Charter of the Local Church
The mission of this local church is best expressed by Paul in Romans 15:18-19
The character of this local church is best expressed in the following credo:
We generally accept those great doctrines of the Christian faith that have been adhered to from the beginning by all major branches of the Church. We receive and proclaim the Bible as the only inspired and authoritative revelation given to man by God, and we endeavor to conform all of our teaching and practice to its demands. All else that claims inspiration or authority must yield to the Bible.
We believe the major tenets of Christian doctrine are revealed in the following sixteen areas:
We believe that for each person, eternal life and inheritance of the kingdom of God depend upon:
We believe that bodily healing is provided in the atonement, and that James 5:13-16 is a pattern for the church today. This healing covenant does not preclude the use of medical science, but it does require all Christians to turn to the Lord in time of sickness, with an expectation that prayer and the laying-on of hands will facilitate their recovery.
We see two expressions of the church The universal Church, which is "the Body of Christ" on earth, built out of Christians from many denominations. Our local church is one small part of this greater world-wide church (Ephesians 1:22-23 ). The local church, which is "the Body of Christ" within its own community, called to be as Christ himself would be if her were ministering in person in that place (Romans 12:3-8). We do not ridicule denominational groupings, but we think that the main emphasis in scripture is upon individual local churches, and we are striving to be such a church, operating in harmony with biblical principles as God has enabled us to understand them.
We view the church as being primarily a worshiping community, and we believe that each local church can best fulfill its evangelistic mandate through the medium of powerful, charismatic worship (cp. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 ). To that end, we place a major emphasis upon creating a rich and mature worship-style, which will itself be an unmistakable witness of the presence of God, and will fully equip the people to carry Christ into their everyday world. We desire a worship-style that is joyful yet dignified, powerful yet reverent, one that combines the best of the old and of the new.
We believe that every Christian should receive a personal baptism in the Holy Spirit, additional to the new birth, after the pattern described in the book of Acts and taught in the New Testament letters.
We believe that the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit (the "charismata", 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 ) should be freely operative in the church, and that it is the presence of these gifts that particularly equips the church to be as Christ himself would be if he were ministering in our locality.
We rejoice in the restoration of biblical concepts of faith (Mark 11:22-24 ; Matthew 17:20-21 ; ohn 15:7-8 ; 16:23-24 ; etc.). Vigorous faith is the key to answered prayer and to successful appropriation of the many promises of God. Without such faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6 ). By faith alone can the world be overcome and the work of God properly done (1 John 5:4-5 ).
We believe it is God's ordinary intention that his people should enjoy prosperity and good health (3 John 2 ; John 10:10 ). However, the promises of prosperity do have certain conditions attached to them: such as, "delight yourself in the Lord" (Psalm 37:3-6 ); "abide in Christ" (John 15:4-7 ); be faithful in "tithes and offerings" (Malachi 3:6-12 ); Luke 6:38 ); etc. To this end, we teach people to be generous in their giving, to use the tithe as their standard, and in all things to trust God to meet their every needspiritual and material.
We affirm the world God has made, and we receive it with thanksgiving, believing that God has "given us all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17 ). We do not seek to impose a narrow conformism upon people, nor a restrictive legalism, but rather to help them to be all that God has made them to be, and to do all that God has given them to do. In general, we condemn only what is clearly condemned in scripture; otherwise, we allow people liberty to fulfill themselves in their own way, subject only to the principle of loving concern for one's neighbor (Romans 14:1-23 ).
Our aim is to create opportunities for every person to serve the church with whatever talent he or she has been given by Godwhether teaching, administration, hospitality, nurture, counseling, music, song, dance, art, drama, sculpture and so on (Romans 12:3-8 ).
All Christians are expected to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and to give to him alone their absolute allegiance. Our aim therefore is to disciple people to Christ, and to bring them to obedience to his will. Therefore, we do not aspire to disciple people to a church, nor to a creed, nor to any man. Nonetheless, as indicated below, it is rightly expected that the members of the church will ordinarily and gladly submit to the properly exercised oversight, ministry, and disciplines of the church. However, we also recognize that each Christian, in the exercise of his or her spiritual priesthood, must retain a right to dissent from any authority save that of conscience (1 John 2:27 ).
Although we respect other views on the subject of baptism, we believe that the weight of Biblical evidence favors believer's baptismthat is, baptism by full immersion subsequent to a responsible and personal confession of faith in Christ. We do not practice infant baptism, but we do encourage parents to bring their children to the Lord for a special act of dedication. We do not encourage re-baptism, unless there is some reason to believe that a person's baptism was void of divine grace. We do not believe that baptism is essential for salvation; but we do believe that when it is properly administered and received, baptism does become a channel of divine grace and carries the believer into a new dimension of spiritual experience. Thus baptism is less than an agent of regeneration, but more than a mere memorial. A particular quality of the life of Christ is conveyed to those who go through its waters in obedient faith.
