This vision rests upon the supernatural work of Jesus Christ, who is building His church according to His promise, through His Spirit’s work in our lives.
Notice that our vision is structured around the 3 G’s: Glorify God, Grow together, and Go to the world. Why are these so important?
The biblical mission of a church can be summarized in three aspects: worship, nurture, and witness. It is helpful to distinguish each of these three aspects by their directional orientation: worship is directed upward (to God), nurture is directed inward (to the church body), and witness is directed outward (to the world).
The 3 G’s are simply a memorable way to capture this truth: “Glorify God” refers to our worship, “grow together” refers to our nurture, and “go to the world” refers to the our witness. Our vision statement is built around these 3 aspects, explaining specifically how we hope to pursue our God-given purpose as a church!
What is a “relational emphasis” and why is it part of our vision? God comes to us in a covenant. The covenant involves a special relationship marked by sworn loyalty, deep intimacy, and true accountability. It is intensely and intimately relational. That is why the covenant motto, repeated throughout the Bible, is: “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”
We desire to cultivate a church culture that reflects the covenantal nature of our God. As a church, we are not about maintaining a maze of programs; we are about cultivating a web of caring, committed, and Christ-centered relationships.
Jesus Christ is our model. He called his disciples so that “they might be with him” (Mk 3:14). His ministry was relational rather than programmatic, more like a father’s plans for his children than a CEO’s designs for the corporation.
Richness of our Heritage
If you examine the worship liturgies of the church throughout history, you find that they included the same elements (though called by different names) in the same order. Why?
Because the ancient church recognized that worship shapes us. Whether we acknowledge it our not, our liturgy teaches us about how we are accepted by God. The order of the elements of worship (call to worship, confession, pardon, etc.) narrates the story of the Gospel. This order serves to rehearse (or re-enact) the Gospel for His glory and the good of His people.
We call this a “gospel-driven liturgy.” On a practical level, if you were given the opportunity to share the gospel with a friend, you could follow the outline of our liturgy; it covers all the essential elements of the gospel–in the right order!
Why should we worship in a way that integrates the richness of our heritage and the relevance of the Gospel in our ever-changing culture? It takes great wisdom and prayer to balance two biblical mandates:
The richness of our heritage: When we ignore historic traditions, we break our solidarity with Christians of the past. We lose the richness of our identity as Christians saved into a historic people that spans the generations. An unwillingness to consult tradition contradicts both Christian humility and Christian community.
The relevance of the Gospel: The Bible also calls us to express the timeless truths of the gospel in a timely way that connects with the people of our generation in new and fresh ways. For this reason, the Reformers encouraged musical innovation. Luther introduced hundreds of new songs, insisting that old Latin songs be rewritten in the vernacular and put to contemporary German ballads and tunes. Calvin did the same thing; critics referred to the songs he introduced as “Geneva Jigs.”
Our vision as a church centers around the 3 G’s: Glorify God (our worship), Grow together (our nurture), and Go to the world (our witness). The “Grow Together” aspect of our mission can be summarized by the acronym “G.O.S.P.E.L.”:
What do these elements have in common? They deliberately focus on relationships–on people, not programs. In a program-driven church, ministry becomes a juggling act that leads to frustration and exhaustion. We want our church to be characterized by the cultivation of committed, Christ-centered relationships, not a frenzied agenda of activities.
You have probably heard, “Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship.” This is true. But it is not just a relationship; it is a relationship with a special structure. God’s personal relationship with us takes the form of a covenant. The covenant structures God’s relationship with us and our relationship with each other.
A covenant relationship differs from other relationships the way a marriage differs from a mere business contract: one relationship is based on promise (the “I do” of the wedding vows), while the other is based on performance (“If they do X, then I’ll do Y”). One relationship rests on commitment (“for better or for worse”), while the other appeals to consumerism(“What do I get from this? How does this benefit me?”)
Consequently, covenant community undermines the programmatic mindset that leads to consumerism and individualism. We don’t see the church as an ecclesiastical Walmart providing a number of specialized programs for different customer “ages and stages.” Instead, the covenantal view of the church sees the church as a family–a more committed, holistic approach that transcends generation and gender and answers the heart cry of most postmodern people.
Why growth groups? I count over 34 “one-another” commands in the New Testament alone. For example, we are to instruct one another, serve one another, carry one another’s burdens, admonish one another, encourage one another, confess our sins to one another, offer hospitality to one another…
Take a moment to consider: Are you obeying these very specific commands in your life? These imperatives require a level of interaction, intimacy, and accountability that are rarely found outside of a growth group that meets regularly.
Jesus is our supreme model. He picked a small group of 12 disciples and lived with them in a way that radically changed their lives. He ate with them and ministered with them; he worked with them and rested with them; he laughed with them and cried with them.
The early church is our second model. Acts 2:46 and 20:20 note the two complimentary gathering experiences of the early church: the meeting in the temple courts and the meetings in homes.
