“The ministry is so great and its bearer so small”

The gap between expectations and reality, between the ministry and its bearer … This field of tension made for some moving moments in the most recent divine service for ministers in Europe: the Chief Apostle apologized.

The minister as a servant of God and a servant of the congregation … That was the topic of the divine service that took place on 27 September 2015 in Düsseldorf in Germany. All active and retired ministers in Europe were connected by video transmission. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider asked the congregation for more humility. One particularly important aspect he made clear right at the beginning of his sermon.

Scale and holiness of the task

“We believe that the Lord Jesus gave the Apostles a particularly holy and great task: we have to proclaim the gospel, offer salvation, and prepare the bride of the Lord,” the Chief Apostle said. “The more we Apostles occupy ourselves with this, the holier this task becomes for us and the more we realize: this is something we will never manage.”

“First of all, this applies to me in my ministry as Chief Apostle. We are not able to cope with the holiness and scale of such a task,” he made clear. “We will not be able to manage because the Chief Apostle and the Apostles are still imperfect human beings.”

Disappointments and injuries

“Sometimes difficulties arise, and sometimes the brothers and sisters are a little bit disappointed because the Apostle ministry is so great and its bearer so small. Sometimes the one or other is even hurt because the Apostles are not as holy as their ministry,” the Chief Apostle continued.

“I would like to apologize on behalf of all Apostles and ask you to please forgive us. Forgive us if we have hurt you, if we have disappointed you. We promise we will make every effort in executing our Apostle ministry even better.”

“Don’t cut yourselves off from Jesus Christ”

It was not the first time that the Chief Apostle clearly addressed the fallibility of the Apostles. “Sometimes you have to suffer because of our imperfections,” he told the ministers in Indonesia on 27 June 2015. “No Apostle is perfect, no Chief Apostle is perfect—and you forgive us. We are doing our best to improve. We are so thankful that you accept us despite our weaknesses.”

And the Chief Apostle went even further during a divine service in Saarbrücken in Germany on 5 July 2015. “We call all those who have left the Lord for whatever reason: you are more than welcome to come back,” Chief Apostle Schneider said during the celebration of Holy Communion for the departed. “Please accept our apologies if we, if the congregation, or the Church has done something wrong. Please come back, don’t cut yourselves off from Jesus Christ because of our imperfections.”

In line with his predecessors

Such confessions are not a spur-of-the-moment idea, but belong to the core commission of the ministry for the Chief Apostle. “The Apostle ministry is the ministry of reconciliation. This is what it says in Scripture,” he explained in an interview in October 2014. And what is most important, he continued, is that we admit our own faults. “We really mean that. It is not only a statement in the Catechism, but it is our deep inner wish to do justice to the will of God.”

With this stance, Chief Apostle Schneider is fully in line with his predecessors. “I extend a hand in reconciliation, also on behalf of the Church,” Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber had said at the European Youth Day in the year 2009, addressing the Apostolische Gemeinschaft (Apostolic Community). “Mistakes were also made from our side, the side of the New Apostolic Church.”

Learning from mistakes

And Chief Apostle Richard Fehr wrote in an article in the German edition of the Our Family in 1996, “Wherever people work together mistakes will be made. It was not always possible to prevent mistakes being made in our Church in the past, and this cannot be ruled out now nor in the future.” Important is, he continued, that we realize that we are all still imperfect and that we learn from our mistakes.

There will be more on the divine service in Düsseldorf in the next few days.

Photo: NAC Cape

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