E. THE CHURCH
We believe in the unity of all true believers in the Church, which is the Body of Christ. It was established on the Day of Pentecost, will be completed at the Rapture, and includes both Jews and Gentiles. All who are pan of this church have been added through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
We believe that the local church is a congregation of immersed believers, associated by covenant of faith and fellowship of the Gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ (baptism and the Lord’s Table); governed by His laws, and exercising the min and privileges invested in them by His Word; that its two officers are Pastors (also known as Bishops and Elders) and Deacons, whose qualifications and duties are defined in the Scriptures. We believe that the true mission of the church is the fulfillment of the Great Commission, as stated in Matthew 28: 18-20. We believe that the local church has the absolute right of self-government, free from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations, that the one and only superintendent is Christ, through the Holy Spirit; that it is Scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other in contending for the faith and for the furtherance of the Gospel; that each local church is the sole judge of the measure of its cooperation; that on all matters of membership, of polity, of government, of benevolence, the will of the local church is final. We believe that the local church is God’s plan for accomplishing His commission in this age. We believe, therefore, that all other Christian institutions and agencies should have as their objective to aid and strengthen the local church.
The Ordinances of the Local Church
We believe that baptism is the ordinance whereby the believer publicly identifies with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, following salvation. It is a single immersion in water, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not the means of salvation, but rather an obedient act of identification. It is an ordinance of the local church and should, therefore, be done under the authority of a local church.
We further believe that the Lord’s Table is a precious reminder of the broken body and shed blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is also a joyous reminder that one day we will drink it new with Him in the Father’s kingdom. This ordinance is also fulfilled by a local church and is preceded by salvation and believer’s baptism. Great care should be exercised in self-examination so that no one eats the broke bread or drinks the fruit of the vine unworthily.
We believe that the Head of the Church has ordained two offices in the local church, pastor and deacon. First Timothy three defines their character and qualifications and establishes their rank. Neither a pastor nor a deacon may have been divorced nor married to a divorced woman. The Holy Spirit’s direction in the choice of men is through the election by the congregation. There is no valid ordination of women. This franchise is granted to the congregation in the meaning of the word, church, and by the practice of the churches under the direction of the Apostles. The first office is described by three Biblical terms: bishop, elder, and pastor. They are different perspectives on the same office. We believe there is no division between the ruling and teaching elders. All elders are bishops and must be “apt to teach”. There may be more than one pastor in a congregation, but on pastor should provide leadership for the whole congregation as in the example of James in the Jerusalem church.
The Head has given the purposes and principles for each local church in the New Testament. The pastor has authority from the Head to preach the Word as he is led by the Holy Spirit, to set spiritual objectives for the flock, to oversee that Scripture is followed in the overall activity of the church, to warn of false doctrine and spiritual dangers, and to lead by example. However he is not a dictator over the church.
The local church has authority from the Head to choose its own officers, to discipline and dismiss members, to appoint messengers, to commission missionaries, to choose the time and place of meetings which include the observance of the two ordinances, to initiate financial policy and accountability, and to judge grievances between members. The areas of authority granted to the pastor and the local church should be exercised in a harmonious balance. The deacons assist the pastor in implementing and supervising the policies and programs of the local church. (Mark 10:11-12; Acts. 6:3-5, 11:29-30, 14:23, 19:39, 20:28-31; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 6:1-5, 9:11-14; Galatians 6:6; Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-6,10-13, 5:17-18; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4)