The Bible gives numerous examples of one-on-one discipleship: Jethro and Moses (Ex 18:19-22), Moses and Joshua (Nu 27), Eli and Samuel, David and Jonathan (1 Sa 20), Elijah and Elisha, Barnabas and Paul (Ac 9:27), Paul and Timothy (1 Co 4:17, 2 Ti 3:10-11), Priscilla/Aquilla and Apollos (Ac 18:26).
These examples shatter our tendency to think that discipleship relationships must all look alike. They don’t. They serve different purposes at different times of life. But they all have one thing in common: believers meeting one-on-one with other believers for spiritual accountability and growth, as God commands both men (2 Ti 2:2) and women (Tit 2:3-5).
Are you a new believer? A mentor can give you a “jump start,” providing a basic foundation for Christian living and spiritual disciplines.
Have you reached a plateau in your spiritual growth? A mentor can often provide a “spiritual checkup” by evaluating the vital signs of your spiritual life, helping you to move forward again.
Are you struggling with a particularly strong sin or addiction like pornography, lust, over-eating, etc? A mentor can provide the needed guidance and accountability.
Are you a parent struggling to practice effective family devotions? A mentor can coach you until you learn the ropes.
Do you struggle to love your spouse as God intends? A seasoned married couple can help you identify heart idols, resolve conflicts, improve communication, and cherish one another.
Are you concerned about one of your children? New studies show that adult mentors are far more influential in a youth’s faith development than large and dynamic youth ministries.
Are you a college student overwhelmed by the options before you? A seasoned Christian can help you navigate these choices with wisdom.
Are you a mother wondering what high purpose will fill the void as your children leave home? Consider the Titus 2:4 mandate!
Shepherding is simply a biblical way of referring to the role of elders. According to the Bible, elders are to guard the church from error (Ac 20:28-31) and teach and preach (1 Timothy 3:2, 5:17). They are also to serve as overseers who direct the affairs of the church (1 Timothy 3:5, 5:17) and set church policy (Acts 15:22ff). They are to serve as examples (1 Peter 5:1-2) and pray for the sick (James 5:14). Finally, they serve as an additional “safety net” for you and your family if someone falls into sin (Matthew 18:15-17).
Do you know the elders of this church? Consider developing a relationship with them so that you can can turn to them for help and advice.
Very simply, peacemaking is the biblical response to conflict. As a community of believers reconciled to God by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is distinctly different.
Biblical peacemaking principles are so practical that we can use them to resolve most basic conflicts of daily life. But they are so powerful that they have been used to mediate and arbitrate bitter divorce and child custody actions, embezzlement situations, church divisions, multimillion dollar business disputes, malpractice lawsuits, and sexual abuse cases.
Through biblical peacemaking, conflict becomes an opportunity to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. In the absence of peacemaking, we naturally resort to either flight (“peace-faking”) or fight (“peace-breaking”) responses. We miss opportunities to honor Christ, grow in character, and strengthen our relationships.
When peacemaking becomes part of a church’s DNA, God blesses in many ways:
Increased ministry: We spend less time fighting and more time ministering.
Decreased divorce: Families are better equipped to handle disputes, and people seek help before a crisis occurs.
Stronger witness: Church splits and divisions become less common. This strengthens our testimony to the community.
Greater stability: Membership turnover decreases because offended members are less likely to leave.
Better leaders: Elders spend more time moving ministry forward and less time dealing with disgruntled members.
Do you know biblical peacemaking principles? If not, talk to one of our elders if you find yourself in a conflict.
As one pastor has pointed out, we are:
– created for ministry (Eph. 2:10)
– saved for ministry (2 Tim. 1:9)
– called into ministry (1 Pet. 2:9-10)
– gifted for ministry (1 Pet. 4:10)
– authorized for ministry (Matt. 28:18-20)
– commanded to minister (Matt. 20:18-20)
– prepared for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12)
– needed for ministry (1 Cor. 12:27)
– rewarded for ministry (Col. 3:23-24)
In this way, we are called to be like Jesus: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45).
How do I discover my gifts? Sometimes people hope for some sort of diagnostic test that will precisely identify their gifts. However, the Bible defines a gift as exercised to serve the body of believers. If that is true, people will not usually discover their gifts in isolation from the church family.
Some churches say: “Discover your spiritual gift and then you’ll know how you’re supposed to serve.” Could this be backwards? Could it be that if you start serving in different ways, you’ll eventually discover your gifts? Until you actually get involved in serving, you’re not going to know what you’re good at!
Who has the gifts? Some assume that the ministerial staff are the people paid to “make the church happen.” They are “paid professionals” who do the Christian work; the rest of the congregation doesn’t really have the time or expertise. Although this may work smoothly, it dramatically contradicts Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4:11-12, where he expects the leaders of the church to equip the members, and all the members themselves to serve in some capacity.
