FiveTwo Gains LCMS Support Whilst Scrubbing Lutheran Distinctives

Business Consultancy FiveTwo has upgraded its WikiConference to a ‘National Conference’ that convenes in Austin, Texas next month. The reboo51AUDHA2sSL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ted event is a hybrid TED / Willowcreek Global Leadership Summit clone offering a menu of Christianized pop sociology, corporate vogue, and entrepreneurial motivation. In FiveTwo parlance, it’s about integrating “sacramental theology with entrepreneurial best practices”.

The conference draws heavily on Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) support via its attendees, many of whom are subsidized by their Congregations and Districts.

FiveTwo was rooted in a LCMS congregation in the Texas District, but now has a measure of independence after its founder, Bill Woolsey, resigned his call last year. Even so, FiveTwo remains deeply embedded within the Synod despite its lack of official recognition and bleached Lutheran identity. It receives generous funding from LCMS districts like Michigan, which has  earmarked some $3 million for FiveTwo instructed “start new” projects.

FiveTwo’s 2016 conference is even more of a festival for syncretism and unionism than the 2015 event, which suffered a star-power outage when Tullian Tchividjian withdrew.

LCMS Lutherans should not be participating in FiveTwo’s conference because it so obviously mingles truth and error, and confesses mostly a confusion of Scripture. Participants will protest that the conference does not meet the standard for unionism set out in the bylaws of the LCMS or rulings of the CTCR. Fortunately, we don’t rely on Handbook or committees to benchmark pure doctrine.

That has not stopped districts like Indiana from enthusiastically promoting the organization’s “vision fueling” models for church and mission. It’s a conference where you probably won’t hear anything about reaching unbelievers using ready-made evangelism tools like the Small Catechism, but you will hear a lot about the accomplishments of the speakers and their ‘movements’. It’s more of the Christ-lite, cross-lite gospel of the be-nice movement.

The vision spin is not merely figurative. In one promotional video, a rostered LCMS pastor claims to have received a “vision from God to start three new churches in five years”. The vision is later described as “my muddled thoughts”. Another promotion talks about “visioning and listening”. Visions from God have been a hallmark of FiveTwo’s spiel for years, and the allusions to Henry Blackaby’s vision casting and God-experiencing are plain.

The peculiar thing about vision receiving and casting in the LCMS is that it requires a paid consultancy to come to fruition. By contrast, God’s strategic and tactical plan for the church He instituted is free, plainly set out in Scripture, and helpfully clarified in the Lutheran Confessions. There is no need to adulterate pure doctrine with your visions, mission statements, core values, or determination to make the simple complex. God’s plan is timeless and universal instead of narrowly cast to the whims of urban Westerners refined in the fire of selfie taking and hash tag making.


FiveTwo’s 2016 Conference certainly cannot be accused of choosing speakers with a common confession. There is not a single Confessional Lutheran voice in the entire schedule even though it relies on LCMS members to fill seats. This is the Shadow Synod in reality and action – LCMS pastors, congregations, and districts who have decided to consciously forsake what it means to be in fellowship, and are seeking to de-catechize Lutherans.

We’ve summarized the speaker slate below. The only obvious and glaring omission is FiveTwo prodigy, Frank Hart, who is now “Lead Minister” at NewChurch. Hart wears the unique title of “Sent Minister” — apparently sent by Oikos Church. Hart is not rostered with the LCMS, but NewChurch is (corrects error in original). The sending and calling stretches credulity.

Skye Jethani

Pastor in the Christian & Missionary Alliance. C&MA is a run-of-the-mill American Evangelical clan that rejects the sacraments, has a Dispensational eschatology, promotes charisms, and denies the simul.

Phil Vischer

Creator of the funny but horribly moralistic Veggie Tales. He’s sorry for Veggie Tales, but remains firmly planted in the Evangelical world.

Graham Singh

Anglican priest and evangelist for the charismatic Alpha Course (to the point that he claims it “awakened his faith” – so much for the sacraments). Singh’s wife is also ordained as a priest in the Anglican church, and works with Graham as a church planter.

Jamie Ivey

Podcaster whose husband is the “worship pastor” at The Austin Stone Community Church. As implied by the name, it’s a church deeply soaked in modern American Evangelical ideology – synergistic, softly charismatic, Dispensational, everyone a minister, big on core values / mission statements, and determined to “live the Gospel”.

Paul Bienawski

Oil and Gas businessman teaching on Biblical principles for start-ups.

