WHAT SORT OF CHURCH WILL WE PLANT?
In a couple of years' time this website won’t exist, ‘Plant Halifax’ won’t exist, all the process of how we got there will be largely irrelevant, and all that will matter is the church we have planted. And so it is incredibly important to outline what this church will be like. It will of course be described in many different ways by different people at different times as it grows and develops, but there are three distinctives we want it to always have. We want to plant a church that is Christ Centred, Culturally Engaged and Confessional.
Our entire focus is to preach Christ. Jesus will be at the centre of everything we do as a church, we will be instructed by His word, we will preach His gospel, we will do His work and it will be all to His glory. To be ‘Christ Centred’ has become something of a buzzword that can be nebulous if not defined. So for the sake of clarity - by ‘Christ Centred' we mean:
The goal is to have Christ, not what he gives. The goal of the gospel is not ultimately heaven, forgiveness or sanctification - but Jesus! He is the end, not the means.
Solus Christus. We will call people to faith in Christ, and Christ alone. There is no hope to be found in our good works - even the ones produced by sanctification.
We will preach Christ from all of scripture. All of scripture (old and new testaments) speak of Jesus, and so every sermon is a gospel sermon. As Spurgeon said: ‘No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.’
Christ is the basis of our unity. Our unity comes ultimately from our shared union with Jesus rather than any theology, ecclesiastical preference, or shared social status.
There is no hope for life or salvation outside of Jesus. It is in Christ alone that we can know God and therefore it is Christ alone who must be held out to the people of Halifax. It is only because of Christ’s work on the cross that we may know Him and be brought into union with Him through the work of his Holy Spirit.
What use is a church that proclaims Christ if it is not engaged with the world? Too often the church is thought of as a place Christians retreat into to be closer to Jesus, rather than being a people who bring Jesus closer to the world. The church was never meant to be a retreat for the redeemed, but a missionary movement that walks boldly in the world to which it has been sent.
In John 17 when Jesus prays for his disciples, he speaks of them as those ‘who are not of this world’, but who are nevertheless sent into it. His prayer is not that the Father would take them out of the world, but that he would equip them to be in the world so that the world would hear the gospel.
In the same way we seek to be a church that is not removed from the people of Halifax, but is culturally engaged with them. We will work to meet people where they are, not only physically in their places of work and leisure, but also philosophically and spiritually in order to preach Jesus. We want to be distinctive of course - but not because of what we wear, the places we go, or a set of approved words and behaviours - no - we want to be distinctive on no other grounds than Faith and obedience to Christ.
Theology is an incredibly important part of a church’s life. If we say we want to be Christ Centred, and Culturally Engaged - the question must then be, what Christ are we proclaiming? We of course look to scripture to answer that question as we stand firm on Sola Scriptura, but how do we understand scripture? What do we believe are the fundamentals of Christian truth? This is where creeds and confessions help us. Creeds and confessions are tools that distill theological truth and keep us from error.
The Church’s final and ultimate authority is the Word of God. There are, however, explanations of biblical doctrine which have served the church throughout its history. The classic and Reformed confessions/creeds of the church have been born out of moments of much-needed clarity. They have also helped the church define orthodoxy, informed its worship and provided it with a trusted exposition of the Gospel of Christ. While they are not inspired, or authoritative, they are helpful.
We believe that clearly setting out the church's theology not only guards us from error, but also ensures there is not theological confusion or dissatisfaction in the church. This church will be reformed and baptistic, and so will use the '1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith' alongside other historic creeds and confessions such as the Nicene Creed, to assist us in our pursuit of reformed orthodoxy. We do not want to be moving away from Christianity to something novel and new, but back to the old, to the centre of things.
To be confessional means that we are committed to the idea that the historic confessions of the church represent a summary of the teaching of the bible on key points such as who God is, who Christ is, what justification means etc. A confession does not include teaching supplemental to scripture, or independent of it, but should summarise what is already there in scripture itself.
These three characteristics will shape and define the type of church we are seeking to be. Faithful to God's word, focussed on Jesus and Missional - living with the lost while pointing them to Jesus.