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The LCMS Needs a New Culture...and New Leadership

Culture is such an overused word. I like to give it a definition. Culture is “how we do things around here.” Bluntly stated, we need to change “the way we do things around here” in the LCMS. I’m praying these three cultural areas to change, especially in light of the 2023 LCMS Convention in Milwaukee this July.

We need more trust…and less top-down control.

The ULC is blessed to work with many churches, especially in the Pacific SW District of the LCMS. We are a healthy district! Praise Jesus for leaders like President Mike Gibson. Nonetheless, even in a healthy district, I still hear statements like, “I don’t know if we can raise up leaders using non-LCMS approved means.” Or, “What will LCMS leaders say about your leadership development strategies?” These statements and questions beg the follow-up question, “Do LCMS leaders exist for the local church, or does the local church exist to serve LCMS leaders in the Synod office and within our institutions?”

It should be the former. It is too often the latter. These are questions that top-down, high-control, low-trust organizations ask. We must ask different questions.

Decentralized, low-control, and high-trust denominations and churches ask questions like, “What barriers are in the way of local churches going on mission? Let’s wisely break them down.” They also ask, “What is a compelling vision that leads us to reconsider existing structures and systems?”

Another example. The 703 Task Force, commissioned out of the 2019 LCMS convention, will likely once again display the concern that many Concordia University System presidents have with an extra layer of “LCMS control” being placed on top of their Board of Regents by the LCMS Board of Directors. In a healthy LCMS culture, this may be a wonderful means of uniting our Concordias. Yet, since “the way we’ve done things around here” is to sell three of our Concordias in strategic mission locations, trust is low. Therefore, every attempt at top-down Synod control will be met with suspicion, and possibly rightly so.

That is not “the way we should do things around here.” We need a change in culture.

We need an offensive-oriented mission and vision that unites us…not a defense- and purity-oriented vision that divides us.

Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Confession of the crucified, risen and reigning Christ is our rock. We must offensively storm the gates of hell with this robust confession. We must unite with Word and Sacrament around this confession. We are the Church!

Article VII Concerning the Church Augsburg Confession

“The Christian church…is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. For this is enough for the true unity of the Christian church…it is not necessary for the true unity of the church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere.”

The days are too short for us to squabble over ceremonies and rituals instituted by human beings. Where Word and Sacrament are present and rightly administered, there is the Church. That is enough for our united offense-oriented mission together. This is readily clear in the Scriptures and Confessions of the LCMS.

I would love for LCMS leadership to be unafraid of dreaming big dreams and offering big challenges for churches to be contextually applied through the thirty-five districts of the LCMS. Unfortunately, I have never heard of a big dream for a specific number of church plants needed to reach our secular culture. I have not heard a big dream for the number of pastors and church workers (including lay and bi-vocational) needed to fulfill this big dream. I dream about hearing such a high-challenge vision.

We don’t have to look further than Jesus’ words to the disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Talk about a big dream…and God did it through them by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Here is the big question. Jesus wants to offensively build His Church to storm the gates of hell. Does the LCMS want to join Him?

We need more faith and less fear.

Top-down, institutional-preserving, fear-based leadership is “the way we do things around here.” Jesus is moving into our local congregations. Local pastors have had to lead with faith over fear. Covid mandated it. Better yet, Jesus commands it. “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you” (John 21:20). Receive the Holy Spirit given in baptism. Live bearing His fruit—especially love, joy, and peace. We need a new leader to create this type of culture in the LCMS.

We need a leader like Rev. Dr. Pat Ferry.

Some within the LCMS saw Pat’s 511 nominations and may be experiencing apathy regarding voting. Please do not become apathetic.

The winning presidential candidate must receive the majority of the votes cast (over 50% of total votes). The last election was determined with a majority count of 51.76% of votes. Your congregation’s votes make a difference!

Please ENCOURAGE PASTORS TO VOTE online June 17-20 through Yes Election once they receive their electoral email.

The week of June 11, Yes Election will send (via U.S. mail) all registered voters the code numbers needed to participate.

Who can you encourage to vote? Please commit to contacting five pastors. See how they’re doing with burnout, encourage them to fight apathy, and make sure they know how to vote in June!


• 35 years of ministry experience

• 24 years as president of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor

• thoughtful, trusted leader with a proven history of high-level problem-solving and consensus building

Learn more at

The “way we do things around here” in the LCMS culture must change. We believe the Lord would use Rev. Dr. Pat Ferry in powerful ways to change the culture of the LCMS in order to meet the challenges and opportunities awaiting a confessing and mission-minded church body like the LCMS.

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You refer to a top down control as being a big part of the problem but at the Concordia Universities the control is lacking and the universities are wandering and drifting away. I don’t see Pastor Ferry as having some superior answer that hasn’t been tried before. It is true that CUW grew but the percent of Lutherans both student and faculty is lower despite the growth. Also the number of people going into ministry and other church jobs after is lower as well. It doesn’t seem to me that moving in this direction is a wise move. I saw the video that was posted last week by a man who couldn’t see making his wife move to St Lou…

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