What We Believe

What We Believe

Mission | Vision | Values | Beliefs

 

Everything we do at Hillcrest Church
flows out of our mission statement:

 

love God | grow together | care for the world

 

We submit this rich but simplified statement as an expression of God’s professed mission to heal the relationships between God and humans, humans and their own hearts, as well as human relation with each other and creation.

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Introduction to the Statement of Faith

Our beliefs are written up in a Statement of Faith that represents our theology.

Theology is one of those religious terms that gets thrown around and may be unfamiliar to some people. When we talk about theology we are talking about who God is and what God has said about people and this world. Below we have written down the core beliefs to which our community commits. They are not totally unique to us, we stand in a long line of Jesus followers through the ages who trusted in the God of Scripture. Yet we know that each generation takes the faith that has been passed on and needs to be able to articulate it in their time and place.

We’ve written out our beliefs following the story from Scripture. A story invites us to explore, imagine, identify with characters, and hopefully even find ourselves swept up into our place in God’s story. We hope you will take some time to slow down and read our short summary capturing the true story of God, people, and the whole world. As you read, we encourage you to let your imagination roll; engage your mind to search out truth and create questions; and allow your heart to connect to the Author, the people and the soaring truths of the Great Big Story of the Bible.

Statement of Faith

Download Statement of Faith – English
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We believe:

1.  God has communicated to humanity throughout history; the written record is his words intended for all people at all times and in every place. This book, known as the Bible, is God’s story of who he is, what the world is, who we are, and the ultimate purposes of history. It is the true and reliable story we trust with our lives.

This is that story. . .

2.  In the beginning God created the cosmos and called it good.  God placed humans in his good creation as his Image Bearers, to reflect his character to all the cosmos. Humans were in right relationship with God as their king, with their own hearts, with one another, and with all creation. God called all of this very good.Man and woman however, chose to rebel against God and make themselves the center of their lives. This caused a spiritual fracture between them and God, shame invading their hearts, blame contaminating relationships between one another, and creation groaning. The Scriptures call this rebellion against God ‘sin’. It is in every one of us and distorts our relationships with our own hearts, with one another, and with all creation.

God, out of his love for his Image Bearers and his creation, did not leave them in this state but commenced his rescue mission and began revealing his Rescue Hero.

3.  After many years God called one man, Abraham, and promised that through his descendants the effects of sin would be undone and blessing would take the place of suffering. Through Abraham and Sarah, the people of Israel was born, out of which his Rescue Hero called the Messiah would come.

4.  Israel became entrapped and oppressed as slaves in Egypt. God heard the cry of the oppressed Israelites and acted to rescue them. This rescue, called the Exodus, defined the people as holistically rescued by God. Through Moses God brought the people out of slavery. God formed a relationship with them, dwelt among them, taught them to follow his Way, and brought them into a homeland. God did this so that they could be his Rescue Mission People for the world.

5.  Over the next millennia, God gave kings to lead and prophets to speak his voice. Israel, while at times faithful to God’s Way and mission, ultimately failed. Ten of the tribes were taken into exile by Assyria, two of the tribes later by Babylon. While some of these exiles eventually returned to their homeland, by the time of the first century there was an acute sense that a spiritual exile continued and the task of rescue was incomplete. Yet, in spite of the failure, those same prophets spoke of a day when God would act to rescue his people and the world through the long awaited Messiah.

6.  At just the right time a virgin named Mary from Israel gave birth to Jesus, both the promised Messiah and divine Son of God. Through his life, teachings, conduct and miracles, Jesus modeled dependence on the Holy Spirit and a life wholly reflecting the character of God.

7.  Through his God-reflecting life, suffering, and death Jesus willingly took on both the exile of Israel and the exile of all humanity. Through his resurrection, Jesus defeated all the powers that oppose humanity: sin, death, and Satan, confirming his promised victory. For any who surrender from their rebellion against God and trust in Jesus as their rescuer and king, Jesus is the way to a restored relationship with the Creator of all things, with our own hearts, each other, and all creation.

8.  After his resurrection, Jesus joined God the Father as the King of the Cosmos. At which time, they gave the Holy Spirit, God’s presence, to dwell within any who trust in Jesus. God’s Rescue Mission People, which began in Abraham, now continues as the global multi-ethnic, Spirit-empowered community of all Jesus followers called the Church. This is where we find our place in God’s story. Together we center our lives on the love of God, grow to reflect God’s character, share life, and care for the world by announcing his good news and healing broken places. As the church, we keep our identity centered on God through worship and teaching, baptism and communion.

9.  At the end, Jesus will return to make all things well. There will be the final promised resurrection, the judgment of evil, the end of the human rebellion, and the renewed heavens and earth. All those whom Jesus calls his own will spend eternity with him in this restored future. God will heal the relationship between himself and humanity, as well as restore human relationships with each other and with all creation. We actively anticipate this reality with our lives today. Yet, even in this, the end of this story is not the end of the story. For then the hope that was from the beginning will be fully realized: God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will dwell with, celebrate, explore and go on creating with this healed people, world without end.

Amen.

