OUR VISION + beliefs
"WE EXIST TO SEE ANNAPOLIS AND THE SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES TRANSFORMED BY THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST THROUGH WORSHIP, FELLOWSHIP, EQUIPPING + OUTREACH."
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are joining God in his transforming work locally and globally by following the central commands of Jesus around the gospel, the great commission and the great commandment. We are daily receiving the gospel, responding to the gospel by loving God and people, and reproduce disciples of Jesus.
Our prayer is that Annapolis would be a city where all spheres of culture flourish, where God’s shalom is present and where the people of our city and region are captured by God, where the city becomes a lighthouse on the water- where guns used to murder are melted down into gardening tools used to cultivate, where drug dealers sell nectarines instead of narcotics on street corners, where the fatherless come home from school to find their fathers, where the wealthy business owners contribute back to those in need, where the most diverse communities of people come together around Jesus. Annapolis means “the city of Anne” or “the city of Grace“. This is our prayer that the city would be filled with a people full of God’s grace that flows like the city’s waterways. There are 37,000 people who live in the city of Annapolis and over half a million who live in our county. Five million call the state of Maryland home and there are some twenty million spread out through the Mid-Atlantic region. What does this mean? There are a lot of people in our area who are in need of hope. A recent statistic showed that 85% of the people living in Anne Arundel County aren’t involved in a faith community. Our vision doesn’t stop at the city limits but rather begins there. Collaborating inter-denominationally and with other local expressions of church, we are praying towards a regional gospel movement where lives, neighborhoods and cities are transformed through reproducing faith communities of gospel-centered disciples of Jesus.
CONFESSION OF FAITH
We stand gratefully with believers who have gone before us in history, and we identify with those who live faithfully for Jesus in other cultures around the globe as well! We not only align with the gospel in Scripture, the historic orthodox beliefs passed down by the church such as the Apostles’ Creed. We also stand in unity with the global church by affirming the Confession of Faith from the Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town Commitment: http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/ctcommitment.html. This Confession of Faith and Call to Action included 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries, and extended to hundreds of thousands more, participating in meetings around the world, and online. It’s goal? To bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching - in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas. We use the Cape Town Commitment’s Confession of Faith [i.e. Part 1-“10 Loves”] for our Confession of Faith for Downtown Hope, while commending their Call to Action [Part 2] for each one’s prayerful consideration.
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
Just saying we center on Jesus and the gospel doesn’t always communicate to others what we mean by the gospel. There are a variety of images that may come to mind when different people use the term “gospel.” We believe it is important to explicitly describe the gospel we trust in and proclaim. The gospel is God’s good news that is both simple and robust. It is simple enough to share with others no matter how new one is to hearing about trusting Jesus. Yet, we believe we never graduate from deepening in the gospel personally and interpersonally as we follow Jesus and plant churches in this world. Here we give an overview of the gospel in it simplicity, as well as some of its depth.
THE GOSPEL IS SIMPLE: The cross + crown of Jesus
“… Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:14-15
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…at his coming those who belong to Christ…he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” I Corinthians 15:1-4, 20-28
The gospel is as simple as the CROSS and CROWN of JESUS. It is the CROSS – Jesus crucified for our sins. And, it is the CROWN - Jesus risen from the dead, reigning now, and coming again. Jesus’ resurrection life brings us new life and an ongoing relationship with him now as reigning King, and the sure hope in his return. Jesus’ perfect life, crucifixion, resurrection, reign, and return is the good news we trust in. Turning to Jesus with living faith brings fullness of life through his cross and crown! What is the gospel? It is the good news of Jesus, the life he lived, the death he died, his resurrection, his present reign and future return. Jesus is the good news.
The gospel is not overly complex, yet it is too unfathomable and too rich to ever be reduced to any one overly simplistic formula or statement. Unfortunately, gospel reductionism happens far too often. If we are to be true to the gospel set forth in Scripture, we will embrace not just a simple gospel but also the robust gospel with all its depth and implications! The gospel is simple, but it may be better to say, the gospel is “simplex.” That is, it is both simple and complex. This good news (gospel) includes the fuller story of Jesus within the complete story of Scripture. The gospel can also be summarized as captured in the ancient creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed. However, the gospel is not just a static statement. It is good news to be dynamically demonstrated and boldly announced with a call to hearers to repent and believe it. Living faith in Jesus, the Lord who is announced in this gospel, involves holding fast to Scriptures’ objective truths while also subjectively appropriating one’s new standing in this gospel by grace through faith. Fuller expressions of the gospel are introduced below.
THE GOSPEL IS A STORY- The Story of Jesus
The gospel deposited for us in the New Testament sets forth the events that comprise the Story of Jesus [past, present, future events]. These key events are his birth, perfect life, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension to reign at God’s right hand, sending the Holy Spirit, and future return. These events in the Story of Jesus (God’s only Son, the Messiah, God incarnate) were consistently emphasized throughout the New Testament Gospels, Acts, and letters. (Matt. 1:1-4:17; 26-28; Mark 1:1-15; 8:27-38; 9:30-32; 10:32-34, 45; 14-15; Luke 1:1-4:21; 22-24; John 1:1-34; 7:37-39; 18-21; Acts 1:1-11; 2:24-36; 4:8-12; 5:27-32; 10:36-43; 13:26-41; 17:16-18, 19-34; Rom. 1:1-4; 4:24-25; 6:5; 8:11, 18-25; I Cor. 15:1-11, 20-28; Gal. 1:1-5; 4:4; Eph. 1:20; Phil 2:5-11; 3:20-21; Col. 1:5; 2:2-10; 3:1; I Thes.1:9-10; 4:13-18; 2 Thes.1:5-12; Titus 2:11-15; Heb. 1:1-3; 12:1-2; I Pet. 1:3, 7, 11, 12, 13, 18-19, 21; 2:21; 3:18, 22; 4:13; 5:4, I John 4:9-10; Rev. 1:7; 5:6-14; 22:20).
