Notice the Difference?

The Transforming Churches Network paradigm for the Office of the Holy Ministry:



Rev. Dr. Martin Luther’s paradigm for the Office of the Holy Ministry:Luther on OHM
You can download Scott’s nine-part series on the Transforming Churches Network here. The TCN quote comes from their Facebook page. The Luther quote comes from Luther’s Works, Volume 75, Church Postil I, pp. 120-21.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.


Notice the Difference? — 35 Comments

  1. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    This series by Mr. Diekmann is a classic. If you have not read it, download it and read away. If you wondered, “TCN” is listed as an RSO of the LCMS (see Lutheran Annual 2014, p. 733). Thanks to Scott for his research and persistence on this subject over the years.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. Thank you for reminding us that there are wolves roaming around seeking whom they may devour.

    I know we are not supposed to look at motive, but, having married a salesman, I can tell you that many authors and speakers are worshiping the almighty dollar to the point that they will skew numbers to fit their stories, just to earn a royalty. I’ve been to so many mandatory Zig Ziglar-ist presentations over the years, that I can spot a hustler after about two minutes of listening to them. I have to wonder if TCN leaders have learned that lesson yet.

    I think many pastors and laypeople need a healthy dose of distrust when these “motivational” speakers start spouting numbers without solid documentation. Mostly though, they need a solid knowledge of Holy Scripture, the BOC and Luther’s writings.

  3. Scott,

    I just finished reading your nine-part TCN series. A most excellent piece of work, Scott. Thank you for doing it. You did a first-class job ferreting out the specifics and details of this disturbing movement within the LCMS, including topics of covenants, BoDs, heterodox reading lists, the notion that “ineffective” pastors are asked to move on, etc….

    One of the sad aspects of this program is that many of the laity unwittingly contribute money to the TCN debacle via their District (if that district supports TCN, as mine does).

    For those who have not read Scott’s work, please do so. TCN has permeated the LCMS. If Scott will allow me, here’s a “teaser” from Part 8 of his analysis of TCN:

    “How did we get to this point? Most recently, by a lack of catechesis of the laymen and an abandonment of doctrinal integrity in favor of pragmatics by those who espouse TCN and other Church Growth Movement (CGM) programs similar to it. We have become much more interested in waving a flag around and gleefully exclaiming “Look at me!” As catechesis has waned, a theological vacuum has been created, which has been backfilled with our own works. If you were to remove every CGM thread woven into the fabric of the LCMS, by now the king would have no clothes.”

  4. “And” interesting addition?

    From the get-go, this tastes like FAIL.

    N is pretty far away from D on any keyboard I’m familiar with. Alas, such poor attention to proper detail is the rule, and not the exception (as seen via Luther’s paradigm) where TCN is concerned. It is a sad state of affairs indeed when the foxes are not only inside the walls of the hen houses, they find themselves there at the behest of those who are charged with knowing better than that. 🙁

  5. If you watch the (youtube) video “TCN Seasons of Discovery”, at the very beginning,
    “Jesus says, you are the light…This is what has happened to so many of our churches. The light wavers on the edge of extinction and we are to blame.” And at the very end, “For the church to know what its God-given mission and vision is for the community and carry it out so more people will spend eternity with Jesus.”

    Apparently, the Spirit does not work where and when He pleases, but pastors and people are to blame if the church is not growing or closes; and the Biblical (and Lutheran) doctrine of election is false. If only we have the right plan and do the right things, more people will be in heaven.

    Note too, 1 of the key TCN “Hinges” to grow a church is “Inspiring Worship.” Of course this does not mean liturgical worship described in the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions.

  6. @helen #10

    Kieschnick, Kieschnick, Kieschnick. I believe Kieschnick brought it in with his “Ablaze” effort and the current leadership doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stop the madness, or at least discredit this damaging initiative. (BTW, Kieschnick is making a guest appearance to a church near my home next month – there is much rejoicing by the CGM crowd).

    Therefore, Helen brings up a great question. What IS the process to remove an organization from the RSO list? I’m actually afraid to ask. Let me guess:

    It requires a resolution, a convention, a motion, a vote, a Task Force, a lengthy study, more deliberation, another resolution, another conven…..tio…………n,………… “Hey, does anybody remember what we were trying to resolve? No? Oh well, Status Quo. Now everybody, put away your bible and the BoC, we are going to “fast track” the adoption of Max Lucado’s, ‘The Story’ into our liturgy.”

  7. TCN is a great pastime for fad driven congregations. After you have done things like the 40 Days of Purpose, Beth Moore, and Financial University you can keep it going with a little TCN ministry coaching. There will be plenty of time for biblical teaching and Lutheran catechesis later.