Vision
  • Our five year vision at Hillcrest Church is to be a Hub of Hope: building bridges and setting tables that nurture relationships with Jesus and His community for the generations to come
Values
  1. We strive to be HONEST – As the Pacific Northwest becomes an increasingly post-church culture we think people deeply desire genuine honesty. So, we work to stay clear of religious pretension or artificial emotions. Together we simply commit to honesty about the world, our own lives, and the journey with Jesus.
  2. We strive to be both INTELLECTUALLY and SPIRITUALLY DEEP – These two streams have always run intermingled at Hillcrest. We are privileged to be located one mile from Western Washington University and have more than 45 years of committed engagement among the students and thinkers of Whatcom County. This mission field complements our more than 70 years as a passionate, Holy Spirit-empowered missionary movement in the Pacific Northwest. As these two historic commitments intertwine we remain committed to loving God with our whole mind, heart and spirit.
  3. We strive to be a DIVERSE and HIGHLY RELATIONAL COMMUNITY – We get to live in Bellingham Washington, a delightfully eclectic and growing community. We seek to be a healthy reflection of our city and the broader worldwide community of Jesus followers. This is why we work hard at building genuine relationships at every level of our community, among all kinds of people, to create more opportunities for actual face-to-face friendships.
  4. We strive to be CREATIVE and FUN – We have a long commitment to the arts and creative expression at Hillcrest. Our history involves the making of worship albums, art shows, dance, poetry and more. We think Jesus style community should be one of the most imaginative places on earth.  And while we take our mission seriously, we still love to laugh, play games, take adventures and enjoy life together!
  5. We strive to be INVITATIONAL and HOSPITABLE – In an increasingly lonely society, we take our model from Jesus who took on flesh and moved into our neighborhood. In the same way, we want to engage the “neighborhoods” of our lives, looking for ways to invite others in to know Jesus and to enjoy authentic community. Therefore we will go out of our way to make guests feel welcome in our homes, in our neighborhoods, at work, and at our church.
  6. We strive to be COMPASSIONATE – We are surrounded by a variety of needs in Whatcom County. Among which Hillcrest has an especially long history of caring for foster and adopted kids. We increasingly endeavor to address needs around the world, but keep our hearts especially tender toward the broken, and hurting right here at home.
  7. We strive to be GENEROUS – We want to be generous with our thoughts towards one another, with our time, our homes, our abilities, and our finances. Furthermore we aim to be a church that courageously sends our people and resources around the world with the Good News about Jesus.

This next portion of the document corresponds numerically to the nine sections in The Statement of Faith above. Each section contains five (5) elements arranged under the Section Title. The systematic theology statements included in this area are finished. All the other areas are still in development, and many could be expanded and refined indefinitely. For example, we hope “Further Questions and Conversations” grows into an ever more massive online library of theological conversations. 

The five (5) elements of each section are:

  1. Definitions 
  2. Scripture References
  3. Systematic Theology Statements
  4. Going Deeper
  5. Further Questions and Conversations
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1. Scripture

Scripture

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  • Definitions:
    • Bible
      • The word Bible literally refers to the mode of sharing “as a book.” But, the Bible is not a single book, nor is it an unrelated assemblage of religious works. It is an uncannily unified story carried over 66 books and at least 44 authors over 1500 years. It is therefore more like a sacred repository of the original and eye-witness accounts of our hope. This is why we also call the Bible our Sacred Library.

 

  • Scripture references: 
    •  2 Ti 3:16-17: All  Scripture (literally all the writings) are God-breathed or inspired.  The New Testament view of the Jewish Scriptures is plain. 
    • Exodus 11: 14 & Isaiah 45:11: The OT writers are equally convinced they are sharing the words of God. There are 2700 more such references in the OT!
    • Hebrews 4:12-13: The Scriptures are living and active; revealing the total knowledge of its ultimate divine author.
    • Acts 28:25-26, Romans 10:19-20, 2 Corinthians 6:16. In these example cases, notice that even while quoting a human author the writers acknowledge these are ultimately the words of God. 
    • 2 Peter 1:20-21: Peter explains that even though humans are writing the text, it is really only as they are carried along (inspired) by the Holy Spirit. 
    • Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39: Scriptures written throughout the Old Testament, hundreds of years before Jesus were, by inspiration and cooperation with God, written about Jesus. This means the writers both understood what they were writing and yet by the Spirit also wrote of things way beyond their scope. Jesus then authenticated this view and understanding in his life, miracles, death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven. 
    • Matthew 5:21-22: Jesus both equates his words and claims authorial privilege over the God-inspired words of the Old Testament!
    • John 15:16, Acts 1:8: Jesus then authorizes the speakers whose words we read in the New Testament from the same fount of authority.
    • 2 Peter 3:16: When Peter, who even though he had sharp disagreements with the apostle, discusses Paul’s NT letters, he calls them Scripture! 
    • I Corinthians 7:12-16, Galatians 1:1-2 & 2 Tim 4:13.  Biblical authors are able to distinguish between personal and general information and inspiration.
    • 1 Corinthians 2:13, Galatians 1:11-12: It is Paul’s very clear testimony that he writes as he was taught by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
    • Jer. 26:2, Rev. 22:18-19: Writers of both the Old and New Testaments were instructed to “not omit a single word” and John pronounced an anathema upon all who would add to or subtract from the “words of the book of this prophecy” because they understood that these are not mere human words but the humans writing God inspired Scriptures. This is the Bible’s testimony about itself.

