As promised, posted below is the new GraceSLO Declaration of Faith, which is also now posted on the "What We Believe" page of the About Us section of this site. But first a few questions that some might be asking . . . .
Why "Declaration of Faith" and not "Statement of Faith"?
Though less familiar, we really like "Declaration." It feels stronger. With this collection of statements, we are declaring our faith to the world and our community . . . .to both believers and unbelievers who may be wondering what GraceSLO believes.
How did the new GraceSLO Declaration of Faith come about?
Through a painstaking, but delightful, 8 month process involving first our Constitution/Membership Team, then our Ministry Staff and finally our Elders. Along the way, the Declaration underwent at least 15 revisions. Back in October our Pastors & Elders spent our 2010 Elder Retreat carefully reviewing and revising the Declaration. Since then, multiple changes and improvements have been made throughout. The Elders approved the final version as it reads here in the first half of February 2011. The Declaration, like everything else at GraceSLO, is the fruit of a healthy, Biblical plurality of leadership.
Why a new Declaration of Faith? What was wrong with the old one?
It was our shared view that our old Statement of Faith was weak and lacking in some areas. We serve a glorious, excellent God, who has given us a radical, world-changing Gospel. The Christian faith is rich and deep. . . not something we add to our lives, but an entirely new worldview by which we see and live all of life. We desired that our Declaration of Faith reflect the excellence of this God, the richness of His truth and the robustness of His glorious Gospel. The Declaration is our best attempt, at this point in time, to capture this fulness as we, by faith, look to the future of GraceSLO together. In a day and age, when so few can articulate what they believe and why, and when so many churches are downplaying and hiding their statements of faith, we want to keep moving the other direction . . . proclaiming to the world and passing on to our children a Big God, a Glorious Gospel, a full Bible and a robust faith. On top of that, our old Statement of Faith didn't at all match the original Statement of Faith in our Constitution. We're not sure when they fell out of alignment, but we thought that the disconnect needed to be addressed. Our move toward covenant membership has triggered a rewrite of the Constitution (still in process) and the new Declaration of Faith.
What is different? What's in the new Declaration that was not in the old Statement?
A whole bunch of stuff. We think it will be pretty obvious as you read though it. More about the Bible. More about the character of God. More about the Gospel and its centrality. Some new stuff about the local church and its leadership. Some stuff about marriage and singleness. Heaven and hell are in there.
What's not in the New Declaration?
Nothing about baptism by immersion. Nothing about the timing of the rapture. Nothing about the age of the earth. Nothing about sign-gifts. Nothing about other stuff, too, I'm sure. We see these as non-essential issues about which many Christians disagree. We give room for respectful disagreement on these and other issues.
Where are the Scripture references to support the Declaration of Faith?
We have them, but are still organizing them and slimming them. We didn't want to wait any longer to get the Declaration into your hands. We promise to post extensive Scripture references by the time we start preaching through the Declaration on March 13 or 20.
What if I don't agree with the Declaration in some points? Can I still become a member?
Absolutely! We expect that many will differ at points in the Declaration. While our leadership is of one accord on the Declaration, we want to allow for respectful disagreement within the congregation. In our membership process, we will ask members to "support and abide by the GraceSLO Declaration of Faith." That doesn't mean members have to agree with every line or statement made. The Declaration is a summary of what we, the leadership at GraceSLO, believe the Bible teaches about the matters addressed. We have been striving and will continue to strive to teach these truths across the ministry of GraceSLO. The Declaration just puts down on paper what has been our heartbeat and the core of our teaching for some time. Hopefully, the clarity of a written statement will be helpful to those who currently call GraceSLO their home and those who may consider committing with us.
Why did you include a statement on Marriage in the Declaration? I've never seen that before?
Every Statement of Faith is both a product of its day and a product of the community from which it emerges. We believe God's gift of marriage is under attack by the culture in a way it's never been before now. In the past, it was not necessary to define and defend Biblical marriage, because a Biblical understanding was built into the cultural understanding. All that is changing and so now it becomes necessary to address marriage in our Declaration. A Biblical understanding of marriage can no longer be assumed and must be intentionally confessed and declared by those who believe what the Bible teaches about the God's design for and gift of marriage.
What about ____________? I wish you would have addressed ________________ . I wish you would not have addressed _____________.
We get it and we felt that too as we worked together. It's important to understand that for every doctrine/truth/issue there is a spectrum of positions and perspectives that range from "loose/undefined" to "tight/super defined." Our leadership felt this acutely at points in the Declaration. It's impossible not to pick a place on those spectrums. We picked a place on the spectrum in every one of our statements. Some wanted more detail on certain tenets and others wanted less. Our attempt together was to remain broadly evangelical, but not be light or dumbed down. We were aiming to robustly express what we together believe and teach about the matters addressed. What we, in the end, included, we felt needed to be addressed in our day and age and for our life together at GraceSLO. What we left out we together determined was unnecessary for the Declaration. That doesn't mean those things are not true or important. Every truth is important, but you have to stop somewhere and you can't include everything.
One more thing. . . . It's not perfect.
You can tinker with something like this forever. That's not practical. We're not perfect and our leadership doesn't have it all figured out. We're learning and growing, individually and together. At this time, our leadership is of one accord concerning what is here, presented to you. We are speaking with one voice in the approval and adoption of this Declaration. That does not mean we will not make changes/amendments/improvements down the road, as we learn and live together under the authority of God and His living Word. We present our new GraceSLO Declaration of Faith humbly and with great care for you. We ask you to humbly consider, contemplate it, and support it.
If you have questions and or comments, you may leave them here at Life Together or address them directly to the elders as a group at email@example.com. Either way, we will be happy to address questions, comments and concerns. I'm out for a while, so if you desire immediate attention, its probably best to email the elders.