Since communion is one of the few things that Christ specifically commanded his followers to do corporately, it seems unsuitable to relate it to an infrequent observance, or to treat it as a substantially unnecessary addendum to the regular church program. We do not believe that a person's salvation depends upon taking communion each week, but we do teach that communion is a powerful aid to dynamic Christian life, and that full maturity in Christ is hardly attainable without regular participation at the Lord's table. For the person who eats and drinks with faith, Christ is present in the bread and the wine, and the communicant becomes a partaker of his divine grace. We do not attempt to define the nature of this presence of Christ in the communion elements, but we affirm its reality (1 Corinthians 10:16 ; 11:29-30 ). Thus our view of communion is this:
We have little confidence in organized programs for church growth, but every confidence in the power of the preached word to draw men and women to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ). We recognize that our first and foremost mandate from Christ is to preach, that preaching is the highest office in the church, and that the power of God flows out of preaching (Acts 10:42 ; Romans 1:15-16 ; 10:8-17 ; 1 Corinthians 9:16 ; 2 Timothy 4:2 , etc.) We are content to allow God to grow the church as big as he pleases; but we are not so much committed to building one large church as we are to sponsoring similar churches, thus creating many more opportunities for people to serve Christ. We believe that God's program for national renewal is to plant thousands of local churches, each powerful in the gospel.
We are committed to unremitting collective and individual prayer as the under-girding source of all real life and all worthwhile endeavor in the church.
We believe that Christ will return to this earth at the end of the age, and that his return will result in the rapture of the church, the resurrection of the dead, the judgments of God, and the establishment of the eternal kingdom of God. We do not adhere to any particular system of prophetic interpretation, and we respect the diverse views that Christians have on these matters. We seek only the glory of God, by striving to present men and women to him perfected in Christ.
The Senior Pastor
This church is set in order under the authority of the Bible and at the request of a company of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, on the following principles: it is to be scripturally independent as to its faith and government (Hebrews 6:12 ; Ephesians 4:11-12 ; 1 Corinthians 12:18-20 ); and in accord with the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of 1 Corinthians as to its conduct and practice; and in co-operative fellowship with other bodies of believers who are "earnestly contending for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3 ). The government of the church is in the hands of the senior pastor, who has ultimate authority under Christ. He acts as chairman of all meetings of the church, except that he has the right to delegate that function to any other person. No person may be invited to speak, preach, perform, or otherwise minister in the church without the consent of the senior pastor. In general, the senior pastor is expected to exercise his authority in conjunction with other senior ministers and/or officers of the church, and with the consent of the congregation. Neither the pastors nor the congregation have absolute authority within the church, but each should be willing at times to submit to the other, and all must submit to Christfor authority in the church is neither autocratic, nor oligarchic, nor democratic, but theocratic. The church has only one prevailing task: to find the will of God, and to do it.
Following from above - We recognize four kinds of authority in the church.
The Absolute Authority of Christ
Christ alone can be and must be the Chief Shepherd of the flock of God.
The Delegated Authority of the Under-shepherd
Christ chooses to express his authority through men and women who are his gift to the church (see Philippians 1:1 ; Hebrews 13:17 ; Matthew 18:18 ; Acts 20:28 ; 1 Corinthians 16;16 ; Ephesians 4:11-12 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ; etc.) The people are expected to yield to the authority of their bishop/pastor/minister/elder/presbyter/overseer (those terms are nearly synonymous in the New Testament). In this church we choose to call the person who occupies the office of bishop or chief overseer, the "senior pastor." The authority given to the senior pastor in scripture is forceful, and in all matters relevant to the spiritual life of the church, to its mission and growth, its discipline and order, his rule (when it is properly exercised) should be obeyed.
The Advisory Authority of Those Appointed to Leadership
Since authority vested in one man alone may easily become tyranny (1 Peter 5:3 ), and since scripture commends the wisdom found in many counselors (Proverbs 11:14 ; 24:6 ), and since there are diverse gifts and ministries in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:14-27 ), the senior pastor is expected to work with a team of dedicated people who are mature enough to be appointed as leaders in the church. The New Testament clearly indicates that the full oversight of a local church should be vested in such a plural eldership, or ministry-team (Philippians 1:1 ; Acts 20:28 ; Titus 1:5 ). This collective leadership (headed by the senior pastor) creates a source of immense spiritual power (Matthew 18:18-20 ).
The Priestly Authority of the People
The pastors and leaders must recognize the priesthood of each believer (1 Peter 2:9 ; Revelation 1:6 ; 5:10 ; 20:6 ; Hebrews 10:19-23 ; Romans 5:1-5 ; Hebrews 4:16 ; etc.). This priesthood means that the people need no intermediary except Christ to represent them before God. Hence God may speak to the church at any time through the humblest sainthe is not bound to speak only to or through "official" channels. Hence, each member must be allowed a voice, and godly leaders will always be attentive to the voice of the people, and willing to obey at once if God's word should come to the church from that source. Yet final decisions must remain with the oversight, and ultimately with the senior pastor, who is responsible under God for the welfare of the church.
