Monday, November 5, 2007

Effective vs. Efficacious - explained

Below is an explanation of the 3 relevancy scenarios from the Church and Change presenter.

1. Information that does not address your felt need is perceived as irrelevant. For example offering an investment seminar for a congregation of young people who carry a great deal of credit card debt. Yes, they will need investment planning in the future but their immediate need will be getting a handle on their debt.

2. Informaton that you aren’t convinced you will ever need is perceived as irrelevant. For example, people who volunteer to lead a small group Bible study may understand they need biblical training but not training in group dynamics. After one meeting, they then realize they need some training in group dynamics and realize it is very relevant.

3. An uncomfortable context can distract us to the point where we perceive relevant information as irrelevant. For example, distracting church decor, cleanliness issues, bad PA, too cold, no nursing mom, or a confusing worship format.

To be relevant . . .

1. We have to be aware of current felt needs.

2. We need to elevate the awareness of unfelt needs (sin, need for a Savior, real purpose in life) of our audience before we start to address these needs.

3. We need to address needs in a way that people consider helpful.



Anonymous said...

Felt needs.
Investment seminars.
Group dynamics training.

What happened to the means of grace?


Michael Schottey said...

Maybe we should elevate the awareness of unfelt needs (Grace; a savior from sin; the means of grace; etc) That we stop caring about felt needs.

Just a thought

RNN said...

Hey John,

Thanks for posting the explanations for these three illustrations. I had no idea what they meant until they were explained. Funny, isn't it? The same group that is all about being effective in doing church cannot communicate clearly.

When will Christ ever be relevant? And where does Scripture tell us that we are to be relevant? Let alone meet people's felt needs? Scripture calls us to love others; scripture calls us to proclaim Christ. It does not tell us to change who Christ is depending on what someone's felt needs are. (i.e., Christ does not became an investment advisor when you have money, but a debt counselor when you are poor.) And since Christ does not change for such felt needs, neither should His Church.

Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

Didn't Jesus address "felt needs" when he healed diseases?

And then, didn't he use those opportunities as gateways to sharing the Gospel?

XR said...

The purpose of Jesus' miracles was never to be found in the people who were blessed by those miracles. The purpose of every miracle was to demonstrate the divinity of Christ and the power of his Word. The needs of those helped were only incidental to the larger purpose

Anonymous said...

"Didn't Jesus address "felt needs" when he healed diseases?"

Cute. No, He met real needs. The Bible says that those healings were also signs to show He is the Christ.

"And then, didn't he use those opportunities as gateways to sharing the Gospel?"

He is the Gospel. Are you saying Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ needed gimmicks?

RandomDan said...


I am probably not the only one who finds your logical jump perplexing. Are you equating Jesus' work of healing, tossing out demons, and forgiving people's sins (remember, we know Christ shocked a crowd by forgiving a paralytic man's sins before healing him) with power point screens, praise bands, and a gymnasium?

What in the world are felt needs anyway? It sounds to me like felt needs=wants.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't Jesus address "felt needs" when he healed diseases? And then, didn't he use those opportunities as gateways to sharing the Gospel?"

Sorry, but you don't understand the significance of Jesus' miracles at all. He didn't do them to "address felt needs". He didn't do them to gain popularity and attract big numbers. Just think about how many times Jesus warned people NOT to tell other people about the miracles he did. He wanted people to come to him NOT because he addressed their felt needs, but because of the power of his Word. He did miracles to demonstrate that he had the power and authority of the Son of God and that his Word was to be trusted.

If Jesus rebuked people for coming to him looking for a bread king, just think what he would say to people who come to him looking for a financial adviser!


RNN said...

Dear anonymous (Nov. 5, 11:39pm),

No, Jesus did not meet felt needs when he healed people. He met real needs. He came to make all things new; he came to heal the sick and the demon-possessed. These are not felt needs. They are real needs.

The church now continues Jesus' mission of addressing real needs. You will note in my previous post I included this--the church is called to love people. That is why the church throughout the ages has done works of mercy--providing for the poor and the sick. (In fact, James calls such regard for the poor and helpless true religion.) But again, these are real needs, not felt needs.

So the church is not free to tailor Jesus to fit the demands of the day. This is giving itching ears what they want to hear. Most of the felt needs addressed by churches only reinforce the selfishness, self-centeredness, and greed of the age.

