Position Papers of Missionary Church
Articles of Faith
The Bible tells one grand, unified story – a true account of the lavish and relentless love of a holy God. It is a drama in four acts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. It calls us – not simply to be spectators – but to respond with living faith. God calls us to believe – placing our trust in him, personally committing ourselves to him, and accepting the truth of the gospel.
He calls us to embrace certain truths that define us as a believing community and then embody those truths in how we live. We must speak, then, of what we believe (Articles of Faith) and how we should then live (Articles of Practice). As the Missionary Church, we affirm the core truths of the Gospel, and then we enact those truths as a family of churches in Christian community committed to love God fully, to love our neighbors truly, and to carry out the Great Commission for God’s glory and the salvation of the world.
The Triune God
We believe in one God, eternally existing in three divine persons, equal in power and glory – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is the creator and sustainer of all things. His divine qualities – including love, holiness, justice, righteousness, faithfulness, infinite knowledge and power, self-existence, and omnipresence – all harmonize perfectly in the unity of his being.1
1 Gen.1:1; Ex. 3:14, 34:6; Deut. 6:4, 32:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 90:2, 103:8, 116:5, 147:5; Isa. 6:3, 40:28, 57:15; Jer. 23:23-24; Mal. 3:6; Matt. 28:19; John 1:1, 4:24, 10:30, 14:16; Acts 5:4-5, 17:28; 1 Cor. 8:4; 2 Cor. 13:14; Col. 1:17; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 1:2, 12 and 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 4:10-16
We believe in God the Father, begotten2 of none, the eternal Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since God is the creator, all things and all people are from him and exist for him. As the author of salvation, he adopts into his family all who are born again by faith. He gloriously upholds and providentially rules over all things, to accomplish the redemption of his people and the restoration of all creation.3
2 The word “begotten” is the past tense of an old English word which means “to bring into being,” or (in that sense) “to father” or “to sire.” When we say that the Father is “begotten of none,” we mean that no one brought the Father into being. When we say that Jesus is the “eternally begotten son of the Father,” we mean that Jesus is the only example of a person who has always (for all eternity) been brought into being by God the eternal Father, and therefore is the only person of whom it can be said that He is truly the Son of the Father. Human fathers live in time and bring human sons into being at a point in time. The eternally existing Father brings His eternally existing Son into being. Human language is inadequate to fully describe this mysterious relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
3 Gen. 1:1; Ps. 90:2; John 13:3, 16:28; I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 1:3-4, 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:2-3; 1 John 2:23, 3:1
We believe in Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten2 Son of the Father. He is the fully divine, living Word of God who also became fully human – conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. His sinless human life, humble obedience to his Father’s will, sacrificial death and bodily resurrection made sufficient provision for the salvation of all people. In his ascension, he returned to his Father, where he reigns as Lord, Advocate, Great High Priest, and Coming Judge. 4
2 The word “begotten” is the past tense of an old English word which means “to bring into being,” or (in that sense) “to father” or “to sire.” When we say that the Father is “begotten of none,” we mean that no one brought the Father into being. When we say that Jesus is the “eternally begotten son of the Father,” we mean that Jesus is the only example of a person who has always (for all eternity) been brought into being by God the eternal Father, and therefore is the only person of whom it can be said that He is truly the Son of the Father. Human fathers live in time and bring human sons into being at a point in time. The eternally existing Father brings His eternally existing Son into being. Human language is inadequate to fully describe this mysterious relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
4 Isa. 53:6; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 1:35; John 1:1, 14, 18; Acts 2:22, 24-32; Rom. 1:3-4, 8:34; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Eph. 1:19-22; Col. 3:4; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:8, 4:15, 7:25; 1 Pet. 2:22, 24, 3:18; 1 John 2:1-2
The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God, proceeding from and sent by the Father and the Son. He is the personal expression of God’s power – instrumental in all his works. He is the author and illuminator of sacred Scripture. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He is the agent of the new birth, the one by whom we are baptized into the Body of Christ. As the spirit of holiness, he indwells every believer and his Church, purifying and empowering his people for holy living. He guides them into truth, comforts and encourages them, and enables them to fulfill the Great Commission. He produces his fruit in the lives of believers and gives them spiritual gifts for the good of the Church.5 6
5 See section on “Salvation and the Spirit-Filled Life.”
6 Matt. 28:19; John 3:5-6, 14:16-18, 26, 15:26, 16:7-14; Acts 1:8, 2:1-4, 13:2-4, 15:28; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 2:10-12, 6:19-20, 12:4-11, 13; 2 Cor. 6:16, 13:14; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 2:21-22; 2 Thess. 2:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:2, 1 John 2:20-27
We believe that the Bible, consisting of the sixty six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the written Word of God, verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, true, reliable, and without error in all it addresses. We believe the Bible has been safeguarded by the Holy Spirit and transmitted to the present day without any doctrinal corruption. The Bible forever remains the unchanging and final authority for faith and living.7
7 Ps. 119:9, 89, 105; Matt. 24:35; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:25; 2 Pet. 1:21. See also position paper VIII. Biblical Inerrancy
We believe that God created human beings – male and female – as co-equal bearers of the image of God. Gender is divinely designed, part of the goodness of creation. Human sexuality is a gift, intended to be expressed exclusively in a monogamous, lifelong marital union between one man and one woman. The Bible also affirms the sacredness of the single state and that some may have the gift of lifetime celibacy.
We believe in the historicity of the first man, Adam, who along with his wife, Eve, was uniquely created by a direct act of God as recorded in Genesis and not by a process of evolution. Made in his image, they are his crowning achievement. Adam and Eve were created without sin for perfect fellowship with God and were commanded to be fruitful and exercise benevolent dominion over the earth. Humankind was created for love of God and neighbor. That love was intended to find expression in every individual and every human institution.
Through the misuse of their wills, however, our original parents succumbed to Satan’s temptation, disobeyed God’s command and thus brought sin into the world and became subject to physical and spiritual death. They became corrupt in their nature, and have passed on that nature to all their descendants. As a result, all human beings – while still bearing God’s image – are polluted in every aspect of their being. They are estranged from God by their sin and thus deserve God’s wrath.
We believe that God desires all human beings to be restored to a right relationship with him. Redemption – the gracious design by which God intends to rescue humanity from the disastrous consequences of sin – has its origin in the love of God and is brought to fruition by his infinite wisdom and might. 8
8 Gen. 1:27, 3:13, 16-17; Ex. 20:11; Isa. 64:6; John 10:17-18; Acts 4:12; Rom. 3:23, 5:12-17, 6:23, 7:7ff; Eph. 1:5-6, 2:1-5; 1 Tim. 1:15, 2:5-6; Tit. 2:11-12; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 1:8
Salvation and the Spirit-Filled Life
We believe that Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation. He voluntarily offered himself as our representative and substitute, and suffered and died on the cross in our place – taking upon himself God’s righteous wrath. We believe in his bodily resurrection on the third day, which powerfully declared him to be the Son of God. By his death and resurrection, Jesus once for all conquered sin, death, hell, and the devil.
We believe that Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Salvation is a divine gift given to any who repent and believe. Repentance and faith are the divinely-enabled human responses to the grace of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, a sinner must turn away from sin and embrace God – thus appropriating the benefits of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. All who truly believe and receive Christ are fully justified, reconciled to God, born of his Spirit, adopted as his children, and united with Jesus in his death and resurrection. They will one day see him in his glory and be glorified themselves, as God brings his redemptive work to completion.
We believe that God intends to transform his redeemed people by conforming them to the image of his Son through the infilling and sanctifying work of his Holy Spirit. Though this work begins with God’s gracious initiative and can only be accomplished by his life-giving power, believers must cooperate and fully yield themselves to the Lordship of Christ. Believers are called to decisively surrender their wills, be renewed in their minds, and have their hearts purified as they continuously offer themselves as living sacrifices to God.
We believe that a living faith must express itself in a life of loving obedience to God and in loving service to others. Genuine faith will inevitably produce good works, which are born out of gratitude for salvation and ultimately done for God’s glory. Christians are called to live by the power of the Holy Spirit as citizens of the kingdom, serving as God’s agents of transformation for society, culture, and the created world.9
9 Ps. 51:3-4; Prov. 28:13; Isa. 6:1-5, 55:6-7; Matt. 1:21, 3:2, 8, 4:17, 16:24; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 15:18, 18:13, 19:8; John 1:12, 3:3, 5, 14-17, 5:24, 6:44, 16:8-11, 17:17; Acts 11:18, 13:38-39, 15:8-9, 16:31, 20:21, 22:10; Rom. 2:4, 3:10-12, 19, 20, 23, 4:3-5, 5:1, 9, 6:19, 22, 8:16, 33, 37, 10:9-10, 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 19-23, 55-57; 2 Cor. 3:18, 5:17, 7:1; Gal. 2:20, 6:14; Eph. 2:8-10, 5:26; Phil. 2:12-16, 3:20-21; Col. 2:6, 3:3; 1 Thess. 4:3, 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25; Heb. 11:6, 12:14, 13:12; James 2:17; 1 Pet. 1:2, 15-16; 2 Pet. 1:4-9, 3:18; 1 John 3:2, 5:6
We believe that the invisible and universal Church is a spiritual body comprised of all believers, both living and dead—over which Christ himself is Head and Lord.
We believe that the local church is to be a loving community of Christ’s followers who gather for worship, prayer, instruction in the Word, mutual encouragement and discipline. As the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church is to display his holiness, bear his fruit, and be adorned by his gracious gifts. As a people called out of darkness, the Church will embody the pervasive, life-transforming power of God by equipping the saints for the work of ministry – bearing witness to the truth and exerting influence in every realm of the broader culture. The Church is called by Jesus to proclaim the gospel – locally, cross-culturally, and internationally – and to make disciples of everyone everywhere in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper were instituted by the Lord Jesus himself – not as a means of salvation, but as outward signs of the salvation we have by faith. They are the divinely mandated means by which believers publicly affirm their faith in Christ. Water baptism symbolizes the spiritual union that every believer has with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, we believe that the biblical pattern is baptism upon profession of faith in Christ, and furthermore, that it should be administered by immersion whenever possible.
The Lord’s Supper serves as not only a vivid memorial of Jesus’ bodily sacrifice and shed blood, but also as a proclamation of his death until he returns. It symbolizes the believer’s union with Christ and the spiritual unity shared by every believer. It provides a powerful inducement to self-examination, should be celebrated joyfully and regularly, and is open to all who are followers of Christ.10
10 Matt. 18:15-17, 16:13-18, 26:26-30, 28:18-20; Luke 22:15-20; John 13:35; Acts 1:8, 2:38-42, 46-47, 8:36-39, 20:7, 28, 32; Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 5:1-4, 10:16, 11:23-24, 12:12-27, 16:2; Eph. 1:5-6, 22-23, 3:21, 4:11-16; Col. 1:18, 2:12; Heb. 12:23; 1 Pet. 3:21, 4:11; 1 John 3:14, 4:2, 5:1-5; Jude 20-21; compare Mark 16:16
The Last Things
We believe that the final years of human history will be characterized by worldwide persecution and divine judgment.
We believe that the return of Jesus will be personal, bodily, visible, and glorious. His second coming, the blessed hope for which we must be constantly prepared, is a source of encouragement and comfort, a motive for holy living, and an inspiration for ministry and mission.
We believe that when Jesus returns, he will subdue his enemies and establish his kingdom on earth and will reign in perfect righteousness.
For those in Christ, death is gain, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
At the resurrection, we believe that every person will face one of two eternal destinies. We believe that no condemnation awaits those who are in Christ, because their sins were forgiven at the cross. They will have their lives and works judged only for reward, and will enjoy an eternal, embodied life in the presence of God and his angels, forever. Those who are not in Christ will be raised to appear before God for a final, irrevocable judgment. They will be consigned to a place of eternal, conscious punishment, separated from God in hell, with Satan and his angels.
