An Expression of Our Beliefs
He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:36-39)
In this parable from Jesus the "old wineskins" represented the heritage and institution that contained traditional beliefs. The "new wine" represented values that did not appeal to an established segment of society, but were joyfully embraced as relevant to a new crowd. New wine needs fresh wineskins. Jesus did not approve of the culture that wouldn’t accept the "new wine" of his presence and influence. Apparently this parable was taught from Levi’s house where the tax collector welcomed Jesus in a great reception while local religious figures complained about him (Luke 5:27-35).
Our wineskins, or spiritual culture, have not been well defined in Chicago. Furthermore, our Restoration Movement heritage is averse to written creeds. Yet we admit, it is stuffed to the brim with unspoken rules — unspoken until they are broken. Merely saying, "we just believe the Bible" has often been a way to avoid going deeper. It is prudent now to restate some core beliefs and to describe those that are most pertinent at this moment.
At the outset, we have always believed that the core of Christianity includes the acceptance of the Bible as God’s inspired Word, Jesus Christ as God incarnate (in the flesh), and that he lived, died and rose from the grave. All those who put their faith in the one true God, repent of their sins, are baptized in his name for the forgiveness of their sins, and live under his Lordship are Christians. These Christian tenets — commonly called "the rule of faith" — were evident in the first Christian sermon preached by the apostle Peter (Acts 2:14-39).
There is more to our practical Christianity than our baptismal beliefs. To really "thrive and not merely survive," we require a sound theology about Jesus that governs our church for the long haul. We must evaluate our convictions with fresh biblical studies to progress beyond our outdated or flawed convictions. Otherwise, the new wine of Jesus will burst our wineskins.
The elders, evangelists and many other members reviewed the following spiritual values. Some of these include various elder candidates and those with a formal Bible education. We also solicited feedback from some evangelists serving in the mainline Churches of Christ, which proved valuable. Many have helped shape this living document, meant to be a flexible expression of our church culture. The values are not listed in any particular order.
Our Core Spiritual Values
For Developing a Quality Church Culture
- Centrality of Jesus: We proclaim that Jesus alone is the Prince, Author and Pioneer of our faith and he stands so far beyond what any human could be that our heartfelt affection and speech should reflect such distinct awe and devotion. (Acts 3:14, 14:11-15, Hebrews 2:10, 12:2)
- Congregational Harmony: We intend to preserve our harmony in Christ through abiding in his one-another commands, which is by far more important than imposing our individual views on disputable matters. (Ephesians 4:3-6, John 13:34-35, 1 Peter 4:8-10, Hebrews 3:12-13)
- Worldwide Brotherhood: We advocate a wide-reaching sense of family among willing churches, where we associate, interrelate, educate and facilitate service with each other. We encourage self-government among similar churches, though not the separatism that is often associated with the term "congregational autonomy." The concept of a brotherhood is used to express the tight association between agreeable congregations. (Acts 15:1-33, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-8, 2:13-14)
- Prayer Focused: We commit to take our strongest feelings to the Lord in prayer (be it plans, opinions or accusations) before we express them. (James 3:9-10, 4:1-2, 13-16, Matthew 12:33-37, Colossians 4:2-6)
- Christian Rebirth: We maintain that salvation entails a faith in Jesus who died for our sins and rose from the dead, confession of his name, repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:38, 8:34-38, 22:16, Romans 10:9-10, 1 Peter 1:3)
- Grace and Works: We will proclaim regularly that we are saved by God’s grace (favor) through our covenant relationship, and not by the energy we exert in relation to works or performances. (Matthew 11:28-30, Ephesians 2:8-10, 1 Corinthians 15:10)
- The Mercy of God: We argue that the possibility of mercy of God extends to all. He has displayed his mercy to banished kings, leaders of apostasy, delinquent ministers, ruthless terrorists, cowardly apostles, and hate-filled persecutors. (2 Chronicles 33, Exodus 32, Joel 2:12-14, Matthew 5:7, 26:69-75, Luke 23:32-43, Acts 22:1-16)
- Freedom in Christ: We declare our trust in each Christian’s ability to express his or her freedoms, understanding that love — and at times the needs of our brothers and sisters — compels us to limit our freedoms. (Romans 14, Galatians 5:13-15)
- Teaching Disciples: We maintain that every Christian is a student and is to be committed to some form of discipling, which is the strengthening process that originated with Jesus Christ. Discipling models usually exist in mentor, peer, or group relationships. (Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 1:28-29)
- The Call of All Believers: We believe in the call of God, whereas believers all throughout the Bible responded in faith and obedience when called by God to go anywhere, or give up everything or do anything for our Lord. The call is not always immediately apparent or exactly the same from disciple to disciple. (Exodus 3-4, Hebrews 11:7-16, Luke 9:57-62)
