A Great Book by a Church Growth Pastor Turned Confessional, by Pr. Rossow

I had my own conversion from Church Growth psychology to genuine Confessional Lutheran theology and so I am glad to hear of a new book written by LCMS Pastor Lucas Woodford which outlines a similar journey. We also share a devotion to the work of James May and Lutherans in Africa (LIA). Pastor Woodford recently returned from a trip to Africa to see first-hand the work of LIA.

I encourage you to read about his trip to Africa and to order his book and read his insightful comparison of the recent generation’s Church Growth principles of psychology and sociology with the confession of the Apostles Creed and the Scriptural principles that have preserved the church for two thousand years and that he now espouses.

You can read about his trip to Africa here: http://www.lutheransinafrica.com/pdf/newsletter/2013-09-en.pdf

To support LIA’s capital campaign to build a new Lutheran Center in Kenya click here: http://www.lutheransinafrica.com/pdf/newsletter/2013-09-en.pdf

Here is the description of the book from Amazon.com:

There is a great debate going on in the church today. It centers on one question: “What is the mission of the church” From culturally relevant, emerging congregations to strategic methods of organization and outreach, many claim they have the answer. They say the mission must become “missional” Yet the churches of North America continue to struggle. Uncertainty is growing. “What does it really mean to be ‘missional’ Competing claims abound. “Get the message out” “Get the message right” Great confusion has set in, particularly in the postmodern North American church. The Gospel is getting lost. Yet, throughout the ages, the creedal confession of the Holy Christian Church has carried her through uncertainty and struggle. The Apostles’ Creed has steadied and stayed the mission of the church for centuries. It centers on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit-the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. This book celebrates the historic mission of the Holy Christian Church, and it invites the North American church to do the same.

Here is the link to order it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Great-Commission-Confusion-Confession-Christian/dp/1610978773/ref=pd_sim_b_85

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.


A Great Book by a Church Growth Pastor Turned Confessional, by Pr. Rossow — 32 Comments

  1. Rev. Rossow,
    Thank you for pointing out Pastor Woodford’s new book. My wife and I will definitely purchase and read it. We had to leave our last “LCMS” church because it was taken over (and continues to be converted) by a “Church Growth” / Purpose Driven / C. Peter Wagner oriented pastor and select congregation members. One of the many troubling aspects of the movement is that it is steeped in deception. The movement thrives off of twisting scripture just enough to slowly convert the laity. Before you know it, it’s over – might as well take the name Lutheran off the sign out front. One of the saddest aspects of this process is that those new to the Lutheran church latch on to such teachings and non-liturgical service and never know true doctrine of the LCMS. Faith Alone, Grace Alone, apart from works never enters the discussion. If you mention the Book of Concord to such an audience the only real response is, “I’ve never heard of that. Is it a Grape Jelly recipe book?”

  2. I second Randy’s words, Pastor Rossow. Some of the LCMS churches in my area seem to be (unfortunately) flirting with the evangelicalism trends, so this will be a welcome breath of fresh air!

  3. @Randy #1

    >If you mention the Book of Concord to such an audience the only real response is, “I’ve never heard of that. Is it a Grape Jelly recipe book?”<

    Brilliant line… I can't stop laughing!

    Now that I have calmed down, I am thinking of some recent discussions with LCMS pastors. Their disdain for "confessional" Lutheranism is very disheartening. Like it or not, it certainly appears that the divide is growing in the LCMS.

    Lord have mercy…


  4. Rev. Poppe, Thanks for responding to my comment. I worked hard on the “Grape Jelly” line!

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment about the current situation we face. An ever-growing number of LCMS pastors (and laity) do have disdain for confessional Lutherans. Very troubling and in my situation no effort seemed to make a dent. In fact, those of us who attempted to address the issue were considered to be lacking in adequate “religious evolution” to handle the “new and correct” way of doing things (ie: we were too naïve). That’s hard to swallow, especially when one of the vicars involved openly acknowledged his 4 year “degree” from the C. Peter Wagner Leadership Institute. Wow! C. Peter Wagner???? Wagner believes that he is a modern day Apostle. In fact, he believes he is the TOP APOSTLE of his New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Below is a link to his site. He has a sample course session video near the bottom – very disturbing.


    Anyway, I thank you and all those who continue to do it right.

    Your friend in Christ,


  5. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #3
    @Randy #4

    So why is a purge a bad thing? Granted, I wouldn’t want a scorched earth policy, and lose many pastors and congregations, when some need some help and proper teaching. But if the “15%” do not voluntarily leave, they need to be shown the door.

  6. @Jason #5
    But if the “15%” do not voluntarily leave, they need to be shown the door.