We believe in the coming restoration of all things, where God – in accordance with his power and promises – will one day bring his purposes for all of creation to their glorious fulfillment. Here, God’s handiwork – though disfigured by sin and subject to decay – will be fully restored in a new heaven and new earth. We believe that all of God’s redemptive purposes will come to fruition, and death will be swallowed up in victory. 11
11 Ps.2:7-9, 96.13, 98:9; Eccl.12:14; Isa. 9:3-7, 11:6-9, 65:17, 66:22; Dan. 7:13-14, 12:2; Matt. 24:14-31, 36-51, 25:1-46; Mark 9:42-48, 13:10, 32-37; Luke 21:27-28; John 5:24, 28-29, 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; Rom.8:1, 29; 1 Cor. 3:8-15, 4:2-5, 11:32, 15:24-25, 58; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 1:3-14; Phil. 1:21-23, 3:20-21; Col. 3:1-4; 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11; 2 Thess. 1:8-9, 2:1-10; 2 Tim.4:8; Tit. 2:12-13; Heb. 9:27-28, 12:5-8; James 5:7-8; 2 Pet.3:13; 1 John 2:28-3:3; Rev. 1:7, 22:12-13; 6:1-19:21, 20:10-15, 21:1-22:7
Articles of Practice
Having declared in our Articles of Faith what we believe, in our Articles of Practice we declare how we should accordingly live. God calls us not only to affirm our core beliefs as the Missionary Church but also to embody those truths in Christian community. As Christians, we have been called to “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim 1:14), that body of truth God has entrusted to our care (1 Tim 6:20; Jude 3). Yet God has also called us to “the obedience that comes from faith” (Rom 1:5).
Such obedience becomes possible only because God supernaturally produces in us a new manner of life, one governed by his Word and empowered by his Spirit. The Christian life is not a burdensome pursuit of legalistic righteousness (Matt 5:20). Instead, it is an abundant life in which, led by God’s Spirit, we delight in becoming increasingly conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).
When we are reconciled to God in Christ, we are made a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). As we yield our lives to the loving sovereignty of his Son, God makes every facet of our experience — whether individual or corporate, public or private — an instrument for the exhibition of his glory. Having received the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16) and be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Then our lives will demonstrate, in increasing measure, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the unmistakable evidence of his indwelling presence.
Being a follower of Christ is more than a matter of belief; it is also a way of life. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus lived” (1 John 2:6). God intends for us to reflect his character as “imitators of God” (Eph 5:1). He commands us, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev 11:44, 45; 1 Pet 1:16), and he graciously empowers us to embrace a way of living that displays the image of his Son.
Exercising Personal Faith
God calls us to exercise personal faith. While the Christian life is lived in community — “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body” (1 Cor 12:13) — we are called to embrace that life personally. Responding to the gracious invitation of the gospel individually, we turn from sin and embrace God, thus receiving the benefits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). We receive salvation as we personally repent and believe in Jesus, receiving eternal life and escaping eternal condemnation (Mark 1:15; John 3:16-18; Rev 3:20). Without such faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).
Believers cannot grow to spiritual maturity without cultivating a relationship with God. We affirm the need for Christians to nurture their faith through Bible reading (Ps 1), prayer (Col 4:2), weekly gatherings with other believers (Heb 10:25), serving in ministry (1 Pet 4:10-11), sharing their faith (Phil 6), and other spiritual disciplines. We do not, however, consider such disciplines ends in themselves but rather means by which to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
God calls us to a life of holiness. While God himself is ultimately the one who makes us holy (Ps 51:10; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:12), the Bible commands us: “Make every effort . . . to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Having been united with Christ by faith, we are called to follow Jesus (Matt 4:19), imitating him in our conduct (1 Cor 11:1) and in the attitude of our minds (Eph 4:23).
To be holy means to die to sin (1 Pet 2:24). We believe as Christians we have already died with Christ. We have been liberated from sin’s dominion and freed to offer ourselves wholly to God (Rom 6:1-14). Nevertheless, we must continue to put to death sinful attitudes and behaviors (Col 3:5), putting off the old self and its corrupt way of life (Eph 4:22-23). God calls us to flee immorality (1 Cor 6:18), to resist the devil (Jas 4:7), and to disdain the enticements of the world —
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16).
Holiness also means being set apart for God and his glory. By faith, we have been raised in Christ to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). We are to put on the new self (Eph 4:24), keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25), and surrender ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness (Rom 6:13). We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2), making every effort to develop godly conduct and character (2 Pet 1:3-7), and endeavoring to love God wholly and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:35-40). In brief, a life of holiness is a life of love.
While sanctification demands our willing surrender (Phil 2:12), it remains, from first to last, the gracious work of God (1 Cor 15:10). The will and the power to be transformed comes from him. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil 2:13). We work, but we do so in the power he provides (Col 1:29).
To fulfill our high calling, we must resist being conformed to unbiblical values and behaviors (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:17). Instead, our lives should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and increasing godliness. An authentic Christian life will bear faithful witness to Christ, exhibiting his characteristics of integrity, purity, generosity, and justice.
Since it contradicts the biblical principles of simplicity, transparency, and honesty (2 Cor 4:2; 2 Cor 5:11), Christians must not hold membership in secret, oath-bound societies. Nor should believers form any kind of partnerships that cause them to compromise their Christian principles (2 Cor 6:14-7:1).
Since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and bought at great price, God calls us to glorify him with our bodies (1 Cor 6:19b-20). To willfully dishonor our bodies with sexual immorality is irreverent and inconsistent with our standing as servants of God and is therefore forbidden. God has called us to flee impurity, to exercise self-control, and to refrain from wronging or taking advantage of another (1 Thess 4:3-7).
We must, likewise, avoid the abuse of any substance — whether legal or illegal — that damages health, results in intoxication, or impairs sound judgment. God requires self-control in all things (Prov 23:1-2; Prov 23:20-21; Prov 25:28; 2 Pet 1:5-6).
While the Scriptures clearly forbid drunkenness (Prov 20:21; Prov 31:4-7; Eph 5:18; Rom 13:13; 1 Pet 4:3), they do not categorically require total abstinence from alcohol (1 Tim 5:23). While we affirm the principle of Christian liberty in this matter, we also recognize that the loving exercise of personal freedom cannot supersede the biblical imperative to “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (Rom 14:13). We recognize believers have varying convictions about the wisdom of abstinence and moderation. These convictions merit mutual respect and prayerful consideration.
Living in Community
God calls us to live in community. While every believer enters the Christian life through the exercise of personal faith, God’s Spirit makes them part of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-14). The Bible envisions the life of faith not only as an individualistic endeavor but also as a corporate pursuit.
God calls us to a shared life. We share a rich life of fellowship (koinonia) in which we devote ourselves, not to the pursuit of self-interest, but to the well-being of others. God calls us to love one another (John 13:34), serve one another (Gal 5:13), forgive one another (Eph 4:32), encourage one another (Heb 3:13), pray for one another (Jas 5:16), submit to one another (Eph 5:21), and build one another up (1 Thess 5:11).
The Scriptures instruct us to enter into commitments mindfully (Lev 5:4; Prov 19:2), to honor our word (Matt 5:37), to be honest and direct in our dealings (Eph 4:25; Matt 5:37), to be merciful toward others (Mic 6:8), to listen carefully (Prov 18:13), and to admit when we are wrong (Matt 7:5). We are also admonished to confront each other privately before bringing in other witnesses (Matt 18:16-20), to be forgiving (Eph 4:32), and to make restitution for damage done to another (Exod 21:33-36). Furthermore, we are encouraged to overlook personal offenses (Prov 19:11). In cases of criminal abuse, however, we affirm the legal responsibility for ministers to engage the appropriate civil authorities.
When Christians have disputes with one another, they should seek to settle those disputes via biblical mediation so as not to undermine their witness before the world (1 Cor 6:1-8). Courts have a responsibility to ensure civic order, but Christians have a biblical obligation to pursue mutual forbearance and love and to live at peace with everyone “as far as it depends on you” (Rom 12:18).
Christian community ought to be marked by compassion. The Christian life is a pilgrimage with many painful milestones along the way (Phil 1:29). The witness of Scripture is clear: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Therefore, believers are exhorted to “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15), to bear each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2), and to comfort the afflicted (2 Cor 1:3-7).
God also calls Christians to pray together for healing, both for themselves and for others (Jas 5:13-16). God has provided for the ultimate removal of sin, sickness, and sorrow through the redeeming work of Christ (Isa 53:5; Matt 8:16-17), and he has promised that one day the painful effects of sin shall pass away (Rev 21:4). In the meantime, God commands his people to ask in faith and hope for healing now. Nonetheless, Christians are admonished to submit themselves to God’s will, recognizing that he may, for his own good purposes, choose not to heal presently (2 Cor 12:7b-10; Rom 8:28; 2 Tim 4:20). Since God is the giver of all good gifts (Jas 1:17), Christians may seek medical assistance without any implication that they lack faith.
God commands all creation to worship him. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” (Ps 150:6). He is worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise (Rev 4:11, 5:12). Yet he has chosen to make himself uniquely manifest among his people as they gather in his presence (Ps 22:3; 1 Cor 5:4; Matt 18:20). While we each have the privilege and responsibility to seek God individually (Mark 1:35; Matt 6:6), we ought also, unless circumstances render it impossible, to seek him in community. Regular times of worship have always characterized God’s people — in the Old Testament (Exod 20:8, 23:14- 17), in the time of Jesus (Luke 4:16), and in the New Testament church (Acts 2:42; Heb 10:24-25).
In the Old Testament, God instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship (Exod 20:8-11; Lev 23:3). God gave his people the Sabbath as a gift for their good (Mark 2:27), to ensure a healthy cycle of labor and rest. He also intended it for his own glory, with each Sabbath being “a Sabbath to the LORD” (Exod 20:10). Every Sabbath served as a call to worship, with each seventh day serving as a reminder that God was humanity’s Creator, Provider, and Redeemer (Exod 16:21-30; Deut 5:12-15).
When the Church was formed, Christians set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1-2; Rev 1:10). Weekly Sunday worship commemorated the resurrection of Jesus, who was raised to life on the “first day of the week” (Matt 28:1). While Christians do not keep the Lord’s Day legalistically, that is, according to Old Testament Sabbath laws (Col 2:16), they are nonetheless encouraged to reserve a particular day of the week where they can break from the rhythms of work for the purposes of rest, the celebration of the family, and worship. Regardless of the particular day, God’s people are exhorted to meet regularly with other believers whenever possible for mutual encouragement (Heb 10:24-25), for the public reading and proclamation of God’s Word (1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:1-2), for corporate prayer (Acts 1:14, 4:24), for worship in song (Col 3:16), for the exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12), and for the celebration of the ordinances of baptism (Acts 2:38-41) and the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26-30; 1 Cor 11:23-26).
Living on Mission
Jesus calls us to a life of mission. Called to be his disciples, we are also commanded to make disciples of others (Matt 4:19, 28:19-20; Mark 8:31-38). He has commissioned us to take the gospel — the proclamation of Christ crucified, risen, presently reigning, and coming again (1 Cor 2:2; 1 Cor 15:1-4, 20-25; Acts 1:11) — to the whole world. Jesus is and always will be humanity’s only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The gospel, for every generation and culture, “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
Jesus calls us to join him on mission (John 20:21), and he promises to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Furthermore, he pledged and provided the Holy Spirit’s power (Acts 1:8). While every believer has a personal responsibility to make disciples (Matt 28:19; 2 Tim 2:2), we are also called to labor together as partners in the gospel (Phil 1:5) and as members of one body with each part doing its work (Eph 4:16).
While the gospel is essentially a message of what God has done for us in Christ, living faith invariably produces in us the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:8-10). Jesus calls his followers to be salt and light, like a “city set on a hill” (Matt 5:13-14). Good deeds pave the way for the proclamation of the gospel (Matt 5:16; 1 Pet 2:12). They are the inevitable fruit of saving grace (Eph 2:10) and living faith (Jas 2:26), and they provide unmistakable evidence that we have been truly transformed by the gospel’s power (1 John 3:16-18).
Building Healthy Families
God calls us to live as family. He adopts all those who receive Christ by faith (John 1:12; Gal 3:26-4:7) and makes them members of his household (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19; 1 Tim 3:15), thus comprising one spiritual family.
The natural realm mirrors that same order. The human family, though not immune from the effects of the Fall, remains divinely designed. Marriage has been instituted by God as a blessing. It embodies the divine ideal for the family, providing the most stable foundation on which it can stand (Gen 2:24). While this ideal is not always realized, God — our loving Father — nevertheless graciously favors his people with his presence and provision.
God has ordained the marriage covenant as a publicly affirmed union between one man (born male) and one woman (born female) until parted by death. This is the pattern that he commands for marriage (Matt 19:4-6).
While the principle of mutual submission is enjoined for all believers (Eph. 5:21), God has appointed the husband head of the wife (Eph 5:23; 1 Cor 11:3). Husbands are particularly called to love their wives sacrificially (Eph 5:25-29), live with them with consideration and respect (1 Pet 3:7), and not be harsh with them (Col 3:19). Wives, in turn, are called to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22; Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:6) and to show them appropriate respect (Eph 5:33).