Story of Scripture
The Story of Jesus is most compelling when set and viewed within the larger narrative arch in all of Scripture. Jesus and his early gospel messengers proclaimed and explained the events of his Story in continuity with and fulfillment of the story of all Scripture.
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
This overarching story of God’s promises, his people (Israel), and pictures (metaphors and foreshadowing) from the Old Testament fire our imagination and point to Jesus (I Corinthians 15:4; Luke 24:25-27, 44-49; John 5:39-40; 2 Tim. 3:15-17). This larger narrative in Scripture spans from Genesis (the first book of Scripture) and extends through Revelation (the last book of Scripture). We see this larger drama of God’s story unfold at a high level throughout Scripture in four acts: CREATION… FALL… REDEMPTION (Israel culminating in Jesus)…RESTORATION…
This narrative is the true story of God making all things good – CREATION. God’s story also tells us that what we intuitively know, that while there is good in the world, something has gone terribly wrong in the world, our hearts, and our relationships. Sin brought a crash and breaking which resulted in relational fallout with God, people, and the world. – FALL. God, the good king, took the initiative by grace to lay down his life for us in Jesus, and he overcame death in his resurrection. Jesus ascended and now reigns as the unseen king and is bringing all things under submission to his good reign - REDEMPTION. One day, he will return to complete the restoration of all things under his good reign. However, those who persist now in choosing to rebel will be permanently banished from his new creation where the good king will dwell with his people forever – RESTORATION.
Summarized in Historic Creeds
The gospel was summarized in transferrable creeds to help the early followers of Jesus distinguish the true gospel from false ones (Romans 1:1-4; I Corinthians 15:1-4; Philippians 2:5-11; I Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:8; Titus 1:9; 2:1; I John 4:1-6; Jude 3). These summaries of “the faith” or the “good deposit” were often used to ground new converts in the gospel as they were preparing to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They were able to see “at-a-glance” the gospel truths centered on God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and his work for them (past, present, future). Some of these ancient creeds solidified into the widely accepted Apostles’ Creed that we set forth as a helpful summary of the gospel.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal2 church,
the communion of believers3,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting4
1 Modern English Version: From the English Language Liturgical Commission, 1988; we have made slight edits to translate language that can be confusing, to simplify, and to highlight gospel truths. 2 universal=catholic or world-wide; translated by us to clarify. 3 believers = set apart ones by faith or saints; edited to simplify and clarify. 4 life everlasting includes life in a “restored / new heaven and earth”; note added by us for clarity about our eternal future (See Rev 21:1-5; Romans 8:20-25; Acts 3:18-21).
THE GOSPEL INCLUDES AN INVITATION: Repent and believe
Proclaiming the good news of Jesus includes a call or an invitation to those who hear to repent + believe. It is a summons to personally turn and receive the message about Jesus with living faith in him. Jesus and his early followers consistently proclaimed the gospel and they urged people to respond to what they were seeing and hearing.
“… Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time
is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:38,41
Paul implored people to respond, saying, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
Proclaiming the gospel includes both an initial appeal and an ongoing appeal to turn from our own “self-salvation projects” (both religious and irreligious ones). We turn to trust Jesus instead of our idols (1Thes. 1:9-10). The gospel calls us to keep renouncing functional idols in our heart and to instead loyally follow Jesus alone as our treasured king because of who he is and for all of his gracious work on our behalf! [Matt 13:44; 1 Pet. 1:8-9]
THE GOSPEL OFFERS A NEW IDENTITY IN CHRIST
Faith in the gospel changes everything! All believers in Jesus have a whole new standing under God’s grace, not by their works. Scripture teaches:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Our New Identity is True
Every person who repents and is united with Jesus by faith now possesses a radically new identity under grace through the gospel. Their old standing of death, condemnation, enslavement, and estrangement from God and his people is forever changed by the gospel. Each believer’s story is now intricately woven into the Story of Jesus – into his substitutionary atonement for us on the cross as well as his life-giving resurrection and enthronement as King. Our union with Jesus forever connects us relationally with the one triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and provides us with extraordinary benefits by his grace. This fuels our joy and motivates us to express loving worship back to God with our whole lives. A sampling of our true identity and relational standing under grace is seen in the following: We are…reconciled to God, justified, adopted, chosen by God, indwelt by the empowering Holy Spirit, forgiven, ransomed to freedom, in the kingdom of God’s Son, disciples of the Teacher and Lord, branches in the Vine, in God’s household, part of the one body of Christ, God’s new covenant people, light in the world, sent ones, God’s ambassadors, living with sure hope, and more. (Matt. 5:14-16; 18:21-27; Mark 10:45; Luke 15; John 13:12-16; 15:1-8; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Eph. 1-2; Rom. 3:21-8:39; I Cor. 6:19-20; 12:1-31; 15:1-58; 2 Cor. 5; Col. 1:12-14; I Pet. 1:3-9).
