web space | website hosting | Business Web Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting


                IN THE GOSPEL OF LUECKE

                           Reviewed by

                    Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


David S. Luecke, The Other Story of Lutherans at Worship, Tempe:  Fellowship Ministries (Dave and Barb Anderson), 1995, 126 pp.


     Seldom does one find a book which can be read and digested in 10 minutes while watching the evening news on TV.[1]  Luecke has set a new standard in betraying the shallowness of the Church Growth Movement in Lutheranism, touching briefly on all their themes in his new book, The Other Story of Lutherans at Worship.

     Luecke is a very important thinker for WELS, ELCA, and the Missouri Synod.  He is currently the pastor of Community of Hope Church in Brecksville, Ohio.  Below is a statement sent out in all capital letters from WELS Pastor Paul Kelm.




          Fuller Evangelistic Association, Copyright, 1981,


     [Sent to congregations using the Spiritual Renewal Consultant     program, headed by Rev. Paul Kelm, 1990, p. 1.  WELS Synod    President Karl Gurgel denies there is any Church Growth in    WELS.]


The importance of Luecke and Fuller Seminary (where he served on the faculty) cannot be overemphasized, since most ELCA/WELS/LCMS leaders in home missions and world missions have trained there or at clones such as Win Arn's Church Growth Institute or Kent Hunter's Corunna, Indiana, school of enthusiasm.  Notice how WELS Pastor Joel Gerlach (who formerly taught at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary) connected his study at Fuller with his job as mission counselor, a paid position with the WELS District Mission Board.


     Incidentally, during my mission counselor days in California during the 80's, I did take a course at Fuller from Carl George and Peter Wagner.  I am grateful for the opportunity  to have done so because it helped me to see through the lousy theology espoused by David Luecke in "Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance" a book, by the way, which has been roundly criticized in WELS circles as your own columns have noted.

          Joel C. Gerlach to Pastor Herman Otten, no date.  [The      president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Rev. Armin Panning, has told the seminary students that no one on the faculty has    ever studied at Fuller or its satellites, though F. Bivens and     D. Valleskey have admitted being trained there.]

Gerlach's published writings, far from being critical of Fuller's theology, are slavish reproductions of the Pietistic Fuller theme of manufacturing disciples, in the name of the Great Commission.

     Luecke's new book entertains the reader because it is so crass.  The back page announces:  "Reclaiming Our Heritage of Diversity, Lutherans Do Have Options in Worship!"  [Bold print and exclamation mark in the original.]  A traditional Lutheran service has dozens of options and variations, from the selection of sound Lutheran hymns to the choice over using the gradual, the number of lessons, and the reading cycle.  The propers change every week.  The service can be a chorale service, with hymns substituting for all or part of the liturgy.  Lutheran sermons change every week because they emphasize a text, while Church Growth sermons always hammer away on the Law and legalism, following the example of their Reformed heroes.  The model for all Church Growth congregations is Willow Creek Community Church, led by Rev. Hybels, a key figure in Promise Keepers.

     Here is Luecke's argument:  Lutheran worship has often been diverse, low church with infrequent communion, and subservient to pop culture.  The recent trend (in the Liberal Book of Weirdness and in Lutheran Worship) toward weekly communion and more formality is not necessarily good, as ELCA Pastor Gracia Grindal has written.  Luecke's style of worship is embarrassingly devoted to reproducing what we find in the typical Assemblies of God church.  Luecke defines his "alternate worship" or "contemporary worship" as:

1.   Singing led by 3-5 people with microphones.

2.   Song words projected on a screen.

3.   The pastor is not wearing a gown.  "Or in churches where a    suit is the norm, the pastor is wearing a sport shirt."

4.   Very little is read "from a script."  [A script sounds      sinister.]

5.   "The music is done with an ensemble of synthesizer or piano,    guitars, and maybe a few other instruments.  The organ is probably not used at all."  [Pipe organs have a bad      association with Lutheran chorales, which express the doctrine of God rather than about my emotions.]

6.   "When there is a drummer and drumset, you know for sure you are in a contemporary worship."  [Rim shots are ideal for the punch-lines of the minister's jokes.]