 

  • Systematic Theology Statement:
    • Scripture
      • We believe that the whole Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative Word of God as written in the original languages by the original authors. We believe and can empirically verify those words have been faithfully transmitted to us. Consequently, the Bible is the true and reliable story we trust with our lives.

 

  • Going Deeper:
    • Transmission and Canonization
    • Biblical authority
    • List Bible Reading Plans

 

  • Further Questions and Conversations :
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions:
      • How can we trust that the Bible is what it claims to be?  What kind of evidence should we be looking for? 
      • If the Bible is true, what implications does that have for life?
      • What does your relationship with God’s Word look like right now? How often do you read/listen? What are you reading right now? Has it been encouraging for you?
      • What are some barriers you face as you set out to know God’s Word better? 
      • What simple steps can you take to make reading, understanding, and discussing the Bible a greater part of your Jesus following? 
2. Creation and Fall

 Creation and Fall

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  • Definitions:
    • Cosmos 
      • The universe as seen as a well ordered whole.  God created and ordered everything from the vast reaches of space, quasars and stars to the sub-atomic world of electrons, particles and quarks. Both the visible and invisible are God’s ordered cosmos. 
    • Image Bearers (Imago Dei)
      • Scripture often speaks of humans as being God’s Image Bearers.  Humans are unique in all creation in bearing God’s Image. To bear God’s image is to be made to represent his character, and his will into the world. The Image of God in humans  has been marred but not lost through the Fall. Both men and women equally bear the Image of God.  God seeks to fully restore his image in us through our union by the Spirit with the one True Image Bearer of God, Jesus Christ.
    • Heart
      • This stands for human’s entire inner lives, their will, affections, and emotions.

 

  • Scripture References:
    • Genesis 1 – 3
    • Genesis 11:1 – 9
    • Proverbs 8
    • Psalm 104
    • Romans 1 – 2
    • Romans 8
    • Hebrews 11:3

 

  • Systematic Theology Statements
    • Person of God
      • We believe that there is only one God, who created all things.  This God eternally exists as three co-equal persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in never ending self-giving unified love with one another.  
      • We believe the Triune God is not only the creator but the sustainer and the finisher of all things.  God is beyond our ability to be completely grasped, but reveals his character to us as holy and loving, just and merciful.  
    • Creation
      • We believe God created all things from nothing.  All creation stands separate from yet dependent upon God.  Because God created it, creation is good and has inherent dignity and value apart from humans’ interaction or use of it.  This is all to say that creation is sacred yet not divine.  It is to be honored, not worshipped.
    • Humanity (Anthropology)
      • We believe God is the independent and sole Creator of humanity which establishes his inviolable authority over all  human life.   
      • We believe that all humans have inherent dignity as God’s Image Bearers and inherent responsibility.  Humans, being made in the image of the Triune God, are persons made for relationship.  We are individuals made to live in relationships with others.  
      • All humans share commonality as we are all one human race.  But within this one humanity, God delighted  to put the potential and the call to fill the world with a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures.
    • Sin (Hamartiology) 
      • We believe that sin is not simply a wrong that someone commits but an inner disorder, a posture of rebellion against God that is within all people and affects every part of ourselves.  This rebellion against God leads to both physical and spiritual death with eternal consequences.  This is not to say humans are as bad as we possibly can be, but to admit that every aspect of our persons, physical, emotional, cognitive, etc, are tainted by this disposition against God and towards ourselves.  While not originally created this way, sin is now inherent in every human.  
      • We also believe that sin does not only have an individual dimension but also a communal and systemic dimension.  Sin manifests in families, cities, societies, and cultures in ways that actively work against God’s kingdom in the world

 

  • Going Deeper:
    • Relationship between God and humans. 
      • In the garden we see a familiar intimacy between God and people that is best described as parental. God is their Father. It is the loss of this close relationship we grieve the most in “the fall.” And is the picture-state of things God intends to restore when Jesus returns and makes all things well.
    • Male and Female Relationships
      • The Biblical story begins with a picture of man and woman living in a relationship of partnership in work, mutual vulnerability, and love.  They complement one another in that they both capture different aspects of God’s divine nature.  They are called to work in a mutual relationship to fill and care for God’s world.  It is after sin enters the world that we are told this relationship of mutuality gets distorted into one where the woman “longs for her husband but he will rule over you.”  Sin distorts relationships of loving mutuality into ones of manipulation and domination.  
    • Human sexuality and gender
    • Creation and Evolution
    • Old earth or new earth
    • Theology of Work
    • Theology of Culture
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  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions:
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further
      • What does the fact that God is a maker, an artist, tell us about what it means to follow him?
      • If God created and cares about all things, what does that means about how we should relate to creation?
      • All humans bear God’s Image.  How should this impact our interactions with every single person we meet?
      • Are there any specific burdens on your heart where you feel the consequences of the fall in your own life, in the lives of others, or the world?
      • Where do you see God as Creator reflected in Jesus?
      • Where do you see God’s desire to heal the Fall reflected in Jesus?
3. Abraham, Israel, and the promised Messiah

  Abraham, Israel, and the promised Messiah

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  • Definitions:
    • Messiah 
      • This comes from a Hebrew word that means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” From the beginning, the Old Testament predicted a coming Deliverer, a rescue Hero, chosen by God to redeem Israel and through them the whole world  (Isaiah 42:1; 61:1–3). The Jews called this deliverer the Messiah. In Greek,  “anointed one” or “messiah” is translated as Christ from the Greek xristos. Jesus Christ is Jesus Messiah.

