessions.

    What I don’t like is videos of the sort of the OP because they make actual dialogue impossible.

    Nobody is going to made uncomfortable or convicted by such “satire”, they will just see it as another attack by the “liturgical legalists on their attempt to spread the gospel” (their words not mine, I am not a fan of TNC or abandoning sound practice)

    Pr. Schroeder, the definition is merely a rationalization made official. It doesn’t make it right.

  2. @Caleb #49
    No offense taken. Looking back at #15 I admit that what I wrote was provocative. I also acknowledge that it is very likely in need of correction.

  3. The two main reasons I believe contemporary worship is a bogus way to present the Gospel, especially in the LCMS, are:

    1. When individual congregations format their worship in patterns other than those which the synod in convention has approved in our hymnal’s liturgical forms, they are being divisive and are not connecting themselves to their sister congregations. It also confuses those LCMSers who may be visiting from another place, who ought to be able to come to worship knowing what to expect and to fully participate, not navigate something totally foreign to them. Worship has never been, and is not supposed to be, an evangelism tool; it’s for the comfort and edification of the congregation.

    2. Can anyone genuinely say that the pastor or music director or “worship leader” in one autonomous location has the theological depth of understanding to generate their own pattern of liturgy, and have it be as well-conceived and tried-and-true as what the Church has developed, crafted, and cultivated over the course of centuries? If anyone says “yes,” it’s just further proof of the incredible hubris those who do such things have.

    I’m hopeful that as my generation (the narcissistic and mostly theologically-ignorant Baby Boomers who are the main proponents behind CW) die off, the young people who are seeking something solid and objective upon which to depend will return the church to its proper path.

  4. There seems to be somewhat of a debate up above about “how many ways was the Gospel delivered in the New Testament?” It was delivered in many settings and varieties of wording, of course, but the Gospel was always delivered in Word and Sacrament, just as is supposed to be today. The real issue isn’t how it was done by Jesus, though (we don’t get the privilege of WWJD, since we aren’t Jesus); the issue is how Jesus instructed His Church to deliver the Gospel. Jesus willed that His people shall be one. Our God is a God of order, not anarchy. When people bind themselves into congregations, there should be a unity and a uniformity of those means (so all get it the same way, without confusion), and when congregations bind themselves into larger church bodies, the same applies. Funny how different individuals and groups like to selectively apply the founding purposes, constitution, and bylaws of the synod when it suits them, and use a false smokescreen of a Gospel freedom claim as the excuse for their own divergence from them.

  5. @revaggie #51
    You are so right about satire. While is does offer a clever vehicle to get a point across, it also tends to be polarizing. I showed it to a friend of mine wo is CoWo, TCN, PLI type person and it did not convict or make uncomfortable. It did cause a scoff though.

  6. The premise of every CG program I have experienced (and I’ve experienced a ton of them) is that “The Gospel is not enough.” This is true of TCN as well–in “Direct Hit,” Borden scarcely mentions the Gospel. These two men (both pastors, I assume) are talking past each other–something that happens quite often in such discussions. It’s something that happens here at BJS as well–in fact, it’s even happening on this particular thread.

    In CG programs, the Gospel, and A.C. IV are replaced (or displaced) by the Great Commission as the material principle. So, “The Gospel is not enough,” voiced twice by the TCN advocate, is enough–it tells the whole story. That is, in fact, the story this video is telling.

    Johannes (check it out)

  7. Christianity is polarizing. Orthodoxy is polarizing. Doctrine is polarizing. Faith is polarizing. Because something is “polarizing” does not mean, by itself, that it is not acceptable or that it is not to be used or stated. Other criteria need to be applied.

  8. @ Rev Messer

    Dear Pastor Messer,
    When I think of the Gospel, I think of the news of salvation through the death of our Lord on the cross, and the proof thereof in His bodily resurrection. That is the top of the message. Then there is also the fact that Jesus (God) dwelled among us; He knows us; He loves us; He is always in our lives. If we’re wise, He’s taking the lead in our walk, not just walking beside us. That probably exceeds the true definition of Gospel, but Oh well.

