Ministry (18): Embarking on a journey of discovery

What is ministry? How does it work? How does it relate to the person? This is what we have been discussing over the last 17 instalments of this series. Now we are moving on to look at who can carry a ministry. To find the right answer we need to look closely.

Ministry is the authority, blessing, and sanctification conferred through ordination to speak and act in the name of God. Jesus Christ Himself instituted it by conferring authority to the Apostles. And the Apostles, in turn, have passed along part of it.

God, Jesus, Apostles… Anyone looking for answers must ask at least three questions: What does God want? What did Jesus Christ say or do? What did the Apostles teach? The first place to look for any answers is in the Bible, a testimony of the Christian faith. But the book of books does not make it easy.

A closed book

This is already evident in the question: what does God want? This can be seen best in the creation before the Fall, the state of the world as God intended it: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1: 31).

However, there are two different accounts of creation in Holy Scripture. And the two accounts can by all means be understood differently.

Next is the question: what did Jesus Christ say or do? The problem is that Christ said absolutely nothing about this question. And His actions can be interpreted in one way or another.

Further difficulties are posed by the question: what did the Apostles teach? There are certainly some very clear statements, but they often contradict each other. Or they lack the logic behind them. Or they address culture, but not faith.

Not the what, but the how

“How do we use the Bible?” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider asks in circular addressed to the Apostles. “We do not find scientific explanations in it,” he says with reference to a saying: “The Bible does not tell us about heaven and earth, it tells us how to live on earth to enter into heaven.”

“Let us avoid making our decisions or justifying them based on an isolated passage in the Bible. On many points, the Bible’s texts say everything and its opposite, and everyone can find what suits them.” For example:

  • “In the Old Testament, the Lord tells Israel not to fight and to let Him do it. But another time He asks them to wage war.
  • “At first, Jesus asks His Apostles to go only to the Jews. Later, He sends them to all nations.
  • “In 1 Corinthians 7: 26–33 Paul recommends not marrying to please the Lord. But we read in 1 Timothy 4: 1–3 that those who advise believers not to marry are false prophets!”

According to the Chief Apostle, these few examples show that

  • “we cannot rely on isolated passages of the Bible to make our decisions;
  • “the Bible does not dictate what decisions we should make, it tells us how to make them—in keeping with God’s will, especially the commandment to love God and our neighbour; and
  • “that the Bible text can be interpreted in many ways. We believe that Jesus entrusted His Apostles with the task of interpreting Scripture through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 4: 1; CNAC”

On the way to an answer

Pointing the way to an answer: “Only a proper evaluation of the biblical evidence can give us the answer,” Chief Apostle Schneider emphasised in his video address.

And that means you cannot just choose and pick from the Bible what suits you. Rather, you need to perceive contradictions, explore backgrounds, and recognise connections. This series will embark on such a voyage of discovery and make its way through the history of creation, the gospels, and the epistles starting with the next part.

Photo: C. Schüßler -

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Andreas Rother
ministry, Doctrinal statements