Our Beliefs

Here is a summary of some of our core beliefs. If you would like to learn more we typically offer a membership class a couple times during the year or you can speak with a minister by calling (423) 743-3811:

 

1. God

We believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (One God, three persons–traditionally referred to as the Trinity)

God the Father: When we speak of God the Father, this refers to the quality of God as being before all, the one who at the beginning speaks creation into existence. Everything proceeds from the father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. So to call God father is both a statement about God’s qualities, but also about our relationship to him. He is our father in that he loves us and has adopted us as his children.

God the Son: God the Son, according to Christian teaching, was not created by God the Father. He has existed, like the father, eternally, and was present at creation. God the Son was revealed most fully to humanity in the incarnation, when Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born to Mary. The reason the virgin birth is important is not because there is anything impure or sinful about reproduction, or because we believe that Mary is somehow perfect, but because it is through the virgin birth, not through normal means, that God the Son entered into the world. Jesus Christ was fully God and at the same time fully human, and in this way was able to redeem all of human life because he experienced all of human life and made it holy and righteous by the power of his holiness and righteousness.

God the Spirit: The Holy Spirit was also present at creation, and has always been part of the Trinitarian community, or the Triune relationship. At various points in the OT, we read of the Spirit of God making itself known, through the prophets or in some other way. In the NT, after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit came into the world in a new manifestation, to animate and empower the church, the community of Christians. The Holy Spirit plays a number of roles in the life of the church: it inspired scripture, and continues to inspire the reading and interpretation of scripture; it convicts us of sin; it guides us in the decisions we make; it encourages us in times of trouble; it has sometimes manifest itself in powerful, even miraculous ways.

The way in which the members of the Trinity exist in relationship is unique. They are perfectly unified but not confused. They are distinct, but the same. At the same time, the way they complement one another is a model for our relationships, especially in the church.

 

2. Creation and Fall

We believe that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. According to Genesis, God spoke and things came to being. He also shaped the dust of the earth with his hands. He created the world purely out of his own decision and out of his love. We also believe it when the Bible says that God’s creation is good. This world is not evil. The corruption that exists in this world exists because of the disobedience of humans, which we call sin. God created us and charged us with being caretakers and stewards of the world. Instead of being satisfied with our calling, and the limitations that were a part of that calling, we wanted to be like Gods (See Genesis 3). This desire led to humanity’s first act of rebellion, which introduced that death that separates us from God’s goodness. With each act of sin, either individual or communal, we as human beings get farther and farther away from God’s original purposes for us, and in the process we do serious damage to the relationships that exist between us and God, between each other, and between us and the rest of creation.

 

3. Salvation

Because we are sinful creatures, who have alienated ourselves from God and from others, we are in need of salvation. As a church whose beliefs and practices are rooted in the New Testament, we profess that salvation comes through Jesus Christ; his is the one name under heaven through which we are saved. Salvation in the bible involves the liberation, the wholeness, and the new life that begins when we take hold of the kingdom of God that Jesus came to proclaim, and make room for God’s reign, God’s purposes in our lives. God’s work of salvation involves the whole of creation, and began long before we were ever born. It is manifest in history through the covenant that God made with Abraham and his working through his people Israel. The climax of God’s plan occurs in the incarnation, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, through which God brings his purposes to fruition. Salvation is more than just a momentary event; it is more than just something we wait for to experience at death. It is a lifelong process. It may begin long before we even know who God is, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives to prepare us to receive him and to respond to his call. It becomes real to us in the moment when we become aware of our sin, our need for redemption, and the love of God. And it continues throughout our lives as God continues to reveal his plans and purposes for us, and as he makes us into the people he wants us to be, people who will gather with countless others around the throne of the Lamb to worship and glorify him in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