- Dating and Engagement: We assert that usual dating relationships and all engagements involve yokes, whereas Christians who are particularly young or new to the faith should pursue more help. The onus is mostly on the disciple, whether young or old, to seek advice and guidance, with an eye on maintaining purity, even to marry only a faithful Christian. (Genesis 24:3, Joshua 23:11-13, 1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:3)
- Evangelism Methods: We will use adaptable Bible study tools to assist ambassadors of Christ for reaching the ever-changing world around us. Sound conversions take place because of the message, not methods. (Acts 18:24-26, Romans 6:14, 10:14-17, Ephesians 4:20-24)
- Authority Boundaries: We affirm that God provides boundaries on both sides of authority to protect those under and those in authority. (Romans 13:1, Acts 5:29, Hebrews 13:7-9, 3 John 11)
- Leaving the Church: We declare that those who leave the local body might include the faithful, the weak, the hurt, as well as the backsliders, deserters, and apostates. (Acts 15:36-40, Hebrews 10:35-39, 1 Timothy 1:18-20)
- Conflict Resolution: We assert that the church is equipped to reconcile its members when one member sins against another, even if this means agreeing to get help from others in congregations of our same fellowship. (Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
- Fragrant Offerings: We declare that we will each give to God fragrant offerings, participating in covering expenses, supporting local ministry, far away missions, the poor, and special needs among the church according to our own convictions. (Matthew 26:6-13, 1 Corinthians 9:14, Philippians 4:18, Acts 4:36-37)
- Ministry Support: We will sensibly compensate our full-time ministers (including women) for the value of their work, neither muzzling an ox nor enabling greed, in accordance with Scripture. (1 Corinthians 9:7-14, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Romans 16:1-2)
- Spiritual Priorities: We affirm three distinct features of healthy spirituality: Our reason for being is to know, love and glorify God. Secondly, our purpose is to make God known through our lives and deeds. Lastly, our mission is to preach the gospel, discipling the nations. (1 Peter 2:11-12, Matthew 22:34-40, Ephesians 3:10-11, Mark 16:15-16)
- Everlasting Church: We claim a historical connection to the indestructible church of Jesus Christ through our spiritual ancestors. (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 4:4-6)
- Governing Diligently: We expect appointed ministers to govern in proportion to their "gift" and "office," not in fear of men’s approval, but in fear of God. Our leadership models will be derived from Scripture to authorize recognized evangelists, elders, deacons and teachers to prepare God’s people to build up the body. (Romans 12:8, Ephesians 4:7-13, Acts 13:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-10, Mark 10:42-45)
- Servant-Based Leadership: We charge every Christian who aspires to influence others to see themselves as "living sacrifices" entrusted with a gift, not as authority figures grasping power. The Golden Rule of Matthew 7:2 is a crucial concept in servant-based leadership. (Matthew 20:25-28, Romans 12:1-8, Acts 8:17-24)
- Other Fellowships, Movements and Sects: We recognize other Christians who live by the same ‘rule of faith’ are saved; however, it may be detrimental for differing groups to interrelate closely depending on other critical differences. We intend to show respect to other believers while reserving the right to protect our flock from possible harm. (Mark 9:38-41, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 11:18-19, 12:12-13, Acts 20:27-29)
- Lasting Love: We commit to enduring with each other through struggles, weaknesses, and overcoming difficult sins until/unless one of us is unwilling to make progress or is particularly harmful to the body. (Luke 17:3-5, Hebrews 12:14-17, 2 Peter 3:17-18, Jude :22-23)
- Unity and Diversity: We maintain the celebration of our diversity, which includes understanding and strengthening neglected segments of our fellowship and reaching out to overlooked portions of our population. (Acts 2:1-13, 6:1-7)
These twenty-four statements of core doctrine, practical theology and spiritual commitments have become more of a statement of intent than anything else — not a creed, list of rules or a statement of faith. Some of these values may be disputable, but if we practice the "one another" commands of Jesus we can sort out our differences or even live peaceably within them. Of course, this list is incomplete and will always be a draft. We still have much work to do to collectively understand other concepts: our individual spiritual gifts, the role of the Spirit, our celebration of worship and other important elements of our faith.
We trust our church knows how to review our values in light of the Bible and not the other way around (Acts 17:11). It is the constant review of our faith that will help us stay like the new wineskins of the parable. As we move forward together in further midweek teaching and small group discussions, let us remember that learning is an adventure, changing is what keeps us alive and repentance is refreshing.
Elders and Evangelists,
The Chicago Church of Christ