Annoying Words that are used by well-meaning Confessional Lutherans

There are few words that annoy me more than the word “winsome.” It is overused and trite. It reminds me of the phrase “compassionate conservative.” This term was invented to make conservative politicians seem less abrasive. This is what I think the word “winsome” implies when employed by Presidents of seminaries and admissions counselors:

Winsome (win-sum): adj., The approach to teaching God’s Word that avoids abrasive terms and seeks to win the opposing party’s approval not by the content of the teaching but by the tone and the way in which something is taught. Contrast with the approach of Jesus, the Apostles, and the Blessed Martyrs. Pastor ______ is so winsome in his teaching. He’s a great guy. Opposite of “offensive.”

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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48 Responses to Annoying Words that are used by well-meaning Confessional Lutherans

  1. Winsome says:

    Or, it could mean that some people have the wisdom and common sense to realize that making an ass out of yourself and then wrapping yourself in the flag of being “confessional” is crap?

    There, is that un-winsome enough for you Pastor?

  2. Winsome says:

    Oh, by the way, how about you stop trying to pontificate on your blog site and get off your unwinsome kiester and figure out why it is that you only have 20 people on average showing up in a congregation that has 170 baptized member, and 25 in a congregation of over 250?

    Good luck with that unwinsome ministry of yours, seems to be working out really well for you.

  3. Preachrboy says:

    Sounds like somebody has a fan club!

  4. Pastor Beisel says:

    This reminds me of one of those “loving” letters that I have received from “kind and compassionate” members when I have said something in a sermon or a letter that was irksome to them. I honestly don’t know how to respond. What can I say to that? I seem to have an uncanny knack for putting the arrow right in the bull’s-eye. If the shoe fits…

  5. Winsome says:

    yes, take comfort in your faithful orthodoxy and confessional integrity and your brave, bold truth telling! You go!

    But, it does make one wonder how it is that you have 20 average worshippers in one of your congregations, and 25 in another, with hundreds and hundreds who apparently are not darkening the door of your church.

    I’m sure it must because you are so faithful and they are all swine who just don’t realize what a faithful pastor you are, right?

    Dream on.

  6. Steven says:

    You know Pastor Beisel… it seems that saying that which has been commanded by our Lord has become somewhat of an interesting art, in which we can see how to say it without the sting of the law and in so doing we lessen the glory of the gospel. There is a cross in the Gospel. People don’t like to carry anything, and it is natural not to darken doors in which the world attacks. Keep putting the arrow in the bull’s-eye! All Glory be to God…not those winsome, compassionate types.

  7. Janet says:

    It’s really sad and cowardly when people make nasty anonymous comments and don’t have the dignity to stand behind them with an actual name.

  8. Pastor Beisel says:

    Dear Winsome:

    I assume that you looked up the stats to the two parishes I serve on the LC-MS website. Otherwise you must know me some how.

    Whatever the case may be, the stats at the churches I serve are typical of the area in which we live. Ask any of the other pastors in the town (the ones that hold to some doctrinal and liturgical standard) and you will find that they are all suffering from the same problem. The fact that many of the people who are on the roles do not come to church is a constant thorn in my side. I’m not proud of the fact, but I also know that it is out of my control. The Holy Spirit works when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel, and make no mistake, the Gospel is proclaimed every Sunday. Do not the Scriptures say that God gives the growth? You make assumptions that you cannot verify or back up. You assume, for example, that this spiritual problem began in my parishes when I arrived (four years ago). It has been in the works for many years before I arrived. Pastors often inherit problems that they have little or no control over.

    By criticizing the word “winsome” I am not saying that pastors should be mean or have the right to be unloving toward their congregations. I mean that using the word winsome implies that those who are “winsome” are somehow superior to those who just preach the Word and tell things like they are (which is what we are supposed to be doing). You follow?

  9. Pastor Beisel says:

    Revised definition of “winsome”: If you say things just the right way, that will make all the difference.

    That is why pastors with “more experience” are treated more reverently than those with “less experience.” “Seasoned pastors” have learned how to be “winsome”. They have learned through experience just the right way to say things so as to bring about the desired results, while the rest of us are floundering about, just speaking God’s Word with unbridled and untrained tongue, abrasive, abrupt, and (GASP!) unwinsome!

    Don’t you see how foolish this is! It is nothing but a marketing ploy to think that if you just couch things in the right way, the “consumer” will “buy” your “product”. It’s the Church’s version of P.C. (Political Correctness for those of you in Rio Linda). I can’t stand it.

  10. Lawrence says:

    Winsome states… “yes, take comfort in your faithful orthodoxy and confessional integrity and your brave, bold truth telling! You go!”

    I realize this statement is focused on Pr. Beisel, personally, but in context it accuses a much wider spectrum of people. Including me.

