10 Distinctives of Our Small Church | Lone Hill Church, Los Gatos, CA

Defining Ourselves by Distinctives

Each and every church and body of believers is unique. There simply are not even two churches that are exactly the same. Each is a collage of personalities, spiritual and natural gifts, and thereby uniquely imprinted with God’s grace. Their vision (God’s calling and giftedness), the make up and mix of the individuals comprising the church (fellowship), their use, understanding, and weighing of Biblical priorities (theology and culture), the pastoral leadership, and of course the ministry of the Holy Spirit at work in and through them all of these factors are added to the light and the grace given by God, the Holy Spirit. Within evangelical churches one will find a common ground of beliefs which is generally reflected in our Statement of Faith, but with their own diversity of certain Biblical emphases and convictions churches distinguish themselves. What follows are some distinctives which make up Lone Hill Church’s uniqueness. It is not that these convictions are entirely unique, but they do shape us as a body of believers. They serve as a reminder for us and as information and introduction for those interested in our convictions we offer them here.

 

  1. A Hunger for God’s Word
    The starting point of our “Biblical” distinctive is not what the Bible specifically teaches, but first, it is our attitude and conviction about the Bible in general. It is what we believe about the Bible, and perhaps even more importantly how we respond to it. We believe it is God’s inspired Word, infallible and authoritative for what we must believe for salvation and how we are to live and think. But how do we personally respond to Bible?
     
    The heart of this question is do we personally love God’s Word? Do we daily bring it to bear upon our lives? Do we seek to conform our thinking to its revelation? Or do we practice leaning on our own understanding and only give lip service to the sufficiency of the Bible to guide our lives? Have we become skilled at Bible study? Are we knowledgeable of the systematic doctrines of Scripture? Are our Bibles worn from our reading, are their pages marked from our study? Or are we content with our excuse that we just don’t have time?

    A person can die of starvation even when a meal is within his reach, if he never reaches for it. Yet, hungering for God’s Word means that we eagerly anticipate reading it, to meditate upon it, delighting in it so that this verse or that must be memorized because it so deeply ministers to you. Hungering for God’s Word is sharing your delight and discovery of it with your children, your spouse, your friends, your coworkers, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Hungering after God’s Word builds the discipline of a daily time in the Word nibbling, chewing, savoring, tasting, relishing, delighting in the treasure of God’s Word. From this foundational distinctive about the Bible we move to several of its specific distinctives. The first question is what is the clearest distinctive which the Bible teaches?

  2. A Passionate Love for Jesus
    The thread running through the entire Bible leads us to and stops in the person of Jesus Christ. Practically put, the Bible asks, “do you passionately love Jesus?” Does your life revolve around Him? Such a reaction to Jesus is based upon what we believe about Him.

    The Bible teaches us that He is the eternal Son of God and the Second Person of the Godhead. He is the Christ (Messiah), the anointed and prophesied King of the Kingdom of God. He is the Savior who saves us from the wrath of God which will judge all sin. He is the Source of eternal life. He is the Head of His Church. He is the Lord of all, our Prophet, and our Great High Priest. He is the Word of God incarnate. In the incarnation, the Word takes on our flesh. Though being both God and man we meet one person, Jesus, but with two natures, unmixed. He is both God and man, the God-man. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man.

    Yet, this distinctive about Jesus is not simply a right confession “about” Jesus, rather it is a right confession heart-deep ignited by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, the divine enablement of being “born from above.” This is the experience which results in a passionate love of Jesus Christ. We meet Him in His absolute purity and righteousness. We read His Word and are confronted by His commandments, and we immediately know that in His presence we are sinners, utterly falling short of the glory of God. We become like Peter in his moment of profound insight and spiritual conviction. He was unable to gather the great miraculous catch of fish, but it was not the miracle but the miracle worker who captured his mind and heart making him cry, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lu. 5:8). But Jesus is never put off for He came to save only one kind of person, sinners. He seeks us out. He calls us to Himself. Like Zaccheus we can’t believe that He has come to our house. Our hearts burn as did the hearts of the disciples in Emmaus. Our love for Jesus is given birth and begins its growth.