    Is this enough? I’m not sure what you mean, but I assume that you are referring to communicating the Gospel–the Gospel stuck in my heart does nothing for my spiritually dead neighbor. I believe that personal lay-witnessing is often more effective than attending traditional worship (don’t hang me yet, I’m not done explaining). When a formerly druggy friend of mine was finally reaching the end of his rope, he still did not even think of attending a church, until a friend dragged him to the back of the band-bus and told him about Jesus. That druggy friend not only went with his friend to a church, but has been for the last 20 years a fine pastor.

    As to how the Gospel is delivered and received…..In our synod I believe we teach that the Gospel is delivered through word and sacrament. Obviously true. It is received through faith. We know that even as a babe he or she can be changed by the Holy Spirit who imparts saving faith. So we depend on God’s promise as we obey the command to baptize.

    I suspect that you and I would agree on many things. Where we may disagree is in whether there are ways to communicate and receive the Gospel other than through the traditional LCMS liturgical worship. That’s why I used the New Testament question when I answered you.

    God’s mercy and grace, Christ’s death on the cross, and God’s free gift to us of faith are the only “ingredients” (for lack of a better term as I sit here w/my Coke at BK) of salvation. So that’s why I defend contemporary worship; Baptist salvation (being a Lutheran who majored in Bible history and languages at a Baptist college), and even other denominations that do not practice sacramental belief.

    God worked salvation in the New Testament with and without baptism; with and without what we would now call “ordained” servants, He worked salvation instantly in the heart of a jailer, and over time in the heart of Nicodemus (who appears to have come to believe), and of course, the thief on the cross didn’t have an opportunity for baptism.

    I am an LCMS Lutheran who believes that we have a whole lot RIGHT in our doctrine, but am saddened when it is assumed that we are the only denomination that has ANYTHING right, and treat other Christians (as well as those of us who practice contemporary worship) as though they will certainly go to hell (I admit that’s a slight exaggeration…but not by much.

    I believe that my church practices all of the parts of the liturgical service, even if we do have drums, guitars, and songs written by non Lutherans.

    I also believe that when we LCMS Christians get to heaven, we will find Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics because we have one thing in common–salvation by grace through faith, which is a free gift from God. (okay–Catholics might be a little weak on the “free” thing). I think that we will alll find out that our doctrines were pretty good, but not perfect.

    I am concerned when I often see the Book of Concord cited more than God’s word. It is as though (my personal impression) that many conservatives place the writers of the Book of Concord on a level with those who canonized the scriptures. That may not be true, but it is a strong impression felt by many of us.

    I guess that’s my soapbox for today.

    I appreciate your real interest in what a “contemporary worshiper renegade” has to say.

  9. @Sue Wilson #60

    Have you studied the Book of Concord, Sue?

    It cites “God’s Word” on every page, for every thing it says.
    Nobody uses it instead of the Bible, but it lays out the Lutheran understanding of the Bible.

    Don’t you think the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians are “a little weak” on the Sacraments, which Jesus Christ, not some follower of his, commanded? If a person doesn’t believe what Christ said about baptism or the Supper, what do s/he believe about Christ?

    I think there will be far more Christians than the Lutheran ones in heaven, too, because they looked past what they were taught and believed what Christ said.

    There might even be some ‘CoWo’ Lutherans. if they don’t feel too superior to the old fuddy-duddies who still use a hymnal! 😉

  10. @Sue Wilson #12
    You said, “Interesting stereotype. Certainly not all contemporary-leaning churches fit the idiotic example of the video. This stereotype assumes knowledge of motive, assumes the stupidity of the “church growther”, and states that churches reaching out with the gospel in a non-traditional format are literally disclaiming the Gospel.”

    I think you’re missing the point of the video. When the “Church Growther”, as you call him, said (and repeated), “The Gospel is not enough,” that told the whole story. As I said above (#57), that particular attitude is typical of all the CG programs I have been involved in. When one says “The Gospel is not enough,” he is treading on dangerous ground. The CG-er then went on to advocate substituting all kinds of things for the Gospel–something most CG programs do, including TCN. The video could have been called, “When the Gospel is not enough.” The CG-er was hardly stupid–just confused.