Our New Identity Becomes Real In Our Walk
For all believers this new standing under grace is already true: It’s ours! However, the Holy Spirit also makes it increasingly real. That is, our standing in grace also has a dynamic dimension to it that we experience as we continue to walk by faith in Jesus. While our new standing is already true, our gospel identity can be experienced even more deeply within our hearts through the ongoing work of the Spirit. And, the gospel of Jesus can also be integrated even more fully into every aspect of our everyday choices and actions, so that it works its way into our personal and interpersonal, private and public lives (e.g. home, work, play, school, church, world, etc.). (Matt.18:15-35; John 13; John 20:21; Phil. 1:27; Titus 2:11-15; Eph. 4-6; Rom 12-16; I Pet. 1:13-21; I John 4:10-11).
Jesus and his early followers actively prayed that God’s people would go beyond just intellectually grasping the objective truth of their new standing under grace. They prayed that these truths would also become experientially real to them and observable to others through them as well.
“For this reason I (Paul) bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”. Ephesians 3:14-19
"I (Jesus) do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. John 17:20-21
Jesus and his followers prayed and asked God to make objective truth experientially real and actually observable in practice in the world. They longed that these gospel truths would become powerfully real to each Christ follower and in the entire church community in a cultural context among those who have yet to become followers of Jesus. They not only prayed, they modeled, taught, patiently corrected, and in some extreme cases they exercised church discipline in Christ’s body when professing believers arrogantly and stubbornly refused to align with the gospel of grace in their observable lives. They were clear that holiness and good works were a fruit of living faith, not something that could earn God’s favor and acceptance. They constantly appealed to God’s grace in Jesus as the compelling heart motivation for practicing unity not divisiveness, purity not immorality, generosity not covetousness, justice not injustice, as well as other ethical practices that are in step with the Spirit and truth of the gospel [Mark 7:1-23; Matt. 18:15-35; Luke 19:1-9; 1 Cor. 5; 6:18-20; 2 Cor. 8:8-15; Gal. 2:14; 5:16-6:2; Phil. 1:27; Col. 3:1-17; Titus 2:11-14; 3:10-11; 1 Pet. 1:13-21]. For example, each believer in Jesus is commanded to practice forgiving his brother when he sins against him [Matt. 18:21-22]. We forgive even as God in Christ has forgiven us [Matt. 18:23-35; Eph. 4:32]. That’s just one example of holy living by grace! We are committed to faithfully follow this example in our lives and churches so that our standing under grace will now work its way into everyday choices, relationships, and our lives together. As Jesus’ early followers did, we commit ourselves to be a “gospel people” for the good of the world and the glory of God!
We grasp the gospel in the events of the Story of Jesus within the larger story of Scripture. The historic Creeds give us a helpful summary, and the good news brings real joy as we comprehend our standing under grace that is eternal life changing to all who repent and trust Jesus. While the gospel is robust and deep, it is also straightforward and simple. The good news for us is Jesus – his cross and crown!
Why all this concern about the gospel and sound doctrine that works its way into our lives? Jesus’ disciples who wrote Scripture exhort us to be faithful to proclaim, practice, and protect sound doctrine with the help of the Holy Spirit (I Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:14-15; 4:1-4; Titus 1:9; 2:1; I John 4:1-6; Jude 3). Every generation, depending on its culturally unique challenges, needs to faithfully express the gospel and teach sound doctrine. We believe a healthy disciple-making church planting network and movement will keep belief in the gospel as simple as “the cross + crown of Jesus,” but will also seek to contextualize and contend for the robust gospel of Jesus found in Scripture’s grand narrative of God’s story. We commit ourselves to proclaim the gospel and teach healthy biblical doctrine set forth in God’s inspired and authoritative Scripture. We believe it is foolish to do this as an island, however.
Our shared culture is shaped by our shared vision, gospel and beliefs, and the values we practice, emphasize and embody with the Holy Spirit’s help. We will seek to equip, train, teach, and bring resources that will help us best align in practice to our shared values described below. We will major on unity in the gospel and ask that all who join in covenant partnership or leading through Downtown Hope to assent to (acknowledge) our values and refrain from practicing or teaching contrary to our values among the body for unity. We ask this with the understanding that true believers in Jesus may nuance or emphasize their values differently, or one may still be working through their biblical positions. These are values we practice:
1. We Carry Jesus and His Gospel Message to Ourselves and to Others
+ Bringing the gospel to the reached + unreached
We are committed to both integrating the gospel ourselves and expanding the gospel of Jesus to others yet to be reached. That is, we will keep integrating the gospel as followers of Jesus so that it saturates ever aspect of our private and public life. We are also committed to expanding the gospel to the unreached until it saturates every people group in our city and world. The gospel isn’t something followers of Jesus ever graduate from. Those who are just beginning a faith walk with Jesus and those who have been following him for decades can rely on the Spirit’s help to keep integrating the gospel daily into the everyday choices and issues they face. We all need the good news of Jesus to saturate our thinking, feelings, wounds, choices, actions, and practices. There is to be no dimension of one’s life to be left unchanged by the gospel of Jesus and his reign. The gospel reshapes us privately and publically – at home, work, play, and everywhere. Because Jesus is such good news in our lives, we also want to joyfully obey the commission of Jesus to bring the good news about him to the unreached people groups in our city, region, and around the world! (Mark 1:14-15; 10:35-45; Gal. 2:14; Phil. 1:27; Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:15-21; Rev. 5:9-10)
