Ministry Distinctives

A. Biblical Philosophy of Ministry

Much of church life today is driven by cultural fads, worldly techniques, and pragmatic methods, rather than the word of God. This is especially true with regard to church growth, as many are willing to do whatever it takes to grow the church. This philosophy of ministry is based upon the mistaken notion that the success of Christian ministry is defined by large numbers and visible results. However, the philosophy of any church that is to be distinctively Christian is one which is driven by the Bible with regard to its beliefs, practices, and methods of ministry. In other words, successful Christian ministry is never defined by anything other than faithfulness to God’s word. Simply put the church must be faithful to obey the Scripture and leave the results to the Lord (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:38-39; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; 3:5-7; 2 Tim. 4:7).

B. Lordship Salvation

The greatest stewardship that the Lord has given to His church is the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14). Therefore the one thing that the church can’t afford to misunderstand is the gospel, because it alone is God’s saving message to sinners (Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:6-9). And one aspect of getting the gospel right is rightly understanding what it means to be a true Christian. The Bible is filled with warnings about false professions of faith in Christ (Matt. 7:21-23; 13:20-22; 2 Cor. 13:5). So being a true Christian is not merely accepting intellectual facts about Jesus or even making a profession of faith in Him. Nor is salvation the result of merely making a decision for Christ or praying a prescribed prayer. Rather, true salvation in Christ is the result of God’s sovereign work of grace in the heart of a sinner (John 1:12-13; Acts 16:14) in which the person trusts in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and surrenders his life to Him. And this saving faith in Christ is manifested in repentance of sin (Acts 17:30; 20:21; 1 John 3:9), a transformed life (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20), submission to Christ as Lord (Rom. 6:17-18; 10:9), and loving obedience to His commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-4). In other words, though the cost of following Christ is high, God’s grace liberates true Christians from their sin and transforms them into people who love Christ above all things (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 9:23-26; 14:25-33). 

C. Church Membership

At the moment of regeneration, the believer is included into the universal body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13), which qualifies him to become a member of a local church. Although the Bible does not contain an explicit command to formally join a local church, it is assumed for the following reasons: The example of the early church for new believers to be baptized (Acts 2:38) and to be identified with a local church (Acts 2:44-47; 6:5; 8:1; 9:26; 14:23; 15:17; 18:27; 20:17; Rom. 16:1; 1 Cor. 5:4; 14:23; Col. 4:10; 1 Tim. 5:9), the existence of elders to oversee each local church (Acts 20:28; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Pet. 5:2-3; Heb. 13:17), the exercise of church discipline (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13), and the exhortation to mutual edification (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). Being a member of a local church is a great privilege and a sobering responsibility which requires a commitment to faithfully worship and serve the Lord together with His people.

D. Expository Preaching

Because the Bible is the inspired, infallible, sufficient, and authoritative word of God it should be understood and obeyed by the Lord’s people. The best way to accomplish this in the corporate worship of the church is to preach through the Bible expositonaly (Ezra 7:10; Neh. 8:8; Jer. 3:15; 2 Tim. 4:2). This is primarily done through sequential, verse by verse, exposition of books of the Bible, but can also be done through topical exposition (i.e. what the Bible says about any given topic).

E. Elders

As the Chief Shepherd of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ has delegated under-shepherds (also called overseers and elders) to lead and care for the flock. The biblical pattern for this is that each local church is to be led by a plurality of called, qualified men who will serve in the church as godly leaders (Acts 14:23; 15:2; 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 4:14; Titus 1:5-9; James 5:14). This leadership is always to be carried out in a spirit of humility and love and is never to be done in a dictatorial fashion (Matt. 20:20-28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). Though elders do have the authority to lead the church (1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17), this does not exclude the involvement of the congregation (Acts 6:1-3; Matt. 18:15-17).  

F. Church Discipline

The church is to prize the glory of Christ and personal purity with all diligence (Titus 2:11-14). And one of the Lord’s means of accomplishing this is by mutual, loving accountability among believers (Heb. 3:13; 10:23-25). Thus it is the responsibility of every believer to lovingly confront any fellow believer that is sinning with the hope of restoring him from wandering away from the Lord (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1). Tragically, if the sinning brother does not repent after much prayer and after having carefully followed the discipline process (Matt. 18:15-20), the individual under discipline may need to be removed from the church (Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 1:20; Titus 3:10-11). But even if this occurs, the church is to continue to pray for the repentance of the sinning person in order that he may be restored back to the fellowship of the church (2 Cor. 2:5-8; 2 Thess. 3:14-15). Again, the purpose of discipline is not to expel people from the church or to harm them, but to restore them from wandering away from the Lord.

G. Music

One of the ways that God has called us to worship Him is through His gift of music. Worship through music involves the use of instruments and the singing of God’s people (2 Chron. 5:12-14; Pss. 33:1-3; 57:8; 149:1; 150:3-5). With regard to the songs used in worship, the Bible promotes a variety of different kinds (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Therefore the standard by which any given song is to be judged worthy of the worship of God is whether or not its content is biblically accurate rather than whether or not it fits a certain style. Further, as with all worship, worshiping the Lord through song is to reflect reverence and awe (Lev. 10:1-3; Heb. 12:28-29), and joy and rejoicing (Pss. 100:1-2; 132:9; Eph. 5:19-20).  

H. The Use of Alcohol

The Bible does not forbid the moderate use of alcohol (Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:15; John 2:1-11). However, it does forbid the abuse of alcohol (Prov. 20:1; 23:20-21, 29-35; Isa. 5:11-12; 28:7-8; 1 Cor 5:9-13; 6:12; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:3). Therefore it is not a sin in and of itself to use alcohol and thus is to be considered a Christian liberty. But if this liberty is to be exercised, it must be done with great wisdom and care, namely avoiding offense to other believers (Rom. 14:13-23; 1 Cor. 8:9-13) or hindering evangelism (1 Cor. 9:12, 19-23). 

I. Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Men and women were equally made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and share equal blessings in Christ (Gal. 3:28). However they maintain distinctive gender-defined roles in both the church and in the home, which are by God’s design and when lived out compliment both men and women. The clear, biblical teaching is that pastoral leadership in the church is reserved for gifted and qualified men (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Though women do have influence in the lives of men using the gifts and abilities that God has given them (Acts 18:24-26), they are not to have authority over men in the church (1 Cor. 14:34-36; 1 Tim. 2:9-15) or their husbands in the home (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24). As with men, certain Christian women are gifted to teach and lead, but this is restricted to other women and children (Prov. 31:26; Titus 2:3-5). The complimentary design within the marriage relationship is for the husband is to lead his wife with a sacrificial and sanctifying love as Christ does for His church (Eph. 5:25-30) and for the wife to submit to her husband as the church does to Christ (Eph. 5:22-24).   

J. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

The institution of marriage was created by God as a permanent relationship between one man and one woman for life (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:3-6). In the goodness of God, the purpose of marriage is for procreation (Gen. 1:27-28), companionship (Gen. 2:18), and to reflect Christ’s relationship with His church (Eph. 5:31-32), making it a holy and sacred union until death (Rom. 7:2-3). However there are two biblical permissions for divorce and remarriage, namely adultery (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9) and abandonment (1 Cor. 7:15). But even in the event that either of these two situations occur, divorce is not commanded in Scripture. Rather, the ideal would be for repentance and reconciliation to take place and thus the marriage relationship be restored.

K. Spiritual Gifts

The miraculous sign gifts (e.g. speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, healing, prophecy and other signs and wonders) were confined to the ministry of Jesus (Matt. 8-9; Acts 2:22) and His apostles (Matt. 10:1; Acts 2:43; 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:12), and thus are no longer in operation in the church today. It must also be said that even though the ability of an individual to perform miracles has ceased with the apostolic age, miracles can and do occur today by the sovereign will and power of God.

L. The Lord’s Day

One of the realities for Israel under the old covenant was to observe the Sabbath (Exod. 20:8-11; Lev. 19:3, 30; Deut. 5:12-15), which was a sign of the Mosaic covenant and a reminder of God’s rest at the end of creation’s sixth day (Exod. 31:16-17; Ezek. 20:12; Neh. 9:14). However, since we are now under the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:1-11; Heb. 8:7-13), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the old covenant which was a shadow of the perpetual spiritual rest we have in Christ (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 3:12-4:11). Further, the Jerusalem Council did not order Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath (Acts 15:1-29), the New Testament epistles never give instructions or commands with regard to keeping the Sabbath, nor do they ever mention Sabbath breaking in any list of sins (Rom. 14:5-6; Gal. 4:9-11). Additionally, because the Lord Jesus Christ rose on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 23:55-24:7; John 20:1, 19), and because of the pattern of the early church (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), it is to be the practice of the church to gather for corporate worship on the first day of the week, which is the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10).

M. Sanctity of Life

The recognition that God is the author of life and that all human beings are created in His image, is foundational to a biblical worldview, a just civilization, and Christian ethics (Gen. 1:26-31; 9:6). Irrespective of gender, race, health, educational level, economic standing, or social position, every innocent human life is sacred, and is therefore to be protected from the womb until the end of life (Ps. 139:13-15; Luke 1:15, 41-44). Recognizing that human life begins at conception (i.e. unborn children are persons), we deny that abortion is an issue of “women’s rights” or a matter of “women’s health care.” Instead, we affirm that abortion is not only morally unjust/evil, barbaric, and an act of murder, it represents a holocaust unparalleled in human history. We believe there is no justification for abortion whether a child is unwanted or has fetal abnormalities, or even in cases where the life of the mother may be at risk (Exod. 20:13). Contrary to our culture of death where life is cheap, the Scripture teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord, and all innocent human life is to be cherished, protected, and never destroyed, even for the benefit of others as in embryonic stem cell research (Ps. 127:3). Furthermore, we believe that euthanasia or physician assisted suicide, which involves the active treatment to cause death, even in the terminally ill or critically injured, is morally wrong (1 Sam. 31:3-6, 2 Sam. 1:5-16).

N. Human Gender and Sexuality

In keeping with our commitment to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, we affirm the Bible’s teaching regarding matters of human gender and sexuality. As part of God’s good creation, God created human beings as two distinct, complementary genders, namely male and female (Gen. 1:26-28, 31; Matt. 19:4). A person’s gender is not determined by how one chooses to self-identify, but according to genetics and biology, and the will of God. Since a person’s gender is determined biologically, the desire to identify oneself as the opposite sex is the result of unnatural, disordered, and sinful desires.

We also affirm that the institution of marriage as God ordained it is exclusively between one man and one woman for life (Gen. 2:18-25; Mal. 2:16). Therefore, any sexual activity outside of marriage such as fornication, adultery, polygamy, bestiality, and homosexuality are sinful and unacceptable to God (Exod. 20:14; Lev. 18; 20:13; Mark 7:20-23; Rom. 1:24-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Thess. 4:3; 1 Tim. 1:9-11). As creatures made in God’s image, people do not possess the right to do whatever they wish with their bodies, but instead are to glorify God with their bodies by submitting to God’s standard of sexual purity (1 Cor. 6:12-20). While we affirm that same sex attraction is an expression of unnatural, disordered, and sinful desires, and is rebellion against God’s created order, we also believe that such people are to be treated with kindness and compassion, and are to be called to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (1 Cor. 6:9-11).