Our family has been privileged to vacation several times at a getaway mountain retreat, long owned by my daughter in law's family. The property, which includes a big two story house, is at a place called Cloverlick. It sits beside the Greenbrier River in the beautiful mountains of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
Our grandchildren love to swim and play in the shallow waters of the river. They have caught numerous bluegills, and small mouth bass in the deeper areas of its cool waters. and trapped many a crawfish near its banks. I have always been impressed by the purity of the water there. Fish are easy to spot, and one can usually see clear to the round stones and river gravel lying in the bed of the stream.
Sometimes, however, the waters get muddied. Perhaps it is because of recent storms and flooding. Other times it may result from someone stirring up the bottom, thereby creating clouds of mud and silt. It is always comforting when the cloudiness subsides, and the clarity returns to the stream.
At times, our spiritual lives get cloudy. It spreads into our church, and one finds himself wondering if we may have lost clear perspective of our mission. The cloudiness and murkiness of lost vision begs answer to the questions, "Just who exactly are we?" and "What on earth are we here for?" It is then that we need to let the sediment settle, look through the clear waters of the Word of God into the workings of His church and get a renewed and clear perspective of just who we are.
I am amazed as I look around us, and as I look into our own community of faith at times. I read a church website yesterday and was puzzled by exactly who they were and what they stood for. One quote said, "We don't care as much about doctrine as we do about people." I find that shocking. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. That means people - all people. He is concerned about them and so should we be. We should be concerned that without Christ, people are lost. They have no hope. If that is the case, then we MUST care about doctrine - Bible Doctrine! It is the Word of God that shows us our lost state. The Holy Spirit uses it to convict us of sin and to show us the Savior. If we care about people, we must care about sound doctrine. Friends, there is a lot of false doctrine out there, and God's church must speak with a clear voice.
As pastor of Westmoreland Baptist Church, I want to share a clear vision with you today, regarding just who we are (and in some cases, what we are not!)
We are a brotherhood - but not a fraternal organization.
We are a body of believers - not a building or a campus of buildings.
We are followers of Christ - not followers of men.
We are called to be fishers of men - not keepers of the aquarium.
We are to Magnify God - and not ourselves.
We are called to Make Disciples - not to be "seeker sensitive".
We are called to Minister to People - not to market our organization.
We are a Church - not a community center.
We are here to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with Lost people - not the "unchurched" (after all, nobody will ever enter Heaven by being "churched", but only through faith in Jesus Christ)
We are called to develop Christ followers - not to "gain members".
We do this by proclaiming the Word of God - not by tickling ears and providing "warm fuzzies".
Our preaching and teaching must be done in the anointing of the Spirit - not through human wisdom and gimmicks.
Our message is Grace - not the extremes of license nor legalism.
We hold a high view of Scripture
We believe in its inspiration
We believe its principles are unchanging
We believe that people are hopelessly lost without Christ
We believe in a literal Heaven and a literal Hell
We believe that God hates sin, but loves the Sinner
We believe that Jesus died to pay the debt for our sins.
We believe that He rose from the dead.
We are commanded to Go with the Gospel
We believe the Great Commission
We support missions through giving, going, and doing.
We practice believer's baptism by immersion
We open our doors to anyone who wishes to attend our services.
We expect our members to be regenerate, to be committed to an ever closer walk with God, to take part in the ministry of the church, and to support it with their presence and their finances.
We expect our leaders and teachers to exhibit Christlike behavior.
We seek to honor God
We want our members to practice prevailing prayer
We will not be bound by empty traditions, but we will also not fall for every fad that comes along.
We will seek to communicate the gospel clearly without old "religious jargon" or the latest "buzzwords".
We do not exist to tout nutritional programs - we are here to offer The Bread of Life!
Worship honors God. It's all about pleasing Him, and not about pleasing ourselves.
Worship is not about any certain type or style of music.
Worship is NOT entertainment.
We want the Holy Spirit to lead in our lives and in our meetings.
The Church is the Body of Christ made up of individual members.
We don't "go to church" or "do church", we must "be the church".
We believe God calls us to be holy. (that message seems to get lost in much of popular theology)
We believe that Christians are eternally secure in Christ.
We believe that Jesus is coming again - and probably very soon.
We believe that judgement is final, and eternity is forever!
Our message must never change.
Our methods to deliver it must be able to change as needed.
Our power will come from prayer and not from programs.
We want to be culturally and ethnically diverse - but one body in Christ.
We will not yield to a hierarchy.
The local church is above every denominational entity.
We practice congregational polity.
We choose to associate with other like minded congregations for the purpose of missions.
We will take orders from no one individual or office.
We will not depend on denominational ties for our identity.
The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not here for partisan politics and there is no place for that in the pulpit.
We will stand firm for Biblical and moral truths and proclaim them publicly, but we must be reminded that Almighty God does not ride on the backs of Donkeys or Elephants!
We will pray for the leaders of our nation, state, and community.
God's church has no need to employ lobbyists.
If a Sovereign God cannot "turn the heart of the King", what results could we possibly expect from a guy in Gucci shoes, gladhanding Senators and Congressmen, or being a talking head on cable news channels?
We are a church!
It's not my church. It's not your church. It's Christ's church.
His church is built on the Rock, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
It's a church that cares about children, teenagers, young adults, middle agers, and old folks alike!
It's a church that (like God) does not wish to see any perish, but for all to come to repentance.
We are a church!
A 96 year old church.
A church that was planted as a mission in Westmoreland in 1915.
Our mother church is gone, but we are still here.
We're a church with a great past, and a bright future.
A church that has successfully planted other churches in nearly a century of ministry in this community.
But it's a church that needs to get healthy today, to put on it's big boy britches. and get back to the basics we have been called to do!
We Baptists have done a great job of telling the world what we are "against". Perhaps it's time we let it be known what we are for.
We're for repentance. For grace, mercy, love, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship, and holiness!
We are for Christ - and it's all about Him!
Just for the record, that's who we are.
With God's Grace and His help, we hope to be busy at the work until the whole world hears, or until Jesus comes again.
Are you with me?