Our essential beliefs are defined in our essential doctrinal statement. We require complete agreement with those beliefs for church membership.
What makes some doctrines “important but non-essential” are:
(1) they are non-essential because evangelical Christians hold a variety of positions on them, but,
(2) they are important because they determine the methods by which ministry is performed.
Our ultimate goal is to obey the Lord and fulfill the mission He gave us of making disciples. We believe we can do that best by having a balanced approach to doctrinal agreement and differences. We avoid the extreme of requiring everyone’s absolute agreement on every teaching position the church holds because it unnecessarily separates some Christians from us who should be working with us in our mission. We avoid the extreme of taking no position outside of the essentials because it would leave us without a framework for how we do ministry as well as create an atmosphere of argumentation instead of love and service.
While we require members to agree completely in the essentials, we require members to respect our positions in the important but non-essential doctrines. By “respect” we mean that if they hold a differing view, that they do so without belittling or criticizing the church and/or its leadership for holding its position, that they not have a personal agenda to change the church’s position, and that they not sidetrack the effectiveness of the church by becoming argumentative or divisive over the matter. We also require members to show respect for those who hold beliefs that do not align with our ‘important but non-essential’ doctrines.
For people in key leadership positions we require not only that they respect the church’s positions, but that they also protect them. By “protect” we mean that they take the lead in maintaining order in their ministries and deal graciously but directly with those who do have an agenda to change the church’s position or who knowingly or unknowingly sidetrack ministries and make them ineffective.
Our ‘important but non-essential’ doctrines include:
Concerning Creation: We teach that God created everything in six literal 24 hour days.
Concerning Salvation and Predestination/Foreknowledge/Election: We teach that salvation is by God’s grace, through faith, and cannot be achieved by any works of man. We teach that God foreknew that man would sin, yet God did not cause man to sin, in the same way that God foreknew that the Jews would kill Jesus Christ, yet God did not cause them to do so. Likewise, God can foreknow what men will do in response to His grace, whether or not they will receive “the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). We teach that the Scriptures teach that election is based upon foreknowledge. By “election”, we mean that sovereign act of God in grace, whereby from all eternity He chose in Christ Jesus for Himself and for salvation, all those whom He foreknew would respond positively to His grace. Election is based upon grace and is truly “unconditional”, in the sense that it does not rest upon human merit. It is also based on foreknowledge of God and not on some arbitrary will. God foreknew what men would do in response to His grace, and He elected those whom He foreknew would respond positively. Election is followed by foreordination (also called predestination). This is the act of God whereby He pre-registers, as it were, those who He has chosen.
Concerning Translation of the Bible: We teach that inspiration applies to the original manuscripts of the Bible and that any version of the Bible based on honest and solid scholarship is valuable. However, for the sake of unity and harmony we use the King James Version as the ‘official’ teaching text of our church ministries. Other versions may be used as the situation permits.
Concerning Prophecy: We teach a pretribulational and premillenial view of future events. This means we see a “rapture” or a taking of the church out of the world before the seven year Tribulation. We see the return of Christ to earth as occurring at the end of the Tribulation. At that time He will establish His earthly millennial kingdom.
Concerning Spiritual Gifts: We believe God gives spiritual gifts or divinely empowered abilities to minister in the church. Each believer has gifts that are to be used and strengthened. The believer’s gifts are part of his or her calling to a life’s mission. God has a special calling on each believer’s life to do something for others, thereby advancing the overall plan of God.
Concerning Charismatic Belief: We are not Charismatic or Pentecostal in theology or practice. Concerning our specific differences with Charismatic or Pentecostal practices and beliefs:
- We teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the placing of the new believer into the Body of Christ, not a second work of Grace following salvation by which a person receives the Holy Spirit. We teach a person receives the Holy Spirit completely at salvation.
- We teach the filling of the Holy Spirit is the Christian’s allowing of the Holy Spirit to have control, not a filling in the sense of receiving the Spirit or part of the Spirit that was not there.
- We teach that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a historical first and marked the empowering of the Church. We teach that it was at Pentecost that believers, for the first time in history, received the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- We teach that the phenomenon of speaking in tongues in the New Testament was the supernatural ability to speak an unlearned, though legitimate, foreign language. It was a sign from God used during the transitional period of time from the founding of the Church to the completion of the written Word of God (the New Testament). We do not believe the modern phenomenon of “speaking in tongues” fits the New Testament description.