+ Showing + telling the gospel of Jesus
We are committed to showing and telling the gospel of the kingdom. We will keep growing in our capacity to live in step with the Spirit and demonstrate the gospel personally and as a community together. This means showing through our observable daily godliness, relational unity, and our active good works for people. Showing the Christ-like fruit of the Spirit in our character in our daily lives will remain our priority. Demonstration means we will rely on the Spirit’s power for the quieter less dramatic (yet hugely significant) works of service, as well as the more miraculous and dramatic works such as healing and deliverances. We believe godly living, unity, and the dramatic and less dramatic works all demonstrate the gospel of the kingdom (Philippians 1:27; John 13; 17:20-21; Titus 2:11-14; Matt. 12:28; Luke 10). Showing or demonstrating the gospel is great, but incomplete. Jesus brought the gospel of the kingdom verbally through the message he proclaimed, not just his deeds. So did his followers (Mark 1:14-15, 29-31; John 4; Luke 10; 15; 24:13-35; Acts 2:14-47; 8:4-40). The early followers of Jesus did the same because he told them to do both (Matt. 5:14-15; 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49). We are committed to both showing and telling the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
+ God’s sovereignty + human responsibility
We believe God is sovereign over all and that he has granted human beings choice with responsibility for their choices (Gen. 1-3). All human being are created image bearers responsible for their choices despite their fallen nature and condition (Eph. 2:1-3-sin has infected our mind, will, emotions). This is why we need God’s mercy and grace to choose well. In Scripture, we read Jesus saying “…whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37). This encourages us to bring the good news to anyone and everyone with the reassuring promise of Jesus that if they chose to come to Jesus and believe on him he will never cast them out. We have no business trying to speculate about whether they are chosen or not. We can offer everyone this good news and leave the outcome to God. Jesus also said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And ‘I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). We can rest knowing it is God who saves people and not us. That means that despite our weakness and imperfections as his messengers we can, with rest in our hearts, join God in boldly bringing the good news of Jesus to people and leave the results to God. God is working out his sovereign purposes in the world and he gives human beings choice with responsibility for their choices. We will acknowledge that Scripture teaches both yet leaves how this all works with God. It is so tempting to engage in futile speculation or to become idle in trying to figure out how God pulls this all off. Instead, we will leave this with God and in our “mystery file.” We will continue to humbly trust that he knows what he is doing. We will worship his goodness and free undeserved grace, and we will join him in faithfully showing and telling the good news in the world. (John 6:35-59; 17:1-3; Acts 2:22-24; 16:13-15; Rom. 8:28-30; 9-11; Eph. 1:3-14; I Thes.1:4-10; 2 Thes.2:13-14; I Pet. 2:9-10; 2 Pet. 1:10-11; 3:8-13).
+ Gospel pictures: Water Baptism + The Lord’s Supper
Rigid institutionalism, empty religious traditions, controversy and confusion often characterize far too many Christians today when it comes to the sacraments of the church. However, reacting against these by neglecting something that Jesus intends for us to practice is not the answer either. Preaching makes the gospel audible, and the sacraments help make it visible. God uses both! We can learn from Scripture and follow the Spirit while practicing the sacraments of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper with heart and meaning so they really strengthen us and portray the good news of grace.
2. We Follow Scripture and the Spirit
+ Following Scripture
We encourage people to learn and submit to Scripture because it is God’s word written for us – both the Old and New Testament (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:15-17-e.g. Peter recognizes Paul’s writings as Scripture; I Tim 5:17 – e.g. Paul quotes both OT and Luke’s writings as Scripture, etc.). We take our cues from Jesus who both learned Scripture and lived under its authority as a Spirit directed man (Luke 4:1-12). Jesus also taught that Scripture’s central message pointed to himself. We might say, “Jesus taught Jesus” from Scripture (Luke 24:25-27, 32, 44-49). Clearly, the written word points us to God’s ultimate communication – Jesus, the living Word (John 1:1,14; 5:37-40; Heb. 1:1-4). Therefore, we will encourage all to connect with Jesus through the Scripture. We will also keep following and humbly listening to the risen Jesus disciple us through Scripture collectively, personally, devotionally, and obediently (Colossians 3:1-4; John 15:1-8; Luke 10:38-42; 2 Cor. 11:1-3). Scripture is our final authority and is to be engaged not just devotionally, but accurately (Matt. 22:29-33; 2 Tim. 2:14-18; 3:16-17). God’s Spirit breathed out Scripture for us through human authors. We will respect both these realities. Therefore, we will foster a climate where we study and teach Scripture with respect to context, content, and Christ. That is, we will study and teach after careful consideration of a biblical author’s historical and literary context. We will study the actual words and phrases as a biblical author intended for them to be understood given his particular literary genre and “tool box” of vocabulary. The use of good principles of interpretation, while important, really is futile however without humility and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit. We need his help in illuminating Scripture’s meaning to us (I Cor. 2:13-15). We also believe that is wise to learn what the Spirit might say to us through other believers who teach Scripture and are outside our own contemporary, social, and cultural context because we often have blind spots that keep us from grasping Scripture’s teachings. Finally, we will seek to read, study, and teach Scripture with respect to its overall story of Jesus – the center and heart of Scripture (John 5:37-40).
