The Lutheran Church, the oldest and largest Protestant church in the world, came into existence through the Reformation in the 16th century AD. However, Lutherans believe and maintain that the teachings of the Lutheran Church give it continuity right back to the apostles and to the Lord Jesus himself.
The Christian church has had many ups and downs throughout its history. There have been times of rapid growth and times of numerical decline. There have been times when obviously the Holy Spirit was powerfully at work in the hearts and lives of people, and other times when the church seemed completely stagnant. There have been times of peace and quietness, and also times of persecution, when powerful enemies of the church have hounded Christians, put them in prison, tortured or killed them because they confessed Jesus Christ as their only Lord. However, far from destroying the church, persecution often strengthened the commitment of those who were Christians.
Again and again the church has experienced division. A notable example was the major split in 1054 AD when Christians were divided into the Roman Catholic Church (in the west) and the Greek Orthodox Church (in the east). Every generation of Christians has had to cope with false teachers in the church and with arguments about the interpretation of the Bible.
So, the history of the Christian church has been a story of human weakness and sin, but at the same time it is the story of Gods grace and faithfulness. The Lord has marvellously
fulfilled his promise that not even the gates of hell would overcome his church (Matthew 16:18); he has revived his church when it seemed lifeless, and reformed it when it became corrupt.