    This love for Jesus becomes so constraining that we cannot consider life without Him. He is our Savior, our Deliverer, and our most intimate friend. We know that here is the One who loves us more than we will ever be able to love Him. We know that without Him we would be utterly lost. So we cling to Him with all of our heart, mind, and soul. We cling to Him with a desperate, hungering love. We pursue Him to enjoy and know Him more and more. This is the nature of saving faith, and in that moment of true, genuine, personal, saving faith a miraculous transaction takes place. God in heaven declares that we are justified, made “just-as-if-we-never-sinned.” The righteousness of Jesus perfect life is transferred to us. We are made perfect with the righteousness of Jesus in the eyes of God our heavenly Father. In that transaction of faith Jesus becomes our Head, our representative. We are united to Him, and He to us. All that is His becomes ours and all that is ours becomes His. In this union He takes all of our sins upon Himself and accounts to us His righteousness and perfection. In this miraculous transaction of saving faith we are made perfectly righteous before God our judge and we are declared His children. So, saving faith in Jesus is never simply agreeing about who Jesus is, rather it is passionately loving Him.

    There is more. This passionate love for Jesus is never content until it can embrace and experience the holiness of Jesus. For our love for Jesus compels us to want to be like Him. Because of Him we do not want to be conformed to the culture of this world. We do not want to be controlled by the desires of the flesh. We do not want to glory in anything except Jesus Christ. Our ambition is to be transformed into His likeness by the gracious work of His Spirit in conformity to His Word and then to strive against sin by His glorious power. This ambition for holiness is not and cannot be an ideal dream, an occasional curiosity, a sprint toward a distant goal, rather it must be the race of our lives. Daily crying out for His power, consuming His Word as the bread of our sustenance, and doing battle against our ancient foes: Satan, the world, and the flesh. This is the Biblical distinctive of loving Jesus passionately in faith and holiness. This distinctive leads us to a consequent distinctive.

  3. Glorifying God in All Things
    It is through Jesus that we come to know the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is through Jesus that we are led to the truth of the Trinity – one God in substance but three in persons equal in power and glory. Further, it is through Jesus that we are led to the undeniable truth of God’s complete sovereignty. He is not only the supreme authority over creation, but in this sovereignty He freely gives His love, establishes His righteousness, executes His justice, dispenses His grace, fulfills His faithfulness, and governs all things for His glory.

    In Jesus we meet this sovereign God for whom we were created to glorify and enjoy forever. In this meeting we are greeted by an utterly undeserved benevolence, a mercy without measure, a lavishing grace. Such pours out of who He is, His nature. He is the One who delights in being gracious. This grace meets our rebellion, our sin, our hatred, our weakness, and our need. It meets and provides for our every need. All is of His grace: election, justification, sanctification, perseverance, and finally glorification. All of salvation is accomplished the same way – grace. It transforms our enmity into faith, repentance, and a responding love for Him. His grace does a miracle. It makes a dead man alive.

    Again, it is not enough to confess this, unless truly “you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Until we are overflowing with faith-filled thanks that all things come from the hand of our gracious God, we are not glorifying God in all things. Until we are filled with the guaranteed assurance that all things serve His glorious good purpose for all who love Him, then we are not glorifying God in all things: life, breath, circumstance, outcome, longevity, brevity, height, race, intelligence, place, prosperity, want, success, failure, salvation, faith, repentance, and all things. Everything proceeds from His hand, according to His purpose, and for His glory, and knowing this, we gladly live and die for that glory! This is what it ultimately means to glorify God in all things. This distinctive leads us to the next.

