I Applaud Mr. 5/2 Bill Woolsey, No, Really I Do, by Pr. Rossow

Don’t write off entrepreneurs in the church. I know some great churchy entrepreneurs such as Todd Wilken (Issues, Etc.), my partner in ministry here at Bethany, Jonathan Fisk (Worldview Everlasting), Bryan Wolfmueller (radio, publishing, comedy, etc.), and even Matt Harrison who before he headed up Lutheran World Relief put together an ambitious urban renewal project sponsored by his parish (Zion, Fort Wayne), the LCMS and the city of Fort Wayne.

Furthermore I take personal offense to those who cast stones at entrepreneurs “cuz I is one.” I started a publishing company that was a bust (although there are still a few Blue Pomegranate books out there), one of the most read Lutheran blogs (you’re soaking in it now) and a successful church consulting firm for capital campaigns and parish goal-setting (Wittenberg Church Consultants).

From what I am reading of the 5/2 network, Bill Woolsey is a successful entrepreneur, albeit he is about ten years behind the culture and is doing a lot of mimicking. None the less he is bright, creative, a self-starter and can think out of the box. I applaud him for that. The problem is that he blew the doors off the Scriptural and Confessional box. That’s a no-no. The problem is not entrepreneurship. It is a faulty understanding of the marks and duties of the church and even worse, making entrepreneurship the mark and the duty of the church.

There are all sorts of pastors and some of them are entrepreneurs. That’s OK. There are also quiet, plodding pastors, out-going flashy pastors, type A goal-setting pastors, soft-spoken hand-holding pastors, and there are even duck hunting pastors like Big Poppe (Clint Poppe, Lincoln, NE).

All of these types of pastors can serve effectively. In our parish goal-setting consulting work we teach the six duties of the church by C. F. W. Walther: 1) let the Word of God dwell richly in your midst, 2) practice church discipline, 3) care for those members of the parish who are in need, 4) do things in good order, 5) seek out fellowship with other orthodox congregations, and 6) advance the kingdom.

Walther shows from Scripture how these duties are mandatory. How you carry them out is optional. You can fulfill them with an entrepreneurial flair, with plodding, laser-like “anality,” and maybe even with the patience of a duck hunter.

What Mr. Woolsey the Entrepreneur has done in error is to make entrepreneurship the standard by which all ministry is judged and even worse, God save us, he has made it the very essence of ministry itself.

The Church is blessed to have entrepreneurs but let’s never forget that the Church is not dependent on entrepreneurs. The Church could do just fine if it never had an entrepreneur in a single one of its pulpits in any generation. It is more in need of plodders and preservers than entrepreneurs. The Church is inherently conservative. It is our job as pastors to conserve the Word of God passed on from Jesus to the Apostles and to pass it on to the next generation.

I learned a valuable lesson when I was a child. Hardly a Sunday dinner didn’t go by when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s without my mom or dad saying “Well, Pastor Sohn is not the most exciting person in the world and he is not very good with remembering names but he does the one thing we need. He preaches the Word of God in truth and purity.”

I applaud Mr. Woolsey as an entrepreneur and give him points for creativity and style but I rebuke him for mistaking style for substance.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

I Applaud Mr. 5/2 Bill Woolsey, No, Really I Do, by Pr. Rossow — 18 Comments

  1. “I applaud Mr. Woolsey as an entrepreneur and give him points for creativity and style but I rebuke him for mistaking style for substance.”

    Perfect! Thank you Pastor Rossow!

  2. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    Thanks for your balanced and fair analysis of this issue. I agree with what you have written. You personally are a great model of how a pastor can be both entrepreneurial and also faithful to our Lutheran Confessions and Scripture. As you note, President Harrison gets kudos for that also with his housing project work in Fort Wayne, before he became Director of LCMS Human Care and World Relief.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. Dear Pastor Rossow,
    I’m a touch leery here, though I may be thinking too hard.
    From my perspective, the problem w/ “entrepreneurship” in the pastoral ministry is that it asks the wrong question, and sets the wrong goals. Entrepreneurs “succeed” by being “effective;” Pastors are called to be “faithful” not effective. Win or lose, grow or shrink; praise, jail or cross your job doesn’t change. Entrepreneurship seems to make an assumption of ownership vs. stewardship as well, but the flock isn’t really your sheep, and the Church isn’t really your bride.
    Our culture loves entrepreneurs, but it loves a lot of things that have no lasting value. It loves consumerism, and divorce, and abortion as well, and all for the same bad reasons. I think you’re playing too close to the edge. I’d humbly suggest that pastors focus on being “faithful” and leave he results to God.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  4. Matt,

    Good point.

    Be leery for sure. I may be equivocating a bit between entrepreneur and creative to make my point. It is probably better to say that a pastor may have a creative flair.

    But even still, creativity ought to never be the hallmark of a pastor. Conservatism (faithful) is the hallmark.

