Friday, May 29, 2009

Can Transforming Churches Be Fixed Part 5: New Prescriptions (II) The Church, The Royal Priesthood Of Believers, And Conclusion

By Johannes

Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone and rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known, with love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify; works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

  1. The Office of the Holy Ministry (IV) The Call: Little has been said about the Pastor’s ordination vows, and his call documents, including the Supplement to the Diploma of Vocation. The pastor and congregation should review these documents, preferably before commencing with any other prescriptions; they promise to be quite revealing. If the congregation’s self-study preceding the pastor’s call is available, that, too ought to be reviewed. Do not these documents supersede even Transforming Churches’ prescriptions? Can the congregation’s constitution and bylaws be changed if such changes would qualify or modify the pastor’s call and his ordination vows? This is an area where great caution should be exercised. Given the manifold pastoral duties in service of the Gospel enumerated in (2) above, how can any pastor assume CEO duties as well?
  2. The Church: “It [the church] is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments administered according to the gospel.” (AC VII, Book of Concord, Kolb-Wengert). TC seems to define the church an assembly of behavers, while believers is treated as a “given” and hardly mentioned in the consultation reports. (For a more detailed treatment, see Ken Schurb, Missional? The Church in Luther’s Large Catechism, LOGIA, Epiphany 2009). There is a constant need for the believers and unbelievers alike to be showered with the Gospel.

    “Further we believe that in this Christian community [the Church] we have the forgiveness of sins, which takes place through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire gospel. This encompasses everything that is to be preached about the sacraments and, in short, the entire gospel and all the official responsibilities of the Christian community. Forgiveness is constantly needed, for although God’s grace has been acquired by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet we are never without sin because we carry our flesh around our neck.
    “Therefore everything in this Christian community is so ordered that everyone may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and signs appointed to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live on earth. Although we have sin, the Holy Spirit sees to it that it does not harm us because we are a part of this Christian community. Here there is full forgiveness of sins, both in that God forgives us and that we forgive, bear with, and aid one another.” (Large Catechism, II, 54, 55, Kolb-Wengert, emphasis added)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Can Transforming Churches Be Fixed? Part 4: New Prescriptions (I) The Holy Ministry

By Johannes

Let me not doubt, but truly see Your Word cannot be broken;
Your call rings out, “Come unto Me!” No falsehood have you spoken.
Baptized into your precious name, my faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.

Fixing Transforming Churches (New Corrective Prescriptions):
A careful review of the potential for harm done by TC clearly shows that such harm centers on the Office of the Holy Ministry:

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. A.C. V (Kolb-Wengert)

As the TC prescriptions are implemented, it is through the abandonment of the pastoral office that the potential for harm flows. Why? Because the purpose of the Ministry is to build saving faith, not only in the unsaved, but also in those who are already members in the Church of Jesus Christ. Anything that threatens his flock is the proper concern of the undershepherd. So, most of the new corrective prescriptions offered here will focus on that office, directly or indirectly. This is not to place blame on the pastor, or to burden him with additional duties, but to affirm him in his vocation and vows. With the exception of private confession none add any new responsibilities to the pastor’s duties in service of the Gospel. The following prescriptions are filtered through “Gospel Eyes.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Can Transforming Churches Be Fixed? Part 3: Correcting Errors (II)

By Johannes

Yet as the Law must be fulfilled or we must die despairing
Christ came and has God’s anger stilled, our human nature sharing.
He has for us the Law obeyed and thus the Father’s vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.

Fixing Transforming Churches (Abandon Questionable Prescriptions):

It has been thoroughly and amply demonstrated that several of TC’s prescriptions are most troubling and harmful. Some are of questionable value at best. These ought to be eliminated from future prescriptions.

