Great Stuff Found on the Web — Evangelical Leaders Question Entertainment in Church

While some Missouri Synod leaders and congregations are moving in the direction of entertaining the audience in worship, leading American Evangelicals are now questioning these practices. Leadership Journal for Spring 2011 has a special issue criticizing entertainment in the church, with a lead article interviewing Chuck Swindoll. One article from the issue is available on the web, looking at entertainment in youth ministry, by the magazine’s editor Drew Dyck. The article may be found here.

Whether or not we accept Kinnaman’s definition of what constitutes a biblical worldview, few would argue that anywhere near 65 percent of young adults in the U.S. could be described as active followers of Jesus. We may have done a good job of getting young people to sign a pledge or mutter a prayer, but a poor job of forming them into devoted disciples.

Perhaps we’ve settled for entertaining rather than developing followers of Jesus.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with pizza and video games. The real problem is when they displace spiritual formation and teaching the Bible. And ultimately that’s the greatest danger of being overly reliant on an entertainment model. It’s not just that we can’t compete with the world’s amusements. It’s not only that we get locked into a cycle of serving up ever-increasing measures of fun. Rather it’s that we’re distracted from doing the real work of youth ministry—fostering robust faith.


Sounds pretty similar to what happened to Willow Creek back in 2007/8. Perhaps the current questioning of the “entertainment” model by Chuck Swindoll and Leadership Journal is a result of the original “shakeup” at Willow Creek in 2007 :

June 2008

March 2008

October 2007

November 2007

October 2007

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


Great Stuff Found on the Web — Evangelical Leaders Question Entertainment in Church — 21 Comments

  1. Hilarious! (If you are not moved to tears!)
    Perhap in 15-20 years Missouri will wake up to what Bill Hybels discovered 4-5 years ago!
    [The Orthodox Presbyterians (who left their synod over liberalism about 20 years before Seminex) told me it would be like this!]

    But who will we have left if/when we admit that we see the Light!?

  2. Carl Braaten has returned to Christianity, according to Dr. David Scaer!
    (More or less; I didn’t ask where he is on women’s ordination.)
    But “Whodatho’t?”

  3. Years ago I heard campus minister Henry E. Horn (ELCA) observe that Lutherans are always 10 years behind the cultural curve. Every time we try to be ‘relevant’ we become irrelevant and worse, irreverent. I think the vice of sloth is at play: we try for programs that will deliver us instead of working in His promises fulfilled which alone deliver us.

  4. In the LCMS we have DCE’s who are suppose to be Directors
    of Christian Education. This means that they would be in
    charge of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Youth
    Bible classes during the week at a minimum. In reality most
    of their time is spent concocting fund raisers for National
    Youth Gathering and entertaining high schoolers at pizza

    If the DCE’s are not going to focus on Christian Education,
    then the parish may as well call an assistant pastor who
    could more of a spiritual asset to the congregation with a
    real ministry of Word and Sacrament. Most DCE’s get
    burned out in 8 to 10 years with Lock-Ins and Fund Raisers.

  5. When you hear (or read) the word “Disciple” in evangelical cricles, publications, and conversation, beware! It is a reflection of two-tiered Christianity–it’s one thing to be saved, but if you’re really with it, you’re a “Disciple.” Think about it.


  6. @Rev. James Knuth #4
    If the DCE’s are not going to focus on Christian Education,
    then the parish may as well call an assistant pastor who
    could more of a spiritual asset to the congregation with a
    real ministry of Word and Sacrament.

    Our Associate Pastor works with the high school people and goes with them to Higher Things, (which you might consider). Their “fund raisers” are of service to the congregation, e.g. serving lunch at noon before our ‘after church’ voters’ meetings.
    (One of the men involved with our school runs the kitchen, so the Associate doesn’t have to do that.)

    [There are no doubt good and useful DCE’s but they haven’t come into my orbit yet.]

  7. From my brief time at CSP, I had a few classmates who were there because they wanted to have fun iwth kids. I don’t konw how they eventually turned out, but if they kept that attitude, then they were really nothing much mor ethan babysitters. My attitude was to the a teaching adult, that could have fun with kids. But my first focus would have been faith develipment and disciple making. Bugt yes, I have seen mor ethan enough who just really don’t do anything more than a dedicated volunteer would be capable of. Sad, because I would hope with their somewhat theological training they could be an asset. Hold on to the ones you are able to find like that.

