A Congregation of Hypocrites and Evil Persons

UPDATE: The pastor concerned has alerted me to an inaccuracy that as been corrected. His church was not in decline.

For weeks we have been justifiably preoccupied with Pastors savaging the Great Commission, and mocking our Confessions. There’s a nasty flipside. I read this weekend of one of our LCMS Pastors being abused by his congregation. It’s all about the root of all evil and that Artemis sized idol – the love of money.

City Methodist Church, Gary, IN. Courtesy Michael Kappel.

City Methodist Church, Gary, IN.
Courtesy Michael Kappel.

In this case an already small congregation had cash flow problems, but it is asset rich. However, the Church leadership cannot bear parting with its savings or selling assets to cover shortfalls, and heaven forbid that leaders should make a sacrificial contribution themselves. No, their solution was for their under-shepherd to make the sacrifice on their behalf – by cutting his salary aggressively. It is no doubt a disproportionate amount of his package, because churches of this ilk like their Pastors impecunious to begin with.

So they will soon have no Pastor to deliver Word and sacrament, but their savings and assets will show a steady balance on the next statement. They seem not to know that a Church without a Pastor (orthodox and confessional that is) is little different from a mausoleum for the living dead.

A little law is in order:

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” ESV — Luke 12:19-21

Here’s a forecast: that church’s barns and storehouses are going to be liquidated involuntarily by a third party that doesn’t care whether the buildings become a chicken coop or a mosque. Alternatively, they could burn through the reserves for the sake of the Gospel, and have a happy, satisfying closure if things don’t turn around. No loss then.

What the Church Is

The Book of Concord says a good deal about the Office of the Keys, and what the Church is, but it says relatively little about we who sit in the pews as an organization. We organize the building fund, arrange the Call, pay salaries, see to it that the grass is mowed in summer, that the walkways are cleared and salted in winter, and that the Narthex pleases every constituency, and a thousand other often irrelevant tasks that seem to bother American congregations.

The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Articles VII and VIII do remind us that nasty fish are caught in the same net as pleasant fish, and that our job is confined to casting nets, not sorting the catch:

The Seventh Article of our Confession, in which we said that the Church is the congregation of saints, they have condemned, and have added a long disquisition, that the wicked are not to be separated from the Church since John has compared the Church to a threshing-floor on which wheat and chaff are heaped together, Matt. 3:12, and Christ has compared it to a net in which 2] there are both good and bad fishes, Matt. 13:47.

So it should not surprise us when we discover carnivorous sheep with a taste for shepherd’s flesh, but it is infuriating to see bold wickedness against God’s servants.

Men Among Us

I can think of nothing more terrifying than taking a first call as Sole Pastor, especially to a small, close-knit congregation. And I have experienced combat.

The images that come to mind are the opening scene from Private Ryan, except there is only one guy in his clericals storming Utah Beach with his library, good intentions, and high ideals trying to shield a young wife and infant child. They know they have to do it, but every step closer brings bombs bursting in air long before July 4.

The reason they have to endure the shrapnel is because the alternative is worse.

The LCMS has a special wilderness for men without a Call. Sinful congregations and vindictive District Presidents can tip them over the cliff into these scablands to be parched and shriveled for interminable periods. They torment them with mirages of lavishly funded, but heterodox, RSOs, “comfort” animals costing $50,000 a pop, Concordia System balance sheets fat with outsize loans, and rebellious clergy being given the green light to be more dissident. These shimmering visions are accompanied by suffocation in the finest talcum powder of press releases about Mercy, and nary a one about Witness.

It is easy to find fault with our Pastors. How about finding mercy in ourselves?

If you see one of your fellow sheep developing carnivorous habits, step in. Cherish good Pastors, come alongside the bad ones. After all, you called them.


Barns-of-MO-Marshall-744x1024Post Script

As the LCMS shows no let up in its declining membership, the 2016 Synodical Convention should be focused on tearing down some barns and storehouses, and preventing the erection of new ones. We have no business doling out money to heterodox flim-flam like Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, or conducting self-indulgent world tours to examine the orthodoxy of other church bodies when our own Synod is being betrayed from within. 2016 needs to be a torrent of resolutions that take an axe to Synodical overheads to ensure that in 2036 we are not reduced to emergency measures. Very lean years are coming, and it is our duty to prepare.


A Congregation of Hypocrites and Evil Persons — 42 Comments

  1. “We have no business doling out money to heterodox flim-flam like Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, or conducting self-indulgent world tours to examine the orthodoxy of other church bodies when our own Synod is being betrayed from within. 2016 needs to be a torrent of resolutions that take an axe to Synodical overheads to ensure that in 2036 we are not reduced to emergency measures.”