Sexual relations are a gift from God to be enjoyed in the covenant of marriage (Gen 2:24-25; 1 Cor 7:3-5). Any sexual activity outside of marriage constitutes sexual immorality and is clearly forbidden in the Bible (Exod 20:14; Mark 7:20; 1 Cor 6:18; Gal 5:19; 1 Thess 5:22; Heb 13:4). Couples must not engage in pre-marital sex nor “live together” without the benefit of a marriage covenant. Co-habitation, however commonplace, counterfeits and distorts God’s beautiful and benevolent design for marriage.
The Scriptures command believers not to marry unbelievers (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14-17). Churches and parents, therefore, have an obligation to teach a biblical view of marriage and to warn believers against being yoked with unbelievers. Ministers are forbidden to knowingly officiate at the marriage of a believer and an unbeliever.
Furthermore, the Missionary Church forbids ministers to encourage, bless, or solemnize same sex “marriages” or unions (Matt 19:4-6).
Since marriage is a sacred, publicly affirmed covenant, ministers are forbidden to preside over ceremonies in which couples refuse to register with the civil authorities merely for the sake of convenience or financial benefit. They are also forbidden from knowingly officiating at marriages entered into solely for the sake of citizenship or other civil benefits.
Though Scripture commends the married state (Gen 1:18-24; 1 Cor 7:2-9), it also affirms the value of godly singleness (Matt 19:10-12; 1 Cor 7:25-38). Jesus himself remained celibate, and everyone — even those without the gift of lifelong celibacy (1 Cor 7:7) — experiences seasons of singleness. Jesus’s example demonstrates that a single person can live a completely fulfilled life.
Since God established marriage as a lifelong union, divorce never accords with his perfect will (Matt 19:4-6). Christians should bear with one another, forgive one another, and, whenever possible, seek reconciliation to preserve the marriage covenant (Rom 12:18).
Nevertheless, because of human sinfulness, God has graciously made concessions for divorce in certain cases. When a person is the wronged party in a case of sexual immorality (Matt 5:31-32; Matt 19:9) or when an unbeliever willfully abandons a believer (1 Cor 7:15-16) — the Bible permits, though it never mandates, divorce.
Those who seek divorce without biblical grounds should first be admonished and, if necessary, subjected to the disciplinary process of the local church.1 Church discipline is intended to bring about repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation (Matt 18:15-20) and to serve as a warning for others (1 Tim 5:21; Acts 5:1-11).
While we acknowledge that divorce without biblical grounds is sin, we also affirm that God graciously forgives unrighteousness — divorce included — remembering that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas 2:13).
Pastors should make clear, both in their public preaching and private counsel, that all forms of abuse are sin. Wherever appropriate, it should be made an occasion for church discipline. In cases of extreme abuse or physical danger, persons are admonished to seek a place of safety. Churches are encouraged to do whatever they can to provide refuge and support (Prov 24:11-12). Some cases may warrant either a temporary or long-term and potentially legal separation.
In all circumstances, Christians should seek biblically informed pastoral counsel before contemplating a divorce.
Some Scriptures place significant restrictions on remarriage after divorce (Deut 24:1–4; Luke 16:18). Nevertheless, we believe ministers may, at their discretion, solemnize a remarriage if the previously divorced persons had a biblical reason for their divorce, live demonstrably Christians lives, and intend a genuinely Christian marriage (Matt 5:32, 19:9;
1 See Article XVII of the Constitution of the Missionary Church.
1 Cor 7:15). Ministers need to carefully consider other factors, including whether reconciliation with a previous spouse is possible and advisable, and whether the persons were believers at the time of their divorce (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 5:17).
Children are commanded to honor (Eph 6:1–2) and obey (Col 3:20) their parents. Following their heavenly Father, earthly fathers in particular are exhorted to gently shepherd their children, neither exasperating nor embittering them (Isa 40:11; Col 3:21). The Bible calls parents to bring their children up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
Because the home provides the primary place to disciple children in the faith, we urge churches to promote healthy families where parents teach Christian truth and cultivate and model Christian character. Since God loves children and desires to bless them and have them know him (Matt 19:13–14), we encourage the formal dedication of children to the Lord in a public service in the local church. We also encourage churches to commit themselves to disciple children by clearly communicating the gospel to them and diligently teaching them the Word of God (2 Tim 3:14-16).
God calls us to lives of faithful stewardship. Since God creates and sustains all things, everything ultimately belongs to him. As those who have been redeemed by the very blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:18-19), Christians owe a debt they can never repay. Nonetheless, out of gratitude, they offer their very selves to him in worship (Rom 12:1-2).
All that we have — natural abilities, spiritual gifts, material possessions, time, and our physical bodies — are gifts from God (Jas 1:17). We hold these things in trust, as stewards rather than owners. We must use these resources for God’s glory and the good of others, as those who must ultimately give an account of ourselves to God (Rom 14:12).
This principle extends to the created world as well, as we honor our Creator by caring for his creation. While God gave human beings dominion over the earth (Gen 1:26), he also gave them the command to work and take care of the Garden (Gen 2:15). We care for creation as the image-bearers of God, who providentially sustains his creation now (Ps 104; Matt 10:29), and who will one day free it from the decay incurred in the Fall and bring it to its intended glory (Rom 8:20-21; Rev 21:1-4).
Faithful stewardship also entails glad generosity. The obligation to live generously is rooted in God’s generous nature and in his command that we imitate him (Eph 5:1-2). It is also undergirded by a biblical principle: “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor 9:6). God’s people are directed to give to the needy (Deut 15:7-11; Prov 19:17; Eph 4:28) and to support those who give full-time attention to ministry (Lev 7:28-36; Num 18:8-20; 1 Cor 9:1-18; Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17). The biblical principle of “firstfruits giving” (Gen 4:4; Lev 23:9-14; 1 Cor 16:2) teaches us to make giving a priority. Giving should also be sacrificial (Lev 2:1, 3:1; 2 Sam 24:24) and proportionate to our income (1 Cor 16:2). God intends us to give, not merely out of duty, but in joyful worship, for he loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). The tithe — a law that was binding on God’s people in the Old Testament — continues to provide a valuable benchmark for New Testament believers today.
Our earthly citizenship is likewise a matter of stewardship. God has providentially placed his people within cultures so that they might exert a redemptive influence (Matt 5:14-16; Acts 17:26-27). Where citizens have been entrusted with the gift of participatory government, they may freely seek active political involvement. This may include engaging in civil discourse, voting, or seeking office at various levels of government. In doing so, believers may promote the common good and bring the light of the gospel and the influence of biblical principles into the public square.
We believe that God has established civil government for humanity’s benefit (Rom 13:1-4; 1 Pet 2:13-14), and that its duties of promoting and protecting good and restraining and punishing evil are divinely ordained. Christians are instructed to pray for all those who exercise civil authority over them (1 Tim 2:1-4). They are also called to render appropriate loyalty, respect, and obedience (Rom 13:5-7). Where the dictates of civil law contradict God’s revealed will in Scripture, Christians must choose to “obey God rather than human beings” (Acts 5:29).
We believe that the Bible commands believers to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, to overcome evil with good, and to live at peace with everyone, whenever possible (Matt 5:43-48; Rom 12:21, 12:18). Though we affirm that Christians may defend themselves when necessary (Exod 22:2-3; Luke 22:36), and that they should seek to rescue the defenseless (Prov 24:10-12), they must never promote strife between individuals, groups, races, classes, and
nations. Furthermore, they should pursue harmony and reconciliation in every relationship — whether personal or public.
The persistence of strife and warfare, however, is a result of the fallen human condition. Since government has a mandate to protect life and preserve peace (Rom 13:2-4), we believe that a Christian may, with a clear conscience, participate in duly authorized armed forces (Luke 3:13-14). We also recognize that the practice of non-resistance has a long and distinguished history in the Church. Therefore, individuals may, for the sake of conscience, refuse to participate in armed conflict.
Finally, we believe a Christian’s life should be so transparent in its honesty and integrity that one’s word can be fully trusted without the swearing of formal oaths (Matt 5:36-37; Jas 5:12). Nonetheless, a judicial oath may be sworn or affirmed without violation of the Scriptures (Rom 13:1).
God calls us to live justly. Justice is an attribute of God himself (Gen 18:25; Deut 32:4; Isa 61:8). It ought, therefore, to characterize his children. Micah declares:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Our personal dealings should exhibit a commitment to the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12).
We also have an obligation to pursue justice in the public sphere. In every time and culture, Christians must recognize that God’s Word alone determines what is just. We have a personal responsibility to embrace biblical values and to work toward their implementation in the broader culture. We do acknowledge, however, that while the Bible sets forth timeless principles and priorities, it rarely prescribes specific political policies. The pursuit of justice is a clear and necessary implication of the gospel and its inevitable complement. We affirm with the Scriptures that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (Jas 2:17).
Every person bears the image of God (Gen 1:27, 9:6; Jas 3:9). Therefore, we strenuously oppose abortion, euthanasia, as well as racism, sexism, and any other ideology or behavior that demeans, degrades, or defiles other human beings.
Personal and institutional racism is fundamentally an affront against the image of God in human beings. It also runs contrary to God’s intention to create one universal, multiethnic, believing community comprised of members “from every nation, tribe, people and language” who join together in worship of God and the Lamb (Rev 7:9-10).
Sexual abuse and sexual harassment are particularly destructive forms of sexual sin since they degrade and damage other bearers of God’s image.
Throughout the Scriptures, in both his words and deeds, God demonstrates his concern for the vulnerable, the helpless, and the defenseless. He cares for the orphan and widow (Ps 68:5), for the poor and oppressed (Ps 140:12), and for the sojourner2 (Ps 146:9 ESV). He expects his people to do the same, defending and caring for the most vulnerable among us, including the refugee, the immigrant, the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, and the terminally ill (Exod 22:21-22; Prov 24:11-12, 31:8-9; Matt 25:31-46; Jas 1:27; 1 John 3:17-18).
Finally, we would do well to remember that we ourselves are sojourners here. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), and we look forward “to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). Yet we are also called to “shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15) as we “seek the peace and prosperity” of the cities to which we have been called (Jer 29:7). Thus, we will pursue justice with great diligence. While some of the world’s ills can be
2 English has no suitable, single equivalent to translate the Hebrew. A sojourner (ger) is one lying outside a kinship or social group, a defenseless “outsider.”
alleviated, we also recognize that, while we wait for the perfect to appear (1 Cor 13:10), believers will experience unjust suffering (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 2:12, 4:5; 1 Pet 2:19-20; Rev 2:3). Evil will never be fully vanquished until our Savior comes in glorious power and puts every enemy beneath his feet (Phil 3:20-21; 1 Cor 15:23-25). “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
To sanctify is to set apart for holy use, to separate out from the profane for the sacred (Hebrew, qadesh; Greek, hagiazo). As with justification, sanctification is the work of God. It is a work of grace based on the merit of Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Through the work of Christ, God separates the believer from sin for the purpose of holiness, which is accomplished as the believer follows after the Spirit putting to death the misdeeds of the body (See Romans 6:22; 8:1-14).
The entire Christian life depends on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “…from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13,14). Peter also wrote that we are “God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood” (1 Peter 1:1,2). What then is involved in this sanctifying work of the Spirit in the believer? The full breadth of that work includes two dimensions. The first is initial sanctification that is positional in Christ and occurs when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior. The second is the experiential dimension that is expected and commanded of Christians. For example, note Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The moment one accepts Christ as Savior the believer dies to sin and becomes alive to holiness (Romans 6:2-4). Then Paul commands Christians to keep on counting themselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Christians should stop letting this age squeeze them into its mold but should continue permitting themselves to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
I. Initial Sanctification
To understand the full implication of what the work of sanctification includes, we must first appreciate the biblical truth involving our identification with Christ in His death on the cross. He not only died as our Redeemer, but He also died as our substitutionary Representative, paying the price for our sins. In Christ therefore, God sees every believer as being crucified with His Son and hence as a saint positionally sanctified in Him (Romans 6:6,7; 1 Cor. 1:30, 6:11; Galatians 2:20). Paul writes that God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin on behalf of us in order that we ourselves might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). The idea is that the Christian’s position in the mind of God is that of a person who died with Christ and is positionally sanctified. In God’s sight the Christian is viewed as never having sinned. Thus even the carnal Christians in Corinth (1 Cor. 3:1) could be truthfully called saints earlier in Paul’s letter (1 Cor. 1:2). However, one cannot read the New Testament or observe the lives of some Christians without concluding that not every Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit is “filled with the Holy Spirit,” that is, living according to His controlling leadership. It is a fact of the Bible that every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor.6:19,20) but not all are controlled by Him. (See Romans 7:14; Hebrews 5:11-6:12)
II. Experiential Sanctification
Positional sanctification, consequently, must be translated into one’s own personal life experience by the help of the Holy Spirit via the Word of God (John 17:17). This is that to which Paul refers when he writes to the Christians in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” While this experiential dimension of sanctification begins at conversion, substantial progress in holiness occurs when a believer willfully makes a complete commitment to the Lord’s control (Rom. 6:12,13; 12:1). Experiential sanctification involves three aspects.
