Ministry (1): Rooted in its model
Ministry, do we really need it? And why? Different denominations give different answers. This is the beginning of a series on the concept of ministry in the New Apostolic Church.
This is a question that cannot simply be dismissed, because the New Testament even addresses the members of the congregation as the “royal priesthood”. The Lutheran and Reformed churches believe in the universal priesthood composed of all believers, while the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches consider the ministerial priesthood to be indispensable for salvation.
From a call to all …
The universal priesthood composed of all believers also plays a role in the New Apostolic belief: through baptism and belief every Christian is called to proclaim the gospel, namely by witnessing the truth of the gospel in word and deed.
In addition to this, there are many services, tasks, and functions that serve for the good of the church and the congregation. Everything that is done for the good of the community on the basis of the belief in Jesus Christ is a service within the church of Christ—that is, the totality of all those who have been properly baptised. This includes musical contributions as well as pastoral care conversations. It includes leadership tasks and teaching assignments.
… to a mandate with special authority
However, some of the services and functions differ significantly from others: specifically, preaching at the altar, pronouncing the absolution in the context of the forgiveness of sins, and dispensing Holy Communion. In these cases, it is a matter of expressly acting or speaking in the name of God.
According to New Apostolic understanding, such a requirement needs special authorisation, which has its source in Jesus Christ. Such services and functions require authorisation, blessing, and sanctification. And it is precisely these elements which the Fifth Article of Faith defines as ordination: the conferring of a spiritual ministry.
From authority …
Authority is a central term in the New Apostolic concept of ministry. It not only justifies the necessity of the ordained ministry, but also becomes the determining criterion for the concrete ministerial structure.
Exousia, a Greek term meaning “authority” or “power”, is a central notion in the New Testament when it comes to the activity of Jesus. It describes how Jesus taught and acted—by His own authority. This is not something that was nourished by professional skills or personal charisma, but by the fact of having been sent by God.
… to the delegation of authority
In the gospels, this authority and power is not limited to Jesus. Part of it He gave to His Apostles: when He gave them power and authority, blessed them, and equipped them with the Holy Spirit, and sent them out as His Father had sent Him. This is the point at which Christ instituted the spiritual ministry, which became effective on Pentecost, when the church was born.
The Bible sees Jesus in three roles: as King, Priest, and Prophet—generally also referred to as the three-fold ministry of Christ within Christianity. This outlines the scope of a ministerial mandate, which was also imparted to the Apostles: leading the church, conferring spiritual gifts, and proclaiming the will of God.
When looking at everything together it becomes clear that the church needs both the universal priesthood of the believers as well as the ordained ministry. Both have their source in Christ.
In the same way that the ministry is rooted in the example of Jesus, the nature of ministry also corresponds to the nature of Christ. The next article in this series will address the question of the dual nature of Christ. And this does not only apply to the ministry.
(The material for these articles is drawn from the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, an additional commentary on chapter 7 of the Catechism, the Special Editions of the Divine Service Guide 03/2017, 04/2017, and 2/2019, as well as training material for the introductory events. / Photo : Studio_East - stock.adobe.com)