+ God has spoken + God still speaks
God has spoken and left his unchanging authoritative revelation in Scripture (see [2.1] “Following Scripture”). God’s word written is our final authority against which we examine all other voices speaking to us today (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 3:14-18). However, that doesn’t mean that God’s only means of communication is Scripture. It only means he won’t speak and contradict the Scripture he has left us. In fact, we see in Scripture itself that God spoke to people in a variety of ways in addition to Scripture such as prophetic utterances, dreams, visions, angels, words of knowledge, etc. We believe it is unwise to deny these in an effort to honor Scripture. We are actually warned in Scripture not to quench the Spirit and despise prophetic utterances. However, we are also warned not to be naïve or gullible (I Thes. 5:19-22; I John 4:1). Not all claims that “God told me” actually come from God. Therefore, we will encourage our body not too despise what may be God speaking, and we will encourage our body to discern this against Scripture. We will try to sensitively discern whether various voices one hears or shares are actually a communication from God. We will encourage those who desire to share what they do believe to be a communication from God to avoid language like “thus sayeth the Lord” or “God told me.” Rather, we encourage language like “I believe God has a message for you/us” or “I feel I have a word for you/us”. We will examine whether it is consistent with Scripture’s content, tone, emphasis, as well as other confirmations.
+ Baptism in the Spirit at conversion + fresh Spirit fillings
We believe that at the moment of conversion (when one initially repents and believes on Jesus presented in the gospel) that every believer is then baptized in the Holy Spirit and permanently indwelt by Holy Spirit. We believe every believer at that moment is secure and permanently sealed by Holy Spirit as well (Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 6:19-20; 12:12-13; 2 Cor. 1:20-22; Eph. 1:13-14). All this is true already and not something we are to seek. However, that in no way means that a believer’s experience of the Spirit is a static thing of the past. Life in the Spirit is experientially dynamic as we experience his empowering presence, fresh fillings, and his active guidance for our daily walk under the lordship of King Jesus. We also experience his presence in our shared life as a worshipping community and as we go out together on mission in the world (Luke 11:1-11; Acts 4:23-31; 16:6-10; Eph. 5:18-21).
3. We Pray
+ Praying for kingdom breakthrough
God invites us to join him in advancing his kingdom through persistent prayer for breakthrough. We may pray that the good news of his kingdom breaks into an individual’s life, a family, our church, a community, or even into an unreached people group. We humbly yet desperately ask that God’s reign will be come and intersect people on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:9-13; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 11:1-11; Acts 4:23-31; Acts 16:25-34; Col. 4:2-6; Rom. 15:14-33).
+ Embracing the already/not yet kingdom
The gospel of the kingdom and the presence of his Spirit brings substantial peace now (both positional and experiential shalom/wholeness-Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:17; 6:15; Phil. 4:7, 9). However, this peace (shalom/wholeness) won’t be perfectly complete until Jesus returns to consummate the “not yet” kingdom when he establishes the new heaven and earth. Then we will be completely free from any lingering traces of the peace-shattering fall (Rev. 21:1-4; Matt. 25:31-46; Rom 8:18-30; Acts 3:19-21; I Cor. 15:20-28). As we await perfectly complete wholeness in the kingdom to come, we believe in an “open heaven” where we can appropriate and experience his active reign now by faith in an ever-increasing way [Matt. 13:1-23; Colossians 1:9-14; Eph. 1:16-23; 3:14-21; Luke 11:1-13; Acts 4:29-31; 8:4-8; I Peter 4:10-11). As this happens we celebrate, but we also remember that any “breakthroughs” now are still only partial “signs posts ”of the perfect Kingdom coming after the return of Jesus. We will affirm that God grants grace for faith for breakthrough now. God also grants grace for faith to endure suffering with confident hope in Christ’s return (2 Cor. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 11:32-40; James 1:2-8; I Pet. 1:6-7; 4:19). We will affirm and celebrate both!
+ Wholeness + Healing
We will encourage and affirm faith in King Jesus to heal people physically now and pray toward this as people in Scripture did (Mark 2:1-12; I Cor. 12:9; James 5:14-18). If people aren’t healed now, we will be careful to avoid breeding unloving condemnation or giving superficial explanations as to why, and allow for mystery. We will also carefully remind people with the Scriptural truth that in times when healing doesn’t occur God gives grace to endure suffering which may include a physical disability or illness. Paul and his companions were no strangers to God’s dramatic deliverances and healing of people. However, at times they suffering physically and with sicknesses that went unhealed and even recorded this in Scripture (Gal. 4:14; Phil. 2:27; I Tim 5:23; 2 Tim 4:20; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). We do not believe this diminishes Christ’s work on the cross or his power to heal. King Jesus will keep his promise to heal all believers one day perfectly in the not yet kingdom. As he invites us to pray, his Kingdom also comes now, displaying his power and compassion. We will celebrate both his grace in physical healing now and his grace given to his people to endure suffering until he returns and brings perfect permanent wholeness (peace-shalom) in the kingdom that is coming. We all await perfect and complete shalom in the coming kingdom because even spiritual gifts that are powerfully exercised now such as healing, are still only “in part” until Jesus returns (I Cor. 13:8-13)
4. We Prepare Christ’s Diverse People for Ministry
+ Motivating with grace
We motivate others [and our own hearts] by grace not fear, guilt, or empty efforts to earn God’s acceptance by good works. Instead, we embody and teach that believers can now joyfully worship, freely obey, and sacrificially serve because God has lavished his grace on us in the gospel of Jesus. Religion says, “if I obey, then God will accept me”. Grace operates from a completely different motivation. “I believe and am accepted by God, therefore I’ll obey.” We are committed to motivating by the acceptance and secure identity of our standing in grace that we already have. The Spirit uses these truths to dynamically strengthen and empower our living faith that results in obedient actions. We want to cooperate with him in motivating with grace (Rom. 5:1-5; I Cor. 15:58; 12:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; Titus 2:11-15; Gal.5:1; Eph. 2:8-10; 4:29-32; I Jn. 4:10-11).
