1 March 2024

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Election and calling to ministry

The questions of what and who of our concept of ministry have been resolved. What remains is the question, why does ministry come to the believer. This is what Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explains in the following essay.


The Fifth Article of the New Apostolic Creed states: “I believe that those designated by God for a ministry are ordained only by Apostles, and that authority, blessing, and sanctification for their ministrations come forth out of the Apostle ministry.” In the commentary on this Article of Faith, the Catechism further specifies that


  •  the ministry is not a human work, nor is it ultimately that of the congregation; it is a gift of God to His church.
  •  it is God Himself who designates a person to receive a ministry.
  •  this designation by God is realised on the occasion of an ordination which is performed by the apostolate (CNAC 2.4.5→).


Maintaining and strengthening belief

Belief in the divine election of the ministries is part of the wealth of our Church. It is a source of motivation and strength for the ministers. At the same time, it contributes to the acceptance of the spiritual ministry on the part of the congregation.


We are accustomed to saying that it is God who designates a person before the ordination, and that this designation comes to expression in the Apostle’s decision to ordain the person. It must be acknowledged, however, that this explanation falls somewhat short, considering the importance of the subject.


Certain conditions might cause our members to call the divine designation of a minister into question. This can be the case, for example, when it turns out that ministers do not live up to the demands of their ministry or fail in its exercise.


In most cases the selection of the ministers to be ordained transpires as follows:


  • the locally responsible ministers provide the Apostle with a list of brothers or sisters proposed for ordination.
  • on the basis of these proposals, the Apostle (or District Apostle) chooses the brothers or sisters to be ordained.
  • a locally responsible minister contacts the members who have been selected, and explains what will be expected of them.
  • if the individuals selected give their consent, the Apostle ordains them into ministry.


It is not necessarily easy to reconcile this administrative procedure with a designation made by God. For this reason, it seems to me that it would be helpful to provide some explanation of the concepts of divine designation and calling to a ministry.


Divine designation

As with all decisions made by God, the divine designation to a ministry is a mystery which we can only grasp in faith. No Apostle can claim to fully understand why God has chosen a believer in order to entrust him or her with a special duty. Our task merely consists of recognising His will and acting in accordance with it (CNAC 7.7→).


In order to determine which believers are called to a ministry by God, we must take the following into consideration.


The needs of the Church: Ministry is not an end unto itself. It is given by God in order to meet the needs of His church. The Apostle and His co-workers must allow themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit in order to recognise the needs and expectations of the congregation.


The spiritual gifts: God gives those whom He has designated for a ministry the spiritual gifts that will be necessary for the exercise of the ministry. Believers who have been called to a ministry can be recognised by


  • their faith in Jesus Christ, as well as in His death, resurrection, and return.
  • their faithfulness to the gospel.
  • their faith in the Church as a mediator of salvation; their faith in the Apostles, in the sacraments, and in the ministry.
  • their love for God and the believers. their willingness to serve.


Human abilities: The designation that issues from God also shows itself in the abilities He has bestowed upon the believers in question. Some examples of this include the ability to listen, the capacity for dialogue, the ability to express themselves clearly, open-mindedness, common sense, knowledge, or the ability and willingness to learn. The Apostles and their co-workers must make certain that even the human—that is, the characteristic, emotional, and intellectual—abilities of the minister correspond to the needs of the congregation which he or she has been called to serve.


Acceptance on the part of the congregation: Ministry is a gift that God gives to the congregation. He chooses ministers who correspond to the believers they are to serve. The Apostle must make certain that the person to be ordained will be well accepted by the congregation. In the early church, the Apostles asked the church to seek out seven men who were to be ordained to serve as Deacons (Acts 6: 1–6). In our time, this decision falls to the locally responsible congregational or district rectors, who act on behalf of the congregation. By presenting their proposal to the Apostle, these leading ministers confirm that the believing congregation has recognised (or perhaps, will be able to recognise) the spiritual gifts and abilities of those whose ordination they propose.


The minister’s own acceptance of the calling: The divine designation always goes hand in hand with a calling. God calls the individuals whom He has selected and gives them the opportunity to accept their election or not. We are of the conviction that this calling is disclosed to the believer by the Apostle or, if necessary, by his or her representative. However, this is surely not the only way for God to call a believer into His service.


The divine calling also expresses itself in the personal development of the individuals who have been called. Through the conditions of life and personal experiences, God awakens the following in their hearts:


  • gratitude for the gifts and favours they have received.
  • love for God and the Church.
  • the genuine desire—born out of this gratitude and love—to serve God and the Church.