    My responses:
    I do, and I will. But go? (your way?) No.

    >>>
    Winsome’s points are a perfect example of those who “miss-the-point”.

    45 people worshipping correctly (“in confessional integrity and bold brave truth telling”) is infinitely better than 420 people worshiping wrongly.

    Winsome’s own arguments illustrate the very nature of the problem with Christianity in America. Focusing on numbers of people in the pews rather than the Christ centered theology they believe, teach, and worship.

    >>>
    Note to Winsome:

    Christ puts the people in the pews. Not the pastor. If you have a problem with memberships, take it up with “Him”.

    Sniping at the pastor serves no constructive purpose. These unsubstantiated accusations against Pr. Beisel may perhaps be considered “bearing false witness against your neighbor”.

  11. Lawrence says:

    “If you say things just the right way, that will make all the difference.”

    I would argue that this is the definition of Tact, not Winsome. But it could also be considered Lying, in many respects.

    There is nothing necessarily wrong with being Winsome, unless one is also being misleading.

    Conciliatory is also another way to view Winsome. A conciliatory (and/or compromising) position isn’t a bad thing, unless one is compromising on something important like theology.

    For example: Compromising a church’s core theology in favor of increasing the number of people who show up on Sunday.

  12. OSC says:

    …making an ass out of yourself and then wrapping yourself in the flag of being “confessional”…

    I joined this conversation late. In winsome‘s defense, sure, this would be a travesty. I’d say it’s right up there with making an ass out of yourself and then wrapping yourself in the flag of being “loving in a contemporary sense that rejects doctrine as irrelevant and unimportant.”

    The issue, dear winsome, is the clear proclamation of the Gospel. Doctrine doesn’t exist for doctrine’s sake, or so that the “confessional camp” can have a giant “we’re right” party in which they collectively tick off the various doctrines they’ve retained purely. Doctrine exists because the Lord has given it, and He has given it so that you might be saved from the clutches of Satan. To write off that gift as irrelevant is to write off the Giver as the same.

    The faithfulness of a pastor is not quantifiable by counting heads in a pew. He is measured by the doctrine he proclaims (Titus 1, esp. v. 9; Titus 2.1ff; pretty much all of 1-2 Timothy). Today more than ever he finds his people assaulted by misleading (read: false, leading away from God and His gifts in Jesus Christ) doctrines of both subtle and overt natures.

    Satan has not given up the ship yet. He continues to work to do violence to the Church and the people of God. Unfortunately, dear winsome, that assault comes from without and within. Let Paul speak: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4.3-4). This is not a scary story that “confessionals” tell their kids when they’re misbehaving. This is Scripture. And it’s reality. Dare I say, it’s relevant.

    Merriam-Webster defines “winsome” as “generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.” Since this isn’t really how Scripture describes Jesus, I don’t know if it’s something to which His pastors ought to aspire.

    I think everything else has been said.

  13. Winsome says:

    So, you’ve been there four years. And there are still hundreds on the rolls who don’t darken the door?

    A faithful pastor exercises church discipline, right?

    Or is it easier to comfort yourself by telling yourself, “I’m preaching faithfully. They just don’t come to hear me!”

    Something is not quite right here, pastor.

  14. Lawrence says:

    Or is it easier to comfort yourself by telling yourself, “I’m preaching faithfully. They just don’t come to hear me!”

    Who’s to say he is not preaching faithfully? 45 people within those congregations believe he is. Plus a few more of us out here on the web. As you condemn this pastor, you also condemn his faithful parishioners.

    You also condemn people like me who agree with him. And since you choose to cut such a wide swath with your condemnations, I am compelled to respond as much on my own behalf, as on behalf of Pr. Beisel and his congregations.

    So, you’ve been there four years. And there are still hundreds on the rolls who don’t darken the door?

    An interesting choice of words, “darken the door”. This is a pretty good analogy of what happens when faithless people attend church.

    However, Winsome, you are completely missing the point. Your single minded focus on quantity is blinding you from the higher priority of quality. Your measurement of success is dangerously misplaced.

    A faithful pastor exercises church discipline, right?

    What do you want him to do, remove them from the roster and kick them out of the congregation? Maybe he could pay them each $25 when they show up. Mormons come knocking on your door if you don’t show up and if you don’t pay your tithes. Is this what you mean by discipline?

    Something is not quite right here, pastor.

    Indeed. What is not right is people on the church roster who make no effort of their own to worship, as well as other people who make excuses for those decisions by vilifying the pastor.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Beisel,
    “Winsome” is a troll and should be banned. He will not repent, nor will he relent.
    Chi Chi

  16. Pr. M. L. F. Freiberg Sr. says:

    Dr. Gene Edward Veith Jr. uses the word “winsome” in his July/August 2006 Lutheran Witness article: “Clearly, the church–along with parents and counselors–needs to be proactive in addressing this moral collapse [sexual morality}. But pastors often do not know what to do in the face of such enormous problems. Parents do not know what to say to their children. Part of the problem is that the church has been unable to articulate the Bible’s positive teachings about sex and marriage in a winsome way. Often Christians do not have a clear idea about what those teachings are.”