    I am somewhat disappointed that you use the term “stereotype” to describe the video, then go on to paint others in stereotypical language, to wit: “..all of the truths of Lutheran Christianity, can be communicated outside of the rote recital of our hymnal.” On what basis do you make that statement? Rote recitals of the hymnal are no more common than rote recitals of praise songs or the Lord’s prayer in any type of service.

    Elevating the BOC over scripture is a grave error, however, relegating the BOC to the dusty bookshelves of the church library is no less serious an error. That some Lutherans may believe, even say, that non-Lutherans are hell-bound may be true, but the climate of moral therapuetic Deism bordering on Universalism that prevails in many Lutheran churches when our doctrine is downplayed and diluted is frightening indeed.

    Johannes (former CG-er)

  11. I am tired of the straw man that “the gospel is not enough.” It’s not as if traditional music and traditional liturgy is, in itself, pure gospel, and that the music and liturgy is essential to the Gospel. Organ music isn’t the Gospel. Replacing music and liturgy that at one time was modern with what is now modern is not repudiating the mean of grace any more than Luther’s reforms were.

    At some point, both the extreme church growthers and extreme liturgical nazis are going to have to sit down and hammer out that there is a middle ground and a chance to learn from each other instead of just being more and more entrenched in their every-hardening extreme positions.

  12. @Saltwater District #64
    I too get tired of the not-so-straw man that “The Gospel is not enough.” I’ve been thru almost every CG program offered by Synod in the past 30 years, and a few the synod probably never heard of. Without exception, they give lip service to the gospel, but the over-riding message, indirectly stated, is “The Gospel is fine, but you got to get to work.” Or, “Jesus saved you, so get to work.” Then everything is geared to the Great Command (ooops, I mean Commission). “The Gospel is not enough” is an accurate term, and is hardly a straw man.

    “Liturgical nazis”, on the other hand, sounds like just another straw man type. And it’s hardly a term to foster the middle ground you espouse, and no less inflammatory than “Gospel is not enough.” The truth is, there are “nazis” on both sides of the worship debate and the church growth debate, present company excepted.


  13. @Carl Vehse #59
    You go me there Carl. Satire is polarizing in a negative way because the ones being satirized don’t get it and only see the insult and not the point, which is why satire ends up being an ineffective teaching tool for the ones being satirized. For those who are on the other side it is a great teaching tool.

    Andrew (the Gospel is plenty) Strickland

  14. @Johannes #65
    I tire of the liturigcal nazis and the church growth communists and the endless arguments.
    Maybe one day there will be a Council of Missouri that will draft a Prescription of Concord that would end the worship wars. 🙂

    Crabby Andrew

  15. @Saltwater District #64
    The point is not, and never has been, in the Lutheran Church: “replacing music and liturgy that at one time was modern with what is now modern.” This is the failed understanding of what it means to be “contemporary” that seems to be at the heart of much of the problems we’re experiencing in our church body.

    Luther’s reformation was not about “updating” the hymnal or the order of service with tunes from the 16th century. In fact, both he and Melanchthon (Augsburg Confession and Apology) appreciated the ancient purity of both hymnody and liturgy. Their fight was not about when a particular hymn or liturgical piece was written. Their fight was about whether a particular hymn or liturgical piece was in agreement with the unchanging, New-Testament forms of the eternal gospel instituted by Christ (i.e., the concrete means of grace). And this agreement had to be as to both content AND form.

    What is truly and forever new is the gospel — the New Testament in Christ’s blood, if you will. What is truly and forever old is the law. It cannot bring salvation, even if its message is set to the most upbeat tune you’ve ever heard. It can only condemn because it has no power to replace the old man with the new man that is born only of the gospel.

    Yet this gospel is not only powerful, even almighty. It not only has a concrete content. It also has a concrete, external form. This is where Lutheran and Zwinglians part company for good. While the Spirit works apart from external forms and means in Zwingli’s opinion (see post # 47), Luther steadfastly confessed that he only works through created means that come in the very forms Christ instituted. These forms must never be changed or the church will cease to be church of Jesus Christ.

