Should We Reveal or Conceal our Doctrinal Distinctives?

reveal or conceal

By Chris Moore, Pastor at Vista Grande Baptist Church

We have been working on ways to help our new members and our regular attenders assimilate into our fellowship at Vista Grande Baptist Church. In addition to worship, we want them to connect, serve, and impact. One of our strategies has been to re-work our new members class and bring more emphasis to Discovering VGBC.

We plan to better explain why it is important and why we expect them to take the next steps at VGBC so they get involved and grow as disciples. We also plan to describe clearly how to take those next steps. Another key part of this class is sharing about who we are. To describe who we are, we must explain what we believe.

As I have been thinking about what doctrinal elements to include and exclude, I sense two extremes. On one hand, I don’t want to focus on non-essential issues. For example, a new member doesn’t have to understand the differences between pre-millenialism, post-millenialism, and amillennialism, and they don’t have to hold to one of these positions. We can agree to disagree on this issue.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be so general about our theological convictions that our new members don’t understand what makes us unique as a church. How are we different from other denominations or from other independent churches? If we are asking them to join, wouldn’t it make sense we explain who we are? And how can we explain who we are if we don’t explain what we believe?

Where is this line between too much doctrinal information and too little? And who gets to decide what is essential and non-essential? I believe the best resource to help answer these questions is our doctrinal statement, The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. We have this confessional statement that includes venerable language Baptists have affirmed for many years. This confessional statement allows us to be part of a biblical tradition much bigger than just VGBC.

I think we should lean on this document and use this document unapologetically to help explain who we are and what we believe. As I have gone through our confession of faith recently, I have highlighted some of the statements that stood out to me and I plan to include in our class. My goal is not to introduce unnecessary issues that are likely to divide. My hope is to explain in a loving manner who we are in a way that distinguishes us and unites us to a great tradition, the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Excerpts from the 2000 BF&M:

–“[The Bible] has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” 

–“[Jesus Christ] honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.”

–“Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God\’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

–“Being a church ordinance, it [baptism] is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord\’s Supper.”

–“The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.”

— “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

As you share with potential new members about your church, do you tend to reveal or conceal your core beliefs and distinctives?