Mark’s Thoughts — Brother Pastor, I’ve Got Your Back

Found over on Pastor Surburg’s blog,


PrSurburgBrother pastor, I want you to know that I’ve got your back.  My first move will always be to believe you and to believe in you.  When I hear accusations against you, my first assumption will be that they are not true.  I will not speak publicly about accusations as if they were true.

I say this because I know what it is like out there in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  It’s open season on pastors, and especially on pastors who want to practice what the Scriptures say and what the Book of Concord confesses.  I know that the seminary does an outstanding job of teaching you what God’s Word says.  I know that it does an excellent job in teaching you to love Lutheran theology.  I know that it instills in you a deep sense of responsibility for your service to Christ’s Church as you serve in his Office of the Holy Ministry.

When you were ordained and installed, and in each installation since, you believed what the Scriptures say about the Office and its responsibilities. You knew that Paul had said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28). You knew that that Peter wrote, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).  And so you knew that God had placed you to care for that congregation.  God had placed you, and therefore you were keeping watch over those for whom you “will have to give an account” before him (Heb 13:17).

You believed what your ordination vows say: that the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice; that the Ecumenical Creeds are faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures; that the Book of Concord is a true exposition of Holy Scripture and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, 166-167).

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It is found the Small Catechism’s Table of Duties and in the installation rite of a pastor (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, 180).  And so you believed the congregation when it answered “We will, with the help of God,” to the question, “Will you receive him, show him that love, honor and obedience in the Lord that you owe to the shepherd and teacher placed over you by your Lord Jesus Christ, and will you support him by your gifts and pray for him always that in his labors he may retain a cheerful spirit, and that his ministry among you may be abundantly blessed” (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, 180).

But I also know the reality.  There are congregations that don’t believe Lutheran theology all that deeply.  Some congregations would rather operate in the way of American evangelicalism. Some congregations would rather sing “Shine, Jesus shine” than sing the Gloria in excelsis and the Sanctus. Some congregations don’t want to practice closed communion, even though it is the biblical and the official stance of our synod – especially when it involves their ELCA family member.  Some congregations don’t want to practice pastoral discipline towards those who are living together outside of marriage – especially when it involves their son or daughter. Some congregations have powerful forces who know it is their church.  Pastors come and pastors go but the congregational leaders are really in charge and they don’t need to follow anyone. There are alligators in the water.

Awhile back under the previous synodical administration there were a series of conferences about the ministry entitled “Who’s in charge.”  You had already learned the answer to that question for the LCMS.  The congregation is in charge.  In a congregational polity, they write your pay check and therefore they are in charge.  They are in charge because you learn very quickly that from the district president’s perspective the pastor is expendable.  You can always get another one.  Congregations can’t be replaced.  Therefore the congregation can do almost anything because no one is going to remove it from synod.

And so here’s how it works.  Influential congregation members decide for any number of reasons that they don’t want you as pastor.  The reasons are not legitimate. But that doesn’t matter.  They begin to work in the congregation to stir up criticism and resentment.  They look for any opportunity to take offense at you.  They make life uncomfortable by refusing to give you a raise and by lowering your health care coverage.

If this doesn’t get rid of you fast enough, they start to contact your circuit counselor and district president.  They are still operating in the church and so they couch their accusations in the form of: “He doesn’t have good people skills.”; “He’s lazy.”; “He’s too rigid.”  The circuit counselor and district president may share the same beliefs as the congregation.  They may not want to be biblical and Lutheran in practice, and so they are only too happy to take its side.  There is talk of “syndical reconcilers” and the like, but the die has been cast.

Finally, the congregation just declares that after such and such a date, it will no longer pay you. Perhaps the leaders have met with the district president and out of “Christian love” they have agreed to give you a six month “severance package.”  You learn that your divine call means nothing because the congregation writes the checks and the district doesn’t want to lose the congregation.

Now I have to be honest with you.  This is not my situation. By God’s grace I am blessed with a congregation that has a long history of loving, supporting and respecting the pastor.  I am in a circuit where the congregations and pastors want to be Lutheran.  I have a solid and supporting circuit counselor (in fact for the last six years they’ve tried to get me to be circuit counselor).  I am in a district that wants to be Lutheran and have been blessed with former and present district presidents who are everything for which a Lutheran pastor could ask. But I have seen so many brothers – so many brothers who were not lazy and did not have bad people skills – mistreated in this way.  They were good men – faithful pastors who were operating under the assumption they were supposed to be Lutheran pastors. I am grieved that the LCMS allows her pastors to be abused in this way.

My first move will always be to believe you and to believe in you.  When I hear accusations against you, my first assumption will be that they are not true.  That doesn’t mean that I will ignore the evidence that arises to support the accusations.  I am a fallen sinner and you are too. I know that there are pastors out there who are lazy; who do have problems dealing with people; who do make big mistakes.  If you see that in me, I expect you to come to me privately and talk to me.  I need to hear the Law.  I promise that if I see it in you, I will do the same.

Because of what the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions say about the Office of the Holy Ministry, there are occasions when you or I may need to be removed.  This is necessary when there is immoral conduct such as fornication, adultery, sexual abuse or theft.  It must happen when there is false doctrine and a refusal to admit this and repent.  It will be necessary if you or I abandon the responsibilities for which we have been called (and the standard of proof on this must be exceptionally high – this is not to be a tool for removing faithful pastors). Where there is clear and unambiguous evidence this must happen.