A. The Decisive Aspect.
The decisive aspect is commanded by Paul of the Roman Christians in Romans 6:12,13 and exhorted in 12:1. He describes this aspect as the presenting of one’s bodily members to God by a determined effort of will. This placing of one’s bodily members at God’s disposal can begin at conversion, as it did for the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46). However, more often than not it begins with a resolute decision subsequent to salvation to make Christ Lord of every area of one’s life. This decision usually follows a period of education and spiritual growth until one comes to realize that there is more to the Christian life than what has been experienced to that point in time. This is what Jesus had in mind when He said in Matthew 16:24 that, if anyone wished to come after Him as a disciple, he would have to deny himself and take up his cross, thus putting himself at God’s disposal. Some call this decision “dedication,” “consecration,” or “a crisis experience.” This is the point when, to the best of one’s ability and with all the light available at the time, a person gives all of one’s self and bodily members over to God’s control and God then “baptizes” or “fills” the individual with His Spirit. (Compare Acts 1:5 and Acts 2:4.)
B. The Progressive Aspect.
From then on, the progressive aspect of sanctification continues at a more rapid pace. In Romans 6:11 Paul commands the Christians to count themselves dead repeatedly to sinning of all kinds and alive unto God every time they are tempted to sin. In Romans 12:2, believers are to stop letting this age conform them into its likeness and they are to continue letting the Lord transform their living by the renewing of their minds. As Jesus stated in Matthew 16:24, they are to continue following and obeying Him and His teachings. The intent is that the longer we live this progressively holy life, the more our lives will become conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, God’s Son (Rom. 8:29). We are to continue being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
The Spirit-filled life is a life lived under the control of the Holy Spirit using the Bible as one’s guide. This does not mean that a Spirit-filled Christian will never yield to temptation and sin. However, if one should sin, confession should be made immediately and personal forgiveness accepted by faith (1 John 1:9-2:2). It is to be remembered that the fruit of the Spirit does not come automatically to people still involved with sin dwelling in their members (Rom. 7:14-25). The fullness of the Spirit does not make obedience to God an automatic thing nor the demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit something easy to exhibit on all occasions. However, this does not mean that the ideal should not be one’s aim. New circumstances may call for renewed dedication of one’s body to God as a living sacrifice when the Spirit leads and as the Christian matures in Christ. All of this involves lifelong growth and development in Christ-likeness through the continual sanctifying work of the Spirit by the truth of His Word (John 17:17).
C. The Completed Aspect.
Finally, the sanctifying work of the Spirit is completed, in one sense, at the time of physical death when the spirit of the Christian enters into the Lord’s presence (Heb. 12:22, 23). However, sanctification will be completed in the final sense, when the Christian’s body is resurrected and glorified (1 Cor. 15:51-54; Phil. 3:20,21; 1 John 3:2). Then the believer will attain complete sanctification for all eternity.
To reiterate, the Holy Spirit enters and indwells the life of an individual at his/her conversion, and sainthood begins positionally (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19,20). The Spirit takes over control in many Christians’ lives in a decisive moment of sanctification when that Christian permits the Spirit total control. From then on, the indwelt and controlled Christian is expected to continue walking according to the Spirit’s leading via God’s Word, the Bible (John 17:17). This filling or controlling is something that is intended to continue in the sanctified Christian’s life (Eph. 5:18; 2 Cor. 7:1) until it is completed, in one sense, at the Christian’s death (Heb. 12:22,23) and, in the final sense, at Christ’s return when the Christian receives a resurrection body (Phil. 3:12-14, 20, 21).
*adopted by the 2003 General Conference
A revival of speaking in tongues influenced North America and other parts of the world in the last century, and the effects of this revival continue today. This movement has had a broad scope geographically, culturally and socially. So it is not surprising that there has also been a wide variation in the experiences and degrees of involvement in this phenomenon, as well as in the acceptance or rejection of the people and groups who espouse this teaching. Some who speak in tongues teach and insist that the gift of tongues is the evidence or sign that one is filled with the Holy Spirit. Some who do not speak in tongues teach and insist that the gift of tongues is not for this age, but was only for the time of the apostles and the birth of the church. Others find themselves somewhere in between.
The Missionary Church believes the entire record of the Bible concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues must be understood against this larger backdrop.
A Spirit-Filled Life Will Be Characterized by Both the Fruit of
the Spirit and Proper Use of the Gifts of the Spirit
We believe that every Christian should be filled with the Spirit. This truth must continue to have strong emphasis in our teaching and preaching. The Spirit-filled life has been a basic tenet of the Missionary Church from its beginning, and our Constitution states what we believe concerning the work of the Spirit in people’s lives: “The divine work of making men holy begins in repentance and regeneration, yet, through a subsequent crisis experience, the believer is to die to self to be purified in heart, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that he may be separated wholly unto God to serve Him in righteousness and holiness. After the crisis experience, the believer is to be perfected in holiness in the fear of God and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Historically, the Missionary Church has stood for a warm-hearted, vital experience of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We have endeavored to hold to a correct interpretation of the Christian life as presented in the Scriptures. We believe there is an experience of the Spirit’s fullness subsequent to the conversion experience. The vitality of this Spirit-filled life is dependent on a continual day-by-day abiding in Christ in complete abandonment to His will. This life will be characterized by both the fruit of the Spirit and a proper use of the gifts of the Spirit. We still maintain this position.
Possessing Spiritual Gifts Is Not Evidence for the Fullness of the Spirit
Gifts can obviously be counterfeited. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 are sobering: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” If some of the greater gifts, such as prophecy, can be exercised so as to be regarded by Jesus as a work of iniquity, we should not be surprised when other gifts also become a counterfeit of Satan.
So while we recognize the gifts of the Holy Spirit as taught in Scripture to be valid gifts for the church today, no particular gift or gifts are the necessary or required evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, nor are they considered as the evidence of Christian maturity.
Although there are several instances in Scripture where people spoke in a tongue following an infilling of the Holy Spirit, this is not normative throughout Scripture. We believe these instances are descriptive of what happened during a unique time of historical transition, chronicled in the book of Acts. However, the absence of explicit commands in the New Testament letters linking the practice of tongues to Spirit-filled living indicates that these instances are not intended to be prescriptive for all Christians in the church era. Furthermore, to insist that speaking in tongues is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fullness invalidates the experience of all those believers whose lives have given abundant evidence of the power of the Spirit but who have never spoken in tongues.
The Gifts of the Spirit Are for “The Common Good” in the Body of Christ
Every Christian has at least one gift. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit “just as He determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Christians should not expect to receive or to exercise any one particular gift, several gifts, or all the gifts. With this fact in mind Paul asked, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). It is clear, grammatically and contextually, that the intended answer to these questions is, “No.” Therefore, Christians need each other.
Gifts are always related to service and are not to be used as a measure of Christian experience. We agree with A.B. Simpson when he said, “…our possession of these gifts does not affect our personal salvation and sanctification, and our standing with God as subjects of His grace.”1 Gifts are not to be exercised selfishly, but are for the profit of the whole body.
The Gift of Tongues Must Be Practiced with Orderliness, Unity and Love
Speaking in tongues is referred to in scripture both in corporate and private worship. The guidelines for speaking in tongues in a corporate setting are found in 1 Corinthians 14 and state 1) that no more than two or, at the most, three may speak in a tongue during a service, and 2) there must be one present who can interpret. Paul says that in the church, he would rather speak five intelligible words than ten thousand in a tongue. Private speaking in tongues refers to a private conversation with God. Paul sees limited value in this, however, since the benefit consists only in the personal edification of the speaker-not the edification of the entire body (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4).
The gift of tongues is not intended to be divisive. However, due to the passion people have for their positions, both the acceptance and the rejection of tongues have often caused division in churches, homes, and other groups. Pride and division in the Corinthian church created problems in the unity of the body. The instruction clearly shows that loveless Christianity, unbiblical judgment of others, rifts in a congregation, and refusal to listen to the teaching of Scripture are not of the Holy Spirit.
Christians Should Be Known by Their Fruit Rather Than by Their Gifts
The Missionary Church considers the biblical distinction between the gifts and the graces of the Spirit important. The gifts of the Spirit are clearly presented in 1 Corinthians 12. The graces of the Spirit are bound together by love (1 Corinthians 13), and the desire for spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1) must be preceded by earnest pursuit of love. The graces of the Spirit are also identified as fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is evident that one may possess a gift or several of the gifts of the Spirit without enjoying the necessary graces of the Spirit. A gift, such as prophecy, can be exercised without the grace of love and thus be little more than noise. (1 Corinthians 13:1).
The graces or fruit of the Spirit make it possible for the Christian to exercise the gifts of the Spirit in a manner that will bring glory to God and will bring His blessing upon and enhance the testimony of the church of Jesus Christ. Since Paul presents love as “the most excellent way,” it suggests that love is the true essence of all the graces of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31b). The truth of 1 Corinthians 13 indicates that this is so. All of the other graces or fruit spring out of love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Christians should be known by their fruit rather than by their gifts. The most visible evidence of the fullness of the Spirit in the life of the Christian is love: love for God, love for the body of Christ, and love for a lost world.
The believer must have a passion for the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Giver of gifts. The Bible clearly teaches that the Christian life is a relationship with a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is made real to us by the Holy Spirit.
The Missionary Church believes that the consuming passion of the Holy Spirit is to present and glorify Christ (John 15:26). Anything that detracts from the central theme, Jesus Christ, lessens the effectiveness of the church. Like Paul, we are “resolved to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Seeking manifestations more than seeking Christ is a danger to be avoided. To quote A.B. Simpson again, “When we seek anything less than God, we are sure to miss His highest blessing and likely to fall into side issues and serious errors.”2
Pastors should teach the Spirit-filled, victorious Christian life-not as an option for the Christian, but as a necessity. Our congregations need to know the deepened experience of the grace of God in their lives. We must not lose sight of what God has already done for us or deny His past blessings. We counsel our people to be “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14) and “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:39).
1A. B. Simpson, Gifts and Grace (Camp Hill, PA:
Christian Publications, 1993), p. 1.
2A. B. Simpson,
*revised by the 2003 General Conference
Leadership is a term with many connotations. When we add the modifier “Christian,” the connotations increase. Some of these meanings come from the culture of which we are a part, and some come from Scripture. It is important that we learn to distinguish between these two sources.
There is a tendency on the part of Christians to want to define an ideal model of leadership by studying leaders in the Bible, but we must recognize that the patriarchal culture of the Old Testament and the Greco-Roman culture of the New Testament were quite different from the culture of the latter 20th century Western world. This is not to say that there are no biblical guidelines for leadership. It is only to say that the result of the biblical principles of leadership applied to our situation may look different than when applied to other cultures at other times.
For example, in the New Testament we find no highly developed church structures as we do today in the West. Organization and leadership within the early church were relatively simple. For that reason, we find no models for the leadership of our large, urban churches with their professional staffs or for denominations with national and international dimensions. To say that we find no models, however, is not to say we find no principles; and it is to those principles that we need to give careful attention as we seek to develop models for our present situation.
The first New Testament principle to be noted is that every church leader demonstrates exemplary Christian character (1Tim. 3, Tit. 1:5-9). In pagan societies even to this day, character is not as important as the pragmatic ability to get results. Whoever can control spiritual power most effectively is looked to as a spiritual leader, regardless of his or her personal character or ethics. In the church, however, what a person is, is more basic than what he can do. A leader is to be a living demonstration of the highest qualities of Christian life and thought and a living proof that biblical ethics work. These qualities and the living proof are not required only of leaders. Every Christian, whether in a leadership role or not, should be marked by them. The ideal is “every man mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). The point is that the basic qualification for leadership is a significant degree of spiritual maturity based on sound doctrine and continuing spiritual growth. A significant factor in this maturing process will be a lifestyle which puts into practice biblical values and which resists the molding pressures of contemporary non-Christian cultural values.
