HOW DOES THINKING LIKE A SEEKER EFFECT WHAT WE DO?
At GNG, we believe that worship encompasses much more than the hour spent "in church" on Sunday morning. Colossians 3:17 (NIV) states, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him." Thus, we believe that worship is each Christian's daily response to God in thought, speech and action. However, we also recognize the value of worshiping together as a spiritual family. Scripture warns that Christians should "not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another ...." Hebrews 10:25 (NIV). Thus, it is expected that those who consider GNG to be their Church Family will attend our worship gatherings faithfully.
B. CORPORATE WORSHIP STYLE
There are four aspects of GNG's corporate worship style:
- Encouraging: Our services are designed to build people up not beat them up.
- Equipping: Ephesians 4:12 indicates that pastors and teachers are responsible for equipping God's people for works of service.
- Enjoyable: We want people to look forward to attending our worship services. We like to have fun and we believe humor can be an effective teaching tool. This does not mean that we sidestep tough issues or sugarcoat sin. But we do believe that we can be serious about our faith without being a sourpuss.
- Evangelistic: Our services are designed with un-churched and de-churched people in mind. We want to create a safe environment in which people can check-out Christianity.
C. ELEMENTS OF CORPORATE WORSHIP
- Music and Singing: Our goal is to use music that un-churched/de-churched people can connect with. Thus, our music style currently tends toward adult contemporary. The lyrics must be simple and easy to understand.
- Teaching: We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and thus it is the foundation for all teaching at GNG. II Timothy 3:16-17. We further believe that practical application of God's Word to daily life is critical for attracting seekers and building-up believers. Because we attract people who have little or no background in the Bible, we use modern, easy to read versions. Our task is to present God's Word in a way that is easy to understand. We rarely use the King James Version because studies show that most Americans cannot read the King James Version and understand it. When lessons are prepared, several different versions are examined in the light of two questions:
- Which version accurately reflects the original text?
- Which version is easy for a seeker to understand?
- Use of The Arts: We view the graphics, video clips, drama, dance, music, etc., as important teaching tools. Thus, we incorporate them into our services when appropriate.
- Offering: We view the giving of tithes and offerings as an important spiritual growth discipline. Thus, we teach on giving extensively each year. However, we do not take up an offering by means of passing a plate. Due to the fact that many seekers believe the church is primarily concerned about their money, we simply have giving receptacles available for people to give as they feel led by God.
- Communion: Communion is a symbolic reminder of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins. It is only for those who have committed their lives to Christ. I Corinthians 11:27-29. Thus, we do not offer Communion at gatherings targeted to seekers. Designing services with seekers in mind and then presenting them with something they are not spiritually ready for is inappropriate. By the same token, to announce, "This is for believers only" is to exclude them from a portion of the service we have invited them to attend. Thus, we asked our believers to sacrifice the tradition of Communion in the service for the sake of seekers. Neither Jesus nor Paul (who wrote most of the books of the New Testament) specified how often one should take Communion. Jesus simply said, "... do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me." I Corinthians 11:25 (NIV). In the early church, some Christians observed Communion daily (Acts 2:46) and others observed it weekly (Acts 20:7). Thus, at GNG, Communion is available in the Communion Room at weekly worship gatherings, as well as at special services like Baptism Celebrations. We do not believe that how often or on what day of the week one observes Communion is the real issue. The real issue is, "Whenever I observe it, do I observe it in a worthy manner." I Corinthians 11:27-28. At GNG, we also encourage believers to observe Communion individually, in their families, LIFE Groups, and ministry teams.
