We attempt to answer many frequently asked questions here, but if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us.
At the core of our doctrine is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is our primary passion, both in our proclamation and in our daily lives. We are active and intentional about being a cross-centered, gospel-centered family of churches. Surrounding this core is an emphasis on sound doctrine. We describe our doctrine as being essentially Reformed, yet including a commitment to continuationist practice as biblically defined. Finally, we desire all these convictions to inspire a passion for the local church, the context where all believers are to grow in holiness, be equipped for service, and bear witness to the saving grace of God.
A helpful way to summarize our Reformed convictions is that we hold to a Reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). We believe that God is sovereign over all things, including the salvation of individual sinners, and that all things, including salvation, have as their ultimate goal the glory of God. Such a perspective keeps the gospel central and grace amazing.
We do believe and cherish the doctrines that historically have been called the TULIP (Total depravity; Unconditional election; Limited atonement or, perhaps more accurately phrased, particular redemption; Irresistible grace or, more accurately phrased, effectual calling; and Perseverance of the saints). However, we never want to focus on more narrow aspects of Reformed theology to the neglect of truths that are central and that we share with many other Christians. These truths include the gospel, sola fide (justification by faith alone), and sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as the sole infallible source of doctrine and authority).
While we believe that Reformed theology faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture, our ultimate theological commitment is not to a particular system of theology, but to theology that is biblical. We have no other boast but the cross of Christ.
Beyond this agreement on the general tenets of Reformed theology, there are a few aspects of doctrine and practice that are common to many Reformed traditions but to which we do not hold. These include infant baptism, cessationism (the belief that some miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased), and some traditionally Reformed types of church government.
While such a combination is not common, it is by no means theologically inconsistent. A cessationist perspective (i.e. a belief that the so-called sign gifts of the New Testament came to an end after the apostles) does not follow necessarily from the general tenets of Reformed theology. Indeed, a robust view of the sovereignty of God suggests that believers can expect to experience regularly what some theologians have called the active presence of God.
The insistence that gifts such as prophecy were limited to the apostolic age most commonly arises from entirely understandable concerns about the issue of revelation. Scripture is truly, and must remain, the only source of inspired, inerrant, authoritative revelation from God for the faith and life of the church. However, New Testament teaching regarding spiritual gifts in no way implies that the gifts necessarily endanger the role of Scripture in the church’s life. Our experience with spiritual gifts confirms this.
The best way to prevent the undermining of Scripture’s authority is, quite simply, to maintain and teach a high view of Scripture. Scripture must be allowed to function in a way that demonstrates that it is indeed God’s normative revelation for the faith and life of the church. This includes allowing Scripture to govern the use of spiritual gifts. We strongly believe that, when the use of gifts is tested and governed by Scripture, two things will happen: God’s people will be edified by the proper functioning of the gifts in accord with God’s purposes, and Scripture will be protected as the only authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice, and doctrine (see our Statement of Faith).
We hold to the continuity of all the spiritual gifts given to the church and referred to in Scripture. We find nothing in Scripture that suggests that these gifts have passed away or will pass away prior to Christ’s return. Rather, Scripture portrays these gifts as available to believers and vital to the mission of the church. We want to be obedient to Scripture’s commands, not simply to acknowledge spiritual gifts, but to earnestly desire them (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1).
Thus, we are continuationist in that we believe in the present-day work of the Holy Spirit in the many ways that the Spirit’s work is described and manifested in Scripture. However, we are careful to emphasize the broad work of the Spirit. We never want to be preoccupied with the more spectacular aspects of the Spirit’s work to the neglect of the countless ways in which the Spirit is at work in our lives. Most importantly, nothing could be more spectacular, miraculous, or powerful than God’s work of regeneration in a person’s heart.
Do You Want To Know More? There is an annotation to our Statement of Faith regarding the empowering of the Holy Spirit, which answers some more specific questions.
We believe that the biblical standard for church leadership, on any level or in any position, must include character and integrity, proven through humility and accountability. Gifting is certainly important, but it cannot qualify a man for ministry apart from sufficiently godly character.
We believe that the primary responsibility for identifying and training pastors lies with the local church. Using the same criteria mentioned above, pastors have the responsibility to identify and raise up into pastoral ministry men whose character and gifting appear to indicate a pastoral call on their lives (2 Timothy 2:2).
Recognizing the limited resources of many congregations, we seek to serve our churches with Sovereign Grace Pastors College. The college exists to train leaders for ministry within our churches and to support existing pastors with ongoing theological training. Men who display a pastoral call are recommended by their churches and then invited to attend the Pastors College. This is a ten-month program of rigorous academic training in Louisville, Kentucky.
Graduates of the Pastors College serve in a variety of capacities, from internships to staff positions to leading new church plants. After a period of observation and proven ministry, the apostolic team, in concert with the relevant pastors, oversees an ordination process that involves written and oral testing on the wide variety of biblical, theological, and practical concerns related to pastoral ministry.
