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.


Five-Two and PLI Too — 25 Comments

  1. Thanks, Dr. Noland. This is important stuff. It all boils down to this: Five-two and its fellow-travelers effectively ignore Augustana V, which states in part: “To obtain such [saving] faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.” However, to these folks, apparently preaching is all about technique, and the sacraments can be administered by just about anyone. So much for the “Office.” Like TCN, the Office of the Ministry has become the Administrator of Ministries, or “CEO of Works” and after all, as Oscar Fuecht teaches, “everyone is a minister.”

    If one closely examines Five-two’s theology, it becomes apparent that large pieces of the Augsburg Confession are ignored as well, for instance AC XIV, regarding a “rightly ordered call.” BJS does well to call attention to this error-filled “movement.” I use the term “movement” with some caution, as TCN also defined itself as a “movement.” Like TCN, Five-two is simply another mutation of the Church Growth Movement (there’s that word again), whose efforts lead away from Christ the Savior, and towards Christ the Life Coach, at best. Viewing the sermons (or more accurately, “pep talks”) on the Crosspoint (no “e”) website is instructional. If you watch and listen closely, you might get a Chris Roseborough “Gospel Nugget.” Maybe. Don’t hold your breath.

  2. Way to go Pr. NOland! You have written in a clear and lucid way. You point out the concerns which, I believe, ought to be addressed in an equally clear and lucid way. There is truly nothing new under the sun; it seems that we need to address this concern in at least every generation. I do not believe that we should have to wait for the Synod to meet in convention before we again “affirm” Walther. May it be that the Lord of the Church will cause us all to be settled and straight-forward in the conduct of the ministry for the good of souls. Thanks again for writing so very clearly.

  3. Is anyone considering asking their congregation to submit overtures to their District Conventions about FiveTwo?

  4. Great historical writing Martin! President Harrison should read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this post.

    About the only thing I would add is this. How I long for the days of Waldo Werning. At least he twisted Lutheran theology with modern semantics that gave us false teaching that was understandable. These guys speak with such a twisted post-modern language that you can’t even dialogue with it.

  5. Just read the “Five Two’s own ‘story'” link in Dr. Nolands’ report above. The Old and New Testaments are mentioned, but that’s about it. No Jesus, no salvation, none of that stuff; nada.

    So, their ‘story’ could just as well be talking about opening a new chain of hamburger shops, or shoe stores. This is all about them. Well-intentioned, perhaps, but curved inward, so far as I can tell.

    “The Gospel assumed is the Gospel denied.”

  6. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    Great historical writing Martin! President Harrison should read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this post.
    About the only thing I would add is this. How I long for the days of Waldo Werning. At least he twisted Lutheran theology with modern semantics that gave us false teaching that was understandable. These guys speak with such a twisted post-modern language that you can’t even dialogue with it.

    Altho a bit dated, this Glossary of Church Growth and CW Terminology ought to help:

  7. “Those who disagree with that doctrine are welcome to leave our synod and start a church with their own doctrine and their own assets.” –Noland

    Why should they leave? “Inside” they’ve got district presidents [PLI trained?] funneling “missions” money to them. “Outside”, they’d have to compete with Joel Osteen for money and he’s way ahead.

    Texas district will not fund a “traditional” [Lutheran] mission start.
    Why then do Lutherans fund Texas District?

    Do you need to ask the same question about your District?

  8. @Harry Edmon #3

    Brothers in Christ:

    Harry Edmon raises a point that needs to be considered and perhaps reconsidered. He asks about submitting overtures to conventions about Five-Two.

    But if this is truly about the theology of AC V, as Joe Strieter mentions (@Joe Strieter #1 ), and I think he’s right, then going to submit overtures to conventions is not the correct way to go about it at all. You don’t get to vote on doctrine. Maybe that’s one of our downfalls in this age is that our first thought is to submit overtures about doctrinal matters that we should be having absolutely no vote about.

    With matters over Scripture and the Confessions, you have to first try to engage the other brothers that you disagree with about the point in question, and try to show them their error. And if they cannot see their error (or if they refuse to listen to you, as is the case of how the Five-Two guys are not wanting to respond to public questions raised by Todd Wilken, Chris Rosebrough, and others), then it can go to a different level.

    Someone may know more about this than me, but false charges can be raised and/or filed against such pastors. I also realize that with the new process of dispute resolution is a confusing and unwieldy document to read, let alone to have to go through. From what I have gathered, the new process doesn’t actually result in anyone being labeled a false teacher, and it appears to favor the heterodox more than the orthodox and takes a lot of time to do it.