A second principle related to Christian leadership is that service is more important than status. Jesus made it clear that His followers were not to seek position or power for themselves (Matt. 20:20-28; John 13:16). There is one Lord; and the words meaning “rule” (Greek words with the root arch) are never used in the New Testament in reference to relationships among Christians. So the Christian leader is not a ruler; he is a servant, although not primarily a servant of the people he serves. He is primarily a servant of God from whom he receives his guidance and direction.
For the leader to function only on the level of the group is to abdicate the role of the leader. This balance between being a servant and being a leader is demonstrated for us by Jesus Himself. The accounts of the cleansing of the temple and the washing of the disciples’ feet, picture for us the balance which should be found in a leader, as one who exercises authority and yet ministers to the people with the heart of a servant.
A related principle is that leadership is more a matter of function than office, of doing the ministry than of being a minister. Leadership in groups almost always begins as a ministry function and gradually becomes institutionalized into an office. The tendency, then, is to begin to think of holding the office rather than of performing the function of a servant-leader. Seeking an office for personal satisfaction or as the base for exercising authority is contrary to the biblical concept of servant-leadership.
A third principle relates to the existence of various types of leaders, ranging from the prophetic type, characterized by the ability to motivate people to obey the Word of God, to the priestly type, more akin to our modern concept of management. The latter type of leader will organize and run the programs conceived by the former, and some leaders will have varying degrees of these characteristics. The danger is that tension may arise between the two functions or between the people carrying out the functions, or that one function will tend to predominate at the expense of the other. For this reason, some prefer to distinguish between leadership and management.
However we may define the terms, we need to recognize that the body needs all of its members and both types of leadership.
A distinction is also made between professional and lay leaders. The concept of professional church leaders is not as clear in the New Testament as the general concept that leadership is a legitimate function in the church. Professionalism has grown as the church has developed institutional identity. The cultural factors become significant when dealing with this aspect of leadership. The church in a tribe with a subsistence level economy would not have the option of professional leaders although it would certainly need leaders. The house churches in places where there is government suppression of Christianity, as in China, do not have the option of professional leadership as we know it, but the criteria for leaders would still apply.
This does not make professional clergy unbiblical; but it does mean that we need to begin with a concept of leadership in the church which comes from biblical principles and which recognizes that some of our common concepts and patterns of leadership are more a product of 20th century Western society than a project of biblical principles or patterns.
A fourth principle underlying leadership in the church involves the recognition by the leader and by the church that a qualification for leaders is the possession of the appropriate leadership gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is why a leader needs more than just the general qualities of mature Christian character. All members of the body should possess these, and persons who are not in leadership posts are not exempt from the need to reach such standards. Neither are they second class members of the church. It is simply a matter of recognizing that God, in His sovereignty, has given various gifts to the members of His body and that they need to be recognized, not on a hierarchical basis, but on the basis that all gifts are for the building up of the church. A leader, then, is one who has God-given leadership gifts and uses them within the church with the spirit of a servant.
The fifth principle is that Christian leadership involves skills which need to be developed through careful study and practice. Those skills may vary with the cultural expectations of leaders and with the complexity of the organization involved, but diligence, in order to be “a workman who has no need to be ashamed”. applies to leaders as well as to every other member of the church.
These skills will include varying combinations of such things as guiding in the development of purposes, goals and objectives; motivating the church in the pursuit of these ends; instructing the church in God’s Word; helping the members of the church identify and use their gifts for the good of the church and the fulfillment of the person; keeping group and personal need-satisfaction in balance; counseling; encouraging; organizing and managing the activities and ministries of the church; administering discipline; serving musically; and doing evangelism and church planting in unreached areas.
A caution needs to be raised about the tendency to confuse certain personality types with gifts of leadership. Stereotypes of leaders are sometimes formed on less than valid biblical criteria, and anyone who fits the stereotype is thought to be a potential leader. Adherence to the above principles will help to avoid the error.
A second caution relates to the tendency for leaders to seek to avoid the risks involved in leadership by shunning the role entirely or by trying to transfer responsibility to the church or to a committee or board. It is clear from Scripture that God’s people have not always been willing to follow God’s appointed leaders. Jeremiah’s case is an outstanding example of this resistance. This can prove to be a severe test for the servant-leader.
In summary, the criteria for leadership in the church are: (1) spiritual maturity as defined by the Scriptures, (2) a servant spirit committed to the service of the church, (3) a sense of divine call, (4) appropriate spiritual gifts, and (5) developed leadership skills.
We recognize there are committed Christians who hold differing views concerning the assurance of the believer. Because of our commitment to the Great Commission and our Purpose Statement, we will not make the differing views of the assurance of the believer an issue of division or disunity. We will proclaim the holiness of God, the love of God for all persons, and the call to holy living, regardless of differing views on the assurance of the believer. Regional and district directors and credentialing committees are to use this position paper in the credentialing process.
The Scriptures teach that the Christian believer may have the blessed assurance of being saved. He need not live in uncertainty as to his relationship with God. He can know beyond doubt that his sins are forgiven and he is a child of God.
Assurance of Acceptance
First, the believer may be assured by the witness of the Spirit, that inward evidence of acceptance with God. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom 8:16). “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us ” (1 John 3:24). The Spirit bears witness after faith has been exercised in the promises of God (Cf. Heb. 11:5-6).
Other evidences are also given by which the believer may be certain about his saved relationship. The first Epistle of John, which centers on knowing, conditions that certainty on such evidences as conforming one’s life to the Word of God (2:35); doing what is right (2:29; 3:710); loving fellow Christians (3:14-15); possessing an uncondemning heart (3:1921); and living victoriously over sin and Satan (5:18).
Assurance of Security
There is another aspect to assurance, the certainty of being kept. We may enjoy assurance of present acceptance, but what about the future? Can we have the assurance of perseverance? Sometimes defeated people are discouraged from beginning the Christian life for fear they will not “hold out.”
There is no question about the gracious purpose and the power of God to keep His own from falling, and to present them before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24). God’s enabling power far exceeds even our asking. He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Eph. 3:20). God is greater than every degree and kind of opposition. Paul therefore asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). No outside enemy or force is strong enough to sever us from the love of God. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37,39).
Condition of Security
We need not worry, therefore, about God’s ability or loving purpose to make us final victors. But this outcome is not automatic or inevitable. Throughout the New Testament it is consistently taught that the keeping power of God becomes effective through the exercise of faith. The elect “through faith are shielded by God’s power” (1 Peter 1:5). The writer to the Hebrews, addressing them as “holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling,” calls for steadfast faith: “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Heb. 3:1, 14).
Let us observe that the scriptural condition for salvation is believing. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). See also John 3:16, 18; 5:24; 6:40, 47. But the word “believes” used in all of these passages is in the present tense, and it means “to believe and to continue to believe.” It is the continuous or progressive present, and implies not only an initial act of faith but a maintained attitude. Assurance of security, therefore, is for the believing one. We are saved by faith and we are kept by faith.
Nowhere in the New Testament is it suggested that a Christian can presume on his saved relationship. Nowhere is the idea conveyed that he has “arrived” and all he needs to do is “coast in” because of an initial act of faith. Nowhere is encouragement given to the backslider that since he was once saved he will always be saved. Nowhere is there any support for the antinomian heresy that a Christian can indulge in sin with impunity. On the contrary, followers of Christ are exhorted to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41); “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the lawless men and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3:17); “be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10); hold “on to faith and a good conscience” in order to avoid shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:18); “be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3:8); “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ” (Heb. 10:23); “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1).
The Christian is warned of mortal dangers through salt losing its saltiness (Lk. 14:34-35); through failing to remain in Christ (John 15:6); in being moved from the hope held out in the gospel (Col. 1:23); in wandering from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10); in escaping from the trap of the devil (2 Tim. 2:24, 26); in ignoring such a great salvation (Heb. 2:3); in turning away (apostatizing) from the living God (Heb. 3:12); in being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb. 3:13); in deliberately keeping on sinning (Heb. 10:2631); in wandering from the truth (James 5:19-20); in being overcome by the world (2 Pet. 2:20,22); in forsaking one’s first love (Rev. 2:4, 5).
This is the clear teaching of the New Testament. God’s sovereign provision is coupled with human responsibility. The declarations of Scripture are always linked with demands, the indicatives with imperatives. Security is for the one who is believing. We are kept by the power of God through faith. The classical passages on God’s keeping power, John 10 and Romans 8, both condition security on human faith evidenced in obedience. The promise of eternal life and protection from enemies is for those who listen to the voice of Christ and follow Him (John 10:27-28). The promises in Romans 8:29,39 are for those who love God (vs. 28), a love which will be demonstrated by keeping the commandments of Christ (See John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:9-10; compare Matt. 28:19-20).
Truth in Balance
These complementary truths, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, have not always been kept in balance. In fact, men, seizing upon one to the exclusion of the other, have tried to erect entire theological systems on only one of them. For example, Calvin, who was preceded by Augustine, erected his system on the principle of the sovereignty of God with five main points: (1) unconditional election; (2) limited atonement; (3) total moral inability and depravity; (4) irresistible grace; and (5) the final perseverance of the saints. Calvin held that God predestinated some, including babies, to be saved; others to be damned. The difference in destinies was found not in any human response to or rejection of the gospel but in the inscrutable will of God. Some of his followers have carried these principles to fatalistic extremes. They have opposed any evangelistic or missionary effort as an affront to God’s sovereignty. Many socalled Calvinists today hold greatly modified views of the system even though they still hold to the capstone of the structure “Once in grace, always in grace” or “Once saved, always saved.”
Arminius, who belonged to the generation following Calvin, attempted to counter the Calvinistic system by insisting upon (1) election conditioned upon God’s foreknowledge of individual response to the gospel; (2) atonement with the world in view; (3) moral good only through regeneration based on the faith of the individual; (4) possibility of resisting grace; (5) perseverance through the help of the Holy Spirit by the response of faith. Historically the Missionary Church has been in agreement on these five points. However, some of those who followed Arminius went much further. They built their system on the principle of human freedom to the exclusion of divine sovereignty and came out with a revised form of the heresy of Pelagianism. They denied human depravity, affirmed man’s inherent goodness, stressed human effort and volition, and ended up with salvation by works.
The final arbiter of truth is the Word of God, to which the Missionary Church is committed. The Word sets forth both the truth of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God in His sovereignty chose to create man a free being to exercise choice within His sovereign purpose.
Admittedly, the operation of both transcends human understanding, but the greatest theologian of all time, the Apostle Paul, holding to both could only bow in praise before the unsearchable wisdom of God. In the 9th chapter of Romans, he sets forth in unrelieved clarity God’s initiative, purpose, and work in saving man by sovereign grace. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.” “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” But in the chapter which follows, man’s responsibility is set forth with such emphasis that the initiative for his salvation seems to rest solely with him: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then the Apostle places still more responsibility on man: ” And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Then in the 11th chapter of Romans, these two great principles are repeatedly joined. The fact is stated, but the method transcends human understanding. The great theologian can only express wonder and praise as he marvels at the transcendent ways of God: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgment, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
To sum up, the Scriptures teach both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. They teach, on the one hand, the adequacy of God’s provision in grace to save us, and on the other hand, the need of exercising and maintaining faith to make the provision of salvation effective. Through faith the believer may enjoy the assurance of both present acceptance and God’s keeping power. But a lapse of vital, operative, obedient faith can lead to tragedy. New Testament Christians are warned that there is no escape from the consequences of persistent backsliding and that the possibility of apostasy is a biblical reality. Throughout the New Testament, Christians are urged to maintain a steadfast faith in and fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
–Revised by the 2011 General Conference
Abortion has been catapulted into the forefront of the ethical problems confronting Christians today. The issue has been nurtured in a general climate of moral relativism, a growing sexual permissiveness, and a threatening population explosion.
The moral issue of abortion is more than a question of the freedom of a woman to control the reproductive functions of her body. It is rather a question of those circumstances under which a human being may be permitted to take the life of another.
We believe that all life is a gift of God, so that neither the life of the unborn child nor the mother may be lightly taken. We believe that, in Scripture ,God Himself has conferred divine blessing upon unborn infants and has provided penalties for actions which result in the death of the unborn.
The Missionary Church believes that abortion, for reasons of personal convenience, social adjustment or economic advantage, is morally wrong. Consequently, we urge our pastors and people to become well informed concerning alternatives to abortion.