 

  • Scripture References:
    • Genesis: 12-25
    • Galatians 3:16, 29

 

  • Systematic Theology Statements:
    • Hebrew Scriptures
      •  We believe that God has communicated and continues to communicate to humankind through both Testaments.  We deeply value the importance of securing our understanding of Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures.  
    • Jesus the Messiah
      • We believe that the singular Hero promised in Genesis 3:15 is prefigured once again in God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and 22, both to his plural offspring Israel as his Rescue Mission people, and as refined  in Genesis 22, and confirmed in Galatians 3:16, to his singular offspring Jesus the Messiah.
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  • Going Deeper
    • Hebrew Scriptures: The Hebrew Bible is called the Tanakh. It is an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim . These are the three main sections of the Hebrew Scriptures – Tanakh. They follow as:
      • Torah (Teachings). The first five books of Moses. The word Torah is better understood as “teaching, understanding” or “the Way” rather than “law.” 
        • Genesis 
        • Exodus 
        • Leviticus 
        • Numbers 
        • Deuteronomy
      • Nevi’im (Prophets). The prophetic books are subdivided into two parts: Four books of the “Former” prophets and 15 books of the “Latter” prophets.
        • Former prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings. 
        • Latter:
          • Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel 
          • Book of the Twelve “Minor” Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
      • Ketuvim (Writings). These are other sacred writings, including Psalms, Proverbs, and the remaining historical books. There are 12 books in this division of the Tanakh. 
        • Psalms 
        • Job 
        • Proverbs 
        • Ruth 
        • Song of Songs 
        • Ecclesiastes 
        • Lamentations
        • Esther 
        • Daniel 
        • Ezra–Nehemiah 
        • 1 & 2 Chronicles 
    • Messiah. In the biblical setting, anointing with oil was a sign that God was consecrating or setting apart that person for a particular role. Thus, an “anointed one” was someone with a special, God-ordained purpose.

      In the Old Testament, several notable figures were anointed for the positions of prophet, priest, and king. God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as Israel’s prophet (1 Kings 19:16). Aaron was anointed as the first high priest of Israel (Leviticus 8:12). Samuel anointed both Saul and David as kings of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13). All of these men held “anointed” positions. But as stated in the definition above there remained an unfulfilled and deep desire for The predicted Deliverer, chosen by God to redeem Israel and through them the whole world (Isaiah 42:1; 61:1–3). Then came Jesus.

      Jesus of Nazareth was and is the prophesied Messiah (Luke 4:17–21; John 4:25–26). Throughout the New Testament, we see proof that Jesus is the Chosen One: “These [miracles] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). We also hear testimonies that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The ultimate evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, is His resurrection from the dead. Acts 10:39–43 is an eyewitness testimony to His resurrection and the fact that “he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” In Greek,  “anointed one” or “messiah” is translated as christ from the Greek xristos. Jesus Christ is Jesus Messiah.

      Jesus fulfills the role of Prophet, Priest, and King, which is further evidence of his being the Messiah. He is a prophet, because He embodied and preached the Word of God (see John 1:1–18; 14:24; and Luke 24:19); a priest, because His death atones for our sins and reconciles us to the Father (see Hebrews 2:17; 4:14); and a king, because after His resurrection God gave all authority to Him (see John 18:36; Ephesians 1:20–23; and Revelation 19:16).

      Many of the Jews of Jesus’ day understandably expected the Messiah to redeem Israel by overthrowing the cruel rule of the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom (see Acts 1:6). It wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection that His disciples finally began to understand what the prophecies in the Old Testament really meant the Messiah would do (see Luke 24:25–27). The Messiah was “anointed” first to deliver His people spiritually; that is, to redeem them from sin (John 8:31–36). He accomplished this salvation through His perfect life, death and resurrection (John 12:32; John 3:16). Have no doubt though about the other rescuer components of the work of the messiah, because the Bible is equally clear that Jesus will return to completely deliver His people from their physical and spiritual enemies, as He finishes setting up His Kingdom on the earth (Isaiah 9:1–7).
    • Abraham and God’s heart for all peoples
      • God called on a man and his family, Abraham, in response to the sin and brokenness see in Genesis 3 – 11.  God declared that through this family God would bless all the nations of the earth.  Importantly, God repeated this calling to Abraham and his wife Sarah several times.  Beautifully, in God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 18 God said through his family all the “peoples” and “nations” of the earth would be blessed.  These are specific terms that refer back to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 (10:20; 31) and shows that God’s mission to Abraham very specifically is for all the people and people groups of the earth!
    • Cut covenant -15
      • Image
    • Oath in the flesh – 17 
    • God will provide – Gen 22

 

  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
      • What does the promise of the Covenant coming through Abraham mean about the Christian relationship to Israel and Judaism?
      • What does the promise extended through both Israel and Abraham’s singular offspring Jesus means about God’s promises to ethnic Israel and the entire Christain community. Read Galatians 3:29.  How can this passage be misused? Read Romans 9-11. 
      • As Abraham’s spiritual heritage, how do we live out God’s promises in 12:2-3?
      • How was Abraham a blessing to all people on earth? How is Jesus? How are we?
4. Exodus

Exodus

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  • Definitions:
    • The Way
      • The Way has been capitalized to make reference to God’s giving of the law to the people of Israel at Sinai.  The Scriptures never saw the law, also called the Torah, as merely a set of arbitrary commands but rather a Way of life, a Way of walking in fellowship with God, and a Way to bear his image to the world.
    • Holistically rescued
      • In the Exodus God rescued his people physically, emotionally, politically, economically, relationally, and spiritually.  God, being the God of all aspects of life, is always concerned to rescue people in all dimensions of life.
    • Rescue Mission People
      • A fundamental concept through Scripture is that when God rescues people and calls them his own, it is never only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.  God called Israel his own and rescued them to extend his rescue to all the world through them.

