Many Christians who are aware of what is taking place in the church of America today understand that it is in great need of reform. The glory of God is at stake. Much of what has been labeled Christianity has a distorted, shallow understanding of the gospel and this has greatly affected the minds of people.
Now, there are many elements that make up a healthy church and certainly we make no claim to have a handle on all of them but we do hold to certain biblical truth we believe is lacking and is needed desperately in the church today.
Everything we do must start here. People must be fed the Word of God in order for it to have an effect on their mind, their heart, and their life. This comes through the event and the practice of preaching. Preaching should be the priority in the church and is to be held in high esteem. What God has to say to man is more important than anything else we do when we come together as a church. Furthermore, not just any approach to preaching will do. God’s people need preaching that communicates His revealed truth. In expository preaching the preacher must give the people what the Lord has proclaimed and not his own opinions or preferences. Therefore when the preacher takes a congregation through books of the Bible, the congregation gets the text as it was written, has the purpose of the text explained to them, and they actually learn the Bible. This is also beneficial to the preacher because as he presents the text in an expository fashion he submits himself to God’s Word and is forced to interact with the scripture text in ways that he might not otherwise and therefore he too learns from the text rather than trying to make the text say what he wants it to say.
DOCTRINES OF GRACE
The doctrines of grace are the dividing point of theology. The truths found in the doctrines of grace however, bring God more glory than any other strand of theology. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Definite Atonement, Conquering Call of Grace, Preserving Grace)
Ligon Duncan has said this concerning the doctrines of grace and sovereignty of God “The doctrines of grace and sovereignty of God are joy giving, life changing, Christ exalting, God glorifying, missions motivating, evangelism encouraging and discipleship promoting truths.”
The doctrines of grace keep sinful man in his rightful place before a holy and sovereign God. An understanding of God’s sovereignty in the world and in our salvation, changes our view of self and of the world. These truths have been loved by many whom we respect from the past and God has graciously used them in the lives of countless saints to comfort them and bring glory to His name.
BIBLICAL CHURCH LEADERSHIP
The New Testament pattern for church leadership is as follows 1) Pastors/Elders 2) Deacons 3)Congregation. The men who are to lead the church are pastors (pastor and elder are interchangeable terms) who meet the qualifications of I Timothy 3. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all gifted in preaching (I Timothy 5:17). These men are given the responsibility of shepherding the flock of God. They are servants but they are overseeing servants.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND MEANINGFUL MEMBERSHIP
We believe that membership in the local church should mean something. Membership in a biblical church is reserved for repentant sinners who have professed Christ as Savior and follow His command to be baptized. Those joining the church should be able to agree with the church’s doctrinal position. This is for the health of new members and established members of the church. Church members are to be accountable to one another. We are to give, we are to love, we are to learn and submit and we are to assemble on a regular basis. The members of a local church are accountable to one another and should be willing, if occasion requires, to rebuke in love and or submit to the discipline of the church. As a church we should pray that God would help us to have both the courage and love to hold one another accountable for our own good and God’s glory.
COMMITMENT TO MISSIONS & A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF EVANGELISM
Christ commissioned the church to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. The church should have a global view concerning the gospel and Christ’s kingdom. Therefore it should be involved in sending and supporting missionaries. Likewise, evangelism should overflow in the members daily lives. It should be a way of life. God is the One who must save, but we are the means that He uses to bring sinners to repentance. We understand that our responsibility is not to save souls but to give the saving message, knowing that God must grant repentance. Our Biblical soteriology should in no way hinder our evangelism or dull a passion for it, knowing rather that Christ will gather His sheep to Himself and that around His throne will be those He redeemed from every tribe, language, people and nation. Our passion and confidence in evangelism should increase because we know missions is a plan that cannot fail.
GOD CENTERED GOSPEL AND WORSHIP
We must never turn away from the message of the gospel to a message of self improvement and success. It is our conviction that the gospel shatters self esteem. The gospel pulls the rug of self reliance out from under our feet and causes us to cast ourselves upon the mercy of God. The cross was not designed to make much of man but to reveal man’s corruption. To reconcile the world to Himself, God in love had to offer up His own Son and that does not show the worth of man but the depravity of man. As a consequence of the gospel being watered down worship has followed. If the gospel is man centered then worship will be as well. But, if God’s people understand their own inability and radical hostility toward God, it will cause us to see our need of His grace and to better appreciate His love through the cross. We believe that worship is to be weighty and not centered around the sinner but the Savior. If the gospel remains God centered then He will be glorified, man will be abased and it will cause us to lose our reliance on self righteousness and cling wholly and only to the cross of Christ where our righteousness alone can be found.