  17. Winsome says:

    What is interesting is that Pastor B. and his defenders simply refuse to grapple with even the possibility that there just might be something he could do to address the fact that he has only 45 people out of a total church membership of several hundred showing up for church.

    Is that any cause for concern? Is that any cause for action?

    Or are we to try, as is done here, to find all manner of excuses to offer up for this problem?

    Is it resposible pastoral care simply to permit people who do not show up to church to remain on your church rolls as members when in fact they are not?

    Why, after four years, has nothing changed about this situation?

    Addressing the horrendous inactive problem that are in these two congregations is not being “statistic driven” it is called being faithful.

    Do tell, Pastor Beisel, why it is that between these two parishes you have only 45 active congregants?

  18. Winsome says:

    It is interesting to notice that Pastor Cholak’s congregation has 75 on average in church and the membership is 300.

    What is being done to address the inactive problem there?

    Is it really a faithful Law/Gospel ministry when people are simply allowed to continue as “members” who do not faithfully attend the Divine Service?

    Time for action, not excuses.

  19. Whey Lay says:

    Sorry to be whey late to this one but I couldn’t resist. Winsome’s openning comments are a hatchet job at best. It’s distasteful to insinuate arrogance or laziness upon a called pastor, unless your a district supervisor (and you may be), in which case it should still be done privately. The last two posts by W. have been tempered and are now at least reasonably centered on the question of what can be done to improve a specific congregation’s attendance. Your relentless pursuit and focus on numbers now belies the soul of a top notch Sales Department Supervisor, if its not your vocation sir you should consider it, the monthly publications are always looking for phone room task masters.
    On to the question of attendance. Would you kick elderly or home bound members off, just for not attending? How about those in the military or transfered to another area? Off with them too. Hopefully not. I don’t think you would find many churches that would kick off non-attending members if they are in good standing otherwise, and why would they? I agree that pastors, elders and members should exhort one another to attend, at a minimum phone calls to the inactive members, maybe home visits by the pastor and elders done in love and concern. Thats a start and my contribution, I’d like to know what W.’s ideas are on getting others to attend? Do you have any? Or is throwing rocks and just asking pointed questions all you can do?

  20. Der Bettler says:

    My pastor and I have had extensive conversations about the propriety of the LCMS posting these congregational statistics for the public to see. There are many aspects of a congregation that simply cannot be quanified, no matter how sophisticated the measuring tool. I may see a congregation with 75% of the baptized members attending each week and consider it to be successful, but that report doesn’t measure success as defined in Scripture and the Confessions — preaching the Gospel purely and administering the Sacraments rightly.

    As someone who works in a corporate environment of databases and statistics, I know how easy it is to sit at a desk and try to read into reports. If productivity declines in one business unit, we assume there must be a problem. How dangerous this line of thinking can be in the Church!

    The congregation I attend is small. To be honest, attending such a small church is depressing and demoralizing. Many Sundays we have a hard time ensuring we have acolytes, Communion assistants, and ushers. It’s hard to tell visitors about how faithful we are, about how our pastor faithfully pronounces absolution, delivers us the comfort of the Gospel, and gives us our Lord’s body and blood. Why? Because they look into our sanctuary and see pews without butts. I’ve never met Pr. Beisel nor have I ever been within 100 miles of either of his congregations. From what I have read of his writings, however, I would be pleased if he were my pastor. Why? Because he realizes the primary duties of his vocation: to deliver those gifts that God has commanded him to give; indeed, to deliver Christ Himself. As a matter of fact, I’d say its a testament to his character and integrity that he even left these incendiary comments and responded to them directly, in a pastoral manner.

  21. Pastor Beisel says:

    I appreciate all the votes of confidence by the readers of this blog. As for hiding behind a “confessional flag,” I do no such thing. I stand publicly in a pulpit week after week, and proclaim God’s Word as I have been called to do. If I am to be judged it shall be by God alone. I have no desire to respond in kind to Mr. Winsome, nor do I feel the need to remove his unwinsome comments. However, I would ask that the discussion be conducted a little bit more cordially. I obviously have struck a nerve with Mr. Winsome (I’m assuming it is a “Mister”) and he has had plenty of opportunity to vent his frustrations with me.