Preach the gospel; visit the sick; care for the poor. When the church is faithful to these, things given to them by Christ for the church to do, it does well. When it wanders away from them, it comes out of the kingdom of the right and noses in where it has no business.

Or to put it differently, the church is to love people. Love meets the real needs (not the felt needs) of people.

Perhaps if we wish to be relevant, we can follow Jesus' example in a different regard. Jesus preached against the sins of the age. We also need to preach against the sins of our age--not the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (I've never met one) but the selfishness, greed, and lust that surround us.


Anonymous said...

When speaking of relevance the context of ministry should be shaped by the culture and your audience.

The message you proclaim is non-negotiable.

Anonymous said...

I think you guys (and gals) are missing the point of what "jp" was saying. Granted, he could have said it much clearer.

Think of a pastor's sermon on Sunday morning. When he preaches the text for that Sunday he brings out both law and gospel in the context of what the verses are talking about. He then applies (or should, if he's worth his salt) the law and gospel aspects of the text to specific situations that he knows about in the congregation in the lives of his members.

Let me give another example. Your neighbor down the street just lost her husband to a heart attack. You go down to her house with a meal, and as you sit and visit with her you discover her husband had no life-insurance. Out of Christian love you may help with some money so she can pay for the funeral, or you may even direct her to where she can find a part-time job. But this discussion can also lead you to talk about sin and grace, law and gospel. You can talked to her about sin and its results and she can relate because of her husband's death. You can also share the forgiveness of Christ and the hope of the resurrection.

To me, this is what "jp" was referring to. He's just using terminology we're so averse to because it's used so extensively by the Reformed church growth people.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:57 AM,

No, I don't think that's what jp was saying. He wasn't saying that the effective Word of God should be applied to our hearers. He was saying that the Word of God isn't effective until we apply it to our hearers. In other words, we must make the Word effective/efficacious (they mean the same thing) through our own ability to make it relevant. This places our confidence not in the means of grace, but in us.


Anonymous said...

I think to truly discuss this effectively, you would have to see the whole conversation over on the C&C listserv.

If there is an issue with JP's comments (aka Pastor Parlow), then it should be done where he is posting about it.

Commenting here without the benefit of the full conversation is a waste of time because it's not doing anything productive.

If the blog owner didn't like what JP said, he should have stated so on the C&C listserv.

Anonymous said...

"If there is an issue with JP's comments (aka Pastor Parlow), then it should be done where he is posting about it."

And there it is--the 8 & 18 switch. I almost thought no one was going to use it!

Public sin = public rebuke.


John said...

If the blog owner didn't like what JP said, he should have stated so on the C&C listserv.

I'm simply using the mindset of the church and changers to help us understand the relevant cultural context that WELS pastors are dealing with in their circle.

I want to hear another perspective on what jp is saying and that aint going to happen on the C&C list serve. Over 240 people sat at the feet of presenters with jp's perspective and culturally effective lense. I'm trying to provide another form for folow-up.

But, a magpie, offered a dissenting view and we know what happened there. (but if you'd like I can invite jp to join us over here)

Anonymous said...

"Public sin = public rebuke."

It's a comment made on a listserv that you MUST be a member of to post in. So, join and comment. There are plenty of people who believe as John does and have the guts to post directly on the C&C listserv. That is how we elicit change, not in this way.

I am not pulling a gossip switch here based off of Matt. 18. You don't know me and I have suffered from that stupid switch...where the guilty are protected while the innocent suffer. I know what it is--be very careful to assume anything about me.

As for me inviting Pastor Parlow to do anything...why doesn't the blog owner. I am not the one who pulled his words from a was you. I don't mean to attack you I am just beyond frustrated with our complete refusal to address one another.

If we fail to address one another we will not fix the WELS and we may as well just throw in the towel.

Years and years of frustration...I am so tired of this anger and back fighting. We spend so much time trying to be right that we aren't listening to one another. We mark a brother as apostate without even trying. I've been shut out and blocked--lack of communication goes on at both sides of the debate.

I believe in doctrinal purity...I believe in the strength of the Sacraments....I believe half the time we are talking past each other and not to each other.

Michael Schottey said...

I agree with anonymous.

