Grace Church exists to make, mature, mobilize and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ of all ages.
We confess the historic teaching of the Christian Church that from the earliest days described the nature of God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (also referred to as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer).
We believe in one God who created the world and all that is in it. This God is sovereign; that is, God is the Ruler of the universe. We believe, too, that God loves and that we can experience God’s love and grace.
We believe that Jesus was human, that He lived as a man and died when He was crucified. We believe, too, that Jesus is divine – He is the Son of God. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. We believe that Jesus is our Savior: In Jesus Christ we receive abundant life and forgiveness of sins. We believe that Jesus is our Lord and that we are called to pattern our lives after his.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
We believe that the Holy Spirit is God with us, that the Holy Spirit comforts us when we are in need and convicts us when we stray from God. We believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us to God’s will and empowers us to live in obedience to God’s will for our lives and our world.
We believe that all humanity stands in need of salvation. What does it mean to be saved and to be assured of salvation? It’s to know that after feeling lost and alone, we’ve been found by God. It’s to know that after feeling worthless, we’ve been redeemed and given new worth. It’s to experience a reunion with God, others, the natural world, and our own best selves. It’s a healing of the alienation and estrangement that we’ve experienced. In salvation, we become whole. Salvation happens to us, both for our present lives and for the eternal life that is promised to believers. It’s “eternal life” – a new quality of life in unity and relationship with God, a life that begins not at death, but in the present.
Salvation cannot be earned. There’s no behavior, no matter how holy or righteous, by which we can achieve salvation. Rather, it’s the gift of a gracious God. By grace we mean God’s extraordinary love for us. In most of life we’re accustomed to earning approval from others. This is true at school, at work, in society, even at home (to a degree). We may feel that we have to act “just so” to be liked or loved. But God’s love, or grace, is given without any regard for our goodness. It’s unmerited, unconditional, and unending love. Grace is God calling us home
We believe that Jesus is, in himself, the manifestation of God’s grace. Through the incarnation, Jesus made atonement (that word simply means to ability to be in a proper relationship with God, and I love the way one of my Sunday school teachers taught me to think about it: “at-one-ment”) available for the entire world. This grace offers humanity that which it thirsts for: hope and restoration. God’s grace, as evidenced in Jesus, proclaims his victory over the power of sin, over the power of brokenness. Ironically, this victory comes through brokenness – the brokenness of Jesus and the brokenness of those who seek him. Thus, in a mighty response to the results of free will (another steadfast tenet of our beliefs that states that each individual has the capacity to make his or her own decisions for good or for evil), God offers grace and offers it to all!
We hold that grace operates in three different phases: as prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. Prevenient grace is that grace that continually goes before us. This grace rains down upon all creation in God’s attempt to draw individuals back into relationship and back to wholeness. It is that first beckoning of God that calls us home, that woos us, that breaks into our lives before we possess our own faith to awaken us to the fact that there is more.
At the point that a person responds to this grace, to this unmerited favor, and confesses his/her “brokenness” and sin to surrender and accept Christ as Savior, it is God’s justifying grace that brings forth faith. It is this grace that looks upon us – guilty as we are – and pronounces us “Not Guilty.”
When an individual places his or her trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, it also means that they profess Him as Lord. In short, this simply (but not easily) means that we surrender our will to what it is God wants us to do and to be. After the point of faith, one’s life is influenced by the Spirit of God in a process led by sanctifying grace. It is the goal of this process that the believer becomes perfected in love. This “Christian perfection” does not imply that the Christian is perfect; however, it does suggest that the believer’s all-consuming love for God grows to overflow in an outpouring of love to our neighbor and to creation, itself. In this act, the gap between humanity and the creation of God is closed and the relationship that the believer has with the Creator is restored. So, it’s the end purpose of grace to restore the image of God in all creation, to bring about the Kingdom of God, and for his will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
We believe that God created human beings in God’s image and that humans can choose to accept or to reject a relationship with God. This choice is the result of God’s gift of free will. God loves us so much and wants to be in relationship with us so badly that He knows the only way for us to be in an authentic relationship is for humanity to have the choice not to: not to return love, not to serve, not to respond. This gift of free will is one of the greatest blessings and one of the most destructive of curses to humanity, for with it we choose either to embrace the beauty and truth of the God who loves us or we choose to love only ourselves. In short, we believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.