    Now, surely, what Christ instituted — the public preaching of the word by duly called men; baptism; the Lord’s Supper — is not the whole service as we have it today. Unlike in the OT, the NT church has been free to add “ceremonies” that are neither commanded nor forbidden to the few things the Lord himself instituted. In these human additions, there is not only freedom; there we may also change things.

    However, this change must never happen based on mere chronological considerations (“what’s modern today replaces what was modern at some other time”). The human additions (i.e., prayers, hymns, readings, etc.) must conform to the humble forms of the gospel — they must not outshine or eclipse what Christ has given in the forms of the gospel, which is especially tricky since by nature men love their own religious works more than God’s work for them.

    And these additions must be instituted or changed in a humble way, in the way of love, jointly with fellow believers — not one congregation at a time doing its thing at the expense of their neighbors.

    For Luther, that service was best that conformed most to the way Christ observed his Supper for the first time with the 12 in the upper room. The fact that he didn’t throw out everything that was added especially in the earliest times is due to the fact that men can come up with what is in conformity with the gospel as Christ gave it to his church. But not everything men come up with at any given time is such that it passes the litmus test. Wherever there is such, the service needs re-formation: eliminating the de-formations that have crept in at the expense of the pure gospel’s forms to restore what Christ has given to its brightness for the salvation and comfort of all men.

  16. @Saltwater District #64
    One more thing, if I may: I’d be very, very careful using the term “liturgical Nazi” for the “other side” while advocating massive changes in the church’s traditional order of service that eliminate whatever is deemed outmoded by “modern times.”

    After all, the actual Nazis themselves had a liturgical program that eliminated whatever they considered to be no longer in keeping with the “new age” that had finally dawned upon Germany when Hitler took power in 1933. They too wanted to eliminate every not in agreement with their (Germanic) culture to reach especially the young people. That’s how evangelistic they were! — And how were they pleased when their program was bearing fruit and you could witness entire churches filled by young, vigorous men dressed in their smart SS-uniforms! There’s a church-growth program that was in step (lockstep even) with modern times and worked very well (at least for some 12 years).

  17. Thank you Holger. I was going to say what you said in your comment #68 but would not have said it nearly so eloquently. “Saltwater” has done the favor of pointing out the unrecognized prejudice of the CoWo crowd: “New and relevent is good.”

    The Lutheran hymnals through the years have had a wonderful mix of old and new. The primary criteria is not chronological, as you point out, but a piece’s Gospel staying power.


  18. “…and waste your (Starbucks) cards on a wandering crowd that jumps from church to church.”

    I love it! Sad, but true.

    Have any of the LCMS “Church Growth” promoters spent a few Sundays in a non-denominational seeker church. If they were to do so, would their support of the Church Growth Movement change, remain the same, or strengthen? Are ANY parts of the Church Growth Movement worth keeping? If so, then which ones.

    Are the non-denominational seeker churches losing members due to wandering crowds? As a viewer of the video, I am expected to accept this argument without any supporting facts. Could someone provide examples of membership decline in non-denominational churches. Thanks in advance.

  19. More information regarding non-denominational churches:


    In order to reverse the “Church Growth” trend, the wandering crowds would have to realize that doctrine is important. Do they? Many may hunger for something theologically deeper, but does this mean they are returning to denominational churches that preach a solid theology. (The example in the article about a couple that left the ECLA for the LCMS was lame.) A story about a couple who left a non-denominational church for the LCMS would be truly awe-inspiring.

  20. It is spot on. Having come from the SB realm myself where this stuff got its genesis, this guy has it nailed down to every detail. Very clever presentation.

    Interesting point about the “we will take Lutheran out of our name”. That is precisely what we saw initially in the SB denomination when our church, and others, took Rick Warrens or others approaches. The immediate move to change the name and remove “Baptist” from the church name for some other term like “worship center” or locality name “community church”.

