The secrets of a feel-good congregation

A congregation in which everyone feels welcome and loved. How is that supposed to work? The Chief Apostle’s answer: everyone can contribute. Here are ten reasons to rejoice and five building blocks that contribute to a feel-good congregation.

The beginning of a hymn that was sung by pilgrims on their way to the temple in Jerusalem was at the heart of a divine service on 26 November 2017 in Essen (Germany). The Bible text is found in Psalm 122: 1: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”

“To begin with, we see Jerusalem and the temple as an image of the heavenly Jerusalem,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said and mentioned five reasons why we should rejoice.

  • Our motivation is not to escape an announced catastrophe, nor to flee an existence that has become unbearable for us. We want to go there because we love God and long to be with Him.
  • Naturally, there will be no more suffering, no more pain. But what is even more beautiful for me: we will be delivered from our sinfulness, from our imperfections, and from our faults.
  • With God there is enough room for all people. He wants to draw everyone to Himself.
  • We do not only want to enter the house of the Lord because we ourselves want to be saved. We want to go there because we want to help people and support God.
  • We can only walk this path together. Individualists will not make it. Let us do it together.

“We can also see Jerusalem as an image for the congregation today that gathers to celebrate divine service,” the Chief Apostle continued and cited five others for joy.

  • We rejoice because we can have fellowship with God already now: through His word and in the celebration of Holy Communion.
  • We delight to go into the house of the Lord because it is precisely there that we receive the strength so that we can follow the path that leads to the heavenly Jerusalem.
  • We gladly go into the house of the Lord because we can be freed from the burden of sin there already today.
  • We gladly go into the house of the Lord because we can pray together there. And we know: praying always helps.
  • We gladly go into the house of the Lord because there we find everything we need to have fellowship and to build up unity—despite our differences. There we find everything we need so that we can live together in peace.

A task is connected with this, the Chief Apostle explained: “All New Apostolic Christians are jointly responsible that all go into the house of the Lord gladly.”

  • It is the house of the Lord and this is something you have to be able to feel and experience: here Jesus Christ has the final say. His law applies here. He is the Master.
  • It must not happen that some do everything in a congregation and the others are only “customers”, who show up when they need something. Let us all experience the joy that lies in mutual service.
  • You can be a peacemaker. You can help in building peace and in maintaining it. Everybody can do that. Every child of God has received this gift: you do not always have to say what you think; and you do not always have to be in the right.
  • In order that we can be glad in the house of the Lord a certain number of things are required, and for that we need money. Here too, let us put our gifts into the service of God and the congregation.
  • If everybody does what they want and uses their gifts on a whim, there will be chaos. An amount of organisation is necessary. We also need the Church leadership: globally, in the district, in the congregation. – It is not that simple, but we are doing our best to make it work.

Many are of the opinion that everybody should be able to find everything according to his or her own liking in their home congregation. “But that is absolutely impossible,” the Chief Apostle said. “And why? Simply because we are human and therefore all different,” he explained. His definition: “A congregation in which members feel good is one in which everybody comes to seek Jesus Christ—and finds Him.”

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Andreas Rother
Germany, Chief Apostle, Divine service