    As to the number of people in my parishes that come to church, I cannot explain it except to refer all to the parable of the Sower. Remember that in this parable, only a fourth of the seed took root and bore a hundredfold. Some was scorched by the heat of the sun, some was choked and matted flat (to use Franzman’s words). I wish it were not so, and I have not taken a defeatist attitude toward it. I have had two members return to communion after phone calls and visits, only to find that the reason they were not coming was that they had not been there for so long (probably about 15 years or so) and felt that they hadn’t paid their dues. Pastors before me have made similar attempts to visit, call on, and send letters to those who do not attend, but when they have tried to remove names from the roster, it is met with severe hostility by some of the members of the voters. I’m sure I am not alone in this. Don’t think for a second that this problem does not consume my thoughts daily. I admit that I have not prayed for them as fervently as I ought, nor visited them as urgently as I ought. Since I must give an account of the sheep who have been entrusted to me on the last day, I bear full responsibility for any who have escaped the sheepfold, and rest on God’s mercy in Jesus’ suffering and death. If I have caused “one of these little ones” to fall away, I pray that no millstone will be tied around my neck. I do feel like a failure most of the time as a result of the apparent lack of “success” the Word of God seems to be having. However, I often comfort myself with the fact that there really is no such thing as a small congregation, since we are only a tiny part of the whole Body of Christ. I continually remind my members, who also feel like failures, that when we gather for the Divine Service we are gathered with more than just 20-25 people, but with “angels, and archangels, and the whole company of heaven.” I often feel like Jesus when He said of the Jews: “How often I would have gathered you as a hen her chicks, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING.” How I wish these dear sheep would return to the sheepfold, to have the wholesome loaves of God’s Word that all men need, but so many are simply unwilling. That is the plight I face each day of the ministry here. I really strive to do my best, but I know that in the end all the efforts of men will fail if God is not with them.

    As for the word “winsome,” use it if you like. I think it should be deleted from our vocabulary. Notice the Scriptures do not say: “Be thou winsome unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” but rather, “Be thou faithful unto death…” Should we choose our words carefully and wisely? Of course. That’s just using wisdom and common sense. To me, the word winsome, when used to describe a pastoral approach, smacks of marketing ploys in the secular world. “Package the message in the right verbage and tone of voice, and you’re sure to win the hearts and minds of your hearers.” So we spend all our time trying to package the Gospel in the right “clothes” of our own making, rather than just speaking God’s Word as it is and relying on the Word itself (the vehicle of the Holy Spirit) to accomplish that for which it is sent, and also submitting to God’s will when it does not seem to bear any fruit in the lives of our hearers. Horse manure.

  22. Xrysostom says:

    Risking people looking up the (outdated) statistics of my congregation (in a declining rural area) and using them against me, I’ll slip in. I have no problem with using or being winsome, if by it you mean that I rightly divide and correctly divide Law and Gospel without personal bias or animosity, that I don’t bitch about being called out of bed for someone’s health emergency, and that I don’t jack-slap but try to catechize those who want to jettison liturgical worship, closed communion, et al.

  23. Amy Beisel says:

    We had a wonderful family vacation and I was looking forward to having a great nights sleep in my familar bed and surroundings. But alas, I have been unable to rest. I feel compelled to post some thoughts. Please excuse any typos, it’s 3:30 in the morning. I don’t think that Winsome has an accurate account of the church history in our area. Note: I am not offering excuses for my husband’s so-called “inability” to get people in the pews, these are simply the facts.

    Years ago, in one of the towns, there was a new golf course that was being built by the Elks Lodge. In order to get the “best rate” to golf at that course, you needed to become a member of the Lodge. Many “faithful members” of that church stopped coming in order to get the discount at the golf course.

    At the other church, Pastor “X” was called, a very “winsome” man, according to members of the congregation who remain in the church. He was a faithful pastor, make no mistake about it. Many people in the community loved his personality and wanted to join the church. And join they did. After he left, slowly but surely, the numbers have declined. Why? Because none of the pastors since has had the same “charisma” as Pastor “X”. Have they all been faithful in their teaching and preaching? I’d say yes, I’ve met 2 out of the 3 personally. But they didn’t have that “spark” or “connection” with the members. Does one remain faithful to the church because of the pastor’s personality or because of The Word?

    Let me ask you, Winsome, have you ever lived in a river town? If not, I’d advise you to live here for about four years to get a really good feel for the area.
    Since you like stats, try this one out for size. The local paper sent out a questionaire a couple of years ago to its readers asking them several questions about their community, etc. One of the questions asked if you attended a local church. Sixty-seven percent (67%)of those that responded said they DID NOT attend church. If you’re talking numbers, this is a terrible fact to be facing. What a large unchurched population!