  8. Rev. Knuth,
    That is a good point. The DCE has become a joke. Most of them have such a rudimentary knowledge of Scriptures that it is like the blind leading the blind. Many laymen well versed in Scriptures can run circles around 99% of the DCE’s in theology. The DCE’s have become glorified baby sitters and pizza party throwers. Why spend money on a DCE when you could for just a little bit more get an assistant pastor?

  9. One of the reasons the DCE became so popular in our Synod
    is because it absolved the parents from having ownership of
    the parish youth program. Parents wanted their children
    entertained but they did not want to participate in helping
    to make the program meaningful in any spiritual sense.

    So suburban and upscale parishes threw their money at
    DCE’s and thought this was a good deal. Now many parishes
    want an assistant pastor from a Seminary to replace a DCE.
    This way our youth would have a mature
    mentor who is theologically trained in Word and Sacrament
    and could make a real spiritual impact on our youth. This
    would also create more openings for Sem grads each year
    and increase the calls for pastoral candidates with decent

  10. Okay…so,…righty-oh. What do Denominations, say to a generational, if not 2 generations, willingly lead, preached & bread with forethought & intent, disregarding the warnings of False Teaching/ Error, so perpetuated by so many Lutherans, let alone other Reformational Denoms!?
    Who were charged with protecting a flock gifted, but in no way owned?! Sheep are not to shepherd themselves, why not?! Do tell.

    Yeah, this ‘oops’ will work, when He asks after it, we didn’t know, there were good points in it, & we thought it sounded kind of like You….yeah, that will suffice for Him, who sits at the Right Hand, that Sought, Bought, & Entrusted those He did, so to shepherd…..yeah, that will work, it worked for the other 5 wedding guests…for a while.

    So what exactly, are those in WELS & LCMS… to say to those, corrupted by willing & knowing- ignorance, gain, fame, fortune, power, position, press… by error & such loss?! Wow, how many have missed the ball, the committee’s elected/expended & spend many a widow’s mite for, made an oops/mistake, because of the thesis they were given at the time? From an outlet outside their own Doctrine or Solas? All those sheep are an oops?! Really? That will so very much preserve, preach, or teach 1, not 2 generations of sheep willingly led astray, not even for the best of intentions, gentlemen. Well done, um not.

    Oops, sorry? look to this now, we didn’t invite false teaching, we didn’t encourage heresy, no, we were trying to grow a Denomination. Oh yeah, that will so work. We’re are sorry, not remorse but sorry: we now have consequences, don’t know or understand yours, but wow, now that we have just a few, are we ever sorry. “That’s our story, & we’re stickin’ to it” Yeah, that’ll work in His Throneroom, & when we are called to answer for our measure. Let’s see, what might give sway….

    1). We were ignorant, we misstook all of it. no way, cannot say that, warnings abounded.

    2). We condemned the watchmen on the towers, ck WELS, Intrepid or Ichabod. They caused disharmony, division, and demanded answers, when we had no cause to give any.
    Sorry, others & multitudes paying consequences, do not go unnoticed Above.

    3). We kicked out, retired, displaced, decried, and rendered useless, those who did know, warn, teach, & preach this direction was an error, but our marketing survery & plodding plan, and waft in the wind, obsolete direction we’ve adopted, said it was the right direction. We are most sorry for what we taught you, which this Convention or BOD, District, Circuit, or District, may have taught, WITH THE BEST OF INTENTIONS FOR THE SYNOD/CONVENTION OF SET YEAR, WE PAID HEED & CONCEEDED TO.

    We are sorry, you have departed the Faith (our Congregations & Denoms), but it is so not our fault. We just preached, teached, encouraged, rebuked, refuted, & admonished falsely, because Church Dr’s, Snakeoil Theologians, & False Teachers, said we’d stop loosing & grow. However, it was ultimately, YOUR JOB, TO TELL US, TEACH US, PREACH TO US, AND REMIND SHEEP. You’re bad, so not mine.

