It is a principle of faith in the New Apostolic Church: the fact that someone is entrusted with a ministry is rooted solely in God’s will. This idea is called “election”. But how does it work?
“Belief in the divine election of the ministries is part of the wealth of our Church,” it says in a doctrinal essay “Election and calling to ministry” in a special edition of the Divine Service Guide (2/2020). Because this belief is a source of motivation and strength for the ministers. At the same time, it contributes to the acceptance of the ministry on the part of the congregation.
While it is true that God’s will comes to expression in the Apostle’s decision to ordain the chosen individual, it must nevertheless be “acknowledged that this explanation falls somewhat short, considering the importance of the subject”. And for this reason it seems that it would be helpful to provide some explanation of the concepts of divine designation and calling to a ministry.
Understanding the will of God
In purely formal terms, the procedure of selecting ministers is as follows:
- the locally responsible ministers provide the Apostle with a list of members proposed for ordination.
- on the basis of these proposals, the Apostle (or District Apostle) chooses the brothers or sisters to be ordained.
- the locally responsible minister contacts the members who have been selected.
- if they give their consent, the Apostle ordains them into ministry.
However, it is always a question of election: it is the task of the Apostles to recognise God’s will and act in accordance with it.
In order to determine which believers are called to a ministry by God, quite a few points need to be considered:
- the needs of the Church
- the spiritual gifts
- human abilities
- acceptance on the part of the congregation
- the believer’s own acceptance of the calling
Needs, gifts, abilities
The ministry is not an end unto itself, but should serve the needs of the 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.
God gives those whom He has designated for a ministry the spiritual gifts that will be necessary for the exercise of the ministry. This includes faith in Jesus Christ, His death, resurrection and return; faithfulness to the gospel; love for God and the believers; faith in the church as a mediator of salvation; faith in the Apostles, in the sacraments, and in the ministry; as well as a willingness to serve.
The designation that issues from God also shows itself in the abilities He has bestowed upon the believer in question. This includes the ability to listen, the capacity for dialogue, the ability to express oneself clearly, open-mindedness, common sense, knowledge, or the ability and willingness to learn.
Acceptance on the part of the congregation
The ministry is a gift that God gives to the congregation. He chooses a minister who corresponds to the believers he is to serve. The Apostle must therefore make sure that the person he intends to ordain will be accepted by the congregation.
Whether this is the case is a decision that falls to the 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 the spiritual gifts and abilities of those whose ordination they propose.
When designation and calling coincide
The divine designation always goes hand in hand with a calling. This is expressed, for example, in the personal development of the person who has been called. For example, God awakens in the heart of the person who has been called gratitude for the gifts and favours he or she has received; love for God and the Church; and a genuine desire to serve.
“We are of the conviction that this calling is disclosed to the believer by the Apostle or, if necessary, by his representative. However, this is surely not the only way for God to call a believer into His service,” the essay states. “It is the link between the feeling of an inner calling and the call of the apostolate that allow the believer to arrive at the certainty that he has been called by God to a ministry.”