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An introduction to discovering Grace

 

Have you ever stood in the expansive shadow of a California redwood tree?

 

Of all the stunning reminders we have of God’s majesty and artistry, this magnificent behemoth is one of the most breathtaking. The tallest redwoods stretch higher than a 35-foot skyscraper and grow to weigh almost two million pounds over a lifespan of 2,000 years.

 

But even redwoods, with their imposing power and bulk, aren’t as strong when they stand alone.

A redwood’s root system can extend more than a hundred miles. As it grows, it becomes entwined with the roots of its neighbors - together, they give each other support, strength and stability to stand against the destructive winds and floods of the Northwest.

 

At Grace Church, we see a profound and beautiful picture there of what it means to live in community with followers of Jesus Christ. It resonates with us, because at the heart of who we are is a commitment to pursuing Him and walking out our faith in communion with a family of believers. 

 

We might differ from time to time in the way we define “community,” but we understand that it begins for all of us with being connected. Rooted together. Gaining strength from one another. Loving God and serving others and the world while building relationships within our Grace Church family. Being engaged in an on-going conversation about what kingdom living is, listening to each other, seeking to learn about each others’ opinions and experiences. Knowing none of us have all the answers.

 

Below, we try to state clearly the core tenets of our faith. You’ll learn here about our vision and beliefs; how we’re organized, and why. Hopefully, you’ll see what it looks like to be a part of the ministry of Grace Church.

 

But the way you’ll come to know us best is by spending time with us, and in these times of separation, this website, our Grace Church of nwa Facebook page and joining us each Sunday at 10:15am on Facebook Live is a good way to that.




 

Our vision and beliefs

Jesus is everything. He’s the image of the unseen God. All creation testifies to Him as author and creator. All of Scripture and life is informed by Him and informs us about Him. The Church belongs to Him. When He became flesh, lived among us, died and was raised, He changed everything…forever! We believe these truths passionately, and we want our belief to be reflected in all that we say and do.

 

Rabbinical tradition in Jesus’ day held that students would aspire not only to learn from their teacher, but to be exactly like him; to emulate him so thoroughly that anyone would know who he was simply by knowing them. Our aim is to be transformed by Jesus Christ, to emulate Him so thoroughly that anyone who knows us will know we belong to Him. 

 

Scripture reveals Him. We believe it is a collection of writings inspired by God for this purpose; it tells us about His plan for humankind, shows us a history of His dealings with His creation and invites us to understand our own lives as part of the story.

 

As a community of Christ-followers, our desire is to be grounded in Scripture; to let it inform our imaginations and guide every aspect of our lives.  We hope to create an environment where we all are digging into the timeless truths it holds. The Holy Spirit in each of us and among us when we gather together allows us to learn from, sharpen and shape one another. We want to receive the message of Scripture eagerly, examine it personally and focus energetically on who we should be as a result. 

 

No creed or confession of faith can fully state what we believe. In order to connect with historic Christianity, though, while leaving room for disagreements on what Paul calls “disputable matters,” we’ve adopted the Nicene Creed. Like all declarations, it’s a product of a particular time and place; of people like us, sorting through what they believed and confessing publicly what they understood to be the basics of Christian faith. It’s also an interpretation, not intended to replace Scripture.

There are four distinctive marks within the creed:

 

  • “One” describes our unity.

  • “Holy” describes our sanctity.

  • “Christian” describes the centrality to our faith of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

  • “Apostolic” describes our connection with the traditions passed down from the apostles.

 

Please read this version of the creed, and interact with it; consider its strengths and shortcomings, as well as its application in light of our desire - individually and as a faith community - to come to a loving knowledge of Christ through Scripture.


 

Nicene Creed

 

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, 

maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,

begotten of His Father before all worlds, 

God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made,

being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made;

who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven

and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man;

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures,

and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.

And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,

whose Kingdom will have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,

who spoke by the prophets.

And we believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,

we acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,

and we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come.



Our mission and vision defined

 

We recognize a few basic assumptions as the foundation of our mission and vision:

 

  1. Everything starts with God’s love for us. Loving God because He loved us is the source of our motivation and passion and will produce the sort of outcomes we hope to see in our lives: love for one another, desire to serve and excitement to share the good news.

