Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 4, Taking the Plunge

This entire series may be downloaded in Word or pdf format.

The Consultation weekend is when the Mission Revitalization Process really gets rolling. While there are some preliminary steps, once your congregation has decided to invite the Transforming Congregation Network (TCN) into their midst, this is the defining event. It is described as “an intervention designed to lead to systemic change.”

Briefly, the consultation begins on Friday afternoon when the pastor and staff are interviewed by a group of “trained consultants” and a “Focus Group” is held. On Saturday the congregational leaders are interviewed, further analysis is conducted, and training on “healthy congregations” and other topics occurs. On Saturday evening the lead consultant (a pastor) and his team write the consultation report. Sunday morning, the pastor of the congregation preaches about his “vision,” followed that afternoon by a “Town Meeting” in which the results of the consultation report are presented to the congregation.

After the consultation, the pastor initiates a 4-6 week “season of repentance, forgiveness and renewal,” consisting of “teaching, prayer, and fasting, leading up to a Congregational day of repentance and renewal. The purpose for the Day of Prayer and Repentance is to offer prayers of confession for this congregation’s apathy toward those people that God misses most.”

At the end of the 4-6 weeks, the congregation decides on whether they will commit to the prescriptions of the TCN Consultation Report. Once the congregation agrees, it is on its way to permanent assimilation into the Church Growth Movement (CGM) paradigm. It’s an all or nothing proposition, because they must agree to comply with all of the prescriptions of the consultation. What the congregation may or may not know, is that the pastor has already signed a covenant before the consultation ever took place in which he commits to the transformation process. (Consultants and members of the future Board of Directors of your church must also sign a covenant. What happened to the days when a Christian just let his “Yes” be “Yes” and his “No” be “No,” as Jesus commands in Matthew 5:37?) The covenant begins: “It is my intent to fully and actively participate in the Transforming Congregations Network (TCN). As a member of TCN, I commit to the following activities....” Among other things, the pastor promises to start a Learning Community with the church leaders, bring the church leaders to TCN training events, initiate a “prayer team” to pray for the Pastors’ Learning Community and the Leader Learning Community, begin Groups Ablaze! in the congregation, and begin TRIAD strategy. In other words, the congregation is already on its way to becoming a TCN “customer” whether they know it or not.

Presented below is a composite of the Consultation Report, which is quoted from actual reports. If your church were to participate, your report would be similar. While the reports vary, there is always some combination of prescriptions related to vision, inward focus, leadership development and structure. The one prescription that is inescapable, is the requirement to change your church structure to the Accountable Leadership Model. It is this structure that creates many of the doctrinal problems associated with TCN, as we’ll see in the following days.

TCN Consultation Report


The Consultation Team has very much appreciated the openness of the staff and members of the congregation with whom we met. We thank God for your ministry and look forward to seeing how the Lord will use your congregation in the future to touch hundreds of people in this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The following is our report to the members of XYZ Lutheran Church based on this weekend’s visitation.

Strengths of your Congregation

- A comment about the caring nature of the members.

- A compliment of some sort to the pastor.

- Three other compliments of some sort. Every report has five strengths listed, no matter how many or how few the particular congregation may actually have.

Concerns [These are variable, but generally reflect some combination of the following]

1. Lack of vision – The congregation lacks a clear, unified, compelling, God-given vision. While pastor and people have individual ideas and visions for the future there is no single vision that guides all aspects of the congregation over an extended period of time. This lack of vision has kept the congregation from reaching its full potential in fulfilling the Great Commission.

2. Inward focus – The congregation has fallen into the habit of taking care of themselves, providing for their comfort and personal preferences at the expense of reaching out to the people of this community who are living without faith in Christ and thus destined for an eternity in Hell. Thus they have failed to fulfill their calling to participate with the Lord Jesus in the task of making disciples of all people.

3. Lack of Leadership Development - There is no clear process to recruit, equip and empower new leaders for the congregation. Therefore current leaders are overworked and or are working in areas for which they are not gifted nor from which gain satisfaction.

4. Ineffective Structure – The present governance structure of the church divides authority from responsibility while providing no accountability. This has resulted in an ineffective system that produces few measurable results for making disciples. The current governance structure stifles creative ministry on the part of members.

