A Good Pattern to Follow
When we planted Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills there was very little that we wanted to do differently from what we had seen. You might have been able to tell from the name that we chose (we were planted by another Grace Fellowship Church), but we firmly believed — and still believe — that the pattern that had been established for us was a good one.
That church prioritizes the word, exalts Christ, depends on God in prayer, worships him with authentic and theologically rich singing, and lives out some genuine New Testament fellowship. She is led by godly elders and served well by deacons that look an awful lot like Jesus in their Christ-like serving. All the essentials are there, so there really was very little to change when we planted.
That being said, we didn’t simply want to copy & paste, or go with a church-in-a-box mentality either, so we carefully investigated just about everything so that from top-to-bottom we were making sure that we weren’t just assuming essentials.
We wanted to act out of conviction, not convention.
Taking a Different Turn
One place where we decided to head in a different direction was in our Statement of Faith. While we believed (and still believe!) everything in the Statement of Faith from our planting church, we wanted something a little more. Our desire was twofold for our Statement of Faith:
- We wanted something theologically robust that would lead to worship
- We wanted something unoriginal that would connect us rather than separate us from the broader church
The first of those desires was met when we came across the Gospel Coalition’s Statement of Faith. With a few minor tweaks on the baptism issue, we adopted that Confessional Statement as our own. It is a robust statement that deals in biblical-theological categories and exalts God from beginning to end. The very first time I read it, I worshiped — and that’s exactly what we wanted.
The second of those desires was birthed in me when I first began reading the various Creeds, Confessions, and Statements of Faith of various churches and denominations. What I began to see is that many groups use their Statement of Faith to distinguish themselves from other Christians, rather than unite themselves to the historic and universal Church.
We were never smaller than when we first planted, but regardless of how big we grow we’ll never be significant enough as a church to stand on our own as anything. We are a part of something much bigger, much better that Jesus is building in his world. We are one small part of the universal Church and I wanted our Statement of Faith to unite us to that church and make us unspecial in the sense that we simply blend in with the broader church.
The Direction We Took
So here is what we did. It’s not anything super-special, but hopefully it helps the reader realize that we’re connected to the Church rather than disconnected from churches, by virtue of what we believe. We added this little preamble:
This church accepts the Holy Scriptures as the only supreme and complete authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. However, we also recognize that we stand as one small part in an historic movement known as the universal Church, which has, at times, written out succinct summaries of what we believe the Bible teaches. Such Confessions of Faith can be helpful in expressing those things we believe and also in uniting us together with our brothers and sisters through the ages.
We gladly stand in the line of the Ancient Church (the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed), the Reformers (the Westminster Confession), and the early English Baptists (The First and Second London Baptist Confessions of 1644 and 1689). In our own time, we are thankful for the group known as The Gospel Coalition and take much of our Statement of Faith from them.
That’s it. We don’t say we hold to those Confessions absolutely or without exception, but the core of the gospel faith expressed in those documents, passed down through the ages, is the same core of our faith.
One other potential benefit of this approach is that if someone is reading our Statement of Faith and doesn’t know the Creeds and Confessions that we list, we hope that they’ll take the time to look them up. There is certainly much to be gained by studying the theology of past generations.