Preston Ulmer

Vision caster for the very hipster Doubters Church, which is an outgrowth of the Doubters Club. The Club “pairs believers and atheists” in “safe spaces”. It’s difficult to understand the purpose of either beyond offering atheists who lack confidence in atheism the chance to talk with Christians who are skeptical of Christianity. Yeah…

Abigail Miller

Christianish crowdfunding via WeRaise and affiliated with LCMS RSO Wheat Ridge Ministries. Wheat Ridge also serves ELCA and the NALC. Very ecumenical.

Dominic Rivkin

LINC LA; another iffy LCMS RSO.

Alan Graham

CEO and founder of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a Catholic agency serving the homeless.

Don Christian

President and CEO, Concordia Texas and publisher of a leadership blog.

Jonathan Martin

Self-described sacramental hillbilly Pentecostal mystic. He’s only kidding about the sacramental bit. He’s a teaching pastor at Sanctuary Life Connection Community in Tulsa, Oklahoma where there are no sacraments.

Katie Evans

Director of ACTS of Love Early Childhood Education Center.

Gabe Kasper

Founding pastor of ACTS Church Leander. It is a Lutheran square peg in an evangelical round hole. Apparently, the Incarnation as an adventure project.

Christian Cryder

CEO/Founder of Lazarus Brewing Co and Pastor at All Souls Church. All Souls is another friends hang-out that markets itself to doubters. Being a doubting Christian is all the rage again because it’s supposed to signal your humility and non-judgmentalism. It’s mostly a way to avoid hard answers and actions that require a commitment to the truth. For example, everyone agrees to disagree on abortion or fornication, but disagrees to agree on things like the Creeds and the Confessions.

Sharla Megilligan

School and missions to the Dominican Republic. It’s hard to tell, but the theological foundation appears to be very Evangelical and based on the category error of living the gospel.

Dawit Bokre

Eritrean ministry leader at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Hayward, CA. The church is heavy on “embodied mission” whereby unbelievers’ hearts are softened by the changed lives of Christians rather than Word and Sacrament.

Pete Mueller

Vision-casting, communication, and leadership development for the ACTS Church Network, which defines its culture as “Adventure, Community, Transformation, and Sending”. Imagine the LCMS gone Southern Baptist.

Delton Weiser

Founding pastor of Point of Grace. The LCMS Locator says the name is Point of Grace Lutheran Church. However, you will not find a reference to the LCMS or Lutheran-anything on the PoG web site. You will find big promotions for Alpha Course, though. Rostered LCMS pastors should definitely not be ‘unconfessing’ with the Alpha Course.

Winfield Bevins

Wesleyan-Arminian Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative and canon for church planting for the Diocese of the Carolinas. He certainly adds an interesting conundrum to FiveTwo’s Sacramental Entrepreneurship potpourri.

Ed Doerner

Senior Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Midland, Michigan. Pioneer of “pier ministry” where the church confuses the Doctrine of Vocation by “reaching one more life with Jesus… through worship, music, a cup of coffee or an oil change”. Messiah is also a proud telecast host of Willowcreek’s Global Leadership Summit, encouraging its members to hear the siren song of the likes of Bill Hybels and TD Jakes.

Oscar Benavides

Executive Director at LINC North Texas; LCMS RSO pursuing life and community transformation.

Gideon Tsang

Pastor of “Vision and Teaching” at Vox Veniae, an Evangelical Covenant Church (Swedish Lutheran Methodists), which claims it is “implementing the Kingdom of God”. The ECC is so open-minded that it “does not require adherence to any written creed”. The ECC is what the LCMS will look like if FiveTwo is successful. The LCMS in Convention only last month rejected and rebuked this pietism via the Resolution to terminate Licensed Lay Deacons.

Will Mancini

The “high-powered vision guru” that FiveTwo hired to dream and pray it into existence after 24 hours. What came into existence was an organization with a name and a logo that was uncannily similar to a South Korean mission. Mancini’s theology might best  be described as ‘Leadership Network Unitarianism‘. Mancini is still on the board of FiveTwo, along with someone from ELCA and several very liberal LCMS types, aka “trans-Synod”.

Adam Countryman

Director of Worship and Creative Arts at the missionalist Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio, TX. Concordia’s “house band” will be rocking the house in the absence of anything resembling the Divine Service.

Scott Woller

Vision caster at Corner Church and Owner of Corner Coffee. What is with the intersection of coffee and Christianity in hipster America? Scott’s wife is the “Associate Pastor” despite the church’s own claim that, “the Bible is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error.”

Billy Brath

Creative Ministry Developer & Pastor at RevCreative and UCF Campus Ministry. The latter states that, “We welcome all students and embrace community with God to guide us in living intentional loving lives.” Unsurprisingly, the UCF ministry excludes any overt references to Lutheran identity.

