This is the beginning of a series of posts in which I describe the vision of the broad ethos of our church planting project. Not everything that goes into these posts will be EXACTLY what our church plant will look like because context and the Holy Spirit will shift our plans as we get moving. Even so, these represent the basic ideals from which we will begin our church communities.
Eventually, I plan to go a step further and describe our values and model. For now, these broad ideas will do
Anabaptist & Brethren in Christ
My denomination, the Brethren in Christ Church, has at its roots the Anabaptist movement. In what follows, I will describe modern Anabaptism and then will look at the values of the BIC. I think that you will find much that overlaps.
Below I give the answer to “What is an Anabaptist” through the Core Convictions of the Anabaptist Network (the founders of Urban Expression). If you want to read an excellent introduction to contemporary Anabaptism, check out this accessible book: The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of Radical Faith by Stuart Murray. Core convictions from the book include:
- Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.
- Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.
- Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalized Jesus, and has left the churches ill-equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
- The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.
- Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender and baptism is for believers.
- Spirituality and economics are inter-connected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.
- Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
Brethren in Christ
Much could be said about our denomination, the Brethren in Christ. One observation that continues to impress me is how our movement allows the Spirit of God to bring along fresh influences rather than existing in a theological bubble. Therefore, the following values of the BIC, give expression to our Anabaptist, Pietistic, Wesleyan, and Evangelical streams of influence. It would be safe to say that Anabaptism is the primary influence and that all the others find their meaning within that overarching framework. In order to give a “bird’s eye view” of our denominational beliefs and practices, the Core Values of the BIC are as follows:
- Experiencing God’s Love and Grace: We value the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
- Believing the Bible: We value the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, study it together, and build our lives on its truth.
- Worshiping God: We value heartfelt worship that is God-honoring, Spirit-directed, and life-changing.
- Following Jesus: We value wholehearted obedience to Christ Jesus through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Belonging to the Community of Faith: We value integrity in relationships and mutual accountability in an atmosphere of grace, love, and acceptance.
- Witnessing to the World: We value an active and loving witness for Christ to all people.
- Serving Compassionately: We value serving others at their point of need, following the example of our Lord Jesus.
- Pursuing Peace: We value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and non-violent resolution of conflict.
- Living Simply: We value uncluttered lives, which free us to love boldly, give generously, and serve joyfully.
- Relying on God: We confess our dependence on God for everything, and seek to deepen our intimacy with God by living prayerfully.
I would love to hear any thoughts or observations that you have about our “tradition.”