At the same time, we recognize certain medical conditions which pose a serious threat to the life of the mother and which may necessitate therapeutic abortion. In these cases, the decision for abortion should be made only after there has been medical, psychological and spiritual counseling of the most sensitive kind.
We also recognize certain traumatic conditions such as rape and incest which may result in pregnancy and which can create a serious threat to the psychological well-being of the mother and any existing family. We do not believe that the scriptural answer is to end the new life which may have resulted from such traumatic circumstances. Rather, we do strongly urge that total and continual Christian understanding and support be shown by the membership of the local church to the mother and any family involved during the pregnancy and following the birth.
Furthermore, the Missionary Church believes that local congregations and individual members must accept responsibility, under God, for the acceptance and loving care of all those born into this world as a result of our strong stand against abortion and that ministries should be offered to such persons within and without the church fellowship.
The Scriptures declare that God created us male and female. Furthermore, the biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of a male-female relationship (Gen. 2:24), and formalized in the institution of marriage. The partner for man was woman. Together they were to be one flesh. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-23). Everywhere in Scripture, the sexual relationship between man and woman within the bonds of marriage is viewed as something natural and beautiful.
Homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures. In Leviticus 18:22, God declares the practice of homosexuality an abomination in His sight. In Romans 1:26-27 the practice of homosexuality is described as a degrading and unnatural passion. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 identifies the practice of homosexuality as a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul, strong in his condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, also testifies that those once engaged in homosexuality were among those who were forgiven and changed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). This declaration offers hope both for forgiveness and for healing. Individual Christians, ministers, and congregations need to maintain the belief that all human beings have sinned, and that all Christians have received God’s mercy while helpless, ungodly, and hostile to God. In the name of Christ we proclaim forgiveness, cleansing, restoration and power for godly living for all who repent and believe the gospel.
We believe that homosexuality is not an inherited condition in the same category as race, gender, or national origin, all of which are free from moral implication. We believe that homosexuality is a deviation from the Creator’s plan for human sexuality. While homosexuals as individuals are entitled to Civil Rights, including equal protection of the law, the Missionary Church opposes legislation which would extend special consideration to such individuals based upon their “sexual orientation.” Such legislation inevitably is perceived as legitimatizing the practice of homosexuality and elevates that practice to so-called “Gay Rights” legislation. Where such legislation has been enacted into law, the Missionary Church strongly urges that churches and organizations be exempted from compliance by amendment to the law. The position and practice of such organizations regarding homosexuality is determined by their religious convictions. This we hold to be a grave matter of religious freedom.
Individual Christians, ministers, and congregations should compassionately proclaim the good news of forgiveness and encourage those involved in homosexual practices to cease those actions, accept forgiveness, and pray for deliverance, as nothing is impossible with God. Further, we should accept them into fellowship upon confession of faith and repentance, as we would any other forgiven sinner (1 Cor. 6:11).
We further call upon pastors and theologians, along with medical and sociological specialists within the Christian community, to expand research on the factors which give rise to homosexuality and to develop therapy, pastoral care and congregational support leading to complete restoration.
Pornography and Obscenity
Pornography: From the Greek words porne (harlot) and graphos (writing). Webster’s Dictionary defines pornography as: (1) originally a description of prostitutes and their trade; (2) writings, pictures, etc. intended to arouse sexual desire.
Obscenity: From the Latin word obscaenus (“ob” means to, “caenum” means filth). Webster’s Dictionary defines obscene as: (1) offensive to modesty or decency, lewd, impure; (2) foul, filthy, repulsive, disgusting.
WHEREAS the multi-billion dollar pornography industry in America has grown and continues to grow in epidemic proportions and is invading and affecting every segment of society; and
WHEREAS the lifestyle advocated by the pornography industry is in direct conflict with the holy living that is taught in the Word of God; and
WHEREAS family, church and community values and relationships are being seriously affected by this industry; and
WHEREAS the Supreme Court in 1973 reaffirmed that a community does have the right to establish and protect its standards; and assaults upon women and children, and the demeaning of persons in direct proportion to the degeneration of biblical moral values;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that members and adherents of the Missionary Church unite their efforts and energies with organizations such as the National Consultation on Pornography, Inc., National Federation of Decency by Law, and other like agencies to defeat all forms of pornography.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge our people to become aware of the magnitude of the problem and become involved in community plans to exercise a positive voice through actions such as the boycotting of products, publications, TV programs and places of business that promote this cancer on our society; and finally
BE IT RESOLVED that our people write to the president of the United States–
1. Thanking him for his own stand against the porno-graphic industry in this country.
2. Requesting him to order the Justice Department to enforce obscenity laws which are already on the books.
3. Assuring him of our prayers and support in this effort.
The Missionary Church reaffirms its opposition to gambling and lotteries, including those run by government. These are socially, morally and economically destructive. They are rooted in covetousness and violate the biblical work ethic.
We believe that gambling in any form is potentially addictive. It is a social evil that feeds upon greed and sells a set of fantasy values that exploit people. It especially harms the poor who can least afford to forfeit their financial resources on the promise of instant wealth. The tragic end result is often deepened poverty and increased welfare rolls, to say nothing of the emotional damage and disillusionment experienced by the vast numbers of planned losers.
Gambling undermines the economic base of a nation in that it reduces the purchasing power of people. Money gambled by wage earners cannot be spent to purchase goods and services of constructive and productive businesses.
Compulsive gambling may cause the individual’s character to be further weakened and to disintegrate. It may lead to indolence and self-delusion, the break up of families, crime, loss of jobs and even suicide.
Since we deplore the exploitation of the weaknesses of humanity, the Missionary Church calls upon all who are in positions of influence and decision-making to seek other means by which to raise revenue. We further call upon the churches and schools to conduct programs that will inform people of the evils of gambling.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a growing epidemic that may surpass the ravages of any plague in human history. In this decade, tens of thousands of North Americans have contracted AIDS and more than a million North Americans are carriers of the AIDS virus. For those who have contracted AIDS, currently there is no known medical cure, and thus the disease is fatal. The evidence is not clear concerning the long-term results of those who are carriers of the AIDS virus.
We extend Christian compassion to all who have acquired this disease by whatever means (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Luke 10:25-31). We urge the provision of spiritual, emotional, and even physical care for them to the same degree that patients with other life-threatening diseases receive. Christians, following the example of Christ, should seek to minister to HIV infected persons. In keeping with our historical precedents (e.g., the furtherance of medical missions, retirement homes, inner city missions, etc.) we urge our local churches to become involved with the development of new ministries to provide compassionate care for persons with AIDS. They need the hope and peace that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can give them.
We are concerned for both the confidentiality of the infected and the protection of the uninfected. Failure by one who is HIV positive to inform any person who may be exposed to the virus is as morally reprehensible as is discrimination against an identified HIV positive person. We believe that the interests of the uninfected (including an uninfected spouse) have priority over the confidentiality of persons who are HIV positive and persist in high risk behavior. Furthermore AIDS is first and foremost a public health concern, not a civil rights issue. Hence, any proposed legislation that would confer special “civil rights” on persons afflicted with AIDS but threatens the health of others is totally unacceptable.
The Missionary Church reaffirms the sanctity of marriage and deplores nonmarital sexual intercourse, homosexual practices, and intravenous drug abuse. While we acknowledge that there are innocent sufferers of the disease, the fact remains that the two primary groups of individuals with AIDS in North America to date are practicing homosexual men and drug addicts who share needles.
Family life teaching and sexual education is a God given responsibility of parents. The church’s task is to assist both parents and youth in understanding their sexuality in the context of biblical values. Sexual education alone, however, will not stop the spread of AIDS. Our society needs to understand and acknowledge that there are compelling emotional, philosophical, medical, sociological, historical and biblical reasons for practicing abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Since God has designed sexual intercourse for monogamous heterosexual marriage alone, and since this form of sexual practice will ultimately help to solve this problem, the Missionary Church calls her people and her world to teach and live by biblical sexual morals.
In conclusion, the Missionary Church recommends the following three responses:
1. Confront the disease as Christ and His disciples dealt directly with the issues of their day (Matt. 8:2-3 and 9:35-36).
2. Care for those stricken, with the love of Christ and the good news of hope, forgiveness and salvation (Mat thew 22:39; Galatians 6:2; Matthew 7:12).3. Promote the biblical lifestyle which minimizes the spread of this infection (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20).
Amos, Williams E., When Aids Comes to Church, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1988.
Dobson, James, “Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions,” Focus on the Family, February 1986, p.5.
Hayner, Stephen A., “AIDS: Ethical and Moral Questions,” May 1, 1987.
“Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome,” A Christian Medical Dental Society Statement. Passed unanimously by the CMDS House of Delegates, April 29, 1988, Seattle, Washington.
“National Association of Evangelicals Resolution on A.I.D.S.” Adopted by the N.A.E. General Session, March 9-10, 1988, Orlando, Florida.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
The intent of this position paper is to address euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is not intended to address every issue of human suffering related to death.
We believe that human life is a gift from God and has absolute, not relative, value. Death is a significant transition that everyone faces. Suffering that may precede death can be very grievous. It also affords the opportunity for personal reflection and reconciliation.
The ultimate test of our life’s priorities may well be how we deal with suffering in the face of death. Such was the case for our Savior in the garden of Gethsemane. He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34) and zealously prayed to be spared from suffering that would only intensify. At the same time, He affirmed His commitment to the larger purpose of the Father, whatever suffering that might involve. The absence of suffering is good, which is why Jesus prayed for it. At the same time, it is not the highest good, which is why He was willing to endure substantial suffering.
The Missionary Church opposes any intervention with the intent to produce death for relief of pain, suffering or economic consideration, or for the convenience of the patient, family or society. We believe that secular arguments for physician-assisted suicide are superseded by a biblical view of a sovereign God who places a limit on human autonomy. We further believe there is a profound moral distinction between allowing a person to die, on the one hand, and taking of a life on the other (Ex. 20:13, Deut. 5:17).
In order to affirm the dignity of human life, the Missionary Church advocates the development and use of adequate pain management to relieve suffering, provide human companionship and encourage spiritual support and intercessory prayer.
While for the believer to die is gain (Phil. 1:21), it is wrong to impose upon God’s prerogative by advancing that day. Rather, we look to our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain us until we meet Him face to face (1 John 3:2).
“Physician-Assisted Suicide”: a position paper of the National Association of Evangelicals, 1997.
“Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Theological Perspectives”: a position paper of Trinity Seminary: The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, n.d.
“Euthanasia”: a position paper of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, approved by the CMDS House of Delegates, May 1, 1992.
A Biblical View of Human Sexuality
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)
Sexuality and Creation
The Bible begins its discussion of human sexuality in the book of Genesis with the account of Creation. Jesus himself rooted his teaching on marriage and divorce in Genesis 2, citing the creation account as both authoritative and forever binding (Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9). The Apostle Paul reasoned likewise, anchoring his exhortations concerning Christian marriage in the specific language of Genesis 2:24 (Eph. 5:31).
In Genesis 1-2 sexuality figures prominently in a larger conversation concerning God’s original intention for humankind–his crowning creative achievement. God, we are told, created human beings “male and female,” indicating that gender distinctions are part of the created order itself, not mere culturally conditioned artifacts. Gender supplies, then, an important component of what it means to be human.
Furthermore, gender distinctions prove essential for the fulfillment of God’s purposes for humanity. Indeed, the fulfillment of God’s initial mandate requires humankind to be both male and female. We read in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” Obedience to this original divine directive would be impossible without God creating and blessing innate gender distinctions.
Gender enables the wonderful mix of likeness and difference that makes sexual intimacy and procreation possible. Gender and sex are both divine gifts, part of a finished creation that God pronounced “very good” (Gen. 1:31). However puzzling and problematic human sexuality may have become–especially in our day–God did not intend it to be this way.
Sexuality is a divine blessing. God created human beings, not only for spiritual intimacy with himself, but also for an extraordinarily rich intimacy within marriage. We read in Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). This same truth we find underscored in the New Testament (Matt. 19:4-6; Eph. 5:31).
The creation account lays the foundation for a consistent and comprehensive theology of sexuality that will be developed throughout the rest of sacred Scripture. We may summarize the biblical understanding in brief: Human sexuality is a divine gift, by which human beings, created male and female, may experience within marriage a deep and multi-faceted union–one that is physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual–and fulfills the divine mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28).
