Constitution of Grace Christian Church
INTRODUCTION: This document is a summary of Grace Christian Church’s beliefs and practices. Its goal is to insure greater unity and effectiveness for Christ as a church.
Statement of Belief
Grace Christian Church holds the following statement of faith as being a summary of Christian doctrine in accordance with the Bible: We realize that many truly born again believers hold differing positions on certain aspects of doctrine. Our statement of faith is not designed to exclude anyone from our fellowship. It is the standard of belief for all leaders and teachers. This statement of faith is not put forth to divide believers but rather to insure unity in this body through consistency of teaching (Ephesians 4:13-14).
We believe that the 66 books of the Old and New Testament are the verbally inspired Word of God
(II Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit revealed God’s truth to the minds of the human writers, so that using their own individual personalities they composed and recorded God’s perfect revelation to man (II Peter 1:21;
I Corinthians 2:10-13). We believe that with the passing of the apostles the Bible was completed and that direct and divine revelation is not being given today (Acts 1:20-25; Ephesians 2:20; II Peter 1:21;
I Thessalonians 2:13; Revelation 22:18-19). We further maintain that God has supernaturally preserved His revelation so that it is the infallible Word of God (Matthew 5:17-18; Psalm 119:160).
THE TRIUNE GOD
We believe in one Triune God, eternally existing in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each
eternal in being, identical in nature, equal in power and glory and having the same divine attributes (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 9:14).
GOD THE FATHER
We believe God the Father is perfect in holiness, boundless in love, infinite in wisdom and measureless in power (Isaiah 6:3; I John 3:6; Psalm 147:5; Revelation 19:6). We believe that God the Father orders and disposes all things according to His own purpose (Psalms145:8-9). He has decreed, for His own glory, all things that come to pass yet He is neither the author nor approver of sin (Ephesians 1:11; Habakkuk 1:13). We believe that in eternity past God planned for the provision of Christ’s redemptive work (Ephesians 1:3-5; I Peter 1:18-20). We believe that He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of men, and that God is Father to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men (I John 3:1, Acts 17:24-29).
GOD THE SON
We believe Jesus Christ, God the Son, eternally existed with the Father, but in His incarnation was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary (John 1:1-2, 14; Matthew 1:18-25). As the God / Man, the Lord Jesus became perfect humanity and undiminished deity united in one person forever (Philippians 2:5-8.) The Lord Jesus was sinless in His nature and life, making full payment for the sins of the world by His substitutionary death on the cross (I Peter 2:22; Romans 5:8). We believe in His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28; John 20 and 21), His ascension into Heaven (Acts 1:9-11), His present intercession
for His people at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34) and His literal pre-millennial return to earth
(I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
We believe in the deity and the personality of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-5). The Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved of their need for Christ (John 16:8-11). The Holy Spirit is the agent of the New Birth (John 3:5; Titus 3:5) who, at the time of salvation, permanently indwells, seals (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13,14) and baptizes (places) the believer into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). He further ministers to the believer,
teaching (I John 2:27), interceding (Romans 8:26), guiding (Romans 8:14), filling (Ephesians 5:18) and
imparting spiritual gifts (I Peter 4:10; I Corinthians 12:11). We believe that the gifts of healing, tongues and other revelatory gifts served a unique purpose in the apostolic church but are not in operation today (Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 2:4; Acts 5:12).
We believe God created sinless spiritual beings called angels. They serve as God’s ministering messengers, advancing the cause of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 26:53; Psalm 148:2-5; Hebrews 1:14). We believe in the existence of Satan. We believe that Satan was once the greatest of God’s angels who rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19). He is now the open enemy of God and man (Revelation 12:7-12) and he is destined to the judgment of eternal justice in the lake of fire (Matthew 4:1-3; II Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:10). We believe that a number of angels were led away into sin when they followed Satan in his rebellion against God (II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:4,13) and that these fallen angels are commonly referred to as demons (Matthew 12:24).
We believe the literal biblical account of creation, with the days of creation being literal twenty-four hour periods (Genesis 1; Genesis 2:7; Colossians 1:16,17). We believe that man was directly created by God, not by evolution. He was made in the image and likeness of God and was free of sin (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). When Adam, the first man, disobeyed God the entire human race was corrupted and plunged into a state of sin and incurred the penalty of physical and spiritual death (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). Every person is born in the sinful condition inherited from Adam and also becomes a sinner by their choice to disobey God’s absolute perfect standards (Romans 1:18-3:18, 3:23). Every human being outside of Jesus Christ is under the sentence of separation and death and is absolutely powerless to change their sinful and condemned standing before God (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-9).