What I won’t do is speak publicly about accusations as if they were true when there is no such evidence.  I won’t do it because the greatest threat to the ministry of the LCMS is not lazy pastors or pastors with bad people skills or pastors who make mistakes.  The greatest threat is a general denial of the Office of the Holy Ministry and what it means for the way God deals with the congregation and the way congregations need to relate to their pastor.  I won’t speak in a way that supports this denial.  Brother  pastor, I’ve got your back.


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


Mark’s Thoughts — Brother Pastor, I’ve Got Your Back — 92 Comments

  1. @Tim Schenks #50

    We may lose many battles, but the War is ALWAYS worth fighting. How could it not be? EVERYTHING is at stake. Plus, “they” want those that refuse to drink the Kool-Aid to give up altogether. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

    However, I also understand the absolute frustration one experiences when dealing with this mess. For instance, TODAY in my district an SMP is being ordained who openly maintained fellowship (unionism) with a “Pentecostal leaning / openly supports speaking in tongues” church. He gave sermons at their church events and linked his “LCMS” youth to this church’s activities during his vicarage (all verified via video and other media and reported through ALL the proper channels). So, it’s no surprise that today (right now) you can access his “so-called LCMS” church’s newsletter and see them quoting RICK WARREN as a positive source/teacher regarding prayer.

    I think it’s vital to remember that being Christian was never supposed to be easy and at least when we take a stand these days we aren’t stoned to death like our predecessor’s.

    PS: It is open season on confessional pastors. When you find one, treat him well! They are worth their weight in gold!

  2. @Tim Schenks #50
    As my now sainted field work supervisor repeatedly told me, “There is only one thing I dislike about our church body and that is the extent to which religious politics and bickering have ripped us apart.”

  3. @Randy #1
    The key though is picking and choosing your battles. Otherwise everyone and everything quickly becomes an enemy. Why? Because we are all sinners. The battles in your district are well worth fighting. But battles like singing silly songs with your kids or elevating the host more than the offering plate or wearing a clerical as opposed to a shirt and tie or whether of not you should have a childrens message in your worship service are not. I was not in the military, but I was a police officer. You send your officers to the highest crime rate areas and direct your focus there, on the most important “battles”. Otherwise you spread yourself so thin you never really accomplish anything.

  4. @Rev. McCall #4

    Rev. McCall,

    It sounds like you’ve been in the “To Serve and Protect” business for quite some time. I bet you have some stories………. I kind of like the “Police to Pastor” concept, but I digress.

    You make a good point about focusing effort on the key issues. However, as long as an issue is truly “an issue” I think some level of attention must be focused in that area in order to prevent it from growing legs.

    Finally, I like your example of making a police department’s focus be the high crime rate areas. In fact, I think that directly relates to the issues we face in the LCMS. Nobody is policing those truly bad areas. At least not in any visible way. When there is no order, discipline, and accountability people take matters into their own hands and anything can become an issue (which is your point I think). The LCMS is the Wild Wild West these days. Didn’t John Wesley Hardin once shoot a man for snoring?

  5. John Rixe :He’s not all bad
    WARREN: Well, it’s true. I was in the middle of baptizing a large number (827) of people – and in our church we actually put people underwater. So, I was literally lifting these people into the water and out of the water. And I felt the weight of America’s obesity problem personally, in a very personal way. And about number 500, I had a very unspiritual thought for a pastor. I just thought good night, we’re all overweight. And then I thought but I’m overweight. I’m fat. So, the following Sunday, I got up and said I need to lose 90 pounds. And does anyone else want to join me?

    Not bad? What was good in that? How much poison in a glass of water makes it impure?

  6. I just wonder why Rick Warren does not draw what would seem to be the only logical consequence of this experience – which would be wholeheartedly to embrace infant Baptism …

  7. @Randy #5
    I am sure real police work is different. In the movies (a bit less on television, I think) the hero policeman is the maverick. He is not a team player, he does not play by the rules, he does not follow procedure, he does not care what kind of positions others end up in because of his conduct, he does not care about the rights of suspects and witnesses (unless he likes them, or his infallible gut tells him they are good).

    And thanks to generous writers, he ends up being right – always.

    Culture idealises the maverick – whom it is very difficult to distinguish from the renegade.
    In real life, in fact, very often no such distinction can be justified.
    The only criterion for a such distinction is whether you personally benefit from renegade behaviour, or you or someone close to you are victimised by it.

    I think this idealisation of the maverick carries over into what are “issues” and what are not.

    Or to be more specific, I think making yourself stand out as the maverick, the independent thinker, and the non-traditional personality becomes an issue in itself. And I think this happens not only among those who establish their maverick image in their own mind by casting the traditional teachings and practices of the church aside. I see it reflected also in the tendency among Confessionals to brag about how they are always in opposition to “the system”, and how nervours “the system” are about them, and how eager “the system” is to bring them down.

    I see this idealisation of the maverick at work also when someone claims – and perhaps even sincerely – intends to be confessional and traditional, but also insists on maintaining an image of being so in an independent maverick manner. Something along the lines of: “I am as Confessional as anybody, but I am the only one doing it right. I am the only one applying any thinking to being Confessional. I am the only one being Confessional in a loving and decent manner.”