  8. @Randy #11
    I don’t know the process of removing an organization from RSO status, but I do think President Kieschnick was a fine example of the use of the TCN model in the LCMS. He didn’t grow the synod fast enough, so he had to go.

  9. @ross #13
    Hmm. Now that we have the BRTFSSG restructuring in place, who *is* responsible for RSO status? BHES blocked PLI from RSO status back in the late 90’s, and they got LCMS Foundation or LCEF moneys before they ever actually received that status via another route, if I remember correctly.

  10. @ross #13
    He didn’t grow the synod fast enough, so he had to go.

    By all reports, the synod shrank faster in the first decade of the 21st century.

    But the stories I was told were about a “super contemporary worship” service at convention. The tellers theorized that the sheltered souls, who hadn’t realized what “contemporary’ could mean, decided that, if this was the future of Synod, they didn’t want it.

    YMMV! I’m sure there are other theories out there.

  11. @helen #15
    I was only jesting. I may be wrong, but I seem to remember one tenant of TCN being that if a congregation didn’t grow under a pastor’s leadership, he agreed to leave after a set time. Accordingly, if President Kieschnick followed the tenants of TCN he would have voluntarily left the office of President after a set time. The voluntary part obviously did not happen. What little I know about LCMS politics makes me doubt that Kieschnick was let go simply because he wasn’t producing.
    The “super contemporary worship” service theory makes a lot of sense.

    @Rev. David Mueller #14
    I would be surprised if they do, but maybe the current administration of the LCMS supports TCN. I haven’t heard either way.

  12. During/After the restructuring, TCN lost financial support form Synod. Part of the downsizing. But it was only about $200,000. Districts still may support and subsidize. RSO status falls under National Missions, I think. There is a spot that is supposedly looking into these things. But I think only a small few (2-3?) entities have lost the status. I wish a few more would. I think Pres. Harrison is on the right track, and has done some things, he needs help. At least he has gotten some better appointments put in place at the International Center, but we also need to elect good board members when we can, a la Pr. Noland’s post. I would say his biggest bug-a-boo is the COP. Until we turn over a number of particular men there, change will be stymied. Because the DP’s will promote whatever they want in their districts, which influences those members, who then make questionable decisions when they serve the church at large.

  13. ross :…but maybe the current administration of the LCMS supports TCN. I haven’t heard either way.

    Well, based on the LCMS website, one would think that the current leadership supports TCN. If they don’t support TCN then why is this baloney still on their website? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

  14. Scott Diekmann,
    I so appreciate your series on the Transforming Churches Network! It sounds like old repackaged Leadership Network stuff (Tangible Kingdom, Church Unique). I’m part of a group trying to form a new LCMS congregation via a certain non-geographical district. Tonight we have a meeting with a DP from our geographical district to tell him why we are not interested in going in the direction his district is taking which includes TCN. God bless you!

  15. @Randy #18

    As much as I respect Rev. Harrison (which is to say, enormously,) I don’t think I’d put words in his mouth either way. We would know what he doesn’t support, if he were to publicly use his office (or the Office) to tell us that– like he did with Congress recently, relative to the Affordable Care Act mandates.

    Unless he stands up publicly and either endorses or denounces our Synod’s specific public errors, we really can’t say where he stands on them… except to say, that these public errors have not moved him to speak publicly on them.

    He may well be doing things in private, and likely many good things, at that. But the public witness is all we can reference reliably. I really wish he would show the same public passion against our errors, as he did against the secular government’s errors… but that’s not a realistic expectation of modern politically elected church leaders.

  16. Good piece, Mr. Diekmann!

    This raises the issue of fraternization, too. Sometimes I wonder whether or not the WELS is on the right track with their sharp cutoff from American evangelicalism. Because it seems like evangelicalism’s bad ideas are quite contagious.

  17. @Randy #21

    Yeah, he’s one of them on my short list. I am grateful another one is finally retiring, so that will be interesting, seeing the shakeup. I tracked that last cycle, when we had changes in DP’s. Generally went in a better direction, but not all, and not by much. Remember, the Titanic (or any big ship really) didn’t’ turn on a dime.

    Also, the Concordias. Great to have Adm. Gard at Chicago, an enormous improvement. Bronxville had some vetoes, so Viji George stayed on. Have to see when a change happens there. CU Austin/Texas is bumbling their way through selecting a new president. Remember, these schools teach our pre-sem and other church workers. As well as some being involved with lay ministry programs.

    If Satan is going to be relentless attacking all all sides, we should be just as vigilant staying steadfast to the Word on Confessions. Let’s get leadership anywhere and everywhere that dislikes TCN et al and stop using/promoting it.

  18. Scott:

    First, I wanted to say I appreciate this thread and wanted to say, keep up the good work. Obviously I have a new volume of Luther’s Works to get.