  1. Accountable Leadership Model: This dangerous prescription should be scrapped for the reasons stated in Scott Diekmann’s report. Training and minor corrections can be made without turning the congregation upside-down. (A suggested replacement is offered below).
  2. Numerical conversion goals: Although this is a part of the Accountable Leadership Model, it needs to be addressed separately. It seems inconceivable that an ordained LCMS pastor would teach this blasphemous practice, yet it has been known to happen. This may be the most damaging aspect of TCN, and should be abolished. If the coach/team leader presents this concept, his ecclesiastical supervisor ought to be informed, and appropriate action taken. Furthermore, any congregation that has received such instruction should receive an in-person apology from the coach/team leader with a review of the proper teaching about the Holy Spirit’s work of conversion.
  3. The “Season of repentance”, and “day of repentance”: These have a somewhat manipulative, almost revival-like quality. One can easily envision Finney’s “anxious bench” at the front of the church. This is nothing more than identification repentance—or “the sin of the week”, as one person has described it. Each person can and should repent of only his own sins. Repentance is to be preached—Jesus commanded it, and a “Day of Repentance” has a precedent in the LCMS--Walther preached more than one sermon for such an occasion. However, as used in TC this is not only a technique for “firing up” the congregation, but clearly a form of penance or “satisfaction” for sins (see A.C. XII). Cut out this prescription, and faithfully preach biblical “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47).
  4. Vision: The visioning process has been shown to be dangerous. Whose vision is it really—how do we know it is truly “God’s vision?” Is not Christ’s vision for His church apparent in Scripture? Is not each congregation, like each believer, to “blossom where it is planted?” In every place, every neighborhood, opportunities for ministry and mission abound—we only have to look around us, using our God-given abilities to see and discern: we are, as Rev. Harold Senkbeil has said, “an oasis of life in a desert of death.” Delete the visioning process.
  5. Triads: Small groups go back to the early days of Pietism. In the TCN model, the three members of a triad are (1) an experienced member, (2) a recent convert, and (3) a non-member, perhaps non-Christian. The participants read through several chapters of the Bible, then meet to discuss what they’ve read. The TCN leader has instructed the participants to ask, “What does this passage say to me?” This is a very dangerous way to study scripture, leading to all sorts of mischief. Furthermore, small groups (Triads included) can easily become cliquish and self-serving. Where is the corrective in such Bible study—when is the pastor consulted for the proper interpretation of scripture?
  6. Removing Obstacles to Growth: In Direct Hit, Borden says that the congregation must rid itself of “alligators and bosses”—members who stand in the way of the TC process. Although this had not been made part of any specific congregational prescriptions, the TCN literature alludes to it. (A similar suggestion is made in the recent “Funding the Mission” Task Force report.) We are the Body of Christ—not General Motors: such suggestions have no place in the church.
  7. TC Threats: Get rid of the threats, implied or stated. More than one congregation has reported having been told that, if they do not adopt the TC program, they will soon have to close their doors. Paul Borden himself appears to have consigned at least one congregation (not Lutheran) to God’s judgment if it does not adopt his prescriptions. ( The Law is not our friend, and such threats undermine the life-giving Gospel.
  8. Misleading promises and statements: TC promises conversion growth, increase in worship attendance and giving, among other things. This is patently misleading, and gives false hope to struggling congregations and pastors. It is nothing but hype. The statement, “A Transformed Church is regularly and consistently ‘making new disciples who make new disciples’” must also be dropped. It sets the law against the gospel, denies the power of God’s word, and gives false hope, setting congregations up for disillusionment. These promises and statements need to be eliminated. They are misleading and unscriptural. (It is unfortunate that the 2007 Convention Resolution 1-01A states, “a revitalized congregation is regularly and consistently making new disciples who make new disciples.” Apparently, nobody caught the error.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can Transforming Churches Be Fixed? Part 2: Correcting Errors (I)

By Johannes

It was a false misleading dream that God his Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem and by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sins to light
That lurks within our nature.

Fixing Transforming Churches (Self Study):
After a congregation signs on to TC, it soon receives a Self Study packet: information about the congregation that is to be submitted to the TC team for analysis prior to the prescription weekend. The following information is to be included (taken almost verbatim from Direct Hit, pp. 127-132):

  • Overview of congregation: history of congregation; list of staff positions; list of people who oversee ministry; description of physical plant; organizational structure, and organization chart.
  • Statistics (20 years), in tabular and chart form, including: Number of members baptized & confirmed); average Sunday worship attendance; Sunday School & Bible Class attendance; incoming & Outgoing Transfers; Baptisms, Infant and Adult; Adult Confirmations and Professions of faith; Average age of persons involved in regular activities; Percent of congregation that regularly attends Bible Class or small group; Number of persons involved in regular activities; Church budgets (2 years) including final receipts and expenditures & current balance sheet; Top ten giving units by amount (last year); Second ten giving units by amount (last year); Total number of giving units and average amount given (last year)
  • School/Daycare/Early Childhood: History of school and/or ECE, its staff positions, organization, etc.; School/ECE enrollment, 10 years; School/ECE mission statement; Visibility of School/ECE in congregation & in community; Congregational involvement in School/ECE; Written evaluation of School/ECE by director; Pastor Visibility with School/ECE; Coordination of School/ECE with evangelism & outreach; Baptisms & confirmations from ECE.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Can “Transforming Churches” Be Fixed?, Part 1

By Johannes

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and by teaching them to cling as if their life depended on it to everything whatsoever I authoritatively said to you.” Matthew 28:19, 20a (Interpretive Paraphrase)

Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom, they help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.