- Baptism is rich with meaning and symbolism. Scripture associates baptism with salvation (Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21), forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16), receipt of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Acts 9:17), identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:11-13), addition of a believer into the church (I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-28), and with the believer's desire to follow the example of Jesus, i.e. an act of obedience (Matthew 3:13-17). Christians have divided over which of the foregoing is paramount. Some churches will not accept a person's baptism unless they were baptized for the reasons they believe are the most important. For example, some churches require people who were baptized for the purpose of identifying with Jesus' death, burial and resurrection and addition to the Church, to be re-baptized for forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We do not take that position at GNG. The Bible records instances in which re-baptism was (Acts 19:1-7) and was not (Acts 18:24-28) performed. In our opinion, if the individual placed their faith in Christ with a sincere desire to follow Him, we do not believe a re-baptism is necessary. So, what did Jesus mean when He said He was being baptized "to fulfill all righteousness"? Some scholars believe that since Jesus was fully human (as well as fully divine), He did what a righteous human being would do. Some scholars believe He did it in order to identify with John the Baptist's message of repentance. Even though He was perfect and did not need to repent and have any sins washed away, He identified with humanity's need for repentance and cleansing from sin. Some scholars believe He did it to confess the sins of the nation of Israel - the nation that was chosen by God in the Old Testament and the nation into which Jesus was born. Some scholars believe He did it as a way to signify the inauguration of His public ministry. Whatever the reason or reasons, one thing is certain - baptism was so important that God in the flesh did it in order "to fulfill all righteousness."
- Is baptism just a formality or is it absolutely necessary?
- a. Jesus modeled baptism (Matthew 3:13-17), His followers practiced baptism during His ministry (John 4:1-2), and He commanded baptism (Matthew 28:18-20). Since Jesus modeled baptism in order "to fulfill all righteousness", it cannot be considered a mere formality or a nice, but unnecessary, act.
- b. The example of the thief on the cross is commonly raised to support the idea that baptism is not absolutely necessary. While Jesus clearly extended grace to the penitent thief, we must not forget the thief's context. He accepted Christ while in his death throes with no possibility of baptism. This should be viewed as an exception, not a rule which authorizes us to ignore Christ's model, practice and command. A couple of examples illustrate this point.
- Example 1: A person accepts Christ and fully intends to be baptized. However, on the way to the Baptism Celebration, the person is killed in a car accident. Would that person be saved? There are some in the Christian community who would say, "No." They believe baptism is so essential for salvation that failure to do so, regardless of the reason, is damning. We disagree. The person's intent, like the penitent thief, was to follow Christ. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond that person's control made it impossible. Thus, we believe God's grace would apply to this person as it did to the penitent thief.
- Example 2: A person accepts Christ but refuses or ignores Christ's command to be baptized. This evidences an obedience issue that calls into question whether or not the person has accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. To deliberately refuse to follow or ignore a direct command of Christ is spiritually problematic. At GNG we cannot teach that baptism is optional.
3. At GNG we baptize by immersion for a number of reasons. Both Catholic and Protestant scholars agree that:
- a. Immersion was the only method of baptism in Bible times. Other methods of baptism were not introduced until late in the second century A.D.
- b. The Greek work used in the New Testament for baptism meant "to dip under."
- c. Immersion best symbolizes a death, burial and resurrection.
However, our position concerning immersion is not a judgment upon the salvation of those who have been baptized by sprinkling or pouring. Some who have been sprinkled or poured ask to be immersed at GNG. Some do not. We believe that the decision to be re-baptized is best left between the individual and God.
4. Who can baptize?
At GNG we believe in "the priesthood of all believers" (I Peter 2:5-9). Thus, we do not differentiate between clergy and non-clergy.* In our opinion, any Christ follower can baptize. Thus, we encourage baptismal candidates to select a Christian or Christians who have influenced them for Christ to baptize them, e.g. parents, relatives, youth leaders, friends, LIFE Group members. We encourage people to be baptized at our Baptism Celebrations because it reminds them that they are part of the Church Family and it is an encouragement and a blessing to the Church Family. However, it is not mandatory. For us, baptism anywhere, anytime is "official".
5. What about infant baptism?
Because we believe that sin is a choice, and that faith and repentance should precede baptism, we do not practice infant baptism.
Things To Consider:
1. If you're not a Christian, does it surprise you that one of the four aspects of GNG's worship style is "Enjoyable"? Have you ever thought of "looking forward to attending" a worship service? Does this describe your experience at GNG?
2. If you are a Christian, how do you feel about the CLASS 101 expectation - we expect those who call GNG their church home to attend worship gatherings whenever possible? Why do you think the Bible encourages Christians to "meet together"?
* Except as required by law. For example, only an ordained minister who is licensed by the State of Ohio can perform marriages. Other than that, there are no ministry acts that can only be performed by a certain few.