    Oh yeah, that will work, thousands will sacrafice, loose, entice rebuke, condemation, repubiation, and public exposure risking excommunication, for that. No we don’t, no we won’t, a sheep is a sheep, a help meet is a help meet, and an underling servant is what they is, and undershepherds are only as profitable, as the one they answer to at the end of the day, to. And Who/who would that be, one/One, no ones knows a man’s mind, nor can they endevor & they should not, endevor to know our Lord’s. The Truth, which is the Word, is a double edged sword, so it was & will be. Woman may have their just lot, but so do the son’s of Adam. I didn’t know when pertaining to the loo seat, or a dish, looks sad, when we talk & speak of what we all, Holders of the Office, Elders, Presidents, Husbands, & those who willingly place ourselves, in a place of obey, submission, & obedience. I may know full well, my lot, calling, & curse, but I tend to wonder, w/articles like this…do those who have elected & chosen to place themselves, & accept the mantle of judgement from Above, as mindful, as the subject of this article? I’ve seen, heard, & read, many on women commanded to do, what we girls, know. How rare it is, that a man call a man to command his duties, they are more than mine.

  11. @Rev. James Knuth #9

    Does the LCMS have a decent curriculum for DCEs to follow? CPH materials, perhaps? After reading the main article by Norm Fisher, I will assume not.

    Is replacing the DCE with an assistant pastor a growing trend in LCMS churches?

    Perhaps it would be best to retire all the DCE training programs and allow existing DCEs to take a few classes to become fully ordained pastors. The LCMS is solely responsible for creating this mess. Therefore, it should allow a quick and (somewhat) painless way for existing DCEs to become assistant pastors.

    Future LCMS convention material, perhaps?

    Leave the Deaconess program alone – for now. My humble 2 cents, FWIW.

  12. To James #11

    My guess is that half of the DCE’s are women so they are not able to become pastors.

    For a male DCE with only a college education he would have to enroll in a 4 Year
    Seminary curriculum at St. Louis or Fort Wayne

    I know of male DCE’s in our District who did enroll at the St. Louis Seminary to become
    pastors and are now ordained. They felt a call to become pastors after serving in the
    parish as DCE’s. They saw a tremendous gap between what they could do as DCEs and
    and as a pastor.

  13. @James #11

    It would take more than just a few classes for many of the men DCE’s to be ordained. They would need to unlearn, in many cases, as much as they have to learn in terms of theological education. I can see an encouragement for female DCE’s toward the deaconness program o f study.


  14. David Rosenkoetter :
    @James #11
    They would need to unlearn, in many cases, as much as they have to learn in terms of theological education.

    Whaaaaaaaaaat? Unlearn although both DCE and pastor are within the same denomination? How can that be? Fascinating.

    Rev. James Knuth :
    To James #11
    I know of male DCE’s in our District who did enroll at the St. Louis Seminary to become pastors and are now ordained. They felt a call to become pastors after serving in the
    parish as DCE’s. They saw a tremendous gap between what they could do as DCEs and as a pastor.

    If DCEs are so limited to what they can do in the church, while at the same time the pastor is overwhelmed and could use some help, it would make sense for a church to hire a second pastor instead of a DCE. Period. It does make you wonder why the LCMS even bothers training male DCEs. It seems like a useless office.

    Are an LCMS pastor’s roles and responsibilities clearly defined?

  15. @GaiusKurios #8

    This really makes me sad. People who want to serve but who are trained in a certain way and then expected to do certain things. I honestly think they go into it with the best intentions, but I am not certain the training they get sets them on the right path. When I look at the training program at Concordia Austin, I am not sure what to think. Do they do all the right stuff in training these DCE’s but somehow it doesn’t come across clearly on the info page?

    Who decides what the program to train them will be? What are their criteria? Who supervises/advises them?

  16. @Mrs. Hume #15

    DCE’s traing DCE’s. That
    ‘s what I understood about the departments in the CU’s that have the programs.

    Now, some of this wouldn’t be bad, but the pastors can be just as much at fault. My previous congregation (after downsizing out the associate) fully turned ocnfirmation over to the youth worker. (Lutheran teacing degree) The congregation before that had a lay minister type handle a god chunk of it. Way back when, my fieldwork church eventually got a called DCE, and had turned it over. What I would consider the most important educational program in a congregation was abdicated. And I hardly know any pastors that get involved with Sunday school. Delegating to DCE’s and volunteers to help with congregational life is one thing, but where is the oversight? Where is the leading and guidance? I think this is part of the ambililance. Pr. Scheer talks about in the new thread. So when Pres. Harrison mentions 40 years of bad catechesis, well duh!

    I think the ideas and commissioned could be more than they are, but as a whole the LC-MS isn’t taking the best care to develop such committed quality. I think we may have allowed ourselves an easy way out of difficult workloads, difficult societal presuures, and difficult steadfastness.