    The interesting point? Heterodoxy versus orthodoxy aside it shows forth an underlying movement to be non-confessional to anything. It’s about as purely pagan and gnostic as something can get. Loose a confession and you loose any firm ground whatsoever. In sum total it is to DENY not CONFESS the Christian faith.

  21. @James #73
    The article talks about people not ‘first’ looking at denomination when choosing a church. It seems like the author thinks that that is the cause of the newer nondenominational churches viewing denominational affiliation as irrelevent. But I think that what happened to cause people not to pay attention to denominational affiliation is that denominations stopped being consistent in their teaching and practices from one church to another. Once a denomination stopped being a proxy for a set of reliable beliefs and worship forms and congregational structure, people had no choice but to evaluate local churches singularly.

    That is one of the little-remarked dangers of LCMS churches going off on their own in worship practices.

  22. Such a move, removing “Lutheran” from the churches name is a very not so subtle way of not answering Jesus’ question, “who do you say that I am”. It is really a denial of Christ when all is said and done and it comes with smile and a handshake from a swell fellow, not some grimousing hand wringing smokey back room plotting Pharisee.

  23. For The Nothing-New-Under-the-Sun Department:

    Church growth/disavowal of doctrine/contemporary worship have all been tried before, just under different names, in another time, in the Lutheran Church in our nation: see Dr. Samuel Schmucker, see The new Schaff-Herzog encyclopedia of religious knowledge: volume 10, http://books.google.com/books?id=wvYtAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1874&output=text. A quote from the encylopedia:

    “… (Dr. Schmucker’s) influence as professor of theology tended to unsettle and invalidate the historic confessional basis of the Lutheran Church. According to his conviction it was the vocation of the American Lutheran Church to free herself from all respect ” for the authority of the fathers, whether they be Nicene or Ante-Nicene, Roman or Protestant.” He strove to eliminate everything distinctively Lutheran and to substitute the basis of the Evangelical Alliance for the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Catechism. These tendencies culminated in the Definite Platform which he published anonymously in 1855. It claimed to be an ” American Recension of the Augsburg Confession,” representing the standpoint of the General Synod. In this document twelve of the original twenty-one doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession were changed, mutilated, or entirely omitted. The seven articles on abuses (XXII. to XXVIII.) were all omitted. Dr. Schmucker’s theological standpoint may be characterized as a peculiar mixture of Puritanism, Pietism, and shallow rationalism. His Definite Platform was never formally adopted by the General Synod, though many prominent men in it sympathized with its spirit. It rather paved the way to a reaction in favor of the Lutheran Confession.

  24. @James #72

    Dear James,

    You asked for an example of non-denominational church decline. Let’s see. . . Do you mean spectacular decline or gradual decline?

    I know one case of gradual decline personally. Many members of my home LCMS congregation in Cupertino, California left in the 1980s for a booming non-denominational church known as the “Valley Church”, also in Cupertino (or maybe Sunnyvale). When the senior pastor, Rev. Steele, died suddenly, with “his boots on,” there was a period of wrangling, and then gradual decline as they brought in one pastor after another who could not fill the previous pastor’s “boots.”

    They did have a confession of faith, but it had been made up by Rev. Steele. I heard from some folks that the subsequent pastors agreed with that confession, but didn’t always promote it. After all, it wasn’t “their” confession, and just a “ghost” hanging around from the previous pastor. I don’t know the state of that church today.

    Regarding spectacular decline, just check out the web for news on the recent bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral.

    More interesting is the example at the beginning of G. Jeffrey McDonald’s book “Thieves in the Temple” (New York: Basic Books, 2010). He talks about Rev. Walt Kallestad’s “Community of Joy” in Glendale, AZ. That was officially an ELCA church, but hardly Lutheran in any significant way. At its peak, the church was worshipping 6,00 on a Sunday, with a roster of 12,000.

    Then Kallestad was stricken with conscience pangs. He realized his church was not reaching out to the troubled and vulnerable in the community. He knew his members were not trying to live as Christians in their private lives. One Sunday he confessed to his members that under his watch the church had become a “dispenser of goods and services.” And he intended to change that before he retired. He told his members that, from then on, they were expected to practice regular devotions, tithe to charities, and serve alongside poorer neighbors. He cut the frills, like the professional musicians who had no passion for the faith, group trips to favorite restaraunts, card-games, etc.

