Our Core Values
What is it that makes Grace Church distinctly what it is? The first way to answer this question is to consider the doctrinal commitments that we embrace. Those are the creeds and summaries of what we believe the Bible teaches about God, man, salvation, the Bible, the church, the world, etc. As a church, Grace Church stands with all churches in affirming the Apostle’s Creed, and with the Protestant and Reformed churches in affirming the teachings of the Westminster Confession of Faith. It is these doctrinal standards that inform our Christian world and life view.
However, in every time and place a church must decide how these doctrinal commitments will be taught and lived out within the context in which it finds itself. This could be called the theological vision of the congregation. This is what we are calling our “core values and beliefs” or “philosophy of ministry.”
Worship and The Great Commission are Central
Corporate worship is the centerpiece of our life as a community.
God’s primary desire for His people is the worship of his name. When he redeemed the children of Abraham from slavery in Egypt his purpose was that they might worship him (Exodus 3.12; 7.16; 8.1, 20; 9.1, 13; 10.3, 7, 8, 24, 26). The sheer volume and detailed instructions for worship given through Moses testify to the centrality of worship in the corporate life of the people of God in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, worship is underscored by Jesus who declares that the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4.23). The “Great Commission” is given in the context of worship (Matthew 28.16-20) and Paul describes the worship of gentiles and Jews as nothing less than the confirmation of God’s promises made to the patriarchs (Romans 15.7-12). The Bible concludes with the Book of Revelation where a great multitude of people is described. We are told that this multitude is so great no one could count them, and that they were from every nation, tribe, people and language. This great gathering of God’s people is united in the worship of God (Revelation 7.9ff). The great and ultimate goal of evangelism is the worship of God.
The Great Commission is the Primary Task of our Church.
True worship results in a deep passion for evangelism. If great multitudes of people are going to worship God then they must be reached with the gospel of God’s mercy in Christ. Indeed, the multitudes of worshippers in Revelation are described as those who are purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rev. 5.9). This multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people and language is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that in him all people on earth would be blessed (Genesis 12.3) and that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17.4-6). This promise is realized as people come to faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3.26, 29), thus evangelism is the means whereby the vision of multitudes of people worshipping God becomes a reality. True passion for the worship of God demands an equal passion for evangelism. God’s redemptive work has His own worship as its ultimate goal. This is nowhere seen more clearly than in God’s redemption of his people from bondage in Egypt. Again and again, God tells pharaoh to let his people go that they may worship him (Exodus 3.12; 7.16; 8.1, 20; 9.1, 13; 10.3, 7, 8, 24, 26). Jesus himself declares that the Father is seeking worshippers (John 4.23) and the risen Lord gives his “Great Commission” to his disciples as they bow in worship before him (Matthew 28.16ff). Worship and evangelism are inseparable and a true passion for the worship of God must result in a deep passion to reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus a worshipping church is a church with a mission: reaching the lost with the gospel so that the ranks of those who worship God may ever increase. Thus, evangelism is the primary task of the church which issues in multitudes gathered in the worship of the triune God.
The Great Commission Calls Us To Make Disciples Of All People.
In the Great Commission Jesus says, … go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you … This means that as we bring the gospel to all people, those who believe, are to be initiated and thus incorporated into the visible church through the sacrament of baptism. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to all those whom we baptize and bring into our church whether they be long time members or new converts. We must teach them and assist them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us. Thus it is imperative that every believer God has entrusted to us be guided into the word of Christ. We believe the best context in which this can happen is the small group ministry. It is in the context of a small group that people can best be “discipled.” This however, is not the only place. Our Sunday school ministry is another excellent context for people to be helped to obey the commands of Jesus as is Sunday worship where the word of our Lord is opened, read and taught. Broadly speaking we see mature disciples as those who are committed to worship, learning, fellowship and ministry all of which are informed by a theologically “Reformed” world as life view as contained in our doctrinal standards. These four points are elsewhere developed.
The celebration of the gospel is at the heart of our worship.
The Apostle John writes in Revelation 5 that those worshipping Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God “… sang a new song: ‘You are worthy … because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom of priests … Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” The Apostle Peter writes (1 Peter 2.9, 10) “… you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Though we worship God for all his glorious attributes it is his loving grace seen in the gospel that lies at the heart of our worship. That grace has made us his people … his sons and daughters through faith in his Son. Worship is, at its heart, a celebration of the grace of God.
Our community is our primary target for carrying out the Great Commission.
