Grace in Halsey is:
- Confident in its authority: The Bible
- Careful in its worship
- Complete in its evangelism
- Committed to its brethren
- Christ-centered in its focus
Our congregation wholeheartedly desires to see a church raised up that would be distinctly biblical in both its belief and practice – where God’s glory would be declared, God’s people would be strengthened, and God’s purposes would be carried out.
These elements are matters of greatest importance. We have all witnessed the declension and departure of the Church at large from that pattern of belief and behavior which was set forth in the New Testament by our Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of a large number of churches currently in existence, the need for God-centered, doctrinally sound, and biblically functioning churches has never been greater than it is today. The recognition of this need has caused us to seek, under the direction and blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, to establish a local church that is fully committed to carrying out the directions that He has given in His word. We, therefore, give ourselves to a careful inquiry into the Scriptures to understand what they teach and then having understood, seek, without equivocation or apology, to carry out those teachings to the best of our ability.
This effort to discover and carry out the teachings of Christ Jesus has led us to clear convictions in regard to several areas of biblical belief and practice in our assembly. We have sought to summarize them under five simple distinctives:
- We are a church that is confident in its authority: The Bible.
This confidence flows from a recognition that the Bible is both an infallible guide and a complete guide. It contains no error, and it lacks no element that is necessary for the life and function of the church. Everything needed is contained in it. Therefore, we desire to obey and practice all it requires of us as a church. We delight in discovering and doing what Christ Jesus in His word has directed us to do. As the wise and sovereign head of the church, He has included everything necessary for the function and life of the church in His word.
As a result, we are not only careful to obey all that the Bible teaches, but also, not to add anything to it by way of human reason or tradition. The addition of elements to the worship, government, or ministry of the church that are not contained in the Bible, would be just as wrong as failing to carry out those commands and examples that are contained in the Bible.
Our confidence in the Bible as the sufficient and inerrant source of guidance for the life and ministry of the church compels us to gladly do all it teaches while restraining us from introducing ideas and practices which it does not authorize. Deuteronomy 4:2 states: “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.”
- We are a church that is careful in its worship.
The worship of God is the primary purpose of the church. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. And yet, the church must be careful how it worships. We must worship God as He has directed, and not according to our own imaginations. God alone may determine how He is to be worshiped, and what it is that pleases Him.
We, as a church, carefully seek to follow His will in these matters. Therefore, before we introduce into worship, or eliminate from worship, any element or activity, the question on our minds is: what has God declared in His Word to be acceptable to Him? That alone is what we will offer Him as worship. And so, we seek to be careful in the content of our worship, that it is Biblical.
We also seek to be careful in the attitude of our worship, that it proceeds from the heart. To have physical participation in the worship service while the heart is distant, cold, and distracted with other thoughts is to offer vain worship to God.
Further, we seek to be careful in the atmosphere of our worship, that it is one of reverence and respect for the majesty and holiness of God. Informality, carelessness, and levity which would trivialize the matter of coming before God in worship have no place in His church. He is worthy of nothing less than the highest level of respect and honor we can offer.
Finally, we seek to be careful in the focus of our worship, that it remains on God Himself, and does not degenerate into an effort to entertain people, exalt the leadership of the church, or glorify any individual. Our focus is to please God and to honor Him. John 4:23 states that God is seeking true worshipers, and our desire is that He would find such in our church.
- We are a church that is complete in its evangelism.
The salvation of man from sin and its consequences is a gracious act on the part of God which He was under no compelling necessity to accomplish or offer. He could have, with perfect justice, and with no loss to Himself, condemned all men to eternal punishment. And yet, out of His own compassion, love, and mercy, He devised a plan to deliver men from that punishment which they so richly deserve for their rebellion against God and His law. Sin is an offense against God and His law and brings His wrath to bear upon us. Therefore, God alone has the right to declare upon what terms that offense may be removed, and His wrath appeased. This He has done in the gospel message. The terms of this message are gracious, but they are also humbling. Repentance of sin, trust in Christ and His work on our behalf to save us from our sins, and submission to the sovereign rule of God in our lives are offensive to the proud rebellious human heart, but they are elements that are essential to salvation, and cannot be removed without entirely perverting the message.
In a commendable desire to see people saved, many in our day have unwisely removed or diluted some of the elements that are more offensive to the unsaved mind, and in the process have an incomplete, and therefore defective, gospel message.
This is both dishonoring to God and harmful to men. It expresses a lack of confidence in the wisdom of God in devising the terms of salvation. It also leads men to believe they have come to God on His terms when they have not, resulting in a false confidence that they are saved. We, as a church, seek to be complete in our evangelistic message, setting forth all aspects of the gospel, regardless of whether they are offensive to men. Our duty and desire are to represent God’s message accurately and fully. It is God’s place to bring men to a submission and obedience to that message. Galatians 1:8 states: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” This, then, is a matter of utmost importance.
- We are a church that is committed to its brethren.
Many people have had the experience of attending a church that has never penetrated below the surface of their lives. They attend for years, but never really go beyond learning one another’s names and discussing the weather. They are surrounded by people, and yet are very much alone. Their innermost needs and struggles are never known or ministered to. This situation is neither honoring to God, helpful to believers or a good testimony to the world.
We are a church that seeks to go beyond polite civility and superficial involvement in one another’s lives. The church is likened in the Scriptures to both a body as well as a family. Each of these metaphors clearly indicates the degree of intimacy we are to have with each other, as well as the degree of commitment we are to have to each other. Honesty and openness about our lives, sensitivity to the needs of others, unconditional love, mutual accountability, and selfless ministry to one another is what we strive to achieve in our church. It is in this kind of environment where there are open homes, open hearts, and open lives that Christian graces and maturity flourish and we truly begin to love one another as Christ has loved us.
- We are a church that is Christ-centered in its focus.
Colossians 1:18 tells us that Christ is the head of the church, in order that in all things He might have the preeminence. It is right that He should occupy the place of supreme honor, receive heartfelt worship, and be given unquestioning obedience, for the church belongs to Christ. He purchased it with His blood, He is building it by His grace, and He indwells it with His presence. Without His work and sacrifice, it would not exist.
Therefore, the great concern of the church is not to be, what do men want, and what will please them; but rather, what does Christ want, and what will please Him? A Christ-centered church is one that seeks to submit itself to the rule of Christ, patterns itself after the example of Christ, and has a conscious sense of utter dependence upon Christ, for without Him we can do nothing.
Our church is not focused on a minister. It is not focused on a movement. It is focused on a Person. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sole object of our confidence, and He alone is the One we seek to exalt and serve. Our desire is to follow the example of the early church, who, “every day, in the temple and from house to house did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42
These, then, are our distinctives. We are not a perfect church, nor do we think we have all the answers. What we are is a church that seeks to take the Bible and the Christian life seriously, and in doing so, we find the settled peace and overflowing joy that true fellowship with God brings.