    There are at least two opinions as to which 15% should leave! 🙁

  7. >What in the world is this? It kind of sounds like John Hagee: <

    @Abby #7

    Abby, it is all very disturbing. Wagner refers to the NAR as a “Post Denominational” movement. In other words, he/they wish to facilitate the wholesale destruction of denominations and replace with their own “Apostolic” movement. The video I referenced from Wagner becomes more and more troubling as the footage unfolds. What we need to be aware of is that much of the current CGM is based on the beliefs of this individual. For instance, Wagner was a mentor of Rick Warren’s at Fuller Theological Seminary. Warren wrote “The Purpose Driven Church.” Therefore, the LCMS churches that latch on to these things do so at their own peril. While some LCMS clergy/laity know the roots, most simply think it’s nothing more than a new and better way of “Doing Church.”

    Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

  8. @Randy #8

    This concept sounds like “spiritualism.” (“Philosophy: the doctrine that the spirit exists as distinct from matter, or that spirit is the only reality.” Oxford Dict.)

    The sacraments must have to take a back seat in this theology. It is all about generating/manipulating emotion. It becomes about “our” work rather than God’s. Where is the Cross? Where is the Bible really? This kind of stuff centers more on how someone interprets the work of the Holy Spirit — and that is exactly what He would not want. His job is to point to Christ only.

  9. “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” John 15:26

    “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:13

    “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

    “…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

    “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you1 free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2

    “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

    Does this sound like we are some kind of “Entrepreneurial Apostle?” It is not about our work. It is all about Christ and the Atonement. (Sorry, I’m preaching to the choir.)

  10. I couldn’t get through listening to him once. How can anyone make any sense of what he is saying? I cannot figure out how anyone can merge this with our teachings. In fact, he seemed to discount anyone who would maintain half of what they believe and incorporate only half of what he is teaching into their denominational affiliation. It seems he is teaching anyone can set themselves up as an apostle and therefore have authority. He tended to heavily emphasize “authority.” But didn’t really get to authority over what.

    Honestly, I don’t get what he is saying we don’t have. John 7:18 John 16:13 Colossians 2:10

  11. International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) info can be found by Googling or Yahooing

    international coalition of apostles pdf


    international coalition of apostles

  12. Please explain. Which of these 2009 coalition members were LCMS? Are they still members? Thanks.

    (Is this a weird aberration or a movement among “growing numbers” of LCMS folks?)

    @Randy #14

  13. I would think that an LCMS pastor would not put his name on such a public list as this. But C. Peter Wagner has been referenced in our church body for quite a while already — specifically among the “church growth” people. Enough so that CTCR did an examination of these concepts in a document in 1994. (I hope this link works) http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=413

    Some other good reading: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/mosynod/web/evang-01.html

    “The Church Growth Movement has been called “the most influential development of the 1970s” on the American religious scene. Whether one agrees with this assessment or not, it is a movement which cannot be ignored. In less than a decade and a half its influence has been felt in many Christian denominations. It has had an impact also on many clergy in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod because it is regarded by many pastors and congregations as an effective attempt to find a solution to a serious problem in their midst–a lack of enthusiasm for evangelism and a lack of skill in inspiring God’s people to take the great commission seriously.

    Church Growth leaders usually credit Donald A. McGavran with having founded the movement, although they acknowledge also the contributions made by others such as C. Peter Wagner . . . “

  14. John,

    For starters, Rev. Kent Hunter, a well known rostered LCMS pastor and purveyor of the pseudo science of church growth is one of Wagner’s “apostles.”

    This is very sick. Rev. Hunter should be removed from the LCMS clergy roster for being one of these so-called apostles. He is not the only LCMS pastor on the list.

    Our synod is very sick and has demonstrated no ability to remedy the sickness with any sort of fitting Scriptural cure.

    You can view the list here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0By4yYtoydP-4ODU0NTIyYjEtMDBiYy00N2I5LThhOGYtNzNmZjQ3NjVjN2Qx&usp=drive_web&hl=en_US

  15. Well, for being an expert in church growth — his church is not doing that well. (Rev. Hunter)

    When God says the increase comes only from Him — it is pretty audacious for anyone to believe that they can cause anything such as “church growth.” Church growth has virtually nothing to do with making disciples. It is possible to “entertain” a few extra bodies into the building for awhile. Then they drop out.

    But the Holy Spirit can save one or two of the lot as long as the truth is being presented.

  16. “Wagner describes as “exceedingly effective” the evangelism method of a congregation which “believes so much in body life that they refuse to hire pastors for their churches. They believe that the Holy Spirit provides each church with all the gifts needed for healthy church life, and that when members are properly using their gifts, a professional minister is simply excess baggage. The elders and the deacons do the preaching. The only man the church hires is the bookkeeper; the rest of the work is done by the members themselves.” What Are We Missing? (Carol Stream, Ill.: Creation House, 1973), 81. Quoted in Evangelism and Church Growth, 43, fn. 86.”

    So, there you go. Anyone can be an “apostle.” You can set yourself up. Imagine all the “opinions” running rampant! (I don’t like “opinion-based” Bible studies either.)

  17. “It has had an impact also on many clergy in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod because it is regarded by many pastors and congregations as an effective attempt to find a solution to a serious problem in their midst–a lack of enthusiasm for evangelism and a lack of skill in inspiring God’s people to take the great commission seriously.”

