Through the songs sung, sermons preached, programs offered, and things taught, every church is creating a certain culture, whether they know it or not. There are values being promoted that shape the church’s evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, worship, and overall mission. As we begin this blog, it seems like an appropriate time to articulate the kind of culture that we have aimed to create and maintain at ECC. Although you’ll find that many of the members in our congregation have different hobbies, personalities, opinions on politics, and views on secondary theological issues (i.e., spiritual gifts, end times, etc.), there are several core values that unite us and encompass all we do as a local church. These values determine what we fund, what we talk about, and what gets the focus of our attention.
At Elmira Christian Center, we value a culture where…
The Word of God is Foundational
As our statement of faith, mission, and church membership covenant make abundantly clear, Scripture is the perfect, completely true, authoritative, all-sufficient foundation of everything we do. It is how we know who God is, who we are, what God has done, and how we should live. It is God’s very word spoken to us today and therefore it must inform our preaching, our worship, our values, our witness, and our lives. Scripture is the anchor that keeps us from drifting with the cultural tide and keeps us living right-side up in an upside down world. We want to be known as a people of the book (Psalm 19:7-11, Psalm 119; Matt 4:4; John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Jude 3).
The Glory of God is Magnified
God’s glory is the beauty and weight of his holiness and attributes; it is the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and excellent perfections. The chief end of man is to make known the glory of the Triune God in all the earth and to find our highest source of joy and delight in Him. Unless we passionately hold to a high view of God, we will never properly understand the reason for our existence or the gospel and all its implications. Therefore, all that we do as a church is first and foremost to extol and declare the excellencies of our sovereign and triune God and to give Him honor by worshiping Him, for He alone is worthy. (Exodus 34:5-7; 1 Chronicles 16:24-29; Psalm 86:8-10, 15; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
The Preeminence of Christ is Proclaimed
The glory of God is most clearly seen in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, we desire to proclaim to the world that Christ is truly God and truly man, preeminent and infinitely surpassing all others in His glory, His being, His authority, His sacrifice, and His exaltation. It is in Christ that the Scriptures find their completion, fulfillment, and meaning. It is through Christ alone that we can know the Father, and He is the only way, our only hope, of salvation from the wrath of God that we justly deserve. We preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, not merely as our example to follow, but as our Savior and substitute (Psalm 2; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-4).
The Gospel is Central
The gospel of Jesus Christ is truly “good news.” It is news, not advice, because it is all about what God himself has done for us and our salvation in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son and the outpouring of his Spirit. While religion tells us that we must obey in order to be accepted by God, the gospel tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! In light of this glorious truth, our hearts, motives, and efforts to worship God are radically transformed so that we joyfully serve our Creator, Savior, and Lord with everything we have. The good news of gracious acceptance through Jesus Christ is at the very center of all we do at ECC (Romans 3:21-28; Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 2:22-25).
The Holy Spirit is Relied Upon
It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that our church is able to succeed in its mission. Were it left to the “wise and persuasive words” of man, or our own merits, we would be totally helpless. However, the Spirit of God is our comforter and our guide. He is the one who regenerates and seals our hearts, illuminates Scripture, produces fruit, grants boldness, and distributes gifts to the body for work of the kingdom of God. Therefore, it is upon Him and His work that we fully rely for ministry – the work of the Spirit through the Word to the believer. We want to be known as a church that prays for God to work and move by his Spirit through the gospel in our congregation and community (John 14:16-18; 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:1-4; Galatians 5:22-25).
Of course, there are many other things that we value, such as family, honor, hospitality, worship, etc. But these core values we hold are the broadest and most important biblical categories that all our other values are built upon. It is these values that connect our church with the faithful, historical, and universal church. If we create a culture where Scripture is not our foundation , the glory of God is not magnified, the preeminence of Christ not honored, the truth of the Gospel not proclaimed, and the power of the Spirit not relied upon, then everything else we do and value will be out of balance, misguided, fragile, corrupted by the culture, and ultimately worthless. These values characterize everything we do, from the songs we pick, the sermon series we choose, the topics for our community groups, the curriculum for our kids ministries, and the goal of our outreaches. These are the values we want on our doorposts, on our lips, passed on to future generations, and proclaimed to an unbelieving world.
Matt Bedzyk is the lead pastor at Elmira Christian Center. He received his Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt and his wife Brianna have one daughter: Lorien Grace. In his spare time, you can find him reading, playing music, enjoying coffee, and supporting Manchester United. You can follow him on Twitter @mattbedzyk