The Great and Powerful Oz has Spoken!

5e21b761-d8e2-48fc-8a45-91b4d448ddc2I was scrolling through faculty bios at one of our synod’s institutions of higher learning, and came across some rather exciting claims. According to the institutional website (names changed)

Rev. Smith has consistently been in mission work whether it has been in the frontlines of church planting, or in the background assisting with training and coaching. He was the assistant to the president for Congregational Health and Outreach for the <Insert District Name Here> from 2009-2013 where he helped congregations to increase worship attendance and helped leaders through training, coaching, and resource development. Since 2002 he has been training and coaching indigenous church planters around the world and still serves as a coach to over 40 pastors who are in the midst of revitalizing their churches across eight districts.

Specifically, the bio claims that “he helped congregations increase worship attendance.” Now, this seems a handy skillset to have. Given the number of declining congregations in our synod, it would be handy if there were someone whose specific talent was helping congregations grow in worship attendance.

But alas, no evidence is given for this claim. I’m certain that his job description was to do that. But even in a resume (where it is expected that you will lie) numbers are provided. e.g. “2009-2013 Assisted over 10,000 congregations to increase worship attendance by more than 1,000,000 people per week. Each.” Something like that. But, no numbers are given. Did he actually help congregations increase worship attendance? No way to know. Were they already growing and he gave them further impetus? What were the results of before and after his visit? Has the growth been maintained since he left? What sort of communities did the growth occur in? According to our synod president, not one district has grown in umbers during the period in question. So, apparently, there were more shrinking congregations in the district that didn’t listen to him than there were energized congregations that put aside their pride and took his sage advice.

Currently, he is coaching over 40 pastors to revitalize their churches. What does before and after look like? Are there results? Are people now flocking to these revitalized churches? Have they been revitalized (brought back to life) by the Word of God? Or has something else been found to be effective at making alive those who were dead? It doesn’t say. And, to be honest, I’m a bit afraid to ask.

Thom Rainer does similar consulting work for Arminian churches. But he always backs up his advice with statistical evidence. Which is to say, if you buy his product, you know what sort of results you can expect. And there are usually results that can be statistically analyzed. I’m less convinced here. Maybe even one success story would be nice.

But no. We must take his word for it. In four years, he helped congregations grow in worship attendance. So admire his amazing gifts. But don’t question it. And whatever you do, don’t look behind the curtain…

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1 Response to The Great and Powerful Oz has Spoken!

  1. Rev. Stefan M. Huppert says:

    Thanks, Lincoln, for this all-too-true expose of the politics of districts/synod leaders who are nothing more than Pharisees. I had a personal encounter with just such a district “leadership” situation right out of Ft. Wayne and as a result, am now off the official roster of LCMS clergy but continue nevertheless to do pulpit supply for pastors who are looking for confessional pastors to fill in for them but can’t find any who ARE officially rostered. Oh well. Soli Deo Gloria.

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