A Suggested Overture on the Transforming Churches Network

BJS is compiling a list of proposed overtures for District Conventions and the 2016 Synodical Convention which can be found here.  This overture comes from the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (ACELC).  A more extensive list of overtures suggested by the ACELC can be found on their website.

To Ask the CTCR and Seminaries to Evaluate Transforming Churches Network

WHEREAS, The Transforming Churches Network (TCN) is listed on the Synod’s Web site as a “Recognized Service Organization”; and

WHEREAS, Although it is concerned for the health of existing LCMS congregations, TCN determines a congregation’s health based chiefly on numerical measurements and sociology such as attendance numbers and financial giving but not on its adherence to the teaching of the Scriptures or the Lutheran Confessions; and

WHEREAS, TCN advocates changing the main emphasis of a pastor’s duties from “being the lead caretaker of the existing congregation to the lead missionary to lost people in the community” (“Pastor Survey,” TCN, question 7a http://web.archive.org/web/20090529230302/http://portal.revitalization-lcms.com/Portals/0/5%20Pastor%20Survey.pdf), thus diminishing the pastoral care of the Law and Gospel that pastors have historically provided to members of the congregations they serve (Jn. 21:15-17); and

WHEREAS, TCN initially asks pastors to see how comfortable they are with this statement, “If we do not achieve the 5% growth goal in the next 24 months, and 5% growth annually thereafter, I will put my name out for another call” (“Pastor Survey,” question 8d), thus suggesting that the man who is divinely called to be a pastor is only effective if he meets preset worldly standards, even though both Jesus and Paul did not always find such worldly success in their ministries (Jn. 6:60ff.; 2 Tim. 4:9-16; Acts 17:1-9); and

WHEREAS, TCN also asks congregation leaders to determine if “The leaders of this church hope to initiate a style of worship service that appeals to unreached people” (“Leader’s Survey,” TCN, question 3e [http://web.archive.org/web/20090529230850/http://portal.revitalization-lcms.com/Portals/0/6%20Leaders%20Survey.pdf]), thus suggesting that a congregation’s worship style should be based on sociology instead of the Word of God as it has been taught in the Lutheran Confessions, or that a congregation’s worship style should be changed even if it exclusively uses the approved hymnals of the Synod; and

WHEREAS, The Holy Spirit alone is responsible for converting people to saving faith by His Word and Sacraments, when and where He pleases; and

WHEREAS, Jesus in Matt. 23:15 teaches that a strong missionary zeal without the proper biblical and Christ-centered doctrinal teaching is spiritually dangerous; and

be_transformed_goldWHEREAS, We as Christians are called to be in this world but not of it; therefore be it

RESOLVED , That the _________ District memorialize the LCMS at her next convention to direct the CTCR, Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne to give a theological evaluation of the premise, methods, and materials of Transforming Churches Network; and be it finally

RESOLVED , That this theological evaluation be completed and published in The Lutheran Witness within a year of the completion of the next LCMS convention.

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.


A Suggested Overture on the Transforming Churches Network — 77 Comments

  1. @Rev. William Ringer #23

    @Alan Turley #21

    1 Corinthians 1:18
    TCN is a “build it and they will come” model. That’s the whole point of its format – to transform the Church into something else so that they will come.

    Hasn’t TCN has been around long enough to ask: “You’ve built it. Have they come?”

    Anyone willing/able to answer that one?
    [If not, how many “praise” preachers have moved on because they didn’t achieve 5% growth in multiple years?]

    Just wondering!

  2. An inconvenient truth for those who say “all I see on this site are comments from those who oppose evangelism efforts” is the plethora of posts on BJS that are interested in evangelism, and the comments of readers who are interested in evangelism. Here’s a short list of a few of those posts. It’s likely a minority of the total posts on the site, I just got tired of looking. Of course if you define evangelism as “everyone a minister” then you won’t find what you expect to find.



































  3. @Scott Diekmann #52

    An inconvenient truth for those who say “all I see on this site are comments from those who oppose evangelism efforts” is the plethora of posts on BJS that are interested in evangelism…

    The “drive-by shooters” who come on any list to demonstrate their superiority with rudeness and arrogance aren’t interested in reading or learning what the group they are condescending to is about.
    I wonder if they go about “saving the lost” with the same attitude, and how much success it has! I suspect that they have a little social club and not much more.

  4. @Scott Diekmann #40
    Good idea,
    As I am delving into Luke and how he treats this (vocation of a believer), and how Luke relates to how an OT guy would follow the Lord…”long story short”, you are right, evangelism, outreach, whatever you call it is simply “what we do.”

