A More International Church

From Rev. Eric Carswell, Head Pastor
June 12, 2018

When I graduated from Theological School nearly 40 years ago, the General Church of the New Jerusalem (GCNJ) was an international church. There were pastors serving congregations in:

South Africa
Sweden USA

In the decades since 1979, the GCNJ has responded to opportunities to train and support pastors serving new countries including:

Burkina Faso
Ivory Coast

This has been a huge opportunity to help more people hear the good news of the Heavenly doctrines. It has also resulted in significant organizational and support issues. For example, congregations that are largely composed of educated, middle to upper middle-class members can generate donations that support the local congregation. In a number of developing world countries, the level of financial support the congregations are able to provide is far more limited. The issue of limited local contributions also exists in a number of smaller North American congregations. The GCNJ Board raised this issue in a question to the bishop nominees that asked: “How would you support and help small congregations that have not been self-sustaining and probably will not be in the near future?” More specifically for the international church, the Board asked the nominees: “How would you define the relationship between the General Church in North America and the global General Church? How do we reconcile differences between the geographic sources of financial support and the allocation of resources?”

In terms of leadership support the GCNJ has had significant challenges at times providing this support for North American pastors and congregations. It can be very hard to address specific weaknesses in individuals and shared dysfunctional interaction patterns even when a bishop or regional supervisor is immediately present on a regular basis. It gets harder when the supervisor lives at a distance and can only visit one or two times a year. These challenges are compounded when the bishop or regional supervisor is from a different background from the pastor and the people in the congregation he is trying to support. Sometimes people are highly unlikely to tell the supervisor of problems that exist, even when they are huge problems.

One response to challenges like these can be to decide this is just too difficult to do. It is important to recognize the Lord knows even better than we do just how hard it is to grow the New Church in this world. The Lord will be with us as we seek Him and His help as we try to serve the cause of the New Church in this world.

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