LOVING GOD WITH ALL OF OUR MINDS
Many believers today say that they are right about their beliefs but many cannot tell you why they are right. It is our desire that people know what they believe and why they believe it. We desire for church to be a time of serious contemplation over God’s truth. Church is not to be entertaining or amusing but it is to be a place where our minds are engaged and centered around what is being seen, heard or felt. When we sing we should think about the meaning of the words. When we pray we should think about what we are saying. When we hear God’s Word expounded we should carefully consider what is being said and compare it with what we know to be the whole of scripture. This will help us when false doctrine makes an attempt to infiltrate our lives. And it will help us to bring modern philosophies and heresies to a logical and biblical conclusion. Thinking Christians will not be quickly swept away by winds of false teaching and their minds will be fixed upon the solid ground of truth in a culture that is opposed to truth.
LOVING GOD WITH ALL OF OUR HEARTS
The Bible does not attempt to only reform our outward man. Our outer appearance can look the part of a Christian but at the same time our hearts can be full of evil, idolatry and lust. We believe that the scriptures, the apostles and the Lord Jesus Himself dealt with the heart. God is concerned about our motives. We desire therefore true Christianity in the inner man and not legalistic hypocritical Christianity that doesn’t reach further than the outer appearance.
Our hope is to see people have a passion for God’s glory and the souls of men. Therefore our desire is to make disciples who will be willing to forsake the temporal things of this world as necessary to do kingdom work and proclaim the gospel to those who haven’t heard it. In addition, we desire to see believers be consumed with a burden to see purity in the American church through church plants and in churches that are established. Furthermore we know that God has given us a promise that He will go with us as we carry the gospel and we pray that many will go for the glory of God.
THE FIVE SOLAS AND THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
In the 16th century God performed a work in Europe that changed the entire world. We refer to it today as the Protestant Reformation. While we admittedly do not hold to all of the teachings of the reformers there are two main headings of reformed theology that we firmly believe. Namely the Five Solas of the Reformation and the Doctrines of Grace.
THE FIVE SOLAS OF THE REFORMATION
The Five Solas are a reference to five Latin phrases that describe the basic theological beliefs of the reformers. The Latin “Sola” means only or alone.
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
We believe that the Bible is God breathed and that it is our sole authority for faith and practice. Scriptures are not under the judgment of the church, or tradition, but the church is under the judgment of the scripture. Our doctrine is received only from God’s completed revelation to man.
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
We believe that salvation is all of grace. The only thing man contributes in his salvation is his sin. Salvation is of the Lord and it is by His unmerited favor that man is redeemed.
Solo Fide (Faith Alone)
Man receives eternal life by grace but it is through faith alone and not by works. Faith is what links man to God’s redemptive plan and it is through faith that man is declared just by God the Father.
Solo Christo (Christ Alone)
Faith must have an object and the object of saving faith is Jesus Christ. To be saved a man’s faith must be in Christ alone and in His finished work on the cross where He bore the wrath of God for our sins and in His victorious resurrection verified His work. Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and man and His righteousness is the only righteousness God will accept. Faith must be in Christ alone.
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)
We are created for God’s glory and whatever we do, whether eating, drinking or whatever it may be, should be for the glory of God. In God’s grace man has no room to boast. Salvation is of the Lord and because of this God alone gets the glory for delivering sinners from wrath.
THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
The issue of God’s sovereignty in salvation has been identified as the continental divide of theology. The Bible teaches with no question that God is author of salvation and that God is the One who completes it from beginning to end. These precious truths have been systemized into five main headings.
Man, inheriting the guilt, sin and nature of Adam, are sinners alienated from God and spiritually dead. Man’s entire being, mind, emotions and will, are corrupted by sin. Natural man has a flawed understanding of good and will not seek after the true God. Although man may be restrained by God’s common grace and is not as bad as he could be, he is as bad off as he can be, because of his condition, and desperately needs God to intervene if he will be saved from wrath.
The Bible says that those who believe were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The church is God’s elect and this term is used of believers throughout the New Testament. God’s choice was by sovereign grace and not based upon any foreseen merit or choice in man, making election unconditional.
We believe that when Christ died He purchased everything necessary for the salvation of those placed in Him before the creation of the world. The salvation of all who would believe was secured by the work of Christ. Therefore when we speak of what Christ actually did, the Bible speaks in definite terms. His death did not merely make salvation possible, but made it sure for those He intended to redeem, who will be around His throne from every tribe, kindred, language and nation.
Conquering Call of Grace
Those whom Christ redeemed, God calls to faith. This call goes beyond a general outward call but it is an inward call where God calls the sinner to believe in Christ. His work on the heart of man causes man to repent and believe the gospel. This call is effective upon all those given to Christ by the Father and conquers all resistance the sinner has against a holy God. All who God calls with conquering grace come to faith in Christ.
Those who experience a true conversion are kept by the power of God through faith. God keeps them persevering in the faith and from ultimately falling away. Eternal life is given to them and no one has the power to take this away because it has been given graciously by God. God causes all things both good and bad to work for the good of those who are His own and will one day finish His work of conforming them to the image of Jesus Christ.