    My husband is a modest and humble man when it comes to his calling but is very witty and funny outside of church (I think you have failed to catch his wit on this blog). Anyway,here are some more facts. My husband has been absent many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon visiting the sick and those in need of counseling. He has also spent a good deal of time making “cold evangelism calls”; going door-to-door encouraging people to come to church and visiting some of the “inactive” members of the churches. I’m sure that if you would have known some of these facts you wouldn’t have been so critical of my husband’s unfortunate demographic situation. The members that do attend my husband’s churches are wonderful people who are faithful to The Word, not a specific pastor. They maybe small in number, but that is not their fault, nor my husband’s.

    He often comforts me when I get down and discouraged saying things as he did in his last post. Even though our churches may look small, our human eyes cannot see the vast angels surrounding us every Sunday as we celebrate Holy Communion. What a comfort!

    Shame on you, Winsome, for your harsh review of my husband, a called Minister of Christ. You obviously don’t know him. If you did, you wouldn’t say such mean and nasty things. I have a much better name for you to use when you blog, Winsome. It’s called Satan.

  24. Winsome says:

    Writing from hell….I invite Mrs. Beisel, et al. to review carefully what I’ve written.

    Here are some hard facts.

    Pastor B. pastors two congregations who have nearly 400 members on the rolls, but….there are only 45 people actually bothering to show up for services.

    It is time to be aggresive here.

    Get the DP involved. Call him in and deal with the inactives. The congregations should be put closed down or they should deal with the huge inactive problem.

    These are not little clubs.

    I’ve read a lot of excuse making here and if you recall it began with Pastor B. railing against the word “winsome” and explaining how winsome is a dirty word, that we have to speak truth clearly.

    Well, truth is being spoken clearly and look at the result even in this discussion: it’s hard to take, isn’t it?

    Nothing come to pass sitting on your …ah….posterior.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Alas, “Winsome” is right…Pastor Beisel has committed a grave sin.

    And that sin is this: He needs to more accurately report congregational statistics to the Synod. (#1,437 on the “Most Important Things a Pastor Has to Do” list.)

    Those who haven’t attending the Divine Service in one year should receive a letter from the Chairman of the Board of Elders inquiring if they desire to remain communicant members.

    If they say no or don’t respond, then the congregation should remove them, per the congregation’s constitution.

    The true number of active members should be reported to the Synod, which is probably (in LMCS circles at least), about 2 times the average worship attendance. Of course, with a lot of shutins, that could be skewed.

    So, if average Sunday attendance is 40 per Sunday, the number of active members is probably around 80 or so.

    Then, with this lower number reported to Synod, jackasses like “Winsome” will be satisfied.

    And/or, Pastor Beisel can simply ban “Winsome” from posting on this blog, as I suggested earlier.

    By the way, has anyone besides me wondered if “Winsome” actually spends time witnessing? Inviting people to church? Affirming and supporting pastors in their vocation?

    In other words, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit instead of the fruits of the devil?

    I say, with “Winsome,” it’s time to “Lose some.”

    Chi Chi

  26. Pastor Beisel says:

    Here’s the story. When I got here the actual number of baptized members had not been reported. I think it said around 100, with an average worship attendance of 45. I went through the books and counted all the baptized, and it came out to about 263. This includes babies who were baptized back in the seventies that were never brought back to church because their parents were not members and they were just trying to please the relatives. This of course brings up a question of whether or not it is appropriate to baptize babies of parents who are not members. I digress.

    I have cleared several names off the roles since I last reported them correctly, and am doing so systematically until I get it down to the actual number. This is all really just a numbers game, though. I frankly don’t care much about records and rosters. I do care about souls. Winsome…get a life. If you’re a pastor, take your own advice and get off your posterior. If you’re a layman, I hope that you aren’t this disrespectful to your pastor. Sheesh! This is what happens when someone tries to have a little fun. Now I know what Rush Limbaugh feels like.

  27. Anonymous says:

    “Get the DP’s involved”……boy, that will really help! Now that’s what I call “winsome”!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Beisel,

    Then your actual membership is probably 90-100. That’s respectable. My congregation has about 40, but about 26 attend worship, so go fig. No, we don’t “worship 26,” like some idiots are fond of saying.

    Regarding “baptismal evangelism” (i.e., baptizing anything that moves and is breathing), in Diaskepsis Theologica (reprinted by Repristination Press) Hunnius advises against it.

    The classic, biblical model of evangelism is to proclaim the Gospel to the parents and, if God grants them faith, baptize them and their children.

    We should not baptize infants of unregenerate parents, who have no desire or intent of raising their children in the Church, simply to please the grandparents, who are members.

    This practice makes Baptism a “magic trick,” a mere “beautiful ceremony,” which inculcates the horrendous belief “Once baptized always saved.”

    With infant-baptismal-evangelism, once again we in the LCMS we get things backwards. Instead, we should first preach the Gospel to every creature, then baptize and instruct, and then admit to the Table.