(Paul Speratus, Salvation Unto Us Has Come, LSB 555)

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Do you remember Clara Peller? She was the little old lady that appeared at the window, holding a tiny hamburger in a large bun, demanding, “WHERE’S THE BEEF?” You can still see some of those Wendy’s ads on the Web ( With respect to Transforming Churches (TC), Clara might be asking a similar question of our synod mission executives: “WHERE’S THE GOSPEL?” The Gospel hamburger would be much tinier, while the TC bun would dwarf the burger. Indeed, the Means of Grace are conspicuous by their almost complete absence from TC: one can barely find any beef in the TC entree.

Transforming Churches has been shown to be a spiritually dangerous program for several reasons:
  1. It “transforms” the Gospel into Law—Justification by grace through faith is replaced with the Great Commission as the central article of faith; faithful people are clubbed with a truncated version of the Great Commission (“Make new disciples, [only]”), as the sweetness of the Gospel is replaced by the terror of the Law;
  2. It emasculates the office of the Holy Ministry, changing the pastor into a CEO: rather than a steward of the mysteries of Christ, he is master of the congregation, and the two kingdoms are hopelessly entangled;
  3. It turns the Priesthood of Believers into functionaries under the thumb of the CEO; the sheep are no longer to be fed, but rather organized into ministry brigades;
  4. It is threatening to the spiritual well-being of the members of our congregations; they are told to rely on themselves, while denying the promises in God’s Word, thus destroying faith.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Render Unto Synod What Is Synod's

Remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, which eventually resulted in bloodshed? A lone man bravely stood in front of a column of rumbling Chinese tanks, temporarily blocking the inevitable march of totalitarianism. The same thing has happened in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod when the Southern Illinois District temporarily blocked the inevitable march of the Synod’s Ablaze! money making machine, Fan Into Flame.

Last February, at the Southern Illinois District's Convention they voted not to fund Fan Into Flame and instead resolved to fund their own alternative plan. Not so fast, says the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters. The CCM has issued a not-so-subtle reminder that the SID’s resolution is null and void. The tanks continue to roll. Render unto Synod what is Synod's...

Here is the text from the applicable portion of the CCM’s minutes of their April meeting. Synod has spoken:

93. Agency Resolutions and Synod Actions (09-2556)

A pastor of the Synod, in an e-mailed March 18, 2009 letter, asked the following questions regarding an agency’s possible negative response to an action taken by the Synod.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I’m Excited

I’m excited. Why? All next week, we’ll have a guest blogger who will be gracing the pages of Stand Firm. That’s good because you won’t have to listen to me, and I won’t have to come up with new and exciting topics. (You’re probably thinking that I haven’t come up with one yet, but hey, there’s always hope.) What’s the topic? Transforming churches. You may have some vague memory of this topic being discussed here in the past, but this series of posts will come from a totally different perspective, Can Transforming Churches Be Fixed? So can it be fixed? I doubt it - we’ll see what our guest blogger has to say. Who is the mystery blogger? Well you’ll just have to come back to find that out. Have a great weekend. I’ll see you next week.

photo credit: batega

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Renouncing All that God Is

Quoting Martin Luther:

Friend, do not consider it a trifle to forbid what God does not forbid, to destroy the Christian liberty that cost Christ His blood, to burden consciences with sin where there is no sin. He who has the audacity to do this will also be audacious enough to commit any wrong; yea, he has thereby already renounced all that God is, teaches, and does, including His Christ.

Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §2412, 777.

Are We Slow?

"Why are we so quick to say that pastors 'preach the gospel and administer the sacraments' but so slow to say that pastors 'carry out the great commission' when the two are exactly the same?"