    As a result of these changes, one out of three members left, and about half the staff quit the church in protest. That would be considered spectacular decline by the criterion of TCN. Kallestad would obviously be considered a failure, would be fired by a TCN congregation, and never considered worthy to work in the church again! But I think he, and that church, have finally grown up.

    Oh, and then there is Jesus, about whom it is said, after he explained the Sacrament of the Altar, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66).

    The decline of a congregation, in members or dollars, is never a happy prospect, but many times it is because the pastor and members ARE doing the right thing, as best as they are able. Where there is decline, pastor and people need to take stock, and see if they are doing things that are unnecessarily counter-productive. Here is where consultation can be VERY helpful. No doubt about that!

    But the “bottom line” on this discussion is that people who measure the “success” of a Christian congregation (or its pastor) in members or dollars worship “Mammon.” “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. . . Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and ONLY A FEW FIND IT.” (Matthew 6:24, 7:13-14).

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  25. It is my observation that the ascendancy of many (most?) of these “successful” nondenominational churches depends upon the personality of the pastor. Pastors who have charisma and are outgoing will have an easier time entertaining their flock. However, if for any reason the pastor leaves the congregation the church usually experiences turmoil.

  26. @#4 Kitty #80

    Wow, Kitty, did you nail it. That is the exact reason why the Crystal Cathedral went bankrupt. The Gospel was not enough, it was all about the guy in charge. As metnioned here and/or in the children’s church blog, the hubris and narcissism of some leaders is mind boggling. Schuler’s ministries were rumored ot be dipping (hopefully because people were wearing thin of the shallowness), but once you loose the head cheese, nothing is left to rally around. It’s why his kids can’t hold it together, because they are not the established icon Robert was/is.

    So instead of anchoring our faith on the timeless message of Jesus, we gravitate to the temproary cult-of-personality. At a convocation we had in our district a few years ago, the one workshop pointed out how a typical Protestant congregation has an 80-year life span. It starts with leaders with a vision, and expands to staff. But once the leader, and almost always the vision, pass on, the congregaiton declines and has to close because the left behind bereaucracy drain the funds dry. The moral of the workshop was to re-vision, but really it should be recommitting to the eternal vision God has set before us through Jesus’ life and ministry, and commands.

  27. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #77

    Interestingly enough, Schmucker also rejected the scriptural teachings of baptismal regeneration and the real presence. He not only wanted Lutherans to look like the revivalists of the time, but also adopted their theology (here is a book written by Schmucker where he rejects baptismal regeneration and more). And some CoWo aherents wonder why any Lutheran would be troubled with picking up worship forms from American evangelicalism? See Schmucker as a prime exhibit.

  28. I think this has been pointed out before, but the TCN isn’t exactly a “devil in sheep’s clothing;” a lot of their suggestions are along the lines of “well, duh!”

    Case in point: my home church just voted to enter the TCN program. That I can recall, none of their prescriptions were in the vein of “the Gospel’s not enough.” One was that they need to improve the first impression when someone enters the church (“well, duh!”), another was that they need to work in integrating the preschool into the mission of the congregation (“well, duh!”), a third one was to adjust the attitude and structure of the church so that the pastor could delegate responsibilities (such as shoveling the sidewalk) instead of working himself to exhaustion (“well, duh!”). A fourth one was that the congregation should work on finding opportunities to minister to the community (ways to the church’s name out there by doing more than just having a sign and waiting for people to show up).

    For the first three, none are particularly earth-shattering; it just took someone outside the congregation to point out that they needed to be done and offer to keep the congregation accountable for doing them. If you don’t make a good first impression to visitors, then they most likely will not come back, no matter how good your message is. Just like if you go to a job interview in a T-shirt and shorts, they interviewer won’t ask you back for another interview. With the preschool, the problem is that the church (like many churches) has been keeping the church and school separate, rather than trying to integrate the school families into the church community. As far as delegating responsibilities, my home church (like many churches) suffers from a paucity of volunteers. As such, there is no one willing to take over church council positions, help with property maintenance, etc. For example, when it snowed on my dad’s (the pastor’s) day off, no one shoveled before school started, and one of the teachers slipped and fell.