5. Other concerns might include:

- Inadequate facilities

- Unhealthy relationships

- Sense of powerlessness due to fiscal indebtedness

- Disconnected ministries

- Poor communication

- Discipleship


1) Outward Focus- Upon the acceptance of the following prescriptions, the congregation will initiate a season of repentance, forgiveness and renewal for the congregation. The Congregational coach will assist Pastor ABC in leading the congregation through 4-6 weeks of teaching, prayer and fasting, leading up to a Congregational day of repentance and renewal. The purpose for the Day of Prayer and Repentance is to offer prayers of confession for:

● Idolatry connected to an inward focus on members’ comfort,

● Apathy and or disregard toward those people that God misses most in this community,

● Rededication to God’s mission of making disciples in this community.

The leaders and congregational members are encouraged to offer silent and public prayers asking God to forgive them personally and collectively for failing to participate in making new disciples of Jesus Christ on a regular and consistent basis. The Day of Prayer will be held no later than [date].

This refocusing process will include surveying the community and hosting community based focus groups with the goal of understanding the needs of the people living within the area surrounding the church facility. This task will be completed by [date].

Launch 2 new interest/affinity groups by the end of the year and 7 more by [month, year].

Begin the planning process to initiate a second worship service which is designed to attract the people of [City]. The first Sunday of 2 services begins on Easter Sunday [year].

Beginning in [year] the congregation will annually hold at least 6 off church campus events which are completely focused on people of this community.

Pastor ABC will preach an [Church season] sermon series on the missional outward nature of God's church.

2) Vision- In order to gain a clear, unified, compelling, God-given vision, the congregation will:

a) By [date], engage, with input from the DEF District, a facilitator who leads a visioning process. This visioning process will include community surveys and community based focus groups with the goal of understanding the needs of the community and people living within the area surrounding the church facility.

b) Once developed, pastor and staff will communicate the vision for ninety days throughout the congregation.

c) At the end of the ninety days of intentional vision casting the congregation shall meet to consider adoption of the vision. The target deadline is [month, year].

d) Leadership will continually insure that every member knows and is committed to carrying out the vision.

e) All existing and new ideas, facility plans, programs and ministries must be evaluated in light of this vision and any that do not enable the congregation to move closer to achieving this vision shall be stopped or not implemented.

3) Leadership Development – By [date], Pastor and Board must implement a process to equip staff members in their attempts to recruit, equip and train the future leaders of the congregation.

Pastor ABC shall convene a monthly learning community consisting of 5-7 leaders of XYZ Church by [date].

Pastor ABC will participate in the Pastor's Learning Community until its completion.

4) Structure - Effective with the acceptance of these prescriptions the congregation will prepare to adopt the Accountable Leadership Model. The Pastor and leaders will lead the congregation in suspending those particular bylaws that describe how the congregation functions in its ministries. These bylaws, by vote of the congregation, will be put in abeyance for three years. At the end of the three years, the congregation will vote to either return to the bylaws or adopt new ones that are written to reflect how ministry is currently being done at that time. The vote to suspend these articles will be held in conjunction with the vote to accept or reject this report.

The Model will be implemented beginning [date], with the Pastor assuming leadership and articulating the congregation's vision to the members. The Board will hold the Pastor accountable for the achievement of the vision of the congregation and will set boundaries for the Pastor's ministry. They will also support his work. The Staff leaders will report directly to the Pastor, and the Pastor will hold them accountable for the goals they have set. The Pastor will meet weekly with the Staff leaders as they empower and direct the congregation membership in carrying out its ministry. The present organizational by-laws will be put in abeyance while this Accountable Leadership Model is implemented.

In this new model of governance, there will be a Board of Directors of 3 people plus the Pastor. [Up to 6 people plus the pastor.] These 3 will represent an outward focused mission and the new vision when it is adopted. Their role will be to govern the church. The Pastor's role will be to lead the church. The role of staff members will be to manage the church. The role of the congregation will be to conduct the ministries of the church.

By [date], the pastor will nominate five members to serve on the Board. [In one instance, the congregation nominated the board nominees.] The congregation will select 3 of the five to serve as the Board. Potential members must meet the following criteria:

Members who are weekly participants in worship and Bible study.

Members who are striving to or are giving a tithe.

Members who understand and support the mission and vision of the congregation.

5) Other prescriptions have included:

- Building & Grounds

- Making Connections & Bridges to the community

- Healthy Relationships

- Children’s Ministry

- Fiscal Health

- Improve Participant and Member Retention

The congregation will vote to accept or reject these prescriptions by [date]. We strongly urge a time of prayer and serious deliberation prior to making this decision. Upon acceptance of this report, the DEF District commits to "walk along side" XYZ Church by providing a "coach" for a minimum of one year to help the church implement these prescriptions.