7.   "Some of the songs have just one verse that is sung over and over again.  These are called choruses.  They are often woven     into medlies."(sic, a spell-checker would have improved the        book) (p. 6)

The cover of the book shows the same church with two albed pastors leading the worship in one photo, someone in a business suit and a musical group leading the service in the other photo.  Books appear in the pew racks, but it is impossible to see whether they are The Lutheran Hymnal or a collection of syrupy Pentecostal tunes.  They could be leather bound copies of Management by Objective, by Peter Drucker, a major Church Growth hero.

     Luecke's book is really a self-serving ad for the people who published it, Dave and Barb Anderson, although I do not doubt their sincerity in promoting pop music.  Luecke's attitude is typical of Fuller-trained Lutherans who love every denomination but their own.  They are scornful about the historic liturgy, which is not Lutheran in origin, but Biblical, beginning with the hopelessly out of date hymnbook of the Bible, The Psalms.[2]  Appointed lessons and prayers were part of the Hebrew worship tradition, which served as a foundation for the worship of the apostles. 

     The Sacraments of baptism and holy communion, established by the command of Christ, necessarily involve a traditional setting rather than the stand-up comic style of contemporary worship.  That is why the sacraments are moved out of the Sunday seeker service to the Wednesday night worship service.  The Eastern Orthodox tradition and the Western or Catholic tradition preserved and developed the liturgy, without regard to trying to match the carnivals and circuses of their time.  The Lutheran Reformation removed doctrinal errors from the Mass but retained the liturgy because it is the Word of God in musical form.  The Lutherans did not ape popular secular entertainment but used the time to shut out the world and focus on God's glory in Christ.

     If you think a chant is boring, consider my experience with the LBW.  When I was an LCA pastor, we were all glad for a setting which was more melodic (setting 2, the hymnic setting) than previous liturgies.  However, using setting 2 became more and more tiresome in a few years, just like singing "We Give Thee But Thine Own" every single Sunday.  A good melody is turned into a whine when it is overdone, while a chant retains its ability to carry the content of the message.  The ancients apparently knew, too, that words are more easily remembered when connected with music.  We can simply read the liturgy, but singing it stays in the mind all week.  The Word of God is efficacious when proclaimed, studied, or remembered.

     Luecke has some kind of a Ph.D., but he displays no understanding at all of Lutheran worship, even when quoting a few authorities.  For instance, he quotes my professor, the late Ulrich Leupold, in favor of flexibility and being "contemporary."  However, those who knew Leupold recall that he was a musical genius, an expert on Lutheran hymns, and one who often said in class, "Never use music in church when you would be ashamed to read the words from the pulpit."  No drug, legal or illegal, can get me to imagine Ulrich Leupold reading Luecke's favorite songs from the pulpit.  The songs favored by Lueckites are things like "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  Mold me, bend me, fold me, spindle me."  I apologize for losing track of the exact words, which were sung in the Sunday service of Prince of Peace (WELS) in Columbus, Ohio.  The Pentecostal and Baptist origins of these "favorite" hymns are painfully obvious.

     Luecke's argument favors the worship of the Assemblies of God for this reason:  because a few Lutheran churches using such services have been known to grow to monstrous size.  ELCA, WELS, and the LCMS have all lost tons of members and declined in Sunday attendance while Luecke's Fuller program has taken hold of all three hierarchies (world missions, home missions, evangelism, "discipleship,") and their seminaries (in the practical departments and D. Min. programs).  When all three church bodies met at Snowbird, the speakers were Church Growth.  When all three church bodies organized the Church Membership Initiative with booty from AAL, to discover why they were losing members in droves from Church Growth, the entire agenda of the CMI was Church Growth.  No surprise.  Planned Parenthood causes teen pregnancy and venereal disease by promoting promiscuity, then asks for more tax money to solve the problems of teen pregnancy and v.d.  No one has gone broke from promoting Church Growth or Planned Parenthood.[3]

     Luecke does not discuss the congregations or pastors known to have failed or left Lutheranism due to Church Growth.  Pastor Steve Quist did the Evangelical Lutheran Synod a big favor by serving on the ELS mission board, falling for Church Growth, starting seeker services, and leaving the ELS.  Because of his influence and the small size of the ELS, the pastors became very wary of the vapors emanating from Fuller Seminary and from their trainees in the WELS.