    For of course a such self-image cannot be maintained, unless everybody else, or the vast majority of them, are idiots; like the police lieutenant, or captain, or commissioner, in the movies.

    From this a need arises to find fault, not as much with the opposition (the gangsters), but with other Confessional Lutherans (the brass). The maverick hero has to find ways in which other Confessional Lutherans prove themselves to be not so good as oneself, typically by jumping to conclusions based on mere assumptions, without applying any actual thinking.

    Of course, that others are jumping to conclusions based on mere assumptions, without applying any actual thinking, will often be a conclusion the maverick hero cannot really reach by observing what others have actually said or written (because in real life real people will not always measure up to your prejudices, and everybody else might not be the idiots they are supposed to be, and they might actually have applied a lot of thinking, and perhaps even accounted for the thinking they have applied in what they say and write), the only way the maverick hero can maintain his assumptions and assertions that everybody else is always jumping to conclusions without applying any actual thinking will be to ignore what they have actually said or written and pretend that they have said or written something else, or by making assumptions and assertions about their hidden motives for saying or writing what they have said or written, or even their hidden motives for saying and writing what they have actually not said or written.

    Or in other words:
    The main issue for the imagined maverick hero will often be that what somebody else said or wrote was written by the wrong person, namely somebody who is not me, and therefore not as good as me, either, and therefore it must somehow be made out to be wrong.

    Instead of picking battles the maverick hero ends up fighting battles that really are not battles at all – not until the maverick comes up with them himself, and starts fighting them himself.

    Knowing that he is exactly that (or thinking that he is), namely the maverick hero, the maverick hero will not only see, but also actually treat those who are not his enemies as inventory and extras and supporting characters in the movie in which he is the hero (which is life itself), a mere background for him to perform his show against. They do not have to be taken seriously in any way as persons, and most certainly it is out of the question that the maverick hero should perhaps take a hint from them. They can be casually dismissed and disrespected. Or the maverick hero can rant and rave against them and what he has decided to pretend that they have said or written, or against the motives for which he has decided that they said and wrote what they said or wrote, or what they never said and wrote . It does not matter. They are only inventory and extras, or, at best, supporting characters. And if they have the insolence to object to being treated as mere inventory and extras and supporting characters and instruments for my self-promotion, then they become enemies. Then comes the Nadia Bolz-Weber responses (although adjusted so as to maintain a G-rating), the name-calling, the characterisations, and other childish behaviour that would obviously be embarrassing, if one were not convinced of being the maverick hero. But the maverick hero can walk away, and the camera will no longer follow those who were put in their place by his supercool rudeness because they failed to acknowledge how cool he is – not until the final scene, when the embarrassment will be all on them – again.

    And for the embarrassment of such obviously embarrassing behaviour, if one is embarrassed after all, others are, of course, to blame also. For one is the hero. One is the maverick. One is the martyr. All one did was point out that others were not being Confessional the right way – that they were just jumping to conclusions without applying any actual thinking, and they were not loving enough, and they had the wrong motives – and all this is definitely true, for the maverick hero went with his gut and assumed and asserted so, and the maverick hero is always right in all that he assumes and asserts. And all that which does not fit into the script or the story line, and does not support the image of the maverick being the hero – well, it never really happened. It does not count.

    In general, what I see as one of the most serious obstacles for genuine communication is the failure to pay attention to what is actually said and written, and what is not, and to let what is actually said and written, and what is not, have an influence on the assumptions and assertions one makes about the opinions and attitudes and integrity of others.

    And I suspect that such agendas as self-promotion and maintenance of self-image will often have a lot to do with it, consciously or unconsciously, and behind those agendas, a flawed view of the value of human life – the lives of others, and one’s own …

  8. @Jais H. Tinglund #10

    Point well taken Rev Tinglund. I, nor anyone, should be quick to dismiss another’s battles, arguments, struggles, or “issues.” Doing so belittles that which is important and worthwhile to another. In fact, as I read your post I recalled many times when I intentionally fought what one might consider a lesser battle because it was an area or issue I had particular knowledge, experience, or strong opinions about (including some listed above).

    For the record, I in no way intended to dismiss anyone’s issues in my previous post. However, as I re-read what I wrote I clearly did just that at the end. I was wrong – my sincere apologies to all.

    As always, I greatly appreciate your insight Rev Tinglund.

    Thank you.

  9. John,

    You relate a funny story about Rick Warren I guess to make him come off as personable and likable.

    You illustrate my point again. As it turns out, Rick Warren has turned this stuypid weight thing into one of the mainstays of “his” ministry right now. It is a huge program that he has implemented. He is even using the Bible to undergird the program.

    Why does he do this? For two reasons. One, because he comes out of the Reformed tradition and does not understand the two kingdoms. He thinks that everything is a spiritual matter, even how much a person a weighs and therefore he figures there must be Biblical support for the matter so he creates some waste-of-a-time program, conjurs up a few proof texts, and thinks that such manufactured and false forms of piety are pleaseing to God. I even saw him on national television the other day touting this new program.

    The second reason he does this is because, as I noted above, he does not have any real ministry from Christ because he refuses to speak the forgiveness of sins has Christ has commanded hsi disciples and because he rejects the power of the sacraments to bring that same forgiveness spoken by the pastor.