The Church Must Function as a Theocracy
In any growing congregation there will be people at all stages of spiritual growth and maturity.
For that reason, it is usually not proper to submit the affairs of the church to a democratic vote, for the purpose of the church is not to do the will of the majority, but the will of God. However, there will, no doubt, be issues from time to time in which the oversight might deem it advisable to learn the will of the people, and in which a democratic vote might be the best way to discover the will of God; therefore . . . The leaders of the church are required to give freedom to the people to express themselves in love, and to offer any constructive criticism or helpful comment. The leaders are required to listen to the people with respect, and to be sensitive to the possibility that the Holy Spirit may be speaking to the church through any one of them.
Conditions For Membership
The church membership is comprised of those persons who
New church members shall be brought into membership by the laying on of hands of the pastors in a previously announced open meeting of the church. Applicants for church membership shall acknowledge publicly their commitment to the beliefs and practices of this church, and shall voluntarily and publicly confess their submission to the pastors and other recognized leaders in matters pertaining to doctrine and Christian conduct. The pastors, together with the recognized leadership of the church, shall pledge themselves to shepherd, counsel and instruct the members in the ways of God. Existing church members shall acknowledge their acceptance of the candidate(s) for membership and shall commit themselves to love, nourish and care for the new members.
The Biblical Pattern
Scripturally exercised discipline is one of the marks of a true church (Matthew 18:15-20 ; Romans 16:17-18 ; 1 Corinthians 5:1-3 ; Galatians 1:8-9 ; 6:1 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 ; 1 Timothy 5:19-21 ; Titus 3:1-5 ). Therefore, discipline in this church is governed by the following principles: Church members who willfully absent themselves from the regular services for a period of three consecutive months or withhold their financial support for the same amount of time, are subject to suspension from membership and corresponding privileges. Unscriptural conduct or departure from the tenets of faith held by this church will be considered sufficient grounds upon which any person may be disqualified as a church member. Unscriptural conduct necessary for church disciplinary action includes, but is not limited to:
The correct procedure for church discipline is described in Matthew 18:16-20 ; Romans 16:17-18 ; 1 Corinthians 2:6 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:12 . Those scriptures indicate that the following steps should be taken: The offending individual should be approached, initially by the one who has been offended, and they should strive to achieve a private reconciliation. If reconciliation is not achieved, then two or three others (especially pastors or leaders) should meet with both parties and seek to achieve a reconciliation. If reconciliation is not made at this point, the matter should be brought before all of the pastors and/or leadership and then, if necessary, before the entire church. The offending member who refuses to be reconciled should then be separated from the fellowship of the church until there is repentance and reconciliation. When there is repentance and reconciliation it should be confirmed by the pastors and/or leadership, and the separated person may then be welcomed back into membership and fellowship.
This entire Article, dealing with membership and discipline, is based on the premise that all of the members of the church, along with its pastors and leaders, have a duty to care for each other, to admonish and exhort each other in the Lord, and to preserve the integrity, purity, and unity of the church. Entering into membership in the church means entering into a covenant to minister to each other's spiritual needs. None are excluded from that duty. Note also that each new church member enters into this covenant by mutual consent with the whole church. A member cannot therefore disengage himself from the covenant unilaterally, but only with the consent or by the determination of the church (acting through its leaders).
Resignation of Members
In harmony with the above, a church member cannot resign from membership simply to avoid church discipline. Resignation from membership does not become effective until it is accepted by the pastors and/or leadership. However, except where matters of discipline are involved, the leadership may not willfully withhold that acceptance.
Methods of Discipline
At the discretion of the senior pastor or his delegated representative, church discipline may take one or more of the following forms:
ORDINATION OF MINISTERS
The Purpose of Ordination
This church, through and by its overseers, has the right to ordain, license, or otherwise credential Christian workers and ministers. The purposes of the ordination are to assist in attaining the goals of the church as set forth in the Articles of this Charter; to give legal and scriptural authority to the ministries of the church; to establish fellowship among Christian workers; to provide to a standardization of doctrine; to encourage the upgrading of ministerial standards; and to provide the education and experience necessary to equip potential ministers.
Two Classes of Credentials
There are two classes of credentials:
This may be issued following a stated period of training and instruction. The license authorizes an individual to fulfill certain ministry functions, such as preaching, teaching, and counseling, but without being classified as one of the ministry-gifts as recorded in Ephesians 4:11-12 . A licensed minister is expected to function as a member of the ministry team in a local church, and should normally be under the authority of a fully ordained minister.
Ordination recognizes the development of the ministry-gift of an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher (Ephesians 4:11-12 ). An ordained pastor is expected to fulfill all of the duties required of a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of a shepherd of the flock of God (Acts 20:28-29 ; 2 Timothy 4:1-5 ), taking leadership of the church with authority tempered by humility and the grace of the Christ (1 Peter 5:2-4 ).
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