4. The Church

The church is a community of those who are called to bear witness to the kingdom of God in everything they do. The church is not the kingdom. Empowered and led by the spirit of God, it is meant to function as a sign of the kingdom. The church does this in a variety of ways, but the central ways are through worship and mission. The gathering of the church on the Lord’s Day is our primary time of communal worship. During this time, the primary aim is to bring our praises to God through song, to come before God in prayer and communion, and to receive a word from God through the proclamation of scripture. The movement out into the world is the church’s mission. We embody this mission in a variety of ways–through developing personal relationships with our neighbors, through engaging in actions that make our communities stronger and healthier, and through participating in and helping others who participate in the sharing of the gospel both at home and around the world. From the beginning, the church has existed as a community that depends on one another for support, encouragement, and friendship, as we strive together to follow the will of God and to serve God’s kingdom.

While the church historically and around the world has often observed a number of ordinances, sacraments, or rituals, the two that are usually seen as the most significant are baptism and communion. One enters the church through baptism. Our church community, and others like it, practice baptism by immersion, as a visible sign of the death to the old self and the resurrection that Christ effects in each person who trusts in him. Unlike baptism, which is preferably only celebrated once in a person’s life, the observance of communion is something that happens far more often. There seems to be scriptural warrant for celebrating communion each time the church gathers for worship. Communion is a memorial of the death of Christ, in which the gathered church consumes bread and wine or grape juice as visible pointers to or symbols of his the body and blood of Jesus, broken and shed on the cross. As a church, we try to keep the celebration of communion, and its reminder of the cross, at the center of our worship,and to allow appropriate reflection and contemplation during this time.

 

5. Christian Hope

The issue of what is to transpire in the future is one with which the church has wrestled since Jesus walked the earth. Even when the disciples asked Jesus directly about events that were to come, his answer– “It is not for you to know about the times and dates set by my father; you are to be my witnesses”–seems to indicate that Jesus was not as concerned with our lack of knowledge about the details of what God had in store as we are. The book of Revelation, a prophetic account of the church’s suffering and the church’s hope, has inspired a number of interpretations of the “end times”. However, Christians today are not any more certain about exactly what the events surrounding the consummation of God’s kingdom will look like than they were two thousand years ago. Many of the symbols and images employed in Revelation and other books like it are mysterious, and those who hold up their theories as definitive can sometimes lead their fellow Christians down paths of confusion and fear. As a church, we don’t hold to any one theory about what the “end times” will look like. What we do cling to is the hope that what God did in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he has promised to do for us as well. That is, for those who have been united with Christ, death will not be the end. There will be a resurrection of the dead, and we will live with God forever in the new heavens and the new earth that is described, poetically, in Revelation 21. We believe that even now, God is working toward the restoration, the reconciliation, and the renewal of the creation that he loves, under one head, Jesus Christ. We also believe that, while we can never assume that we can bring about God’s final purposes for this world, the church is a part of the work that he is doing. If we are faithful in our calling, things will not always be easy. There may be times of trial and even persecution. But in the end, God’s final purposes will be accomplished, and death and sin will be distant memories as we gather around the throne of the lamb. Far from being a cause of fear or trepidation, thoughts of God’s coming kingdom should be a reason for hope. And far from compelling us toward laziness, the anticipation of the new heavens and the new earth should inspire us to work ever more fervently that our lives, and the lives of those around us, might bear witness to our hope.

 

6. The Bible

We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, written by humans under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and received by the church not as a dead letter but as a living, active force in the life of God’s people. When we read the word, when we preach the word, when we meditate on the word, we are making room in our lives for God to shape us, to challenge us, and to change us. If we find that our practices, our ways of life, our message or our mission seem to run contradictory to what we read in scripture, we will not assume that the Bible is outdated, or that the story it tells is irrelevant. Rather, we will examine ourselves in light of the scriptural witness. We do not approach the Bible as a book of easy answers or pat solutions to all of life’s problems; rather, it is the story of what God has been doing in the world since creation, and how God’s people have responded to that work. It is our conviction that the Bible should be our story. As such, we will study it together, discuss it together, and seek to discern how we might become a part of the work it describes.