    I understand you meant it as a funny story but in actuality, it is just one more sign of how messed up Rick Warren is. No one has ever questioned that he is a personable guy who goes through the same foibles that you and I do. He must be personable to have the charisma to attract 20,000 people to church all the while duping them into thinking that weight loss is some sort of wiighty spiritual matter that should be front and center in the church. Please show some discernment.

  10. Randy :
    For the record, I in no way intended to dismiss anyone’s issues in my previous post. However, as I re-read what I wrote I clearly did just that at the end. I was wrong – my sincere apologies to all.

    For the record, that was not how you came across to me. I just just found an off-set for some thoughts in your wild west and police metaphors, so I ran (ranted, some will undoubtedly say) with them – and got pretty far away ….

  11. You relate a funny story about Rick Warren I guess to make him come off as personable and likable.

    Actually, no.  I thought we weren’t supposed to judge motives.  

    This is probably not a good place for mild humor.  Some of us seem to be wound a little tight. 🙂

  12. Talk about issues….my district has a direct link to the Natural Church Development (NCD) website (see link below). My district refers to the NCD as a good source for learning “Empowering Leadership” (whatever that is).

    On the website you can click on any of the blue colored words below the video screen to see this guy’s philosophy on each subject. There’s even one titled “Luther.” Also another titled “Willow Creek” – Bill Hybels church. Unless I’m missing something, this is disturbing stuff.

    Again, what a mess the LCMS is right now for this type of thing to be promoted!

    You would think this would be one of the district battles well worth the fight. But, where do you begin and how do you fight the battle when it seems that the leadership promoting this stuff is so far off the deep end.

    Isn’t this an example of something that can’t be tamed unless the Synod leadership takes a stand?

  13. John,

    I am hardly tightly wound. I just spent this minus 15 degree day in Chicago in my studio painting and framing my watercolors. I then ran out for some errrands to get snacks for the BCS championship game tonight. I also stopped to get some food for Happy Bob and spent 20 minutes ogling the rescue kitties at Petsmart.

    I am not tightly wound. I am just tired of you masquerading as a confessional when you are not. You are are moderate which basically means you are a liberal. So your parish does the liturgy with COWO songs in place of the hymns. That does not prove anything other than that you have some wierd kind of service.

    That is not by the way, what Miguel is talking about. He is talking about doing the liturgy and hymns with a variety of instrumentation, including a bit of a pop sound.

    BTW – your line about judging motives was funny and made me smile.

  14. Cool.  My opinions aren’t coherent nor consistent enough to be labeled anything.  I definitely don’t masquerade as a “confessional”.   All these personal comments seem kind of boring and don’t line up with the “Rules for comments”.  Let’s give it a rest.   Peace of the Lord.

  15. John,

    You are amazing. That is classic liberalism. “I will say whatever I want to say and you don’t get to critique it because I really don’t mean anything by it anyway.”

    You are constantly making theological judgments on this site and you will be critiqued for the good of all.

    I am trying to help you understand where you stand theologically and to help you improve.

  16. @Jais H. Tinglund #10
    A. Thankfully police movies don’t often reflect real life! (At least not in my former department)
    B. You make good points that all should pause to reflect on.

    Here’s the only problem. The internet is a breeding ground for mavericks. Everyone is welcomed to give an opinion yet few recognize that what they are saying is exactly that, an opinion. Then when one criticizes that opinion they are turned on and chastized for not listening or reading carefully enough. Most of the “controversial” postings on this site and the ones that receive the most “hits” are just that, opinions. They have no clear Biblical mandate and should fall under adiaphora. Yet too often we think our opinion is fact. “Why can’t other people just agree with me? I see the logic in my opinion, why can’t you?” Like one poster lamented not too long ago he grew tired of posting on here because anytime he posted anything that disagreed with the authors opinion he was berated. Until we realize that just about everything posted in the comments section is an opinion (and not necessarily an 8th Commandment violation), as are even some of the articles themselves, we’ll never stop creating and breeding that maverick mentality.

  17. @Rev. McCall #19
    Fair observations indeed. It all does begin in the heart and mind of the individual, does it not? And ultimately I am the only one I can fix – and not even that can I do myself – and He who can, well, there is no telling when He will bring it to completion.

    In the meantime, doing our best is the best we can do …

  18. @John Rixe #27
    FYI, I have read through both of Rick Warren’s books (The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life). Though I cannot say regarding his own personal salvation (I leave that to God), what he teaches is clearly false. If you are interested I can send you a paper I prepared responding to his teaching which is antithetical to the Lutheran Church and the Christian faith. This paper was prepared for the purpose of presenting to my circuit and our dp in response to one of our new mission starts using Warren’s materials as the basis for this new “Lutheran” congregation. If a congregation adopts Warren’s theology it is not Lutheran and stands in opposition to the Word of God. There is no other way of putting it.

  19. @Pastor Rick Pettey #22
    A few years ago Vicar Steven R. J. Parks wrote a very well documented critique of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ for the pastors of Circuit 33, the Texas district of LCMS. I’m glad other pastors like yourself have taken the added effort to denounce Rick Warren’s theology. What’s so shameful is that about ten years ago quite a few Bible study groups in the LCMS were reading his book and trying to put a Lutheran spin on it.