As a church we are “complementarian” with respect to leadership in the church and in the home. This entails several key ideas.
First and foundationally, we believe from Genesis 1:26-28 that God created us “male and female” in his image. This underscores the common source (God the Sovereign Creator) and common essence of humanity (in God's “image” and “likeness”). Furthermore, he gave us a common mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…over every living thing that moves on the earth” (v. 28).
Second, we believe from Genesis 2:7-25 that God has also assigned different roles to men and women with respect to the family. The man is made first (cf. 1 Tim 2:13), placed in the garden to “work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15), and then given a direct command he is expected to keep (2:16-2:17). Yet, Genesis also tells us that “it is not good that the man should be alone,” and so the Lord says, “I will make him a helper fit for him” (2:18). Famously the woman is then made from the man while he is asleep. The woman is then presented to the man, who names her “Eve.”
Such symbolic actions communicate what is then explicitly taught in the rest of the Bible: “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph 5:23). For this reason, wives are to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22). The husband is not headless either, however! His head is Christ, and thus he is obligated to serve Christ by loving his wife and laying down his life for her, nourishing and cherishing her “just as Christ does the church” (5:25-33).
A third important idea is that the leadership of the man and submission of the woman is impacted by the fall but it is not a result of the fall. The fall makes complementarianism more challenging, but it does not create complementarianism. Genesis 1–2 predate the fall and are the foundation stones for all marriages after the fall.
The fall brings sin into the world and into every relationship, including marriages. Sin can tempt a husband to be a tyrant or a dishrag as a leader. Sin can tempt a woman to want to usurp the husband's authority or become a doormat and utterly passive. Christ desires for the husband and wife to be fully engaged, intelligent contributors, spiritually empowered, and actively involved in the relationship in all the ways God has gifted each of them. This is to be done within the structure of marriage designed by God.
Submission to another human is never absolute. Always there is an awareness that absolute and unconditional submission belongs exclusively to God himself. All other submission is relative and done only when such submission does not violate the commands of God: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) when it is impossible to do both.
Further, the husband's call to lead his family is in no way a license to be a tyrant, a dictator, or abusive in any way. When he does this, he is rejecting the lordship of Christ and should rightfully be challenged by the church and perhaps even reported to civil authorities. A wife should be protected by the church and the civil government when she is in danger from an abusive husband.
A fourth key idea with complementarianism is that it is also to be reflected in the church. The New Testament is clear on this: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12); an elder is to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6); a deacon is to be a man (Acts 6:3) and likewise the “husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:12). The fact the twelve apostles were men is an implicit statement as well. For this reason, elders and deacons at SGC are men.
Outside of the elder and deacon roles, the lines get fuzzier. Paul's injunction that a woman should not have authority over a man or teach men is important to us. Some ministry roles that are not elder or deacon positions in a church could place women in such a position over men. In such a ministry, the leadership role should be filled by a man. Our Sunday morning worship leader is one such example.
However, there are dozens of roles at SGC where a woman could have responsibility but not authority over a man. We eagerly desire women to utilize their gifts and callings in such roles. In fact, no church can ever achieve full maturity and joyful abundance without its women being actively serving with all their giftings and resources. The New Testament picture of a thriving church is one where each member is fully engaged and contributing to the body (Rom 12:3–8; Eph 4:7–16; 1 Cor 12:12–26). Women are essential for this potential to be realized.
A final key idea with complementarianism is that it is not a doctrine about drawing boundary lines and stifling people's creativity but about abundant life and biblical Christianity in its fullest and happiest and holiest way possible. God's commandments are not “burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Instead, they are life and health, light and strength. The happiest life is the holiest life. Complementarianism is good for men and women, because it is living according to God's design. It is reflecting in some way the peace and harmony of Eden itself, not taking our cues from the fallen world around us.
There is much to say on this important issue! But this at least explains some of our principles on the matter.
We believe baptism is properly administered to those who have placed faith in Christ. Baptism in water should be one of the first acts of obedience for new followers of Christ (Matthew 28:19). Being baptized publicly in water is a bold testimony to all who witness it that changes have occurred in our lives: first, that God has mercifully regenerated us, and second, that we have consciously turned away from our former way of life. Baptism does not save us; we have been saved by the substitutionary work of Jesus on our behalf. Nor does water baptism remove our sinful nature or regenerate our souls. Rather, baptism is a sign of our allegiance to Jesus, a declaration that we have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection.
As important as baptism is, we do not believe that it should be a source of contention among Christians. (We must, however, disagree firmly with a doctrine known as “baptismal regeneration,” inasmuch as this position endangers the gospel itself.)
While we do not believe in infant baptism, we wholeheartedly embrace as brothers and sisters in Christ the many Christians who sincerely hold this view (assuming, of course, commonality of the gospel and other core doctrines such as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, etc.).