Like God, we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate and to create. Like God, we’re free and we’re responsible. We believe that all creation has been designed for the well-being of all its creatures and as a place where all people can dwell in covenant with God. But we do not live as God intends. Again and again, we break the relationship between God and ourselves. We turn our backs on God and on God’s expectations for us. We deny our birthright, the life of wholeness and holiness for which we were created. We call this alienation from God sin.
A distinction should be made between sin and sins. We use the word sins to denote transgressions or immoral acts. We speak of “sins of omission and commission,” transgressions of God’s law by what we do and by what we leave undone.
The deeper issue is sin in the singular. Sin is our alienation from God, our willful act of turning from God as the center of life and making our own selves and our own wills the center. From this fundamental sin our other various sins spring.
We believe that the Church (the capitalized “c” in Church represents the global and universal Church in contrast with the local church) is the body of Christ, that it is an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today, and that its purpose and mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We believe that the Church is “the communion of saints,” a community made up of all past, present, and future followers of Jesus Christ, and that the Church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
In thinking about our faith, we put primary reliance on the Bible. It’s the unique testimony to God’s self-disclosure in the life of Israel; in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ; and in the Spirit’s work in the early church. It’s our sacred canon and thus the decisive source of our Christian witness and the authoritative measure of the truth in our beliefs.
We study the Bible within the believing community. Even when we study it alone, we’re guided and corrected through dialogue with other Christians. We interpret individual texts in light of their place in the Bible as a whole. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we try to discern both the original intention of the text and the scripture’s meaning for our own faith and life.
THE REIGN OF GOD
We believe that the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and a future hope. Wherever God’s will is done, the kingdom of God is present. It was present in Jesus’ ministry, and it is also present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration, and healing. We believe, though, that the fulfillment of God’s kingdom (the complete restoration of creation) is still to come and that the Church is called to be both witness to the vision of what God’s kingdom will be like and a participant in helping to bring it to completion. We believe that the reign of God is both personal and social. Personally, we display the kingdom of God as our hearts and minds are transformed and as we become more Christ-like. Socially, God’s vision for the kingdom includes the restoration and transformation of all of creation.
There is a profound theological difference between an ordinance and a sacrament. In other denominations, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are considered ordinances – those things that we do because Jesus did them, because Jesus “ordained” them. In an ordinance, we are the actors; we are the ones who take the initiative to follow the way of Christ in faith.
In a sacrament, however, we are nothing more than recipients. In a sacrament, we receive God’s love and God’s presence; in a sacrament, we receive God’s grace in an especially profound way—for it is God who takes the initiative to reach us. We hold baptism and holy communion as the sacraments of our faith.
Through the sacrament of baptism, we are joined with the Church and with Christians everywhere. It is a symbol of new life and a sign of God’s love and forgiveness. As such, we believe that persons of any age can be baptized.
This leads us to the most common question we get: “Why do we baptize infants?” If God is the actor in a sacrament, what we see in the baptism of a child is the message that even in those times and places where we will not, do not, or cannot respond to God, that his grace is still being poured down into our lives; that even in that place before we come to own our faith, God is still calling us home, that God is still sending forth his love and his power into our lives. The use of water, in itself, reminds us that we are covered by God’s grace and that He invites us to be refreshed in his Spirit.
The sacrament of infant baptism does not mean to suggest that the child is “saved” by baptism but, instead, that God is already at work in him/her, that God’s grace is already being poured into that young life; that the child is already precious in the eyes of the Almighty.
Therefore, our response to these baptisms, our covenant that we will lead lives that help the children of our community to make their own decision to accept Jesus as their Savior, is of the utmost importance; for in so doing, we literally become the hands and feet of Christ, showing the sacramental grace of God that claims us even from our first breath.
We of course celebrate baptisms for professions of faith as well; but we hold that persons should be baptized only once in his or her life. We do, however, celebrate Remembrances of Baptism.
We baptize by sprinkling, immersion, or pouring.
Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is a holy meal of bread and juice that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ. It recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family. By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
We practice “Open Communion,” welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.