    Why is this so hard for some folks?

    Chi Chi

  29. Pastor Beisel says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you Chi Chi. However, I have also heard it put this way: Don’t deny the infants the gift because of the unbelief of the parents. The problem, some say, is not in the baptizing, but in the follow-up pastoral care. But the longer I am in the ministry, and the way people despise the sacrament of baptism, it seems to me that you are correct.

  30. Amy Beisel says:

    I have reviewed what Satan has written quite carefully and I find it interesting that he/she has not the nerve to have a sensible dialogue on any of the issues. Mud-slinging is the preferred method.

    Satan has an uncanny way of twisting things around. Was it not he who first brought about the discussion of #’s in the church? Then he blamed my husband for not doing his job on trying to “win back the hearts of the inactives”. When an attempt at dialogue was made on this topic, Satan quickly changed tactics to say that my husband should excommunicate the whole lot. When attempt to communicate on this point did not suit his fancy, he proclaimed that my husband should call in the DP’s!

    Where do you really stand, Satan? I’m done posting on this topic because I see no sense on wasting my time with someone who refuses to have a responsible theological discussion on real issues. It’s always easier to find fault in someone instead of helping to facilitate a resolution to the problem. My husband is much more patient than myself.

  31. Lawrence says:

    Winsome said…“Time for action, not excuses.

    LoL {laughing out loud}

    Winsome, you are the only one here making up any excuses for anything.

    What are the solutions here, Winsome? If we don’t get it, then you tell us what needs done.

    Oh, but you don’t have any solutions either do you, Winsome?

    All you have to offer is more excuses vilifying the pastors.

  32. Carl Vehse says:

    Rev. Beisel previously explained:

    “I went through the books and counted all the baptized, and it came out to about 263. This includes babies who were baptized back in the seventies that were never brought back to church because their parents were not members and they were just trying to please the relatives.”

    According to the LCMS database, during the 2003-2004 transition the Keokuk church went from 85 to 174 baptized members and the Warsaw church went from 85 to 285 baptized members.

    This raises a couple of questions:

    1. Why, during the 2003-2004 transition, add infants who were baptized over the past thirty years, when their parents had not been members, and when, during the three decades prior to 2002, the previous pastors who had baptized them (and the congregational assemblies during those times) had decided not to add them? Did the current church council/voters assembly approve these revised numbers?

    2. If the baptized infants going back into the seventies “were never brought back to the church” then how were 50 Keokuk communicant members (166% increase) and 118 Warsaw communicant members (236% increase) added during the same 2003-2004 transition? Both churches have listed net losses in membership since 1996. The average weekly attendance for both churches has either decreased or not changed significantly for the 8 years prior to 2004.

  33. Pastor Beisel says:

    To answer the first question, I simply at first wanted to put in the correct numbers according to the books (which hadn’t been kept up over the last few years–I’m serious, it is an absolute statistical mess). I thought from there I can begin widdling down the membership. Plus, I was hoping Kieschnick would ask me to do an “igniting event” after the great boost in baptized membership (ha ha). Seriously, you’ve got it a little bit wrong on the membership. The reason for the apparent increase was that I was just bringing the synodical statistics in line with what is actually on our books. I included anyone who was baptized, and has not been removed either by transfer, excommunication, or voters. Then I went through the communicant membership and did the same. So yes, even though there has been a decrease in actual attendance, there has been a numberical increase in the records, because I simply recorded the actual number that was listed in our record books (did I mention that they are in complete disarray?) I know it sounds weird, but it would be easier to explain it face to face.

    So, it’s like this. When I arrived, we averaged around 40 at Concordia and 25 at Messiah (not that I’m counting). My call documents had listed 100 baptized and about 85 communicants. Where they got these numbers I have absolutely no idea. It did not accurately reflect the names in our books. Imagine my surprise too when last spring I found a file that had responses to a letter sent out by the previous pastor…right before he received a call and left. There were about thirty of them, most of which requested to be removed from membership, which I announced at the last voters meeting. These were people that I was still counting as members until I found that they had personally requested termination.

    Winsome is right. The Church is not a club or the YMCA. It often gets treated like that with regard to membership. But ask any pastor who has ever tried to approach people about this or any other sin. It is scary. I have been threatened with physical violence because I told someone’s mother that she was living in sin (real winsome, eh?) by living with a guy. I have received letters telling me not to come to a person’s funeral because I had the audacity to recommend that the funeral be done at the church and not at the funeral home, and because I said that I make the final decisions about all music for the funeral. Anyone who thinks that all you have to be is “winsome” when dealing with people and that will make all the difference has never tasted reality. Maybe PHaraoh would have repented if Moses had just been a little more winsome. Maybe if instead of saying, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go,” (what the Lord told him to say) he had packaged the message in a more attractive style, maybe then Pharaoh would have listened. Who knows?