    Finally, someone with common sense. Can the CTCR and CCM while you’re at it. And reign in the “God’s Gift of Sexuality Task Force,” which has hijacked LCMS Campus Ministry with its Taboo conference, complete with “experts” on sexuality and homosexuality. Keep in mind the chief purpose of the “Task Force” is to minister to gays.

  2. Noted with concern. The Taboo literature / marketing mentions Jesus… not once. Fishing with a lure or a net?

  3. Eloquently stated, to the point and timely. You capture my personal tragedy to the T. But, all the same, a voice crying in the wilderness, lost in the wind.

  4. I can think of nothing more terrifying than taking a first call as Sole Pastor, especially to a small, close-knit congregation. And I have experienced combat.

    Well, you might try a stint as Associate to a Senior Pr. who will arrange your “disposal” (nothing ‘divine’ about it!) without warning. [Since it was stated that there was no “Lutheran reason” for forcing a resignation, one can speculate, but probably not here.] 🙁

    Maybe the Sr. should have had an SMP, with less invested, for his “use him and lose him” program. Or a licensed lay minister, or an interim; (we have everything in Texas).

    As it is, another good confessional Pastor is on the ash heap. (Although he is popular with all Central Texas as a ‘supply’, you can’t make a living for a family that way.)

  5. It is a good topic,but wasn’t the church in Gary a Methodist Church? How was an LCMS pastor involved?

  6. @Richard Lewer #8 The Methodist church in Gary, IN was used as an illustration for churches once glorious and well funded, that fall into ruin. It does not take long. The LCMS pastor is remaining unnamed for his own well-being.

  7. @helen #7 Excellent points, Helen. And I think the lack of the proper care and feeding of our Pastors – by Congregations and even their seniors – is a great temptation to become a CEO-styled Pastor where you are not subject to the arbitrary and capricious behavior of others.

    There is so much right with our Synod, and so much that is wrong. If it was a secular organization the Human Resource department would do little else except defend improper dismissals etc. And it is not just our clergy. I recently heard first hand of a report of an employee driven out of the International Center by appalling employer behavior. There is no doubt it could have been litigated, but the victims always take the high road.

    We need to encourage / cajole / coerce our elected bureaucrats to fix these problems that undermine our witness and dilute our confessions.

  8. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #12

    I don’t know about that particular case, but in some cases, it’s important that discretion be used in revealing what’s gone on. In one case I’ve come across, the charge was made that the pastor was viewing pornography. Even the district president who wanted this pastor out of the ministry had to admit that there was no basis for that charge. Nonetheless, that pastor’s reputation could have been irrevocably damaged had that false charge been made public. For the sake of pastors and congregations, we must be extremely cautious in what we say and how we say it.

  9. @Alan Kornacki #13
    With what you said, this article is complete junk. One can read it in multiple ways.

    01) This pastor is a bully, berates the congregation to sell.

    02) The congregation only cares about a nice place to be buried in, etc.

    You need to snuff out cancer to treat cancer effectively. You need to know the cancer before you treat.

  10. @Alan Kornacki #15
    OK, I had a Snickers. At first read, “evil flock”. In my opinion and from my work, rarely is the flock evil, just simple people left over since they did not abandon the ship as many others did.

    These people are not trained, not truly capable of handling CEO type issues of a failing business, a failing Church.

    Yes, the districts are not always quick to help, they most likely do profit from the closing of the Church, unless a congregation designates where the final proceeds go before they decharter.

    As for keeping mum on issues like a pastor being charged with sin, etc.; the street already knows, trust me. The attacks of Satan come outside, inside, all around; and yes, may take us out. And other men will step in by God’s Grace.

    I guess before one starts knocking down a flock, or a pastor; it needs to come out. The pastor is a public called figure, the Church is public by their existence.

  11. @Richard Lewer #8

    I believe that I’m the pastor written about in this article (the author did a good job of carefully editing my story that I assume he read last weekend when I shared it somewhere else….Thank you for that). Yes, we are LCMS. And this article is accurate as to my experience over the last few days, except the congregation has not been in decline. We’ve seen some growth in the time I’ve been here, and have held steady for the past three years in our membership and attendance and actually seen significant growth in our giving stewardship every year (so far about 6% increase in giving this year). This is destroying my congregation. I don’t know if we can survive it. I really struggled with what is happening to me…until yesterday…when I started thinking like a pastor again. Many have rallied to my support and I appreciate that. But this is going to decimate my flock. I’m guessing we will lose upwards of 25% of our members…no matter what the final outcome of this. My sheep will be scattered…and I feel powerless to stop it. This is the definition of heartbreak for a shepherd.

  12. Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    @Tim Wood #9
    Why? Why hide? I thought BJS wants to, we should rebuke public problems against a pastor, against a Church, against a flock, etc.
    The call is public.

