CHURCH PLANTING FOUNDATION: DOCTRINE
Grace Baptist Church Aberdeen started gathering in the Spring of 2019 and constituted three months later. We are a small but growing church plant in an area of mixed deprivation in the third largest city in Scotland. It would come as no surprise that prior to the church plant beginning and following its launch, I have spoken with and read much literature about this topic and what would be the ‘key issues’ in such a ministry work. There are many, many areas of consideration, some that I could write at length about, much that I am still learning much about, but the purpose of this brief article is to stress the necessary foundation for any church, a church plant certainly included. That foundation is the church’s doctrine.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Following the sermon of the Apostle Peter at Pentecost, 3,000 people are cut to the heart, repent and are baptised for the forgiveness of their sins and then added to their number. This is the beginning of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and what they do next is significant. In Acts 2:42, they we see that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. The Christian now lives as a new creation, having turned from sin in repentance to Jesus Christ in saving faith. It is certainly true to declare that the Christian ‘loves Jesus Christ’, but as we can see throughout the New Testament, this love for Christ means studying and growing in the Scriptures, namely doctrine (Titus 1:9). The Scriptures are the Word of the Living God, it matters crucially to the Christian, and this is why what you believe as a Christian, matters. It is illogical and contradictory for the Christian to declare, ‘it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we worship Christ’ and some may go further and state that ‘doctrine divides’. Doctrine will divide truth from error, and doctrine must be the base for Biblical convictions to be established and consequently for doctrinal clarity to be the means of uniting Christians who come into fellowship in a local church.
In my church in Aberdeen, we could have experienced a much larger growth in numbers (and members) if we had been less clear and fuzzy in terms of what we believe. For example, on the second week of our church gathering, a visitor insisted that our church should teach about charismatic gifts being ‘for today’ and their importance in church life. I responded based on our church’s doctrine, there was clarity, and I was firm in stating that we will not be doing this. Have I ‘lost a brother’ here? If pragmatism is the foundation, then yes. If doctrine is, then no. The reason is because Biblical clarity will drive clear, consistent and strong church leadership, but more than that, it will ensure that the local church firmly stands upon and upholds what the Bible teaches. Therefore, in our church, every member has participated in an eight week membership course to clearly understand what our church believes and will teach and it means in application:
The whole counsel of God must be preached and is her authority.
Clarity about what the Scriptures say and what the church believes is crucial.
Sound doctrine gives an overarching Biblical framework in which to understand and interpret Scripture (particularly more complex passages) as well as then applying to (church) life.
The Scriptures should be taught for the sanctification of her members. Doctrine produces holiness.
Church members should be taught and discipled. This is how Jesus built His Kingdom by discipling men and sending them out.
Everyone is exposed to the same teaching, which can fuel conversation and fellowship amongst believers.
The basis for our sound doctrine is Scripture, and our church believes that the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith is an accurate summary of what the Bible teaches. I am thankful for gifted, Godly and confessional brothers who have and are contributing very helpful and insightful articles explaining the historical significance and contemporary relevance of our confession. This is also why I am excited to be working with my brother and friend, Daniel Funke, to release a new edition of our confession which has already received much support. The confession has been a blessing in giving great clarity to what I believe, personally, and has been foundational in establishing what my church believes, collectively, leading to a strong and slowly growing fellowship of believers who are zealous to worship the Lord and humble and ready to serve for the advance of His Kingdom.