who we are
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.
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 descendents 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.
For those who want more of a line by line description we offer:
WE BELIEVE that only the sixty-six books of the Bible found in the Old and New Testaments are the verbal (every word) and plenary (complete) inspired Word of God as contained in the original manuscripts. [Matthew 5:18; John 10:35 and 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:20–21]
WE BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, that He was conceived and born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and offered Himself as a penal, substitutionary sacrifice for sinners. By His blood shed at the Cross–, He obtained for us eternal redemption, the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. He was raised bodily on the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father, there to make intercession for the saints forever. He will return for the Church, and establish His kingdom on earth over which He will rule from Mount Zion. [Matthew 1:18–25; John 1:1–18; Romans 8:34;
1 Corinthians 15:1–28; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10–14; Ephesians 1:7;
Philippians 2:6–11; Colossians 1:15–23; Hebrews 7:25, 9:13–15 and 10:19; 1 Peter 2:21–25; 1 John 2:1–2]
WE BELIEVE that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. No ordinance, ritual, work or any other activity on the part of man is required or accepted in order to be saved. This saving grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, also sanctifies us by enabling us to do what is pleasing in God's sight in order that we might be progressively conformed to the image of Christ. [John 1:12–13, 6:37–44 and 10:25–30; Acts 16:30–31;
Romans 3:1-4 and 8:1–17, 31–39 and 10:8–10; Ephesians 2:8–10; Philippians 2:12–13; Titus 3:3–7; 1 John 1:7, 9]
WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit, in whom we are also sealed for the day of redemption. The Holy Spirit regenerates, forever indwells, and graciously equips the Christian for godly living and service. Subsequent to conversion, the Spirit desires to fill, empower and anoint believers for ministry and witness. We also believe that signs
and wonders, as well as all the gifts of the Spirit described in the New Testament, are operative today and are designed to testify to the presence of the Kingdom and to empower and edify the Church to fulfill its calling and mission. Matthew 3:11; John 1:12–13 and 3:1–15; Acts 4:29–30; Romans 8:9 and 12:3–8; 1 Corinthians 12:12–13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22; Galatians 3:1–5; Ephesians 1:13–14 and 5:18]
WE BELIEVE that the one true God exists eternally in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and that these, being one God, are equal in deity, power and glory. We believe that God not only created the world but also now upholds, sustains, governs and providentially directs all that exists and that He will bring all things to their proper consummation in Christ Jesus to the glory of His name. [Psalm 104:1-35 and 139:1-24; Matthew 10:29–31 and 28:19; Acts 17:24–28; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 1:9–12 and 4:4–6; Colossians 1:16–17; Hebrews 1:1–3; Revelation 1:4–6]
WE BELIEVE that when the Christian dies they pass immediately into the blessed presence of Christ, there to enjoy conscious fellowship with the Savior until the day of the resurrection and the glorious transformation of their body. The saved will then forever dwell in blissful fellowship with their great triune God. We also believe that when the unbeliever dies they are consigned to Hell, there to await the Day of Judgment when they shall be punished with eternal, conscious and tormented separation from the presence of God in the lake of fire. [Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:19–31; John 5:25–29; 1 Corinthians 15:35–58; 2 Corinthians 5:1–10; Philippians 1:19–26 and 3:20–21; 2 Thessalonians 1:5–10; Revelation 20:11–15 and 21:1–22:15]
WE BELIEVE that water baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two ordinances of the Church to be observed until the time of Christ's return. They are not a means of salvation, but are channels of God's sanctifying grace and blessing to the faithful in Christ Jesus. [Matthew 26:26–29 and 28:19; Romans 6:3–11; 1 Corinthians 11:23–34; 1 Peter 3:21]
WE BELIEVE in the literal Second Coming of Christ at the end of the age when He will return to Earth personally and visibly to consummate His Kingdom. [Psalms 2:7–9 and 22:27–28; John 14:12 and 17:20–26; Romans 11:25–32; 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, 50–58; Ephesians 4:11–16; Philippians 3:20–21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12; Revelation 7:9–14]
WE BELIEVE that Adam was originally created in the image of God, righteous and without sin. In consequence of his disobedience, Adam's posterity are born subject to both imputed and inherent sin, and are therefore by nature and choice the children of wrath, justly condemned in the sight of God, wholly unable to save themselves or to contribute in any way to their acceptance with God. [Genesis 1:1–3:24; Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 53:5; Romans 3:9–18 and 5:12–21; Ephesians 2:1–3]
WE BELIEVE that the Church is God's primary instrument through which He is fulfilling His redemptive purposes in the earth. To equip the saints for the work of ministry, God has given the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We also affirm the priesthood of all believers and the importance of every Christian being joined with and actively involved in a local community of the saints. We believe that women, no less than men, are called and gifted to proclaim the Gospel and do all the works of the Kingdom. [Matthew 16:17–19; Acts 2:17–18, 42; Ephesians 3:14–21 and 4:11–16; 1 Timothy 2:11–15; Hebrews 10:23–25; 1 Peter 2:4–5 and 9–10]
WE BELIEVE that God has called the Church to preach the Gospel to all nations, and especially to remember the poor and to minister to their needs through sacrificial giving and practical service. This ministry is an expression of the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ and is an essential part of the Kingdom of God. [Isaiah 58:6–12 and 61:1; Matthew 5:1–7:29 and 28:18–20; Luke 4:18 and Luke 21:1–4; Galatians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:8]
Ending where we began: Jesus said, "You shall know the truth (have beliefs) and the truth will set you free (shaping your behavior).
Come explore what you believe and learn God's truth for yourself. Wesley offered three simple rules for living out our faith: Do Good.
Do No Harm. Stay in Love with God. God always starts with a heart being shaped by him and from the outflow of that change, a community, society and culture will be transformed as well. Live what you believe out loud!