  2. The Holy Spirit is a unifying entity, residing in each of us to provide motivation, understanding and direction.  One of our chief functions at Grace is to create and maintain an environment of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s presence and work.

  3. To be transformed means we are called to be actively practicing a substitutional, sacrificial love. The popular belief that ministry is the responsibility of a pastor, the church staff or other professionals denies the biblical truth that we are all ministers to one another and ambassadors of Christ in our world.  

 

We believe we’re all part of a royal priesthood, each of us responsible for and capable of ministering. With that in mind, here are a few principles that we believe help us all to recognize our critical roles in the Kingdom:

 

  1. Jesus is the head of the Church, and we yield to His guidance and authority over it. 

  2. Different ministry groups and their leaders provide support and nurturing. They meet each others’ needs as the first lines of “offense” and “defense.” 

  3. Every member of the body is equipped to share the Kingdom by living it out, and to be a minister of the gospel.
  4. Everyone is encouraged to be a passionate follower of Jesus, regardless of where they are.

  5. Everyone is encouraged to develop personal relationships with the Creator and with each other, and to seek opportunities to serve in Jesus’ name. Rather than building our church around programs for our members, we want to train our focus on time spent as active influencers for Christ in the world.

 

As we grow in relationship with God and each other, we learn to live and serve together in ways that offer concrete demonstrations of His love. We believe that our fellowship at Grace Church is a small part of the larger body of Christ, and we seek to cooperate with our brothers and sisters any way we can, being faithful with the resources we’re given.


 

Our mission and vision

 

The key component and the end goal of our personal lives and our life as a church is love. The greatest commandments Jesus gives us are to love God and love one another (Matthew 22:35-38). We believe these twin commandments are the heart of the church; they’re intertwined and can’t be separated. Unless we dedicate constant energy and focus to understanding what this means for us, any efforts or plans we make individually or collectively are futile. 

 

Love isn’t something we can teach; it’s an outcome of our individual ability to recognize, with the help of the Holy Spirit, worth and beauty in ourselves and others. We sometimes create barriers to love, as individuals and as a Church. We want to root out those things that keep us from experiencing God’s love and passing it on to others; for example:

 

  1. the belief that we cannot love because we are bound in sin.

  2. misunderstanding what love truly is. God is love! If we don’t know Him, our source of knowledge about love is fallible.

  3. being isolated, or isolating oneself, from other believers.

  4. teaching that leads others to perceive God’s love as unattainable, irrelevant or inapplicable.

  5. over-commitment to activities at the expense of relationships, and choosing to implement structures in place of relationships.


 

Our mission and vision

 

As followers of Christ, all of our hurt, sickness and brokenness is intensified when we’re disconnected from the Church. Our faith is meant to be lived out in fellowship with other believers. So at Grace, we’re all about building community. From studying God’s word or serving others as part of a community group, to engaging in discipleship one-on-one, there are opportunities for everyone to invest in relationships that have eternal significance. 

 

Community Groups:  It’s difficult for us to love one another “warts and all” if we actually spend little time together. That’s why being an active part of a smaller group, or community group, within our church is central to being involved in the life of Grace Church. Though each of these groups has a distinct personality, they have some important things in common: Meeting for prayer, mutual support, Bible study and fellowship, they provide places for us to exercise the love we claim and seek; to develop close friendships; to learn and grow together more deeply in communion with Christ and each other; and to find encouragement and opportunity for ministry and discipleship.

 

For those who have not accepted Christ, community groups offer a place to experience the reality of what it means to be a passionate follower of His.

 

Our community group leaders play a vital role at Grace: to help shepherd the group and offer spiritual leadership and oversight.  We seek to have a network of leaders in each community group to gain the same benefits afforded by plurality of elders, such as balance, accountability and development. This also helps to protect the teaching, as well as the teachers.  

 

We encourage everyone to develop intentional relationships inside and outside the Grace community that provide opportunities for discipleship and sharing the Kingdom of God.


 

Our mission and vision: serve

 

The most visible expression of our love for God is our service to each other, the communities we live in and everyone with whom we share this planet. It’s how others will know we’re different, set apart.  It’s where we move from hearing the Word to doing what it says. While our service begins and grows in our fellowship at Grace Church, it’s equally important to serve in the places where we live, work, travel, play and socialize. Serving others is a vital part of a passionate Christ-follower’s life, and a person’s passion and commitment should grow through their involvement at Grace.

