Doctrinal Distinctives

"What we teach"

The statement below does not indicate what we require all family members to affirm, rather it indicates the doctrinal distinctives that are important for us as a local church to affirm and teach in accordance with the scriptures. In order to be a family member, you do not need to affirm all of the statements below; however, you do need to commit to not be divisive over these issues. These distinctives are affirmed by our network affiliation, SOMA.

1.0 GOSPEL-CENTERED THEOLOGY

We believe the Gospel is the good news of what God has graciously accomplished for sinners, not instruction for what man must do to be right with God. Through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, God has accomplished our forgiveness from sin and complete justification. This Gospel is also the foundation for our confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom and the consummation of his purpose for all creation in the new heavens and new earth.

 

This Gospel is centered in Christ, is the foundation for the life of the Church, and is our only hope for eternal life; this Gospel is not proclaimed if Christ’s penal substitutionary death and bodily resurrection are not central to our message. This Gospel is not only the means by which people are saved, but also the truth and power by which people are sanctified; it is the truth of the Gospel that enables us to genuinely and joyfully do what is pleasing to God and to grow in progressive conformity to the image of Christ.

 

We stand with the Protestant reformers and affirm that the salvation offered in this Gospel message is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; no ordinance, ritual, work, or any other activity on the part of man is required in order to be saved.

 

(Mark 1:1; Luke 24:46-47; John 3:16-18; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; 9:13; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 1: 7-10; Colossians 1: 19-20; 2 Timothy 1:8-14; 2 Peter 3: 11-13; Jude 3-4; Revelation 21-22)

  

2.0 ALREADY-NOT-YET ESCHATOLOGY

We believe the Kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus’ first coming and will be consummated in his second coming. We live in the in-between where we can experience the reign of Jesus while longing for its completion as we also experience the reality that things are not yet fully as they will be within the new heaven and new earth. We acknowledge the variety of views within inaugurated eschatology and allow for this variety within our family.

 

While on this earth, we work toward God’s purposes, in his ways, with his character, for his glory in all spheres of life. Part of this means pursuing diversity as a church so that we can picture the diversity of heaven in our worship. We want to get as close to heaven on earth as we can. However, this world is not our home. We live for the eternal future promised for the church of God. Our trust is not in this life but in the life to come. We look forward to that day.

 

We believe the scriptures teach that Christ will return bodily at a time appointed by (and known only by) the Father. All believers saved by God’s sovereign grace will go on to live eternally with God in the new heavens and new earth in complete joy and worship. All those who reject the grace of God in Christ will go on to eternal death and the lake of fire, a place of eternal torment. It is these realities that constitute our hope in this life and our fervor in proclaiming the gospel to a lost and dying world. We await the coming of Christ in hope and anticipation, longing for the day when all things are made new.

 

(Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matt. 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thess. 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Rev. 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13)

3.0 HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED MINISTRY

The Holy Spirit is fully God, equal with the Father and Son, whose primary ministry is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He also convicts unbelievers of their need for Christ and imparts spiritual life through regeneration (the new birth). We have been adopted as sons/daughters and by the indwelling Holy Spirit cry out “Abba, Father.” The indwelling Holy Spirit graciously sanctifies, lovingly leads, comforts, convicts, and empowers all who are brought to faith in Christ so that they might live in obedience to all Christ commanded. The Holy Spirit empowers the mission of making disciples.

 

The Holy Spirit who indwelt and empowered Christ in like manner indwells and empowers believers. Additionally, He has bestowed spiritual gifts on believers for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available today, but not one of them in particular is required to give evidence of the baptism or filling of the Spirit. The gifts are divine provisions central to spiritual growth and effective ministry and are to be eagerly desired, faithfully developed, and lovingly exercised according to biblical guidelines.

