The following is from an old blog post by Pastor Tony Phelps.  It will help introduce you to some of our distinct commitments as a church.


Christless Christianity

Wow, it's dusty in here!  Haven't posted anything in a loooooong time.  So what's motivating me to break my blogging silence?  Michael Horton's new book,Christless Christianity (published by Baker Books). I highly recommend it.  Last night, I read two choice paragraphs that I wanted to share here.  

Christless christianity cover

When newcomers visit Christ Our Hope, things may seem a little different, a little foreign - especially to those who may have some history in evangelical church life.  What makes us different?  Why do we worship the way we do?  Why is the sermon shaped the way it is?  Why all this talk about Christ and the Gospel?  We're already believers, after all.  In these two paragraphs, Horton lays out two different visions of church life, which may help clear things up!

These paragraphs are from Chapter 6, "Delivering Christ - The Message and the Medium," pp. 189-191.

"Imagine two scenarios of church life.  In the first, God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and make alive.  The emphasis is on God's work for us - the Father's gracious plan, the Son's saving life, death and resurrection, and the Spirit's work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ.  The preaching focuses on God's work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama.  Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God's people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God's Word will be clearly proclaimed.  In this preaching, the people once again are simply receivers - recipients of grace.  Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord's Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven.  As this gospel creates, deepens, and inflames faith, a profound sense of praise and thanksgiving fills hearts, leading to good works among the saints and in the world throughout the week.  Having been served by God in the public assembly, the people are then servants of each other and their neighbors in the world.  Pursuing their callings in the world with vigor and dedication, they win the respect of outsiders.  Because they have been served well themselves - especially by pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons - they are able to share the Good News of Christ in well-informed and natural ways.  And because they have been relieved of numerous burdens to spend all of their energy on church-related ministries throughout the week, they have more time to serve their families, neighbors, and coworkers in the world. 

"In the second scenario, the church is its own subculture, an alternative community not only for weekly dying and rising in Christ but for one's entire circle of friends, electricians, and neighbors.  In this scenario, the people assume that they come to church primarily to do something.  The emphasis is on their work for God.  The preaching concentrates on principles and steps to living a better life, with a constant stream of exhortations:  Be more committed.  Read your Bible more.  Pray more.  Witness more.  Give more.  Get involved in this cause or that movement to save the world.  Their calling by God to secular vocations is made secondary to finding their ministry in the church.  Often malnourished because of a ministry defined by personal charisma and motivational skills rather than by knowledge and godliness, these same sheep are expected to be shepherds themselves.  Always serving, they are rarely served.  Ill-informed about the grand narrative of God's work in redemptive history, they do not really know what to say to a non-Christian except to talk about their own experiences and perhaps repeat some slogans or formulas they may be hard-pressed to explain.  Furthermore, because they are expected to be so heavily involved in church-related activities (often considered more important even than the public services on Sunday), they do not have the time, energy, or opportunity to develop significant relationships outside the church.  And if they were to bring a friend to church, they could not be sure that he or she would hear the gospel."  

The first scenario Horton has described is a classical Reformed understanding of worship and the means of grace - where we come in faith to receive from God, through Christ, by the Spirit.  The second scenario is a thumbnail sketch of the evangelical landscape.  Our church aims to live out the first scenario (though imperfectly, no doubt).  So the fact that some who have only known the second scenario might find things a bit "different" at Christ Our Hope is not surprising!

On page 196, Horton offers a helpful table which presents the differences between what I've labeled broad evangelicalism and Reformed Christianity in "the mission and methods of delivering Christ."  

Evangelicalism Reformed Christianity
Law-Lite                                      The Gospel
God as Life Coach                       God as Judge & Justifier
Good Advice (Doing)                   Good News (Done)
Christ as Example                        Christ as Savior
The Bible as Instruction                The Bible as Unfolding Mystery
Manual                                          of Christ
Sacraments as Means                   Sacraments as Means of Grace
of Commitment
The Church as Self-Help               The Church as Embassy of Grace

Resource (focus on our                (focus on God's service/ministry)
We Ascend to God                      God Descends to Us
We Send Ourselves                     God Sends Us

'Nuff said.  Please, take up & read!