A church is a group of true Christians. But, we should add, not every group of true Christians is a church. A true church, functioning properly, is marked by the following things:
- Diversity and unity. It is a group of Christians drawn from every situation of life but united by their faith in Christ. It will include young people and elderly folk, educated people and relatively uneducated people, people from every stratum of society and with every type of personality. The Bible teaches that Christians only develop fully when they are fully involved in a church: interacting with their fellow-Christians in all their God-given variety.
- Submission. It is a group of Christians submitting to God’s Word. In a true church, the preaching and teaching of the Bible will always be central. It will be the most prominent aspect of the meetings and will regulate every part of the church’s life. The church will have recognised leaders, who have been set apart for the work of teaching and preaching the Bible: people who have the training and experience required for the task. In our church, we currently have two ‘elders’, Stephen Rees & Geoff Budgell. They are responsible for most of the public teaching (often spoken of as a minister or pastor) but there are a number of other men in the church who also from time to time assist.
- Commitment. It is a group of Christians committed to one another completely. Members of the church do not simply ‘attend’ on Sundays. They, do, of course, aim to attend all the church’s activities – but that’s only the beginning. Their homes are open to one another. They take every opportunity to pray together and share one another’s difficulties. They assist one another in practical ways. The Bible speaks of the church as an extended family in which every member cares about every other member. And that includes students! When Christian students come to us, we expect them to be fully involved. Not just because we think that will enrich them and help us – but because the Bible teaches that the first responsibility of the Christian is involvement in the local church. Not all of you, of course, can become full members of the church – you may for example, already be members of churches in your home town. In that case, we encourage you to become ‘associate members’- associate membership is open to all Christians who cannot (for whatever reason) become full members but who declare their willingness to be fully involved in the life of the church.
- That the Bible is the inspired Word of God
- That God exists in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and that these three persons are eternally one God
- That God is all-powerful, that He created all things and that all things are under His control
- That mankind, created by God, has sinned against Him; that all are corrupt by nature and sinful by practice
- That Jesus Christ was and is the eternal Son of God who became man, who died on the cross for our sins, who rose again from the dead, who rules in heaven and who will return to judge the world
- That men are saved from the guilt and punishment of sin only by God’s mercy and by His forgiveness which is given freely to all who repent and trust in Jesus Christ
- That the Holy Spirit is given to all who trust in Jesus Christ in order that they might be delivered from the power of sin and Satan and enabled to live a life that pleases God.
The Bible teaches that when (and only when) a person becomes a true Christian through personal faith in Jesus Christ, he or she should be baptised (dipped, immersed) in water.
- Baptism. Those who are baptised are expressing outwardly that they are trusting Christ to wash away their sins and that they are beginning a new life with him. Having been baptised, these people are then admitted as members of the local church and become involved, as we have seen, in its ongoing life. See Baptism and Church-Membership for more information.
- Grace Baptist Church, Stockport, is not, in fact, part of any denomination – baptist or otherwise. We are an independent church, free from denominational control. When we call ourselves ‘Baptist’ we are simply saying that we follow the Bible pattern of baptising those who come to faith and admitting only baptised believers to our membership. We are not in the least concerned about whether you come from a ‘Baptist’ background or not. We welcome people from all denominations or from none, to our meetings and other activities..
- The Lord’s Supper. At most Wednesday evening Bible Study meetings we celebrate the ‘Lord’s Supper’ (sometimes spoken of as the ‘Communion Service’ or the ‘Breaking of Bread’). In this service, Christians remember the death of the Lord Jesus as they eat bread and drink wine together. The Bible teaches however, that not everyone should take part in the Lord’s Supper. A person who does so wrongly ‘eats and drinks judgment to himself’. The only people who should take part are those who are true Christians, church members who are fully committed to the life of the church. Others are welcome to observe..
- We Believe. Take a look at the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith & The Baptist Affirmation of Faith 1966, a summary of what the Bible teaches and we believe.
Everyone’s talking about worship these days! How do you assess worship?
- True worship is addressed to God himself – the infinite Creator and Sovereign Lord. It is offered in a spirit of seriousness, reverence and fear..
- True worship is humble – true worshippers never forget the fact that we are sinful creatures approaching the Holy God whom the Bible describes as ‘a consuming fire’..
- True worship is Christ-centered. It is only possible for us to approach God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The love of God in giving his Son to die is the supreme reason for worship. That is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week..
- True worship is Bible-based. The Bible is God’s Word. When the Bible is read and explained, God himself speaks. Listening in a spirit of submission and obedience to the exposition of the Bible is worship. Most of the preaching in this church is ‘expository’ – one of our pastors will preach a series of sermons working through a book of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse..
- True worship is intelligent. Worship cannot be measured by the atmosphere generated or the emotions experienced. The aim of every part of worship is to bring Bible-truth to bear on our minds and wills. Mindless, repetitive singing, chanting or muttering have no place in Christian worship..
- True worship is orderly. It is carefully planned and prepared. We must offer God nothing less than the best. We try to ensure that our services have a very simple structure that everyone can follow..
- True worship is intended to produce obedience. The goal is not to send people away from our services on an emotional high – rather they should go away knowing more about God’s commandments and more determined to put them into practice.