OUR CONFESSION expressed in OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH:
“There are many things which a person can do alone, but being a Christian is not one of them. The Christian life is, above all things, a state of union with Christ, and of union of his followers with one another.”
William T. Ham
“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all. And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Our faith in Jesus Christ is deeply personal, but it is never private. Christian faith is concretely embodied and expressed in our participation in worship, sharing fellowship in the church community and our commitment to practical discipleship. Here we want to briefly describe what this means for us.
To come together for celebration as a church, for corporate worship and preaching, is absolutely central to the life of the Church. In the worship service we encounter God through His Word and His Spirit. At the heart of the worship service is the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s benevolence towards us. Through the habit of regular worship we are anchored in the biblical story of creation, fall, redemption and the renewal of all things. The glory of God is exalted, the Word of God is preached and God’s grace is extended through worship, prayer, confession, preaching, baptism and communion. Everything that happens in the worship service is based on and formed by God’s Word.
“The true treasure of the church is the holy gospel of God’s grace and God’s glory”
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Sing the Word
The songs help us lift our eyes from ourselves to God. The purpose of the songs is not to entertain but to stem our hearts in a mode of worship. Worship songs should be perceived as teachers because they do not only help us set the tone and pace but also shape the words of our praises. Therefore, the songs we use in worship are carefully considered and selected based on both melody and theology. We let the great treasure of songs from both past and present enrich our worship.
Pray the Word
In prayer, we use both free and written prayers. In the common prayers we exalt God for who he is, give thanks for everything he does, confess our sins and shortcomings, receive his forgiveness and renewal. We take hold of God’s promises and present our needs, devote ourselves to God’s providential will and thank him for his mercy and faithfulness towards us. We pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus filled with the Spirit on the basis of the Word.
Read the Word
We explicitly declare our high view of the Scripture, by following Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to be devoted to “the public reading of Scripture.” To stand up in reverence and listen to when God’s Word is read, without comments or expositions, distinctly separates God’s Word from human words. This gives Scripture a central and exalted place in both our services and our consciousness, as the highest authority for doctrine and life.
Preach the Word
When the sermon text is read from the Scripture, an expository sermon follows. We want to convey the text’s timeless truths, interpreted in its historical and linguistic context, with an address and application for our time and our lives. We’ll let the text speak and decide the theme of the sermon. We believe that the preaching of the Word is not just a speech and information about God, but that God through the Word and the Spirit creates faith and brings Christ’s life to us.
Practice the Word
The sacraments; baptism and communion, make the Word of God visible and remind us practically and physically of the promises of God. We believe that they are more than void symbols, but rather sacred means where Jesus Christ in a special way is present through the Holy Spirit and imparts his life to us. We also practice the Word through devoting time for prayer and ministering to people, where we expect the Holy Spirit’s presence and workings through spiritual gifts. Once we have received from the Lord, we also want to be involved and generously give of our resources to God’s work locally and globally through the collection.
When the New Testament speaks of community and fellowship, and uses the Greek word “koinonia”, it does not aim at social relationships in general. It speaks of a unity created by the Spirit and an inclusion that makes us brothers and sisters. The Church is not like a family – it’s a family. Spiritual unity and community can be preserved and facilitated but never created; it is the work of the Spirit. Therefore, Paul urges us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The following character traits of our community are both a fruit of the unity of the Spirit and structures to facilitate this unity.
A prioritized fellowship – the sharing of time
All relationships and communities need continual and regular time to be built up and flourish. Time is always in short supply, even though it is the most democratic allocated of all the assets we have. We must therefore chose and prioritize the fellowship. Everything we invest time in naturally grows.
A generous fellowship – the sharing of resources
There is a big difference in a community where one demands that, “all you have is mine” and a community where one voluntarily offers that, “everything I have is yours.” This is not a political or ideological program that takes from the rich and gives to the poor. This is the gospel understanding that all I have is a gift that I steward to ease someone else’s lack and needs. True understanding of God’s grace manifests itself in radical generosity towards my neighbor, as well as in serving the church by contributing my time, talent and resources.
