Want an Idea what those Goofy Church Growth Pastors in the LCMS are “Thinking?” Read This, by Pr. Rossow

There are plenty of examples out there of the silly stuff many of our LCMS pastors are reading and taking as the “gospel” for the new fangled church they keep trying to create. Here is an example from a rather odd source.

I had the opportunity to serve here at  Bethany – Naperville, Illinois while we designed and built our new church and school several years ago. We are also in the initial stages of considering a new youth and music practice addition and I also do some capital fund raising consulting with congregations raising funds for various projects and so I have had plenty of opportunities to be around church construction and architecture.

I got on the mailing list of a local all-inclusive design and construction firm in northern Illinois. I read the occasional e-mails I get from them with casual interest but the one I got today really caught my eye. It will give you an insight into what too many LCMS pastors and clergy from other denominations are taking as the “gospel” of church development. It goes without saying that we will not be using the Aspen group. Apparently the e-mail is written by a laywoman staff member of the Aspen group. I will leave the commentary to you, our ever so sharp and witty readers.

Aspen Group hosts a couple of lunches a year to inspire and inform leaders in our area.  Our last pastors lunch in February featured author, Alan Hirsch.  I have the unenviable task of recapping his discussion.  There is so much to share, so I will get to the main impressions.   Ready?!  Missional…. Recovering a sense of incarnation…Taking ourselves out of the way… 
Missional doesn’t mean urban plunges on weekends.  We should behave as missionaries in our own backyard.  We need to learn to be a movement again.  This was Jesus’ plan; we are at our best when we are a movement, activating everyone.  Apostolic movements involve each person, not just the level of ecclesiastical leadership.  Every person is a minister of Jesus Christ.  Get over the notion of a professional minister.  God has called you, saved you.  The Church Jesus designed with founders like Peter, James and John was of ordinary people.  Mission is a challenge and calls you out of your comfort zone.  The church of Jesus is designed for impact.  Faith is the biblical form of heroism.  The church is meant to be on an adventure and we are obsessed with safety and security in our nice suburbs.   Where is the life we’ve lost?  Life requires disequilibrium. 
Go forth!  If you fall, big deal.  Get back up again. –Alan Hirsch
Alan pointed out we need our own places to maintain a proximity to people.  We need to “move in,” and Aspen is examining/designing community spaces in the context of the church building.  I asked Aspen’s CEO, Ed Bahler, to share what he detected:  In our efforts to drive church growth we’ve focused on one question….who are we trying to reach. As a result we’ve developed remarkably effective weekend worship services that have trained people to come and consume. For many of the younger “Digital” crowd it feels contrived. They desire to be engaged and part of the dialogue. As a result there are roughly 180 million Americans that will never be attracted to our current model.  My hope and prayer is the “missional” efforts will challenge us to rethink how we are engaging. I pray we will be able to reach beyond the church walls and beyond our present practice to develop new expressions of the church that engage the next generation in powerfully ways. Ways that not only connect them to Christ, but engage them in ways that transform their choices and their life.
Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford have written a practical book subtitled, Everyday Mission for Everyday People.  Here is the link to their book, Right Here Right Now http://www.righthererightnowbook.com/ 
Their writings show you how to “move out” and behave as people who are sent.  What question do you have? 
There are some very smart people thinking about this subject.  I can connect you to their training team. 

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.


Want an Idea what those Goofy Church Growth Pastors in the LCMS are “Thinking?” Read This, by Pr. Rossow — 104 Comments

  1. @John #96

    I … note that Christ came to save people, not to enshrine pure doctrine.

    Excuse me. Passing through, and I couldn’t help eaves-dropping.

    The Lord did pray for His Church, to His Father, that we all be one. That prayer seems to have enshrining properties, of a sort, I venture … when it comes to our belief-systems.

    I could be wrong.

  2. Michael – I agree that Jesus’ high priestly prayer is an excellent way to reframe this conversation (assuming that we accept the premise that, in spite of our differences, we are sisters and brothers in Christ).

    Indeed, we are called to be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. Our oneness is “enshrined” in being known by and knowing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And, as that oneness relates to this conversation, I’d suggest that it leads us to washing one another’s feet. And, in the matter of “errors”, our oneness in Christ leads us to introspection, self-reflection, self- examination, repentance, remembrance of our Baptism, and recommitment to faithful service. There is great benefit in contrition and repentance when the sins that we confess are our own.

  3. @John #100
    On the question of the basis of being confident in the doctrine of justification, you say, “I hold to the doctrine of justification on the basis of faith.” Of course. But again, that sidesteps the question. That only says you have faith because you have faith. That’s a tautology, not an answer. It’s like saying, “Just because.”

    Will you give a direct answer to a direct question? What is the basis of your confidence in the doctrine of justification? Are you trying to avoid saying that Scripture is your basis?

    Is Scripture your basis for saying we cannot have confidence in any doctrine but the doctrine of justification? Where does Scripture say that, or is the origin of that proposition also just your faith?

    On the proposition: Because the law drives us, as you say, to our knees, who among us can really be confident in our correct understanding of “pure doctrine.”

    Three replies:

    First, the idea that the law drives us to our knees means little to me. Perhaps you mean that the law drives sinners to Christ, but in all the opportunities you’ve had to either agree or disagree with that, have you said whether the law drives us to Christ? Did you say earlier that the Gospel without the law brings people to Christ? By using the word “knees” instead of “Christ,” are you avoiding saying that the law drives us to Christ?

    Second, we were never able to agree that the law drives sinners to Christ. Therefore we were not able to even discuss what that accomplishes, what comes next. How is the Gospel heard when we are driven to Christ? How is the Gospel heard when we are not driven to Christ?

    Third, if we were able to agree that the law drives sinners to Christ, we might be able to see what that accomplishes, what comes next. We could see that precisely because the law drives us to Christ, by the Gospel we can be confident IN CHRIST. We could believe that Christ would purify our doctrine.

    You keep looking to humans and our incapability. A “gospel” heard without the law driving us to Christ might leave the focus on us and our inability, but the Gospel heard after the law has had its effect puts the focus on Christ and what He can and promises to do in the Church. We can confidently confess the entire Creed, not just the article on justification, as singularly vital as that is. Take away the Trinity, for example, and it won’t be hard to show that there is no justification of sinners. Take away the Incarnation, for another example, and it won’t be hard to show that there is no justification of sinners. Christ has purified the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, to name only two. He has done this completely aside from any capacity on our part.

    Is the proposition that “Christ came to save people, not to enshrine pure doctrine” a dichotomy that Christ taught? Where did Christ teach it? Doesn’t Acts depict the Church “continuing in the apostles’ doctrine?” Isn’t your polemic that “Christ came to save people, not to enshrine pure doctrine” an enshrinement of your doctrine? How can anyone avoid it, when even those who decry it practice it by decrying it? The fallacy is much like what happens when someone says, “There are no absolutes.” Absolutely.

  4. @T. R. Halvorson #103
    T.R. – I think “enigma” is a better word than “tautology” to describe the mystery of faith. If we could know God we would not have to rely on the gift of faith to believe God.

    I’m intentionally not responding to the rest of your post because I think you are engaging an argument of your own making rather than making an effort to first understand what I tried to say – and I said understand, not agree.

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