The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

WELS Pastor Denounces Church Growth

Pastor Steve Kurtzahn wrote this letter April 30, 1996, when he was a circuit pastor in the CLC (sic). The letter is written to CLC Pastor Paul Tiefel, who shares the same grandfather and nickname (Teufel) as Mequon Professor James P. Tiefel. Paul Tiefel did not enjoy my CN review of Valleskey's disastrous Church Growth textbook.

St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC)
2100 Sixteenth Street South West
Austin, Minniesota 55912

April 30, 1996

Pastor Paul Tiefel
2015 N. Hastings Way
Eau Claire, WI 54703

This is in response to your April 27th letter.

First, let me say that when you phoned me you wanted to know what problems I had with Valleskey's book. You also mentioned on the phone that you felt Greg Jackson broke the Eighth Commandment.

It is because of the accusation you made on the phone against Greg that I spent so mujch space in my letter speaking of the review. You were the one who brought it up on the phone with me. Now you want to discuss it "only with Jackson's approval?" Let me repeat myself, Paul : I see no instance how or where Greg did such a thing as break the Eighth Commandment. [emphasis in original]

It is very disturbing that you and [David ] Koenig speak to false teachers in other church bodies like Valleskey, [James] Tiefel and Harstad (sp?) concerning the truthfulness of what Greg Jackson writes. Since when do you think they will agree with Greg? He has laid bare in the past few years the fact that many in the WELS and the ELS were Church-Growth oriented. Do you honestly think they would corroborate Greg's statements after that?

Allow me to make an analogy. Think back to the formative days of the CLC. What if you or Dave were on the floor of the WELS conventions back in the 1950's when it disregarded Romans 16:17, 18. Would you have gone to O. J. Naumann or Carl Lawrenz to see if Edmund Reim or Egbert Schoaller or C. M. Gullerrud were telling the truth concerning the error of the WELS/ELS? What do you think the response would have been if you had asked them, "Is Reim (or Schaller or Gullerud) telling the truth?"

When it comes to my pointing out the false doctrine of David Valleskey, Paul, it needs to be said that a false teacher can be recognized not just by blatant and clear statements of falsehood, like you are searching for when it comes to his book. But a false teacher can also be recognized when does NOT say something that he should, or when he says something in a confusing manner, or even when his writings exude a false spirit. For example, a person can be classified as a legalist and still say all the right words. But you know he's a legalist by the way he says these them or by what he does not say. Going back to the 1930's and 40's, particularly with the "Statement of the 44," many recognized that something was going terribly wrong in the Missouri Synod, but no one could really put a finger on the problem until after the fact. There are many things in the "Statement" that you and I could also p;robably have agreed with, but looking back upon that history we recognize now that there was an underlying liberal agenda being carried out in the LC-MS. Hindsight is always 20-20.

Getting back to Valleskey's book:

1. Unless I missed it somewhere, does Valleskey repudiate the Church Growth Movement taught by Fuller Theological Seminary by name? If he does, show me the page number.

2. On pages 199 through 204 Valleskey deals with the so-called "Seeker Service." He goes into a tremendous amount of detail about how Seeker Services are done. He raises many good questions that Lutherans should ask themselves before they become involved in such Seeker Services. But if Seeker Services are dangerous by trivializing and by even ignoring the Means of Grace, why does he leave the door cracked open by saying on page 204, "Althought it must be said that congregations may in Christian freedom utilize at least certain features of this outreach method..."

3. On page 201 Valleskey states, "The gospel is proclaimed at the Seeker Service, but not as a means by which the Spirit miraculously draws people into the church..." From what I have read from many different sources in the past and from what I have seen on television documentiaries, the Gospel of Holy Scripture is NOT proclaimed at many, if not most, of these Seeker Services. So why does Valleskey say, "The gospel is proclaimed..."?

4. On page 174, Valleskey quotes Joseph Aldrich approvingly. Where in the quote is there mention of the Means of Grace? The quote sounds very Reformed ot me ("He desire to build into you and me the beauty of his own character, and then put us on display...").

5. On pages 237 and 238 Valleskey speaks of the role of women in evangelism. I felt very uncomfortable with the two paragraphs because he is making a distinction between evangelism calling "in the name of and on behalf of the congregation" (p. 27, fifith line from the bottom) and "the ministry of the gospel conducted in the name of and on behalf of the congregation" (p. 238, fifth line from the top). Why would he make such an artificial distinction? Why would he also make the contrast in the statement "They go out, not as one with authority over the man, but as ones with a message to share"? Why would a man with his seeming intellectual prowess resort to such confusing language? WHAT IS HIS UNDERLYING MOTIVE? Are these paragraphs laying the groundwork for some new revelations to come out of the WELS in the future in connection with the role of women in the church? These are very legitimate questions we should all be asking!

