These are the key principles, derived from our understanding of what the Bible teaches, that shape our approach to ministry as a church.
A High View of Scripture
We believe that the Scriptures are not only inerrant as God's very word, but that this inerrancy makes them authoritative over every area of life. We strive to ask "What does the Scripture say?" as a filter for all of our decisions as a church. We must not make our choices based upon cues from what we have learned from living in the world or the ideas of other people, but from the truths learned from God's word.
The Scriptures are sufficient for church ministry. This means that the church is to preach, disciple, counsel, and proclaim the gospel only with truths found in the Bible, and to trust that God's word is sufficient to do everything he desires for the church to do. It also means that the church rejects any modern claims to new revelation and trusts the Bible as its only rule of faith and practice.
Because the Scriptures are authoritative and sufficient, the church's teaching must be expository; that is, it must set forth and explain the word of God. The full authority of the word of God demands that it must be known, understood rightly, and obeyed by all in the church, without omitting any parts of it. Because God's word is sufficient to instruct and equip believers for ministry, it is this word that must be taught to them if the church is to function properly.
A High View of God
God is not like man and should not be treated as though he were. Though man bears God's image, God is distinct from his creatures in their nature and their sinfulness. The church's worship and conduct before God must contain an attitude of dreadful awe at his majesty and glory. Further, the church should reflect God's holiness and purity in its conduct and in the way it responds to sin within the church.
God's standard of righteousness is his own perfect character. Christians, who claim to know and love God, must respond to God's holiness and righteousness by shunning sin and exercising all legitimate biblical means to persuade others to do the same, beginning with preaching the gospel to them so that they might believe and thereby have the power to obey God's word.
God is sovereign over everything in his universe, including the actions of all his creatures. Nothing happens outside of his control or his eternal plan to do good to all those who would one day come to know him. This drives us to humility, worship, and trust in his ability and desire to do good for his people.
God's love exceeds that of any of his creatures and is completely perfect in all its expressions. God's love is demonstrated most powerfully in the giving of his son, Jesus Christ, for the sake of sinners. Believers must let this drive their thinking and living: they are to know both that God's love for them is unchanging and abounding and also that this love compels them not to live for themselves but for Christ. God's undeserved love toward believers is the model for their own love toward one another and all people.
A Proper Understanding of Conversion
The nature of man
Man was created righteous, but through Adam's fall, man's nature is corrupt and will not respond properly to God or to his word. His efforts at self-reformation are all self-serving and he cannot change his fundamental nature on his own.
The nature of salvation
Because man is wicked, he will view the gospel of Christ as foolish apart from the divine intervention that takes place at conversion, as the Spirit of God opens the sinner's heart to believe the gospel and to radically transform his entire nature. Because only God can bring about this change, Christians can and must confidently proclaim the fullness of the gospel without fear that it will be too hard for people to believe. God is therefore also to receive full credit for every person who has ever been saved. The church must also reject any kind of manipulation as deceptive and ultimately ineffectual.
The necessity of evangelism
Salvation is found in hearing of and believing in Christ alone, and therefore the gospel must be preached. The church must be eager, truthful, and kind in its evangelistic efforts, and proclaim the whole gospel to as many people as it can. Because the Holy Spirit uses God's word to bring regeneration and change a sinful heart into a believing one, the church must be fervent about proclaiming the word.
The nature of faith
Salvation is by faith alone, but this is more than mere assent to facts. Faith in Christ is that which is always accompanied by repentance, as the sinner believes God's command to turn from sin and trust in Christ. In so doing, the sinner recognizes Christ as Lord, counts the cost of becoming a follower of Christ, and commits to follow him as the only Savior. Christians must proclaim these truths as part of the gospel.
The nature of believers
Because believers are new spiritual creatures, they will have new desires resulting in new, godly actions. Though they still battle sin in the flesh, there is in all believers a real and growing desire to honor Christ in obedience to his word.
The Priority of the Local Church
God's view of the church
The church is the instrument through which Christ carries out his command to "make disciples." It is the bride whom Christ loved and therefore for whom Christ gave his life. It is of the highest value to God in this world and therefore believers are to regard it with the highest value as well.
The Christian's need of the church
The local church is the place in which Christians receive their necessary encouragement - from preaching and teaching, from corporate singing and prayer, and from growing together with "one another" in the church in myriad ways. Therefore a believer's life should be oriented around his involvement in the local church. Refusal to do so places a person in a very dangerous position and deprives others in the body of the needed ministry they are gifted to exercise.
The mission of the church
The mission of the church is to make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. All church activities must keep this mission in mind and be tested by it. These things take place as the church is edified and equipped by the word of God and as it evangelizes by the word of God. Therefore, the church must deliberately take time both for teaching believers and for taking the gospel to unbelievers. If it neglects either of these responsibilities, even for the other, it will fail in its task.
The Necessity of Continual Prayer
God has ordained prayer as a primary means through which he accomplishes the things he desires according to his word. It is the church's proper place to submit itself to God through praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, as well as making requests to God for what is needed and what seems honoring to the Lord.
Believers are to pray for one another as well as going to the Lord in private to pray to him. A vibrant church will only come from vibrant believers, and these come only as far as people pray.
A Proper View of Church Leadership
Number and qualifications
We believe in the crucial importance of a plurality of godly leaders whom the Bible calls "elders" (as well as "pastors" and "overseers"). These men must be qualified according to biblical standards and are to work together with their varying gifts to care for and lead the church of God with servants' attitudes.
These men are entrusted with authority in their own local church according to what is charged in the word of God, and it is to be used not for their own benefit but that of the church. Those under their authority in the church are to gladly submit for the eternal benefit of all involved. The giving of this authority demands the very careful testing of men who would be placed into this kind of leadership role.
The elders of the church are to model godliness and to speak the truth of God to the rest of the church. Proper biblical leadership does not do everything in the church, but rather does everything in its power to equip believers for the work of ministry, which is what causes the growth of the church.
Because of this important function it should be the priority of elders to encourage others to pursue this kind of leadership and to train them for the responsibility. The truths of God's word are to be put into the hands of faithful men who will teach others these truths also. They are to be exhorted in godly living, as well as a constant, accurate, and growing knowledge of the Bible.
The Imminence of Christ's Return
The church is to live and function with the recognition that it is not in its permanent home. It must be careful to remember that its reward is as yet unseen and its true impact and effectiveness only known in the age to come. It must not seek after the passing things of this present age, but rather the reward of the Lord Jesus when he comes. It must be willing to endure loss in this life to honor the Lord and proclaim Christ to people who need his salvation. It must seek to transform not earthly institutions, which will pass away, but the hearts of people, which will endure to eternal life.
The coming of the Lord brings urgency in gospel proclamation in light of the judgment that he will bring. It also encourages the Christian to faithful Christian labor, no matter how difficult, knowing that even death will not remove the believer's reward if he does not lose heart.
The coming of the Lord also must cause a holy and godly conduct in believers as they look to the new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells. They know that there is a judgment coming in which they will give an account for all their deeds. Therefore they strive to live in readiness, not being caught off guard, but looking for the Lord's coming and acting accordingly.