conference in PalangaLutheran church and seminary leaders from around the world descended upon Lithuania over the course of the past 24 hours, traveling from every corner of the globe. They are there to consider the conference theme: Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom as Marks of the Church, a theme many of these confessing Lutherans know much about from personal experience. The conference is organized by the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a worldwide association of Confessional Lutheran Churches.  As I read about this conference I had to go back and remember what the marks of the church are.  I got most of them but some of them may seem strange to you.  It may seem strange to talk about marks of the church anyway.  Why is it important?  Well it gets important very quickly when you have people trying to do away with what you believe, or trying to get you to change what you believe by either calling you a church and therefore dismissing what you say, or claiming you are not a church and therefore do not need to be heard.  Luther talked about the marks of the church while facing persecution during the time of the reformation.  Persecution takes many forms and those are two of them.  The conference in Lithuania is trying to alert us to the act that persecution is coming and how do we prepare our people for it.  Our partners in Africa know about persecution.  Some of our Project 24 centers are in trouble because of persecution.  So we are going to look at the marks of the church and our partners and ask and try and answer some questions

MARK I: These Christian, holy people possess the Word of God.

“This is the principal item, and the holiest of holy possessions…” Wherever this word is “preached, believed, professed, and lived,” we should not doubt, said Luther, that the true church is there. If there were only one sign, this would be it.

The first requirement of a Project 24 Center was that it be in proximity to a church where children would hear and be taught the word of God.