    @Randy #21

    Hey Randy and others:

    One thing I did notice about this video sponsored by TCN and the other similar videos sponsored by TCN on Youtube that were in the column on the side. The TCN videos had only had about 120-140 views. And this is the case, even though they have been up at least since last year, sometime.

    Then I compared this to the ACELC video, “If Not Now, When,” which just came out this summer. It has been on Youtube for a month only. Already, the whole video itself has 2,808 views. And other people have also watched the video, split into parts (Part I has 1,102 views and Part II has 598 views).

    At the very least, this shows that the ACELC video has been hugely more popular than any of the TCN videos on Youtube. Maybe it is TCN that needs to “unlearn” a few things about how they “do church”?

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  19. Rev. Robert Mayes :At the very least, this shows that the ACELC video has been hugely more popular than any of the TCN videos on Youtube. Maybe it is TCN that needs to “unlearn” a few things about how they “do church”?

    Rev. Mayes,

    A keen observation. I didn’t look at the number of views.

  20. @Scott Diekmann #28

    Oh man. Scott, now I have three new volumes of Luther’s works to get!

    Actually, I am woefully behind in getting the new volumes of the series. I wish to. If I had an unlimited library fund, unlimited shelf space in my study, and unlimited time to read, the new volumes of Luther’s works would probably be the first books I would get and devour. As it is, I only have the library fund that I do have; I need to find shelf space for some books that are currently sitting in a box on the floor of my study; and I do not have unlimited time at my hands, either.

    As it is, CPH should be commended and all the fine scholars who are contributing to them for producing such great Reformation and Luther resources.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  21. @Rev. Robert Mayes #29

    Well Pastor Mayes, I guess I don’t have the discipline to have a library budget, which may explain why I seem to acquire books way faster than I can read them! (It also explains why I’ve got books in the den, the living room, the attic, and our son’s room.) I subscribed to Luther’s Works, so I at least get them at a 30% discount, and they come automatically.

  22. TCN is focused on making NEW disciples only. When a TCN-friendly pastor declares “We’re going after the millenials,” beware! When the music (and musicians), acoustics, instruments, furnishings, pulpit, baptismal font, and who-knows-what are all modified in order to appeal to the millenials, look out! When those who prefer traditional worship learn that they “have to give up something” to appeal to millenials, run for it! By the time the old-timers cry, “We didn’t vote for this!” it’s too late.

    A generation (or two generations, perhaps) of poorly catechized laity partially accounts for the rush to TCN. They have given up their birthright (of being fed Word and Sacrament) for a pottage of savory but poisonous stew consisting of “relevant worship,” “get to work preaching,” and Pastor-as-CEO polity. The TCN program of making only NEW disciples leaves the care and nurturing of the “old” disciples in the dust. Church Growth Synodical leaders and pastor bear the rest of the responsibility.

    TCN is simply the latest mutation of the Church Growth virus.

  23. @Rev. Robert Mayes #32

    Thanks, Pastor. But it is Scott Diekmann who got us on track. I’ve had a ton of experience with TCN at the congregational and district level, and it is definitely a bogosity as Scott so aptly demonstrates. I owe a lot to him for exposing this “Kudzu” as he call it. To make matters worse, many congregations are moving to a Carver model of “governance,” which is just TCN without some of the bells and whistles, but with the pastor acting effectively as CEO. It’s just as dangerous as TCN. The Gospel is bypassed for numbers.

    By the way, in case anyone thinks I am revealing any confidences in my post #31 above, rest assured it is an amalgam, formed from reports of various congregations.

  24. @Joe Strieter #33

    You amalgam accurately describes my previous congregation and why I left. I sensed it early on with the new called pastor, and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Held on to complete a Thrivent commitment (another entity really accelerating down the drain) and waiting for my wife to come around. She was getting there, and when our daughter was born and they revamped Sunday school to be fun-and-games VBS, that quickly got her to give up the ghost. And I have gone thorugh CArver’s (kinda) at that congregation, and it’s what my district uses at the Board of Directors. Really can’t stand it, and do my best to work within it. It’s a challenge. Sad we want to act like a business and not the Church.

  25. Every time I hear the Carver system is being used in LCMS circles, I imagine the devil laughing with glee as a truly orthodox confessional entity follows the teachings of a Mormon. The problem is they think they are just gleaning the good stuff and throwing out the chaff. From my point of view nothing could be further from the truth. Carver has been around for nearly two decades and a lot of havoc has been sown as a result. It kind of reminds me of all the district conferences that spend their thousands to support Marriott and yet believe no foul, no harm – just ignore that little black book in your nightstand. I know I’m flirting with piety, but a little discernment here would be nice. If you play with pigs, you’re going to get muddy.

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