+ Activating diversity in Christ’s body
The people of Jesus are the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2.9) and have some gift(s) to be fostered and expressed to help others flourish and discover the gospel. Every believer in the gospel of Jesus already has the Holy Spirit and is now a vital part of the body of Christ (Eph. 1:13-14; I Cor. 12:12-13). Every believer in Jesus is to be received and encouraged to function as part of the Father’s wonderfully diverse family of faith. We are not to devalue any part of Christ’s body because of one’s race, socio economic background, education, gender, ethnic group, age, or other culturally acceptable ways we devalue people. Jesus love’s his one body, and wants each part activated. The Holy Spirit not only indwells each believer, but he also manifests himself through each part of Christ’s body in wonderfully diverse ways through various spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:7). This diversity in unity reflects the trinity (one God in three persons - diversity in unity-I Cor. 12:4-6). These ministry gifts are given by God to build up the body not for personal show or aggrandizement. The body is built up as each person exercises his / her gift(s) humbly in love under the headship of Jesus in the power of God’s Holy Spirit (Rom 12:1-8; I Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4:1-16). We encourage each member of Christ’s body to follow the Spirit’s leading into their unique expression of loving service to God and people. We believe all gifts are available to be exercised by Christ’s body until Jesus returns (I Cor. 1:4-7; 13:8-12). This full array of gifts should be activated and work together interdependently. We also remind ourselves that gifts display Jesus best when combined with the fruit of the Spirit (maturity in character-I Cor. 3:1-4; 13:1-3; Gal 5:16-26; John 15-18; I John 2:6). Therefore, we are committed to activating all the gifts of the body with the help of equippers Christ has given to help prepare his body for works of service (Ephesians 4:11-12). Marks or indicators that we are moving toward maturity are body-wide unity with diversity, body-wide growth into the stature of Christlikeness, and experiential knowledge of Jesus (Eph. 4:13).
+ Empowerment of all people, a team of male elders, husbands as servant leaders in their homes
God has given a full array of gifts and talents to all people. Therefore we are committed to fostering the gifts and talents of all women – including exercising leadership gifts in our body. We reject the notion that woman are of lesser value in the kingdom of God. Rather, Scripture is clear that in Christ there is no one of any lesser status (Gal. 3:28). Therefore, we will encourage women to boldly exercise their gifts in our body among both men and women. While encouraging the exercise of all the gifts by both genders, we also believe Scripture recognizes the unique role men have as servant leaders in their homes (Eph. 5:21-33) and in the elder team that serves the local the local church (I Tim. 2:11-3:15; Titus 1:5-9). In the home we encourage men to be servant-leaders (John 13:1-16; Mark 10:35-45). The idea of a husband being the leader of his household has been abused on multiple levels and in many ways over the years and in some cases has led to male domination and women who have been abused in unhealthy relationships and situations all under the auspice of “male headship.” We want to intentionally reimagine what a man’s role as leader looks like in a home and the church. It is to be one of Jesus-like serving in which a man lays down his life and personal agenda for the good of his wife and for the church while at the same time protecting, defending, and leading his family and God’s flock to align with God’s purposes. We want to cultivate married men who take responsibility to serve, encourage and help their wives and children flourish to become all God designed them to be. In the church we commit ourselves to practicing this by modeling Spirit-filled mutual submission in a team of men (Eph. 5:21) who collectively are nominated by the people of the local church and lead as servants in the local church. This team is to oversee and shepherd the flock in such a way that women have a significant voice, participate, and are empowered to serve in their unique gifts. This includes allowing women to teach, lead groups and in other capacities, to serve as equippers, to sit with the Elder Team to give their best thinking into various church wide happenings and key decisions. While empowering women to teach and lead, we will also practice male eldership over our local body which includes a biblically qualified male functioning as our primary teaching elder/leader. We will try to walk this out while calling everyone to mutually submit (Eph. 5:21) to one another out of reverence and love to our servant-king – Jesus.
+ Acceptance + correction
Jesus modeled radical acceptance of people who were often cast aside by religious leaders. In fact they censored him for hanging out and eating with notorious outcasts and marginalized “sinners.” We want to follow his lead and foster an environment of acceptance, forgiveness, understanding, mercy, and gentleness with people who may struggle with their sin and brokenness. This can be messy but we are committed to an environment of grace. However, this doesn’t not mean we will not admonish, confront sin, and correct on another within our body. Jesus and his early disciples who led his church communities corrected and exercised church discipline where needed. This is also a way of showing grace when done in the way Jesus prescribed [Matt. 18:15-20]. We will help one another as Christ’s visible body to live in alignment with our true identity in Jesus and the truth of the gospel. Our leadership will seek God’s wisdom and will help protect us from “cancerous spread” of unrepentant divisiveness, arrogant immoral practices, and teachings that distort the gospel within our church family. Our leaders will attempt to do this gently and with an aim to both protect the flock and restore the one being corrected (Matt. 7:1-6; 18:15-20; Gal. 6:1-2; Titus 3:10-11; I Cor. 5).