 

  • Scripture References:
    • Exodus 1 – 14
    • Exodus 19 – 20
    • Leviticus 26:11 – 12
    • Deuteronomy 4:5 – 7
    • Joshua 1 – 4
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  • Systematic Theology Statements:
    • God’s concern for the poor and oppressed
      • We believe that God cares deeply for the poor and oppressed.  God hears the cry of the oppressed and says to harm the poor is to show contempt for God.  God regularly calls himself the defender of the most vulnerable, the orphan, widow, and foreigner.  God commands his people to show care for the poor and oppressed in the world.
    • God’s sovereignty and free will
      • We believe that God is sovereign over human history and that humans have free will.  This is a dynamic tension that many Christians have tried to resolve by either insisting all is under God’s control or on all is contingent upon human decision.  Christians walk faithfully by holding these two truths at the same time.
    • God’s commitment to presence with people
      • We believe that God desires to be present with people. Throughout Scripture God is moving down towards people, in the garden, in the tabernacle, in the Temple, in Jesus, in the giving of the Holy Spirit, and finally when God fills the new heavens and new earth.  
    • God’s giving of his Way
      • We believe that God always rescues people through grace and then teaches them how to walk in his Way.  Our relationship with God is always based on grace.  But God also desires to transform us into the kind of people who fully reflect his character.  This requires him teaching us to walk in his Way. 

 

  • Going Deeper:
    • Mission to all people through Israel
      • In the Hebrew Scriptures God calls his people to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). This embodies the reality that God’s people are meant to be ethically distinctive and missionally active. The role of a priest is to mediate the character of the deity. God’s people are meant to show the world, all nations and peoples, what God is like that they might too know and worship him. In fact the entire Torah, or Law, is given that the watching nations would declare the greatness, nearness, and wisdom of the LORD (Deut 4:5 – 7).  
    • Tabernacle 
    • Sacrifice 
    • Moses
    • Conquest
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  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
      • Throughout the OT, God is identified as the God who brought his people out of Egypt. Of all the miraculous things God did for his people, why is this one mentioned so frequently?   What makes this story so essential for the people of God?  What significance does it have for us today?
      • How have you thought about the poor and oppressed most of your life?  What does God think about them?
      • How is God currently showing you his Way? 
      • Where in the Exodus story can you see yourself?
      • What of God’s actions in the Exodus story do you see reflected in Jesus?
5. Kingship and Exile

 Kingship and Exile

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  • Definitions
    • Prophets
      • Prophets are not primarily future-tellers but rather truth-tellers.  Prophets are God’s microphone, calling the people to come back to him.  Prophets are covenant enforcers reminding the people of the promises they have made and what happens if they rebel against God.  Throughout Scripture both men and women operate as prophets for the people of God.  At times the truth-telling expands out to the future, how God promises to redeem his people through his promised Messiah.
    • Exile 
      • Exile in a strict literal sense is the taking of a population out of their homeland to a foreign land.  Exile for Israel, however, came to function as symbolic for larger issues in their relationship with God.  So while many people returned from literal exile the larger issues of a need of forgiveness, a restored temple, a Davidic king on the throne, self-rule, continued even after the literal exile ended.
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  • Scripture References:  
    • Exodus 15:20 – 21
    • Deuteronomy 17:14 – 20
    • Judges 4:4 – 7
    • 1 Samuel 8:6 – 7
    • 2 Samuel 7:4 – 17
    • Psalm 72
    • 1 Kings 4:20 – 34
    • 2 Kings 17:7 – 23
    • 2 Kings 22:14
    • 2 Chronicles 36:15 – 23 
    • Daniel 9:2, 21, 24

 

  • Systematic Theology Statements:
    • Jesus as the fulfillment of Prophet, Priest, and King.  
      • We believe the Prophets were the microphone or mouthpiece of God, speaking God’s truth.  Jesus spoke God’s message not as a messenger, but as God himself.  As the Word of God, Jesus is God’s most complete message to humankind.
      • We believe the Priests mediated God’s presence at God’s temple.  Because God is holy and people are sinful, God gave priests to administer sacrifices in the temple to help the people understand what it takes for him to commune with them.  Jesus is the ultimate high priest who offers himself as a sacrifice.  His sacrificial death makes atonement and communion possible for all time between a Holy God and sinful people.
      • We believe the Kings were meant to rule the people as God’s representatives, carrying out God’s will for the nation.  The king’s were meant to secure justice for the weak, flourishing for all people and the land.  Jesus is both the human king of Davidic descent as well as King of the universe by virtue of his divinity.  All authority in heaven and earth belongs to him.