Here it is. . . hope you llike it . . .
GraceSLO Declaration of Faith
We believe the Bible, consisting of 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of God’s plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and the divine and final authority for Christian practice and life. The Bible is to be joyfully and carefully read, studied, applied, obeyed, and proclaimed by individuals and when the church gathers together.
The Triune God
We believe in one Holy and loving God, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who know, love and glorify one another. God, by His Word, created all things out of nothing and continually sustains all things. He created all things for the praise of His glory and created humankind for a love relationship with Himself. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, self-sufficient, unchanging and sovereign in His reign and rule over all things.
God the Father
God the Father is the Author of creation and redemption. His plans and purposes are sure and cannot be thwarted and He works all things together for good to those who love Him. In His incomprehensible grace, He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, for humankind’s redemption.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the eternal, sinless Son of God, fully God and fully man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary. He died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, arose bodily from the dead, and ascended into heaven, where He is now our advocate and intercessor. He will one day come again to judge all humanity, reconcile all things to Himself, renew all creation, and consummate His everlasting kingdom. Forgiveness and a right relationship with God is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. He is the head of His body, the Church, to be worshipped, adored, loved and obeyed by all.
The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, who convicts and gives spiritual life to sinners (regeneration) leading to belief in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit continually indwells, empowers, instructs, and guides believers for Godly living and service. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers for the glorification of God, the building up of the local church, and the bearing of spiritual fruit.
We believe God created humankind, male and female, in His own image, as the crown of creation. Humankind was created to glorify, love and enjoy God forever as the stewards of creation. Humankind, tempted by Satan, rebelled against God and sinned. As a result, all human beings are alienated from God and corrupted in every aspect of their being (i.e. physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, relationally and spiritually). All human beings are lost, blind and dead in sin, under the just judgment and wrath of God and in desperate need of the saving grace of God.
We believe Jesus Christ is the Gospel. The Good News of God’s sovereign, saving grace is revealed in His incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious bodily resurrection. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. Christ’s death completely satisfies the demands of God’s holy justice and wrath toward sin, while demonstrating His mysterious love and amazing grace toward sinners. The Gospel is central to our understanding, interpretation and application of all the Scriptures.
We believe salvation, also called justification, is an act of God, whereby God, in His unfathomable grace, declares righteous undeserving sinners who repent of their sins and trust the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. God calls all humankind everywhere to repent and trust the Gospel. Biblical repentance is characterized by a turning from sin and heart trust in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ. Biblical trust (saving faith) is evidenced by perseverance, obedience and good works.
Sanctification & Glorification
We believe sanctification is the life-long work of God by which those who trust the Gospel grow in holiness and are conformed to the character of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Sanctification begins at the moment of justification with the giving of spiritual life (regeneration), and continues by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through an ever-deepening understanding of, application of, and obedience to the Gospel in every area and circumstance of our lives. Glorification is the promised completion of our sanctification at the moment we meet Jesus at our death or upon His glorious return.
We believe marriage is ordained by and given by God for His own glory and humanity’s good. Marriage is a picture of the eternal relationship between Christ and His Church. Marriage is the building block of the human family, human society and human flourishing. Because God created male and female, in His image, to complement one another, we believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Sexual intimacy is a gift of God to be fully enjoyed in the context and life- long commitment of marriage. Singleness is affirmed by God and ordained by God for some individuals. Those who are single in the local church are recognized as vital members of the body of Christ.
We believe God, by His Word and Spirit, creates the Church as He calls sinful humans out of the whole human race into the fellowship of His family. By that same Word and Spirit, He guides, grows and preserves His Church. The universal Church, the global body of Christ, consists of all those who trust the person and work of Jesus Christ in all times, places and locations. A believer’s membership in the universal Church is to express itself through consistent worship with, service in, commitment and accountability to a local church. We believe the local church is God’s primary vehicle for spreading the Gospel in the world. God raises up and gives a plurality of male elder-pastors to serve, lead, shepherd, and care for the local church. We recognize the proclamation of God’s Word, baptism and the Lord’s Supper as means whereby the Gospel is consistently communicated and experienced by God’s people in the local church.
Proclamation of God’s Word
We believe the proclamation of God’s living Word occupies a central place in the life of God’s people living together in the local church. The Scriptures are God’s self-revelation climaxing in the Gospel, the person and work of Jesus Christ. We believe the accurate, passionate, continual proclamation of the Gospel is vital and effective for the salvation of unbelievers, but also the ongoing growth of believers. Through the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word by its elder-pastors and others, those who have not yet trusted the Gospel are welcomed and challenged to repent and trust Jesus Christ. Likewise, through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, God’s people are nourished and equipped to proclaim and live the Gospel together with one another, the surrounding community and the nations.
We believe water baptism is the command of Christ for all those who trust the Gospel. Baptism is not a saving work, but an expression of faith. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward spiritual reality, a visual picture of a believer’s union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
The Lord’s Supper
We believe the Lord’s Supper is to be enjoyed regularly by all those who trust the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes the giving of Christ’s body and the shedding of Christ’s blood on our behalf. As we partake of the Lord’s Supper together by faith, we remember and proclaim Christ’s death, receive spiritual nourishment for our souls, grow in grace, are encouraged in hope, and signify our unity with other members of the family of God.
The Return of Jesus Christ
We believe in the visible, personal, glorious return of Jesus Christ, which will bring about the consummation of all things. The dead will be raised and all humanity will be judged. Those who trust the Gospel of Jesus Christ will enter into joyous, everlasting life with God. Those who do not trust the Gospel will experience everlasting, conscious punishment in hell. We believe in the new heavens and the new earth, where Jesus Christ will reign forever and all creation shall proclaim the glory of God and the praise of Jesus Christ, who makes all things new.