The Rev. Dr. John T. Pless was born in Hickory, North Carolina, to John A. and Betty Pless. He is a graduate of Texas Lutheran College in Seguin, Texas (B.A in Theology and Philosophy) and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio (Master of Divinity). He entered the ministry of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod by colloquy in 1983. From 1979-1983 he was on the pastoral staff at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University. He served as campus pastor at University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis from 1983-2000 when he was called to the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne where he still serves as assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions and the director of Field Education. He was awarded an honorary doctorate (D.Litt.) by Concordia University – Chicago in 2018.
In addition to his work at Fort Wayne, Professor Pless has served as a visiting professor of practical theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa. He frequently lectures at seminaries and pastoral conferences in Madagascar, the Philippines, India, Japan, Sweden, Norway and Indonesia. He is also the Luther Academy Fellow for Madagascar.
He was a founding editor of Logia: A Lutheran Journal of Theology in 1992 and continued as a book review editor for that journal until 2017. He is a member of the board of editorial advisers for Lutheran Quarterly. Professor Pless is the author or editor of twelve books, as well as many articles and chapters in theological journals and books. Several of these books have been translated into German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Turkish, Portuguese and Chinese. Most recently, he contributed fourteen entries to the new Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions, edited by Timothy Wengert (Baker Academic, 2017), and four essays in The Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation, edited by Mark Lamport (Rown & Littefield 2017).
He was on the Agenda Committee for the Lutheran Service Book and he served as one of the primary drafters for the Synod’s revision of Martin Luther’s Catechism with Explanation (2017). Over the years he has served on several LCMS boards, committees and task forces. He is currently chairman of the Synod’s Commission on Doctrinal Review and he represents the Synod in official dialogues with the North American Lutheran Church. He served two terms as president of the English-language section of the International Wilhelm Loehe Society. In 2013, his former students recognized his 60th birthday with a festschrift, Theology is Eminently Practical: Essays in Honor of John T. Pless, edited by Jacob Corzine and Bryan Wolfmueller.