 

  • Going Deeper:
    • Exile
    • Kings
      • How kingship anticipates Jesus’ kingship.
    • The last sentence in paragraph 5 ties together prophecies of the day of the Lord and the Messiah.
    • Temple as microcosm

 

  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
      • Why do you think God worked with the people of Israel for thousands of years before sending his Son?
      • Where do you see yourself in the story of Israel falling away into Exile?
      • What about God giving the people prophets, priests, and kings is reflected in Jesus’ life?
6. The Person of Jesus Christ

The Person of Jesus Christ

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  • Definitions
    • At just the right time or in the fullness of time. 
      • Galatians 4:4-5 and Romans 5:6, among others, suggest that Jesus came when the pre-planned time was full, that is brought to completion. In other words, one season of human history was totally complete and a new age was inaugurated in Jesus. 
    • Jesus modeled
      • During his life and ministry Jesus called 12 men to follow him as an image of him as the center of the renewed People of God.  Jesus also had many other men and women who followed him as his disciples.  They shared life with him, learned his teaching, and observed all he did that they could learn to live more like him.
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  • Scripture References:
    • Matthew 5-8
    • Mark 1:1-20
    • Mark 4:35 – 5:43
    • Mark 8:27 – 9:13
    • Luke 1-2
    • John 1:1-18
    • Galatians 4:4-7
    • Colossians 1:1-15
    • Philippians 2:5-11

 

  • Systematic Theology Statement:
    • Person of Christ
      • We believe in Jesus Christ, the second eternal member of the Godhead, who was born at a moment in time as a real human being without ceasing to be God. We believe he now lives eternally in human form, forever uniting his essential nature as God and his human personage. We believe that through his life, miracles, conduct, death, resurrection, and ascension Jesus proved himself The Promised Messiah and completely fulfilled the expected threefold positions of prophet, priest, and king to God’s Kingdom.
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  • Going Deeper:
    • Discipleship
      • Key to the life of following Jesus is discipleship.  When Jesus came to earth he announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God, called people to repent or turn from sin, and to follow him.  Followers of Jesus today are still called to turn from sin and walk the path of following Jesus.  While we now do this from the other side of the cross and resurrection it is no less important.  Critical to following Jesus then as it is now is to be in living relationships with him, to sit under his teaching, to see how his Mighty Deeds embody the Kingdom of God, and to allow him to send us out into the world as his representatives.  
    • Kenosis.
    • Dual Nature of Jesus.
    • Human flesh and original sin.

 

  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • What aspects of Jesus’ life and person do you find most compelling?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
      • How can Jesus be both God and man? How does that work? What does it mean for instance about his brain and total capacity? How about heightened human knowledge and God’s omniscience?
      • What does Jesus having a human soul mean for our theology?
      • What does this mean about his nature, inherent sinfulness, his potential to sin, and how he actually lived?  How does this change how we interact with him? See Hebrews 4:14-16. 
      • What does recognizing Jesus as The Way mean for us now?
      • What are things in your life that distract you from The Way?
      • How would your life (and our community) be different if you were more fully committed to Jesus as The Way?
7. The Ministry of Jesus Christ

 The Ministry of Jesus Christ

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  • Definitions
    • Exile of humanity
      • The first man and woman were exiled from God’s presence in the garden.  Just as Israel’s literal exile was an image of their fractured relationship with God so too this original exile from the garden is an image of the ongoing spiritual fracture between all humanity and God.
    • Satan
      • Throughout Scripture we see there are evil spiritual forces working against God’s good purposes in the world.  In the New Testament it becomes clear these forces are led by a spiritual being Scripture calls Satan (meaning “The Accuser”).  

 

  • Scripture References:
    • Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
    • John 18 – 21
    • Philippians 2:6 – 11
    • Colossians 1:15 – 23 
    • Romans 3 – 8 
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  • Systematic Theology Statements:
    • Christ’s saving work (Soteriology)
      • We believe that Christ’s life, death and resurrection is the sole source of redemption from sin and death.  Christ’s saving work is towards us insofar as it demonstrates God’s love for us.  Christ’s saving work is towards God insofar as on the cross Christ bore the rightful penalty for sin.  He bore it first as Israel’s king, bearing the sins of Israel that lead to exile.  He bore is ultimately as the second Adam, bearing the sins of all of us that lead humanity to be in a state of spiritual exile from God.  Christ’s saving work is towards the spiritual forces of evil insofar as Satan’s claim of guilt over humanity is broken and the power of death over us has lost its sting.  
    • Our reception of Christ’s work
      • We believe the Holy Spirit empowers people to receive the Good News of Christ’s salvation.  This happens as people repent from sin and declare faith in Jesus Christ.  We are saved by grace through faith alone.
    • Living in the tension of already and not yet
      • We believe that Jesus Christ has already inaugurated his kingdom in this world but not yet consummated his kingdom which will happen at the end of time.  Because of this Christians live in the tension of already/not yet.  
    • Demonology 
      • Satan and these other spiritual beings desire to harm the Image of God in people and thwart God’s purposes in the world.  When we talk of Satan we do not picture a cartoonish figure in red tights.  We do recognize the reality of spiritual evil.  And we do recognize Jesus Christ is stronger than any spiritual evil we encounter. Created, unequal, fallen, condemned. 

