There is a question that I've been asked over and over in recent years. The question is: What church are you from? This question, in some form, is generally the first question asked after someone discovers that I am a pastor. One of the wonderful things that I've discovered while living in Phoenix is that most people seem to be positive about religion with many having a particular church that they attend with at least some regularity.
So, what is the church that I am pastor of? The easiest answer is to provide the church name and location. Many people have seen our building as they drive around town. The name and location give them something to identify me with. Some people go further, asking what denomination we are. This gets a bit trickier. Still, the answer that we are a stand-alone Christian denomination, headquartered near Philadelphia but with branches all over the world usually satisfies.
These are nice questions that form part of normal polite conversation. During such interactions I am generally asking the other person similar questions about their life. Still, for the most part these types of questions and answers stay clear of the most important question when it comes to the church that I serve and that many people around the world have grown to love. They don't ask the real question of: What is the New Church?
In the Gospel of John we find the story of the Lord washing the disciples' feet after celebrating the Passover with them. He then began to give them a series of messages that would be critical once His earthly life ended and they were out on their work of spreading the good news. Among these teachings was this simple message, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."
These twelve disciples had been with the Lord throughout the three years of His public ministry. They had obviously been taught many, many things. Still, there was so much more that they could only learn later, once they were ready. It wasn't just the disciples, humanity as a whole wasn't ready. These new Christians had to learn to walk in the Lord's teachings before they could learn to run.
The New Church is all about what happened some seventeen hundred years later. The Heavenly Doctrine, the Writings delivered through Emanuel Swedenborg began to be presented to the world. Evidently humanity was now ready. What had changed? The scientific revolution? The Age of Enlightenment? Clearly humanity was starting to think differently. This new thinking allowed the Lord to start to teach the things that in His providence He had delayed teaching earlier.
The Christian era had been a vital stepping stone that still helps millions of people gain a clearer sense of their loving Creator God. The New Christian era takes things further, a long way further. These new teachings reveal ideas that have long been hidden here in the world. They shed light on the Lord in a wonderful new way.
What is the New Church? It is Christianity taken to the next level. It is a source of incredible knowledge about the Lord and His created universe. The New Church is the entity, the belief system, that finally allows people to understand their eternal purpose. That purpose is to love the Lord our God with all our being and to love our neighbor as our self. The purpose is to be transformed from the person we were born as, into the angel that the Lord has always intended for us to be. The Lord wants to educate and lead us so that we come to find eternal happiness in His kingdom.