  4. Joyful Consuming Worship
    A passionate love for Jesus and a persistent glorifying of God in all things leads us inevitably to the distinctive of worship. To love Jesus passionately, to seek God’s glory in everything is the joy of worship. Worship, we are taught, must be in “spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23-24), heart and head, affection and understanding, joy and knowledge, delight and revelation. To worship in “spirit” is from inside out, genuinely from the heart by the movement to the Holy Spirit in your soul. This is to worship “spiritually, to worship in spirit. It is the real heartfelt explosion of joy and wonder in knowing that this ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ is yours. To worship in “truth” is to worship in the Biblically revealed knowledge of God truthfully and reliably revealed only in Jesus the Christ. The Apostle John especially made this point in his Gospel. “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God [Jesus] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (1:18). “…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” (14:9). “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (14:6). It is only through this revealed truth: the person, the teaching, the action and example of Jesus that we can worship in truth.

    “Spirit and truth” are bound together, so that real worship can never result from only one or the other. Without both, worship becomes a one winged plane, a bicycle missing a wheel. Spirit without truth or truth without spirit perverts and distorts worship. It must be both to be real, true worship. Such worship results in reflecting back to God through Jesus in His Spirit the wonder and beauty of who He is. Such worship is unrestricted. In fact, it is comprehensive. It embraces all of life: every breath you breathe, every word you say, every deed done, every second of every day.

    Your joy in such worship is compounded as you join with others who are filled with this same joy and delight in God through Jesus in His Spirit. Worship together is a fire kindled. It is each adding their stick to the fire through their gifts and passionate love for Jesus. The Apostle Paul puts it this way, ”…with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6). Together, worship takes its fullest meaning as the Lord in the Spirit is uniquely present when His Body gathers on His day, glorying in His praise and feasting on His Word and His Supper. From joyful consuming worship we are led directly to our next Biblical distinctive.

  5. Compassionately Committed Mission
    Worship is that for which we were created, but because there is so little true worship in the world, there must be mission. John Piper puts it so well, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. ...When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.”  So, because there is so little true worship, there is mission.

    It is easy for mission to be on our lips but far from our hearts. We can cheer it, even financially support it, but more is demanded. We must see our neighbors, friends, families, who outside of Christ, as utterly and hopelessly lost, so that, as Jesus wept over Jerusalem we weep with broken hearts for them. With a solid grip on the truth of the Gospel, packed with compassion we then must “Go.”  No one stays behind. We all must “Go.” We must raise our voice with all the voices of His army, “Come to Jesus! He is your only hope! Come and fall in love with Jesus!”

    When Jesus’ commission becomes “our” mission, and we “Go,” then mission has become our distinctive. It is when we put ourselves, our children, our brothers and sisters, our time, our reputations, our finances, our voices on the battle line.  It is when we reach out lovingly and compassionately but boldly and “Go” praying, “Lord glorify Yourself in us, may the words of our mouths be Your Words. Draw the world to Yourself by Your Holy Spirit through us.” Such is the Biblical distinctive of mission.

  6. Reformed and Baptistic in Theology
    These Biblical distinctives are not original to us. We stand on the shoulders of giants, as the expression goes. The sixteenth century Protestant Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their ensuing traditions) mined these distinctives from Scripture. They stood for the mandates of Scripture in the face of the dominating Roman Catholic Church who had cast off the anchor of the Bible and were adrift and driven by the winds of their traditions. We are simply following in wake of the Reformers’ reaffirmation of what was always there in the Bible. These distinctives are our distinctives. They are not ours because the Reformers believed them, but because they are the clear teachings of Scripture. They are Biblical distinctives.

        The Reformers gave Latin expressions to them: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). We find in the Reformed confessions and catechisms helpful summaries of the teachings of Scriptures, so we use them and commend them.

        But we are Baptistic, practicing only believer’s baptism not infant baptism (Biblical baptism is always preceded by personal faith). Further, we practice baptism only by immersion not sprinkling or pouring. On this issue the Reformers were not reformed enough! Therefore, we reject their practice of infant baptism and baptism by sprinkling because they are without Biblical example. Only the practice of immersion aligns with the Biblical meaning of “baptism” (to be immersed). Only believer’s baptism is consistent with salvation by personal faith in Jesus Christ.