We want to thank you for the opportunity to consult with you. We believe that by God's grace your best days as a congregation are ahead of you with the implementation of these prescriptions.


Anonymous said...

My minister is in this up to his eyeballs. In fact he was part of the TCN group that went to Florida. He is now at this conference that you are talking about.

What is really interesting is that he has our congregation on this plan and we are 1.5 years behind schedule - that thing about prophets not being welcome in their home comes to mind - however, he is working toward these goals.

I, too, am working, but I am forming new study groups that will be studying the catechism and the confessions. I am trying to fly under the radar screen. This information is very valuable to me as I am able to formulate my next countermeasure.

Brian Yamabe said...

"What the congregation may or may not know, is that the pastor has already signed a covenant before the consultation ever took place in which he commits to the transformation process."

Whoa!!! Scott, where did you come across this information? I haven't heard of it and would like a little background before I grill my pastor about this.

Anonymous said...

If he has brought a covenant like document for the present leadership to adopt then chances are he has signed a covenant himself.

The covenant we have is lame.

We have refined the fine art of telling someone where to go with a huge smile our face and a 'peace be with you' hug.

All very scary.

I am waiting for him to tell us we are here for the unchurched - it is the day I will ask him to release me from his congregation as I am churched now and attending regularly; but now I have to be unchurched in order to be part of the group.

Anonymous said...

Hey, hey, hey!! Has anyone asked, "Where's the Gospel?" a la Clara Peller? This is one scary program, and fighting it is extremely difficult. The Gospel is nowhere to be found--Scott is "telling it like it is." At the big LCMS-TC meeting in Nashville, sometime back, the attendees were informed that Pastors who didn't fit the TC mold would agree to leave their congregation! This is typical Evangelicalist Law-based, "you'd better get your ecclesiastical rear quarters in gear, or else." Pastor as CEO, firing non-performers, preaching law only, and quitting if they don't fit, or worse, being asked to leave. Read it and weep!


Scott Diekmann said...

My apologies Brian. I meant to hyperlink to a covenant but didn't get it put in. I'll go back and link to one. If you go to this page,, scroll down to the bottom and there are several TCN sample covenants you can click on.

Brian Yamabe said...

Whew! My pastor hasn't seen or signed a covenant. Says he and the elders are more and more reluctant to pursue anything with them the more he learns.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I'm afraid to ask my former pastor whether or not he's signed a covenant, but the rest of this rings true in that congregation.

PHW said...

Scary stuff. I'm surprised at the lack of vision in the outline and recommendations of the group. Most of the recommendations are identical.

In my of the TCN members was a non-denominational interviewer who then proceeded to denigrate doctrine, sacraments, and non-contemporary structures.

Will no one rid us of this meddlesome program?

Frank Gillespie said...

This is insidious and is nothing less than a full and all out attack on Christ’s Church, pastors who wish to remain faithful by the feeding of His sheep through the preached Word and Sacraments, and those same sheep who wish to be fed. Who the heck thought it was a good idea (or business model) to call the comfort of hearing God’s Word idolatry?!

Scott Diekmann said...

Here's a quote from the TCN "Learning Communities FAQ" page:

"What is Required to join a Learning Community Cluster?
Pastors and Congregations are prequalified through a simple survey. Then, congregations that are willing to undergo a consultation and whose pastor is willing to sign the learning community covenant and participate in monthly meetings may join a learning community."


According to their material, the pastor can't participate in TCN unless he's a member of a learning community.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that church structure is sacred? That constitutional organization with by-laws and voters is the true model for churches (how American and Western Civ. is that!)? Is committee process and parish bureaucracy the valid and correct model acc. to scripture, faith and Confession? Is it good stewardship of time and resources to expend untold hours across the years on meetings and minutes but so much less on people, programs, proclamation and mission? I'm still pondering where pure doctrine and the truth of the Gospel are compromised by organizational changes in churches.

Scott Diekmann said...

No anonymous, I'm not suggesting church structure is sacred. Church structure is an adiaphoron. I'm saying that the paradigm shift which TCN is attempting to accomplish is wrong, part of which is accomplished through the structure they force the congregation to accept.

Anonymous said...

Wow! what a blog. I normally don't write on blogs, however I do know one congregation which has kept it worship the same, but through TCN has started caring for the poor in their community. This has helped them engage their community and has led to numerous baptisms and adult confirmations. So, while some places may have gone off the deep end, others may simply be bringing the small catechism and the life giving waters of baptism to a completely different culture in their community.