We believe the church was started with Jesus and His disciples (Matthew 16:18). God purchased the church with the blood of His own Son (Acts 20:28). Christ loves, nourishes, and cherishes the church (Ephesians 5:25, 29), and will present it to himself (Ephesians 4:27).
In scripture, the church is viewed individually (specifically) and institutionally (generally). The vast majority of scripture that deals with the church refers to a local congregation of baptized believers. The English word church is derived from the Greek word kyriakon, which means “belonging to the Lord.” The only two uses of that word (kyriakon) in the New Testament occur in 1 Corinthians 11:20 (referring to the Lord’s Supper) and Revelation 1:10 (referring to the Lord’s Day). The Greek word ekklesia is used almost exclusively in reference to a body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). However there are two times in the New Testament where it is used in a non-religious sense (Acts 19:39, 41). The word ekklesia means “a called-out assembly.” Therefore, a church is a body of believers, a people of God’s own possession, who have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light, for the purpose of showing forth His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9).
The Purpose of the Church
First, We believe that the church exists to glorify Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:20-21). This is accomplished through worship. The entire life of the believer ought to be lived as an act of worship to God (Romans 12:1-2). A church should gather on the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10; 1 Corinthians 16:1; Acts 20:7), to reverently and joyfully (Psalm 2:11; Hebrews 12:28-29) worship God as a congregation by singing (Colossians 3:16), praying (Acts 2:42; I Timothy 2:1-8), giving (I Corinthians 16:2), hearing God’s Word preached (Acts 2:42; 2 Timothy 4:2), and responding to the scripture with a surrendered heart (Romans 12:1-2; Job 1:20-22; James 1:22-24).
Second, we believe that the church exists to make disciples. A church is called to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth (“go” Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 13:1-3). All believers are called to be ambassadors for Christ; therefore, all believers are to proclaim and to practice the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20; Acts 1:8). Making disciples includes sharing the gospel, baptizing believers and teaching believers to observe all of His commands (Matthew 28:19-20).The goal of ministry is the building up of the body to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Peter 1:1-12). This maturity comes primarily through the teaching and preaching of the scriptures (Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:15). God has equipped every believer with a spiritual gift to be used in the building up of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10). We believe that every believer should be involved in their local church ministry. The proper working of every part causes the growth of the body (Ephesians 4:16; Hebrews 3:13). When a church is functioning properly, believers will be edifying one another to love and to do good works in light of the return of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:22-25).
We We believe that every believer should be baptized and intricately a part of a community of believers called the church (Acts 2:41-42). Though membership is not described in great detail in the New Testament, it is necessary to achieve true and meaningful accountability (Hebrews 13:17; Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:6). Membership reflects the emphasis of the New Testament on the commitment and connection of the members of the body one to another (1 Corinthians 12:26; Ephesians 4:16).
We believe that a church member who is living in sin should be confronted, and if unrepentant, disciplined (Matthew 18:15-17). After confrontation by the individual, then by a few, and then by the church, the member must be excluded from the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Matthew 15:17). Church discipline is not to be done out of anger, but out of love, for the purpose of restoration (2 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Galatians 6:1). Therefore, it should be done in gentleness and humility (Galatians 6:1). The ultimate goal of church discipline is purity in the church (1 Corinthians 5:6).
Overseers → Elders → Congregation → Deacons
We believe that the Overseers are called to protect doctrinal purity, train leaders, and help maintain unity within the churches (as demonstrated above). The Elders work together to lead the congregation that God has placed them over by feeding the flock of God, counseling it’s members, making disciples, training leaders, edifying the saints, and winning the lost. The congregation is responsible to follow the Overseers and Elders by partnering with them and doing the work of God (Heb. 13:17). All believers are called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19) and exercise their gifts in the church (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:4). The congregation is called to elect their own Deacons (Acts 6:3), aid in matters of church discipline (Matt. 18:17), and faithfully give toward the needs of the ministry (Acts 2:45; 4:35).
The Distinction between Elders and Overseers
The New Testament demonstrates that all Overseers are Elders, but not all Elders are Overseers. Paul was intentional in making a distinction between the term ἐπισκοπή (Overseer) and πρεσβύτερος (Elder). Though these terms can be used interchangeably for the same man (Titus 1:5,7), that is not the case in every circumstance (Phil. 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1). It should also be noted that every Elder should maintain qualification to be considered for the role of Overseer (Titus 1:5,7). The Apostles placed Overseers (Bishops) in different regions of the world that were responsible for maintaining doctrinal purity (1 Tim. 1:3; 4:6; 6:3), appointing other Overseers and Elders (Titus 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:2), helping maintain unity and support in all the churches (2 Tim. 2:14), helping the local churches deal with leaders who fall into sin or false doctrine (1 Tim. 5:13), and to train leaders and church planters to continue the work of the gospel (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 2:2).
The Overseers were often in a plurality (Acts 20:28) and would assemble together to find common ground and unity on gospel matters (Acts 15:1-41). Examples of Overseers in the New Testament were James in Jerusalem, Titus on the Island of Crete, and Timothy in Ephesus. Though we recognize the Apostles are no longer in the world, their pattern of appointing Overseers can be clearly seen throughout Church History (Mark in Alexandria, Clement in Rome, Polycarp in Smyrna, etc…). We believe that this pattern of church government should be continued in our churches today.
The primary responsibility of a deacon is to care for the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-6). This allows the pastor to devote himself to the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:2-3). The qualifications for a pastor are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and in Titus 1:6-9. The qualifications of a deacon are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.