        Though indebted to the Reformers we distinguish ourselves from them when they miss the Biblical mark. Clearly the Bible is our standard for faith and practice not the Reformers or any other tradition of man, but we acknowledge the light given to those who have gone before us. We gladly receive their help and acknowledge our debt to them. One of the Reformed confessions which best reflects the Reformed teaching but is also Baptistic is the Second London Baptist Confession of 1688. This was an adaptation of the Westminster Confession by the English Baptists. Other Reformed standards are Westminster Confession and its Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Second Helvetic Confession (Swiss Reformed Church), the Heidelberg Catechism (German Reformed Church), the Canons of Dort (Dutch Reformed Church), and the Scots Confession (Scottish Presbyterian Church). These are but a few of the great Reformed standards, but they are not Baptistic. Yet, these each are rich statements of the Christian faith, and they concisely state and clarify the teachings of Scripture. Plus, they remind us that Christians share a common belief taught from Scripture which has not changed.

    We need to state clearly that though saying we are Reformed and Baptistic in our theology does not say enough. On the back of our Sunday bulletins is a statement which must stand along with what we have thus far said. “Lone Hill Church is a nondenominational fellowship of believers who have no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, and wear no name but Christian. We take the Bible as the Word of God and, the Bible alone, as our only rule of faith and practice. Where the Bible speaks we must speak, but where the Bible is silent we must be silent.” It is in this light that we can say we are Reformed and Baptistic in theology, and this too distinguishes us.

    These first six distinctives are now followed by four ministry distinctives which particularly distinguish and shape how we aspire to do ministry.

  7. Loving in the Truth
    There must be the constant and consistent blending of the truth of Jesus Christ with the love of Jesus Christ in all that we do. To speak the one without the conditioning and character of the other makes the truth error and love sentimentality, but worst of all, it distorts the reality of who Jesus Christ really is. It is the Church’s prime responsibility to glorify Him by an accurate witness and reflection of who Jesus is.

    To love without the boundaries of the truth of the Gospel or to proclaim the truth without the tenderizing and compassionate love of Jesus misrepresents the Gospel and Jesus Christ. This translates into loving with the heart and the head. It means that the truth will drive us to love sacrificially far beyond anything we “feel” like doing. Love will so condition the truth which we must speak, so that, it is thoroughly seasoned and tenderized by grace. Yet, the love which is grounded in truth will hold others accountable to the truth, and such discipline is a true mark of Christ’s Church.

    True love can never compromise the truth, thus truth as the inner core of love will not accept falsehood or sin, but it will compassionately, graciously, mercifully absorb the personal price of sin and forgive it. Yet, truth enables love to be discerning, so that, it accepts differences and convictions within the boundaries of God’s Law. Love is big enough to accept differences and personal scruples, and it is discerning enough to live with differences while still refusing to condone sin.

    This love enthusiastically affirms the diversity of gifts and backgrounds, as well as, the different paths by which our same heavenly Father leads His children. It is a love that loves our liberty in Christ, and it freely extends that freedom of diversity in the Gospel’s nonessentials to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. At the same time, it tenaciously and uncompromisingly holds to the Gospel’s essentials.

    Love informed by the Gospel’s truth is constrained to be slow to anger, forbearing, patience, gentle, kind, encouraging, peaceful, avoiding arguments, and refuses to gossip and speak evil of others. This kind of love sacrifices, willing to be inconvenienced, perseveres, refuses to give up, seeks the other’s greatest good before his or her own good, looking always to edify, always guarding a rash tongue, taking insults, and fearing most of all that we would ever be the insulter. Yet, the truth so passionately loves that it must be kindly and clearly spoken if the sinner is to be truly loved and turned from his or her way of destruction. Love lined in truth knows that reproof and correction, rebuke and admonishment are equally exercises of true love.