 

(Matthew 3:11; 12:28; Luke 4:1, 14; 5:17; 10:21; John 1:12-13; 3:1-15, 34; 14:12; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8; 2:14-21; 4:29-30;10:38; Romans 8:9, 15, 26-27; 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-13; 12:28-31; 14:1-33; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 3:1-5; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 5:18)

4.0 COMMUNITY-BASED DISCIPLESHIP

Disciples of Jesus increasingly submit to Him in all of life, are being changed by Him, obey Him, and teach others to do the same. Discipleship is the process of bringing all of life under the lordship and empowering presence of Jesus Christ. There is no biblical category for a Christian who pursues this process apart from a local church. Because of this, we believe that pursuing local community is vital to discipleship.

 

The role of family membership

In order to pursue discipleship in a faithful way (in keeping with the NT church), all believers are called to covenant together with a local assembly of believers in a meaningful way. The local church is called to affirm both the gospel profession and gospel progression of all that it would consider its “members.” This also becomes the foundation by which church discipline can be appropriately practiced in line with biblical values and principles.

 

The role of small groups

All that the local church is biblically called to do in discipleship can not be accomplished alone in the Sunday morning gathering. Because of this, believers in a local congregation must live life together in smaller groups during the week. Missional Communities and DNA groups create an environment where life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission can occur for the purpose of discipleship and, therefore, we believe they are important for all members.

 

  • Life-on-life. Being together in the everyday allows for visibility and accessibility. We see each other’s lives in the everyday stuff so that people know what it looks like to follow Jesus in all of life. With familiarity and accountability, we are able to assess and encourage growth in discipleship.

  • Life-in-community. One on one discipleship will lead to a disciple looking like the one who discipled them. Community discipleship will lead to disciples looking more like Jesus as he works through the diverse people and gifts in his body. Community is also the context in which we care for each other as a good family and live out the one-another passages of Scripture (e.g. bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, submit to one another, etc.)

  • Life-on-Mission. Mission reveals areas of life that need repentance and ensures we are equipping people to make disciples who make disciples. In order to lead people to see all of life as worship and discipleship, we must equip disciples to engage the everyday with Gospel intentionality–doing what they would normally do differently in light of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

 

When a discipleship environment maintains a faithful tension in regards to Gospel/Scriptural truth, community, spiritual disciplines, accountability and mission, we see the fruitful advance of the Gospel. This looks like evangelism and edification, new believers coming to trust in Jesus, and maturing believers being conformed to the image of Christ.

 

([Gathering] Matt. 18:20; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor. 5:4; 14:26; Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:24-25; Rev. 7, 20 [Discipleship] John 13:34-35; Acts 2; Eph. 2:19; 4:13, 29; 1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1, 12:1-31; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24-25 [Discipline] Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 11; Galatians 6:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10-11; 1 Peter 4:17)

 

5.0 ORDERED EQUALITY

Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ. However, both men and women are called in unique ways to express their obedience to God in ways appropriate to their gender in both the home and the local church. In doing so, they “complement” one another in their reflection of the image of God in Christ.

 

Men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. God’s intent for the church is for both men and women to be encouraged and equipped to minister and serve in accordance with the gifts He has given them.

 

In the home, both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality, but God has given to the man primary responsibility as the head of the household along with his wife in accordance with the servant leadership and sacrificial love modeled by Jesus Christ.

 

The Elders (plural) of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight, set an example of what is normative for the church and serve the church through prayer and equipping. The office of Elder is restricted to men who are an example of what a godly man looks like leading a household.

 

(Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)

6.0 GOSPEL-CENTERED CHURCH PLANTING

The church has a clear biblical mandate to look beyond its own community to the neighborhood, the nation, and the world as a whole; thus, mission is not a program in the church but an essential identity of the Church. The Church is the missionary people of God sent into all of life to accomplish His purposes.

 

We are called to make Christ known through the Gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring his lordship to bear on every dimension of life. The primary way we fulfill this mission is by making disciples who make disciples leading to the starting and establishing of Gospel-centered churches. Our aim is that Jesus Christ would be more fully formed in each person through the ministry of the churches God enables us to plant around the world.