    Maybe with this in mind, there needs to be a better way to do it than what we have. Nonetheless, I’m still of the mindset that overtures for conventions may not be the best way to go. Doctrine is already decided by God in His Word and is already clarified in our Confessions, and therefore is not up to us to vote on. $.02.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  9. @Rev. Robert Mayes #11

    You are absolutely correct that we should never vote on doctrine. But I would like us to vote on ‘adiaphora’ and church governance. The DRP is designed to reconcile. (can’t we all just get along) Unfortunately, it is also designed to almost ignore truth, what is right and wrong. That is where we should focus overtures.

    Visitation has gotten some attention. Maybe that will help. related is also supervision. IN the deacon realm, A LOT of talk is about supervision, but it is haphazard, sometimes non-exsistant, and usually (in my opinion) devolves into power and control.

    Which brings us to the relationship of the SP and the COP. Do we have a synod, or an e_ca style confederacy? Any studies of early U.S. history (founding fathers and Civil War i.e. CSA) shows that a confederate style governance isn’t a panacea at all. Yet DP’s seem to have an absolute power within their own fiefdoms, especially when Policy Governance reigns.

    So let us elect better leaders, faith to the Word, and let us bring our operations into a more Biblical and Confessional meme.

    Hopefully my $0.02 can bring us up to $0.04. Pray for our Synod to call upon the Lord.

  10. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    “Jason” and Pastor Robert Mayes (comments #11-12) have excellent points here. The restructuring of the adjudication system for the LCMS in 1992 resulted in a system where the District Presidents determine the theology of their own district in several different ways.

    1) They can pick and choose which seminary candidates come into their district through the seminary call process. That power has been vested with DPs for a long time;

    2) In most districts, they have an enormous amount of influence on the doctrinal content of church-worker conferences and the doctrinal issues that come to the floor at district conventions. This is another power that has been vested with DPs for a long time;

    3) They administer the adjudication system for disputes and expulsions, with the ability to terminate a case for any reason–thus quashing attempts at doctrinal discipline. This was a new power vested in them in 1992;

    4) They know how to use the CCM and CTCR to get a favorable ruling that must be followed in dispute/expulsion cases, including those with doctrinal issues. This was a new power invented in 1992;

    5) They can refuse to deliver church-worker information to congregations and schools seeking to call candidates, thus “black-balling” a candidate from his district. They can also “highly encourage” a congreation or school to call someone they know. There is no specific bylaw that permits this practice, but also none that forbids it. I don’t know when this practice became common.

    I know about this one (#5) personally, because the present C-N-H district president recently refused to give my PIF and SET to a calling congregation in his district “for cause”–cause not specified to them or to me. That is my home district, and I have a lot of friends and relatives there, so they report to me what is going on in that district.

    The adjudication powers came to the district presidents in 1992 through a restructuring that essentially folded the old LCMS judiciary into the LCMS executive branch. We no longer have an independent, objective, non-politicized judiciary since 1992. So if a district president wants to protect a heretic or heterodox pastor in his district, that is quite easy to do–and he will suffer no penalty for it.

    Bylaw Section 2.15 ensures that the district president is protected, since even if the synodical president brings charges, the Hearing Panel (composed of district presidents) will exonerate him. This aspect of the bylaws is an epiphenomenon of an “old boys network” mentality (see ).

    Unless—UNLESS—members of that district take note and work on getting themselves a new district president. That means finding a good candidate, publicizing his good qualities, and publicizing only the FACTS about corruption or misconduct by the present erring district president—remember Sergeant Joe Friday “Just the facts, ma’m!”

    You all still have some time before the deadlines for nominations for district offices. In Indiana District, we have until April 26, 2015 to get our nominations in. Here in Indiana District we have one of the best and most experienced DPs in the synod, so I hope he is willing to serve again for at least one more term, if not more.

    Whoever knows that their district president is protecting the heterodox theology or heterodox practice of heterodox pastors in their district should start doing something about it–NOW! The clock is ticking . . .

    As to the dispute/expulsion bylaws, I am working on that, and should have a flow chart and analysis posted here soon for everyone to study and use.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. Martin R. Noland #13

    Well…..this is just down right depressing. Your post has confirmed what I’ve long suspected. In my instance, I guess I might as well throw in the towel.

  12. @slalom5 #15


    Don’t give up. First off, you might have a perfectly good towel in your possession that doesn’t need throwing away.

    More seriously, I would imagine this is like what the Eve of the Reformation was like, or what the Diet of Worms felt like for Luther. Be faithful. Be vocal. Don’t give up. Our strength is in the pure Word of God and its right confession of the faith.