    This loving in the truth and speaking the truth in love is never simply the fruit of loving people. It is not the fruit of our own goodness. It is the fruit of Jesus Christ loving through us. The love, by which we want always to be distinguished, is His love in us working its way out. It is the fruit of His indwelling Spirit. We want to be distinguished, marked, and exemplified by His love who having loved us now reaches out through us to love others. The result being that we are truly seen as the tangible, physical Body of Christ now present on earth. One of our greatest joys is to hear, “see how they love one another.” We long for the reputation, “they are Jesus’ disciples because they love as He loved.” Thus, we want every dimension of our lives and ministries to be immersed in loving in the truth. We want its imprint on everything we do.

  8. Growing Through Families
    It is here that we have taken a path less traveled. Following the principle of homogeneity is the most common way that churches break up to do ministry, so one commonly finds ministries divided along common lines (age, gender, marriage status, etc.): nursery ministries, children’s ministries, youth ministries, college, career, young marrieds, singles, marrieds, empty nesters, seniors, women’s ministries, men’s ministries, etc. We have consciously chosen another path. There are number of strengths in doing ministry along these homogeneous divisions, and we too will and do many ministries following these traditional divisions.

    Much, though, of the way we attempt ministry is growing disciples through families. This follows the principle of heterogeneity. We encourage the young to group with the old, singles with marrieds, etc. We form groups within the church not so much because the group members have something in common (age, gender, marriage status, etc.), but rather since the Church is God’s family, and families are mixed groups. We structure much of our ministry heterogeneously.

    This family-heterogeneity seems to be characteristic of the New Testament Church, and there are great blessings from this type of mixture. Fundamentally, it is that the older are to teach, train, and model for the younger. The older men are to train and be examples for the younger. The older women are to teach, train, and be examples for the younger. Consequently, we do not have a lot of just children’s ministries, youth ministries, etc. Though we do have them, we do not develop them as the exclusive way that we minister. Our desire, though not our exclusive desire, is to strive to do ministry together, mixed as a family is. We want to attempt to structure the church and do ministry as the family of God. There is another and more fundamental principle standing behind and guiding us.

    The Bible presents the family, with the marriage as its core, as the Church in miniature. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament the family is primary arena of ministry. Fathers and mothers were responsible for evangelizing and discipling their children not the Church. The greater Church is to come alongside the Church in miniature to equip, to instruct, and to support it, but the task of growing in the Lord was foundationally in the family. So much so that one of the qualifications for a leader of the Church was that he had already proven himself as a leader in his family. Fathers were to be the pastors of their families. As a priority they were to spiritually lead and minister to their wives and children. Therefore, we find the examples of men being trained by their pastors, so that, they could in the same way train their families. We find that older women were to train the younger ones. It was in the home that ministries of hospitality flourished both as evangelistic ministries to the lost and to the greater Church in ministries of edification and fellowship.

    Thus, interwoven in the life of the New Testament Church was this conscious pattern of growth – growing through families. Consequently, we are attempting to structure our ministry according to this pattern. We want to urge and train men to lead and disciple their wives and families. We want to encourage mothers to train up their children and love their husbands in the Lord. We want their homes to be centers of ministry. We want everyone to see their neighborhoods and their webs of relationships as their personal fields of ministry.

    This picture of ministry often prompts immediate questions. What about singles who do not have families? What about non-Christian spouses? What about children from non-Christian families? Etc. As I stated above this is not our exclusive structure for ministry, but it is a healthy underlying pattern which we are attempting to establish and follow. Wrapped around this pattern is the Church as the family of God. Here, we want no one seeing themselves without a Christian family. Here, in all purity the older men in the Lord are to be treated as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters. We are to establish an atmosphere of caring and sharing with one another – growing as a family. It is within the greater Church that all have a place.

  9. Celebrating Equality and Honoring God-Given Roles
    The centrality of the family in the Church’s ministry naturally introduces this distinctive. For both within the family and within the Church, God has assigned roles to men and to women which are to be honored. Some have abandoned these roles because of unchristian abuses. Some have abandoned them because our culture has discarded them. Yet, they clearly stand before us in the Old and New Testaments not as cultural relics of a bygone era, but rather they are presented as inherent in God’s creation of man and woman and the resulting makeup of each.

