Inka S. had an almost normal childhood, if it hadn’t been for the Sundays. Inka S describes very impressively her childhood and youth in the New Apostolic Church. She was New Apostolic and at times panicked about leaving the church, even though she had said ‘yes’ to Jesus. Today she is very happy that she took this step.
My childhood was almost normal, except for Sundays…
Not only did I grow up in a New Apostolic home, but I also have a complete New Apostolic kinship. Nevertheless, I had an almost completely normal childhood, with television, classmates as friends, birthday parties and other things that one does as a child. Except for Sundays, almost everything was normal. On Wednesdays, my parents didn’t go to church for work reasons.
„ … Always merry, always merry, always merry let us be!”Children’s song of the New Apostolic Church
Sunday was my least favorite day and I remember feeling guilty for years about my inward rejection of that day. Because, I was taught, children of God always look forward to Sunday and the worship services that come with it. Until my confirmation in 1998, it was still customary to attend church services in the morning and afternoon. My not-really-raising joy wasn’t helped by a sort of ritual in my family on Sunday afternoons. In old and dirty trousers we went home from the most beautiful game with the neighbour children more often from the hut built in the forest punctually at 15 o’clock.
The transformation into a sweet, good girl
There the pants were exchanged for a cute little dress and patent leather shoes. The wild, boyish girl had to be turned into a sweet, good girl in 15 minutes, who was supposed to sit quietly in church from 3:45 p.m. and who, of course, loved going to Sunday school. All this while all the other kids could keep playing. If I was asked by the other children whether I would like to go to church, I usually swallowed my shame for my non-existent joy about going to church and answered the questions in the affirmative, because I was afraid that God would otherwise be angry with me and would no longer love me. It went on like that for years. Except I felt dressed up and wrong. My image of God put me under tremendous pressure. It didn’t matter, probably because no one noticed either.
Fear of the Chief Apostle
The worst thing for me, however, was a visit from the Chief Apostle when I was eight years old. As an eight year old, I was panic-stricken that if he saw me, he would recognize that I often entered the house of God with little joy. It was not all bad there, but mostly very boring for me as a child. Even Sunday school or religious education classes, which ran parallel to the afternoon service, were better than the service, but still, much like school. They were thus not a real alternative to playing in the forest. I committed a sin anyway by inwardly refusing to attend divine services, but the idea that the Chief Apostle would see this through the Holy Spirit and tell my parents was much worse than anything else.
I know no New Apostolic likes to read that. I also don’t want to claim that I was told this exactly as a child, but for me it was what came out of everything, what made up my image of God as a child, and what could only have been generated by the NAC and my parents, since I had no other contact with Christian doctrine worth mentioning at that time. God loves, but I have to do things for it, otherwise he punishes, that was my childish understanding. Today I know that this image was not only mine. This image of God and faith is reflected in many New Apostolic people in one way or another.
What if the New Apostolic Church wasn’t right after all?
Through this experience, perhaps even in elementary school, the question arose in me as to what would actually happen if the New Apostolic Church were not right after all. For the Chief Apostle, of course, did not see my “evil within.” More and more often I wondered, even then, if it might not be that another church was right. Of course, as a child it remained only with the inner thought, because one believes the parents and other reference persons in the end, nevertheless.
“…If we turn away from Him, it becomes dark around us, our walk is no longer safe, and the heart is empty of joys…”Children’s song of the New Apostolic Church
As I have already mentioned, I was generally brought up like other children and so at the age of thirteen I was allowed to go on a YMCA summer camp with a classmate.
Freedoms that other NAC youth did not have
Since my parents were of the opinion that other Christian churches were “dead” from the point of view of faith anyway, they had nothing to fear with regard to Christian teachings that might not be good for me as a New Apostolic child. But they were proved wrong. I experienced on this retreat for the first time what it can mean to believe; love, longing for God, being able to have a personal relationship with Him, Christians who you can tell are different from other people, praying from the heart and nothing out of pressure, coercion or fear! At that time I was extremely impressed and noticed how I really blossomed in terms of faith within the free time.
I wanted to say ‘yes’ to God
When I came home at that time, confirmation classes were starting in the NAC! On the one hand, I wanted to be confirmed because I wanted to say ‘yes’ to God. On the other hand, however, I used the classes to learn more about NAC doctrine. I wanted to get my own picture of the NAC. I had myself confirmed, but only because in the pledge I made to God that day with all my heart, it was not explicit for me to make a promise to the NAC.