Numerous efforts by WELS leaders to bewitch the ELS with the same spells by which they were bewitched have failed.  The ELS has rejected the WELS hymnal, Christian Worship, its Gnostic unionistic feminist Creed, and its Fanny Crosby hymns.[4]   Many pastors in various denominations are looking forward to the ELS hymnal, which will be in print in a few months.

     Another Church Growth failure, loudly promoted in The Lutheran (ELCA) is the community church in Yorba Linda, California, which recently closed in spite of a huge fraternal insurance grant, seeker services, multiple staff, and training in entertainment evangelism.  (Church Growth, unionism, and fraternal dollars are never far apart:  Snowbird, the Church Membership Initiative, the "Joy" radio show, Kent Hunter's Heart to Heart workshop, endorsed in writing by Paul Kelm.) 


     Before going to Yorba Linda, the team will receive about six weeks of training at Community Church of Joy, whose pastor, the Rev. Walther Kallested has achieved notoriety in some Lutheran circles for his "entertainment evangelism."  With its 6,000 members, the Arizona church is unapologetic about relying on contemporary music, drama and practical sermons."

          Daniel J. Cattau, The Lutheran, April, 1992 "Outreach      Experiment, 'Megachurch' to start in California," p. 32,


     Outreach officials are well‑aware that some Lutherans are quite skeptical of the megachurch idea.  These critics say the ELCA's flirtation with the church growth movement shows a failure of confidence and they believe these megachurches are not really Lutheran in liturgy or substance.

          Ibid., p. 33.

The Lutheran Forum Letter featured the Yorba Linda flop with unconcealed glee.

     The First Vice President of the Michigan District, WELS, Pastor Paul Kuske, now retired, started Pilgrim Community Church in Columbus.  The former district president, Robert Mueller, supported Pilgrim and its Church Growth agenda.  Those who were phoned to attend Pilgrim were not told it was Lutheran.  WELS members were urged not to attend Pilgrim services or transfer there.  The trouble is, no one else did either.  Mass phoning and mass mailings yielded total attendance of three.  It would have been cheaper to pay some shills to attend.  Pilgrim Community Church was another flop in the Fuller/Luecke tradition.

     WELS Pastor Robert Schumann became the senior pastor at St. Paul in Columbus when Pastor Keith Roehl died.  St. Paul has never been a member of WELS but is finally voting on the issue in February.  Nothing happened for several years when members objected to Schumann's sermons and classes which promoted evolution (the reason St. Paul left the ALC) and anti-nomianism.  Schumann loved the Church Growth Movement and Serendipity Cell Groups.  He is now an AAL insurance agent.

     In steamy Florida, where Pastor Steve Quist once held ELS seeker services, WELS congregations were molded in the style of avoiding anything resembling Lutheranism.  Several retired people volunteered to me, "The only thing Lutheran about the Florida WELS service I attended was the name on the sign outside."  The joke in that district was that merely asking about Church Growth was sure to yield a call to another state far away.  A well known WELS pastor in that district asked me for Church Growth information, which I mailed to him.  He was going to write a paper on Church Growth for his conference.  Before he could give the paper, he accepted a call to Wisconsin.  I'm sure it was a coincidence.

     Pastor Kelly Voigt's congregation in Tallahassee, Florida, was lavishly funded and heavily promoted as the way to do things in WELS.  He had funds for lay assistants, seeker services, women distributing communion, everything a Fuller trainee could desire.  (Fuller has women theology professors and a feminist committee to thump any males who object to women teaching men or being in authority over them.)  One WELS pastor told me about attending a workshop given by the mission board which featured Voigt and his methods.  Voigt is no longer a WELS pastor (see Crossroads below) and his heavily funded congregation no longer exists in any form.  The members left WELS with Voigt and faded away faster than a July frost.