Christy O’Shoney

The official conference emcee who “uses humor and salty language to convey important truths… Because, you know, life is short. And you’re pretty great.”. Alrighty then. Christy is also the Discipling Group Co-ordinator at Our Savior New York, where discipleship is about life change.


FiveTwo Gains LCMS Support Whilst Scrubbing Lutheran Distinctives — 123 Comments

  1. Women are not to be in leadership in the church. This is so to teach the doctrines of original sin and the order of creation.

    Alas for Deborah?

  2. @Gregjgrose #101

    Deborah does have a tendency to be the exception that makes the rule.

    And yet I’ve always been curious of why, because I haven’t found in the text where she is leading the O.T. church. She judges to be sure, but you’ll also notice in the text God is not happy with the irresponsible, hesitant leadership of men like Barak.

  3. @Pastor Prentice #100

    Awesome, Pastor Prentice! Were you also a former American Evangelical? That’s what my query is focused on. There is such a Confessional pushback against anything in LCMS, which resembles contemporary worship. I don’t agree with the premise that worshipping in that style, somehow leads us down the path of giving up our Word & Sacrament theology. But, that disagreement doesn’t stop me from wanting to understand where my Confessional brothers and sisters are coming from.

  4. @RevJimO #104


    I confess to being confused with your use of terminology. Traditional Christian worship is an enumerated point of the Augsburg Confession, and thus a point to which a pastor ordained in subscription to the Lutheran Confessions is bound– a vow which when broken, is a violation of the 2nd Commandment. Why do you see deviant worship styles as something other than a Confessional issue?

    Secondly, why do you refer to Confessional Lutherans as something other than yourself, if you are ordained to the pastoral office in a Confessional Lutheran church body? Are you intentionally describing yourself as something other than a Confessional Lutheran?

    These are honest questions, and not meant to be incendiary. If you are not a Confessional Lutheran pastor, then your positions or hypotheses are quite understandable.

  5. @Brad #107

    These are honest questions, and not meant to be incendiary. If you are not a Confessional Lutheran pastor, then your positions or hypotheses are quite understandable.

    The enthusiasts know that they are not “confessional” Lutheran pastors; they have been encouraged to think the Confessions don’t matter. [What the DP thinks and supports is more important and the DP is getting his self-importance from PLI, and whatever manipulation of the church away from Lutheranism he can contrive, in most districts now.

    [When you wonder how we ever arrived at such a low calibre of US presidential candidates, wonder first how we let politicians take over the churches!]

    Somebody voted for them; only 50% (laity) could be accused of ignorance and that because the other 50% neglected teaching! If you send that sort to convention (we’ve had one on here, bragging about how “we” were going to fix everything…yeah, right!!!) we get what we’ve got.
    It is not enough to ‘take care of your congregation’! Synod is being torn down around you and your congregation, even if you serve to death, is eventually going to feel the cold wind.

    Kyrie eleison!

    At very least, join those who are pointing out error!

  6. @helen #108

    “At very least, join those who are pointing out error!”

    In my various vocational capacities, I do… often to the chagrin of more synods than just the LCMS. As I believe it was Sasse who noted, following the Lutheran Confessions’ faithful witness to Scripture and the historic catholic faith, is a very lonely way. I’ve often likened it to the white hot center of the Reformation, where very few can tolerate the purgatorial fire of Biblical Law and Gospel upon their pride and error, often preferring to flee to traditions more comfortably tolerant of their fallen nature.

  7. @Brad #109

    Perhaps, with the stable of authors conspicuous by their absence here, ACELC’s “catalog of errors” could be put up, one point at a time, for discussion…by laity (of apparent necessity!)

    [If confessional pastors are going to be made fearful of ‘synodical police’, who can they turn to when the SSM proponents arrive at their door with “an offer they can’t refuse”!? Can they believe that district and synod will stand behind them if they maintain a Lutheran policy!?]

  8. @helen #110


    I second your suggestion to take the doctrine and practice observations of ACELC and post each one for individual discussion. Not everyone will agree with each point, but perhaps we can see at least the logic employed by those who either support or reject the ACELC positions. It might be interesting to then synthesize the dialogue on each point, and perhaps produce a report at the end.

    Regardless, I think odds of changing the LCMS at this point are slim to none; the bureaucratic machine has already evolved to a point of protectionism that allows it silence dissent from within. The best result might be to find birds of a feather, and begin the hard work of forming a new synodical union that is actually Lutheran.

  9. Why does the synod allow this FiveTwo movement to grow and try to thrive? And how are districts that are supporting it, not being called into question?