  34. Rev. Benjamin Mayes says:

    Pr. Beisel is a faithful pastor who works hard to reach out to members and non-members alike. Statistics are often a bad indicator of the spiritual health of a congregation.

    One other thing, Winsome is acting unethically by taking anonymous potshots. I say this out of Christian love. I hope Winsome corrects his or her ways, in order to build up peace in the body of Christ. Feel free to disagree, even sharply. But stand behind your words by giving your real name. Otherwise hold your tongue.

    Ps. 64:2 Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: 3 Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: 4 That they may shoot in secret at the pious: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. (According to Luther’s translation).

  35. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Beisel,
    You’ve done nothing wrong. Makes sense with the numbers, but I probably wouldn’t have added all those baptisms.
    Anyway, you’ve got a great blog, and clearly a wonderful, supportive wife, and I hope you’re very happy. Get on to changing the topic with a new thread, will ya’? 🙂

    Carl Vehse,
    Voter’s assemblies and church councils have little or nothing to do with the stats provided to the Synod. The forms are sent to the pastor for his completion of them and, if he does so, he usually tries to do the best he can.

    That’s what we have here.

    Chi Chi

  36. Carl Vehse says:

    Statistics are often a bad indicator of the spiritual health of a congregation.

    Statistics have nothing to do with measuring the invisible church (or how confessionally Lutheran the pastor is – so let’s drop that red herring) but church statistics can provide useful indicators for the visible church and for the synod and district in some of the informed decisions members expect them to make.

    Rev. Beisel’s comments about trying to get the synodical database to match with church records, which were apparently not reported correctly in the years before he became pastor, agrees with what some have suggested earlier and some of the reported values I’ve seen in looking through the LCMS church database. It isn’t hard to find congregations that are listed with the same baptized and communicant membership and church attendance for four, five, or six years in a row. Maybe the same number are being baptized or transferring as are dying or moving away… or maybe the congregation is just not bothering to report accurate and up-to-date numbers.

    Yes, keeping accurate membership records is not part of the Great Commission, but neither is having the church heating system checked periodically. Both are useful and needed. (I hope pastors are filling out the information on certificates of marriage, if only to keep the kids legit!) Maintaining accurate and up-to-date church records and providing such information to the synod is the responsibility of the congregation, and should be delegated to the church council and the Board of Elders, with the pastor provding some of the information.

    BTW, I looked at the data for a number of the LCMS churches (without schools) around the area of Keokuk and Warsaw. Several of them had communicant/baptized percentages in the sixties or seventies. But others were in the eighties or higher, which suggests they are not young churches.

  37. Die Bettlerin says:

    “Get the DP involved. Call him in and deal with the inactives. The congregations should be put closed down or they should deal with the huge inactive problem.”

    Seems to me that Winsome does have a plan. Close the doors…turn away us sinners who need to hear the Word and recieve the Sacraments. This sounds like a wonderful plan that is totally in line with the mission of the Church…to increase the number of butts in the pew by closing the doors. That is the plan, right? As a member of a small congregation, it frightens me to think that my church would have its doors shut because of the choice that others make to not attend.

    Great plan. Just let me call my DP and see what he thinks.

  38. Orycteropus Afer says:

    Your thought-provoking initial post and your grace in handling the comment “war” it initiated both contribute to this post winning a Golden Aardvark. Believe it or not, Paul, you are winsome — also gracious, courageous, and often screamingly funny.

  39. Pastor Beisel says:

    Well, thank you very much. I cannot believe how many comments this generated. I think, in fact, this post has earned the most comments of any other. I am truly honored to receive the coveted Golden Aardvark award.

  40. Father Hollywood says:

    Paul:

    I commend you for your patient pastoral “winsomeness” in dealing with multiple (or are they the same?) individuals who post under pseudonyms.

    Perhaps Mr. Winsome could offer my congregation his unique brand of “help.” Due to hurricane Katrina, our rolls are not up to date. I can’t give an exact figure as to how many parishioners we have. I realize we’re not meeting our bylaw obligation, and perhaps we should be defrocked.

    But just like the pushers of Ablaze(tm), some folks in our synod seem to have an obcession about facts, figures, numbers, and other bureaucratic trivia. “Fill out this form, pass this resolution, place so-and-so under discipline!” Of course, it’s a good thing we pastors only work one day a week so we can do all this important pencil-pushing…

    It’s called “legalism.”

    But what of that? And what of that? Just keep sowing the seed, Paul. The Holy Spirit will work as He wills. The synodical bean-counters can snipe all they want, but I don’t see these anonymous despisers of the Lord’s servants running off to attend the seminary – and only then telling the rest of us how to be “winsome” and statistically-correct pastors *from experience* instead of from the complainers’ pew.