    I see how the last one I mentioned could be misunderstood as saying “The Gospel’s not enough, you need to be doing something,” but I honestly think that a congregation should be using its gifts to minister to its community.

  29. @Concerned Seminarian #83
    If only it was always like this.

    I have never seen a TCN prescription that didn’t also impose the accountable leadership model. Maybe your church is an exception.

    Under the accountable leadership model, the pastor has a set period of time, often 3 years, to increase the ‘numbers’ in the congregation. If these numbers don’t increase, he can be let go. There are so many obvious problems with this that I think they go without saying.

    Also, under this model the church elects advisory directors who have all authority in the congregation delegated to them. The parishoners have no further say beyond that.

    And the TCN models that I have seen are all or nothing propositions. If the congregation doesn’t implement all of them, on schedule, then the church is dropped from the program and no further help or input is given by the coaches. So if someone is a stickler for, say, the doctrine of the call, and won’t implement the 3 year sword of Democles over the pastor, that’s it for coaching for that church.

    Presumptuous, unScripture, unConfessional, wrong.

  30. @Old Time St. John’s #84

    An “accountable leadership” prescription was in there also, though not in the manner you (and Johannes, and others) described. I forget exactly how it is phrased, but the church council is supposed to be held more accountable for administrative duties. There is no “if you don’t grow the church, you’re in the unemployment line” clause! (For which I (and I’m sure my parents also) am grateful!)

  31. @Concerned Seminarian #85


    Have you seen this example of TCN’s “Measurement Report?” I’ll just be blunt, but one should wear high-water waders in working through that report. One of the “factors” graded in the hypothetical report provided at that link rates the pastor “low” and describes the low rating as “shepherd.” That’s right! Now it is a bad thing to be a shepherd, since they are under-performers.

    And another “goodie” on their report is the following:

    “Ask unchurched people in the
    community to visit and give you
    feedback on their worship

    Why that prescription? Because “inspiring worship” is ranked by the congregation as being moderate in score. So part of the remedy is to get unrepentant sinners into the congregation to help fix the “problem.”

    I could go on, but it simply sickens me to my stomach to do so.

  32. Or that, to get around the challenges of rapidly impleting the changes, a “suggestion” (requirement?) is to suspend the working church ocnsitution. Being incorporated, as most congregations are, that is begging for a disastorous liability. Find a smart enough disgruntled member who is feeling squeezed out, and see what happens if they start litigation. Because going forward, counicl and voters meetings would be happening against codified rules on record with the civil (often state) government. Dangerous game to see how a judge might rule. (remember the lawsuit out in California?) Proponents will argue freedom of the gospel and such. But they cherry-pick Scripture, ignoring obey father and mother (and submission to proper authority), and Jesus’ own words “render unto Caeser.”

    [referencing explanations in Luther’s Small Catechism under 4th Commandment. And Gene Veith has a Two Kingdoms article in the January Lutheran Witness. We do live in and work with the Kingdom of the Left, which God is also in authrotiy over.]

  33. @Jim Pierce #86

    Just reading the part in question, I understand what they are trying to say with the metaphor. There is a vast divide between the shepherd and the sheep. A shepherd doesn’t expect to be able to delegate leadership to the sheep; if he did that they would run off a cliff! On top of that, a shepherd is generally alone (or with a sheep dog), so he has to do everything himself. I don’t think the idea with that is that he is an under-performer; he is an over-performer because he isn’t building up leaders within the church (which means he has to do everything).

    The concept of using “Shepherd” to describe a poor model of pastoral leadership, however, is silly, since that’s kind of the label that all good pastors should be trying for! 🙂 (Considering that that’s what “pastor” means!)

    The “inspiring worship” thing is a bit of a non sequitur: If they could get unchurched folks into the sanctuary, they wouldn’t need TCN! As a business model, I can see what it’s supposed to do (just look at all those Dominos’ focus group commercials). Of course, since when is worship a commodity to be bought and sold?

