Swedenborg and What Makes the Church Really Be a Church?

January 25, 2021

It has been observed that Swedenborg showed no interest in becoming the leader of a church founded on the ideas the Lord led him to publish. He was focused on writing, publishing and seeing to the distribution of these books. There is evidence that Swedenborg developed different strategies over time to best get these ideas to people.
An early disagreement among the early readers of the Heavenly Doctrines was whether they indicated the need for a new denomination or whether they were intended to lead to a revival of traditional Christianity. The General Church is one of the descendants of those who thought a new denomination was called for.
Much of what the Heavenly Doctrines teach about “the church” do not focus on natural or organizational issues. Their focus is on a set of ideas or doctrines.
We know that a building and attractive grounds don’t fundamentally define the quality of a church. They’re important and useful, but by themselves they accomplish little. Having a knowledgeable and energetic pastoral staff also doesn’t make the church. Even having an energetic congregation doesn’t make a church truly be what a church should be. Doing lots isn’t enough.
A church should be dedicated to providing settings in which people seek the Lord’s wisdom and help in changing their lives. A church is supposed to help guide, encourage, and support people on their spiritual journeys. Each of us is to learn and then daily strive to live according to what we’ve learned.
When we are individually doing this work then the congregation as a whole takes on more and more of the qualities of a heavenly community. Each person benefits from the efforts and loving care of others and that person contributes to the welfare of others using his or her unique motivations, understandings, and skills. And as with any heavenly community there is rejoicing when new people are welcomed into it. The more people there are, trying to be led by the Lord, bringing a different perspective and ability, the more perfect the church will be.
When Swedenborg had his spiritual eyes opened and was able to learn so much from experiencing the life of heaven, hell and the World of Spirits, it is clear that what he helped to bring about were people individually and as communities who cared about learning what is true because they knew this knowledge would help them lead better and more useful lives. The Lord’s purpose guiding Swedenborg was that people would grow in being able to lead lives of wise kindness. Each of us are invited to be part of this effort. May we work together to serve this goal not only for now, but also to pass it on to following generations. This is what a congregation that serves the Lord should be doing.