 

  • Going Deeper:
    • Why didn’t we use more traditional Christian language in this section?
      • Many of us who have grown up in the church are used to language such as “You need to repent from your sins and believe in Jesus and you will be saved.”  We intentionally avoided language such as this.  We did this for several reasons.
        • 1 – Intentional Audience and Language Decision – We intentionally chose not to fill this document with common Christian idioms and language.
        • 2 – Many common phrases in the church get loaded up with inaccurate baggage.  
        • 3 – Biblical Accuracy
    • Imputation
    • Already/not yet
      • As followers of Jesus we live in the tension of already/not yet in several spheres of life.
        • Personally, this means for us as individuals that God has already forgiven, adopted, and placed his Spirit in us.  But we are not yet fully sanctified, that is, fully delivered from the power of sin in our lives.  
        • Corporately, this means for us as a Church that God has called us together, given gifts of the Spirit to build us up, and sends us on mission to his world.  But we are not yet fully delivered from discord, disunity, and immorality as a Church.  
        • Universally, this means for us in the world that God has begun his New Creation, is creating one new humanity in the church, and works mighty deeds by his Spirit.  But the world is not yet fully delivered from spiritual evil, moral wrong, disease, and death.  
    • Spiritual warfare.
      • Armor of God
      • Why does God let Satan persist? 

 

  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • What aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection do you find most compelling?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
      • What is your earliest memory of the cross?  
      • If you had to explain to someone how Jesus’ death & resurrection impacts them, what would you say?
      • What is your response to Jesus’ death and resurrection?
8. The global multi-ethnic, Spirit-empowered community of all Jesus followers called the Church

The global multi-ethnic, Spirit-empowered community of all Jesus followers called the Church

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  • Definitions
    • God’s Rescue Mission People
      • God’s people began with the person of Abraham and continued through his descendants, the people of Israel.  The goal of Israel was always to bring all nations to God.  When the Jewish Messiah Jesus comes and then gives the Spirit, the multi-ethnic church does not replace Israel but rather continues the same mission by being grafted into that Abrahamic family.
    • Multi-ethnic community
      • God’s created intent from the beginning was to have his Image reflected in the multitude of people groups and ethnicities in our world.  In the New Heavens and New Earth, ethnic differences will continue throughout eternity as they each bear God’s reflected glory in unique ways.  Jesus’ kingdom community, the church, actively anticipates this reality as the Spirit draws a worldwide multi-ethnic people together under the one king Jesus.

 

  • Scripture References:
    • Isaiah 49:6
    • Psalm 86:9
    • Matthew 24
    • Matthew 28
    • Luke 24:36-53 
    • Acts 1:1-11
    • Acts 2
    • Acts 15:1-19
    • Romans 9:25
    • 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
    • Revelation 7:9
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  • Systematic Theology Statements:
    • Holy Spirit
      • We believe in the Holy Spirit, the third eternal and co-equal member of the divine Godhead. We believe the Holy Spirit is an individual with will and personality while also being inseparably united to God the Father and Son in being, corporate will, and mission toward creation. We believe the Holy Spirit is the long awaited presence with God promised since creation. We believe he shapes the individual believer and builds the communal church of Jesus in the will of the Father.  Every Christian and the whole community of Jesus followers are transformed into the likeness of Jesus as a fulfillment of sharing in his life, death, and resurrection as each and all participate with the Holy Spirit in a lifetime of learning to better reflect God’s love in a process called sanctification.
    • The Church
      • We believe in the Holy Christian Church made up of believers from every tribe, tongue and nation on earth. We believe the church are the called ambassadors of Jesus to bring the Good News about his rescue mission and privileged to participate with Father, Son and Holy Spirit to undo brokenness and unfold God’s shalom peace in his creation until Jesus returns and completes this work himself. The mission of the church until that time is to Worship God in faithfulness, Go and tell people about Jesus; Grow together as a community, Serve together the needs of the mission, and meaningfully Care for the world around us. Because Jesus has come and is coming again, the church lives this sanctifying life and does this missional work within the tension of the “already-not-yet.”
    • Pentecost
      • We believe God promised and then established the work of his church by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit exemplified at Pentecost and then carried throughout the New Testament. Accordingly, we believe the Church must continually seek the Holy Spirit to be equipped for Jesus’ rescue mission to people and creation. 

 