    Or should do…of course, when we are able to speak the Truth.

  5. I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I see the role of the church(all Christians) is to take the message of salvation to all people.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my concerns and beliefs.

    I do pray that God will guide and enlighten all of us.

    Alan Turley

  6. @Scott Diekmann #52

    Thank you ,Scott for this added info. After looking at some of it. It appears to reflect the concerns and differing opinions about how and who are to reach the lost. Kind of like my comments.

  7. @helen #51

    It has been. And, well, maybe they have… maybe they haven’t. The better question is: If they have come, how many of them were “unbelievers/lost” before they came?

    After-all, isn’t the whole CGM business about reaching the lost? That’s what the liberals cry: Confessionals don’t care about unbelievers! More than likely, if you walked into any Non-Denom congregation (where most of these models like TCN and 5/2 come from) and asked the average person about their faith background, they would name some other congregation in the area that they used to attend. Few would say they were an unbeliever. Most if not all would say they were “raised” as something, even if they rarely attended that particular church. All these trendy models are about one thing: attracting poorly catechized Christians away from their own congregation – sheep stealing – and calling it evangelism.

    The reality is that unbelievers don’t just walk into churches because they heard about a congregation having a great Christian praise band.

  8. @Alan Turley #55
    Thank you for your charitable response Alan, and thank you for looking at some of the links I provided. A couple of comments on your responses:

    1) I too “see the role of the church(all Christians) is to take the message of salvation to all people.” We don’t disagree about that. It’s a question of how, not whom. I think that was pointed out in some of the quotes from Dr. Schulz’ book that I previously provided.

    2) I too agree that pastors should, as you said in part in a previous comment, “equip the laity to be eager and comfortable in sharing their faith with others.” Again, the question is how. This sounds like an Ephesians 4:12 question (which was also explained in the book I referenced). Lutheran theology teaches that it is through our vocation as Christians that we share the good news of Christ with our neighbors, and bring them to church, where the Body of Christ gathers, so that they too can receive Christ’s gifts. Those who want to turn everyone into a minister are on a distinctly non-Lutheran theological track which perverts Scripture, denigrating the Office of the Holy Ministry.

    3) Pastors “equip the laity to be eager and comfortable in sharing their faith with others,” primarily by thoroughly catechizing them. That catechesis involves apologetics, so they know how to defend the faith and confess the faith. Then you can be a witness without all the fancy programs which Lutheran theologians might call activism or self-made works.

    4) I know of no Lutheran who thinks only pastors can speak the Gospel. Maybe there’s somebody out there somewhere like that, but I’ve yet to meet him or her. I don’t know of any BJS author who thinks like that. I know many BJS authors who are very excited about evangelism. I have a bunch of confessional Lutheran friends who are or were missionaries, including BJS authors Pastors Joshua Gale and James May. I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of Lutheran laymen out there who are very good at telling others about Christ but don’t show up for the evangelism meetings and have no special training beyond what they’ve learned in church and their own study of Scripture and our Confession.

    5) I don’t agree to disagree. That’s like saying there is no truth, or we each have our own truth.

    There is of course a lot more that could be said, but I’ll leave that to some of those authors I pointed to above.

    Your eternal debtor in Christ,

    Scott Diekmann

  9. @Alan Turley #43

    Alan Turley,

    A couple of things.

    The point of my facetious response to “Get them in church by any way possible,” is that “any way” is just that; ANY way. With the argument you put forward, you can raise NO objection to ANYTHING anyone can come up with to get people “in church,” even strippers and beer. And as T-rav was so kind to point out, I wasn’t being all that facetious after all. Pole-dancing – and much, much more – has already been used as a “way” to “get the Gospel” to “sinners” – and based on your argument, you have no basis from which to say it’s not a good idea.

    Secondly, your response to my post wasn’t a refutation of the point I was trying to make. To simply throw out, Jesus went “to where the sinners are” as a response to the assertion that “‘Any way’ literally means ‘ANY way'”, is a non sequitur. It makes no sense in the context of what went before. It doesn’t in any way refute, or even address, the argument I put forth, nor answer the question I asked you.

    Lastly, let’s just suppose there is some logical connection between “‘Any way’ literally means ‘ANY way'” (the thrust of my argument), and “Go to where the sinners are! Didn’t Jesus do that?” The only way this response makes sense is if you are arguing that when Jesus went “to where the sinners are,” He used strippers and beer to get them to listen to Him. Near the end of my post, I asked you to confirm if that was what you actually were asserting, because, as I think I demonstrated, it is the logical conclusion of the statement I was addressing. If that IS what you are arguing, I have serious issues with your “theology.”