5. We Create
+ Creating + experimenting
God creates and we are made in his image (Gen. 1-2). Therefore, we will encourage a culture of creativity, experimentation, and new initiatives. We will foster attitudes of creativity, risk, and experimentation for learning. We will avoid squelching creativity with attitudes and talk like “we’ve never done that before” or…“that’s not the way churches (or we) have done it.” That doesn’t mean we are too proud or better than others, or that we can’t learn from history. However, we will also not limit ourselves by what has already been done. We will explore fresh expressions that reflect that we serve an active, living, and creative God. In this we recognize that all things are not made to be simply functional, but some things exist to just be enjoyed or purely for their beauty. We will continually consider the senses (aesthetics) as we experiment and express things in a myriad of ways. We will seek to honor God by looking around us at his creation and remember to reflect his creativity by expressing ours. We will also seek to creatively display the good news of hope into the future out of inspiration as we look to the “(re)new(ed) creation” that awaits us that will be good, beautiful, and relationally restored (Rev. 21:1-4).
+ Spontaneity + order
As we get glimpses into the New Testament churches in worship together, we see that there was room for spontaneity while at the same time they were instructed to maintain a sense of order. In fact teaching and correction was needed when some less mature believers felt so free and just “did their thing” without regards for their impact on the overall body. There was a need to remind the body that expressing themselves (even their God-given gifts) without being driven by love is worthless. They needed to learn that building up of the body was key, and that the common good was to be aimed for when gathering as a community in public worship (I Cor. 12-14). What may be appropriate in one’s private worship is not always beneficial to others in public worship environments. For example, unintelligible tongues expressed in private may edify oneself, but unintelligible words without interpretation in public environments do not edify others and should not be practiced (1 Corinthians 14:1-25). In 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 Paul explicitly addresses order in worship. We will encourage both genuine Spirit-led spontaneity and Spirit-led order in our communities and gatherings. Designated point leaders are responsible to help foster both. We realize that for some this will always feel too loose and others it will feel too tight. We hope people will see Sundays as a family meal where the focus isn’t the individual person or community but rather God. There are a number of other environments we get to be with people who think, act, and prefer what we do (i.e, clubs, sub-cultures, conferences, families, etc.). We will continue to challenge the believers among us to embrace the diversity of Christ’s body and to not pass judgment on whether they are too expressive or not expressive enough. When the diversity of all our communities gather on Sunday mornings, we are going to encourage every believer and community to have the maturity to put others above themselves, and to remember that “it is not just about me.”
+ Pleasure + holiness
We believe that God created us with our physical senses and other capacities to experience pleasure. God also calls his people to practice purity and holiness as we experience pleasure in this world. We will pursue both these as we walk by faith in the life-changing gospel of grace and display our true identity in Jesus (Gen. 1:26-2:25; Rev. 21:1-22:5; Titus 2:11-15). Therefore, in a variety of areas such as sex, we will encourage God’s people to do more than merely procreate to fill the earth. We will teach that two people can really enjoy sex within a marriage that’s made with a public and permanent covenant between one male and one female (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:1-9; Eph. 5:22-33; Song of Sol. 1:11-16; 7:1-13; I Cor. 6:18-20). We will also encourage people to enjoy the wonderful tastes of foods without gluttony (Prov. 23:19-21). We believe, for example, it is permissible to enjoy some fine tasting wine without drunkenness (John 2:1-12; Eph. 5:18-21; Prov. 23:19-21). We will encourage care for the earth and behold the beauty in all of nature without worshipping creation. We will remind ourselves that the things we have, (both useful and beautiful things) are provided by God. Scripture says, it is “God who provides us all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17-19). We will also help each other heed Scripture’s warnings about covetousness, idolatry, anxiety and trusting in uncertain riches (I Timothy 6:17-19; Col. 3:5; Matt. 6:19-34). We believe that Jesus-like holiness means we learn when to joyfully and sacrificially set aside the full use of what is permissible in order to provide relief and empowerment to the marginalized, oppressed, and those who are under-resourced. This is an important expression for genuine worshippers (Isa. 58:6-7; Heb. 13:15-16; Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 2:45; 11:27-30; 20:35; 2 Cor. 8-9; Gal. 2:10). We will encourage one-another to experience pleasure in God’s good gifts while prayerfully practicing holiness. We will try to gently restore one another when we trespass and sin. It also means trying not to hurt one another with our freedoms. Nor should we judge one another with our own personal convictions and scruples since we will all give an account to Jesus one day (Rom.14). We can all experience pleasure and holiness only when Jesus our King becomes our heart’s supreme delight (Matt. 13:44-46). Since he himself is our life who fills us, we constantly look to him to satisfy us as our ultimate pleasure! (Col. 2:16-3:17; John 17:3).
