What does Jesus expect of His helpers?
What is the role of the ministers in the congregation and in the Church? How far does their authority extend? Some answers from a divine service by the Chief Apostle to set the record straight.
“And the Lord said, ‘Who is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” – This was the Bible text from Luke 12: 42-43 that served as the basis of the divine service in Berlin-Lichtenberg on 21 January 2018. “Jesus made use of the image of a steward in order to illustrate to the Apostles what He expects of them,” explained Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider to the 1,500 ministers and their wives who had assembled.
Who is the steward? “Even if we have certain responsibilities, even if we bear a certain ministry, we remain servants—bondservants of Christ—just like every member of our Church. We are completely dependent on the Lord. We have no autonomy—nor do we want any. We simply want to do and execute that which the Lord Jesus, the Master, has decided.”
What is his task? “The task of the steward or householder is to provide food for the other servants at the right time. That is the single reason for our ministerial activity, namely to distribute the word of God in the proper manner, in order to make salvation accessible.”
What does “faithful” mean here? “A faithful servant is a servant who is dependable and steadfast. Such a servant will do his work when he finds it enjoyable, but also when it is not enjoyable. He will do his work when it is easy and pleasant, but also when it becomes difficult. He will perform his duties whether he is praised or whether he is criticised, whether he receives thanks for it or whether he is ignored.”
And the “faithful servant distributes this food and gives it to all the other servants. He is reliable. After all, we did not make the decision as to who should be a child of God and who should not. This is something the master has decided! It is He who has called and chosen the people of His household. Our task consists of ensuring that all those whom He has chosen, all those He has called, receive the necessary food.”
To what is the congregation entitled? “Let us continually verify that the message we preach conforms to the Bible. Let us also continually ensure that the message we preach corresponds to the Apostles’ doctrine. And when our members come into the New Apostolic Church, they expect that the New Apostolic doctrine will be preached there! Therefore we must also be faithful servants, and provide the congregation with that to which they are entitled.”
What does “in due season” mean here? “It is of no use to talk to a young person in the same way we would talk to a senior member of eighty years. To the one we can simply say, ‘That is what we believe,’ but in the case of the other, we will have to explain it. If someone has made a mistake, it will do no good to sermonise. Those who are weak need love, they need grace, they need understanding.”
How does the wise servant act?
- “The wise steward also knows that he cannot always give out sweets. There must also be other food, something of substance.”
- “If the conduct of the minister is not appropriate, then he can hold a marvellous sermon, provide a beautiful teaching, but no one will accept it because it is being served on a dirty plate.”
- “Theology in our life of faith is like grammar in writing. You can live without it, but it is much better when you use it. It does nothing to change the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, but simply makes the food more pleasant to receive.”
- “The authority of our ministry only applies when we preach the gospel of Christ. Otherwise not. Naturally, the servant cannot make use of this authority to preach his own interpretations and ideas, to spread his own ideas, or express his own opinions either.”
- “Jesus has not sent us in order to heal the sick. He has sent us to give them faith, to inspire trust in God, in order to comfort them—not in order to pray away their problems or make promises.”
- “If I, as a representative of the Church, make a decision, I must explain it. I must justify it. I must motivate people and inspire them so that they are in agreement with it and help along. Not even this has anything to do with our authority.”
What does it mean to “make ruler over his household”? “This does not mean that we will become even bigger bosses when the Lord comes! It simply means that we will share in His glory!”
“We already receive a special blessing today when we work for the Lord because we are always able to experience that God is with us. We have experiences of faith again and again in which we feel that God hears and answers our prayers. Again and again we experience how God comes to the aid of our brothers and sisters! That is the reward we receive today. And the future reward is Jesus Christ! Let us continue to be faithful and wise servants of God!”