  10. @Bernie DuShane #112

    Because, as I think was aptly demonstrated elsewhere (at least not adequately refuted) the LCMS is not really a Lutheran synod anymore (a union of those who confess and practice the same faith as expressed in the Lutheran Confessions). It is, however, an ecclesiastical bureaucracy within which some very talented and decent Lutherans exist. These abberations of doctrine and practice don’t directly threaten the bureaucracy, or perhaps they even promise to fatten it, and so they are tolerated. In practical terms, the LCMS is becoming a bit more like the Anglicans and the Romans, where “our beloved Synod” which is defined as the various institutional bureaucrats/agencies/committees/etc., who live like parasites off the money they extort from congregations, becomes much more important to preserve than any semblance of unity in doctrine and practice.

    Once I came to terms with that reality, a lot more things about the LCMS’ trajectory over the last 40-60 years made a lot more sense. It is sad that the LCMS has come to this, but we won’t be able to deal with it properly (I.e., without all the emotional bluster and anger that comes from betrayal and abuse) until we see it rightly. Then decisions about what to do with it, whether to abide in it, or fund it, become a lot more clear and objective.

  11. @helen #110

    Interesting, isn’t it Helen, that we still haven’t heard a single LCMS clergy person’s voice in critique of anything the LCMS has done or is doing, since the gag order went into effect at the synodical convention. If it weren’t for the excellent lay theoogians who frequent here, I’d say BJS just got gelded by “our beloved synod”.

    I hope they prove us wrong… But it’s not looking good.

  12. @Brad #113

    “Unser geliebte Synod”

    It meant something once, I think.
    I seldom hear “Our beloved synod” without wondering
    if I didn’t also hear a note of sarcasm.

  13. Interesting, isn’t it Helen, that we still haven’t heard a single LCMS clergy person’s voice in critique of anything the LCMS has done or is doing, since the gag order went into effect at the synodical convention.

    Are you LCMS clergy, Pr Brad?   Why do you always post anonymously?  Thanks.

  14. @Brad #114
    Interesting, isn’t it Helen, that we still haven’t heard a single LCMS clergy person’s voice in critique of anything the LCMS has done or is doing, since the gag order went into effect at the synodical convention. If it weren’t for the excellent lay theologians who frequent here, I’d say BJS just got gelded by “our beloved synod”.

    The saddest part of it is that the Administration [that BJS helped put into office] used a CCM diktat from GK’s era to effect it …and it was one of Jerry’s aims to ‘shut up the blogs’, in order to eliminate criticism of “…usFirst” and himself! Also Issues, Etc.’s ouster (by Jerry) from KFUO, and so on.

    BJS was invented to counter that kind of ‘horse hockey’!

    The gag order [they said, on the day] was only supposed to affect “doctrinal issues” (Kloha, et alia). [It would seem to cover Dr. Becker, if he was still around!!!]

    I am assumed to be “too dumb to discuss doctrinal issues” [dumber than an SMP (whose knowledge about Missouri would be improved by reading Zion on the Mississippi, to fill just one gap) and regular doses of synodical history from the [now banned expert] to help with many others. I’m sure there are more ‘half educated’ just like him. But they’ll be ordained!]

    OK, this pewsitter isn’t quite dumb enough to say “Thank you for your generous opinion of my intellect” with a check. I have been giving to my church’s building fund since the ukase came down. I owe the local establishment something and I hope they will see me out as a confessional church. I’ve got 20-30 years on the Pastor, so if he doesn’t move it should be alright.

    It is my opinion that all of us Bereans should reserve the only “vote” we’ve got until we are allowed to know and discuss what’s really going on. St Paul commended the inquiring minds! [But St Paul, as far as I know, wasn’t importing lions for the arena on the side.]


    Kyrie eleison!

  15. @John Rixe #116

    Good evening, John,

    I was for a time, but am no longer. It’s an interesting story over a beer, but not for this medium.

    And as for anonymity, as I have said before, if an idea requires names and titles and positions to validate it, it is a weak idea. I’d rather the concepts be wrestled with for what they are, rather than who uttered them.


  16. Pr Brad – Blessings on your vocation

    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.   ~ Col 3

  17. Hello BJS,
    In the spirit of fraternal dialog, my Circuit hosted a multi Circuit meeting to discuss WIKI 52. Some are going to the WIKI Conference, and will report back and we will have more fraternal discussion to see how this fits in, or not, and where we see it in relation to the word we do in our district. As CV, I made sure we discuss, and more discussions are to come, but all done in a spirit of understanding.

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.