Regulative Principle of Worship
We are not free to invent new approaches to worshiping God. We cannot worship what we do not know, and we cannot know God unless He reveals Himself to us in His Word. Adoration, godly fear, obedience, and praise come only from a heart that has been illuminated by God’s Word. God’s Word is central to worship. In other words, where the Word is absent, there can be no true worship of God. For this reason, worship is restricted to the divine means by which God has promised to communicate His Word to us. These means, known as the ordinary means of grace, include preaching God’s Word, singing God’s Word, praying God’s Word, seeing God’s Word in the ordinances, and fellowshipping around God’s Word.
Expository, Christ-Centered Preaching
As the pillar and ground of the truth, the most important function of the local church is the faithful preaching and proclamation of God’s Word. Biblical and Christ-centered preaching is the explanation and application of the Scriptures. The power of preaching is not found in oratory skills, in clever and relevant topics, or in the charisma of the speaker, but in the precision and accuracy of the exposition and application of the Biblical text. The Word changes lives; therefore, it is our goal to faithfully exposit and apply the Word. The goal of expository preaching is to preach verse by verse through the books of the Bible to discover the intended, historical, contextual, and theological meaning of the passage, and then to bring out the timeless truths so that we may submit to them and apply them to our lives.
Congregational and Christ-Centered Singing
We believe that the lyrics of our worship songs should be focused principally upon the explicit gospel of Jesus Christ. Though there is a rightful place to express our emotions verbally, such as singing about our love and adoration of God, for the most part, we desire to place the lyrical focus of our music on the life and work of Christ which, we believe, brings the most glory to God and the most edification to the saints. Moreover, GBC seeks to worship in a manner that highlights congregational singing. Therefore, we intentionally adjust the volume of the microphones and musicians as needed to aid, but not to dominate, the mutual singing of the congregation. In addition, we purposefully place our musicians and song leaders off to the side in order to keep our focus on the lyrics and to guard against creating a performance-or entertainment-based form of worship.
Reformed Baptist Theology
Our goal is to teach the whole counsel of God as we preach expositionally through the Bible. Though we do seek not to become unbalanced in our theology by overly focusing upon one doctrine to the neglect of other truths, we firmly believe that the understanding of the absolute sovereignty of God affects every aspect of our church life, including our doctrine, our preaching, our philosophy of ministry, our counseling, and our worship. We stand upon the “five solas” of the Reformation as essential doctrines of the faith: Sola scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola fide (faith alone), Sola gratia (grace alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). It is required of all church members to affirm, and have a basic understanding of, these five core doctrines. We also believe, love, and teach the Doctrines of Grace: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Efficacious Atonement, Efficacious Call, and the Perseverance of the Saints. Though we do not require full ascription to these doctrines for church membership, we do require church members not to be divisive or argumentative over these issues or any other non-essential doctrine that is held and taught by the church.
We seek to be a Christ-centered church, not a family-centered church. Yet, God has designed the family, and as a church body, we seek to promote family unity by encouraging, exhorting, and equipping our families to worship together at home and to worship together with the church on Sundays. We believe that it is important for each family to remain together during the worship service, and we believe that corporate worship should be a major part of our children’s lives. Though we are happy to provide a nursery for those less than three years of age, we encourage even the youngest children to remain with their parents in worship. We believe children are a blessing from the Lord, so we are thankful to God for them, and we do not view their sometimes obvious presence during corporate worship as a distraction. We also seek to encourage and equip fathers to carry out their responsibilities as the spiritual leaders of their families because parents are responsible to teach, train, and raise their children in the admonition of the Lord.
Active Church Membership
We believe Christians should take church membership seriously. Biblical church membership consists of Christians mutually submitting themselves in love to the care, oversight, doctrine, and discipline of a local church as they seek to be faithful and active in the life, fellowship, service, worship, and functions of the church body. The local church is the setting for Christians to utilize their spiritual gifts for the mutual edification of the body. We seek to create a family atmosphere that includes time for regular fellowship to build meaningful relationships centered on Christ Jesus.
God’s Word is our sole source of authority in counseling. It is sufficient to provide answers for all matters pertaining to life and godliness. Though the leadership of GBC offers formal Biblical counseling for its membership, biblical counseling takes place primarily in the regular preaching of the Word and organically in the weekly fellowship of the saints. Biblical counseling is a vital part of Christian discipling, and thus it is a vital part of the life of GBC.
Because God takes church membership and holiness seriously, GBC takes church discipline seriously. Yet, church discipline should not be viewed principally as excommunication, which is only the last step of the process, but as loving restoration that takes place between and among Christians who hold each other accountable to God’s Word. Church discipline naturally flows out of the fellowship and counseling ministry of the church. Healthy and effective church discipline, therefore, is rooted in a desire to restore others in love and a spirit of meekness. If a church member who is in open rebellion against God does not repent after hearing one person, then two, and then the church collectively, GBC is committed to carrying out church discipline even though it causes us much pain and sorrow to remove our spiritual fellowship until public repentance restores the broken union. Restoration, not excommunication, is the goal.
We are submitted to a plurality of elders whose life and doctrine are submitted to the authority of God’s Word, and to deacons who carefully and lovingly look after the practical needs of the congregation. Scriptures alone determine the church’s doctrine, purpose, standards for membership, and discipline. Therefore, our elders rule by teaching, preaching, and applying the Scriptures. For this reason, though the major logistical decisions are introduced to the congregation with the desire for collective agreement after a season of prayer and consideration, we do not make any decisions based upon a popular or democratic vote. Rather, we seek to be led by the Spirit through the wisdom and counsel of our elders and the harmonious agreement of the congregation.
We seek to encourage, embolden, and equip our members to be mission-minded. We believe that every Christian is called to be a missionary, but we believe that mission work starts in the home with family worship and flows out of a life that is spiritually immersed in a daily communion with Christ. We are called not only to witness to our lost family members, but also to share our faith with those in the community as we pray and send out missionaries to the world. Therefore, we purposefully seek to promote, encourage, and equip our members for family worship, personal evangelism, and international missions.