 

Part of our mandate as a church is to provide teaching and training, and to serve wherever God is at work. We try to be faithful to this vision in several ways, including:

 

  1. finding, encouraging and supporting ministry development inside and outside of Grace.

  2. partnering with other churches, ministries and individuals who share our vision and values.

  3. encouraging one another in pursuing a calling.

  4. providing resources for specific, focused ministries. 


 

Structure & organization


There are many different religious traditions and experiences represented by the people in our faith community, but Grace Church doesn’t look exactly like any of them. 

 

We hope that the way we’ve chosen to organize ourselves reflects what we’re most committed to: the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ. Affirming that it’s the work of the Holy Spirit in all of us that facilitates the spiritual growth and prospering of the Church, we believe this model most accurately reflects our understanding of what the Bible teaches about how we’re to live together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, this structure - like any other - only functions as well as the people who are part of it. In order for it to work, everyone in the Grace Church family must display:

 

  • humility (Philippians 2:3)

  • peacefulness (Matthew 5:39)

  • sacrificial love (John 15:13)

  • understanding (1 Peter 3:15)

  • servanthood (Matthew 23:5-12)

 

As individuals and as a church, we’ve wrestled at times with the very things that make our fellowship unique; as you learn more about us, maybe you will too. We encourage you to ask questions and reflect on how our structure compares or contrasts with what is important to you as a believer, and allow that to inform your decision about whether God is leading you to be a part of Grace.

 

There are three points that shape our approach to church leadership:

 

The Church is a non-clerical community.  Unlike Israel, which was divided into sacred priestly members and lay members, the early Christian church was a people’s movement. The distinguishing mark of Christianity was not found in a clerical hierarchy but in the fact that God’s Spirit came to dwell within ordinary, common people, and that through them, the Spirit manifested Jesus’ life to the believing community and the world.

 

The Church is a humble-servant community. When it functions properly, shared leadership requires a greater exercise of humble servanthood.

 

Service Teams and Leaders:  There are areas of responsibility at Grace Church that are coordinated by teams in order to help us carry out ministry. We encourage our membership to be sensitive to opportunities to get involved when they see that a team has a need they could fill. We’ve found that the more people there are serving in a particular area, the lighter the load is for any one individual. Similar to other areas at Grace, we encourage shared leadership within our Service Teams. Those who facilitate these teams help shepherd, organize and provide spiritual leadership for their ministry area. 

 

Our Grace Service Teams are:

 

  • Worship

  • Teaching

  • Community Group

  • Catalyst


 

We believe in stewardship

 

So what does it mean to be “plugged in” to Grace Church?

Most importantly, it means being accountable to God above any human being or human system. Only when that priority is in focus do our relationships with one another stand a chance of being healthy. Once we become secure in our relationship with Him we are free to commit to, interact with and serve others with clean hearts, clear heads and pure motives.

 

Also, it means trying to see our world with the compassion of Jesus; to love and serve others the way He did, sacrificially - without fear; without regard for their beliefs, brokenness and hopelessness; without concern for ourselves.

 

We want to continually ask ourselves and each other: Where do we encounter things that are not as they ought to be, or were intended by God to be? How can we insert ourselves in those situations in a real and tangible way to give people a glimpse of the Kingdom, the Creator and His Creation?

We work toward that goal in a lot of ways, including:

 

  • being committed to praying and being active in studying Scripture personally and along with the Grace community.

  • being committed to regularly participating in worship, community groups, personal discipleship and other activities that are part of the life of Grace Church.

  • being committed to sharing our different gifts, talents and resources as the Spirit provides opportunities.

  • being committed to building the Kingdom within our fellowship, in our communities and beyond.

  • being committed to sacrificial sharing of our physical resources as modeled in Scripture.

  • being committed to serving like Christ in the fellowship at Grace, but equally, if not more importantly, in family, job, community, overseas - wherever He leads us.

 

Of course, this is not an exhaustive or exclusive list. More important than any particular expression is the motivation behind it. Basically, our desire is to be a group of people seeking to be passionate followers of Jesus. 

 

Our hope is that in sharing that passion, you will also have a growing passion for His word, as well as a dedication to working out your beliefs in the context of a Christian fellowship.

And if you believe He’s leading you to do that at Grace Church, we’d love for you to join us.