  34. @Jim Pierce #86

    There is a lot to dislike here. More than anything, it’s a grave distortion of what the church should be. To grade and evaluate a church only on the given metrics would be to eliminate any focus on pastoral care, spiritual growth among the members, or anything else that doesn’t directly ‘seek the lost’.

    When someone says, “Do you want to seek the lost or grow the faithful?” the correct answer is “Yes!” And the correct metric is, “Is God’s Word taught in its truth and purity, and are the Sacraments administered in accordance with that Word?” Or perhaps, to what extent do we “continue steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer”?

  35. TCN is just a business model, not a church model. it attempts to apply secular metrics that are more easily measures. It is hardly different than Rick Warren’s stuff. And toh TCN and CGM really like to downplay denominations. The answer is simple. If denoms don’t matter, than anyone can use it. And if anyone can use it, well, then the copyright owners have just greatly expanded they consumer group and can make lots more money because they can peddle to a lot more dupes.

    TCN is okay for analysis. It asks some different questions, but only in specific areas, and (deliberately?) sets up either/or questions instead of both/and. I find Self Studies more well rounded. And why not use them periodically instead of only during a vacancy? And I cannot stnad its prescriptions. the program implies that you have to “buy in” before you get a coach, and if you do not follow ALL of their recomendations, you’ll get dropped like a hot potato. And looking at their recomendations, the only viable coices they want you to take are CoWo, director boards at great expense to voters, and an unhealthy consolidation of lots of power around the pastor, including things in the Kingdom of the Left.

    I see why too many downsides that only a FEW wise and perceptive congregational leaders will be able to deal with. I see it as a Messiah-complex generating program: faith in the program, which puts faith in the pastor and his abilities, whether he has those abilities or not. Where is faith in Jesus? And I mean more that superficial lip service.

  36. Well, I have to say that if this is the sort of critique that is going to come before us, it is really fairly minor. Fortunately some of the comments tend to go a bit deeper and offer some much better thoughts on the subject.

    I, of course, objected to the “You are just doing this to triple your salary” line. Most of the other stuff just really doesn’t ring true at all.

    There you go.

    I, of course, believe that the Gospel is enough. What is not enough is thinking that because that it true, I can sit on my tail, be lazy, and let God do what He will.

    And most confessionals are just lazy, right? Just like most TCNers are greedy?

    That’s some great satire…

  37. I, of course, believe that the Gospel is enough. What is not enough is thinking that because that it true, I can sit on my tail, be lazy, and let God do what He will.

    If you are lazy you will not like TCN

  38. @Concerned Seminarian #83

    Based on the prescriptions you have outlined, I am wondering where is the gospel?

    With all due respect to all the pastors involved in TCN, including the one you mention, here is some clarification. I have read over two dozen TCN prescription documents, including one in which I participated. That means at least 120 specific prescriptions, as each document contains five (count ’em) specific prescriptions. I can’t honestly say that I’ve seen one specific prescription that emphases the Gospel at all. One reason for this may be that the TCN team depends on the congregation’s assessment of the presentation of the Gospel by the pastor. In most cases, the congregation believes that the pastor faithfully preaches law/gospel and administers the sacraments properly. The team really does not know how adequate the proclamation of the gospel really is. So the prescriptions focus on other areas, and in many cases, are very practical and helpful. But–they do not focus on the gospel and how it’s being handled.

    Pastor Louderback #91–I’m not quite sure where you are coming from.

    @Scuber #92
    You have nailed it! Kind of. Yes, TCN does involve a lot of work, much of it by people who are don’t have the training or skills to do the prescriptions. Much of the work can be helpful, much of it a waste of time.
    That the gospel is enough should be without question. What “The Gospel is enough,” does say is that mission is accountable to the gospel (or to Justification, as Detlev Schulz says). And you are right–one cannot sit on his tail, etc., etc., and expect miracles.

    I would paraphrase your final statement as follows: “If you are lazy, the gospel will suffer.”


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.