     Yet another lavishly funded Florida disaster was the congregation in affluent Coral Gables, which began with WELS Pastor Randy Cutter.  It included Pastor Robert Timmermann and Pastor Mark Freier.  Freier came because of a WELS Kingdom Worker's grant when he was in trouble in the Michigan District for promoting false doctrine.  All three pastors became charismatics, got kicked out of WELS, and took the members with them.  The district is left with an empty building, a huge debt, and nuisance lawsuits.  One district pastor told me, "The Church Growth Movement has caused us a lot of problems and a lot of money.  When it starts costing money, leaders really get upset." 

     WELS Pastor Martin Spriggs in Charlotte, South Carolina, was so closely tied to Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago that he had a spiritual advisor at Willow Creek, a parish constitution from Willow Creek, and sermons copied verbatim from Willow Creek.  He is no longer a WELS pastor but is applying to be admitted again to the ministerium.  His Church Growth congregation has about 16 members attending at the moment.  The district may spend another large sum of money to rescue the situation.

     In addition, three WELS foreign missionaries and a lay worker turned charismatic, spoke in tongues, and left WELS.  Mentioning that situation, which was tolerated by the faculty of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for some time, is like trying to rob a she-bear of her cubs. (Proverbs 17:12)  When Christian News published some information about Rev. Dan Kelm loving Willow Creek and leaving WELS, both the Missouri Synod and WELS reacted.  (She-bear ditto)

     Finally, we have the heart-warming story of Crossroads Community Church, 594 N. Lafayette, South Lyon, MI, 48178, phone 810-486-0400, which began with WELS members calling a WELS pastor, Rick Miller, to serve a new church in the Luecke tradition. District President Robert Mueller approved.   Miller advertized his non-boring contemporary services, had liturgical dance and drama, and women lectors.  Crossroads did not admit to being Lutheran, not even on the phone.  When the ELS finally got wind to what was happening, due to my objections, Miller left WELS along with his members.  I had a long and friendly phone call with him this week, to make sure my facts were correct.  Crossroads now has Kelly Voigt leading seeker services and Mark Freier on the staff, both from the two Florida WELS churches which evaporated.  Crossroads is a member of the Willow Creek Association, where the staff has studied.  Miller told me that when he first went to Willow Creek, he spotted 3 WELS parish pastors in the same audience, also being trained.  He said, "They were embarrassed when they saw me."

     I am intrigued by Crossroads, since all three pastors graduated from Northwestern College in Watertown and from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.  Miller approved of Valleskey's approach to Church Growth in the evangelism class, "spoiling the Egyptians."  He agreed with me that WELS has heavily promoted Church Growth leaders (Kelly Voigt, Dan Kelm) and then suddenly turned away from them.  Miller does not hide his fondness for the Church Growth Movement and defends its results.  People who would never go to church have become members.  This indicates, too, what Pieper says, that the Word is efficacious in non-Lutheran churches as well.

     Crossroads Community Church's "Statement of Faith" is an indication of where Church Growth doctrine leads Lutherans.  The statement is generic Protestantism and lacks any reference to the historic Creeds.  Biblical inerrancy, Creation, the Virgin Birth, the Atonement and Resurrection are all mentioned.  Miller says they have communion (on Wednesdays) and infant baptism, but the Sacraments are not mentioned at all in the statement of faith.[5] This is a replay of the Prussian Union, the Definite Synodical Platform, and Revivalism.  They are entitled to teach whatever they wish at Crossroads, but it is not Lutheran.  In another generation, Crossroads will follow the example of all Calvinist churches (young Calvinist, old Socinian) and be ultra-liberal.  Fuller Seminary began in 1947 with a mild statement on inerrancy and now teaches against inerrancy.  Fuller promotes Pentecostalism and the occult.  One world missions professor teaches that Christ is not necessary for salvation (or world missions, for that matter).

