Who we are & who we strive to be
Our theme for the 2022-23 ministry year is horticultural:
These three words provide a great framework through which to express our identity.
These are affirmations & aspirations — who we are & who we strive to be.
- … IN CHRIST. First and foremost, we are a Christian community. We believe Jesus Christ to be God in the flesh, the Redeemer of all people, and the living Lord of all creation (Col. 1:15-20). We want Christ to dwell in us and us in Christ (John 14:20, Eph. 3:16-17, Col 1:27-28). He is the True Vine and we are the branches, rooted in Him (John 15).
- … IN GRACE. We are treasured beyond measure by a mercy that does not depend on our own worthiness. We cannot earn God’s favor, but can only receive it as an undeserved gift. By grace alone, God establishes a relationship with us. We want to be deeply rooted in that grace (Eph. 2:1-10, Acts 15:11, Rom. 3:24, Gal. 2:16).
- … IN OUR BELOVEDNESS. Christ walked freely in this world because he was secure in his identity as the beloved Son of God (Mt. 3:13-4:11). He also gave us power to become children of God (Jn1:12-13, Rom. 8:14-17). We want to be rooted in that identity: We are beloved sons and daughters of God. That’s who we are and Whose we are (Col. 3:12).
- … IN THE WORD. God chose to reveal himself through the Holy Scriptures. We want to be so deeply rooted in God’s Word that its stories, poetry, and instructions guide every aspect of our lives (Deut. 8:3, Psalms 1, 19, & 119, Isaiah 55:6-11, 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
- … IN THE REFORMED TRADITION. We are unabashedly rooted in a theological movement that started in the 1300s. In an effort to reform a wayward church, various people laid out the basics of the Christian faith and called Christianity back to its roots. We resonate with the convictions they articulated, carry on the traditions they established, and desire to be ‘Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda,’ that is, ‘the church reformed, always reforming,’ according to the Word of God. (Prov. 13:20, Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 4:1-3)
- … IN A LOCATION. For almost 75 years, our church has occupied a space on Front Street. Over the years, we have acquired an entire block at the corner of Garfield & Front. Based on the centrality of our location and an abundance of space, we are proud to partner with many ministries that serve God’s Kingdom in the Grand Traverse region. We’re rooted here and want those roots to grow deeper still.
- … IN THE MYSTERY OF GOD. In our sinful, broken, and finite state, we cannot grasp the full mystery of God and cannot make claims to know God’s will perfectly (Isaiah 55:8-9, Rom. 11:33-36, Eph. 1:9, Eph. 3:1-13). We don’t have it all figured out and we never will. Sometimes, we simply revel in God’s ineffable glory.
- … BY THE SPIRIT’S POWER. God not only wants us to know Christ, but also to grow in Christ (Mk 4:1-20, 2 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 6:1-8). The Holy Spirit is the one who spurs that growth (Rom. 8:1-11). Thus, we seek Spiritual formation as a hallmark of our walk with Christ. We put time and resources into ensuring that we are open to the Spirit’s influence, much in the way clay is formed by a potter (Jer. 18:1-6, Isa. 64:8).
- … IN MATURITY. Although Christ has secured life for us in the age to come, God also has desires for us in this present life; namely, an ever-increasing maturity where we become who he has created us to be (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 4:13, John 10:10, John 17:3, Eph. 3:18-19). Becoming is not living up to an expectation so much as it is living into an identity. We nurture that becoming and similarly, promote growth through the stages of faith, so helpfully laid out in The Critical Journey (see diagrams here, here).
- … THROUGH RELATIONSHIPS. We’re made in, through, & for relationships—first with God, then with others (Gen. 1:26-28, Mt. 22:34-40). Through these relationships, God grows us into the people we are supposed to become (see the “one another” verses).
- … VIA SUBTRACTION. Many discipleship efforts are merely additive—i.e., they add more prayer, more Bible study, & more religious events. We believe the key to significant growth is subtraction—i.e., we need to shed lies we’ve believed, break sinful patterns we engage, and uproot cultural norms that don’t reflect God’s design (John 15:2, Phil. 3:12-17, Hebrews 12:3-11). We don’t merely want to store information; we want to experience re-formation (John 8:31-36).