We believe that salvation from the power and penalty of sin is only found in the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17; I Corinthians 15:1-3). Full and complete forgiveness of sin, salvation from eternal death and the reception of eternal life cannot be earned by self righteousness, good deeds or religious works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Romans 6:23). Salvation is offered to man as a free gift of God’s grace. It can only be received as a repentant person realizes his lost and hopeless condition and exercises saving faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross and in His resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:3-9; Romans 10:9-10; I Corinthians 15:14; John 1:12).
At the moment of belief the very life of Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit regenerates the spirit that died in Adam (John 3:36, 5:24; Titus 3:5-6). The new believer is born into God’s family (John 1:12), and is made into a new creation before God (II Corinthians 5:21). In addition, the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is given to the believer so that he or she is declared righteous (Romans 3:21-26), and is fully accepted by God in Christ (Ephesians 1:6). Those who are truly born again can never lose the gift of salvation (John 19:27-29; I Peter 1:5; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 8:35-39; Ephesians 1:13-14).
We believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation from sin is sufficient for every person who would ever live (I John 2:2; I Timothy 4:10; II Peter 2:1). We believe that it is God’s clear desire for all people to respond to the gospel of Christ (I Timothy 2:3-4; II Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:16-17).
We believe that every Christian should be a disciple of Jesus Christ, progressively growing in His likeness. (Titus 2:11,14: Philippians 3:10-17; John 10:10). Authentic spiritual growth can not occur by the keeping
of religious rites, rules or The Law but is a product of God’s grace (Galatians 3:1-3; Romans 8:2-3;
At the moment of belief in Christ the believer’s identity is changed from a hostile and alienated sinner in Adam to a saint who is perfect and blameless before God in Christ (Colossians 1:20-22; I Corinthians 1:2). This new identity, though positional and spiritual, is a present reality (Ephesians 1:3-14) and is the
primary New Testament motivation for progressive Christian maturity (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:1;
Colossians 3:1-5). The power for overcoming the flesh and indwelling sin is achieved through the believer’s identification with the crucified and risen Christ (Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 2:20).
As the believer, by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit, daily appropriates his identity (motivation) and identification (power) the very life of Jesus Christ is lived out in the believer. Joyful obedience to God’s Word will occur with the progressive replacement of fleshly values, emotions and behaviors with those of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:17-24).
We believe that the universal church is a spiritual organism composed of all born again people from Pentecost to the Rapture (Acts 2:14; 1 Corinthians 4:13; Ephesians 1:22-23; I Thessalonians 4:14-17).
We believe the local church is a congregation of believers who have come together in a local assembly for:
- Exaltation of God
- Edification in the faith
- Encouragement in Christ
- Equipping of believers for life and ministry
- Evangelizing locally and in the world
(Acts 1:8, 2:40-47; Ephesians 4:11-12).
We believe that the churches of the New Testament practiced two ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water (Acts 8:36-39). Baptism is not a requirement for salvation (Acts 2:41, 8:35-38; I Corinthians 1:16) but rather an act of obedience (Matthew 28:19-20) which beautifully testifies of the believer’s union with their crucified, buried and risen Savior (Acts 8:36, 38-39; 16:31-33: Romans 6:3-5). The Lord’s Supper is a beautiful memorial of Jesus’ death that bestows no merit for salvation. The unleavened bread represents Jesus’ body that was freely given. The fruit of the vine
represents His blood that was shed for the full the payment of sin (Luke 22:18-20; I Corinthians 11:23-28; Hebrews 9:14).
We also believe that the New Testament church is to be free of outside religious or state control and that Jesus is the head and leader of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). We believe in a simple leadership structure with two biblical offices of Elder and Deacon. Elders serve as Christ’s under-shepherds to the body, leading, feeding and caring (I Peter 5:1-4; I Thessalonians 5:12). Deacons lead in the care of the congregation and assist the elders in any way necessary (Acts 6:1-6).