    God has given this great opportunity for us to learn His Word ever clearer and His Confessions too, so we might say this and this practice is wrong, acc. to such and such Word. It’s God’s way of making us even more bold and fearless, and knowledgeable too.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  13. @Rev. Robert Mayes #16
    While I appreciate the support, I’m afraid the odds are against me (and others in my area). We’ve already experienced the suppression, if not outright elimination of some pastor applicants. I only found out about it after the fact – speaking to them directly – not on second hand hearsay. I never revealed to them that their names had NEVER surfaced when they put out a call for new pastors.
    Second – our DP has made himself very visible and has wildly promoted the CGM, CoWo, etc. and our current pastor has bought in lock stock and barrel. It’s cost us longtime core members – school teachers, SS teachers, choir members, elders, and a host of committee members. Add to it that 3 of the 4 area churches are under control of this church, while the one independent is even more “progressive”. I’m left with little choice but to turn to alternatives denominations or go it alone.

  14. @slalom5 #17

    Perhaps you can find a “solid” pastor 20 or even 30 miles away. You’ll have to live with a longer drive to Church, but there’s worse things.

  15. @slalom5 #17

    Any chance of contacting the longtime core members along with the others that are in your area that have been suffering with you, and starting a mission Confessional congregation? You could contact the pastor applicants you spoke to directly as the only basis for your call list. It sounds like you need to be loved and you need the pure teaching of God’s Word, and these charlatans aren’t giving it to you.

    Just because a DP hands you a list, doesn’t mean you have to read it…

    Don’t turn to alternative denominations yet. You need the pure truth of God’s Word. The LCMS still gives it. There are faithful LCMS pastors who would love to be called to such a mission church, and who only want to preach the true Lutheran teaching. Various commenters on BJS may themselves know of such faithful men who are in this position.

    In the meantime, listen to some good and faithful preaching online at such places like this (not my church, by the way):

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  16. @slalom5 #17
    It’s cost us longtime core members – school teachers, SS teachers, choir members, elders, and a host of committee members.

    All those people didn’t just sink into the sand; can you all get together and form a small congregation? Someone wrote that a dozen families, all tithing, could provide for a pastor at about 80% of their average income. (80% assumed that the pastor tithed, too, and that they sent 10% to “missions” of their choice.) [Personally,I wouldn’t feed the hands that bit me.] It would take a few more people if you rented space to meet, and everything would have to be kept simple.

    Your sponsoring congregation doesn’t have to be “next door” but they need to be confessional. In the beginning you might have a pastor come in once a month for communion and advise you about obtaining sermons for lay readers on three other Sundays. [Yes, I suppose you might organize Matins around listening to an on line sermon, or listen to one of the congregations which broadcast their whole service on internet.]
    I’m not fantasizing; these things are being done. Sometimes they are initiated by CRM’s who develop their own congregations in this way, and other places, the organization starts with laymen like yourself who want pure Word and Sacrament ministry.

    Ask one of them how to start. Some of them read this list.

    I see I’ve duplicated some, sorry!

  17. @LadyM #21


    You mentioned Ken Chitwood. I checked, and I don’t see him listed on the LCMS website as a rostered pastor. Am I missing something? He gives sermons at Crosspoint all the time. He’s also a key player in FiveTwo and Crosspoint’s Leadership Institute (CLI).

    Again, I must be missing something. The link below even states that he’s a Pastor-Intern and served twice a month at Memorial Lutheran in Katy. Somebody please help me understand. I know Woolsey doesn’t care who preaches, but is this another example of that, or does this man have credentials that are not public?

  18. @Randy #22
    All I know is he is a trainer for the LCEF on their “Leader to Leader: The Business of Ministry” page. Whenever I went to the homepage of the LCEF this sentence was caught my attention: “Keeping churches vital in our communities may require (re)building and (re)transforming from the inside out.” With leaders like Mr. Chitwood on board, I have to wonder what rebuilding and retransforming they have in mind in our “business of ministry.”

    Also, I checked the Memorial Lutheran Church website and could not find his name listed on it. Perhaps I, too, am missing something?

  19. UPDATE on the elusive Ken Chitwood:

    Chitwood is also a forward-thinking Lutheran theologian, preacher & popular speaker who accents ‘glocal’ 21st-century Christianity. As a “theologian without borders,” his interests include global theologies, multi-cultural ministry, & the contextualization of doctrines & practices across religious boundaries, physical borders, & cultural barriers. Weaving together historical context, societal exegesis, & a fair dose of ironic humor, Ken seeks to write and speak with power, love, & sound mind.

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.