- … IN AUTHENTICITY AND VULNERABILITY. In order for growth to take place, we need to bring our full selves into God’s glorious light so that His grace can transform us (Gen 3:8, Eph. 5:11-14, 1 John 1:5-10). Left to our own devices, we rarely bring things out of the darkness. So, as a community, we seek to cultivate spaces of simultaneous challenge, vulnerability, & safety. Such spaces are uncommon, but they are the ‘good soil’ where relationships grow and seeds of faith flourish (Mk 4:1-20).
- … INTO GOD’S GRAND STORY. Human beings are ‘story’ people. We enjoy reading, watching, hearing, and telling stories. We are prone to believe many stories that are untrue—stories about ourselves, others, life, and God (Gen. 3:11). One of God’s greatest aims is to re-story us so that we inhabit God’s story. That’s why the Bible includes so much narrative and why Jesus taught using stories (Mt 13:10-17)
- … WITHIN THE MYSTERY OF GOD. It is a profound mystery how we grow in Christ. (1 Tim. 3:16) One of the greatest resources for this growth is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. By a profound mystery, we not only remember Christ’s sacrifice, but commune with Christ, get a foretaste of what is to come, and much more.
- … THE FATHER’S GIFTS. We believe that it is by no merit of our own that we become children of God. Thus, we are not to hoard the gifts the Father has lavished on us, but are called to share those gifts generously. We are blessed to be a blessing. (Gen. 12:1-3, Eph. 2:8-10, 1 John 4:11) Just as God loves us, we are called to love others (Jn 13:34, 15:12, 17; Ro 13:8; 1 Th 3:12, 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 4:7; 2 Jn 5)
- … IN GOD’S ONGOING WORK. God’s Reign is inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated. Until it comes in full, we are invited to participate in its ongoing-coming-to-fulfillment. We want our present actions to reflect the values of that future reality. (Isa. 9:2-7, 65:17-25, Micah 6:8, Luke 4:14-21, Col. 1:15-20)
- … THE GOOD NEWS. We follow a risen Savior who has ascended to the right hand of the Father to be Lord over all. This is good news because this King is righteous and just. He intends to reconcile all things. We are called to share the good news, the gospel, everywhere we live, work, and play. (Mt. 13:1-23, Rom 10:8-15, 1 Cor. 9:19-23, 2 Tim. 4:1-5)
- … THROUGH ACTS OF SERVICE. We are called to serve as Christ served (Mk 10:43-45) and Jesus could hardly be more clear about the need to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison (Mt. 25:31-46). Therefore, we share God’s riches in similar ways: sponsoring a community meal, supporting Safe Harbor, and housing both Love Thy Neighbor and Keys to Freedom on our campus (Isaiah 58). To see our ministry partners, visit this page.
- … IN HOLISTIC WAYS. Too often, Christians have focused exclusively on evangelism or exclusively on service—one to the neglect of the other. We want to defy that unhealthy dichotomy by being people who seek God’s will in all aspects of life. (Mt. 6:9-10) We cannot do that without sharing in both word and deed (Mt. 28:18-20, James 2:14-19).
- … LOCALLY, NATIONALLY, AND GLOBALLY. God calls us to be his witnesses in our neighborhoods, communities, and throughout the world. (Mt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8) Therefore, we support God’s ongoing mission by working with local, national, and global partners to share God’s grace (Ph. 1:3-5, John 17:20-23, Eph. 4:1-5). To see our mission partners, visit this page.
- … GOD’S MYSTERIES. As we share our faith in both word and deed, we make no apology for the fact that our actions may seem a mystery to those outside the faith (1 Cor. 2:6-7, 4:1-2, Eph. 6:18-20). We trust that God’s wisdom is greater than our finite understanding and thus, our faith may come across as counterintuitive, paradoxical, and downright disruptive (1 Cor. 1:18-25).