A sacrificial fellowship – the sharing of love
The Church is not a homogeneous community for people with similar interests, of the same age range, social class or the same culture. The church is a motley crew where diversity is something to celebrate. The foundation of our unity and the only thing we have in common is that we are all sinners who have a desperate need for Christ. We do not accept each other because we are free from prejudice, and do not love each other because we are so loving or loveable. We love because He loved us first. A love that came to its deepest expression at the cross. A love that took our guilt upon himself and paid it in full. A love that tore down walls, built bridges and did all that was required for our reconciliation. Community is therefore based not primarily on requirements, but on a sacrificial love that rests on God’s grace.
A caring fellowship – the sharing of needs
Caring is daring. Daring to disturb. Daring to ask. Daring to share and to be honest. A community so soaked and shaped by grace that I understand that I have nothing to hide, prove or defend, in fear of being condemned and rejected. A community where it is as natural to celebrate someone’s success as to carry one another’s burdens, to share in someone’s pain or suffering as well as to express one’s own needs.
A worshiping fellowship – the sharing of faith
To worship together is one of the absolute highlights of the week, when we together come before God. We find faith, hope and love in Christ by the Spirit and the Word through songs, prayers, confession, forgiveness, sermon, communion and thanksgiving.
An everyday fellowship – the sharing of hospitality
Church life is not limited to the Sunday worship but also includes the everyday fellowship. Through personal, real and relaxed relationships where you share both the riches of faith and the realities of life, the kingdom of God grows and expands, in and through us.
Jesus formulates the call to discipleship with two words:”Follow me” and the mission of discipleship with another two words: “Make disciples”. Discipleship is simply a practical expression of that Jesus is Lord. A life of faith and obedience where his teaching gives birth to and shapes this life, and the words are clothed in flesh and blood. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life-follow me!” Jesus is the way that we follow. Jesus is the truth in which we trust. Jesus is the life that we receive. The way that leads us home. The truth that sets us free. The Life that is abundant and eternal.
The platform for discipleship – the local church
Disciples are not formed in remote monasteries, but in the midst of church life. Not in individual solitude but in everyday life and community, participating and serving in the different responsibilities and ministries of the local church.
To follow Christ but denounce and reject the Church is deeply contradictory. One cannot be in Christ but remain outside his body. One cannot be an anonymous pilgrim who runs around in search for the ideal environment having unrealistic expectations of other people. We all need to be part of a real, everyday church community where we live and do life.
The driving force of discipleship – regeneration
Discipleship is the natural consequence of becoming new creations in Christ. We have, through God’s Word and God’s Spirit been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, and therefore there is an inherent, natural desire to follow Christ. If this is lacking, one has not yet been affected by God’s amazing grace and regenerating power, and is rather in need of the gospel than discipleship.
The goal of discipleship – the glory of God
By nature we are all looking for our own glory and it is not natural for us to deny ourselves. But true discipleship does not create admirers of the disciple but of the master. We lose ourselves in our awe of Christ. The main purpose of discipleship is to glorify God in whatever we do and in all of life’s circumstances find our deepest satisfaction and greatest joy in Him.
The fruit of discipleship – changed lives
Faith brings change in our lives and produces fruit and good works. Just like that we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners, so we are not saved because we do good works but we do good works because we are saved. Our faith is made visible through our good works, but it is not the root of righteousness but the fruit of righteousness.
The call to discipleship – chosen by God
Discipleship is based on a call from Christ and not on an idea from ourselves. It is he who has called and chosen us, not we who have chosen him. Jesus rather raised the demands of discipleship than lowered them. He warns of the consequences rather than pointing to attractive perks and benefits. He calls for examination and counting of the cost. Discipleship would be an impossible task if it wasn’t for Christ himself who took hold of us and called us.