Before we conclude this overview of sexuality and creation, however, we should interject one important observation: while the Bible consistently celebrates the gift of marriage (Gen. 2:18; Gen. 2:24; Pr. 18:22; Pr. 19:14; 1 Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4), it also celebrates the gift of celibacy (Matt. 19:10-12; 1 Cor. 7:25-38). Both are divine blessings. Both provide a context for human flourishing.
Sexuality and the Fall
God’s initial created order was, indeed, “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but the Fall changed everything. It disrupted, first of all, the spiritual intimacy that God intended human beings to enjoy with Him. It disrupted, secondly, the intimacy that God intended us to enjoy within marriage, including its sexual dimension. In a word, since the Fall, our sexuality is broken. The Fall left no aspect of human nature or human experience uncorrupted. Human nature fell; and human sexuality fell with it.
It should come as no surprise, then, that we find such sexual disorder in the world. God’s original design for sex–that it thrive within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman–has been thwarted in countless ways. Pre-marital sex, co-habitation without marriage, adultery, pornography, and various forms of sexual abuse are rife in contemporary culture.
Sadly, we witness these disorders even in the church. On rare occasions, even some pastors have succumbed to sexual immorality. Sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy is but one of the more egregious signs of the depth and pervasiveness of human sin.
Disordered sexuality is not a uniquely contemporary problem. It was a plight in the biblical world as well. Many biblical passages clearly forbid particular sexual practices (Ex. 20:14; Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18; Lev. 20:10-21; Deut. 22:13-30; Deut. 23:17-18; Matt. 5:27-30; Mk. 7:21-23; Jn. 7:53-8:11; Acts 15:20; Acts 15:19-20; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11; 1 Cor. 6:13; 1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5-6; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; Rev. 2:20 ). Other texts catalogue the egregious consequences of disordered sexuality (Gen. 19:1-29; Gen. 19:30-38; Num. 25; 2 Sam. 11-12; 2 Sam. 13; 1 Ki. 11; Pr. 2:16-19; Pr. 6:30-35).
From almost the beginning of the human story, God’s gift of sexuality–which He intended for our good–has been misused by us to our own detriment. Even the most illustrious Old Testament heroes–Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon–practiced polygamy, though God originally intended marriage for one woman and one man. David himself was an adulterer. Biblical spirituality, in both its Old and New Testament manifestations, has been threatened with destruction by disordered sexual desire in its myriad forms.
We should not think, then, that our contemporary sexual chaos and confusion are somehow unique. They are evidence of the fallen human condition. Disordered sexuality is a problem both for believers and unbelievers. It is a problem for both men and women. It is a problem for those with both different-sex and same-sex attraction. Clearly disordered sexuality is a universal human problem.
But we currently find ourselves at a cultural crossroads. Two particular expressions of sexual disorder have come to occupy center stage in the contemporary debate on human sexuality, namely homosexuality and transgenderism. These have always been part of the fallen human condition, but the widespread clamor for their acceptance as morally appropriate lifestyle choices is unprecedented. It is incumbent upon the church, then, to think about such disorders–and those who wrestle with them–as deeply, biblically, and compassionately as possible.
Homosexuality has become a hotly-contested topic in recent years. Matters of great import hinge on this debate, including the nature of human sexuality and the nature of biblical authority. So we must think deeply and speak clearly to the issue. We are, however, called as Christians to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). That requires us to carefully navigate the narrow space between two different errors.
On the one hand, we cannot accept the growing cultural consensus regarding homosexuality. More and more people accept homosexual behavior as a valid personal choice, exempt from any kind of moral censure. Same-sex marriage is becoming commonplace. Increasingly, objection to homosexual practice–no matter how charitably expressed–is characterized as hateful and “homophobic.” We cannot simply adjust our theology to accommodate the changing moral climate. We must not exchange conventional “wisdom” for the truth of God’s Word.
On the other hand, we must not overreact. We cannot single out homosexual practice, as if it were uniquely subject to divine denunciation. Indeed, the Scriptures clearly indicate God’s disapproval of homosexual behavior (Gen. 19:1-22; Judges 19:1-21; Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:24-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:10). But the Scriptures are equally clear about God’s disapproval of heterosexual immorality. (See previously cited Scriptures.) Sexual immorality of all kinds contradicts clear biblical teaching, distorts the divine gift of sexuality, and stands under the righteous judgment of a holy God. The Scriptures warn us: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), in whatever form that immorality may take.
While we find ourselves in the midst of a cultural debate on homosexual practice, we also find ourselves debating sexual orientation itself. Some see sexual orientation as a matter of biological determinism. People are prone to same-sex attraction because of genetics, they say. Others think that it is conditioned by initial sexual experiences. Still others think that same-sex attraction is purely voluntary.
At this point, thoughtful Christians may have more questions than answers. Human sexuality is a remarkably complex phenomenon with biological, psychological, emotional, and spiritual components. To explain same-sex attraction over-simplistically–as merely nature, merely nurture, or merely an act of the will–fails to do justice to sexuality’s complexity.
But we do know this: we live in a fallen world in which much is not as it was supposed to be. Disaster, disease, death–none of these accord with God’s original intent. They are part and parcel of a creation in “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). In a fallen, disordered creation, it should come as no surprise that human desires become disordered, that sexual desire–which was designed to blissfully propel us toward sexual intimacy and procreation within marriage–gets bent out of shape. Some people, through no fault of their own, find themselves struggling with same-sex attraction. This fits with what we know about our fallen world and our falleness within it. Creation is broken, waiting to be restored. We are still waiting for Jesus to make “all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
Nonetheless, we do not need to fully understand the origins of same-sex attraction to insist that God both demands and divinely enables obedience to his commands. The Bible clearly prohibits sex beyond the bounds of heterosexual marriage. So even if the Bible has little to say directly about sexual orientation, that is something of a moot point. What the Bible prohibits is sexual immorality. Sexual attraction is not the issue; sexual behavior is.
Though God originally created two distinct and complementary sexes (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4), a distinction evident in the physiological makeup of the human race, one of the effects of the Fall is that some persons experience gender confusion. They perceive their gender to differ psychologically from their gender biologically. This differs from the rare condition of intersexualism or hermaphroditism, conditions in which a person’s sex is biologically ambiguous–that is, a person possesses both male and female primary sexual traits. In the case of transgenderism, an individual’s sex is biologically clear but psychologically unclear. It is an issue, not of physiology, but of self-perception.
Recently, the American medical community has begun providing a range of treatment options for what is technically called “gender dysphoria,” including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Many LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) advocates are seeking to normalize transgenderism, insisting that individuals have a right to define gender according to their self-perception, rather than according to their biological makeup. Furthermore, many public schools are encouraging parents and staff to validate the feelings of those with “gender dysphoria.”
Nonetheless, any understanding of gender as self-defined or self-determined stands in sharp opposition to the created order and to the Word of God. God, in his wisdom, made humankind “male and female” (Gen. 1:27). That order, and each individual’s participation in it, must be valued and affirmed. Gender is an important component of human personhood and cannot be tampered with without individuals suffering untold harm.
How gender roles should be understood and appropriately expressed may vary from culture to culture, but gender itself remains rooted in Creation rather than culture. While gender embraces more than mere biology, it cannot be determined apart from it.
It is indeed tragic that the Fall has introduced biological anomalies like intersexuality into human experience. It is tragic that some individuals suffer from gender identity confusion. We look longingly for the liberation of creation from its current “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21) and the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). In the meantime, we must show love and compassion to those struggling with gender identity confusion and invite them to share in the hope for wholeness held out in the gospel.
While we cannot condone the actions of those who seek to chemically or surgically alter their biologically indicated gender, we must sympathize with the profound “gender dysphoria” that inclines them to do so. Some of those who wrestle with this issue are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must embrace them in the bonds of Christian affection and fellowship, following the example of Jesus, of whom it was said: “A bruised reed he will not break” (Is. 42:3; Matt. 12:20).
As believers, we are called to extend to our neighbors love and compassion. We are called to affirm the worth of every person as an image bearer of God. We are called to invite them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet we also insist that individuals should not seek to alter their biologically indicated gender in order to align it with their gender as self-perceived.
Sexuality and Redemption (Present and Future)
Disordered sexuality remains a deep and pervasive problem, but God has provided a redemptive remedy in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God created us for wholeness as human beings—including sexual wholeness. This wholeness, so tragically distorted by sin, can be restored by God’s grace. Our fallen sexuality can be redeemed in Christ.
We can be redeemed from the penalty of sin. Jesus bore all of our sins on the cross. Christ died for those with same-sex attraction and gender confusion just as he died for those of us whose lives are sexually broken in other ways (Rom. 3:23). There is no sin, sexual or otherwise, that cannot be forgiven by God for those who trust in Jesus. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) When we are in Christ, sin’s penalty is cancelled. Our true identity, then, is found in Christ, not in sexual attraction.
We can now also be redeemed from the power of sin. God’s moral demands are impossible to meet in our own strength. But Jesus breaks the power of cancelled sin. With the divine aid of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, God’s grace enables those who follow Jesus to live lives of moral purity and holy sexuality. This does not mean that grace necessarily eliminates the desire for sexual expressions God has ruled out of bounds. It does not mean, for example, that God will necessarily eliminate a person’s same-sex attraction or gender confusion. God has clearly forbidden adultery, and yet the Scriptures and Christian experience make clear that Christians still wrestle with adulterous desires. Temptation to sin remains a characteristic feature of the Christian life. But while temptation may be inevitable, succumbing to temptation is not (1 Cor. 10:13). God provides us freedom from sin’s enslavement (Rom. 6:6). But, as followers of Christ, in order to experience this freedom, we must continue to resist the dangerous undertow of our sinful nature (Gal. 5:17, Col. 3:5). We are enabled to resist the power of sin, sexual and otherwise, as we walk in the Spirit sustained by God’s strength (Gal. 5:16, Phil. 4:13).
Those in Christ will ultimately be redeemed from the presence of sin. While we can, by God’s grace, progressively overcome the power of sin during this life, we will not attain complete perfection until our bodies are fully redeemed and glorified (Rom. 8:23). Then we will forever dwell, sin-free, in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-5). While gender distinctions will remain in eternity—we will still be male or female—human sexual expression was designed by God only for the current created order, where it serves as a symbol of the spiritual intimacy between Jesus and his bride, the Church (Eph. 5:31-32). Once Jesus has been fully united with his bride, marriage and sexual expression, as we now know them, will be replaced with the higher pleasures and the perfect intimacy of the new creation (Matt. 22:23-33).
Human Sexuality: Core Affirmations
Therefore, the Missionary Church, in faithfulness to the Scriptures, and in concert with historic Christian orthodoxy, affirms the following truths:
1. We affirm that God’s intention for sex is that it adorn the institution of marriage–a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.
2. We affirm that sex is a divine gift, given to seal the marriage covenant, and intended both for pleasure (Pr. 5:18-19) and for procreation (Gen. 1:28).
3. We affirm that sex is part of the current order of creation, where it serves as a symbol of that glorious spiritual intimacy by which it will be subsumed in the new creation (Matt. 22:23-33).
4. We affirm that God intends heterosexual marriage to serve as a living symbol of the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the Church (Eph. 5:31-32).
5. We affirm that God declares all sex outside the boundaries of marriage–whether pre-marital or extramarital, whether heterosexual or homosexual–as sin.
6. We affirm that sexual disorder is a universal human problem and that all sexual sin lies under the judgment of God.
7. We affirm that God calls and empowers all Christians, whatever the nature of their sexual attraction, to moral purity and “holy sexuality.”1
8. We affirm that homosexuality is contrary to God’s original design for human flourishing and that homosexual behavior is clearly forbidden in the Scriptures.
9. We affirm that homosexual marriage, even though it may be sanctioned by the State, remains forbidden by God.
10. We affirm that gender is a divine gift, essential to both our humanity and personal identity.
11. We affirm that God’s design was the creation of two distinct and complementary sexes, male and female, a distinction evident in physiological makeup of the human race.
12. We affirm that gender identity is biologically (physiologically) determined, rather than being dependent on self-perception.
13. We affirm that sexual sin–in whatever form it manifests itself–cannot efface the image of God. All human beings–whatever the precise nature of their sin–remain worthy of our compassion and respect, just as they remain the object of the lovingkindness of God (Rom. 5:8).
14. We affirm that God calls us to love sinners, even as we grieve for their sin.
15. We affirm that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and are in need of the redeeming and restorative grace of God.
