What should a church be about? There are many possible answers to that question. Some answers are quite complicated. Others reflect that which is most urgent in our moment in history. But we are convinced that a church must be all about God and His gospel. Everything we are and do must grow out of what is most important: God and His gospel.
God is our Creator (Genesis 1:1), and He has one overarching purpose - that all His creation would be filled with the knowledge of His glory, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). God is King over all, and as Creator and King He made man to reign over His creation in His place, as "vice-regent", if you will (Genesis 1:26). Man was to reign in perfect harmony with God, always obeying God, in unbroken fellowship with Him, always doing God's will over all His creation, under His perfect kingship.
But this does not match the reality that we live in today, nor does it match the biblical account. The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God - they sinned (Genesis 3). And when sin entered the world, so did the curse of death, for all of us (Genesis 3:3). Through Adam sin entered the world to us, and so did death (Romans 5:12). The Bible describes us, absent any other help, in a rather bleak way: "'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'" (Romans 3:10b-11)
We have all rebelled against our good and perfect King, and in the process, we've made a great mess of what was meant to be perfect peace and harmony. One need only to think of relationships or read today's paper to know that something is broken. It's the result of seeking to occupy God's place - to live with ourselves as king. The result is trouble and suffering in this world, and more than that, much more: the judgment of God. God passes judgment by giving us rebels what we ask for. To be separated from God, though, means the worst kind of freedom. It means death and everlasting destruction - hell - "freedom" from light and life.
But thanks be to God, that is not the end of the story. God is a God of great love and generosity. In His love, and in infinite mercy, God sent His Son to save us. How? How can a man save us?
He was no ordinary man. Jesus of Nazareth is God's own Son - divine - God - yet a man who experienced everything we do. He always lived perfectly, always lived under the perfect rule of His Father. He always did the Father's will. He lived the life we were meant to live.
And yet He died. He willingly went to the cross, allowing Himself to be crucified. Why? He "suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18a). When Jesus died, he died in our place, to take upon himself the judgment due to each one of us for our rebellion against God. He was the perfect sacrifice, satisfying God's justice, so that God could rightly be freely merciful to us, no matter our sin. It was all by God's grace - His undeserved, infinite favor. It's all a gift.
But He did not just die: God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And now Jesus reigns as King over all. He now lives in new life, and one day He will return to deal with all of us. Jesus beat death, and now he lives and reigns to give life to us. Because He lives this new, resurrection life, he has power to also give to us new life in him. It's a new birth, newness of life now, and a great, living hope of life with him forevermore (1 Peter 1:3). We don't earn this; it's all by His mercy and grace.
This brings us to a vital question, put to us in John 3:36: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." This tells us both the stakes and the solution. The stakes are eternal: the wrath of God, always remaining on you. But if all of us sin, how then to attain to life? To believe in the Son, and to live with Him as your King. When we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are truly forgiven. There is nothing we can do to add to the sacrifice of Jesus. But more than forgiveness, we are welcomed by God the Father, just as He welcomes His Son. And more than that, we can now, for the first time, walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). We now have the best freedom there is: to live with Jesus as our King.
How do you want to live? With yourself as king, or with Jesus Christ as your King? In your response to this question lies life or death, acceptance or condemnation, a living hope or a fearful expectation. Which way will you live?
[If you would like to explore the gospel further, we can recommend to you this website, from which some of the general outline above is indebted. Or get our free gift on Sunday morning, or see the Other Resources on this site.]
As we hope you see, this gospel is great news - dreadful in its description of our natural situation, but even more good in its answer of life and peace and hope in Christ. This is such great news that Paul, at the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, could say what was of "first importance": "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."
We possess such great news, news of such historical, theological, powerful, biblical and eternal importance, that we pray that God forbid us to ever forget it. It truly is "of first importance". So while we don't have to say the word "gospel" in every sentence or song or ministry event description, we do pray and strive for everything we do to be about God and His gospel, for everything to grow out of this and aim towards this. This includes our preaching and our singing, and also our friendships. It even includes the ordinary details of everyday life. So we are "not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
So we seek to simply live by faith in God, in his gospel (Romans 1:17), in living hope (1 Peter 1:3), in holy newness of life (Romans 6:4), walking in His Spirit (Galatians 5:25), that His purposes might be fulfilled in our little church. What are those? That we might be "to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:14).
How this gets worked out is described in more detail in the following pages. We encourage you to read these documents, ruminate upon them, and contact us to converse about them further.