    In Christ,

  20. @Rev. McCall #21
    We’ll move along, and probably find something else to argue about in the future.
    And as we do, let us hope that we will learn a thing or two along the way …

  21. @Diane #23


    Scott Diekmann wrote an excellent book review on “The Purpose Driven Life” written from a Lutheran Perspective. It can be found at the following link:

    You’re right about the many LCMS churches that have used it in Bible study groups. Also shameful is the fact that many LCMS churches use Purpose Driven curriculums for their Sunday school and youth group curriculums without the knowledge of the parents and other laity. Most of parents don’t think to question what curriculum is being used in an LCMS church. It had never occurred to me that an LCMS church would use a Baptist curriculum for our children.

    This seemed to me to be a very deceptive way for the church leadership to transform our church into a Purpose Driven Church.

    The were even some in leadership positions in the church who were very aware of the dangers of the Purpose Driven Church, but had no idea it was being introduced to the youth. Only a handful of the leadership knew the true intent of the pastor and a few others. 🙁

    The curriculum was written by Doug Fields who had worked as youth minister at Saddleback with Rick Warren for many years.

    Kudos to the many pastors who educate and warn the laity about such things!

  22. @Amy #26
    Thanks Amy for the link to Scott’s review. I know talking about Rick Warren is far afield from the topic of this thread. It’s like the old children’s game, ‘telephone.’ By the time you get to the other end, the topic has completely changed! 🙂

  23. @Diane #27

    You’re welcome. Happy to contribute a small bit. I feel that I learn so much more here than I am able to offer.

    So true that we seemed to have strayed from the original topic. However, so much can be learned from these tangents at times, and it’s only too easy to link threads that speak of division in the LCMS back to Rick Warren and these crazy CG principals.

    I used to love to play “telephone.” I’ll try harder to resist the temptation. 🙂

  24. @Jais Tinglund #24
    Even more disconcerting is what happened at Concordia Seminary. David Berger had gotten ahold of a copy of my paper and contacted me for my permission to submit it to the Concordia Journal for publication. About a month later I received a letter from the editorial committee of the CJ telling me that while they appreciated the paper they were not going to print it as it was not “balanced” enough. In other words, it was too negative. I guess they wanted me to offer some positive comments regarding his books. I don’t recall Jesus Paul offering a “balanced” view of the false teaching of the Pharisees, or Paul with those in Galatia. So much for truth!

  25. @Pastor Rick Pettey #29

    Sad about Concordia Journal.

    Purpose Driven churches really harp on the following two verses (written below as found it Rick Warren’s membership covenant for the PD churches):

    “So let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of our fellowship together.” (Rom. 14:19 )

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (Eph. 4:29)

    Makes you wonder if CJ has signed some sort of covenant with Rick Warren. 🙁
    These two verses were preached consistently in my previous LCMS church as it was being converted. It discourages people from speaking out against that which they know is wrong.

    BTW, the Lutheran Study Bible has the following for Eph. 4:29:

    “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”


  26. @Jais H. Tinglund #16

    Jais H. Tinglund :

    Lance Brown :
    This post was wrong when it was originally published back in March. It hasn’t improved with age. And let’s not forget that this post was originally published to ….. wait for it ……. CRITICIZE ANOTHER PASTOR for having publicly spoken ill of another clergyman.

    I am not familiar with this being the purpose for this posting.
    Is there a story here that is common knowledge, so that we are all supposed to know about it?

    This describes the reason this post was originally written:

    It was part of the internet/radio/blogosphere/pastoral circuit/e-mail/new media/confessional firestorm that erupted when Dr. Meyer publicly said something critical of a pastor he never named. As usual, critics demanded that he name names AND simultaneously rebuked him for talking about a specific situation. Just as has been done to me and others, he was told to name names AND not name names. He was also publicly criticized for engaging in public criticism of others. And it was denied that what he was talking about was real. AND. the people who attacked him and demanded that we treat our clergy better are the same people who SAVAGE other clergy that aren’t part of their club. Not to mention what they say about and do to laymen (a.k.a. “alligators”).

    There was further discussion here:

    And here:

    I would also note that some of the people who were so incredibly concerned about the economic difficulty pastors face are the same people who ROUTINELY write blog posts condemning everyone in the world (who isn’t an LCMS pastor in their group) for being lazy, for not loving “freedom” enough, for having a victim mentality, for making excuses, and for foolishly expecting life to be fair. Just like they LOVE authority. When they’re in charge. And hate it when anyone else is.

    For the record, there was much more written and said about this. I have only included a small portion of the discussion that I was involved in.

    Also, I am not defending Dr. Meyer or declaring myself his champion. Nor am I commenting on the specific situation he referenced. Nor am I denying that his motivation may simply have been to keep donors happy (as was suggested by others). I have no idea. What I am trying to point out, by thoroughly answering your question, is that the people making these charges, and now recycling old posts, are just looking out for their own. And this is all part of a witch’s brew of church politics, secular politics, ego, financial concerns, and a desire to rule rather than serve.

  27. @Jais H. Tinglund #10

    Jais Tinglund,

    I know I have at times been guilty of falling into this sort of ‘me against the world’ mentality. I can’t speak for the globe, but it is definitely a very American tendency.

    For our context here, I would add that it can sometimes be a ‘us against the world’ mentality. Sometimes the heroes (or mavericks, or martyrs, etc.) are part of a team. They do not always operate as individuals.

    These are my thoughts about a few particular lines of yours:

    “I see it reflected also in the tendency among Confessionals to brag about how they are always in opposition to ‘the system’, and how nervous “the system” are about them, and how eager ‘the system’ is to bring them down.”