The fuel for discipleship – Word and Spirit
God’s Word and the Spirit gives fodder and shape to our discipleship. Doctrine and life are not in opposition; rather a maturing faith is the condition for authentic discipleship. Discipleship is our ongoing response to God’s work in us. Under God’s Word and Spirit our faith is nourished and strengthened and we are shaped and equipped for radical discipleship.
The expression of discipleship – imitating Christ
To follow Christ and to be formed into His image is the core of discipleship. We are in constant motion, on the journey towards that Christ more and more takes shape in us. Discipleship is a life of tension between the “already” and “not yet.” Already, we are declared fully justified in Christ simultaneously we are fully sinners and yet not righteous in ourselves. Along the way, we are constantly being reminded of our weaknesses, experience sinful desires and tempted to compromise. If we look at ourselves we fall, but if we lift our eyes and look at Jesus we will conquer. Therefore, every day we need to turn away from ourselves and identify with and follow Christ.
The test of discipleship – endure hardship
While today’s Christianity often seems preoccupied with prosperity, popularity and power, the New Testament discipleship is marked by poverty, persecution and prison cells. The pages of the Bible and church’s history are stained by the blood of martyrs. God never promised us a life of permanent prosperity but rather prepared us for regular adversity. Discipleship will be tried and tested. A faith that’s never been tested can never truly be trusted. The testing of our faith is done to affirm the genuineness of our faith and reveal shortcomings. When dealing with adversity rightly, it leads to a deepening of the faith- we will flee to Christ instead of fleeing from Christ. Let us observe carefully how we handle trials and suffering – it says a lot about what we really believe, where we turn to for comfort and look for joy.
The effect of discipleship – inspiring role model
It could easily be tough, false and hypocritical when we intensely strive to be role models and examples for others. We lose sight of the one we follow (Christ) and become fully occupied by the ones following us (people). If we are not careful, we soon start living to impress people instead of living for God’s glory. A life focused on the glorification of God and in the imitation of Christ often leads to the natural consequence that others are inspired to follow Christ like these blissfully unaware role models follow Christ.
The mission of discipleship – make disciples
Christ’s call and mission for us can be formulated in two words: Make disciples! It is not about drawing visitors, creating crowds, recruiting members or counting fans. Paul’s life is portrayed in his three major missionary journeys through the contemporary world of his time. Wherever he came, he preached the gospel, baptized those who came to faith, planted churches, taught the Word of God and made disciples. Our mission is to proclaim the gospel of God’s grace and love in Jesus Christ, making disciples, planting new churches and reaching cities to the ends of the earth, so that God’s Word is spread and the whole earth is filled with God’s glory.
This mission we fulfill personally and collectively, on Sundays and in everyday life, locally and globally, spontaneous and relationally as well as structured and organizationally.
The growth of discipleship – continual repentance
“All of life is a life of repentance” Martin Luther
The human heart is a factory of idols. This is the origin of all sin – to turn away from God and create other gods before him. An idol is often something good that we turn into something so central and important to us that it starts to control us. We put our hope and trust in these idols and seek in them security, satisfaction and significance, rather than in God. Therefore we need to live a life of confession and repentance. We are guilty of this sin again and again and often these idols are the invisible root of many other more visible sins.
The future hope of discipleship – the return of Jesus Christ
Our hope, our comfort and our confidence is the return of Jesus Christ. Then evil and injustice will forever be dispelled. Only then will we see peace and justice prevail and reign all over the earth. Then all tears shall be wiped away, all suffering will come to an end, all sin and evil will be punished and all the beauty and glory will be restored in a new heaven and a new earth.
Therefore, the return of Jesus is our hope and not a horror, our comfort and not a catastrophe. Only then will everything that is deeply wrong with us and the world be turned completely right. Everything that has fallen under sin shall be restored to complete righteousness and glory. This is our consolation! This is our hope! This is our confidence! We lift our eyes to heaven and pray: Come, Lord Jesus, come!
This life we are committed to live by God’s grace for God’s glory.