  17. What does the “official” job description for DCE look like?
    What is actually expected of them by their calling congregations?
    What do they actually do?

    Does it fit? Or is there a disconnect someplace?

    Johannes (just wonderin’)

  18. @Johannes #17

    Well, Steve Arnold taught that we would be the teachers of the church. To me it felt implied that we could/would do better at teaching than the pastor. Bu ti saw students where I just don’t htink this sunk in. They think DCE and youth ministry is aobu thaving fun with kids. With that attitude, actual teaching is by osmosis, and that hardly works. A couple of my classmates, and even a visiting lesturer, love the camp expereinces they had growing up, so they thought congregational life should be modeled after some sort of experiential camp like atmosphere.

    I was of the mindset that we would need to be the adult supervision with the kids. We needed ot teach the cattechism, because I really didn’t like the shallowness of many other confirmation cirriculum. I believed Ecclesiastes: there is a time for…. Some may have felt I was compartmentalizing, and maybe so. But my wholistic attitude was to have VBS fun week during the summer, a bit more seriousness in Sunday school, go away to an outdoor camp site for camp, worship liturgically, use the catechsim as sthe confirmation instruction book. Really get into and enjoy the experiences, but don’t really blend them so they get confused, and really can’t be experience in their fullness because you are trying to cram too much into areas things don’t fit.

    But hey, what do I know? I washed out of the DCE program…

  19. While I am not a DCE, the LCMS program I went through has many similarities. I almost wonder if it wouldn’t be worth it to go back to square one and totally rebuild the “Commissioned Minister” education program Synod-wide.

    It could be set up to feed into the seminaries in such a way that it could double as a pre-seminary education for men and a pre-deaconess education for women. It could be a “one size fits all” general ministry program that is designed to prepare students for seminary but gives them the bare essentials for parish ministry.

    I am of the opinion that any new grad going to a congregation for the first time to serve should be closely mentored by a pastor, one on one. It is far too easy for a new Youth/Children’s Ministry worker to be eaten alive by parish politics and theological error.

    Perhaps the program would look something like this…
    (This is only meant to spark ideas/discussion and is not meant to be exhaustive)

    Old Testament 1 – 3hrs
    Old Testament 2 – 3hrs
    New Testament 1 (The Gospels) – 3hrs
    New Testament 2 (Acts-Revelation) – 3hrs
    Law/Gospel – 3hrs
    The Large Catechism – 3hrs
    Introduction to the Lutheran Confessions – 3hrs
    Greek 1 – 3hrs
    Greek 2 – 3hrs
    History of the Church – 3hrs
    History of the LCMS – 2hrs
    Theology of the Cross – 2hrs
    Reformation Theology (Then and Today) – 3hrs
    Lutheran Worship (Theology and Practice) – 3hrs
    Devotional Writing – 3hrs
    Technology and Media in Ministry – 2hrs
    Ministry Practicum – 3hrs (Guided by a local pastor and Academic Adviser)
    Ministry Internship – 4hrs (Summer class between Junior and Senior Year. Also guided by a local pastor and Academic Adviser)

    I’m sure I’m missing some things. That is just what I could rattle off.

    There could also be an ongoing, post-graduation education component that is required and standardized synod-wide. These courses could be offered via the internet or over the course of 2-4 weekend long conferences held regionally throughout the year. The credits earned through this coursework could be accepted by the seminaries as part of a Masters of Theology degree. This ongoing distance education could not, however, result in a Masters of Divinity.

    All of this talk of change needed for the DCE program got me thinking. Feel free to crumple this up and toss it in the rubbish bin but these are my two cents.

  20. Concordia Chicago has (or had) an online Masters in Relgion which would probably be good for all DCE’s / Commisioned Ministers to take.

    By the way, I am a DCE, and it is sad that on the NADCE board, they do not want to speak of theology. Not important. So when one of the DCE”s on the board was unwittingly espousing Reformed theology, and I corrected him on it, this was not welcomed with open arms by one of the leaders of NADCE.

    There is no point basing DCE’s they are part of our Synod. Many are quality educators, and can do for congregations what volunteers would not be able. Rev Harrison personally told me that what we do is “gold” and chastised the audience at Concordia Bronxville that they should not indeed , disparage this group.

    If you want them to have better theology (and believe me , many need it) then provide and require a reasonable path for them to become ordained or receive quality education.

    Higher things, which is now an RSO has an obligation, I think , to support those in these positions with an encouragement to learn more, and not ignore them.

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