    Instead of “the system” I usually hear “LCMS, INC.”, or “the International Center”, and so on.

    “For of course a such self-image cannot be maintained, unless everybody else, or the vast majority of them, are idiots; like the police lieutenant, or captain, or commissioner, in the movies.”

    Replace the “police lieutenant, or captain, or commissioner” with “synodocrats” and District Presidents.

    “From this a need arises to find fault, not as much with the opposition (the gangsters), but with other Confessional Lutherans (the brass).”

    Again, replace “brass” with “synodocrats” and District Presidents.

    “The main issue for the imagined maverick hero will often be that what somebody else said or wrote was written by the wrong person, namely somebody who is not me, and therefore not as good as me, either, and therefore it must somehow be made out to be wrong.”

    For our context, this might be because the person who said or wrote it was not clergy, or was not the right kind of clergy, or wasn’t a Lutheran, or doesn’t have the right politics (secular or religious), etc.

    “Knowing that he is exactly that (or thinking that he is), namely the maverick hero, the maverick hero will not only see, but also actually treat those who are not his enemies as inventory and extras and supporting characters in the movie in which he is the hero (which is life itself), a mere background for him to perform his show against. They do not have to be taken seriously in any way as persons”

    He may even decide that they are all “alligators”.

  28. To use my own police metaphor, some clergy seem to advocate their own version of the so-called “blue wall of silence”. And anyone who violates that rule is part of the “rat squad”.

    Interestingly enough, those who most forcefully promote and defend the blue wall of silence are usually the cops who a) most need to have their actions concealed, and b) are quickest to violate their own rule when it benefits them.

    And the members of this club usually do not include most of the higher-ups (or the brass as Jais said) behind their wall. In fact, those guys are often considered worse than the public (or laity?). But of course not all the public are the problem. Not their families. Not their friends. Not the people who are given special little badges to get out of traffic tickets (or even more serious trouble). And not those who support them, donate to the PBA, give them discounts, and the like.

    Of course this doesn’t apply to ALL police. Nor do my other comments apply to ALL clergy. But there seems to be a denial that this exists to any significant degree. I am frequently amazed at the way some seem to think that any complaint is really just about the way some pastor carries himself, or shakes hands, or how much he smiles. I don’t doubt there are many such petty complaints. I just don’t think that is what everyone is talking about. Not everyone who has a complaint about their local police department (or a specific officer) is just a whiner or a criminal. Cops are people too. Clergy are people too.

    And there also seems to be a great deal of concern for those behind the wall, while most on the other side are just statistics and a hassle and more work.

    There is also a parallel to the fighting and turf wars between various police departments and other law enforcement agencies. This is found in the church as well. And it usually isn’t about the law, or procedure, or the victim, or the gospel, or doctrine as much as it is about personality, power, money, reputation, and ego.

  29. @Lance Brown #31
    Thank you for the context.

    I remember reading about this. Somehow it must have escaped me that Pastor Surburg’s article belonged in this context. But it does make sense that it would.

    I remember actually appreciating that Dr. Meyer did not mention any names.

    I also remember being somewhat surprised that Dr. Meyer left no room whatsoever for the possibility that such accusations against a former student of his could actually be untruthful, or could be the result of misunderstandings or ignorance about specific situations, or that there could be extenuating circumstances behind the Pastor’s shortcomings, or that there could in any other way be another side to the story, nor did he give any indication that such accusations should not immediately be accepted at face value but rather looked into before a judgement was made, or that it would be proper for the plaintiff to discuss the issues with his Pastor in gentleness and respect (as Holy Scripture commands) before pointing his shortcomings out to others.

    I remember thinking that it might be that Dr. Meyer assumed that all this could be taken for granted, and thus could go without saying – and I remember thinking, also, of how wrong this would be, knowing the policy of at least one District President (not my current one) to whom I have had the displeasure of being exposed …

    At any rate, thank you for the background information …

  30. @Jais H. Tinglund #34


    I’m sorry for your negative experience. Unlike some, I don’t doubt that your complaints are real. Nor do I assume that they are just about whether or not that DP shook your hand or smiled enough. I believe there are parish pastors who get treated like garbage by some DPs.

    And I want to be clear that I am not defending Dr. Meyer or praising his service. I don’t know enough. But is it possible that just like you have valid complaints (about other clergy I would note), others might as well? Is it also possible that calls for discussing these issues with individuals in private and in gentleness (as you suggest) might sound a bit hollow to folks when they see so many of the people demanding this refusing to follow their own advice?

    In short, do you see how “Brother Pastor, I’ve Got Your Back” could sound like nonsense when it seems to NOT include lots of pastors? And when this is followed up by calls for greater respect from the laity by men who clearly do not respect many of those in positions of authority above them or many of their fellow pastors (to say nothing of what they think about those under them). Do you see how this might all sound like a bunch of self-righteous, self-serving bunk?

    Again, I don’t doubt that your bad experience with the DP you mention was real. Nor do I think you are a bad person for saying so. I think that people who believe the greatest threat to the LCMS, or Lutheranism, or the Church, is a denial of their pastoral authority are completely missing that they themselves can’t stand the way many in authority over them conduct themselves. Is the problem authority? Or is it people? And by “people”, I don’t just mean the laity.