The first event in God’s end time program is the rapture of the church. We believe Jesus Christ will come in the air for His church. At the moment of Jesus’ coming in the air all believers in Christ who have died will be raised in glorified bodies. The generation of Christians who are alive at this time will not endure physical
death but will be changed in the twinkle of an eye, given glorified bodies and be caught up to meet the Lord
in the air with the resurrected believers. We believe that the rapture of the church is imminent and will occur before the seven years of tribulation (pre-tribulation) (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; I Corinthians 15:42-44, 51-54; Philippians 3:20-21; Revelation 3:10).
We believe that following the rapture of the church will be the seven-year tribulation period (Daniel 9:25-27; Revelation 11:2-3). This tribulation period is a Jewish period (Daniel 9:25-27) where God pours out his wrath on an unbelieving world (Revelation 6:17) and uses this chastening to bring a remnant of Israel to faith in
Jesus (Jeremiah 30:7; Zechariah 12:10).
This period will end the return of Christ in power and great glory to sit upon the throne of David and to establish the literal Millennium (1000) year kingdom on earth (Daniel 9:25-27; Matthew 24:29-31;
Luke 1:30-33; Isaiah 9:6,11:1-9; Acts 2:29-30; Revelation 20:1-6).
At the close of the Millennium Kingdom all who have not believed in Christ from all ages will be physically resurrected to face the Great White throne judgment, resulting in the second death which is eternal, conscious punishment in the lake of fire (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:41: Revelation 20:11-15).
Following the Millennium Kingdom will be the eternal state. The present earth will be dissolved with fire and replaced with a new heaven and earth where only righteousness dwells (II Peter 3:10; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21). Believers will enjoy fellowship with God and one another forever (Revelation 21:1-8, 22:1-5).
Statement of Practice
At Grace Christian Church we believe that the Bible is our sole authority of faith and practice. However, for the sake of clarity and unity the following statement of practice is set forth.
PURPOSE AND CORE VALUES
Grace Christian Church is a non-denominational church that seeks to fulfill the Lord Jesus’ great commandment of loving God and others and His great commission of making disciples.
Our core values are summarized in the acrostic G R A C E:
- Grace motivated life and ministry
- Relationships in our church are of a family nature
- Assembling to celebrate our risen Lord and to grow in His likeness
- Cells (small groups) provide our structure for care, encouragement and ministry
- Evangelism is a team effort with cell members praying for and encouraging each other to share Christ’s good news with the world
PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
Grace Christian Church understands that the New Testament Church operated in simple ministry with believers meeting in large group worship and in small groups gathering in homes (Acts 2:42-47, 4:23-31, 12:12).
We believe that the large Group Celebration with small Group Cells is the New Testament pattern. Therefore we at Grace Christian have chosen to function as what is often referred to as a “Cell Church”. This means:
- The small cell group meeting is of equal importance to the large group celebration.
- Corporate praise and worship and expository preaching are best carried out in the large group gathering. Every other aspect of church ministry is carried out more effectively in the cell.
- Cell groups provide decentralized pastoral care, encouragement and equipping to our body.
- Cell groups provide a natural means for believers to discover their spiritual gifts, minister to one another and to function as the body of Christ.
- Communication and input regarding important decisions happens thru the cell structure.
Grace Christian Church operates under the conviction that the Biblical church offices are that of Elder and Deacon.
The Office of Elder
? The Elder’s Team Ministry
Grace Christian Church is an independent, autonomous church and is organized as the churches of the New Testament. Jesus Christ is the Head and Senior Pastor (Ephesians 1:22-23; I Peter 5:4). His under-shepherds in each local church are to be a plurality of elders (I Peter 5:1-3). The terms elder, overseer and pastor are used interchangeably to speak of one office (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; I Peter 5: 1-2). Therefore, the elders will function as a pastoral team, providing shared leadership to the congregation, care and instruction (1 Thessalonians 5:12; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; I Peter 5:2). We further maintain that I Timothy 5:17-18 makes a clear distinction between vocational elders (staff pastors), who are financially remunerated for their ministry, and non-vocational elders (elders) who earn their living through means other than the eldership. It is the operational principle of this church that both vocational and non-vocational elders are necessary for an effective and stable pastoral team to exist.
