When you saw the title of this article, what came to mind? You probably thought about sending money overseas to build church buildings.
We all want a nice place to gather together to hear God’s Word and to praise and worship Him for all that He has done. Our churches in the United States meet in various places, such as rented conference rooms, store fronts, converted homes, and even specially-built church buildings. In the same way, our brothers and sisters overseas meet in various places, from mud-wattle huts with dirt floors to fine churches with granite tiles on the floor (a common flooring in India).
As important as the outward building is, we know that it isn’t the building that makes the church. This has been illustrated time and again in villages in India.
In six villages, the false-teaching Seventh Day Adventist group had built churches, but the villagers rejected their false teaching and the churches were abandoned and left empty for many months. Our pastors and members received permission from the village leaders to use these buildings where they now meet and correctly teach God’s Word.
In another area, a church body from South Korea sent money to build churches. For whatever reason, the funds were not sufficient, so the buildings were not completed; they lacked flooring, electrical work, and so on. I am not sure what the plan was, but the Korean church provided no training or support, but only left these unfinished buildings. Our congregations have been able to finish and use seven of them as their places of worship.
While the CLC has sent money over the years to help build churches overseas, that isn’t the most important part of our work. The Church isn’t the building, it is the living stones that God places in His Church—the people who trust in Jesus, the Savior of the world, through the correct teaching and preaching of the Law and Gospel (1 Peter 2:4-5). For this reason, our focus is not on constructing church buildings, but on building and establishing seminaries and funding ongoing training for pastors so that they can build the Church by preaching God’s Word.
The importance of our training was illustrated one day while we were enjoying a tea break during a district pastoral training session. One of the pastors came up and excitedly told me (through my translator) that he had shared with his congregation the teaching on prayer and the Lord’s Prayer that I had taught at the previous pastoral training. He told me how great a blessing it had been to his congregation.
At another district, I was teaching a lesson on the incarnation of Jesus. The lesson showed from God’s Word that Jesus is both God and man, and why that is necessary for our salvation. A pastor from that district came up during the break and told me (again through my translator) how this lesson came at just the right time! Some of the young students he was teaching in his congregation recently asked him how we knew that Jesus was really God. The lesson that day had given him passages he could use to answer their questions.
While having a place to gather for worship is important, our treasure is the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word. While we help build church buildings through the Mission Development Fund (MDF), the training and equipping of pastors, which we fund through general offerings to the CLC, is our priority and the reason for our work overseas. May God continue to raise up laborers for His harvest and make them faithful stewards of His Word. Amen.
Peter Evensen is a full time foreign missionary for the CLC. Until recently he made his home in Chennai, India.