    This is not a settled issue. It is the recommendation of the Church council to be taken up by the voter’s assembly in a couple of weeks. Making this a public issue would add more fuel to the fire and make it even more difficult to try and minimize the damage that is being done to this Church. Not everyone in the church is guilty of this. There are quite a few who are trying to stop it (Yes, I am the pastor spoken of in this article, I think. I wrote about this issue this past weekend on another site…thank you, Tim for protecting my identity at this time). There must be a time for rebuke, and there will be. It just should happen at the right time. That time has not yet come.

  13. Anthony,

    Take heart. About ten years ago a COWO faction and a liberal faction joined forces in our parish with common enemy – me.

    We had a voters assembly with 710 members in attendance. The Church Council was intent on dismissing me from my call even though they had no grounds and our church growth DP told them not to.

    As a staff we talked them into at least putting reconciliation on the agenda. They decided to make that the first agenda item but if that failed, they would go to the second item – dismissing me. The motion to bring in reconcilers passed 410 to 207.

    We lost over 200 members after that meeting. It was awful. We went from three to two pastors and cut some other staff.

    A band of men and women had risen up to defend the Office of the Ministry and after that meeting they worked on a new constitution for our parish that we still use today. (You can find it on our website at Bethany, Naperville, Illinois.) We did away with a council and went to elder headship.

    Now ten years later our attendance and membership has finally leveled off and is starting to grow. Our school is growing while many are closing. Our stewardship has grown throughout this period. We added back in a third pastor and a full time admissions director for our school. In a month we will be dedicating a new one million dollar music rehearsal and youth building that will be paid for in full the day we occupy it. God is good!

    Keep the faith and keep preaching the pure Word!

  14. @Anthony #20
    I must admit Anthony, Pastor Rossow’s words are good. Asking for outside review via a Reconciler is valid (even though many may call this a waste), but it puts options on the table and forces all to list the problems for a more realistic and proper outcome. Demand it for the good of the Church and yourself.

    I sure hope the CV is there too.

    When tempers and libido force the conversation, “forget about it.”

    Yes, no matter what, you may lose some of the flock. This is typical for God’s people throughout known time.

    Yet what flock is left will be committed to the work at hand and you will be surprised how they will rally for the kingdom.

    And I wonder fellow brothers as I stare at my ordination picture, or the one I recently attended for a new brother in arms (I keep on my computer screen saver); we laid hands on a brother, or were there to install and publicly support the brother.

    Why can we not gather up for support when one brother is in trouble? Be at the meeting to support??

    Yes, we do need to know about it though.

    And prayers for you brother.

  15. @Anthony #19
    And another thought, you ARE NOT POWERLESS to stop it. Pray, both private and corporate prayers for the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, and protect. In the end, God is in charge and no matter what the outcome, He will provide.

    And by letting fellow brothers know, prayers from our end too can arise.

    As for me, I will include you and your Church in my Wednesday Evening Prayer Service.

  16. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #23

    Pastor Prentice, thank you for your words of encouragement and support and especially for your prayers. I discussed this issue yesterday with the brothers in my circuit at our winkel and received their invaluable counsel and support. My DP has been very supportive and quick to get my name on several call lists. I’m preaching on Psalm 46 Sunday and my study and work on that has brought much comfort and strength for facing this difficult situation. “Be still and know that I am God”. Amen! This will make me a better pastor, I can already see that. Though if it goes through it will put an incredible financial burden on my wife and me (The company that my wife worked for closed about a month ago and this drastic cut to my salary will reduce our household income by about 75%….who can survive that?) Yet my hope is in the name of the Lord. If I must bear this cross, I will do so with the dignity befitting the office to which I’ve been called. As long as I’m the pastor here…whether I’m paid or not…I will do the work for which my Savior has called me in this place. Thanks again for your concern.

  17. “My DP has been very supportive and quick to get my name on several call lists….”

    You are in my prayers Anthony. I know what you are going through because I have been there. What worked for me was, I made sure the voters meeting was at a time that my circuit counselor could attend and speak on my behalf. Should the DP be there too? Absolutely. But probably will not happen. I put that quote above because it sickens me to know that thats the best advice the DP can give you. How about a good trained reconciler? The fact is, if this conflicted congregation is trying to run you out then they are going to do the same to another pastor in the future. I’ve seen this happen too. I am sorry you are going through this. This sort of behavior from the congregation should not be tolerated.

  18. My DP is going to be calling the President of the congregation this week to ask about plans for pastoral care and said that he will tell him that if this happens as recommended by the council, he will not assist in the calling of another pastor, nor will he rubber stamp the installation of another man into this congregation. This is serious, I fear that if this happens it will be the end of this congregation. I’m still hoping that enough people will step up to put a stop to this insanity before it destroys both the church and the pastor. Kyrie Eleison

  19. @Pastor Tim Rossow #21
    Pastor Rossow,

    I’m so sorry that you and your family had to go through that awfulness a decade ago. I and my family have visited Bethany a few times when our own congregation has their so-called ‘celebration’ service once a month. Bethany appears to have recovered from the trauma that was inflicted on them because of CoWo, etc. The service at 9am was well attended when we visited.