                           The Antidote

     When Lutherans are embarrassed to mention the Church Growth Movement by name in a few years, the damage will remain unless it is rooted out of the LCMS and WELS, not by electing politicians but by working on Biblical and Confessional solutions at every level, especially at the local, circuit, and conference level.  In fact, I have been told that some young WELS pastors have announced at their conferences, "I will not promote Church Growth garbage."  One mission counselor said that and is out of work in WELS.

     Lutherans should be alarmed that our only reason for existence--worship--has been shanghaied, raped, mutilated, and returned to us as a Spirit anointed method of guaranteeing large crowds, members who are "happy campers," and the grudging respect of jealous clergy.  Lutherans alone teach the efficacy of the Word.  Someone who has grasped that doctrine cannot abide the effusions of Enthusiasm, which is just the opposite.

     The efficacy of the Word is the only method of God, Who will not give us the Spirit without the Word, or the Word without the Spirit (Isaiah 55, Romans 10; The Small Catechism, Third Article of the Creed; Large Catechism, First Table; Luther's hymns, Gerhardt's hymns, Kingo's hymns, Loy's hymns, Franzmann's hymns). 


     (1) Preach you the Word and plant it home To men who like or like it not, The Word that shall endure and stand When flowers and men shall be forgot. (2) We know how hard, O Lord, the task Your servant bade us undertake: To preach your Word and never ask What prideful profit it may make. (3) The sower sows; his reckless love Scatters abroad the goodly seed, Intent alone that men may have The wholesome loaves that all men need. (4)  Though some be snatched and some be scorched And some be choked and matted flat, The sower sows; his heart cries out, 'Oh, what of that, and what of that?' (5) Preach you the Word and plant it home And never faint; the Harvest Lord Who gave the sower seed to sow Will watch and tend his planted Word.

          Martin H. Franzmann, 1907‑76, "Preach You the Word,"

     Lutheran Worship, St. Louis:  Concordia Publishing House,      1982, Hymn #259. Mark 4.  Franzmann taught at Northwestern

     College in Watertown, Wisconsin.


Enthusiasm, which includes all error (Mormon, Roman Catholic, Moslem, Church Growth), cannot connect the Word to the Spirit, cannot abide the efficacy of the Word, and will not tolerate the visible Word (the Sacraments) unless they are gutted and neutered.

     The efficacy of the Word alone is not to be mocked, as the false teachers do, by saying, "We know God works through the Word alone, but our methods from Fuller and Willow Creek will make it work even better." 


     What do people mean when they talk about effective church growth principles?  Do we make God's kingdom come?  "God's kingdom certainly comes by itself," Luther wrote.  Ours is to sow the seed.  We hamper the kingdom if we sow carelessly or if we do not sow at all.  But we do not make it grow.

          Rev. Mark Braun, "The Growing Seed, What Do People Mean      When They Talk about Effective Church Growth Principles?"  The   Northwestern Lutheran, WELS, September 1, 1991, p. 300. Mark 4:26‑29. [Emphasis added. Compare with Franzmann's hymn    above.]


     Therefore, before the conversion of man there are only two efficient causes, namely, the Holy Ghost and the Word of God, as the instrument of the Holy Ghost, by which He works conversion.  This Word man is [indeed] to hear; however, it is not by his own powers, but only through the grace and working of the Holy Ghost that he can yield faith to it and accept it.

          Formula of Concord, Epitome, II, Of the Free Will, #19,

     Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis:  Concordia Publishing House,    1921, p. 791. Tappert, p. 472.  [Note that Church Growth    principles are not a third cause of conversion.]


As soon as Lueckites add their methods to the only method of God, they are sowing tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:25).  Their tares will grow green and lush and produce nothing but more tares.  No farmer or gardener would look at a stand of weeds and say, "I would really love to have those seeds growing at my place."  Yet the ELCA, WELS, and LCMS Church Growth leaders look at the large churches of the Enthusiasts (the wackier, the better) and say, "That is exactly what we need in Lutheranism."


     2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (KJV)   And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: {12} That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


     Trust in the efficacy of the Word means not trusting in the effectiveness of any man-made method.  The Word of God, because the Holy Spirit accompanies it, always has the power of God inherent in it.  The Holy Spirit will not be found anywhere else.  The Pietistic unionists have no problems with false doctrine, but Lutheran doctrine makes them furious.  (I speak from experience.)