  • Going Deeper
    • Leadership in the Church
      • Jesus Christ is the great shepherd, the head, of the Church.  God also gives under-shepherds to his local churches to help lead them.  We believe these under-shepherds (pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, etc) are God’s gift to his church to shape them to look more like his son Jesus.  
      • Over the centuries there has been much debate if there is one single Biblical leadership structure presented in the Bible.  We believe that the Bible does not present one unchangeable leadership structure but rather principles and character traits that churches should look for in its leaders and leadership structures.
    • Women in Leadership
      • Women in the New Testament era sit at Jesus’ feet as disciples, are the first to witness and announce his Resurrection, pray and prophesy in worship gatherings (Acts 2:18; 21:9; 1 Cor 11:5), lead as apostles (Rom 16:5), teach the faith (Acts 28:26), hosted and likely lead house churches (Col 4:15; Philemon 2), and  served as deacons (Rom 16:1 – 2).  While there has been much debate in church history over what leadership roles women may play in the church, we see the New Testament teaching that the Spirit may gift and call women into any and all leadership positions within the church.
    • Sacraments vs Ordinances
      • It can be helpful in a discussion about baptism and communion to make the distinction between a sacrament and an ordinance. A sacrament literally makes the recipient sacred. It conveys something upon the recipient. While the Protestant church certainly agrees that much is conveyed by the Holy Spirit in the acts of baptism and communion, it is not commonly held that the act itself conveys anything to the believer. It is therefore frequently instead called an ordinance. That is, a sacred act undertaken by the church in obedience, that connects the believer and the Spirit of God in profound and meaningful ways, but is in itself unable to convey sacred power.
    • What about those who never hear about Jesus? 
      • There is a clear Biblical concept that the gospel must reach every nation and people group, even though it has and will not reach every person. How God deals with those who have never heard the Good News and what they have done with what they know is a mystery that remains up to God. We nevertheless begin our urgent mission in the clarion call that all must hear about Jesus to receive him and cannot hear unless someone brings the message to them. 
    • How does the church carry out this mission? 
      • The call to be the message as well as declare the message
      • Availability over perceived qualification
    • Theodicy – Where does evil come from and why does God let evil beings persist?
    • Further experiences with the Holy Spirit. 
    • The Church and Jewish people today
    • Living as a Multi-ethnic Kingdom Community
      • Throughout the New Testament we see the Jesus Community having to do the hard work of healing ethnic and cultural divisions and uniting people under Jesus.  There is tension between Jews of different cultural backgrounds (Acts 6:1 – 7), between Jews and Samaritans (Acts 8:9 – 25), and slowness to accept non-Jewish gentiles into the Jesus Community (Acts 10 – 15).  The division between Jews and non-Jews was one that had to be faced and overcome multiple times(Gal 2 and 3).  God continued to hold out a vision for the Jesus Community that Jesus death was meant to lead exactly this, to reconcile people with God and also groups of people with one another (Eph 2:11 – 22).  Throughout early Jesus movement the Spirit lead the Jesus community in this hard work to create a multi-ethnic Kingdom people (1 Pet 2:4 – 10).

 

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  • Further Questions and Conversations:
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus’s ongoing work in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
      • As the spiritual descendants of Abraham and called missionaries of Jesus, how do we undo the effects of sin? What does that look like and what does it mean about power and participation? 
      • What do we do when the church fails to live these realities? What do we do with our own dissatisfaction with how the church is living in that tension?
      • What tremendous examples can you point to when Christians and the Christian community do live these realities? 
      • How do you think Jesus wants to grow you into deeper community with others?
9. The New Heavens and New Earth

The New Heavens and New Earth

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  • Definitions
    • Renewed Heavens and Earth
      • The Scriptures speak of both continuity and discontinuity in terms of the first heavens and earth and new heavens and earth.  On the one hand all things will be cleansed, judged, and purified.  On the other hand, Scripture speaks of this moment not of destruction but redemption for non-human creation.  Much in the same way that we will be given resurrected bodies free from disease and death, so to heaven and earth will be resurrected.

 

  • Scripture References:
    • Isaiah 25
    • Isaiah 65
    • Mathew 6:20 
    • Luke 12:33
    • I Corinthians 13:12 
    • Ephesians 5:5
    • I Thessalonians 4:15-17
    • 2 Thessalonians 1:9
    • 2 Peter 3:10
    • I John 3:2
    • Revelation 1:7 
    • Revelation 20:1-15, 
    • Revelation 21-22

 

  • Systematic Theology Statement:
    • Last Things (Eschatology)
      • We believe there will be an end to this current age of creation. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. At this time God will completely restore the creation. Every human being living and formally dead will be bodily assigned to either dwell with God in the new heavens and earth or receive judgement in the place the Bible calls Hell. 

 

  • Going deeper
    • How does this all unfold? As it regards how these events unfold, there are a wide variety of opinions but throughout them all some key components can be held in confidence:
      • Jesus will bodily return. 
      • His global and obvious return will provide an opportunity for many to surrender rebellion and believe.
      • He will finally judge all evil in all of its forms and vanquish his enemies. This judgement will be dramatic and impact creation. 
      • He will restore creation to a new and beautiful condition. 
      • He will bring every human who has surrendered from rebellion and accepted the gift of his rescue into his eternal creation with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 
      • It will all be very good. 
    • Multi-ethnic Kingdom in the future
    • The Bible ends with a vision God gives his people of the New Heavens and New Earth where people “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” are at the throne of Jesus worshipping him together.  What God desired in the beginning when God told his people to fill the earth is brought to fulfillment here with this incredible diversity of ethnicities and cultures all unified in worship of King Jesus.  This vision is one the church is meant to live into today, not erasing or ignoring different ethnicities or cultures but seeing them united by God’s Spirit together worshipping the same King Jesus.
    • Basic eschatology positions
      • Heaven and Hell

 

  • Further Questions and Conversations :
    • Big three questions 
      • Where do you personally identify with this section of the story?
      • Where do you see Jesus’s ongoing work in this section of the story?
      • What does this mean for your life?  Name one or two concrete examples.
    • Further questions
        • Why do you think its so important to affirm the physicality of the future (our resurrection bodies, existing on a renewed earth)?
        • How does does God’s promised ending give you hope?  
        • How does it give you challenge or unsettle you?
        • What does it mean to live our days rightly in light of the end of the story?
        • How we do anticipate the future with our lives today?
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