    The starting place is first not with the individual roles, but with the fact that the Gospel celebrates the equality of men and women in Christ. The Apostle Peter commanded husbands to honor their wives in this way, “grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither...male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The Gospel is the great leveling ground. We all stand shoulder to shoulder in Jesus. We all equally receive His grace. We all equally receive His inheritance. We all equally are given a place in His Kingdom. There is no “one-ups-man-ship” in Christ’s Kingdom. We are equal in honor and blessing. In this we celebrate our common portions of grace. We each are given spiritual gifts to minister to the glory of Christ. We are each given His Spirit. We are equally proclaimed to be the children of God. In these and much more we are equally blessed without regard of gender. We are to celebrate our equality in Christ. For in Christ there is no distinction between male and female.

    Yet, as there is no distinction between the persons of the Godhead in dignity, power, or essence, there is distinction as to the roles they fulfilled in creation and redemption: the Father – to purpose, plan, and decree; the Son – incarnation, servant, purchase redemption, and exalted; and the Spirit – indwelling, sanctification, and witness. In a similar fashion men and women are made equal in Christ in honor and blessing, but they too are assigned distinct roles: men – to lead, and women – to complement man’s leadership. These roles are inherent from God’s creation.

    It is self-evident that men and women have been fit for different roles by their physiology. The physiology of each speaks volumes that they are uniquely designed for different roles. This reality of different roles extends to their distinct make-ups, so that, masculinity and femininity are defined by them. Biblical masculinity “is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”  Biblical femininity “is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”  These definitions are helpful, and though not inspired they are insightfully reflective of Scripture. Yet, they need further explanation to avoid misunderstanding. We simply state them here as a point of reference for this distinctive of our ministry.

    They become distinctive as we begin doing ministry because we seek to honor and teach  these roles for both the home and church. We do not have women elders or pastors. We see this as an area that our Lord has given to the roles of men, but this is not to say that women have only minor roles of responsibility in the life of the church, quite the contrary, or that they are ungifted for leadership. Women are given the ministry of ministering to other women, teaching and discipling them and children. Women are often far more gifted in the areas of finery, beautification, and hospitality. This is not to overlook the fact of a rich Biblical heritage of God working through women in powerful and wonderful ways. It is simply a humble honoring of Biblical roles. It certainly does not mean that women are not capable of leading even more successfully than men in situations, rather it is a conscientious submission to the roles which Scripture repetitiously affirms.

    In the home both husbands and wives are called to mutual submission to one another (Eph. 5:21), but the submission of each takes different roles. Wives are commanded to respect and submit to their husbands as to the Lord (5:22-24). Husbands are commanded to sacrificially love and nurture their wives in the Lord (5:25-32). This is not for the establishment of a dictatorial hierarchy in the home or church, but rather it is for the establishment of harmony, complementarity, mutual blessing, completeness, the practice of humility, obedience, sacrifice, to be an exhibition of the love of Christ for His Church, and the Church’s loving obedience to their Lord. Again, we cannot forget that the family is represented as the Church in miniature.

    Thus, when we define what men’s and women’s ministries are we define them according to role. Men’s ministry is to equip and train men to live in the grace of our Lord and for His glory, and to lead in the church and their homes. Women’s ministry is to equip and train women to live in the grace of our Lord and for His glory, and to be complementary to the leadership of men in church and home. This is another defining distinctive for our ministry.