    In parting, I will leave this; Jesus didn’t just “go” to where the sinners were. He continues to come to them. Which is why I go to church every Sunday; It is where He has promised to be, and, as a sinner, I need what He distributes there.


  10. @Rev. William Ringer #57

    After-all, isn’t the whole CGM business about reaching the lost?

    So they say. But even Dwight L Moody admitted that what he really did was move people from one pew to another. I doubt our feeble imitators do much better.

  11. The Reporter article, “LCMS congregations report statistics for 2014,” is out. This year there was a 92 percent reporting rate compared to a 59 percent reporting rate for 2013. The 6,105 LCMS congregations now have slightly less than 2,100,000 members. The 2014 data also indicated that of the 9,122 ordained clergy members in the LCMS, 61 percent are congregational pastors, 6 percent are serving in other capacities, and 33 percent are retired.

    Based on these and previously released data, here is one graph, LCMS Congregational Membership & Trends: 2000-2014.

  12. @Rev. William Ringer #57
    Dear Rev. Ringer,
    I disagree with you on a few points.

    01) Sheep stealing does occur, but that is not the over arching reason for all the new fangled stuff. You may have had a local problem, it is not for all.

    02) We simply do not know why some walk into our doors? They are lost, dying, in need, hungry, whatever; and we as a flock try and care for them. Me with the Word mainly, the flock tries to comfort the needs earthly.

  13. @Scott Diekmann #64
    Dear Scott,
    I will differ with you on that in this sense, yes, it IS the Holy Spirit that does the work that opens the Gospel to them, otherwise as St. Paul tells us, it is just utter foolishness.
    Some do come because the Holy Spirit urges.
    Some come simply because they think we have a handout (we are a Church you know they think).
    Some are dragged in for the food.
    And we provide them the Word, and the Holy Spirit acts.

  14. @Pastor Prentice #65

    Yes. There are also those who have sat in the pew for months or years who are unbelievers, yet part of the visible Church – what the Confessions would call a hypocrite.

  15. @Scott Diekmann #66
    And yes, I agree with that. Sad, but true. And I hope, truly hope that the Holy Spirit would bust them and get them to belief. But the Holy Spirit acts on His time.
    But as long as they sit in the pews (at least at my place), they will hear Scripture, hear good hymnody, be loved; I will do my best to offer all I can offer.
    And when that pew sitting bum does express belief, the saints (and I and you) will rejoice.

  16. @Pastor Prentice #63

    1) I wouldn’t say it is a local problem, because I don’t even know what local is anymore. I’ve lived in five different communities over the past twelve years. Most of the CoWo congregations that I know of are filled with former members of other congregations. The modern seeker sensitive / CGM models are primarily useful for attracting Christians who aren’t happy with their own congregation for a variety of reasons. Or, these new Non-Denom congregations filling store-fronts are planted by disgruntled former members of an area congregation so they can do their own thing. Being a 30 year old Millenial who in his youth visited many of these congregations with friends, I can say with some degree of confidence that this is fairly common. The reason why the young folks attended? Their friends invited them to the church they were raised in by their boomer parents. The unchurched folks who came to these congregations came for one of the primary reasons any unchurched person walks into church – a friend invited them.

    2) Sure, I’ll admit that I occasionally paint with a broad brush. There are many reasons why unbelievers grace the doors of a church. But, I won’t say it is because of contemporary/revitalization efforts. I’ve met and known a fair share of atheist and agnostic identifying individuals – again, I’m a Millenial, I’m part of a highly unchurched generation. The last question on their mind about a church is what kind of music it has. Perhaps there are some unbelievers who enjoy the top Christian Rock/Pop hits, but I doubt many are partakers of that genre of music. Baby boomers tend to appreciate that genre more than younger individuals. Most Christian Contemporary music that I have encountered is highly outdated from a genre perspective.

    In response to Alan,

    Perhaps we got off on a wrong foot or something? I’ve never said that Christians should not reach out to their neighbors, or do evangelism. I do know what is most likely to draw unbelievers into a congregation though. It’s called an invitation from a friend. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it. What mattered more to them was that I was sitting next to them in the pew, not the style of music or whether or not we had enough fancy stage lighting.

    Here’s the thing Alan. Perhaps your impression of me is that because I’m on this site, that I’m some stuffy LCMS bubble product. Granted, I have been a Missouri Synod Lutheran my whole life. Sure, I’m a 2013 graduate from CTSFW, the scary conservative seminary. However, I attended public schools, got my bachelors degree in Religion from an ELCA college, played guitar in punk bands for a solid ten years, have tattoos on my fore-arms – though my ear piercings have since healed up. And yet, with all of this, somehow I came out on the other end as a confessional (at least I hope so) and liturgical Lutheran.

    I’ve seen the damage that watered down theology and false theology can do. I sat in an interpreting the Bible class at a liberal university where the professor asked up front – how many of you are Christians. Most raised their hands. By the end of the semester, few raised their hands when the question was asked again. I’ve spent more time around unbelievers than I have around believers. I’m no expert on missions or evangelism. But, I do know about relationships with a variety of people with vastly different backgrounds. And at the end of the day – I’ll repeat this again: The best way that I know of to get an unbeliever to come to church is to simply invite them. To sit with them, to pray for them, to love them, to patiently teach them, to point them to the cross of Jesus and let God handle the work of salvation in their heart that they may be adopted into the Church by grace. Sure, it also helps to have a basic understanding of what it is your church believes so that you can answer any questions or concerns they may have. If a lay person feels uncomfortable doing this, or ill equipped to do so, whose fault is that ultimately?

    With that, I will gladly depart in peace on this topic.

  17. Excerpt from TCN Leaders Survey
    e. The leaders of this church hope to initiate a style [practice] of worship service that appeals to unreached people.
    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; KLEMET I. PREUS; COPYRIGHT ©2004; CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE; PAGE 422.

    b. If the pastor steps up to make serious change happen in this church, I will submit to his leadership.
    25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Luke 22:25-26

    a. Our pastor has the leadership skills to move this church in a new direction that focuses on outreach to the community.
    Qualifications for Overseers (Or bishops; Greek episkopos)
    3 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to lead teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 1 Timothy 3:1-3

    9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:9

    Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” not “Lead my sheep.” John 21:15-17

    In the Church, the power or authority of the ministry consists in preaching the Gospel, forgiving sins, administering the Sacraments, and excommunicating persons guilty of public sins. This is the only authority or “right” the Church’s ministers have.
    Editor’s note, page 303
    Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions-A Readers Edition of the Book of Concord – 2nd edition
    by McCain, Paul T, General Editor

  18. Hmmm,
    The more I think about it, style IS different than theological content.

    Back to my premise on worship, it is still God to us, as opposed to praise, which is us to God…style does differ, yet does not truly affect theological content.

    There is much style that can be brought into a, let’s say LSB DS 1 setting. It depends on the people you serve.

  19. @Pastor Prentice #71
    Dear Pastor,
    I fear you’re either thinking too hard here, or trying to push the envelope. As an ordained LC-MS Pastor w/ a quia subscription to the BOC 1580, when your congregation gathers corporately your vows require you to use one of the services provided in the LSB, LW or TLH. You can’t just roll your own, calling it “praise” rather than “worship.” That’s sectarian. AP XV clearly proscribes unnecessary unilateral changes to the Church’s historical liturgies. The Church already has both sacramental and non-sacramental liturgies that properly blend God’s gifts and our response, so relax!
    God bless you Pastor, the good news here is that your hands are tied! You needn’t fret about what services to use, or whether the (fill-in-the-blank) demographic likes it. You’re not the owner of the vineyard, you’re the steward. Say the black, do the red, and enjoy your little glass of Wittenberg beer. This is really simple: you are free to stop stressing and fretting about what to do in addition to the Hauptgottesdienst. You want to follow the DS w/ a non-sacramental service? Use Matins; it’s not your responsibility to invent liturgies, and that should be liberating not constraining.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  20. @Matt Mills #72
    Dear Matt,
    Yes, I do over think things (at times).
    In reality, I only use LSB, and there are plenty of opportunities to allow for different setting changes, musical variation.
    In reality, I am old school; leaning to high Church.

    Now I contend, LSB settings are good and great worship settings. Very little praise, ubless you contend hymnody is priase, but after we sung “Salvation unto us has come”, I even told the congregation, why preach? But I did!

    But as you say, “ease up”.

    Yet from the tome of the talk here, it will be interesting as a Synodical Delegate, I do wonder how much worship talk will come up?