The question asked by Pastor Klemet Preus, in his essay "Pietism In Missouri's Mission: From Mission Affirmations to Ablaze!," which he presented at the 2005 Congress on the Lutheran Confessions. Available in Mission Accomplished? Challenges to and Opportunities for Lutheran Missions in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And So We Also Speak

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

2 Corinthians 4:13-14 ESV

photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Heart of the Holy Scriptures

In the following words, originally posted by Pastor Rick Stuckwisch on his blog thinking-out-loud, Pastor Stuckwisch describes the sublime significance of Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for you, for the remission of your sins. Reproduced with permission.

The Heart of the Holy Scriptures

If it is true that the Son of God gives His own holy Body and pours out His own precious Blood for us Christians to eat and to drink, then everything about the Christian faith and life is effected by that fact. Or, better to say, everything is governed by that fact, and everything moves to and from that constituting heart and center of real human life with God. How could we possibly think otherwise, unless we do not believe what we confess about the Sacrament?

Here there is the Incarnate God, His Atonement, the fruits of His Cross and Passion, and His Gospel of forgiveness unto life and salvation. Not that the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the sacrifice of the Cross happen in the Sacrament of the Altar, but the content and consequences of those sacred Mysteries are bestowed in this Sacrament; their holy purpose is achieved, their divine goal is accomplished, and their saving benefit is fulfilled in us. This is the very thing that God has desired for us in love, that we should receive Him and His Life into ourselves, into our human flesh and blood, and so abide in Him bodily forever.

When the Lord our God created man in His own Image and Likeness, it was in view of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus. When He formed man out of the dust of the ground, it was in view of the bodily Resurrection of Christ Jesus from death and the grave. When He fed man in Paradise, and in particular when He planted the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, it was in view of the Cross and its life-giving fruits.

God feeds man from the beginning, and that is how He shares Himself, His Life and His Love with man. So too, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom comprises the consummation of all things, the fulfillment of creation and the realization of God's great salvation. The Lord brings us into His house, bids us to recline at His Table, and there He serves us from His own hand with His own Body and Blood.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thy Kingdom Come

The following video was created by Pastor Matt Harrison and is from his Mercy Journeys With Pastor Harrison blog. In it he reads from two sources on the most important work to be done in mission, to pray “Thy kingdom come.” He first reads a quote of Franz Pieper, followed by a quote from Luther’s Large Catechism.

The Pieper quote comes from Pastor Harrison’s soon to be published book At Home in the House of My Fathers. This book, which I’m really looking forward to reading, contains translations of essays, sermons, letters, and addresses of the first five German-born LCMS Presidents, Walther, Wyneken, Schwan, Pieper and Pfotenhauer.

Pull up a chair and relax as Pastor Harrison serves up a late night reading from his back porch. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Reproduced with permission.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Does Your Chancel Confess?

In what is a truly inspired appearance on the May 7th Issues, Etc., Pastor Wil Weedon describes why the insides of a historic church appear as they do. He explains the open arch above the chancel, and the significance of the crosses on the altar cloth for instance.

Pastor Wilken asks him what is confessed when you walk into a church, and instead of an altar “you find a drum kit, microphones, electric guitar, a bunch of amps, and then eventually as the stage fills up, a praise band. Maybe the pastor at some point. What does that confess?”

Pastor Weedon’s response:

“It confesses that what we’re doing is more important than what God wants to give. That what we’re up to is the most important thing. That we’re the real show, and that what God wants to give has been sidelined.

When you walk into a historic church, there is no question that what God is doing and giving is front and center and not being sidelined. It’s all about the gifts of God for the people of God.”

You can listen to the whole show here:

photo credit: smussyolay

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Burden of Proof

Quoting the AC24 blog, who in turn quotes Theodore E. Schmauk:

The real question is not what do you subscribe, but what do you believe and publicly teach, and what are you transmitting to those who come after? If it is the complete Lutheran faith and practice, the name and number of the standards is less important. If it is not, the burden of proof rests upon you to show that your more incomplete standard does not indicate an incomplete Lutheran faith.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Quotable Blog Quotes #8

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Gottesdienst Online
Pastor Larry Beane

Of course, the Christian life can't be accurately measured any more than grace can. You can no more judge how "successful" a congregation's evangelism is by conducting headcounts than you can tell which wafer has been consecrated and which one has not by observing both under a microscope. But such pragmatism and empiricism are the American way. McDonald's used to boast on their signs about how many burgers had been served (quantity), while no mention was made regarding how salutary the food was to the body (quality), or the faithfulness of the local franchise to the vision of the owner (fidelity to the mission).

