To be an evangelical church first and foremost means that we strive to be faithful to and centered upon the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as God has revealed it in Holy Scripture (Rom. 1:1-7; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). God saved us through the gospel; he continues to transform us by the same gospel; and he means for the gospel to set the priorities of all we are both in confession and in practice (1 Cor. 9:19-23; 15:1-2; Col. 1:23). Historically speaking, this also means we uphold the essential truths of the Christian faith – such as the existence of the triune God, the complete deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, his virgin conception, his incarnation as the eternal Son of God, the pervasive sinfulness of all humanity, Christ’s substitutionary death as the only way of salvation, his physical resurrection, his sure and bodily return, salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and the infallibility and divine authority of the Bible – and seek to walk humbly in accordance with them.
To be reformed means that we stand with those saints throughout church history who joyfully affirm that God, the world’s Creator and King, is at the center of the gospel. The Bible reveals that God designs, preordains, creates, and controls everything to achieve his eternal purpose in Jesus Christ, so that he may receive all praise (Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 1:9). That is especially true in how God saves us: in our natural state, fallen people lack all power to believe the gospel; in love, God freely and unconditionally chose to redeem a countless multitude of sinners through Christ; with unwavering devotion, Christ died as an atoning substitute for their sins, securing them for eternal glory; and with unconquerable power, the Holy Spirit ensures that all of these so chosen not only believe the gospel, but also persevere till appearing before the presence of God’s glory with great joy. In short, being Reformed means being thoroughly God-centered in our view of God’s world and his purpose in grace, so that our hearts cannot help but worship, “To God alone be the glory!”
To be evangelistic means that we, as missionaries, are constrained by the love of Christ to extend the free offer of salvation to all people without distinction (Isa. 45:22; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 10:43; 17:30; 1 Cor. 1:18-25). God’s love indiscriminately offers to all people Christ in all his saving power through the gospel; and people must believe the gospel in order to be saved (John 3:16-21). Christian proclamation is God’s chosen mean by which sinners hear the gospel (Luke 24:47; Rom. 10:14-15; 15:20-21). Therefore, we plead with sinners to acknowledge God’ love for them in Christ so that they may not perish and we pray they will respond in repentance and faith (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 14:21; 1 Cor. 15:1-2). God’s sovereignty over everything, even salvation, does not compromise but compels our devotion to primary evangelism and discipleship, since his gracious will ensures that rebels will believe (John 10:16; Acts 13:48; 18:9; 2 Tim. 2:10; Rev. 5:9-10).
To be a Baptist church refers to our convictions about what the Scriptures teach on the nature, practice, and priorities of a local church (also known as our “ecclesiology”). At the very least, that means we affirm the autonomy of the local church, maintain regenerate church membership, employ the priesthood of all believers, and celebrate the two ordinances of Believers’ Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We also see the Great Commission as a cooperative effort, and so we partner with other Baptist churches for mission through the Cooperative Program, the International Mission Board, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Being a Baptist certainly does not mean that we alone have the edge on truth, but it is our humble contribution to practicing only what will promote further gospel faithfulness.
To be an elder-led church refers to how we practice church leadership. Subjecting ourselves to the Scriptures, our conviction is that each local church recognized, affirmed, and submitted to the leadership of biblically qualified elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17-21; Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; Jam. 5:14; Heb. 13:7,17). These elders provide the spiritual oversight of the congregation through prayerful submission to God’s word which expresses itself in the regular discipleship, leadership, protection, and care of God’s flock. In addition to corporate worship and personal meetings, the elders also lead the church in regular member’s meetings in which the congregation is able to interact with the elders regarding the work of ministry and the life of the church. Thus, we practice congregational involvement under the spiritual care of elders (e.g., Acts 15:2-6,22; 1 Tim. 5:19-20; cf. Matt. 18:17).
To be covenantal has to do with how we understand the function of the biblical covenants in bringing coherence and cohesion to the overall storyline of Scripture, defining and guaranteeing God’s relationship with man, and directing its Christ-centered focus. We believe that through the series of interrelated covenants God has revealed his purpose and will for mankind and all things. From Adam to the present day and into eternity, all who are truly God’s people receive forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation only on the basis of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, received only through faith in him. This unified, Christocentric, covenantal understanding of Scripture stands in intentional contrast to any system that would teach that God’s people in any previous era were to be saved by works.
To be complementarian means that we view men and women as created in the image of God and therefore being equal in both value and dignity, yet that in creation God designed men and women to have different roles within marriage and the church. These roles are designed by God and called ‘very good’ and are not the result of the Fall, but predate the Fall. (Gen. 2) In marriage, God calls husbands to lovingly lead and care for their wives, as Christ loved the church and died for her. God calls wives to lovingly submit to the leadership of their husbands, as to the Lord. (Eph. 5) In the church, God has called and equipped all believers for ministry and service in his kingdom, but has, in his wisdom, uniquely called and limited the office of elder to men. (1 Tim 2:12, 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)