As ministry develops and additional staff pastors are necessary they may be sought from within or outside the church. Both a job description and compensation package shall be set by the non-vocational elders for the staff pastors. The compensation package for pastors shall be reviewed annually by the non-vocational elders. Consideration should be given to salary, benefits, allowances, vacation, sick leave and education/enrichment leave. Because we recognize that the public preaching and teaching of the Word of God is central to our worship (I Timothy 4:13; II Timothy 4:2), that adequate time is necessary for sermon preparation and that formal theological and Biblical training is an asset for such public speaking, the elder who fills the primary pulpit ministry should be a staff pastor. Staff pastors will be called to an indefinite term, provided they remain willing and qualified to serve.
Although the elders act jointly and equally in authority, we maintain that one elder will emerge as “first among equals” and will be designated as the “Lead Elder”. He will be first in the sense that his gifts, dedication, training, and abilities will bring influence and direction to the body of elders, but equal in that he does not have authority to demand from or dominate elders or the congregation. This principle of “first among equals” is seen in Acts 21:8 and Galatians 2:12. It is recognized that most often the elder who emerges as the lead elder will be a staff pastor who by training, calling and time will be best prepared to give the needed direction. However, there is no reason why God cannot provide such leadership in a non-vocational elder. The elders will affirm God’s choice in this matter.
? The Qualifications of Elders
- Personal Character – All elders must meet the spiritual qualifications as outlined in
I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The elders are to hold to and possess the highest expression of
Christian character. They are to be men who are fully committed and deeply devoted to Christ, family and ministry. They are to be committed disciples of Jesus who are continually seeking to grow in His likeness. They are to be men who not only understand the concept of Jesus’ humble servanthood but are modeling humble servanthood in our body and their homes.
- Church Involvement – Elders must be men (I Timothy 2:11-14) who hold to the statement of faith and philosophy of ministry of Grace Christian Church. In the past they must have demonstrated both a deep desire and competency for ministry. In the present they must desire the office of elder (I Timothy 3:1).
- Ministry Skills – According to I Thessalonians 5:12 elders function in three spheres, in personal ministry, leadership and in the communication of the Word. The elders of Grace Christian Church must be gifted and/or equipped to serve in each of these ministry areas.
- Bible Knowledge – All elders must have a good understanding of the content of the Bible and a working knowledge of Bible doctrine (Titus 1:9).
? The Selection and Dismissal of Elders
Potential elders, both vocational and non-vocational, will be selected and interviewed by the existing elders to determine their spiritual qualifications for the eldership. Those candidates approved by the elders will be presented to the congregation for their affirmation. Based on the elders’ interviews and the congregational affirmation the elders will install those candidates who are spiritually qualified (Acts 14:23). An elder will remain in this ministry as long as he is willing and qualified.
Should it become necessary for the elders to dismiss another elder, the guidelines of I Timothy 5:19-20 and Matthew 18:15-17 will be followed. A staff pastor, whose ministry competency is not deemed adequate according to the elders, can be released from his staff position with a thirty day notice. If a pastor desires to resign his place of service he should give the elders a thirty day notice.
The Office of Deacon
The New Testament lists no specified duties for deacons. However, their title implies that they are servants. Deacons are to work in close association with the elders, receiving from them delegated tasks and authority in areas of need. Deacons are to relieve the elders in tasks that are essential to the church’s welfare, thus enabling the elders to shepherd the church (Acts 6:1-6). Care will be taken by the elders to match individual deacons with tasks that best suit the deacon’s abilities, gifts, and interests in order to allow each deacon to serve to his fullest capacity with joy.
The selection of deacons will follow the biblical pattern of Acts 6:1-6 wherein the church body nominated as deacon candidates those men having a servant’s attitude and met the spiritual qualifications of Acts 6:3 and I Timothy 3:8-13. The elders will interview the deacon candidates. Those men who are tested and qualified will be installed by the elders before the congregation (Acts 6:6). A deacon will remain in this ministry as long as he is willing and qualified. Should it become necessary for the elders to dismiss a deacon, the guidelines of
I Timothy 5:19-20 and Matthew 18:15-17 will be followed.
