The purpose of the church
Success in life and finding one’s personal life balance: something most people certainly don’t need God for. So why do we even still need the church? A clear answer from Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider.
The universality of the church is a topic that is featured in the latest issue of community and African Joy. The term is derived from the Third Article of Faith, which the New Apostolic Church shares with most of the other Christian churches: “I believe in the one, holy, universal, and apostolic church.”
The church that serves all
The universality of the church of Christ is based on three aspects, the Chief Apostle explains.
- God desires to save all human beings from all time periods, all nations, and all circumstances.
- The gospel of Jesus Christ is valid and effective for all human beings, without exception.
- There where Apostles are active all the necessary means are provided in order to attain the fullness of salvation.
As a matter of fact, the universal character of the church is not always perceptible in its visible form: Christian faith cannot develop in the same way everywhere. Both the truth and relevance of the gospel are called into question. And yet “we believe in the promise of Jesus: the gates of hell will not prevail against the church of Christ” the Chief Apostle says with reference to Matthew 16: 18.
The message that is valid for all
Testimony and preaching are not only based on the gospel and the doctrine, but also on personal experience, which could help other people. “However, we must also concede that they are not valid for all.” For many people today no longer need the consolation and encouragement that is normally part of preaching and pastoral work.
“Thus we would be well advised to concentrate on the universal message of the gospel that is valid for all human beings,” the Chief Apostle says. “The universality of the gospel is based on that which Jesus Christ teaches us about God, ourselves, our relationship with God and our neighbour, and the salvation that God prepares for us.” Only this message is truly universal. It must be the core of every sermon.
A mindset that helps all
In order to proclaim the message of the gospel in a convincing manner, we do not need to demonise earthly life or paint a dark picture of the future. “Following Christ is not inconsistent with a pleasant life on this earth. On the contrary, it can contribute to such a life!”
The universal proclamation of the gospel rules out all calls for uniformity. Chief Apostle Schneider clearly says: “The new life in Christ can develop under the most diverse of economic, spiritual, and cultural conditions! In order to follow the doctrine of the Apostles, the younger generation does not have to share the preferences of their forebears!”
Being a credible witness
In order to be credible as witnesses of the gospel, we must be authentic. In accordance with the example of Jesus we should be
- confident. “Our faith gives us firm confidence in that which we hope, and this confidence must be perceived by those around us.”
- determined to overcome evil: “The testimony of a complacent Christian is not credible.”
- humble: “It is not for sinners to discipline other sinners. On the contrary, Jesus forbids us to judge our neighbour.”
- unbound: “The less we are bound by material things or our own honour, the easier it will be for us to forgive others who cause us harm.”
- filled with love for God and our neighbour: “Because we love Jesus, we are prepared to suffer for Him and with Him. Let us love our neighbour in deed and in truth.”
In conclusion the Chief Apostle says, “Let us remain firm in faith. We believe in the church of Christ and its universal purpose.” It is our task to proclaim the universal message of salvation and not hold on to aspects that are of a rather secondary nature; heed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that the glad tidings can be proclaimed without restrictions; and take direction from the example of Christ in order to be true witnesses.
Photo: franz12 / fotolia.de