  10. Fellowship Through Ministry
    Fellowship is the relationship and fruit of shared ministry. Someone once defined fellowship as “two fellows in the same ship.” The ship is the common and shared laboring for the glory of our Lord. In other words, the ship is ministry. Thus, the joy of fellowship is the delight of participating in Christ together. This is to say that fellowship is not an end in itself but a byproduct of our common submission to the Lordship of Christ. The distinctiveness of this statement is that “fellowship” is not an independent or isolated objective, but rather it is sought in the activity of ministry and growth in the grace of our Lord. We don’t simply go out to have “fellowship.” We might go out to mutually encourage and admonish one another to run the race to which the Lord has called us and therein have fellowship, but fellowship is always the byproduct not the end. Fellowship is what happens, while we are doing something else together. The “something else” is ministry, the activities of submitting to Lordship of Christ.

    This distinctive keeps our focus on ministry and growth in Christ rather than simply on enjoying time together. The world luxuriates in enjoying themselves. This isn’t to say it is unchristian to enjoy yourself, but enjoying yourself can become an idolatrous pursuit when it becomes our lifestyle and an end in itself. Such is the world’s pursuit. The Church must pursue the glory of God and its high calling in Jesus Christ.

    Ministry (serving in the name of Jesus) and growth in Christ take in a wide range territory, so we will only attempt to focus on some basic high points of ministry and growth together. These are not exhaustive but are critically important.

    Marks of Maturity
    First, with regard for our growth in Christ we urge fellowship around our Seven Marks of Maturity. These seven marks are critical areas for growing toward maturity in Christ: (1) Personal Walk, (2) Doctrinal Education, (3) Kingdom Priorities, (4) Family Development, (5) Fellowship Involvement, (6) Personal Ministry, and (7) Evangelistic Activity. These are expounded elsewhere. The goal is not simply the personal practice of each, but the personal practice to the degree that you can then lead someone else in the practice of each of the Marks. Growth in the Marks, especially as you pursue them with others, becomes an event of fellowship. Such growth together has a tremendous bonding effect, iron sharpening iron.

    Ministry of Prayer
    Because we believe that we can do nothing apart from the Lord prayer is a necessity for everything we do. The Church gathered for prayer is always a worthy ministry. Intercession for one another, for the leadership, for our families, for evangelism and our missionaries, and for the world becomes another event of fellowship.

    Ministry of Evangelism and Missions
    Sharing the Gospel with others is a ministry at the heart of the Great Commission, and it needs to be the constant pulse beat of the church’s life. World missions are a further development of this ministry. Ministering to our missionaries, short-term missions trips, participating in our Great Commission Rally (missions conference) again become great fellowship opportunities.

    Ministry of Discipleship
    This has a particular expression. We are continuing to train and equip the Body through an excellent resource, Self-Confrontation manual. This is designed to equip believers to minister in teams to encourage, help, correct, and grow others who are dealing with problems in their lives. This is a Biblical counseling ministry, but it is better viewed as a discipling ministry which enables brothers and sisters to strengthen one another by Biblical instruction and accountable application. As this ministry matures and develops it holds great promise for wonderful fellowship.

    Ministry of Study
    The ministry of studying and submitting oneself to God’s Word with others is foundational for personal growth and the experience of fellowship. Within the scope of this ministry is all the teaching that goes on in the church: Studies, Bible School classes, retreats, discipling groups, etc.

    Personal Ministries
    The recognition of one’s spiritual gift or gifts should progress with its investment and exercise which develops into one’s personal ministry. The combining of personal ministries with those of others in the Body becomes analogous to the performing of a beautiful piece of music; the instruments of an orchestra are joined to create a symphony of harmony and beauty. The joining together of personal ministries makes for again a wonderful event of fellowship.

    Helping Ministries
    There are a great variety of ministries going on in the church, which are often times periodic but necessary: leadership, finance, building and property, fellowship events, hospitality, etc. These organize the life of the church, and as they do they create vital and wonderful events for fellowship.

    Ministry is the event of fellowship. This keeps our focus on first things first and on what makes for Christian fellowship.

Conclusion

Many things go into any mix which makes an individual or a church unique. This list of Biblical distinctives is not everything that makes us unique as a church, but they do offer ways in which we are uniquely distinguished from other churches. These coupled with the unique mix of people, gifts, and the work of the Holy Spirit help define us as one-of-a-kind local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ.