Ministry (9): Adapting ministry to the times
Can the Apostles just go ahead and do that? Are they even allowed to reorganise the ministerial structure? Not only are they allowed to do so—they must! Read on to find out why they did so in the first place, and where the limits are—ministry between the past and the future.
The number of the early Christians was growing. And this was starting to cause problems. The Apostles were no longer able to keep up with their duties. So it was that, according to Acts 6, they decided to concentrate on the “ministry of the word”—in other words, the preaching of the gospel. The duty of serving tables they passed along to others who cared for the poor, and who at some later point came to be called Deacons.
The Apostles of today must likewise ask themselves how the ministers can best fulfil their duties—keeping in mind both the demands of the time and the needs of the congregations. Otherwise they would not live up to their responsibility as stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4: 1).
From seven specifications …
This order cannot be arbitrarily configured, but must take into account biblical, theological, and traditional specifications:
- Everything that people do in faith and for the benefit of the fellowship of the duly baptised is a service in the church of Christ. At times this also entails speaking and acting expressly in the name of God. Only such services require a ministry (for more on this, see: Messengers of Jesus).
- Jesus Christ instituted ministry when He transferred powers from His own ministry as King, Priest, and Prophet to the Apostles: the leadership of the church, the imparting of the gifts of salvation, and the preaching of the will of God (A matter of authority).
- Like Jesus Christ, the ministry also has a dual nature: the invisible divine side, and the visible human side. As is the case with the church of Christ, one is perfect and the other flawed. In a manner similar to Holy Communion, the two sides enter into a temporary union (The key to understanding).
- The New Testament does not specify a binding ministerial order. It does, however, relate the actions of the Apostles: they institute the service of the Deacons, appoint church leaders (Elders and Bishops), and list the requirements incumbent on each (The heritage of the New Testament).
- Not even prophets, evangelists, and pastors are necessarily ministries. The New Testament does not mention their investiture to these positions, nor does it list any requirements incumbent on them. They are not mentioned in the context of the aforementioned services, but in the context of spiritual gifts—such as miracle workers, healers, or those who spoke in tongues (The gift as a duty?).
- Ministry, in the present sense of the word, also continues to develop in the post-New Testament period: first in the three-level ministerial order of church leadership, priesthood, and diaconate, then in the doctrine of ordained ministry (How we arrived at a third level).
- The three levels of ministry, with their different ministerial powers, are part of the New Apostolic tradition all the way back to its Catholic Apostolic roots. This also applies to the adaptation of the services within these levels (Constancy amid change).
… to two results
This is precisely the subject that has occupied the District Apostle Meeting, both mentally and spiritually, since March 2015—and it was in November 2018 that the new structure, which has been in effect since Pentecost 2019, was passed:
- Measured by the authority to speak and act in the name of God, the New Apostolic Church, in principle, acknowledges only the three ministries of Apostle, Priest, and Deacon. The previous intermediate levels in the priestly ministry do not distinguish themselves from one another in terms of ministerial authority, but in terms of leadership and delegate functions. For this reason, the ministerial levels from Evangelist to Bishop will no longer be occupied as ministries, as has already been the case with the District Apostle ministry since June 2018.
- Leadership functions for the various geographical entities will not be conferred as ministries, but rather as additional services. On the level of the global Church and the Apostle district, this already occurs in the ordination of the Chief Apostle or Apostle, respectively. On the level of the District Church, district, and congregation, an Apostle or Priest will be appointed to this service, and will bear the designation District Apostle, district rector, or congregational rector, respectively.
“I am absolutely convinced that this reform will have beneficial effects for the Church,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said during his video address on the concept of ministry. Why? And to what extent? These questions will be the focus of the next issue in this series.