16. We affirm our confidence in the saving power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and the life transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). God intends grace, rather than sin, to have the last word in the lives of his children. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
1 The phrase is Christopher Yuan’s from Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.
*Not in the Human Sexuality Position Paper
Supreme Court Ruling
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
- PRAY FERVENTLY! When Daniel heard the decree of the king that outlawed his worship of his God, Daniel took the matter to prayer; and we must, too! Pray fervently that God’s Kingdom would come and His will would be done here in America as it is in heaven!
- LIVE EXUBERANTLY! This is our time to shine, because elation will soon give way to disillusionment for those who have been counting on this ruling to give them peace and joy. Ask the Spirit to give you an irrepressible joy!
- LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY! Not a single gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender person on this earth is our enemy. They are (at worst) miserable captives of our REAL enemy… SO miserable, in fact, that they are trying to find relief by spreading their unhappiness to us.
Only love snaps the handcuffs of hatred! My roommate in college was gay. These are real people who experience all the usual stuff – good days and bad days, hurts and hopes and hang-ups – and they need and deserve respect and dignity and the love of Jesus!!
Make a sharp distinction between governmental policies and persons made in the image of God! Wherever I go in the world, people say to me, “We love you Americans. It is your government that we can’t stand!”
It is the longing of my heart that the LGBT community would say about every one of you, “You know, we may not agree with your policies, but every single one of you is loving and generous to us!”
- DISPOSE OF YOUR ANGER IN THE ACID-PROOF LAP OF GOD. In the media Christians are portrayed as angry and frustrated, and that is mostly because Christians ARE angry and frustrated!! But we are commanded by God to “be angry and sin not.”
The Bible says, “Only a fool gives full vent to his anger!” We must not do that, other than perhaps in our prayer closets in the intimacy of pouring our hearts out to God.
If the devil were standing here at the microphone, he would urge us to get out there and FIGHT these blankety-blank evil scum! I tell you, DO NOT GIVE THE DEVIL THE SATISFACTION OF CAUSING YOU TO HATE.
LOVE INSTEAD, AND MAKE HIM SORRY HE TRIED IT!
- LEAD WISELY! Our church people deserve the best protection that we can legally provide for them so that they can freely worship and exercise their religion without fear of damaging consequences.
To that end…
SUGGESTED WAYS TO
PROTECT YOUR CHURCH’S MISSION
FROM DISTRACTING PROBLEMS UNDER
THE SUPREME COURT’S RULING ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
(OBERGEFELL vs. HODGES)
- Each church should have a clear statement of faith regarding marriage, gender, and human sexuality. Feel free to use the one which was recently adopted by the 2015 General Conference.
- Each church should declare its subordination to the denominational Constitution. Sample language could be something like the following:
“As a full-member congregation of the Missionary Church, _________________ (your congregation’s name) is subject to the Articles of Faith, Practice and all other Articles found in the current Constitution of the Missionary Church, as well as to the Position Papers attached thereto by action of the General Conferences of the Missionary Church.”
- Each church should additionally identify in its local bylaws which governing body is the sole authoritative interpreter of Scripture for the congregation (e.g., church elders, church board, pastoral staff).
- Each church should clarify that weddings in the church are Christian worship services and part of the free exercise of your religion.
- Each church should clearly and regularly teach its congregation the Biblical standards for marriage, and (optionally) have each new member sign a statement agreeing with the church’s doctrinal stance.
- Each church should adopt a written policy that clearly restricts the use of ministry facilities to those activities which conform to the ministry’s religious purposes. Again, the church should declare that the sole arbiter of this decision belongs to the elders, church board, pastoral staff, or whomever the church designates (see item 3 above).
- As the cultural situation in our nation develops, these suggestions may be added to or changed, and so be careful to remain aware of societal changes which may impact the way ministry is done.
- Finally, every church strengthens and safeguards its future by seeking the face of God for discernment and moving in the direction of personal disciple making. In fact, it is only the church which is not dependent upon buildings or programs to accomplish its mission which is truly unstoppable. When each Christian operates as the church, reaching and discipling everyone within his or her influence, then the fruit of the Spirit is poured out on the community, and “against such there is no law.”
A biblical response to racism begins with the understanding that we are all one human race (Acts 17:26). All human beings are created by God and bear his image and his likeness equally (Gen 1:26-27, 5:1, 9:6). While the Bible does not provide us with a concept of race in the scientific anthropological sense of the term, it does speak to the various divisions among people groups, ethnicities, and cultures, and is well acquainted with the realities of disharmony and alienation that exist along these lines.
Scripture teaches us that this alienation is a direct result of the fall, where sin initially entered our world through our first parents (Gen 3:14-24). This led to envy and strife (Gen 4:8-16), the radical corruption of our hearts being bent toward evil (Gen 6:5-6), and widespread division among people (Gen 11:1-9).1 We understand the sin of racism as a specific form of alienation from the fall. It can be defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism toward a person of a different race based upon the belief that one’s own race is superior. Racism is a pervasive evil that disparages other image bearers on the basis of differences in physical appearance, cultural practice, or certain behavioral traits that correspond to such differences. It is a sin that divides both humanity and the church. And like other sins, it can be both intentional and unintentional and come in forms of both commission and omission (Jas 4:17; Lev 4:27).
Insofar as racism violates the image of God in a person, it is first and foremost a sin against God (Gen 9:6; Ps 51:4). We are all equally bearers of God’s image, and to be prejudiced against another image bearer is an affront against what God has created. Yet racism is also a sin against our neighbor. In the Old Testament, God revealed his intention to bless every nation and people on earth through Abraham’s offspring (Gen 12:3, 22:18). The New Testament also urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), and to honor the image of God in our fellow persons (Jas 3:9; 1 John 4:20).
When it comes to a cure for racism, Scripture reminds us that the mind “set on the flesh is hostile to God” (Rom 8:7). With this mind we cannot submit to God’s law in our own power. Only by being united with Christ in his death can the power of sin be broken — and this includes the sin of racism (Rom 6:6-7). Christ himself is our peace, having broken down in his flesh the dividing walls of hostility among different ethnicities, cultures, and races (Acts 2:1-11; Eph 2:14; Col 3:11). His redemption makes a new creation (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17). Scripture calls believers to be transformed by the renewal of their minds, to set their minds on the Spirit, and to regard no one according to the flesh (Rom 12:2, 8:6; 2 Cor 5:16). We are urged not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom 12:3), and to avoid showing partiality in our churches (Jas 2:1-4; Acts 10:34-35). Racism not only violates the image of God, but it also denies the truth of the gospel that all believers are one in Spirit and have been baptized into one body (John 17:22-23; 1 Cor 12:12-13; Gal:3:28).
Jesus plainly says that the work of the gospel in the lives of his disciples will inevitably bear much fruit (John 15:8). It is worth noting that Jesus explained and illustrated neighbor love with a parable featuring persons of different ethnicities (Luke 10:25-37). In his own earthly ministry, he himself crossed barriers of gender, class and ethnicity in his encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-42). Furthermore, in the early church we see the Holy Spirit confronting cultural and ethnic divisions, bringing about gospel reconciliation (Acts 6:1-7, 10:1-22). Scripture clearly and repeatedly calls God’s people to treat those of a different appearance, background, language group, ethnicity, or culture with respect, love, dignity and care — modeling true unity before the world (John 13:34-35, 17:21; Rom 12:5; Phil 2:2-3).
1 While some would try to argue that God intended a separation by race at Babel, we reject any notion that this scattering was done along racial lines or for purposes of racial “purity.” We further reject as a misreading of Paul the idea that God has placed intentional boundaries between people based on racial or ethnic distinctions (See Paul’s Areopagus sermon in Acts 17:26).
We reject as unbiblical any theory that would assign guilt or innocence, superiority or inferiority, on the basis of skin color alone. God has created us as a rational, moral people who are both capable of making choices and being held responsible for those choices. Scripture teaches that no sin is inevitable and only one sin is unpardonable — racism is neither. We call upon the Missionary Church to first and foremost think biblically about the sin of racism.
Like many North American denominations, we recognize that the Missionary Church has a somewhat complicated history on the subject of race. With historical beginnings in the late nineteenth century resulting in a 1969 merger, our roots reveal a mixed record. Early publications from our forbearers often reflected an indifference regarding racial issues. When addressed, our approach toward racial injustice was often patronizing and at times resorted to stereotyping.2 We were both reserved and late to offer condemnation of Jim Crow laws or explicitly racist groups.3 One of our denominational schools even prohibited interracial dating and marriage.4 Stated plans to more intentionally and effectively embrace minority groups were not well received, much less carried out.5 In short, our history reveals that the Missionary Church has tended to drift along with our culture on this issue.6 The numerical growth of Latino brothers and sisters within our denomination more recently has been a tremendous blessing. The Missionary Church must intentionally and consistently address any sense of disconnectedness and second-class status in our regional and national meetings. Our denomination has much to learn about developing ministries in urban, inner-city, and non-Anglo communities across the nation. Our church planting strategies have historically reflected a tendency to start new works where there has been the greatest interest (and perceived potential to be successful) — not necessarily where there was the greatest need. We not only lament the legacy of every form of racism in our world, but we also acknowledge the presence of historical failures and ongoing shortcomings within our own denomination.
When it comes to a sin like racism, it is important to note that Scripture distinguishes between sin’s guilt and its corruption. Culpability for sin is personal, but corruption can be corporate (Rom 3:10-12, 8:20-21). Some within the Missionary Church may be personally guilty of the sin of racism and have an obligation to seek repentance. Others may simply live in the midst of the corruption of this particular sin and be inheritors of a mixed record. We challenge everyone to examine their own hearts and ask the Lord to reveal any hidden faults (Ps 19:12-14). We also understand that when damage done by previous generations remains unaddressed or unresolved, such damage needs to be repaired and such wrong needs to be righted. Scripture presents several biblical precedents for corporate repentance when not every individual involved was personally guilty (2 Chr 6:24-39; Neh 9:33; Matt 23:31; Rev 2:13-16). Even if one is not directly culpable for specific past sins, repenting of corporate or historical sins can be an expression of regret and a form of public disavowal (Dan 9:3-15). As recipients of the Missionary Church’s heritage, we acknowledge and lament these sins — and where appropriate, we confess such sins personally. Furthermore, we unequivocally renounce any statutes, systems, or structures in our world that would strip individuals of their image bearer status based on prejudice against skin color, ethnicity, language group, or cultural background.
We know that the church will one day worship as a great multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural assembly (Isa 2:1-4; Zech 8:23; Heb 12:22-23; Rev 7:9-10). This picture of the heavenly state, where every tribe, tongue and nation gathers to worship God (Heb 12:18-24), should be reflected in our earthly state (1 Pet 2:9-10). We therefore express our desire to mature in our racial diversity and harmony as brothers and sisters in the Missionary Church. Toward that end we furthermore call upon local churches, regions, and our entire denomination to recognize that from the earliest days of the church God has gifted and called a diverse group of leaders in order that they may raise up a similarly diverse and beautiful bride (Acts 13:1). We live and minister in the bright light of this first-century biblical example. We wholeheartedly affirm our partnership in the gospel and our equal standing together before the Lord — all purchased with the precious blood of Christ. Our prayer is that the Missionary Church will grow as a unified and diverse community of equal image bearers who are being increasingly conformed to the image of God’s Son (John 17:21; Rom 8:29).
2 See various articles in the Gospel Banner, years 1883-1969.
3 In a March 23, 1916, editorial in the Gospel Banner, J. A. Huffman (UMC) condemned segregation, one of the cornerstones of Jim Crow laws. In a September 4, 1924, Gospel Banner article, a contributing writer decried the impact of the Ku Klux Klan and called out ministers who were complicit with the KKK. These two instances are the closest the Missionary Church has come in its history to officially denounce Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan.
4 Fort Wayne Bible College prohibited interracial dating until 1972. See “Inter-racial Dating,” BC Book (1959-60), 19; cf. “Inter-racial Dating” in BC Book (1969-70), 31.
5 See the “1965 Action of the MCA Study Committee for Reaching Minority Groups,” (Fort Wayne, IN: March 15, 1967), housed in the Missionary Church Archives at Bethel University.
6 As recently as 2019, the Missionary Church’s Constitution and position papers gave racism only a single, brief mention. “WE STAND . . . FOR government based on the equal rights of all citizens regardless of race, gender, or faith — . . . AGAINST racism and anti Semitism anywhere, anytime.” See Position Paper XI: “Our Values,” adopted by the 1989 General Conference) in the Constitution of the Missionary Church.
— Adopted by the 2021 General Conference