Public sin=Public Rebuke is a true statement. However Paul rebuked Peter in public among those the sin affected. He did not rebuke Peter in Greece or Rome, he did not write a letter rebuking Peter to the churches around the Mediterranean.

Most of all, he rebuked Peter out of love and for the sake of not only the Jews and Gentiles, but for Peter as well. If John speaks incorrectly here, or I on my site; it is fitting that you rebuke us here or there, not on (for instance) Luther Quest. If a writer in Forward in Christ speaks incorrectly you rebuke him in Forward in Christ, for the sake of his readers and for him...not among others in back rooms to make your own theology look better.

Everything we do, including rebuking should be done out of love.

LM said...

"....I believe half the time we are talking past each other and not to each other."

You are probably right. This is my suggestion to the C&C folks then--stop the double speak and don't give words unnatural meanings. Effective and efficacious mean the same thing. "Felt needs" is a not-so-clever synonym for "wants."

The Word and the Sacrament every Lord's Day is what we need. If our "feelings" tell us we need something different, they are not to be trusted.


John said...

Mike and others,

If the blog owner didn't like what JP said, he should have stated so on the C&C listserv.

There you go assuming again.

If you look at my blog posts. I put up what a WELS pastor is saying about "effective" and "efficacious." I didn't offer a rebuke. I didn't even offer an opinion. Some in the WELS may not be aware of this perspective that is taught at Conferences. So here it is.

I have allowed all comments to be posted.

RNN said...

"....I believe half the time we are talking past each other and not to each other."

And the other half of the time, so it would appear, we are debating whether we should be talking at all, or where we should be talking, or whether the tone is correct, or how gud the speelinnnng ant grammar in this tiny little comment box is (sic) etc. Which leaves very little time for actual, substantive conversation.

John is right; his posts are making known what many in the WELS are saying. If they don't want it made known or posted, they shouldn't say it in the first place. Thank you John--we do appreciate your work and the opportunity to discuss these issues here.

So--why don't we discuss "felt needs" and keep on topic here? If anyone from church and change would like to join our discussion, so much the better.

I agree with LM that "felt needs" is a synonym for wants. If that is the case, scrambling to determine and meet them, in my judgment, is giving itching ears what they want to hear. The church is being faithful not when it does this, but when it goes about those things that God has given to the church to do: preach, teach, rebuke, absolve, works of mercy, etc. These things have to do with sin and forgiveness, command and promise, law and gospel, love for the neighbor. Felt needs takes the church from this to focus on other things that fall into the kingdom of the left.


LM said...

To the confident and eager to admonish Mr. Schottey,

You said:
"If a writer in Forward in Christ speaks incorrectly you rebuke him in Forward in Christ, for the sake of his readers and for him...not among others in back rooms to make your own theology look better."

What does the last part of that sentence mean?

How about this--if it is a public statement, i.e. made with no expectation of privacy, then it is fair game to discuss it in any public or private forum. Why? Because those who hide or distort the Gospel should be exposed to all for what they do, and not just to those that already know of them. For example, if a pastor posts plagiarized and/or gospel-less sermons on his church's website, would it be wrong to discuss it with others here or anywhere else? Why?


I have no name and I like it that way said...

Okay, so we discuss and then what?? Can anyone tell me?? Or are we just going to be spinning our wheels for years to come? That sound like a great idea.

What is your plan??

I do agree that it's fine to "talk"...but at some point there has to be action or the talk is completely worthless.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the C&C discussion form and here is a response to JP from Pr. Frey.

This is exactly why we need to be talking about this more than we are. Those three illustrations have great potential to be used faithfully in the Lord's service. They also hold great potential for being used to our harm as tools of deception. There is far more subtlety and danger here than we normally want to admit.

The story of the flat tire and the jumper cables serves Pastor Parlow's point of illustrating what relevance is well. I believe that what makes some members of the WELS uncomfortable with such talk, however (quite frankly, I am sometimes one of them), is that those exact words are spoken by false teachers in subtly deceptive and deadly ways. Perhaps you are unaware of the source, Pastor Parlow, but that illustration seems to be a favorite of Andy Stanley's. That is, it's a favorite of Andy Stanley's if a young pastor named Michael Lukaszewski has his facts straight. I found it on his website (

My point isn't to accuse you of teaching what Andy Stanley teaches, of course. I just want to point out why some illustrations, while potentially useful in the right context, also carry with them some baggage from past use that makes them prone to being misunderstood. If we use them, then, we need to make sure that our audience knows we understand the baggage and reject it.

