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God is still building his church

The apostle Paul had been called by God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in many places and to many people. He watched as God caused the seed of the gospel that he planted to sprout and grow wherever he proclaimed it. He was not overstating it when he wrote to the Colossians, “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the entire world, just as it also has been doing among you from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth” (1:6 Evangelical Heritage Version). In the face of unrelenting opposition from the unbelieving world and despite the continuing threats by false teachers within the church, the Word of the Lord continued to grow, and God continued to build his church.

Now, nearly two thousand years later, has anything changed? Some would say it has, and not for the better. The Christian church in the United States seems to be shrinking, not growing. We live in a world in which its culture promotes ideas and beliefs that are hostile to the truths revealed in Scripture. We are surrounded by those who not only have rejected God’s Word but also are actively working to oppose those who still believe it. False teachers tell people what their itching ears want to hear and proclaim a gospel that is really no gospel at all. The same Christian church that grew so rapidly in the centuries after Pentecost seems to be in retreat.

But is it really? It’s true that for the last two decades the number of Christians in the United States has been decreasing. Our synod’s membership is also declining. At the same time, however, the number of Christians in many parts of the world is increasing every day. That is true in general, and it’s true also within our own fellowship of believers worldwide.

In Africa, we also have seen God building his church rapidly. In the last decade we have welcomed into our fellowship three Lutheran church bodies—the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia; Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya; and, most recently, Obadiah Lutheran Synod in Uganda.

In January, I was blessed to attend a synodwide worship service of the Obadiah Lutheran Synod that celebrated its new fellowship with WELS. Members traveled—some for more than six hours—from towns and villages through southeastern Uganda to attend. More than 800 people were at this special celebration. God is blessing Obadiah Lutheran Synod with growth in membership as it plants new congregations throughout Uganda.

WELS continues in promising doctrinal discussions with several other Lutheran church bodies in Africa. Other WELS mission fields in Asia and Latin America are gathering more people as they spread the good news of Christ. The Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam has grown dramatically—from 55,000 to more than 145,000 members—in the time that WELS has been providing theological training. We pray that in the near future we will be able to declare fellowship with this church body.

Even though close to home we may not see outward evidence of God building his church, his building has not stopped. Give thanks to God that he has enabled us to have a role in building his church, even when it happens beyond our borders and across the oceans.

Learn more about WELS Missions and its partnerships with other confessional Lutheran church bodies at wels.net/missions.

Featured image above pictures WELS President Mark Schroeder with Obadiah Lutheran Synod of Uganda President Makisimu Musa. 

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 111, Number 05
Issue: May 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 52 in the series presidents message

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