It is never enough just to make statements of belief if they don't translate into how we live. We believe that our behavior ultimately is the best measure of our core beliefs. We cannot embrace a certain belief unless we are prepared to let it transform us as we put it into action--to walk in "the way."
So below you will see two ways of expressing belief. In the form of a narrative we offer:
“What we believe” sections are usually full of bullet points and read somewhat like an owner’s manual. Unfortunately most of our lives don’t look anything like that. Sure our lives are filled with facts and figures, dates and times; but we have to write all those down to remember them. The important stuff we don’t need to write down. What we love, what we hate, what we fear, our biggest hopes; we don’t keep those in tablets or smart phones. We live in stories, not bullet points. At First Church we place our hope and belief in the story presented in the bible; a story God invites us to live into.
We believe that a beautiful, amazing God created a perfect earth through the power of his spoken word. We’d rather sit back in amazement at our creative God than spend time arguing about how it exactly happened. He strode through his breath-taking creation concluding that everything was as he intended it to be (“It is good”). This powerfully creative God created man and woman in his image, giving them the power to love and be loved. This gives all humans inherent dignity. However the original man, Adam, and his original bride, Eve, broke God’s heart by disobeying him. The perfection of creation was tainted; something in the fabric of this beautiful pattern tore.
In choosing a way apart from God’s desire Adam and Eve experienced sin. Sin continued to push people further from their creator. God pursues humanity in a surprising way; selecting an idol-worshipper from a Babylonian city to be his ambassador. God later takes this man’s descendants out of the experience of slavery and forced labor, leads them through a desert and then makes them his people. God chooses these people not in order that he might be exclusive, but so they would demonstrate the way of God to all people: the way of mercy, truth, and forgiveness.
Sadly these people again choose a way different from God’s. God knows the only way to remedy the situation is to do something that truly exemplified his reckless love. He would come and die for humanity. God, who mysteriously is three in one (traditionally known as the Father, Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit) arrived on earth as a baby, born from a virgin. Later this baby would be known as Jesus. His mom’s husband swung a hammer and we assume Jesus did the same until he was around thirty, when he started preaching sermons. He said that his message was good news for broken people. He said that people should love God and others with reckless abandon. He said that believing in him was the way of God. He said that being close to God didn’t depend on how many bible verses you could quote, or who your dad was, or what skeletons you had in your closet. After his first sermon people in his hometown tried to throw him off a cliff. Jesus asked a group of normal guys to follow him as his closest students and best friends. They saw him heal sick people, raise dead people, fight with religious people. They also heard him talk about the fact that he would have to die.
Eventually powerful people get their hands on Jesus and have him crucified. He bleeds profusely and then his heart stops beating and he dies. He’s buried. His best friends hide. His mom cries. A few days after he dies some his followers find out that he has risen from the dead. He spends fifty days teaching his followers, encouraging them and promising them that he, God, will never leave them. His small band of followers receives the gift of God among them, giving them power to heal, speak boldly and perform miracles. We don’t believe these gifts have ceased. We’d rather not argue about where they happen or don’t happen, instead we’d like to praise God when they do and not blame him when they don’t. These followers of Jesus become known as Christians, a group of people relentlessly attached to the way of God revealed in Jesus. It is our great privilege to be known in the same fashion. Like those first followers we believe that Jesus will eventually return to earth, fixing what’s broken and causing heaven and earth to collide, resulting in a new creation. We believe that the faithful will live with God forever in this new creation; while those who have rejected the way of God will be separated from him forever, experiencing all the brokenness of creation gone wrong.
Unbelievably God gives us a chapter in his story. We love people, try to heal brokenness and speak the truth of God. We look to the bible for truth and beauty, instruction and inspiration. In this story we worship authentically and pray humbly. We read God’s story constantly (though most of the time its reading us). Our chapter is not perfect, there are run-on sentences and typos, but we live in the bigger story of a God who loves us and forgives us. This is the story God is using to shape our life as we live in this world and anticipate the next.