There were many options before us in preparing a doctrinal statement for Trinity Evangel Church. We could have started from scratch, or fully adopted a creed or catechism or confession, or mixed and matched. After considering a few possibilities, we decided to start with one and tweak it. With their permission, we chose the Elder Affirmation of Faith from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, and then added/edited. The following provides some of the reasons we went this direction for detailing What We Believe.
Full of Scripture. Printed without the verses, this statement is less than ten pages. With the verses, the statement grows to over five times as long. Most statements provide references but leave the reader to look up the verses for himself. We loved the verses being readable as footnotes on the same page with the assertions. The online version maximizes the reading experience.
More than Less. As the Introduction to the statement explains, truth understood informs and excites worship and also grows and unites believers. Rather than drift toward the “lowest common doctrinal denominator,” we’re excited to embrace more. Certainly not everything we believe is contained in this statement, but reductionism isn’t the best way to acknowledge the greatness of our infinite God.
Precise and Personal. Not all statements of truth are created equal. We should present our beliefs with accuracy and with more than a “just the facts” attitude. In other words, doctrinal precision should not exclude personal warmth. Our God is three Persons, He created us as persons, and unites us as His people. Truth builds Christ-loving persons and people, not just Christ-correct sentences and paragraphs.
Gospel Storytelling. The flow of the statement asserts the God-Man-Sin-Salvation news. We are an evangel church, and believers never get over their need to grow in the gospel. How great, in addition, is a “what we believe” that works as a (longer) gospel tract for making disciples!
Emphasis on Sanctification. The longest section, by far, in the document concerns personal sanctification (including the section on living God’s Word by meditation and prayer). Some of the length is required to distinguish (and relate) justification and sanctification, but much of it connects to where all of us believers are now. The doctrinal statement itself is meant to strengthen our faith and pursuit of Christlikeness. As such, the emphasis on progressive sanctification fits well with our discipleship and shepherding purposes.
Reformed without (too many) Buzzwords. The cardinal doctrines of the Reformation are mixed throughout the statement, yet there are no Latin words or references to points on any particular flower. While we hold certain Reformed soteriological and doxological beliefs, the statement demonstrates that we are “still reforming” by distinguishing ourselves from certain Reformed eschatological and ecclesiological emphasis, especially as we differentiate Israel from the church and look toward the Millennial Kingdom.
Hopefully you’ll find the whole of this statement, in its parts, posture, and purpose, to the praise of His sovereign, glorious grace.