Confirming one’s designation and calling

It is the link between the feeling of an inner calling and the call of the apostolate that allows believers to arrive at the certainty that they have been called by God to a ministry. The individuals who have been called must then confirm their designation and calling (2 Peter 1: 10) by declaring, of their own free will, that they


  • profess the New Apostolic Creed.
  • will discharge their ministry within the mandate issued to them.
  • will work together with the apostolate and the other ministries.
  • will adhere to the regulations and ordinances of the New Apostolic Church.


It is important for the individuals who have been called to be able to make their decision freely and in full awareness of the significance of the matter. Those who have been called must be clear about the content of their obligation and what implications arise from this obligation. For this reason, it is important that the spouse also be incorporated into the decision-making process.


After their ordination, the ministers must further consolidate their election by


  • sanctifying themselves.
  • making the endeavour to recognise the divine will and act in accordance with it.
  • deepening their oneness with the apostolate and the other ministries.
  • further developing their gifts and abilities.
  • committing themselves to training in order to acquire the knowledge and abilities that are necessary for the exercise of their ministry.


The Church leadership in turn must see to it that the ministers are instructed and supported in their ministry. Meanwhile, the members of the congregation must support the ministers in prayer, but also demonstrate their appreciation for them and solidarity with them.


Designation is no guarantee of success

The designation by God, which is realised by ordination, does not rule out the possibility that a minister may fail in the exercise of his or her ministry. “Nevertheless, this does not call into question the original call of God” (CNAC 2.4.5→).


Here the Catechism makes a distinction between God, who is perfect and infallible, and the person who, although designated by God, remains imperfect and fallible.


In order to avoid any misunderstanding, let us clarify right from the start what we mean when we talk about failing in the exercise of ministry. The failure of which we speak here does not refer to the results achieved, but rather to the manner in which the minister fulfils the divine will.


There can be various reasons which might prevent a minister from fulfilling his or her ministerial mandate.


Failure attributable to the minister: Ministers cannot be successful in the exercise of their ministry if they 


  • conduct themselves in a manner that is inconsistent with their ministry.
  • are not in oneness with the apostolate.
  • lose the trust of the members through their conduct.
  • refuse to place their gifts and strength into the service of the Church.


In all of these cases, the ministers deprive themselves of divine blessing, and their actions are therefore doomed to fail. Nevertheless, the acts which they have performed within the scope of their ministerial authority (dispensation of the sacraments, proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, dispensation of blessings) are not called into question as a result of their conduct. They remain valid and can unfold in all their effects.


Failure attributable to the congregation: Human weaknesses can cause members of the congregation to have an intolerant or even hostile attitude toward a minister. From this point onward such a minister will no longer be able to fulfil his or her mandate with them. Such a failure is then attributable to the congregation, and not to the minister.


Also Apostles are imperfect human beings, who are capable of making mistakes. If it turns out that a brother or sister fails to live up to their ministry despite their best efforts, the Apostle must have the honesty to question himor herself. Perhaps an error was made in assessing the needs of the congregation or the abilities of the minister. It is the obligation of the Apostle to support this minister, if necessary, by adapting the mandate to suit his or her abilities, and to see to it that the minister and his or her family receive the appropriate pastoral care.


Failure attributable to external circumstances: In some cases, events occur after a person’s ordination which make it difficult or even impossible for him or her to exercise the ministry. For example, this is the case when


  • ministers experience health problems or significant changes in their family or professional life.
  • the composition of the congregation has changed so significantly that the requirements are different.
  • demographic developments oblige the Church to change the way congregations are organised.


Such changes do not call God’s calling into question, but must cause us to ask ourselves the question of


  • what God expects of us now.
  • what is to be done in order to ensure that the ministers can indeed exercise their ministerial authority in accordance with the will of God.
  • whether the ministerial mandate of the minister needs to be adapted.
  • whether the time has come to relieve the minister of his or her ministerial mandate.


The exercise of a ministry is no guarantee of salvation, and the fact that a minister may have failed in his or her ministry does not exclude him or her from having access to salvation. Our duty toward him or her remains unchanged, namely to help them attain salvation. It is not the task of the Apostles to judge those who refuse to accept a ministry. Finally, Apostles must not forget that ministers who have difficulties in the exercise of their ministries need special comfort and support.


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