Five-Two and PLI Too

Martin NolandThe recent BJS posts about the “Five-Two” network may all sound vaguely familiar to any of you who have been reading BJS for four years or more. In August 2010, Pastor Rossow did a great article on the topic of “Pastoral Leadership Institute,” a.k.a. PLI.

In my opinion, PLI and Five-Two work out of the same mind-set, which is a “managerial approach” to the church. This approach has great appeal to corporate executives and to pastors who show partiality (James 2:1-13) to those types of guys.

Pastor Rossow’s original post led to a very long discussion by the BJS bloggers following that post, with lots of good content. You really need to read Pastor Rossow’s article and those comments again, because they apply directly to the Five-Two issues.

In those comments, we were directed to BJS regular contributor Scott Diekmann’s article on PLI on his own blog.

In the comments to Pastor Rossow’s article, we also got the standard-textbook PLI reading list, which included Waldo Werning, Reggie McNeal and Peter Drucker (see here).

We have to give some credit to those who have worked on this before BJS came into existence. Jack Cascione did various articles in “Christian News” and his “Luther Quest” blog about the Leadership Network’s and Peter Drucker’s influence on PLI (see here).

Others did even earlier work before Cascione. Georgann McKee and Walter Dissen did criticisms and exposés of PLI, as soon as it became public in 1998. Walter Dissen is now editor at Lutheran Clarion and President of Lutheran Concerns Association, in addition to being a Regent at Concordia Seminary–Saint Louis.

Is it fair to link Five-Two and PLI, which claim to be Lutheran, to these Evangelical groups and influences? The standard-textbook PLI reading list answers that question for PLI. There is no doubt about Reggie McNeal and Peter Drucker’s influence there.

For Five-Two, you should read through Tim Wood’s posts on October 16, 2014 and October 23, 2014. One observation that I would add to Tim’s October 16th post is that Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis had a lot of interaction with PLI since 1998 through its D.Min. program. Due to that influence, many of its graduates have been more interested in this type of managerial approach to the church than they might have been otherwise.

How is Five-Two connected to all this? For starters, go to Five-Two’s own “story”. Go to the second paragraph on that page, and notice that Five-Two got its start from a meeting with a guy named Will Mancini.

Who is Will Mancini? Go to his website. After the heading “Church Unique,” he promotes his book in a video hosted by the “Leadership Network.” So he is connected to the Leadership Network in some way, not as staff, but either as a member, mentor, or some higher-up “leader.”

Then look at the “Leadership Network” here. Scroll about 2/3rds of the way down, and notice that Reggie McNeal is on staff with them. Reggie was one of the favorite church management gurus for the LCMS national offices and in many districts during the Kieschnick administration (2001-2010). Reggie is also required reading for PLI.

Who is behind “Leadership Network”? Thanks to Tim Wood’s October 23rd BJS post, we know it is Bob Buford. Buford’s story is here, where he gives credit to Peter Drucker. You can find more about Buford and his organizations here.

In my opinion, Bob Buford is the key guy and main management guru. In essence, he has adopted Drucker’s theories to the management of churches. You should notice, too, that Buford intends for his organizations to work their influence secretly. Note this quote in the CT article: “the goal was to fly under the radar of other groups. Instead, they sought to make the clients leaders and churches the stars, not the group, and certainly not Buford. Being behind the scenes was exactly the intended role—to be the platform and not the show.”

Why did they do all this in secret? So that traditional-minded pastors and laymen would not be alerted that their theology and practice was changing until it was too late.

Does this influence from “Leadership Network” make Five-Two heretical? No. But it does make them and their work suspect. The recent talk about “Christians as sacraments” and “sacramental entrepreneurs” makes us even more suspicious of Five-Two. We also need to ask whether Five-Two’s cooperation with non-Lutheran groups makes it in violation of LCMS Constitution VI.2.c.

The real issue, in my opinion, with all these “management” theories is the office of the pastor and his relationship to his congregation. The office was instituted by Christ and that relationship was instituted by Christ. Change the essence of either the office or the relationship, and you don’t have either a Christian church or the Christian ministry.

We fought over this issue at the beginning of the LCMS. We decided to accept the biblical doctrines found in Walther’s “Church and Ministry.” That was officially adopted by the synod in 1851 and readopted in 2001. Those who disagree with that doctrine are welcome to leave our synod and start a church with their own doctrine and their own assets.

As a pastor, I have Christ-given duties to fulfill, which were re-affirmed by the 16th century Protestant Reformers. If I am any type of “leader,” it is only by being an example to my congregation (see 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3 “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”).

Many thanks to Pastor Rossow, Scott Diekmann, Jack Cascione, Herman Otten, Georgann McKee, Walter Dissen, Tim Wood, and to all those who have contributed over the years to defend the biblical office of the pastor and the biblical view of the pastor’s relationship to the church in the LCMS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.