  5. @Matt Mills #4
    I humbly disagree, a bit. We are faithful to the calling, yet we are to be effective in our delivery of the duties in the office we hold. We are to be effective and use God given skills to (as other threads have said) the best of our ability.

    Paul talks a bunch about that.

    Yet as faithful entrepreneurs, we CANNOT change the doctrine or product (the Word); we can be effective in marketing. Is this bad?

    My goal, to make everyone a Lutheran of LCMS following (true to Scripture and Confessions) in my community. Period.

    You can be faithful and effective; and yes, faithful and not too effective. Or even faithful and a total bust from a human business standpoint.

  6. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #6
    The problem w/ that Pastor, is that you are putting forward something in addition to Word and Sacrament ministry by which the lost are saved. It doesn’t fit w/ AC V. If AC V is part of the “doctrinal product” then any action taken on the premise that one can make Word and Sacrament ministry more or less effective by “marketing” has definitely changed our monergistic “product.”

    We believe teach and confess Pastor that you can’t do anything to make anyone “a Lutheran of LCMS ilk.” That is the Holy Spirit’s job. You are a steward, not the landlord. You’re in distribution, not sales.

    Bonhoeffer does talk about “the place where faith is a possibility.” I’ve never seen a discussion of that concept before, but that might be where this discussion will end up. Still, I don’t see how one can assert that pastoral method can increase or hinder the effectiveness of Word and Sacrament ministry w/o becoming a synergist.

    Pax Christi+
    -Matt Mills

    Article V: Of the Ministry.

    1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.

    4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

  7. Rev. Prentice and Matt,

    I think it is healthy to talk like the old time Lutherans from the 50’s. They had Publicity Committees but no Marketing Committees.

    There is nothing wrong with publicizing the Divine Service and even doing it with the best of quality that you can afford. Marketing the Divine Service however, suggests spin and manipulation.

  8. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #10
    I’m not a writer for this website, but I have a suggestion. We should talk like Lutherans. We should “follow the pattern of sound words.” Talk like our confessions and liturgy talk. Avoid rewording the catechism and liturgy every few years, that we “all speak the same thing.”

  9. @John Rixe #12
    Most of the ordinaries and propers in DS3 have remained unchanged for over 1,200 years John, (and some of them for over 2,000.)

    To quote Chesterton:
    “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. … Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”

    (My pastor usually adds “just like Chicago.”)

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  10. > My goal, to make everyone a Lutheran of LCMS following (true to Scripture and Confessions) in my community. Period.

    I hate to say this, because I believe the Lutheran Confessions are a uniquely true exposition of Scripture, but I think that would be creepy.

  11. Interesting perspective. Being confessional or “conservative” does not mean being afraid of change or entrenched in the status quo.

    Through my website ProfessorHarris101.com I am finding an innovative way to fund donations to my worker-priest ministry.

    I am considering branching out into adult catechesis, bible studies, and international theological education.

    My online video chat format is a medium whose time has come. Technophobes may wring their hands in ignorance and lob loose pleas about traditional locationalism, parish jurisdictions or supremacy of “real” life over online, but these will soon be largely anachronistic.

    Entrepreneurship can be done in a way that respects the church Catholic. It can almost radically forward thinking, while rooted in antiquity.

  12. @Jason Harris #16

    Being confessional or “conservative” does not mean being afraid of change or entrenched in the status quo.

    Lutheran churches especially don’t change good, Gospel-centered, Christ-promoting, confessional practices for the sake of the unchurched or for individuals from other churches who don’t understand or appreciate them.
    The Fire and the Staff, Lutheran Theology in Practice. Copyright 2004 Klemet I. Preus Page 422

  13. @Jason Harris #16

    Technophobes may wring their hands in ignorance and lob loose pleas about traditional locationalism, parish jurisdictions or supremacy of “real” life over online, but these will soon be largely anachronistic.

    I’ve been a Lutheran my entire life but have not heard of these terms you mention. Are the terms locationalism, parish jurisdictions, etc. published on any LCMS websites? If so, which?
    Lutherans, clergy and laity, are hardly Luddites and seem to be very comfortable with the new technologies, including social media. Lutheran education, both sacred and secular, has a prodigious reputation and track record. Lutherans are not exactly snake handlers. In fact, many Lutheran pastors have a solid command of IT and other types of media and could easily obtain employment at most any high tech organization and survive comfortably in the private sector. Some already have. In case you have been isolated and haven’t seen these confessional Lutheran entrepreneurial websites before, I submit a short list for your information and edification:
    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/
    http://www.tabletalkradio.org/content/
    http://www.pastormattrichard.com/
    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/
    http://issuesetc.org/
    https://www.youtube.com/user/faithcapo
    https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLutheranSatire/featured
    http://www.whatdoesthismean.org/
    http://www.adcrucem.com/
    http://www.lhm.org/men/

    Don’t worry; solid confessional Lutherans have embraced the new technologies.

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