ASSIMILATION AND CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
The Scriptures reference the “church” in two ways: universal (Christ-followers all over the world) and local (a group of Christ-followers committed to gathering in a specific location under elder leadership). Letters were written to believers committed to local churches (Colossae, Ephesus, etc.) and elders were charged with shepherding the specific group entrusted to them (Ac. 20:29-30; 1 Pt. 5:2). Evidences of local church membership can be seen where a numerical count was taken of those that professed faith in Christ (Ac. 2:37-47), where deacons were selected to address specific problems (Ac. 6:1-6), where church discipline was practiced (1 Co. 5:1-12), where the use of spiritual gifts by members for ministry is encouraged (1 Co. 12) and where boundaries for benevolence were set (1 Ti. 5:3-13). Vanguard Bible Church places a high value on church membership because it enables the elders to know whom they are responsible to provide care, discipline and direction. It also helps the church be more organized and run more efficiently by defining who can be counted on and who is eligible for leadership positions. Being committed to a local covenant community provides the following benefits for believers:
- It identifies you as a genuine believer. (Ro. 12:5; Eph. 2:19)
- It provides a family to encourage your personal walk with Christ. (Heb. 10:24-25)
- It provides a place to use your spiritual gifts and be blessed by the gifts of others. (1 Co. 12:4-27)
- It provides a place to come under the spiritual protection of godly leaders. (Heb. 13:17; Ac. 20:28-29)
- It provides a family to keep you accountable so you can grow. (Ga. 6:1-2; 1 Th. 5:14)
Vanguard Bible Church places a high value on church membership because it protects our unity, strengthens our culture and encourages healthier relationships.
BAPTISM AND LORD’S SUPPER
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances required in the church. We believe that Christian baptism by immersion in water is a public identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Although baptism is not required for salvation, it is commanded of all believers and is for believers only (Mt. 28:19-20; Ac. 2:38, 41;18:18). Scripture shows that baptism by immersion should follow an individual’s decision to repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ for salvation. The waters of baptism are a symbol of death, burial, and resurrection to newness of life that happens when a person becomes a new creation in Christ (Col. 2:12; 2 Co. 5:17; Ro. 6:1-4). The Lord’s Supper is the celebration and remembrance by believers of Christ’s sacrificial death through the bread and the cup. Partaking of the bread and the cup should be preceded by a time of self-examination and confession of sin (Ac. 4:13; Ro. 6:3-6; 1 Co. 11:20-29). Neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper provide salvation. Instead they are steps of obedience practiced by those that have already been born-again.
SOVEREIGNTY, SALVATION AND SECURITY
The Scriptures teach two clear tension points regarding the process through which individuals are saved. On the one hand, it is God’s divine decision to save a person (Jn. 6:37, 44, 65; Ro. 8:29-30; 9:11-18; Ac. 13:48; 16:14; Eph. 1:4-6; 2:8-9; 1 Pt. 1:3). It is also God’s kindness, forbearance and patience that lead a person to repentance (Ro. 2:4). On the other hand, the Scriptures also teach that each person is responsible to embrace or reject Jesus Christ as Savior and that God welcomes all who come to Him by faith apart from works (Mt. 22:1-14; Lk. 15:7; 20:9-18; Jn. 6:37; 7:37; Ro. 10:9-13; Ac. 16:30-34; 17:30). Both of these two truths — God’s sovereignty in salvation and man’s decision to embrace Christ — are taught in the Scriptures. Their co-existence is a mystery and is completely understood only in the mind of our omniscient God. All glory for the salvation of every believer belongs to God alone (Ro. 3:21-31; Eph. 1:7-9; 2:8-9, Jud. 1:24-25). Those who are truly born of God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ persevere in the faith (Mt. 13:13; Jn. 15:4-8; 2 Th. 1:4; 1 Ti. 4:16; 2 Ti. 2:10-13; 1 Jn. 4:13; 2 Jn. 9). God is faithful to those that are truly His own and empowers them to persevere in the faith (1 Co. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Co. 1:21-22; 1 Jn. 2:19-20).
The chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God by loving Him with the entire heart, soul, mind and might (Dt. 6:5; Is. 43:7; Mt. 22:37). All believing men, women and children are to glorify God and thus fulfill the purpose of their existence. Worship glorifies God through adoration (Ps. 95:6), praise (Ps. 99:5), prayer (Da. 6:10-11), thanksgiving (Ne. 12:46) and a complete yielding to Him (Ro. 12:1). Worship declares His worth, pays Him homage and celebrates Him in a life of devotion. We seek to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (Ex. 15:1-21; 2 Sam. 6:14-16; Ps. 5:7; Jn. 4:23-24; Rev. 4:11; 5:12).
Several tenets guide our worship. We seek to:
- Lift high the name of Jesus Christ (Jn. 4:22-26; 12:32; Ac. 4:12);
- Lead God’s people to lift their hearts and voices to Him, giving Him praise and thanks in music and lyric (Ne. 12:45-46; Ps. 66:1-4; 95:1-2);
- Prepare hearts to hear the Lord speak through the proclamation of Scripture (Ps. 95:6-9; Ac. 2:41-42; 2 Ti. 4:2)
- Learn fresh, contemporary expressions while retaining traditional elements that recognize the rich history of our faith (Dt. 32:7; Ps. 33:3; Is. 46:8-9; Mt. 13:32, Eph. 5:19; Rev. 5:9)
- Pursue excellence in worship, knowing that God is worthy of our best (Ex. 12; Dt. 17:1; Ps. 33:3, 1 Ti. 4:14-15; Heb. 11:4).
WOMEN IN MINISTRY
Vanguard Bible Church affirms the God-ordained and significant role that women should play in establishing and leading the local church. Every leadership opportunity is open to women except those that are excluded by Scripture. The Scriptures clearly state that men are to serve in the office of Elder and that women are not to serve in church positions in which they exercise authority over men or in which they teach doctrine to men (1 Ti. 2:12; 3:1-2; Tit. 1:6-9). We do not see this as an issue of equality, for men and women are equal under God. The Bible is clear that men and women do not have the same roles. Qualified women should serve in any leadership position that is not forbidden in the Scriptures.
CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT AND SIGN GIFTS
While we believe that the Scriptures do not teach that certain gifts have ceased, they indicate that use of the gifts vary according to the need that each gift meets. Vanguard Bible Church does not encourage the use of “sign gifts.” Instead, we seek to emphasize the more excellent way of love as well as zeal for the more edifying gifts (Eph. 4:11-12; Ro. 8:9-17; 12:4-8; 1 Co. 12:4-5, 11-26; 31; 13:1-13; 2 Co. 12:12; Ga. 5:22-26). Vanguard Bible Church is a non-charismatic, conservative, evangelical body that welcomes all who know Jesus Christ as their Savior and all who are seeking Him. Those who claim to possess the gift of tongues and other sign gifts are welcome to worship and fellowship with us if they are willing to be a source of unity rather than division within our church body. We believe that the Christian life is supernatural and that the Lord continues to perform miracles. We also believe that current displays of the gift of tongues distract from the main task of the local church, which is to glorify God through the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20).
Current displays of the gift of tongues:
- Give unwarranted prominence to the gift, which is described in the New Testament as being only one of many spiritual gifts (1 Co. 12)
- Emphasize speaking in tongues as the primary manifestation of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life, while minimizing the Spirit’s work in producing a holy life (2 Co. 3:17-18; 2 Ti. 1:9) and a life that displays the fruits of the Spirit (Ga. 5:22)
- Often suggest that speaking in tongues is a required proof of being Spirit-filled or of possessing salvation in Christ, even though the Scriptures do not teach this.
Vanguard Bible Church seeks to prevent the propagation of doctrines that would cause divisions within an individual church. Therefore, members to and adherents of Vanguard Bible Church are not to propagate the teachings and emphases of the current charismatic movement. Although we do not control personal, individual interactions with the Lord, the expression of tongues and other sign gifts are not to be overtly expressed at meetings that are under the organization and authority of Vanguard Bible Church.
