Mark G. Schroeder
It’s a phrase that occurs many times in the book of Acts. In fact, it occurs so often that it could perhaps be the theme of the entire book. “The word of God spread” (Acts 6:7). Beginning in Jerusalem after Pentecost, the religious leaders of the Jews did everything they could—including threats and arrests—to keep the apostles and other Christians from preaching and teaching about the crucified and risen Savior. But they didn’t stop. “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:42). As the church grew, the apostles appointed seven men to assist them in providing for the physical and spiritual needs of Christians. “The word of God spread.”
The same word of God that grew in spite of opposition and persecution in the time of the apostles is continuing to grow today. Even though we live in a country that seems to be turning away from Christianity, and even though the influence of Christian faith and values seems to be diminishing in our own culture, the very opposite is true in many places around the world. The word of the Lord is growing. The saving gospel is on the march. God’s church is being built by the same powerful preaching of the good news of Jesus.
While our synod may not be increasing in numbers here in the United States, our fellowship around the world continues to grow. It’s happening in some very unexpected places and in ways that we could not have foreseen. Thousands of people are hearing the gospel and being brought to faith in places like Nepal and Pakistan, where modern-day Herods continue to threaten and oppose Christians. Yet people in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, like modern-day Macedonians, are asking us to come and help them with theological training. Literally millions of people are hearing the gospel online in Latin America through the efforts of our synod’s Multi-Language Publications. And hardly a month goes by when our synod is not contacted by a Lutheran group somewhere in the world seeking to establish a relationship.
Later this summer at our synod’s convention, we will see tangible evidence that the word of the Lord continues to grow. A high point at that convention will be the establishment of fellowship between our synod and three Lutheran church bodies. The Lutheran Church of Ethiopia broke away from a large liberal Lutheran church body because it wanted to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions. South Asia Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) in Hong Kong originally began as a WELS mission. But when faithful Lutheran pastors were no longer available, its doctrine and practice strayed. Now, with the help and encouragement of our WELS missionaries in Hong Kong and with pastors trained by Asia Lutheran Seminary, SALEM has confessed its full commitment to Lutheran doctrine and practice. Finally, the East Asia Lutheran Synod is a brand new Lutheran church body established on the mainland north of Hong Kong by six pastors trained at Asia Lutheran Seminary.
Because we share the same commitment to the truth of God’s Word, WELS will declare fellowship with these Lutheran churches at our convention in July. It will be a joyful day for them and for us. And, with God’s power and blessing, the word of the Lord will continue to grow and spread.
Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017
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