PICTURE OF THE FALLING STEEPLE, PHOTOGRAPHED JUST AFTER THE DYNAMITE EXPLODED. THE FALLING SECTION WAS 35 FEET IN LENGTH AND WEIGHED 35 TONS.

The “writing” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for 23 October — Saint James, Brother of Our Lord —  from the Treasury of Daily Prayer reminds us that Christ alone builds His Church, even when it appears the Church is being destroyed. Bonhoeffer writes:

It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess – he builds. We must proclaim – he builds. We must pray to him – that he may build.

We do not know his plans. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.

It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

– Treasury of Daily Prayer, pg. 840-841.

Reading this passage about how Christ builds His Church even when it appears it is being torn down, reminded me of the story told by Bishop Bolay of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia.

Bishop Amos Bolay and Dr. Collver in President Harrison's Office

Bishop Bolay recently requested that fellowship discussions begin between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of LIberia and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. As part of the preliminary discussions, Bishop Bolay told of the founding of Liberia in 1820 by former slaves from the United States. He mentioned that the people of Liberia think of themselves as being a part of the United States. He also mentioned that the Lutherans of Liberia consider themselves to be a part of the MIssouri Synod.

Bishop Bolay told how LCMS missionaries came to Liberia in the late 1970s and through their work a Lutheran church was established. Then in 1989 a civil war, known as one of the bloodiest in African history,  broke out in Liberia. The LCMS missionaries had to leave the country. By external appearances the 15 or so Lutheran congregations looked to be lost to the civil war. However, the Liberian civil war, which brought much harm and evil, was used by the Lord for good. The dispersion of Lutherans during the civil war actually spread the church by putting people in contact with others. Now 20 years or so later, the Lutheran church in Liberia is around 140 congregations. What from a human standpoint appeared to be a time of tearing down was used by the Lord for the construction of His Church.

May the Lord continue to build his Church!

— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations

* The picture of the falling steeple came from a book published in 1903 called Careers of Danger and Daring. The photo is from the chapter about “steeple climbers.”