I'll just modify that first illustration in an attempt to make it speak more directly to preaching law and gospel and then see what discussion ensues. You come across a dead car on a nearly deserted road in the middle of the desert. It's clearly been there a while. The driver, however, is still there with it. He's frantic and delirious. He has all the doors open, as well as the hood and the trunk. He has with him just about every tool for cars imaginable and has lots of spare parts. He is trying every one in every way he can think of. He's replaced the battery twice and he's put on four new tires (would you believe he's been carrying them in the back seat just in case of such an emergency?). He's even put on a new coat of paint!

It doesn't take you long to realize, however, that none of that is going to help because he's out of gas. But a house fire that killed his father when he was young has birthed in him a fear of flammable material. A cruel "friend" who wants him dead has fueled that fear by teaching him that all people who want to put gas in cars are hurtful and dangerous. Strangely, the driver is plenty friendly and he is willing to spend long hours discussing anything and everything having to do with cars and car maintenance, but he refuses to deal with gasoline. It scares him senseless. He immediately considers you untrustworthy for even having brought it up and, even though he is dying of hunger and thirst, he wants nothing more to do with your attempts to fill his car with gasoline.

Should you spend some time agreeing with him that he really does need a new windshield in the hopes that one day he will calm down enough about the gasoline that you can sneak some in?

If we keep this illustration on a purely human level there might even be some legitimate arguments for "playing along" with the delirious driver for a while. It could possibly save his life. However, when it comes to the often hidden (Jeremiah 17:9), always irrational hostility of the dead, sinful nature (Ephesians 2:1-9; Romans 8:7), playing along is unfaithful to our call and delusional. When it comes to getting anyone out of this desert alive, we are powerless to get through the defenses of the sinful mind. We even retain the tendency to get caught up in the peripherals ourselves, all the while letting our tanks run down to empty (1 Corinthians 10:12; Romans 7:14-25; Colossians 2:13-23; Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1-26).

It was thinking of these truths, actually, that led me to respond to the WC confession in the way that I did in the first place. We have no way to "trick" anyone into faith. If we think we can save anyone from death in this dreadful desert by playing around with the peripherals and then sneaking in a little of the good stuff when folks finally start to trust that we're on their side... how foolish! Indeed, how sinful. God might choose to win a soul despite our foolishness, of course, but if we believe that our actions in any way made his gasoline more effective or that they made it any easier for God to get the gasoline into the car, then we begin to serve our own prideful bellies with our ministries.

Keep in mind, brothers and sisters, that I am accusing no one of this sinful foolishness. I fully expect that everyone in this forum will support what I am saying and gladly use it to help them analyze when it is appropriate to speak of relevance and effectiveness and when it is not. My rough words, I'm sure, could use some refinement, but I welcome such aid and eagerly anticipate your responses so that we may sharpen one another in the truth, putting useless and destructive arguments behind us.

Your brother in Christ,
Rev. Aaron C. Frey

Anonymous said...

Make it clear Aaron Frey didn't write this on your blog. Someone copied his words. Gee, do you think he had Aaron's permission?

Michael Schottey said...


The point of that sentence, and my hauptartikel of the entire post was that which you seem to debate.

As we teach and admonish one another, we do it out of love. Love for Christ. Love for one another. Let us not forget love for our erring brothers.

I will not debate the merits of "JPs" sermons. I will not be his apologist. Those that know me know that I could not do so if I tried. I will however seek, as we discuss Lutheran Theology, to do it in love. Not to prove that some pastors are right and some are wrong. But in love, love for the changeless Gospel, love for the changeless God, and love for one another, (even those of us who aren't perfect)

Anonymous said...

The greatest thing the Bible says about Felt needs/wants is that people will want to hear what their itching ears will want to hear. So are we scratching them?

Lord have mercy on us,
Christ have mercy on us,
Lord have mercy on us.
In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Gost. Amen.

-Concerned, frightened and frustrated in WELS

Anonymous said...

Read the Motley Magpie.