    But according to a “spiritual gifts test” (which they use) — there may not be many in the congregation with this gift. If you have it you have it. If you have it you do it.

  18. Pr Rossow and Abby

    Thanks for the information.   I had never heard of Peter Wagner or ICA, and I agree that these ideas are strange and dangerous.

  19. @Randy #22

    Too bad we can’t see some actual “results” of all this.

    We know how Dr. Schuller’s church turned out:

    “During 2000 Kent was a main speaker at The Crystal Cathedral in California. He addressed the Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership.”

    Kind of like Leonard Sweet — a lot of “consulting” and writing/selling of books — just no actual church of their own to prove their theories.

    Obviously Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone don’t “work.”

  20. @John Rixe #15


    The “MOVEMENT” is alarming and very deceptive. “It” goes by different names in different places (CGM, Purpose Driven, Seeker Sensitive, sometimes even “Contemporary”, etc…..). Just realize it’s out there. Many don’t even know they’re part of it. The Doctrinally Correct Liturgy helps keep us on the right path. Word and Sacrament are precious. When churches/congregations depart from the Doctrinally Correct Liturgy they essentially disregard the boundaries (the TRUTH) and veer off into no-mans-land.

    Also, THEY targeted my kids!

    Pastors, please feel free to correct any of my terminology. I was knee deep in “THIS STUFF” for 2 years. Fought every step of the way. I’m still in the process of washing “IT” off………..

  21. You are right on Randy.

    I probably would back down a bit from your high estimate of the liturgy as a curb. I would say it in different terms. The liturgy does not guarantee that we avoid heresy and flase practice but it is the best thing we got going and it certainly keeps us from the errors of contemporary worship.

  22. @Pastor Tim Rossow #25
    The liturgy does not guarantee that we avoid heresy and false practice but it is the best thing we got going…

    Sticking to the hymnal, teaching the Bible and the Book of Concord would be all the “program” any Pastor needed to keep himself out of trouble. (Oh, and reading the Postils instead of “purpose driven life” for his private edification) 🙂

  23. Trust is often implied. For instance, when you board a modern commercial airliner you “Trust” that the crew and maintenance personnel have all been trained to a high standard. You also “Trust” that each will function in accordance with prescribed standards in order to afford the best opportunity for you to get to your destination. Shouldn’t we expect/demand that the same be true when entering an LCMS church?

    Sometimes an analogy helps.

    Imagine entering a commercial airliner for a trip from Chicago to St Louis. As you approach the cabin door from the jet-bridge you are struck by the fact that the Captain and Lead Flight Attendant aren’t wearing the anticipated professional uniform, but instead are wearing tie-dye T-shirts. It’s a little odd, but you enter anyway. Immediately upon entering the cabin you look left and see that the normally clean/professional cockpit has been altered. Fuzzy dice hang from the compass and an iPod is docked and blaring “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary. Very strange, yet you take your seat. Instantly you notice that the In-Flight Safety Card in the seat-back has been replaced with a Lyric Card denoting the words to “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Finally, movement out the window catches your eye. You see a mechanic working on the #1 engine. She’s wearing a 2013 LCMS Youth Gathering T-shirt, one hand is working on the engine with a hammer while the other hand is raised high in the air waving at no one in particular. You look to her feet and see a small open tool box with the words “Spiritual Gifts” painted on the side. You don’t know why you’re going through with it, yet you remain in your seat. After being airborne for some time you notice that you’re not headed in the right direction. You flag down the lead flight attendant and point out that the aircraft doesn’t appear to be heading to St Louis. The Flight Attendant’s face turns dour and responds with, “We have decided to head in a different direction. Now stay seated and be quiet for fear you’ll alert the rest of the passengers.”

    Folks, we would never allow this to happen on a commercial airliner yet this happens every day in LCMS churches. Many indicators exist. Heck, we have at least 3 LCMS pastors listed as Apostles in the NAR – pretty big indicator! In the aviation world we have a saying – “Recognize, Confirm, Recover.”

  24. Those “3” (and quite a few more) believe they are autonomous. Laypeople need to assess their situation and move. And NOT wait –“We have decided to head in a different direction. Now stay seated and be quiet for fear you’ll alert the rest of the passengers.”

    Good analogy.

  25. Is it yet another testimony to the flight crew’s disdain for the authentic that they have their lyric card denoting the words to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary rather than by John Denver, who actually wrote “Babe, I hate to Go”, later recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and commonly known as “Leaving on a Jet Plane”?

  26. @Jais H. Tinglund #30


    Nice angle – kudos – I love it! I didn’t think of that. I approached it from a numbers perspective. I figured “John” Denver represented only one biblical name, but Peter, Paul, & Mary represented three. CGM proponents would always opt for quantity instead of quality. And yes, John Denver’s version is far better!

  27. Now, that numbers thing, and the names of saints, were perspectives I had not thought of. Neat.

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