- We teach God’s revelation is complete in the Bible and reject the Charismatic view of on-going revelation through tongues, or visions, or a gift of knowledge. We teach the Holy Spirit gives on-going illumination of the meaning of the Bible and that God gives “leading” by His Spirit and His providential control of circumstances.
- We teach that God is able to do any miracle and is able to heal anyone He chooses. We believe in asking God for miracles and for healing. We do not believe Christians today possess the gifts of miracles or healing.
Concerning Baptism: We teach baptism as the prescribed method the Lord gives for new believers to express their new faith in Him and identification with Him. We do not believe Baptism is an automatic entry into a local church. We do not believe any denomination or authorizing body has exclusive rights to baptism. We do not believe baptism saves. We believe salvation is by faith. We practice baptism by immersion and only immersion baptism is accepted as part of one’s church membership.
Concerning the Church: We believe we have a responsibility to extend the “right hand of fellowship” to all believers in the body of Christ. This involves a love and appreciation for them as true brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not believe any denomination or association constitutes the official Church or churches. We believe a local church is any gathering of Christians who meet for the purpose of being a church. We believe the local church is the planned instrument of God to carry out the Great Commission. Therefore, we believe every believer should join a local church and its efforts in ministry. We believe our job is to be an effective church and to do our part to multiply new churches as God leads. We do not teach a ‘universal church.’ However, we teach that all believers are linked together by the same Holy Spirit and are part of God’s family, but they are not part of the same church. By Greek etymology, a ‘church’ is a ‘called-out assembly’ and all believers will not assemble together until we stand before Jesus Christ in heaven. Only in Heaven will there be a ‘universal church.’ Until then, we teach we are all the Family of God serving in various local churches.
Concerning Communion: We practice “close” communion which means we do not prevent people from taking communion with us, if they are members of another church of similar beliefs and practices. Our requirements for participation in communion is personal salvation, public baptism by immersion, and active membership in a local church of similar beliefs. We believe this best honors our responsibility to fellowship with all believers as members of the body of Christ and allows each individual to be responsible for his or her faith and actions.
Concerning Church Government: We teach that the Bible does not prescribe a detailed form of church government but rather gives us several leadership principles which we seek to practice. We believe that there are two “offices” in the church: Bishop (Pastor) and Deacon. The Pastor is the overseer of the ministry. He is the shepherd of God’s flock, and is held responsible and accountable by God to oversee the ministry. The office of Deacon is an office of servanthood. The Deacon is to assist the Pastor by helping serve the physical and spiritual needs of the church, thereby allowing the Pastor to focus on the ministries of prayer and the Word of God. We believe in a Pastor-led, rather than a deacon-led form of church government. We believe that the ultimate human authority in the church is the gathered membership.
Concerning Denominations and Church Affiliation: We teach that true believers and the true Church are not defined by denominational affiliations or associations. We believe that denominations and affiliations have value as long as they serve the mission of the Church. We freely associate with any churches or ministry organizations with whom we have enough agreement to cooperate in ministry.
Concerning Clergy: We teach that God calls some to serve His Church in vocational ministries of pastoring and various other ministries. We believe the Bible teaches that it is right and ethical for the church to financially support vocational ministers so their needs are met and so they may focus their attention upon the ministry. We also believe pastors are to be given respect and honor as they are given responsibility and authority for the spiritual well-being of the Lord’s Church. We believe all Christians are “priests” and have direct access to God and do not need pastors to mediate for them with God. The role of pastors is to teach, lead, and give oversight to the church and its ministries. We teach that God’s call to full-time pastoral ministry is a male vocation. Though women are often gifted and effective at ministry, the position of pastor and deacon is a position for qualified men only.
Concerning Tithing: We believe that the primary purpose of tithing in the Old Testament was to support the “work” and the “workers” (priests and spiritual servants) of the Temple. We believe that the Apostle Paul defines tithing in the Church Age as the appropriate means of supporting pastors and ministers of the Gospel, as well as the ministry of the church. (1 Corinthians 9, 1 Corinthians 16, Galatians 6).
Concerning Current Issues: We believe abortion is a sin and we oppose the act. (Exodus 20:13; Jeremiah 1:5). We believe homosexuality is a sin and we denounce the practice. (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; I Tim. 1:9-10) We extend our love to homosexuals as we should to all sinners, but we will not permit a practicing homosexual membership or leadership in the Church. We believe divorce is outside God’s will, yet permitted under strict circumstances. (Matt. 5:31-32) However, we do not take a policy position on remarriage of divorced persons without full knowledge and Scriptural examination of the reasons for the divorce. (I Cor. 7:15).