I have been thinking about churches that have a publicly codified Statement Of Belief recently. I even referred to one such statement on Sunday and had sent a link to ours to a new attender earlier in the week.
So I want to devote this space today to explaining why we spell our beliefs out at Good Shepherd, and why such a statement matters. Because you could say (and perhaps some of you will), “Why don’t you just post the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed as your statement of faith? Isn’t it good enough?”
Well, of course they are. The Creeds are certainly enough, especially when we use them as acts of worship. But there are a number of reasons why we expand upon the creeds some 1800 years or so after their completion.
So here are five reasons why we have a “What We Believe” Statement at Good Shepherd . . . followed by the statement itself.
1. A Statement gives theological structure to who you are as a church. For example, Good Shepherd’s statement clarifies our stand on issues like the triune nature of God, the inspiration of Scripture, the reality of heaven and hell, and our confidence in the ultimate return of Christ.
2. A Statement sets theological boundaries as to who you are NOT as a church. We’re Trinitarian, not Arian. We’re Scripturally conservative, not theologically progressive. We believe Jesus is decisive for eternity, which means we’re not universalists. And we believe in salvation by grace, which means we don’t teach works righteousness. We believe Jesus’ return will be sudden, explosive, and unmistakable, which means we are not dispensationalists. Those distinctions may seem like a lot of minutia . . . until they’re not.
3. A Statement expresses what kind of Methodists we are. We’re the lifting the bible kind, that’s who. And the kind who still celebrate the gifts of prevenient grace (God is working on you when you’re not looking for him), free will, assurance, as well as the ongoing ministry and miracles of the Holy Spirit.
4. A Statement gives backbone to the mission. Our mission is and will remain inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Our “What We Believe” — not really for use as a rallying cry or a worship moment — provides that mission with skeletal stability.
5. And the Statement is . . . here below:
What We Believe
God is the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. He eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
About Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is God wrapped up in human flesh. Jesus lived a sinless human life and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people by dying on a cross. He rose from the dead after three days to demonstrate his power over sin and death. He ascended into heaven and will come again to judge the living and the dead, and to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
About the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Father, and the Son. He is present in the world to make people aware of their need for Jesus Christ. He also lives in every Christian from the moment of salvation providing power for living, understanding of spiritual truth, and guidance in doing what is right. We believe in the full expression of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
About the Bible
We believe that God inspired the composition and collection of the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, it is inspired, eternal, and true. The Holy Spirit preserves and protects the biblical library in the church today and by it speaks God’s Word to peoples of every age.
We believe that apart from salvation in Jesus Christ, people are lost and their eternal souls are in peril. We believe that people receive salvation and reserve their places in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ, not by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Human beings have their sins forgiven through accepting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We further believe that those who do not accept Christ are separated from God eternally after their death. Another name for that separation is hell.
About the Return of Christ
We believe that at some unknown point in the future, Jesus Christ will return in full glory and triumph. There will be a bodily resurrection of all persons and final judgment to both eternal reward and eternal punishment. God will have ultimate victory over Satan and will establish a perfect kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth.
As United Methodists, we join with our Methodist brothers and sisters around the world and claim the historic distinctives of Wesleyan faith: prevenient grace, free will, personal & social holiness, assurance of the believer, and a connected church.