...Instead of finding our identity in the ancient marble font filled with water and marked by the cross, we are moving more toward being branded with a disposable multicolored cardboard box containing super-sized junk food and bearing a Luther bobblehead. In other words, Ablaze exchanges the meat of the Gospel for an "unhappy meal" of grease, cheese, sugar, and cheap plastic trinkets marketed by appeals to the secular culture. All that's missing is changing the apostolic greeting from "The Lord be with you" to "Do you want fries with that?"

Father Hollywood
Pastor Larry Beane

The messed up cake reminded me of the botched ordination I attended in which the ordaining pastor simply read the words out of the book without regard to the parts that were rubrical instruction: "I ordain and consecrate you into the office of the holy ministry of the one holy catholic I. E. Christian and apostolic church," missing the point that he wasn't supposed to read the part in brackets: [i.e. Christian] - which is itself a silly rubric put in place to "clarify" to Lutherans that they are Lutherans. In the end, it wasn't really helpful - at least to the assistant district vice president who was conducting the ordination. One more argument against our synod's Dumbed Down Pastor Program (which for some reason is abbreviated SMP and not DDPP).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading along the last two weeks as we've investigated the Mission Revitalization Process and the Transforming Churches Network.

I hope you'll help warn others about the dangers of TCN. All nine parts of this series can be downloaded as a single Word document or pdf file. Spread the Word.

Have a great weekend.

The Management

photo credit: TruthAbout

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 9, Will We Yield?

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

The Smalcald Articles, written by Dr. Martin Luther, declare about our material principle, justification by grace through faith:
"Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can nything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin." (SA, II, I, 5)
We are at a crossroads in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. It’s time to make a decision. The result of this decision is not inconsequential. It will determine whether or not our Synod remains faithful. Will we stand on the Word, or will we yield?

Aside from the momentous doctrinal crises in the Transforming Churches Network (TCN) that we’ve already explored, such as those related to Office of the Holy Ministry and the article of vocation, these issues are symptoms of a more serious root cause. At stake is the Gospel itself.

For all its talk about evangelism and the Great Commission, the Transforming Churches Network never really gets around to preaching the Gospel. The Gospel has been substituted with a clever gospel of works. Seekers in Triads are bottle-fed dialectic formula, small groups and learning communities are teething on the Church Growth Movement diet of mission only, and pastors are renewed with a steady intravenous drip of the latest leadership materials off the shelf of the nearest bookstore. The flock, that faithful remnant which haven’t yet been driven off, are left to wander in the wilderness in search of spiritual sustenance. For them, the table is never set. They are not the apple of the shepherd’s eye, but rather the discarded apple core, important only in a “what have you done for me lately” sense.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 8, Let Reason Be Far Away

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

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) Church Growth Study Committee completed its study, “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission,” in 2001, in response to a request from the 1995 Synodical Convention. They state: “This report is offered to further the cause of Christ-centered church growth and genuine evangelism. The principles it sets forth should serve to sort out helpful strategies from those that, however unintentionally, obscure the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.” This was not an unimportant report done by an unqualified group of doctrinal red necks. Some of the people on the committee whose names you might recognize include Dr. Robert Kuhn, Dr. Kurt Marquart, Dr. Dale Meyer, Dr. Harold Senkbeil, and Dr. Gene Edward Veith.

Their report, which came out long before the Mission Revitalization Process was released for public consumption, indicts just about every aspect of the Transforming Churches Network (TCN) and the Mission Revitalization Process. Here is a brief composite of their findings:
Therefore, it is spiritually harmful:

- When absolution and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are minimized in favor of personal religious efforts, relational concerns or church activities.

- When people-oriented social sciences and methodologies subtly dominate the God-centered Means of Grace.

- When small-group (meta-church) organization and interaction are considered essential or compete without the public ministry of God’s Word and Sacrament.

- When every-busy [sic] church activism is substituted for God-pleasing service in daily Christian vocation.

- When programs of “leadership training” result in (1) substitution of lay leaders for public ministers of the Gospel or (2) inadequate training for the proper theological preparation of preachers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 7, Turning the Gospel into Law

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

Many of the details of the Mission Revitalization Process are locked behind password protected firewalls, yet there is one way in which the “process” is very transparent – the name Transforming Churches Network (TCN). In this case, the word “transforming” is very descriptive, because it really does set out to transform your congregation, and the entire Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). As a spin-off of Ablaze!, the goal is to transform 2,000 congregations by the year 2017. Yet this is not a Biblical transformation.

