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Encouraging Dialogue in the LCMS: Why Healthy Leaders Let People Talk

Listening requires work. It’s easier to talk than it is to listen.

I love leading weekly podcasts because they force me to listen deeply to the stories and ideas of others. I love longform podcasts as a forum to honestly name our struggles as a confessional church body in the post-Christian U.S.A. and to offer solutions based on Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions for how we can share the Gospel in our unique contexts!

As a local church pastor, I have experienced the power of allowing people to talk about their unique ideas for their respective ministries. When I listen and let people talk, we make better decisions as a team.

Healthy leaders let people talk about whatever it is.

Many of you know I’ve been attempting to talk with leaders in the LCMS who may have different opinions on a variety of topics (pastoral formation, Lutheran understanding of words like “confession” and “mission,” stemming LCMS decline from the State of Synod report, etc.).

I have noticed a recent trend. Those who are leading in local churches (like Pastor Christian Preus) are more open to dialogue. While I have been blessed to speak with “Synod Inc.” leaders such as District Presidents and seminary professors, most of them are declining to speak on our podcast of late. Some make excuses for not being able to spare an hour to share their ideas. Others simply decline. Some politely decline, others not so much.

I am wondering why this is. I’m very much into self-awareness, and I’m left wondering, “Am I abrasive or rude to guests? Have I offended people or said anything contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions?” If I have, no one has confronted me on this. I am eager to confess as needed. All of the Christian life is confession and absolution for the sake of Christ.

My primary conclusion is that our podcasts address what many people consider controversial LCMS subjects. Not everyone agrees with what I say on the podcasts…and that is healthy! We can all still be LCMS Lutherans and disagree. Disagreement is how we grow, especially in an environment of trust.

Those who serve in our LCMS institutions (districts, universities, seminaries) and in the International Center of the LCMS in St. Louis are blessings! Thank you for your service!

Yet, because the LCMS is a complex system of interconnected relationships, I believe some leaders do not feel safe speaking on my podcasts because they fear they may say something that gets them in some form of trouble from someone, somewhere.

This is sad. This makes Jesus sad.

Fear is a crippling emotion. Fear stifles collaboration. Fear cripples speaking the truth with the solid foundation of relational love. Where fear is high, trust is low. Trust is low in some pockets of LCMS Inc. leadership.

Here is my final invitation: If you are a Synod Inc. leader (President Matthew Harrison? Rev. Ben Ball? Rev. Scott Murray?), I want to talk about all of it with you. I have much to learn. I don’t understand all of your contexts, just as you don’t know all of mine. We can learn from each other.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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