At that time I did not know where it would go for me, but I already left open the possibility to find another truth than the NAC. In the following four years I joined this youth group, with which I went to the summer camp, became a volunteer there, went on camps again and again, and thus of course went against what my parents would have liked to see.
I continued to live my life in the NAC for the time being…
On one of the many other Christian holiday camps I made the final decision at the age of 16 that the NAC does not possess the truth for me and is therefore not the Church of God, even though the fear of error on my part was nevertheless enormous. For this reason, too, it took three more years from then on until I managed the step of conversion not only inwardly, but also practically.
Anything I wanted to do in the youth group I was now a permanent part of, of course, always brought with it the thought of how I would be allowed to do it at home. In the end, however, I got most of it through either secretly or with compromises at home.
In order to somehow keep up appearances to some extent, I nevertheless continued to live my life as a NAC youth as best I could until I was 17. That was the compromise, which I never called it, but which gave me my freedom and at the same time broke me down inside. I even worked as a helper in the Sunday school for half a year, in order not to bring my parents even more against me and thus possibly lose my freedom to the youth group and with it my support during this time completely!
I was terrified of leaving
The reason I stayed so long was my panic about leaving. And always the fear went along, what if the NAC is right after all and I just committed the worst sin of my life, through my doubting and testing. I was afraid of God’s punishment.
Also, I always had a mid-90s episode of a talk show floating around in my head where NAC members who had left accused the NAC of bullying and persecuting them.
I was terrified of losing my family, of being persecuted and bullied, of not being able to withstand arguments from the NAC in discussions about my plans to leave and thus having to stay. I had never heard of anyone leaving the NAC, except for the people on that talk show. I thought I was probably the only one who wanted to leave the NAC because of a burning heart for Jesus, I felt so abnormal!
Independence and personal responsibility
The conversation with the “blessing bearers
It wasn’t until I was almost 19 that I managed to tell my parents about my plans. I can still clearly remember sitting in our living room with my parents and two officemates. Because my parents insisted on a talk before I left. I couldn’t fight what she said then. I was just paralyzed in the conversation, I didn’t want to embarrass my parents and finally have peace. At that time I was simply not able to justify many things theologically exactly, but in my heart it was also so totally clear to me what I could not believe and why.
But the time after leaving was much better than I had expected. Until my resignation actually made the rounds, it took a while because my parents didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. To this day I don’t know who among the relatives finally got to know it, when and how. It is a topic that has not been talked about until now. No one asks, my relatives for the most part bypass anything to do with the NAC. Real conversations with my parents about my views on the NAC did not begin until long after I left. Before, the hurt with my parents was too big, I think, and also my distance to the topic was not big enough for a long time to simply and openly talk about it with NAC members.
I would encourage all to examine the doctrine of the NAC
It was only 2 years ago that I started to get information about the teachings of the NAC through the internet and books, which I was not able to do in all details at that time, simply also because of mental disruption. Had I had internet between 1999 and 2002 and known about the possibilities, I could have saved myself a lot of pain and anxiety.
I am very glad that I took this step. I think today I should have gone him even sooner. With the possibilities of the internet and the knowledge that I am not the only one who leaves the NAC because of a belief, I probably would have left at 16. I would like to encourage all members of the NAC, especially the youth, to examine whether you can subscribe to the doctrine of the NAC and examine it for yourselves, not in the words of the ministers. Especially the position of the NAC on the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins and life after death, check if you can stand behind the teaching!
If it’s not, I think you should be honest about it. I always felt I was denying the truth of Jesus by still belonging to the NAC. Jesus died for you and me 2000 years ago. That was all we needed to stand before God. Nothing more, we just need to believe in and accept Jesus, God’s Son. Whoever sees it that way, but remains a member of the NAC, is in my opinion denying the good news of Jesus.
I am grateful to God and my parents
In the past I often asked God why he put this heavy burden on me, to have to stand against my family like this and to have to fight for my faith like this.
Today I am grateful to my parents for a Christian upbringing. Even though they made mistakes in my eyes. I might never have found my way to God otherwise. You’ve always meant well. Today I thank God that I had to and was allowed to go this way. It has strengthened me enormously and made me an adult. Today I think it was just my way. I’m sure God has a lot of plans for me. Today I get along very well with my parents and with my relatives, although there are differences between us in matters of faith.
* Names and places have been changed!
We recommend the translation of the Bible by Franz Eugen Schlachter in the 2000 version