CREATION & EVOLUTION
We believe God created the universe in six 24-hour days and that, before He created the universe, nothing except God existed (Ge. 1; Ex. 31:17; Ps. 33:6-9; Ac. 17:24; Heb. 11:3; Col. 1:16). God chose to create the universe and all that is in it to reveal His glory, divine nature, eternal power, infinite wisdom and supreme authority (Is. 43:7; Ps. 19:1-2; Je. 10:12; Ro. 1:20; Rev. 4:11). We deny the theory of evolution, which states that non-living substances gave rise to the first living material, which then reproduced and diversified to produce all living creatures. We believe that all people are descendants of Adam and Eve, whom God created personally, individually and as complete human beings (Ge. 1:26-27; 2:7; 2:21-22; 1 Co. 11:8-9). The fall of Adam and Eve infected all people with sin and death, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives the opportunity to receive God’s gift of eternal life. (Ro. 5:18-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22). We believe God still rules over His creation, cares about it and is involved in the lives of individual people (Jb 12:10; Ac. 17:25; 25:28; Eph. 4:6; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:13).
The Lord changes lives and accomplishes His purposes directly through reading and applying the Scriptures, meditating on the truths of the Scriptures and prayer. The Lord also uses those who minister His Word as they encourage, exhort, admonish, edify, implore, reprove, rebuke, console and support others toward godliness. God needs no new or unique insight into the human condition in order to change lives, regardless of whether that insight is gained through psychology or some other tool of human origin. Psychological theories that may help people live healthier and more effectively are embellishments of principles already revealed in the Scriptures. Although some forms of human wisdom are true, they are not the Word of God. They are infinitely subordinate to, and not to be compared with, the matchless value of the Scriptures (Ps. 119:160; Is. 40:8; Jn. 17:17). Problems that are approached by integrating the Scriptures with psychological theories tend to deceive individuals into diminishing the God of the Scriptures and into believing that He has not provided and cannot provide sufficient truth, insight and wisdom to change their lives (Col. 2:8-10). There are occasions when a medical doctor may diagnose a physical problem that manifests itself in attitudinal, behavioral or emotional struggles. In those occasions, the use of medications may be appropriate. The Lord’s church is a community of faith — a living body with Jesus Christ at the head (Col. 1:17-18) — that influences, supports and helps bring men, women and children into healthy relationships with the Lord and with others of the church. A healthy church body applies biblical principles to relationships at all levels, i.e. the overall church context, ministries within the church, families within the church and individuals within the church. God-honoring application of biblical principles throughout the church leads to healthier relationships at all levels (Eph. 4:14-16; Heb. 12:12-13). This application also helps ensure the integrity of the church’s corporate and individual witness to a watching world (1 Pt. 2:12).
Satan and his demonic servants viciously oppose the work God performs in and through His people (1 Pt. 5:8; Ge. 3:1-7; Eph. 6:12). God, who by His nature is infinitely more powerful than Satan, in due time will have complete and total victory over Satan (1 Jn. 4:4; Rev. 20:1-10). Although it is appropriate to pray in Jesus’ name for protection against demonic activity, the Scriptures do not instruct the Christian to “bind Satan in Jesus’ name.” Rather, the Scriptures instruct the Christian to combat Satan by:
- humbly drawing near to God, knowing that He will give grace, mercy and strength (2 Co. 12:7-9; Heb. 4:15-16; Jas. 4:8; 1 Pt. 5:6-10);
- resisting his temptations (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pt. 5:8-9);
- rightly applying the truth of the Scriptures (Mt. 4:1-11; Jn. 8:44; Eph. 4:24-27);
- forgiving offenses (2 Co. 2:10-11);
- putting on the armor of God’s truth, righteousness, readiness to share the gospel, faith, salvation and prayer (Eph. 6:11-20);
- demonstrating faithfulness to the Lord by enduring trials (Rev. 2:10, 13; 3:9-10).
MARRIAGE & HUMAN SEXUALITY
The Scriptures teach and require that marriage be reserved for and restricted to a union between one man and one woman (Ge. 1:27; Mt. 19:4-6; Ro. 1:26-27). God designed marriage between one man and one woman for four primary purposes: complementary partnership, relational intimacy, sexual fulfillment and multiplication (Ge. 1:27-28, 2:18, 2:23-25; 1 Co. 6:18, 7:9; Eph. 5:31). The Scriptures encourage and honor sexual intimacy only within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman (Mt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4).