    As I said before, it is posts like this that make it clear that we are not all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not all sinners in need of a savior. Certain people are brothers and the rest of us are either their servants, their funders, or ALLIGATORS who must be dealt with accordingly.

  31. Lance Brown :
    But is it possible that just like you have valid complaints (about other clergy I would note), others might as well?
    My response:
    Absolutely. And such complaints should neither be dismissed offhand nor immediately and uncritically be taken at face value. They should be looked into and dealt with in a Christian manner, with an eye for Christian love, an interest for the truth, and a concern for the will of God to be brought about by His Word being observed and obeyed.

    Lance Brown :
    Is it also possible that calls for discussing these issues with individuals in private and in gentleness (as you suggest) might sound a bit hollow to folks when they see so many of the people demanding this refusing to follow their own advice?
    My response:
    I can see that. Nonetheless, personal loving and respectful approach and reproach is what God commands (Matthew 18:15-17; Proverbs 25:7-10; Leviticus 19:16-18). Those who demand it of others while refusing to observe it themselves are wrong, not in what they say, but in what they fail to do.

    Lance Brown :
    In short, do you see how “Brother Pastor, I’ve Got Your Back” could sound like nonsense when it seems to NOT include lots of pastors?
    My response:
    As long as I do not know Pastor Surburg personally to be someone who consistently and arrogantly refuses to honour himself what he preaches and teaches, I would not dismiss his Christian love approach and attitude to his brothers as nonsense – regardless of how many other Pastors might transgress in similar matters when dealing with parishioners, and how grievously. The large number of false teachers and preachers and practitioners does not make the truth of God untrue, nor does it make those untruthful who teach and preach and practise it.

    Lance Brown:
    And when this is followed up by calls for greater respect from the laity by men who clearly do not respect many of those in positions of authority above them or many of their fellow pastors (to say nothing of what they think about those under them). Do you see how this might all sound like a bunch of self-righteous, self-serving bunk?
    My response:
    You are absolutely right. The Fourth Commandment swings both ways.
    And to disregard it in your own conduct while wielding it and pleading it against others is not only immensely and ironically unbecoming and embarrassing – it is ungodly.
    In fact, to disregard it at all is ungodly, whether or not you also plead its protection.

    Lance Brown :
    As I said before, it is posts like this that make it clear that we are not all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not all sinners in need of a savior. Certain people are brothers and the rest of us are either their servants, their funders, or ALLIGATORS who must be dealt with accordingly.
    My response:
    I do not really see that that is what Pastor Surburg’s block communicates; certainly not when I read it on its own merits, which is really the only way I can read it, since I do not know anything that would justify me in doubting or denying his integrity and honesty.
    It could be interesting, of course, to see a corresponding blog from Pastor Surburg with advice and encouragement to those who have good reason to be unhappy with their Pastor.

  32. @Jais H. Tinglund #36

    When someone makes it clear that they are part of a group (not one based on immutable personal characteristics or things one has no control over, like race or age) and that they will stand with and defend other members of that group and that group is based on shared beliefs, shared goals, and a common agenda, then you cannot just look at one single blog post and completely remove it from the context of the rest of the group the author is a member of.

    I would not like to see a separate post about what parishioners should do in the circumstance you describe. I would read it. But what I would prefer is to see this dealt with in the same post as the questions of what clergy should do when dealing with their superiors and other pastors who are not part of their clique. I would like to see all of this discussed in the context of what the Bible and the church has to say about authority. And I would like to see some recognition that everyone is supposed to be subject to the authority of someone else. And I would hope that the “advice and encouragement” given to parishioners would be something other than telling them to pray more and give more and focus on their own sins and try harder and be more understanding. UNLESS, that is the same advice given to clergy who have problems with those in authority over them.

    I would also like to see some serious, non-abstract, real-life discussion of what all this looks like in the LCMS and ways in which everyone can do better. I would very much also like to see Surburg and others make it clear that when they say “brother pastor” they don’t really mean all pastors. Or even all LCMS pastors. I would like to see that explicitly stated. I would also like to see people like Surburg, and yourself, take a long hard look at how many of your “brothers” operate in the larger context and not act as if each of these issues is a separate little thing removed from the rest of the world.

    Surburg is often a slightly more reasonable sounding voice put forward by others who show what is really going on in other settings. In much the same way that radical groups almost always have a more mainstream, less offensive, more well-behaved ally or two in the public square. For example, someone else shouts about “manifestos” and declares everyone in the world to be an “antinomian” (while casually redefining that word). Then Surburg comes out with a cleaned-up version of the same thing:

    You may dismiss all of this as “guilt by association”. I think it is simply paying attention to context. Associations matters. After all, isn’t the title and substance of this piece about how much associations matter?

    Interpreting Scripture requires a tremendous focus on and attention to context. I see no reason to abandon context when evaluating other writing.

  33. Lance,

    I’ve witnessed much of the same dysfunction in the LCMS myself. Hence, my comment above about the LCMS being the Wild Wild West. I am simply part of the laity too and can’t offer much more than a verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans that I have often referred to during tough times:

    “2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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 5:2-5

    It’s important to trust God before any other. By your comments I believe you already have done much study. Perhaps you should “take a knee” and do some more (Bible, Book of Concord). Not to become the expert – you and I are laity. But learn some more. Then see what happens.

    I believe God wants us to stand on our own two feet. Hang in there my man!