Liberty of Conscience
Liberty of conscience provides the basis for practicing “unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity in all.” It rests on recognizing 3 levels of belief, each to be embraced with varying levels of fervor:
1. “Gospel core” includes Christian distinctives such as those expressed in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. These non-negotiable doctrines are essential to Christian life and faith. We should be willing to die for them. These beliefs are required for membership in the church family. Compromise in these beliefs undermines the credibility of our profession of faith and may warrant church discipline (Galatians 1:9; 2 John 1:7-10).
2. “Biblical commitments” are secondary doctrines in which the biblical evidence can be understood in more than one way. They typically include denominational distinctives like those found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The parting of ways between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41) demonstrates that we may, if necessary, divide over them. This kind of division in the family of Christ–while certainly not the ideal–may be unavoidable in a fallen world. These beliefs are not required for membership in the church family, but they are required for those who hold the church offices of elder or deacon. This ensures unity in the teaching ministry of the church. Examples include: the doctrines of grace, church polity, sacraments, and covenant theology.
3. “Personal convictions” include personal distinctives. They are issues of conscience where we arrive at truth by inference from limited biblical data. While we should not die for these beliefs or divide over them, we should dialog about them in a way that is mutually edifying (Roman 14). Examples might include: eschatology, Bible translations, courtship, theonomy, home schooling, political agenda, parenting styles, birth control, worship styles, ecumenical activity, the wife’s role in home, literal 6-day creation, alcohol use, and expressions of Lord’s Day observance.
We threaten the integrity of the gospel when we compromise on Gospel Core beliefs. On the other hand, we destroy the beauty, breadth, and balance of the Gospel when we treat our personal convictions like the Gospel Core. In other words, liberty of conscience reminds us as a church to major on the majors, and minor on the minors!
Our college ministry reflects a number of commitments:
Church. The Bible unveils a view of the church that is breathtaking in its immensity. Our growth in Christ is a group project. Consequently, spiritual growth is often closely related to the degree to which students integrate into the body life of the whole church. If they are segregated into programs aimed at “ages and stages,” they miss the richness of interacting with believers from different generations, spiritual backgrounds, and seasons of life.
Worldview: Second, we are committed to a biblical world and life view. Although we believe in absolute truth, we avoid giving a set of canned answers. We encourage thoughtful questions and place a strong emphasis on critical thinking, biblical interpretation, and life application.
Vocation: The vocation of university student is just that — a student. We take that seriously and strive to equip students to be faithful and growing Christians who diligently prepare for their calling. The campus is not reduced to a convenient pretext for evangelism, but rather the place where God has placed students to prepare for legitimate, God-given vocations after graduation. These vocations will allow them to engage their culture and serve their community.
Church planting is biblical. God loves the church and has ordained her to be the agent of redemption in the world. The church is plan A, and there is no plan B. From the time of the New Testament, missionaries have started new congregations to share the Gospel with a hurting world.
Church planting is strategic. Church planting is usually the most effective way to introduce the Gospel to the unchurched. New churches are more likely to establish connections in a local community through new ministries. Thus, statistics suggests that new church plants are often more effective at communicating the gospel to unbelievers.
We emphasize the whole gospel to the whole person in the context of the whole community. Instead of pushing a vast set of church ministry programs, we encourage our members to embody the love and truth of Christ by weaving their faith into the very fabric of their daily lives, including recreation, routine, work, academics, social networks, community service, political involvement, etc. We take this kingdom-driven approach for three reasons:
First, in a program-driven church, ministry becomes a juggling act that leads to frustration, exhaustion, and burnout.
Second, a dense schedule of church programs tends to draw followers of Christ out of the community–where their influence is desperately needed–and into the isolated bubble of the Christian subculture.
Third, a program-driven ministry tends to relegate our faith to one compartment of our lives. A more holistic approach views ministry as a way of life, not simply an activity for a few specific hours of the week. Instead of withdrawing into the safety of our fortress, God calls us to serve this community as living testimonies to the gospel, walking trophies of His grace.
Followers of Christ have traditionally embraced one of the following styles of evangelism, each with unique strengths & weaknesses:
Mass evangelism involves crusades, video distribution projects, etc. The impersonal nature and slick marketing and packaging associated with this approach can be a turnoff.
Method evangelism involves canned presentations. This approach can come across as a high pressure “sales pitch” to a captive audience.
Mystical evangelism involves “power encounters” and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
Me-oriented evangelism tends to promote Jesus as the answer to felt needs and the way to a victorious life.
While each of these approaches has certain strengths, we believe God calls us to build relationships that incarnate the love of Christ, invite humble dialog, and engage others emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
Statistics suggest that 9 out of 10 conversions happen because a Christian takes the time to befriend a nonbeliever. Yet two years after conversion, many Christians have lost all normal contact with friends outside the church.
God’s plan for reaching the world is quite simple: love people who don’t know Him yet. Unless this flows from a truly humble gospel-saturated heart, it is just another marketing gimmick. The bottom line is love.