As we saw in Part 5, this transformation is one which is caused not by the Holy Spirit, but by the dialectic process, complete with change agents, covenants, coaches, and a business plan. This same transformation process is used by Rick Warren in his Purpose-Driven (read Law-Driven) materials, and in his Global Peace Plan. Their mission is to create a paradigm shift in the Missouri Synod of immense proportions. “The ultimate goal of TCN is to bring about a deep and systemic change in the Missouri Synod, and for us to accomplish that not only do we need to provide training and resources for existing pastors and congregations, but we also want to make a significant impact on the formation of new church leaders at the seminary and university levels.”1

The Lutheran Confessions uphold justification by grace through faith as of paramount importance, but we are slowly drifting away from this, our material principle. As the focus in our Synod shifts more and more away from justification to mission, the bedrock of our theology is crumbling. We have tunnel vision. We are so intent on “mission” that we’ve forgotten what the mission is about – the forgiveness of sins. The marks of the Church are no longer Word and Sacrament, where forgiveness is found, they are now “a minimum of 5% growth in worship attendance each year.” The Church is now “a non-profit organization” that is “in the people development business.” The pastor has become “the chief vision officer,” and the priority of his ministry is to train and equip leaders. A prescription in one church’s Consultation Report went so far as to say “All existing and new ideas, facility plans, programs and ministries must be evaluated in light of this [missional] vision and any that do not enable the congregation to move closer to achieving this vision shall be stopped or not implemented” (online reference).

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 6, Turning the Church Upside Down

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

Go to Part 1

Last time, we took a brief look at the Transforming Churches Network (TCN) use of the dialectic process to effect change in a congregation, including the pastor’s “vision.” Today we’ll examine how these changes line up with what Scripture teaches.

We’ve already noted in Part 3 that the basic assumption of TCN, that the growth of a church (or lack thereof) is a barometer of its spiritual health, is an un-doctrinal statement. In Part 4, we examined the TCN consultation report. In it, the congregation is required to suspend specific bylaws so that a new structure (or polity) can be created for the congregation. This structure, called the Accountable Leadership Model, ends the democratic model of the voter’s assembly, in favor of a top down pastor-as-CEO model. This type of governance was popularized by Baptist John Kaiser in his book Winning on Purpose. This model contains serious doctrinal flaws, two of which we’ll examine now. First, it assigns duties to the pastor that the pastor should not be assigned, and removes duties from the pastor that are his primary calling. Second, it creates an environment in which the parishioners become the ministers of the congregation.

In the Accountable Leadership Model, the pastor’s role is to lead the church, his primary function being to train and equip leaders. A Board of Directors (BOD) is established who “govern the church” (from 3 to 7 people including the pastor), staff members manage the church, and the parishioners carry out the ministry of the church. The pastor-turned-CEO concept leads to a view of the Church as a business rather than the Body of Christ. It is frequently called an “organization,” and is run on a business model.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 5, Whose Vision Is It?

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

Last time, we took a look at a Transforming Churches Network (TCN) Consultation Report. In it, we got our first glimpse on how the actual transformation of the congregation will occur. While you might expect a Biblical transformation through the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:2), in this case you can expect a removal instead if a renewal, a removal of some of your church’s bylaws, followed by a re-engineering of your church’s structure, and lots of talk about “vision” and “accountability.”

When you, as the TCN consultant, stand up before a congregation and tell them they have the wrong focus and lack leadership and vision, and that they need to completely reshape their church structure in order to be “successful,” you might expect some resistance. However, the consultant expects that the majority of you will go along with their plan (for those of you who don’t, you’re the ones labeled as having “regressive attitudes” and are given the “left foot of fellowship”). Many of you will even jump at the chance to start remodeling, because of something called transformation.

Transformation is a process whereby change is gradually effected via certain steps that take their origin from the occult thought of George Hegel and his dialectic process. This process is used the world over to forge such things as Outcome Based Education, the New Age New World Order, Total Quality Management, socialism, the United Nations One World Government, and all sorts of business plans. The people who implement these plans are sometimes called change agents (in TCN they’re called coaches or personal trainers or pastors or facilitators). Many of the books that TCN recommends for its participating pastors to read are written by change agents, including Neil Cole, Paul Borden, John Whitmore, Dwight Marable, John Kaiser, and Peter Drucker.