  34. @Randy #38
    I think Randy is absolutely right, Lance.
    Clearly you have done some studying; what is even more rare (perhaps) you have even some thinking. And in many ways and fairly often I admire the clarity you often display in your analysis.

    I think, though, that you hurt too much; not by choice, for nobody chooses to hurt. And hurt is not so easy to lay aside as some will claim. Whoever till claim that all pain will go away once you decide to forgive is telling you a satanic lie – and not only when it is the perpetrator or one of his associates presenting this as a reason why the abuse should not be dealt with and brought to and, but rather be allowed to continue.

    I think your hurt too often gets the better of you, and particularly when it comes to Pastors (perhaps Pastors of a certain flavour), it gets in the way of the clarity of mind which you are obvious capable to apply.

    Some Pastors are bad. None of us are perfect. Some have weaknesses for which they are doing their best to compensate. Some have weaknesses of which they are not aware. Some are too arrogant to ever become aware of their weaknesses, let alone give room for the possibility that they might have any. Some have weaknesses of which they are very well aware, but are too arrogant to ever acknowledge as weaknesses.

    Pastors are almost as different as all others are. And some are actually good, even though they are not perfect. From what I have seen and read from Pastor Surburg, whom I do not know personally, I would tend to consider him one of those.

    I think you could help yourself make sense of and benefit from what some Pastor are trying to do – on this site and elsewhere, and in their ministries – if you could keep this clear in your mind: we are not all the same.

    What one of us does is not what all of us approve of. What one of us says is not what all of us think. The motives that appear to drive one of us cannot immediately be ascribed to all of us. Each one of us is, in a sense, our own context, separate from others. Whatever one of us says or writes is its own context, also, and the message it conveys should be understood on its own merits, what is said, and, equally important, what is not said – even if that which is not said has been said by somebody else, in that other context which that somebody else is.

    Note, for example, how open Pastor Surburg is to correcting brother Pastors – if they are actually derelict of duty. He is not promising to uncritically cover up for unfaithful Pastors, or even ignore the actual shortcomings of those in need of correction.

    You might want to bear in mind, also, that although it might not be obvious to everybody, Pastor Surburg might actually already be attempting to correct some of his brother Pastors, indirectly, and encourage them to modify their positions, in what he is writing, and, again, in what he is (perhaps very deliberately) not writing.

    I know you could dismiss that as mere lip service. But it does not have to be. And I think it would be wrong to assume that it is.

    And although some of us are Pastors, and thus share an understanding of what Pastors go through, and know things from a different angle, it does not mean that we are all unable or unwilling to understand and acknowledge how things are experienced from the other side of that fence.

    And although some of us share a bond with some that we do not share with everybody, this does not mean that there is not a bond we all share, who are of the faith.

    We are in this together.

    As much as we fail, and as much as we all have to learn, we are in this together.

  35. Perhaps one of the silver linings in this or any article discussion is this as well, people/pastors still care. At times do their emotions get the best of them? Yes. At times do they come across as hypocritical? Sure. At times may they even be wrong? Absolutely. But at least they care. The more alarming thing to me would be if someone wrote an article or posted a comment and no one cared. Apathy is far worse than conflict because in a conflict at least there is the understood notion that there is something worth having conflict about. Dr. Meyer wrote what he did, right or wrong, because he at least cared about what was shared with him. Pr. Surburg and Pr. Wilken responded because they too cared about what was written. Lance, Jais, and Randy all care enough about this topic to continue to post and work through it. That’s a good thing. I am glad that even in your hurt Lance, you still care enough to post and discuss this topic and the context surrounding it. Even if two sides never agree they should never stop caring about the issue and one another. (Kind of like the Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogues 🙂 )

  36. @Randy #38

    @Jais H. Tinglund #39

    @Rev. McCall #40

    While I recognize the kind words above, I must say that I find them a bit patronizing. I am not claiming that was the intent. But it is how I see it. When the talk is about those people over there, everyone is all for fighting battles, attacking, condemning, pointing out flaws, and calling folks to repent. When obvious inconsistencies are pointed out a little closer to home, or when serious but uncomfortable questions are raised, those raising them are either dismissed as being entirely ignorant, or if they demonstrate otherwise, are verbally patted on the head and told that they just need to get their emotions under control.

    This is the sort of thing that leads to the situation Rev. McCall worries about when people just stop caring. It is also part of why people actually thinking may seem rare to Tinglund. Because folks who do pay attention, and read, and think, will end up having lots of questions about all sorts of things that don’t make sense and that contradict other things.

    My comments are not intended as a cry for help. There are people far more in need of sympathy/prayers/help than myself. I live in the greatest country in the history of the world and my life is incredibly easy compared to most people who have ever lived. Most of my problems are the result of my own bad choices or my own sins or just the luck of the draw. I really have tried to make my comments serious, make them about real issues, and not make them all about myself or my feelings.

    Yes, I have emotions. Just like everyone else on this thread and in this world. But if all I have managed to communicate is that I’m upset, then either my points are complete nonsense or I have totally failed to articulate them clearly and effectively.

  37. @Amy #30
    Your comment there, esp. regarding “unwholesome/corrupting talk” brought to my mind the
    scene in Lewis’s “The Silver Chair” where Puddleglum, in plain, “lay” language and with his large, floppy foot in the fireplace, is quite negative regarding the serpent-witch’s hypnotic “doctrine”, but is precisely thereby *very* wholesome and pure.

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