When I read Chapter Five, beginning on page 213, I thought I was back working at the brokerage firm in Milwaukee, sitting at the feet of motivational speakers who were using Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. These concepts of planning, mission statements, etc. the Church Growth people at Fuller lifted right out of the business world and have applied to the church. All sorts of companies have mission statements today. I've seen them in the lobbies of hospitals and in many other public places. But the Church has its "mission statement" in Matthew 28:18-20. There is no need for a new one!

On pages 217 ff. Valleskey speaks of the value of a mission statement. He shows what happens "without a clear sense of mission" and he shows what can happen "with a clear sense of mission." Paul, take a very close look at Valleskey's points. [emphasis in original] All of this is being stated on the basis of A MISSION STATEMENT rather than on the basis of THE MEANS OF GRACE, THE GOSPEL IN WORD AND SACRAMENTS.

On page 221, Valleskey speaks of "congregational self-study." At the end of that first paragraph under step two he speaks of "a community profile." We used to refer to such activity as the canvass, so we could find out what neighborhood families are unchurched so we could share the simple Word with them. The Church Growth people speak of such "community profiles" so they can fill the "felt needs" of an area. From the way Valleskey is writing it woudl eappear that he is again going the Church Growth route. If he's not, why doesn't he make himself clear?

Valleskey speaks a lot about goals, action plans, policies and procedures, etc. Note the comment in the middle of page 225, "It is good for a congregation, and likewise its boards and committees, to ask and answer the question, 'Where would we like to be, under God, five years from now?' and then begin to take specific steps to achieve that goal.'"

The reason the CG people like such statements is that many times their goal is an increase in church membership. It is true, Valleskey warns about this on page 224, "A part of the goal, however, cannot be that as a result of this concerted effort, X number of people will be brought to faith and fellowship hurch." But then why does he spend so much time talking about it? Why do we need action plans, goals, etc. to figure out where we would like to be five years from now? The answer from every confessional Lutheran congregation should be: Five years from now we pray that we will continue proclaiming the Word of God in its truth and purity and administering the Sacraments as Christ instituted them. Period. [emphasis in original] Valleskey is lifting all of this stuff from the CG literature and interspercing comments such as the one on page 224 to salve the consciences of those who are still concerned about being faithful to the Word.

On page 230 in his example of developing policies and procedures, objective 1 is described as "To develop and maintain an evangelism awareness in our congregation." NOtice how this objective is to be implemented: articles (what should be in them?), greeter teams, adopt-a-goal, maintain tract rack (whould kind of tracts?), promote an evangelism Sunday, etc. All of these man-made methods are listed, but where in the world is there any mention of the faithful proclaimation of Law and Gospel? That is how true Scriptural evangelism awareness is developed and maintained.

Greg has already spoke of the differences in exegesis on Matthew 28 in his review, and how Valleskey is inconsistent in that regard.

There are other examples I could probably offer, but the above should suffice.

Paul, there are good things in Valleskey's book. I also learned when I read it. There are some good common sense suggestions in the second part of the book. But as you can see from the above references, ever so slyly, like a wolf in sheep's clothing, Valleskey is promoting the Church Growth Movement. [emphasis in original] I will argue that with anyone. God forbid, but my guess would be the next such book out of WELS will be even more CG oriented and even more blatant in its CG statements.

I hope this will finally put to rest the discord, mistrust and animosity this book has caused among brethren.

In His service,


Stephen C. F. Kurtzahn

cc: [CLC President] Dan Fleischer, [current world missionary] Dave Koenig


GJ - Kurtzahn resigned from the CLC and found himself a large WELS congregation to serve. One WELS pastor wondered how he managed to go through colloquy without spending time at Mequon, but another one said he was there. See below.

He has a mission statement that says nothing about the Means of Grace.

Jack has left a new comment on your post "WELS Pastor Denounces Church Growth":

Kurtzahn did spend a year at WLS. The WELS directory available at shows that he came through there in 2003. Wonder how he existed on the same campus with satan worshipers like Vallesky and Tiefle (sic).
BTW, are you holding him up as a good example or are you bashing him for "going WELS". Thanks
Jack P.


GJ - I judge by doctrine, not by synod labels, which mean nothing. Of course, integrity goes a long way when there is such a shortage of that quality among chameleon Lutherans.