 

(Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 10:5-25; 28:18-20; Luke 4:18-19; 24:46-47; Acts 28:31; Romans 10:14-15; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Galatians 2:10; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 10:23-25; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10)

7.0 KINGDOM COLLABORATION

We committed to the pursuit of Gospel advance in Lewiston/Auburn, Maine, North America, and beyond until we see every man, woman, and child have a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed. We believe the local church is God’s means for bringing this about. We see God’s heart for unity in the church when we observe Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and we desire to press into God’s desires. We observe the Apostle Paul’s “concern for all the churches,” evident in both the content and tone of his letters, and this global concern was a powerful force used by God in building the early Church. Finally, we recognize that Gospel Saturation is too big (i.e. every man, woman and child) for any one church, or family of churches, to tackle so we eagerly pursue Kingdom Collaboration with other partner churches, networks, ministries, nonprofits and individuals. For all these reasons we believe it right and good to care about all of God’s Church and not just our church or family of churches. We pursue partnership with other organizations that adhere to Christian orthodoxy for the purpose of proclaiming and picturing the glory of God together. 

We are currently partnership with the SOMA family of churches.

 

(John 17; 2 Cor 11:28; Eph. 1:22-23; Phil 2:1-2; Col. 1:3, 27-28; Gal 2:10)

8.0 CHURCH GOVERNMENT

God is a God of order. He has not left us in the dark as to how the church should be organized. We believe, with confidence, that the scriptures outline the following principles.

 

Local autonomy

Although partnership and accountability are critical for biblical health, we believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, that the Holy Spirit leads his church, and that the Bible is the sufficient authority for the church. Because of this, we believe that local churches are called to govern themselves by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the scriptures and no other entity has ultimate authority over the local congregation. 

 

Congregational responsibility

The congregation shares the responsibility of living as a covenant community, including the responsibility to affirm new leaders, practice church membership and church discipline, preserve the church’s doctrine, and participate in her mission. This is best accomplished through meaningful, covenant membership. 

 

Elder-led

Elder/pastor/overseer all refer to the same biblical office, which oversees and leads the local congregation. Elders will be men who are responsible for knowing, leading, feeding, and protecting the church and her individual members through prayer, counseling, discipleship, preaching, etc. We practice a plurality of elders, seeing this to be the best reflection of the New Testament pattern. All elders are endowed with the same level of authority, with different areas of responsibility in the leadership of the church—all while sharing in the same accountability before God.

 

Deacon-served

Deacons assist the church in its ministry (Acts 6; 1 Tim 3) by meeting practical needs, serving the elders, and upholding unity in the church. Deacons are lead servants in the church and must meet the qualifications set forth in Scripture. They bear various, practical responsibilities, so elders can devote more time and energy to their pastoral duties. We believe Scripture opens the office of Deacon to both men and women.

 

(Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3)

9.0 THE ORDINANCES

The two ordinances of the Church (baptism & the Lord’s Supper) were instituted by Christ and are covenant signs of one’s individual salvation, affirmed by the local church. Neither ordinance can contribute to or merit in any way the saving grace of God. Neither ordinance should be partaken of before salvation, as they are symbolic acts by which we proclaim, picture, and remember the saving work of God that has already occurred.

 

Baptism

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the individual’s act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is also the local church’s act of affirming the salvation of that individual and bringing them into covenant community. Being an act of personal obedience that must be affirmed and exercised by the local church, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

 

The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a sign to those partaking of and observing the death of Christ for sinners, of His sustaining work in our lives, and of future participation in the Wedding Feast to come in the New Creation. Those partaking in the table participate in this ordinance through the breaking and eating of bread and the drinking of the fruit of the vine. This bread and this cup point to our Lord’s body and blood. Followers of Christ should partake in the Lord’s Supper under the oversight of the local church, insofar as they have received Christ’s atoning work by faith and are in right relationship with him.

 

(Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12)

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