More than just consumers and spectators …
The first Christians supported the efforts and the mission of the Apostles by professing the gospel, by revealing their love, their joy, and their steadfastness, and by bringing their offerings. It is not any different today. Following are thoughts from Chief Apostle Schneider on how we can help along.
On Sunday, 22 November 2015, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider celebrated a divine service in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s national capital, with 500 brothers and sisters. He placed nine Apostles into retirement and ordained five Apostles in this service. He based his sermon on Acts 4: 31: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
“After Jesus had commissioned the first Apostles they went out and preached and baptized. But before long they met with resistance from the religious leaders,” Chief Apostle Schneider summarized the happenings two thousand years ago. But the Apostles were not afraid and did not allow this to shake them. They asked the congregation to help them fulfil their commission.
Actively involved in the plan of salvation
The Apostles of today also have to deal with difficulties in fulfilling their commission. The congregations help them in their work. For one, they pray for the Apostles and, secondly, they bear witness of the gospel through word and conduct. With this the Chief Apostle quoted indirectly from the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, where it says in chapter 7.1: “It is also important to distinguish ministry from the call that has gone out to all believers, namely to serve the Lord by following Him … Just as the Apostles bear witness of the gospel through word and conduct, reborn Christians do the same in fellowship with them, thereby supporting their great commission.”
“A child of God should not be content with just being a spectator or a consumer in the Church. We have to support the work of the Apostles,” the Chief Apostle said. “Members of the congregation are not customers who come to church when they need something, buy it, and then go home again. We are actively involved in the plan of salvation,” he said.
The difficult mission of the Apostles
At the time of the first Christians, the congregation shared the Apostles’ concerns. “They came together, worshipped God, and prayed that the Apostles would be able to fulfil their commission. It was surprising that they did not ask God to help them solve the problem by killing the enemies or changing the situation.” No, the first Christians prayed that God give the Apostles the strength needed to fulfil their commission.
The Chief Apostle asked for support. “It is the task of the Church to support the efforts and the mission of the Apostles. How can we do that? We support the work of the Apostles when we gather for divine services. The first congregation already gathered to worship God, and so do we.” The congregation prayed a second time, the Chief Apostle said: “God, give us strength in this difficult time. Strengthen us and Your servants so that we can fulfil the mission despite all difficulties.”
After they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken. This was God’s answer at the time and a symbol of His presence. Also today God is present among the faithful—in His word and in the celebration of Holy Communion.
Actively and with the joy in Christ
“Let us support today’s Apostles by following the example set by the first Christians,” Chief Apostle Schneider said, and listed five ways we can do that.
- Declaring what we believe. “Let us proclaim the word of God with boldness and courage. We can talk about it in our everyday life, for example, by telling our neighbour, ‘I cannot agree with you in this.’ – We just cannot say and do everything.”
- Being one in heart and soul. “When people watch our congregation and notice, ‘Just look at these people. They are all so different. Some are rich, others are poor. Some are young and others are old. Some are educated and others are not … They are all so different, but they love each other and are one,’ then this congregation is a testimony of the Apostle ministry’s capacity to produce effects.”
- Being joyful. “The Apostles proclaimed: ‘Jesus has died for you. Jesus has risen. He triumphed over death and hell! He will return and you will be able to enter into His glory!’ The congregation received that message and believed in its fulfilment. That is why they had joy in Christ.”
- Being steadfast. “The congregation has to go through hardships. Children of God have to deal with trials and difficulties. But the first congregation remained steadfast and did not use the trials and burdens they experienced as an excuse. Even in the face of adversity they followed the teachings of the gospel.”
- By bringing our offerings. “The first Christians knew that if the Apostles were to be able to fulfil their mission, they would need help. They also knew that the Apostles would need money to fulfil their commission. It is the same today.”
The congregation supports the work of the Apostles by worshipping God and through prayer. Every child of God is called on to help the Apostles by professing their faith and proving their love for one another, by revealing their joy in Christ, by being steadfast, and by faithfully bringing their offerings.