New Apostolic Church USA

Finding Community in Church

"Changes to NAC USA Online: Finding Community in Church" from the Spring 2019 Vision Newsletter

CONNECTING TO THE VISION AND MISSION

The vision and mission guide all that the Church does. To reach our vision, we follow our mission. The first step, teaching all people the gospel of Jesus Christ, is crucial in being able to follow the rest of the mission. Many projects or programs are aimed at reaching out to all so that people may hear the gospel and come to be baptized with water and Spirit. We’ve put a lot of focus on this phase of reaching and teaching, but this is not the only part of the mission. We cannot stop once this part is done. Reaching out to people is just one aspect of a relationship with others. In a divine service from 2017, Chief Apostle Schneider said, “We have to go to the people. The transmission of the gospel needs personal contact.”

We have to do more than just reach out to people to teach them something; we have to connect with people. When we are connected together, we are creating a church in which people feel at home. Only with a connection, can we truly provide soul care and cultivate a warm fellowship. Only with a connection, can we fully share God’s love with others and help inspire joy in serving.

NAC USA Online – a place where people can listen virtually to the sermon every Sunday – aims to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are some genuine reasons as to why people need online services in order to hear the gospel. For these people, NAC USA Online is a solution that allows them to connect in some way. But this is not the full experience. The solution of NAC USA Online only speaks to the first part of the mission of reaching out to teach the gospel, and falls short of the other aspects of the mission. The complete connection, soul care and fellowship and sharing God’s love with others, is lacking when one only attends services using NAC USA Online. Due to this, we encourage our members to live their faith with a community of believers within the church.

THE NEED FOR COMMUNITY FOUND IN CHURCH

Jesus was often teaching in crowds; and His apostles often preached to crowds, which we can see evidence of in their letters. Their letters were not just addressed to one Ephesian or one Corinthian, but rather to the Corinthian and Ephesian congregations. In these instances, we can see how community can help people learn and grow. We find this community in the church. Not a virtual community, but a physical congregation. A divine service is essentially made up of several components – worship, sermon, sacrament, fellowship, and blessing. Broadcasted services can only provide the sermon and blessing element. The other components are diminished when experienced outside of the congregation.

Worship

The Catechism offers one definition of divine service as the fellowship of the believers gathered in the worship and praise of God (CNAC 12.1.5.3). While our individual worship is crucial in our relationship with God, we also want to make time for corporate worship, where we come together as believers and praise God. So, even when one individually worships God while connected to an online service, it is not an equal alternative to the corporate worship that Christians experience together in church. Corporate worship gives us an opportunity to publicly declare our love for Him. There is a certain feeling of wonderment and conviction when people are gathered in one place to praise God, and this feeling cannot be fully grasped when experienced from a screen.

Sacrament

Holy Communion is the sacrament we are able to experience every divine service. Holy Communion is a meal of profession. The profession of the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ is part of the profession of the Christian faith. When one is watching service online by themselves, this element of profession in Holy Communion is diminished because they are only professing their belief to themselves. While a personal profession is powerful, there is significance in publicly professing one’s faith to other believers (cf. Matthew 10:32).

Holy Communion is also a meal of fellowship. The presence of the Lord’s body and blood establishes our fellowship with Him and other believers. In this fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, the true nature and true form of the church of Christ are clearly revealed. It is very difficult to feel this important sense of fellowship in Holy Communion when separated from the congregation.

Fellowship

The fellowship experienced in other elements of the divine service experience are also lacking when viewing services only through NAC USA Online. True Christian fellowship is closely related to Holy Communion, where we experience fellowship with Jesus Christ. This connection to Christ is the basis for our fellowship with other believers. Fellowship is when, united by the fellowship of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the community of believers shares their lives with one another. It is more than just gathering together in one area or sharing a meal with each other. And it is more than just the congregation waving to the camera in their church so that those connected via the broadcast feel included. In the congregation, we are prompted to engage with other people, and God wants this. If we don’t engage with other people, then we cannot serve them as we are called to do. To share the grace of God, we have to step forward and join the fellowship of believers.

CONCLUSION

In September 2018, logins were introduced for NAC USA Online. Everyone was allowed access to live broadcasted services if they obtained a login. This change was a step in the direction that NAC USA Online will take over the coming year. We know that there are very real reasons as to why people need online services. And for these reasons, NAC USA Online will continue broadcasting live services from specified locations. Starting in mid- 2019, there will be one broadcasted service per time zone and one Spanish service.

These reasons for viewing live broadcasted services on NAC USA Online include:

  • Congregations with few or no altar servers
  • Linked Members and/or shut-ins

If these members cannot experience the true fellowship and community only felt through actual presence at a divine service, they can at least hear the preached Word. For all other people, members or guests, actually being in a divine service is what we offer and what we encourage.

There may be a few other reasons why one would use NAC USA Online – members with shortterm illnesses, members who are traveling, etc. Members who use NAC USA Online for one of these reasons tend to have more of a choice in deciding if they will be able to attend divine service in a physical church. Because they have this choice, and because we know that the divine services experienced only through NAC USA Online are lacking in multiple aspects, we encourage these members to go to church when possible and, when not possible, to log into NAC USA Online to access divine service clips from the Chief Apostle and District Apostle, also available on the New Apostolic Church USA app. We hope that this will help equip each one to have a maturing faith.

NAC USA Online cannot replace coming to church if one is able. Christians throughout the ages have professed belief in the “church.” This makes it clear that the church is not an external or trivial thing, but is an essential element of Christian faith. Without the church, it is impossible to be a Christian (CNAC 6.4).

It is in the presence of a community of believers that the Spirit reveals Himself. And when we gather with this community, we give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to use us to serve others. This service, towards others and towards God, is what will bring us closer to our vision and ultimately, the goal of our faith.

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