CLCC Conference in Minneapolis: Pr. Rossow to Speak on Putting Your Church on a Diet

The group Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission (CLCC) is sponsoring a two-day conference in Minneapolis next week just prior to the Association of Confessional Lutherans conference at the same venue – the Ramada Inn – Mall of America.

The CLCC conference is on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 3-4. More details on the conference can be viewed here.

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow, Director of the Brothers of John the Steadfast and Administrative Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church and School – Naperville, Illinois, will be speaking on the importance of reducing the size of parish structure. Here is the thesis of his presentation.

The church has been taken over by a 20th century pagan idea of purpose and programs. This has led to a bloated church structure which leads to two problems: 1) several excess layers of structure that derail the parish from its God-given duties and 2) authority in the church being skewed, placing it in the hands of a few “visionary” leaders rather than in the Word of God, preached and taught by the pastor and received by a laity listening for the true voice of Christ from their shepherds (John 8). Rather than purpose and programs steering the ship, we encourage the church to return to a thinner parish structure based on God-given duties (Walther’s six duties of the local congregation) and built on the authority of God’s word preached in its purity and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s command.

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.


CLCC Conference in Minneapolis: Pr. Rossow to Speak on Putting Your Church on a Diet — 14 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great presentation in the works! Will you or the CLCC be making it available for those of us who cannot attend? Sounds like it will be just what the Divine Doctor orders for all of us.

  2. For those who may not be familiar with the “six duties of the local congregation” referenced above, they can be found here. A marvelous little piece that every layperson should read, ponder, and work towards putting into practice in their own congregation!

    Rev. Rossow, blessings on your presentation!

  3. I noticed one of the six duties mentioned evangelism. Any way we can scratch that one or at least interpret it to mean something counter to what is currently meant by the term?

  4. Kitty you are so witty and clever.

    I prefer your second path of interpretation but I would rather stay away from the post modern notion of “interpretation” and instead use the more traditional notion of understanding. Let’s seek to understand what Walther says through the words he uses.

    Here is the detailed text from Walther.

    G. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to Do Its Part in Building Up, and Fostering, the Church at Large
    º 62. The congregation should see that gifted boys and young man be consecrated to the service of the Church and that they be enabled to prepare themselves for such service, 1 Cor. 12:7.
    º 63. The congregation should make provision that the Bread of Life be broken to such of its brethren in the faith as suffer spiritual want and should therefore support those who are performing this work of love, Acts 11:21,22.
    º 64. The congregation should zealously engage in the work of Bible distribution, 1 Thess. 3:27; Col. 4:16; cp. 1 Thess. 1:8.
    º 65. The congregation should join in the work of bringing the Gospel to those who still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to the poor heathen and Jews, Matt. 28: 18-20 (“Teach all nations”); 1 Pet. 2:9 (“Ye re a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”); 2 Cor. 11:8; cp. Acts 13:1-5.)
    º 66. The congregation should be ready to unite with the Ev. Lutheran congregations of this country when there is opportunity for such union and this tends to serve and promote the glory of God and the upbuilding of His kingdom, Eph. 4:3-6 (“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”); 1 Cor. 12:7 (“The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal”). Cp. Acts 15.

    The first thing to note is that there really is no conundrum as you wittily pose since he does not even use the modern word “evangelism.”

    Secondly, Walther’s priorities in order are on putting men in pulpits handing out Bibles – a far cry from what is described as evangelism today.

    Thirdly, when he does speak about taking the Gospel to others, he does not speak of felt needs but of reaching the heathens and pagans and Jews who are in darkness and he proposes this be done by the ordained ones (Mt. 28) and by the non-ordained doing good works so that God could be glorified – once again not even remotely close to what passes for evangelism today.

    Bottom line – Walther is in keeping with the editorial policy here at BJS (probably because we learned it from him).


  5. Amos 6:6 …who drink wine in bowls
    and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
    but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

    [paraphrase] …who dine well, choose the finest hotels,
    (“needing” 150% + of the highest paid Pastor’s salary)
    and plot the destruction of confessional Lutheranism…

    That’s not exactly what Walther envisioned for synod!
    Now, Stefan does come to mind!

    God grant we see an end to such “privileged” behavior
    in the districts as well as in St Louis.

  6. Randy,

    It should be coming out soon in some printed form – booklet, pamphlet, or at the very least I will publish the outline of the presentation here on BJS.


  7. I’m new to the Lutheran church, and have far too limited an understanding of some of the issues in play here. I therefore have a question.

    I’ve read a number of posts on this site criticizing “lay ministry” (with the quotation marks), and it appears that a central theme of Pr. Rossow’s presentation will be the need to reduce (if not eradicate) what I assume are lay positions and activities so that the work of the parish primarily (if not exclusively) involves the ministry of the pastorate (please correct me if I misunderstand).

    I therefore am wondering: what do you believe to be the role of the laity in the church? Is lay ministry an oxymoron, as the almost ever-present ironic question marks indicate? If it’s not an oxymoron, what type(s) of ministry can involve the laity?