Corporate worship should reflect the evangelization of the community in which the church is found. No individual church will reflect the full ethnic and cultural diversity of the worshippers in Revelation 5 & 7. Nevertheless, the church must beware of overlooking those peoples within its own immediate community. We must evangelize our own Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria as well as the ends of the earth (Acts 1.8). Every community has varying degrees of ethnic & cultural diversity and we are called to reach all those in our Jerusalem. Thus, we resist the homogeneous principle of church-growth which has been prevalent throughout the later part of the 20th century. Instead, we embrace a parish mentality that drives us to reach all peoples in our community. We seek to “make disciples of all nations” right here in Dover Delaware and to come together in worship, to the glory of God. This is not to deny that it is easiest to reach people just like ourselves or that we should reach them with the gospel. It is, rather, to affirm that we will reach out to all peoples with the gospel. We do so with the assurance that it is God’s will that our worship reflect the broadness of his love for all peoples. We seek to carry out the great commission (Matthew 28.16-20) right here in Dover, beginning with our immediate neighborhoods.
Our Goal is to Reach All Peoples in our Community.
Worship which most clearly reflects the heart of God is worship in which people of diverse origins & cultures are gathered in worship. This is clearly reflected in the worship scene described in Revelation where people from every nation, tribe, people and language are gathered in worship. This picture of worship is nothing less than the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that in him all the peoples on earth would be blessed (Genesis 12.3) and that he would be the father of many nations, the very reason why his name was changed from Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17.4-6). Only the gospel can bring deep reconciliation between peoples and overcome the natural, sinful barriers of race, social & economic status, gender, age, political persuasions, etc. Thus the church of Jesus Christ is the place where the supernatural power of the gospel is visibly manifested through the unity of people who are not naturally one, a unity that is beautifully expressed in united worship. This unity is the Father’s answer to the prayer of His one and only son, Jesus Christ, who on the eve of his death prayed for all those who would believe in him: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17.23). It is the gospel that breaks down the walls of racial division, a truth that Paul drives home again and again. In Ephesians 2.14 he tells us that the racial division between Jew and non-Jew has been destroyed through Jesus Christ who “… is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility …” In Colossians 3.11 he says that in the church “… there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Thus he calls on the Colossian Christians to live out this unity in their church in the verses that immediately follow (vv. 12-17). He writes to the Christians of the church in Rome who were experiencing the racial tensions of Jew vs. Gentile and reminds them that it has always been God’s intention that all peoples be united in their worship of Him (Romans 15.7-12). He begins his exhortation with the words, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” But it is not only the divisions of race that are overcome by the gospel. Paul tells us that “in Christ there is neither slave nor free”. The divisions of class & wealth are removed in Christ. James exhorts the church about the dangers of valuing the rich over the poor. He says to the church, in chapter 2, vv. 2-5, “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? He goes on to say in vv 8 & 9, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” And there are other things that divide people. Gender has been and continues to be a source of tension even in our own society. Throughout history and even in our day there are cultures which view women as inferior to men to such as extent that in some cultures women have been viewed as mere property of men. But Paul declares that “in Christ there is neither male nor female.” This does not mean there are not differences and distinctions between men and women. Rather, it means that men and women are of equal significance, worth and dignity in Christ. And, there are other things that divide people such as age, political convictions, etc. All of these issues that divide people are set aside by the gospel. Through Christ we are reconciled not only with God but also with each other and it is this unity that we seek. We pursue a no barriers mentality within the context of biblical teaching. Thus, we seek to break down human barriers through the gospel as we seek to carry out the Great Commission among the peoples of our own community and seek to gather them together in the worship of God.
Our Worship Reflects the Diverse Origins and Cultures of our Community.
Worship in which people of diverse origins and cultures come together requires the intentional outreach to and evangelism of ALL PEOPLES and a style of worship that reflects the cultural expressions of those we are seeking to reach. We know that reaching out to people different from ourselves is not the easy and natural thing to do. We are all naturally sinful in our racial pride and find it difficult to accept people of other races. This is why the New Testament speaks so extensively to the issue of our unity in Christ over against racial division. This truth was so radical that Paul found himself in chains for teaching “the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6.19, 20). The mystery was that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3.6). This fundamental truth of the gospel is as radical today as it was in Paul’s day and will not be realized without intentionally carrying it out. Thus we are intentionally reaching out to all people in our community and have a style of worship that reflects the cultures of the people we are seeking to reach with the gospel. We take the posture of missionaries seeking to reach people of other cultures. In so doing it is imperative that we respect and embrace the cultural distinctives of those we seek to win. Thus we must submit our personal preferences in worship style for the sake of winning the lost. We become all things to all people so that by all means we might save some (2 Cor. 9.23). We embrace the cultural expressions of those we are seeking to reach, yet do so without abandoning the rich treasures of the worship of God’s people throughout the ages. The result is a “third culture.” It is a culture that embraces cultural strands of those we are seeking to reach and in Christian love weaves them together into a new cultural fabric that reflects the variety and beauty of God’s own being whose image is borne by all.
The Gospel Transforms Lives
The Gospel means “good news.”
