[The following article was written by Stan Reeves, an elder at Grace Heritage Church, where my wife and I were members during the 2005-2006 school-year. With Stan's permission, I originally published his article on this blog on 2/17/06. I would like to preface this article by giving some brief information on why the topic of "The Impact of Reformed Theology on Church Life" is so important to me personally.
As many people reading this blog will know, on July 30, 2005 I had the unspeakable joy of marrying Abby, who is the love of my life. Upon our marriage, I moved to Auburn, Alabama, where she had been living and working as a nurse at East Alabama Medical Center, having recently graduated from Auburn University. During her time at Auburn up to the point of our marriage Abby had been a member of Lakeview Baptist Church. I myself had enjoyed great fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ each time I had visited the Lakeview congregation with Abby, but I had also learned of a congregation called Grace Heritage Church through the Founders Ministries website, and had listened to some of the Bible teaching found in the audio files of the Grace Heritage website. Though I had no specific complaint against Lakeview, I felt eager to visit Grace Heritage, which was a smaller, Reformed Baptist congregation. Immediately upon visiting Grace Heritage Church, Abby and I realized that we needed to move our membership to the GHC congregation. Since the time that Abby and I understood that we were going to join GHC- rather than Abby remaining a member of Lakeview and me joining that congregation- we have struggled to articulate how we came to our decision. Specifically: why should we have chosen to join a congregation that is self-designated as "Reformed" rather than another Southern Baptist congregation in which there are so many positive aspects to their ministry, but they avoid fully accepting Reformed theology? The three paragraphs that you are about to read have helped my understanding as to how these questions can best be answered and I hope that they are a benefit to you as well
Reformed theology confesses that God is sovereign and God is central. The creation and the church are for God's glory, not ours. In life we see God's mind revealed in the handiwork of his creation. Therefore, we study his world as a way of learning about God and bring order to it as a way of bringing glory to him, which is our ultimate purpose. We see God's good hand of providence in all the ordinary events of life, as well as the joys and tribulations. Our highest joy is to see God glorified in all of life.
In salvation and in church life we confess our utter dependence on him. Therefore, we dare not make the church in our image but look to God to tell us what the church should be. We will not presume to second-guess God in the methods he has ordained to build up the church. Instead, we embrace with all our energy the means that he has appointed to build his church, confident that he will be pleased to bless those means and not our personal preferences. Therefore, our evangelism is not the frantic sort that is motivated by guilt or hindered by fear but the sort that joyfully speaks the whole gospel with confidence, knowing that God is most glorified when his truth is manifested and his power rather than our persuasiveness is magnified. Our preaching depends on the power of God's Word and the working of his Spirit, not on emotional manipulation. Therefore, we give ourselves to prayer that He will own his Word and work through us as we strive to be faithful to his revelation. We dare not worship according to our own imaginations or devices, because he has told us how we are to approach him and our worship is to reflect our submission to his will. We are careful not to be driven by the desire for entertainment or social stimulation; therefore, we are suspicious of programs, structures, and activities that can function even when God has departed.
This is a vision rather than an actuality. Regrettably, we don't always act consistently with our convictions. We also gratefully acknowledge that many of these concerns are shared by non-Reformed folk. However, we believe that Reformed theology most consistently promotes this vision in a coherent and powerful manner.
[Via Facebook, Stan added a comment to this article, and I want to include his additional words below. In the way that the leadership of Grace Heritage Church seeks to hold fast to points of doctrine, which they believe are clearly taught in Scripture, while also reaching out to other gospel-preaching churches, who may see and do things a bit differently, I believe that they exemplify how a commitment to the Doctrines of Grace should make us more gracious toward other believers.
"As a point of clarification for anyone reading this: I did not write this with a particular church in mind but only to establish a clear vision for church life in contrast to much of the pragmatism we see in modern evangelical church life. Andrew Lindsey mentions a particular sister church in his blog as part of his story. I think he speaks graciously of this sister church, and I want to do the same. I am extremely thankful to God for the presence of this faithful church in our community and for the many brothers and sisters with whom I have fellowship there. They have a tremendous testimony in and ministry to our community that I would love for my church to emulate and cooperate with in some small way. Our church has had the advantage of starting from the ground up with the vision I wrote about. I am sure many both in the leadership and the membership of our sister church would share that same general vision. The size and history of that church give them a different context and a different set of challenges in seeking to implement that vision."]
Labels: Reformation Theology