    Our prayers ascend for the pastor and his family in this post.

    In Christ,

  20. @Anthony #26 I’m glad that progress is being made, Anthony. We will pray for it to be resolved in an edifying way. I am going to update the article to accurately reflect that the church was not in decline when this decision was made.

  21. Pastor Prentice, thank you (and everyone else here) for your support and encouragement. This has been a difficult week for me. I’m very much looking forward to the celebrating the Reformation on Sunday. I’ve found great comfort this week as I’ve studied and written a sermon on Psalm 46. What wonder and assurance there is in the promise that “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. It’s been a busy week, I’m also preaching at our circuit Reformation Service on Sunday afternoon. My DP is getting more involved and asked us to call a Church Council meeting next Saturday, which he will attend. I appreciate very much his attention and counsel in all of this. Pastor Prentice, I’d love to email you and have someone outside the storm to talk with and I’m open to the counsel of all my brothers in Christ. I probably should be able to find your email…but haven’t figured it out yet. I’m still trying to keep this from blowing up completely, so I’m uncomfortable making my primary email address public at this time. You may email me at my secondary email address which is [email protected]. Thank you once again, thank all of you for your expressions of concern and support….and of course for your prayers.

  22. @Anthony #19
    Prayers for all the faithful to discern the mixed messages, that God’s Word continue to be proclaimed, and that you, Anthony, may be supported. So sorry that you are going through this, but through this may your faith ever grow stronger.

  23. All I can say “Anthony” when in doubt or need of communing with God to sort things out, “hop on the ride my man”, get out in the wind and be with God. Know what I mean?

    I don’t think Luther or anyone would have a problem with that.

    And loud pipes DO save lives.

  24. That’s all I’ve got, David. Yesterday was a wonderful day. The Liturgy, the Word, the Sacrament, lifted my spirits and calmed my troubled heart….twice. I preached on Psalm 46 in the morning….perfect reminder to all of us, and maybe especially me in light of what is going on, that “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. In the Afternoon another Divine Service as I celebrated the Reformation with all the churches in my circuit. I had the honor of preaching on John 8 as we rejoiced in our Savior overcoming our prison of sin and doubt and death…and setting us free to live life to it’s fullest as his people now and in eternity. I heard many words of support and encouragement and I praise God for those who reject personal agendas and seek only to faithfully do the work given us in this place as we share the Gospel amongst ourselves and in this community. Today I’m upbeat and optimistic and spending a lot of time on my knees giving thanks to God and seeks his guidance and strength to work through this for the good of his little flock in this place.

  25. @Robert #4

    Once again, put the WORST possible construction on the GGOS task force and what we hope to accomplish at “Taboo.” Why so much ill will toward us? We will be addressing the issues of marriage, sexuality and homosexuality based on God’s Teaching in Holy Scripture. (Oh, and we will mention JESUS quite a bit!)

    Also, yes, the initial focus of the GGOS task force will be to speak God’s Truth in love to those who struggle with same-sex attraction and behavior with the goal of leading them to repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the strength to conform to God’s loving plan for their sexual behavior which is 1) celibacy for those who are single and 2) one man and one woman using God’s gift of sex to celebrate their promise of love confessed in their marriage vows.

  26. @Tim Wood #5

    Tim, don’t worry, Jesus and His Gospel will be lifted high at “Taboo.” Why assume the worst of us before contacting us and asking about our intentions?

  27. @Tim Wood #39

    Tim Wood :
    Pr. Eckstein, I stand corrected and appropriately rebuked. Forgive me.

    Tim, I forgive you and God forgives you.

    Also, I’m sorry if my statement to you came off somewhat harsh. It’s just that I’m so frustrated because some are actually telling people to NOT attend “Taboo” because we will be teaching falsely and promoting sin. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We are attempting to addressing an issue “head on” from Holy Scripture that the world has twisted and thus confused and deceived many people – especially our young people – on the issue of sexuality. We will not only clearly teach God’s Law on this issue (His positive plan for His gift of sex as well as He rebuke of our various sinful distortions of this gift) but we will especially proclaim the GOSPEL – that there is forgiveness and a new beginning in Jesus! I’m very excited about “Taboo” and I hope we can duplicate something like this in other parts of the nation because God has a lot to say about His gift of sex and the world needs to hear Him.

  28. @Pastor Tom Eckstein #40
    Good for you pastor, and you do have a reason to have a stern tone, you stand up for the Gospel and those that stand in the way of ministering to the lost and bringing Law and Gospel to kids and young adults; move away please.

    If the terms you use like TABOO are out of bounds, then I would like to hear from all sides on what it takes to “walk together.”

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