We are so sinful, lost and completely helpless that only the life and death of the Son of God can save us. The good news is that those who trust in Jesus Christ rather than in themselves are “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1.22, 23). The good news is that “God made (Christ), who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21). Jesus has paid the penalty for all our sin through his death on the cross. There is no payment left to be made. But not only has our sin been taken away, we have, through faith, been given the righteousness of Jesus so that we are already as holy and righteous as we can ever be. Our righteousness is the very righteousness of Jesus imputed (credited) to us by faith through grace alone. Thus the gospel is not only good news to the unbeliever but also to the believer, for it constantly reminds us that the assurance of our salvation is not based on anything we do but solely on what Jesus has already done for us!
The gospel is the power of God to transform lives.
The gospel is not merely the way we enter the kingdom of God. It is the way we live our lives in that kingdom. We are justified and sanctified by faith. At the heart of our sin (which affects us and our relationships with others) is our pride. It is pride that seeks to find worth through performance and swells in success. It is wounded pride which expresses itself in discouragement and self-hatred. The gospel tells us that we are far worse sinners than we ever imagined but that we are, nevertheless, fully accepted by God in Christ. The fact is that the more we see our sin, the more certain we become that we are saved entirely by grace. As our grasp of the gospel grows we grow in humility before God and before each other. Thus pride (the heart of our sin) is increasingly subdued. We have an ever-decreasing estimation of ourselves and an ever-increasing estimation of the grace of God. In this way our love for God increases and we obey him because we love him. The law of God becomes a joy rather than a burden. In God’s law we find those things that God desires from us and see doing them as a means to delight Him rather than a means to gain his favor. Thus our lives are changed.
Furthermore, the gospel is the means whereby the Holy Spirit is released in our lives. Even our greatest desires to obey God will fail if we rely on our own strength. This is what the Apostle Paul drives home in Galatians 3 where he scolds these believers saying, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Paul tells these Christians that “The righteous will live by faith” then reminds them that it is by faith that they receive the Holy Spirit (v. 14). It is as we continuously believe the gospel that the Holy Spirit is given to us and it is the Holy Spirit who produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5.22). These are radical, life transforming characteristics put in motion by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This radical transformation which the gospel brings about is most dramatically seen in that believers are those who love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and their neighbor as themselves. This love for one’s neighbor manifests itself most powerfully is reaching out to those from whom we naturally distance ourselves. This is clearly seen in Christ’s teaching about who our neighbor is in the well-known parable of The Good Samaritan. The church is a community of believers in which the many barriers that divide people are overcome thus demonstrating the reality & power of the gospel to transform lives.
The Growth of the Church Extends the Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God is extended through the growth of the church.
We believe that the church, expressed in individual congregations, is the primary means whereby God extends his kingdom. Therefore we are committed to the continual growth of our own congregation and also to establishing new churches. Our goal is to ignite a movement of churches throughout the Delmarva Peninsula and to the ends of the earth that embraces our core values and beliefs. In so doing we are seeking to obey the great commission (Matthew 28.16-20) by making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.
In our church we do not see evangelism as a particular ministry among others but rather as something that permeates everything we do. From the nurseries, to the appearance of our building and grounds, to the outreach of our shepherding group ministry, to the hospitality extended to newcomers, we want to be outward facing. Even in our corporate worship, which is essentially the gathering of God’s people for worship, we expect to be “overheard” by many friends who do not believe. Our goal is to be especially hospitable toward outsiders that they may we drawn to faith in Christ. We seek to equip and motivate every member into an evangelistic lifestyle. Our goal is to be used by God to bringing multitudes to faith in Jesus Christ and to teach them to obey everything He has commanded.
Additionally, Grace Church seeks to plant new churches which embrace our core values and beliefs. We are a launching site for new churches. We provide practical training for men preparing to plant new churches and we provide financial and people resources to plant churches throughout the Delmarva Peninsula to the ends of the earth.
Finally, we support the work of church planting throughout the world. We are particularly eager to support those church plants which have the goal of becoming church planting churches themselves.
The kingdom of God impacts all aspects of human existence.
The gospel does not merely transform our spiritual lives, it affects all areas of life. We see this in the life of Jesus who went about, not only declaring the news of the forgiveness of sins but also went about healing the sick and feeding the hungry. Jesus saw people as whole beings and so do we. We have a “holistic” understanding of the gospel and thus we seek to minister to the material/social needs of people as well as to their spiritual needs. It is our goal to demonstrate to the world that the gospel will transform neighborhoods through ministries of word, mercy and justice. It is our goal to demonstrate that the gospel lifts the poor and reconciles races and classes. We desire to respect and love the poor as the image bearers of God. As Evangelical Christians we especially feel the need for such ministry since throughout most of the 20th century the Evangelical church has, for the most part, sacrificed the ministry of mercy on the altar separation from the “social gospel.” We reject this separation and affirm that the gospel has deep social implications.
Furthermore, we believe that the Kingdom of God is to be felt in all areas of culture. Thus we encourage Christians to work with excellence in their professions and to bring Christians values to bear in all they do, be it in the business world, the government, the military, the arts, etc. Our goal is, in the words of Paul, to “… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10.5).