  8. @Pastor Tim Rossow #4

    I picked up the word “evangelize” from Kantor David Boettcher’s link where it says under duty number six “It is also incumbent upon the congregation to do its part in building up and promoting the welfare of the Church at large, in other words to evangelize.” I realize now that this is commentary and not the words of Walther. Much thanks for the correction and for the insight.

  9. MS,

    Very good question and thanks for reading the posts so carefully.

    The point of my presentation is not to reduce the work of the laity but to redirect it. As a matter of fact, one of the charts I am preparing is a list of all the appropriate things the laity can do and it is basically infinite. For instance, in addition to all of the areas of service in the congregation – societies, choir, acolyting, sacristaning, ushering, property, Sunday School, etc. – each member can practice fulfilling each of the ten commandments. So, there is no end to the things the laity can do.

    In order to answer your question we need to talk about the word “ministry.” In the Greek (dikaion) it simply means “service” but in the English language it has come to mean “pastor.” For instance, when the homeless guy comes in off the street and asks for the minister and the usher tells him “Hey, your in luck, everyone here at St. Smithers in the Fields is a minister, can I help you?” The homeless guy responds by saying, “No, I want to speak to the real minister.” So, when I use the word ministry I am referring to Preaching and administering the sacraments, i.e. the work of the pastor. So yes, “lay ministry” is an oxymoron, until our culture changes and homeless people no longer use the word “minister” for the pastor.

    The catechism is very clear (in the “Table of Duties”) that the role of the pastor is to preach and the role of the laity is to listen to the word preached. Ministry is the work of the pastor. But, both Luther and Walther are clear that the the laity need to be listening for the voice of Christ. As I like to say, a third grader armed with Scripture can rebuke an erring pastor. That is a high calling.

    An even higher calling, indeed the highest calling though, is to love your neighbor. The laity have that responsibility, as well as the pastor, and to that there is no end.

    I hope that helps. Let me know if you have further questions.


  10. @Pastor Tim Rossow #9

    Thank you, Pr. Rossow. I truly appreciate your response.

    If I may ask another question, I assume that preaching refers to giving the sermon during the Divine Service, but is all other teaching of adults in a parish also categorized as preaching?

    In other words, is it only ordained pastors who should teach an adult class, lead a seminar, etc? Can laity write books and articles on the faith, or would that type of teaching also be categorized as preaching?

  11. MS,

    I suppose writing of books and teaching of seminars is up to the individual. Reading them and attending seminars is also up to the individual but he should accept guidance (even obey him as Luther and Walther would say) from his pastor as to what is and isn’t a good seminar to attend.

    In terms of Bible class, please realize that it is a modern invention. When the church got lazy and fat and decided to worship the almighty 60 minute limitation for the Divine Service, Lutheran sermons pretty much ceased being the teaching vehicles that they once were. Walther and Luther did not know of Bible class. They simply preached long sermons. Get a hold of some sermon books of Walther and you will see that they often contained multi-part sections on pure doctrinal teaching. So in one sense it is a bad question. I see no need to resort to lay teaching in the church just as I see no reason to resort to lay surgery in hospitals. The Bible is clear, pastors are the teachers just as MD’s are our surgeons. I don’t know how it is in your church but we have plenty of room left in our Sunday Bible class (it is held in a gymnasium that could accomodate 800 people if needed) and our church services where I teach the word. And if we did run out of room, we would just schedule another service, Bible class hour, etc.

    Back to our point about what’s a lay person to do – the Bible is also clear that all of us, lay and clergy alike should exhort one another on to good works that are taught to us by the called teachers.

    Here is a practical viewpoint on this. I have several gifted, knowledgeable lay elders. (BTW – this is not an oxymoron since Paul talks about elders who do not labor in teaching.) None of them has any desire to teach. I had a former elder, who has since moved away from our parish, who was eminently qualified to teach. He even wrote a detailed theological pamphlet for us. He too refused to teach because he knew it was not his call. He would not let us publish the pamphlet unless I went over it with a fine tooth comb and gave it my imprimatur.

    I hope you can see how it can all work according to God’s plan and his calling.


  12. Many thanks to Pr. Rossow for the fine presentation at our CLCC Conference. I am sure all that attended went away with a different perspective than when they arrived.

    Interesting, at the following ACL Conference Pr. Poppe gave the last presentation on Ministry and related topics. In a side conversation with a pastor we were discussing the CLCC seminar on Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation. His comment was something like, “I wish they did use the word Evangelism in the title.” My response was simply to assure him that it is there because the seminar teaches the proper clergy role of Evangelist and Missionary, precisely so the laity know that is not them (whew! and their proper role is within their vocations. It has come to mind that the topic of Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation cannot be properly understood unless everybody understands the Theology of Vocations too.

    I know many laity who don’t have a clue what vocations is all about, and I was one of them until I was “rescued” by confessionals about six years ago.

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