    Pax,

    Fr. Hollywood
    (Rev. Larry Beane, Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA)
    Just in case anyone has too much time on their hands to look up outdated LCMS data.

  41. Father Hollywood says:

    Carl:

    Indeed, if we could revive the diaconate it would be a huge help with things like keeping statistics up to date.

    The LCMS seems very interested in having a female diaconate, but a lot of people get really angry when we talk about ordaining vicars to the diaconate or establishing a permanent male diaconal order along the lines of the historic Church. On the Lutheran Liturgy Forum, I had a discussion with a very solid conserative, confessional pastor who said deacons are unbiblical (!) and contrary to the constitution of synod, and that there are no deacons in the LCMS.

    Interestingly, many of our “partner churches” have always had ordained deacons – at least as a stepping stone to the pastoral ministry. In the Lutheran Church – Canada, all non-ordained church workers are classified as deacons and deaconesses – thus avoiding the awkward “commissioned minister” terminology.

    As one of my classmates quipped: “What we need in the LCMS are male deaconesses.” 😉

  42. carlvehse says:

    Or instead of “waiting on tables”, selected men could keep accurate records of congregational statistics. With a little bit of training, I suspect a (male) acolyte who has a B average or better in high school math could keep up on the job.

    I say this as an usher, who on a week-to-week basis had to record the number of worshippers, choir members, pastors/assistants, ushers, communicants, and the number of leftover bulletins at a service.

  43. Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer says:

    Uh, I happily use the word “winsome” but I deeply resent your implication that I am “well-meaning.”

  44. Father Hollywood says:

    There is indeed paperwork in any calling. Yes, there are forms to fill out, reports to file, paperclips to put away, etc. Having a secretary (or ushers, or deacons, or volunteers…) help with things like this is wonderful.

    But conceding all of this, I’m puzzled as to why “Winsome” has an almost violent attitude toward Rev. Paul Beisel because his LCMS statistics are not up to date. What started this whole argument was the critique against Beisel because of the disparity between attendance and those who are members on the rolls as reported on the LCMS website. Of all the things to castigate a pastor about…

    It seems like such a low priority in the responsibilities of a pastor (let’s see, care for souls, paperwork, hmmm…) that I simply can’t figure out why the “winsome” fellow decided to make this a front burner issue.

    It seems like everyone is a bean-counter these days. Synod and district bureaucrats wring their hands about numbers and cast their lots with Ablaze(tm) to try to bolster the stats. Pastors inevitably want to “compare sizes” when they get together . When someone asks me “how many did you worship last Sunday,” I want to answer “three Persons.” If they ask how many did we have in church, I would like to tell them I don’t really know, it depends on the number of angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven…

    The only reason I see for numbers at all is to have an idea how many hosts and how much wine to order and how many bulletins to print. Other than that, it really isn’t anyone’s business how many people sit in any specific sanctuary on a Sunday or how many of them are members. The nature of their spiritual state is really more a matter of pastoral discretion and private soul-care than public statistics.

    Whether Beisel cares for 20 people or 2000 people is really no-one’s else’s concern, pastor or lay. Ditto regarding the number of delinquent members, the status of any individual, or those who should be removed from the rolls. Only a busybody would even bother to look it up on the website. I mean, really. Is this what the Christian life has come down to: scouring for statistics to anonymously bash a faithful pastor over?

    I think it would be good to abolish all numerical reporting to synod and cease posting it on the LCMS website. Nothing good and salutary comes from it. In fact, this obsession with numbers seems downright diabolical (1 Chr 21:1).

  45. Pastor Beisel says:

    I’m not against keeping records for the sake of pastoral care (knowing when the last time someone communed) but yes, this incessant sheep-counting is just the devil’s way of keeping us from sheep-feeding.

  46. Favorite Apron says:

    Pastor – just a note of enouragement for you and all other faithful pastors. Keep doing the right thing. Of course people are going to reject the true church, just as Jesus was rejected.
    Many layfolk are praying for you.

  47. Pastor Beisel says:

    I appreciate all the comments, the defense from friends, many of whom I do not know, and the lively exchange. That is exactly what I love about these blogs. What I had intended to be somewhat humorous was perceived by at least one to be hostile, and I need to be careful of this. I love reading Ann Coulter for her political satire but we do have to be careful about copying her style when it comes to dealing with the Word of God, lest we offend the weak in faith. Having said that, there are many things that are done and said in the Church that seem to invite satire and humor is one way of addressing things that helps us to see the silliness of what we do and say. That was the intent with this post on Winsome, not to tick anyone off, but just to help people think about how they are using words. The way we use words matters. David Petersen has made this point over and over in his blog and I completely concur with it. Words matter…in politics, in theology, in every day life.

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