The effect of their promotion of false doctrine is utterly predictable.  It doesn't take a Cassandra to say that one cannot merge Reformed methods with Lutheran doctrine and get congre-gations and denominations which grow faster than kudzu.  The entire Church Growth Movement has done nothing, according to their own statistics, except enrich those people who are willing to betray their denominations to the Tare Bearer.

     I put my best agent to work in finding out which Lutheran leaders have attended Fuller Seminary in Pasadena and Win Arn's Church Growth Institute in Monrovia, Cal.  Normally my wife can get information from any source, which made her very valuable at an international engineering firm where information was everything.  The Fuller and Win Arn people refused to divulge any information.  In contrast, a phone call to the Yale registrar would yield confirmation or denial of who studied there.  The Fuller and Win Arn staff said they could not confirm names because, "It is very controversial and causes trouble."  The Fuller graduates are ashamed of their alma mater, (Latin, nursing mother), so I have to wonder about their convictions and their conscience.

     Michigan District President John Heins (LCMS) thinks that "Lutheran pastors and leaders who are struggling with the winds of diversity in worship need to read Dr. Luecke's new book for insight, direction, and guidance." 

     Rev. Tim Wright, at ELCA's Community Church of Joy (actual name) loves the book as well.

     I know that many WELS, ELS, and LCMS pastors loathe the false doctrine which permeates and energizes the work of Luecke, Kent Hunter, Waldo Werning, Paul Kelm, Lawrence Olson, and others.  However, only the Church of the Lutheran Confession has repudiated the doctrines and methods of the Church Growth Movement.  Church Growth is an error which has been imposed from the top down by Lutheran seminary professors and by mission executives.  It can only be eradicated by applying the Word to its false assumptions every time some fool tries to tell Lutherans that they have to "market the Gospel, form Pietistic cell groups, ape the Assemblies of God, hide the name Lutheran, or start a seeker service.




[1].  My wife said, "I read it in 5 minutes."  I responded, "But I read it carefully."

[2].  "Es ist im Alten wie im Neuen Testament derselbe Gott, derselbe Mittler, dieselbe Gnade, dieselbe Gerechtigkeit, dieselbe Erloesung.  (There is in the Old Testament the same God as in the New Testament, the same Means, the same grace, the same righteousness, the same salvation.)"

Adolf Hoenecke, Evangelisch‑Lutherische Dogmatik, 4 vols., ed., Walter and Otto Hoenecke, Milwaukee:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1912, IV,  p. 70. 


[3].  "Planned Parenthood" is the name of some of Win Arn's materials.  I would not name a program of evangelism after a nationwide provider of abortion, but of course I am legalistic.

[4].  The Theodore Hartwig argument for "fully human" instead of "and was made man" in the Creed is that the verb form of anthropos can only refer to human beings in general and not to the Son of God being male.  A cursory look at the New Testament by a first year Greek student would reveal that anthropos is used in John 3:1 (and other places).  "There was a anthropos from the Pharisees, Nicodemus by name, who came to Him by night and said..."  Which reading makes sense:  "There was a fully human from the Pharisees" (Hartwig) or "There was a man from the Pharisees" (all translations).  Denying the maleness of Jesus, hence the Father/Son relationship, is the core of lesbian Sophia goddess worship in the mainline churches, including ELCA.  Those who adopt pagan words for the Christian Creed are leading people into the Sophia cult.  The adverb "fully" is not found in the Greek verb and suggest "only human" and not divine, which is what the mainline denominations believe, teach, and confess.  What a shameful compromise with pop paganism!

[5].  "Die Wiedergeburt wirkt einzig und allein Gott, aber auch nur durch die Gnadenmittel.  (Rebirth works only and alone by God, but also only through the Means of Grace."

Adolf Hoenecke, Evangelisch‑Lutherische Dogmatik, 4 vols., ed., Walter and Otto Hoenecke, Milwaukee:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1912, III, p. 265.