The Church should conduct ministry, planning and major decisions as a family and Biblical community, not as a business organization. The church is the family of God (I Timothy 3:15: Ephesians 3:14-15). Two Biblical parallels between the family and the church are critical for the operation of Grace Christian Church:
- Being Born Into God’s family – As a child is born into this world by the physical birth, believers are born into God’s family by the spiritual birth (John 3:1-15; I Peter 1:23). All who are born of the Spirit are placed in union with Christ and all other believers (I Corinthians 12:13). Grace Christian does not operate with a formalized church membership concept. Rather, we operate under the true and spiritual unity that exists between all in Christ. We welcome, love and minister to all who attend. We accept as brothers and sisters in Christ all who name Jesus as personal savior (Romans 15:7). We relate to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10-16).
- The Line of Authority in God’s Family – At Grace Christian we operate under the Biblical principle that God has ordained authority in the home, government, work place and the church (Colossians 3;17-4:1;
I Peter2:13-18). The family nature of the church calls us to use a family model of church leadership. In the same way that God ordained the husband and father to be the loving head of the home, the elders are to lovingly lead and serve the congregation (I Peter 5:2-3). In the same way the wife and children are to look to their husband and father with respect for leadership (Ephesians 5:22-23, 6:1-4), so the congregation is to look to the elders (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17). Therefore, as a godly father considers family decisions in light the principles of God’s Word, the working of the Lord and the needs
of each family member, so must the elders. In all major church decisions the elders must inform the congregation and cultivate an environment of open two-way communication. Much of this communication will occur in our cell groups. If the elders, cell leaders and congregation sense a division among godly believers, a major decision may need to be postponed for further discussion and prayer
The elders are also responsible for protecting the family unity and holiness of the church. (Acts 20:28-30) Therefore, if situations arise with a believer who is regularly involved in life of Grace Christian Church who continues in serious and unrepentant sin, teaching unsound doctrine or creating disunity, that person will fall under the four-step restoration process that is outlined in Matthew 18:15-17. The elders will lead in this process.
MINISTRY OF THE BODY
Cell leaders are central to the ministry of Grace Christian Church. These men and women are an extension of the eldership in the areas of care and nurturing. Cell leaders are responsible for leading their cells in a four fold ministry:
- Upward Ministry – praying to and worshiping God
- Inward Ministry – caring for one another
- Forward Ministry – growing and maturing believers
- Outward Ministry – reaching out so others will come to faith in Christ
Cell leaders must be growing in Christ’s character and deeply desiring to care for and mature God’s people (Philippians 2:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12). They must embrace both the statement of faith and operation of Grace Christian Church. They must be committed to on going growth in Christ and in ministry skills. Cell leaders must be team players who are humble servants that submit to the biblical oversight of the elders (Exodus 18:21).
MINISTRY LEADERS AND STAFF POSITIONS
The elders may appoint individuals/committees to serve as leaders of the various ministries in the church. Ministry leaders must be active in the life of the church, godly in character and in agreement with the doctrine and philosophy of our church. They need to be team players who are humble servants and submit to the Biblical oversight of the elders. Positions may open or close at the discretion of the elders.
The elders may appoint paid staff positions (other than elders) as the need arises. Salary packages are at the discretion of the elders and in keeping with the proposed budget. Paid staff shall be accountable to the elders. Positions may open or close at the discretion of the elders.
Grace Christian Church is committed to fulfilling Christ’s great commission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). The following five criteria will guide our selection of missionaries:
- Be in agreement with the doctrine and philosophy of Grace Christian Church
- Be qualified in character
- Demonstrate a passion and vision for ministry in general and their field of service specifically
- Demonstrate competency in ministry skills
- Be called to the most strategic ministries and fields
The church’s fiscal year shall be the calendar year. An annual report from the elders and other ministry leaders will be prepared for the congregation. This report will present the previous year’s finances and the upcoming year’s ministry goals and budget.
The elders are responsible for drafting the annual budget to be presented to the congregation for their support. The elders are responsible for authorizing the disbursement of funds in accordance with the church budget. Two signatures are required from the non-vocational elders or their delegates.
The elders or their delegates are responsible for recording and depositing the church offerings.
In the event that there are not enough qualified elders to oversee the church, the elders will seek advice and assistance from the deacons and/or godly men of the congregation.
The elders are the trustees of our non-profit religious corporation and may appoint legal representatives from their number. In the event of the dissolution of Grace Christian Church the trustees shall satisfy all debts and distribute the remaining assets to other non-profit organizations of like faith.