Making people Christians, not members of the Church
Christ comes before the Church, the gospel before rules, and salvation of the soul before tradition: already the first part of the interview with the Chief Apostle gives clear direction. It deals with questions relating to our self-image.
In your divine services you have often addressed this subject: the mission of the Church and the Apostles. Can you once again summarise this for us here?
Yes, gladly. For me it is clear that Jesus Christ rules His church. He gave His Apostles the commission to preach the gospel throughout the world, to make people into disciples of Christ, and to dispense the sacraments. Their mission is to prepare the bridal congregation for the return of the Lord.
What does this have to do with strategy?
I see one important task for the Chief Apostle and the Apostles in defining strategic guidelines and areas of activity so that the apostolate can fulfil this mission in accordance with the will of the Lord.
This still sounds very general. What, specifically, are these strategic guidelines?
Our actions are distinguished by several objectives. Our primary goal is to preach the gospel truthfully and conscientiously throughout the world. For us as Apostles, this means the following.
- We need to be careful that Jesus Christ takes first place, and not the institution or a particular person.
- We want to define the New Apostolic doctrine on the basis of the Bible. This is the purpose of our Catechism. It describes the current globally valid doctrine of the New Apostolic Church in a clear and structured manner.
- We want to make sure that the sermons correspond to the biblical message and the doctrine.
- We want to give priority to that which is decisive for the salvation of the believers. While Church traditions certainly deserve respect, they must never become as important as the message of the gospel itself. We want to clearly distinguish between the message of the gospel, the rules of the Church, and local traditions.
- We need to make sure that all New Apostolic children across the globe receive quality religious education that is adapted to their needs and local conditions. All of our Church-related activity must be defined by this focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Making people into disciples of the Lord … What do you mean by that?
Let me put it this way: we want people to follow Jesus Christ. As Apostles, we can make a decisive contribution to this. Love for Jesus Christ and belief in His teaching are to be spread in all directions and encouraged and promoted.
… spread in all directions and promoted?
Of course there are limits to such activities, but these have been set by God Himself.
- He has given man freedom of choice. Faith is a gift that God gives to man, but man must long for and accept it. We cannot force anyone to love the Lord. But what we can do is encourage our neighbour to follow the Lord.
- The gospel is the absolute truth. We cannot adapt it to suit people’s tastes. God expects us to proclaim the pure, unadulterated gospel.
- And finally, we need to make sure that salvation, which God will offer until His return, remains accessible to all.
If it is so important to adhere to the ever valid gospel, is there still even room for change?
Well, there will always be changes and they happen all the time, even in our Church. In terms of faith, the gospel of the Lord offers everything that a believing person needs. Our mission is going to people and making them into disciples of the Lord, not members of the Church.
There are also examples that show the opposite …
Some denominations threaten with typical doomsday scenarios and predict a terrible future. In the same breath, they propose solutions to improve the situation. Others try to attract people to their church with music, dancing, the sensational, emotions, or material support. There is a constant stream of new offers. Experience shows that these methods can contribute to increasing the attendance of religious worship, but only rarely do they engender a deep faith.
And how do you plan to accomplish this task instead?
We fulfil our mission by making sure that people feel at home in our Church, that they can experience the love of God and the joy of serving Him and others, and feel a desire to bring their lives into alignment with the gospel. That is our Vision!
The mission of the Church is therefore clear. But how can it be put into practice? This will be the subject of the second part of the interview, which will be published next Saturday. We will see that in an international church it takes more than one answer.
Photo: Alex Ferguson