6. We Send One Another
+ Cultivating disciples a few at a time
We will intentionally help cultivate disciples to keep interacting daily with the living and reigning Jesus. Faithful disciples of Jesus hear and obey him, and become more like him by the work of the Spirit. We will intentionally foster a culture where maturing disciples of Jesus band together with a few others to help one another follow Jesus daily. Following Jesus means faithfully listening to him and replicating his life. The Spirit works through spiritual disciplines and regular rhythms of personal prayer, Scripture reading and reflection to form our lives in Christlikeness. We also need authentic confession with a few in an atmosphere of gospel acceptance and encouragement. We will aim to walk with Jesus more relationally and to see his life replicated in our everyday lives at home, work, and play with the help of a few others. Making disciples who follow and obey Jesus is not just for some elite class. All disciples who keep connecting with Jesus can also become fruitful disciple makers who invite a few to band together until each one is able to help a few others to do the same in a simple reproducible ways (Matt. 28:18-20; John 15:1-8; 20:21; I Jn. 2:6; Gal. 5:16-26; James 5:16). Throughout Scripture we see God’s approach is so unlike humans. We often try to do it all and dissipate our energies by trying to do too many things to accomplish big things. God instead consistently concentrates his focus and blessings in order to expand his blessings. He chose to focus on one nation (Israel) to declare his glory among all nations. Jesus vision was so huge and expansive that he concentrated on apprenticing just a few (Luke 6:12-16). These few were eventually the ones who expanded the gospel of his kingdom as a worldwide movement that still continues today (he focused most on just 12 disciples, even more with just 3-Peter, James, John-Luke 9:28). We will embody and encourage the cultivation of disciples in a relational way a few at time while still ministering and loving many people (Mark 1:35-39; John 21:15-19) in variety of ways and all types of environments. We will faithfully and intentionally cultivate disciples a few at a time with the Spirit’s help!
+ Reproducing for healthy sending
Living organisms created by God reproduce in the natural realm. God said to Adam and his wife, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:26-28). What is true in the natural realm is to be true in the spiritual realm. Jesus, the “2nd Adam” fruitfully multiplied himself with spiritual offspring that filled the earth. This spiritual multiplication by Jesus continues all around the world even to this day. Jesus, as a man, modeled staying connected with his heavenly Father and reproduced committed disciples, leaders for his church, shepherds for his sheep, and fishers of men who went out with good news in the power of the Spirit. Jesus practiced and modeled spiritual rhythms and disciplines of the word, prayer, and close relationships (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:1-21; 5:1-11; 9:23ff; John 21). He also modeled how to pass this on to others while out on mission in relational and natural ways among the unreached because his heavenly Father is a missionary God. God’s heart is a global heart. God’s plan and promises extend to all nations and we are to live as his “sent people” who reproduce ourselves for the evangelization of all people groups (Gen. 12:1-3; Ps. 96; Luke 24:44-49; Rom. 15:8-29; Rev. 5:9-10). Jesus said, “…as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” God being a global God, with a heart of love for all peoples, calls us to join him in the missional expansion of his good news locally and globally. He promises us his presence till the end of the age as we “make disciples of all nations” (John 20:21; Matt. 28:16-20). We are commanded to “make disciples,” not disciples of ourselves, but disciples of Jesus who keep vitally connected with him and obey his commands (John 15:1-11). Spiritual reproduction, not cloning, is our aim. We will embody and encourage reproduction of Jesus-like disciples, co-workers, families, cultural influencers, marketplace leaders, church equippers, missionaries, and pioneering church planting leaders and teams. This spiritual reproduction will bear good fruit as each individual branch abides the Vine - Jesus. The fruit of his life will then be reproduced with the Spirit’s help wherever we go and whatever our unique calling in life is (Luke 5:1-11; Matt. 13:33; 28:16-20; Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-4; 14:21-23; 19:8-10; Col. 1:3-8).
+ Structuring simply + sustainably
God’s creation and ecosystem is brimming with fruitful reproducing life. And, it also has necessary structure and order within living organisms throughout this system. We believe God’s life-giving Spirit indwells the people of Christ’s body on earth. Our church body is primarily a living, relational organism, yet there is necessary organization and structure required to function in our cultural context. However, since every believer is a “priest” and every member of Christ body is to be activated (non-profession/non-clergy), we will seek to avoid overly institutionalized static structures that inhibit participation, growth, multiplication, and expansion. We seek to avoid burning people out by fostering teams and collaboration and wise scheduling and sustainable rhythms. At times that will mean saying no to unsustainable overly complex approaches. We will also try to avoid unnecessary hierarchies and ineffective bureaucracies. Instead we will try to foster servant-leadership that seeks to equip and empower while still maintaining accountability and protecting the flock from wolves that are out of step with the gospel and the Holy Spirit. We will strive to use more lite-weight structures, simpler forms within a church ecosystem that facilitates mission, growth, participation, replication, and expansion of the gospel of Jesus (Matt. 13:33; Mark 10:35-45; I Cor. 16:19; Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 10:24-25; I Pet. 2:9-10).
+ Local, regional, global + church planting
We are a local expression of Christ’s church with a commitment to participate in planting churches regionally through SENT / www.sentnetwork.org and together with other like-minded kingdom friends and partnerships as God leads. We will also seek to collaborate with others to see the gospel of the kingdom expand into cultural tribes and cities outside our region and globally. We love and identify with Christ’s global church and want to see her healthy and expanding! A beautifully diverse global expression is seen in the Lausanne movement. We identify with Lausanne’s biblical teaching, thoughtful papers, and the humble attitude in which they are held. These were well stated by The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town, 16-25 October 2010) which brought together 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries, and extended to hundreds of thousands more, participating in meetings around the world, and online. It’s goal? To bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching - in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas. http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/ctcommitment.html
At times we may partner in initiatives or participate in conferences with true believers in Jesus who hold to or practice secondary positions differently than we do. This does not then mean we endorse everything these brothers and sisters practice or teach. We will encourage our church family to have both wise discernment and also humility. Discernment means we sift out the things that aren’t biblically aligned. Humility means we are open to growing ourselves where we may have blind spots or things to learn from God through others in various Christian streams outside ours.