  21. @Pastor Prentice #73

    “Very little praise”? The Gloria in Excelsis starts with the praise of the Christmas Angels and only gets more awesome straight through, Pastor. Likewise, the Sanctus combines the (I’m assuming perfect) praise of the angels in the very presence of Almighty God, with the hosannas of the Palm Sunday crowds at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in a way that expresses both Jesus’ true divinity, and His imminent real presence on your very altar. (If you don’t go weak at the knees during the Sanctus …)

    If you’re looking for non-sacramental praise liturgies, you needn’t look further than Matins and Vespers because for my money it’s impossible to beat either the Te Deum, or Magnificat as “praise.”

    Anyone who says that the traditional liturgies of Christianity have “very little praise,” needs to read and study them again. (It’s like hearing “I prefer saltine crackers because chocolate cheesecake isn’t rich enough.” The mind boggles.)

  22. We Praise You and Acknowledge You (LSB 941)

    1 We praise You and acknowledge You, O God, to be the Lord,
    The Father everlasting, by all the earth adored.
    To You all angel powers cry aloud, the heavens sing,
    The cherubim and seraphim their praises to You bring:
    “O holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth;
    Your majesty and glory fill the heavens and the earth!”

    2 The band of the apostles in glory sing Your praise;
    The fellowship of prophets their deathless voices raise.
    The martyrs of Your kingdom, a great and noble throng,
    Sing with the holy Church throughout all the world this song:
    “O all-majestic Father, Your true and only Son,
    And Holy Spirit, Comforter—forever Three in One!”

    3 You, Christ, are King of glory, the everlasting Son,
    Yet You, with boundless love, sought to rescue ev’ryone:
    You laid aside Your glory, were born of virgin’s womb,
    Were crucified for us and were placed into a tomb;
    Then by Your resurrection You won for us reprieve—
    You opened heaven’s kingdom to all who would believe.

    4 You sit in splendid glory, enthroned at God’s right hand,
    Upholding earth and heaven by forces You command.
    We know that You will come as our Judge that final day,
    So help Your servants You have redeemed by blood, we pray;
    May we with saints be numbered where praises never end,
    In glory everlasting. Amen, O Lord, amen!

  23. “My Soul Rejoices” (LSB 933)

    1 My soul rejoices, My spirit voices—
    Sing the greatness of the Lord!
    For God my Savior Has shown me favor—
    Sing the greatness of the Lord!
    With praise and blessing,
    Join in confessing God, who is solely Mighty and holy—
    O sing the greatness of God the Lord!
    His mercy surely Shall rest securely
    On all who fear Him, Love and revere Him—
    O sing the greatness of God the Lord!

    2 His arm now baring, His strength declaring—
    Sing the greatness of the Lord!
    The proud He scatters, Their rule He shatters—
    Sing the greatness of the Lord!
    Oppression halted; The meek exalted.
    Full are the hungry; Empty, the wealthy—
    O sing the greatness of God the Lord!
    Here is the token All that was spoken
    To Abr’ham’s offspring God is fulfilling—
    O sing the greatness of God the Lord!

  24. @Matt Mills #70
    That is a good article by Robert Mayes, titled “‘Equipping the Saints’?: Why Ephesians 4:11–12 Opposes the Theology and Practice of Lay Ministry.” He does a great job of exegeting the text, and placing Ephesians 4:12 squarely within justification and the Gospel, rather than the wrong Law-driven “equipping the saints” mistranslation. Quoting the article:

    Do lay people also in turn serve their pastor and other lay people in various ways? Of course. That’s what the doctrine of vocation is all about, not to mention self-sacrificial giving. But to say that this in any way makes an allowance for lay ministry, as defined throughout this article, is beyond the text, and is simply incorrect. It is quite a stretch when modern English versions use “equipping” to translate καταρτισμὸν. This phrase in Ephesians 4:12 should be translated “for the completing/perfecting of the saints,” which has also found academic support.
    And this translation casts the lay ministry debate in a whole new light.
    “The completing/perfecting of the saints” sums up the sacred duties of the apostolic office. Here, the chief article of justification is now involved. How are people, broken by sin, made complete and perfect? By no means is it by having lay people do works, not even the work of doing ministry! Rather, being complete and perfect is most certainly by grace through faith in Christ! No one can fulfill the demands of the law in order to be made whole. No one can add anything of salvific value onto Christ without robbing Christ of his glory. But Christ’s righteousness becomes the sinner’s by God’s grace. He who has Christ’s alien righteousness through faith is complete, whole, and charged perfect.

    You can purchase a copy of the current Logia here: http://www.logia.org/shop/

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