My Kind of Church
If someone asks you what kind of Church you go to, what do you tell them? What should your answer be?
The answer is that we at the First Congregational Church of Zephyrhills (FCCZ) are an Evangelical and Reformed Congregational Church.
We are Evangelical
As a Church body we believe in the necessity of evangelism, but please do not be confused. Evangelism is not a method or a program. Often, When the word is mentioned, people get mental pictures of putting up a tent, going door to door, waving a Bible on a street corner and so on. Some of these methods are valid ways to reach those who need to hear, but at the heart of the matter, is the idea of building relationships between people and God. If you are a Christian – you are to be an evangelist.
So what is an Evangelist?
By definition, an evangelist is "a preacher of the Gospel." In the Bible, Jesus gives a command to His disciples that carries down to our generation. "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15).
The Gospel, the good news, at it's core is simply the fact that Jesus Christ died on a cross for the sins of all mankind and rose again on the third day. Because of this single act of love and mercy on the part of God, we have the opportunity and privilege of coming into a personal relationship with Him.
Declaring the Gospel then, is a job given to every Christian, but we can hardly preach the good news of Jesus Christ if we do not know any unbelievers. How many non-Christians do you know? If you do not have any contact with non-Christians, look for an opportunity to make contact with a neighbor, co-worker, or someone else.
We Christians are in this world to make a difference, spiritually through evangelism and socially through holy living and humanitarianism.
We are Reformed
What is a Reformed Church?
Broadly speaking, Reformed theology includes any system of belief that traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. Of course, the Reformers themselves – Martin Luther and John Calvin - traced their doctrine to Scripture, as indicated by their credo of “sola scriptura,” so Reformed theology is not a “new” belief system but one that seeks to continue apostolic doctrine.
Generally, Reformed theology holds to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace through Christ, and the necessity of evangelism. It is sometimes called Covenant theology because of its emphases on the covenant God made with Adam and the new covenant which came through Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20).
Authority of Scripture. Reformed theology teaches that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, sufficient in all matters of faith and practice.
Sovereignty of God. Reformed theology teaches that God rules with absolute control over all creation. He has foreordained all events and is therefore never frustrated by circumstances. This does not limit the will of the creature, nor does it make God the author of sin.
Salvation by Grace. Reformed theology teaches that God in His grace and mercy has chosen to redeem a people to Himself, delivering them from sin and death.
Other distinctives of Reformed theology generally include the observance of two sacraments - Baptism and Holy Communion.
We are Liturgical
I heard someone say we are a liturgical church, but I'm not sure what this means. And I'm not sure it means what the folks who use that word think it means.
In my experience, the people who use it might mean: "We are not one of those new age, fad-following churches”, but what exactly does it mean for a church to be liturgical?
The Work of the People
The meaning of the word liturgy, comes from the Greek and means the work of the people. It is the stuff God's people all do when they gather to worship. It refers to the words and actions, the songs and symbols that comprise the worship of the whole people of God. If you worship on Sunday, and you aren't just attending a show; if you are actually participating - whatever you're doing is the "liturgy."
It also means that the service of worship is done in a decent, orderly and logical way. This means that a congregation's worship is "liturgical" if those doing the worshiping really understand who they are and what they're doing. They are not passive spectators observing rituals; rather, they are active participants.
We are Congregational
What does it means to be a Member of a Congregational Church?
Congregationalism came to America on the Mayflower to reestablish a Church on the New Testament pattern – a fellowship of persons who freely choose to be followers of Jesus Christ. The earliest Christians believed that wherever two or three were gathered together in the Name and Spirit of Jesus Christ, that Christ would be there with the (Matthew 18:20).
The Mayflower Pilgrims also gathered together freely, committing themselves to worship and serve together as the Spirit of God moved them. In matters of faith they accepted full responsibility for their personal relationships with God in Christ and allowed no outside authority to dictate how they should believe, worship or serve God.
Congregationalists expect each member to have a personal relationship with God as the motivating force in his or her life. The purpose of the Church is to help us grow in our relationship with God and our expression of God’s love in our lives.
What it Means to Be a Member
To be a Church member is to recognize our commitment to God as God is made known to us in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We choose to be counted with those whose purpose is to build a more Christian community.
To be a Church member is to enter a dedicated fellowship; growing in our understanding of Christ, sharing each other’s burdens and joys, and serving others in Christ’s Spirit. These are all part of a living fellowship of those who follow Christ.
Being part of our Congregational Church family means being surrounded by a group of caring people who help us up when we fall and who give us opportunities to serve God. As we serve others and are served in return, we rediscover and grow in our faith in Christ.
My Church is not a Building, though it often meets in one. My church is not a club, though it is a community one gathered in Christ with great conviction.
My Church is a Fellowship of Like-Minded Souls. Its members are united by a shared conviction, great purpose, and life-changing community –
The conviction that God is eager to share the road of life with us as we share the Life Giving Gospel of His Son
The purpose to build personal character modeled after Jesus Christ
and community that reflects the Kingdom of God.
Because we share this conviction, purpose and community, our Church is extraordinarily responsive to God’s will as we come to know it.
My Church is a Living Church. Its focus is Jesus’ focus – on ministering to others and living our faith. My church is a Church that values the past and dreams of the future, but lives in the present.
My Church is a Thinking Church. You don’t have to check your brain at the door to be a member of our Church. The Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15 . . . sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear.
The biblical term for defense is apologia in the original language. While it may sound very similar to the English word apology, this is not the meaning of the Greek word. Apologia simply means – a reasoned answer – a legal defense. From apologia, we get the term Apologetics – the branch of Christian theology that deals with the intellectual defense of the Christian faith. This discipline requires considerable study and research in order to gain an expertise in defending the faith against skeptics and atheists who would try to dismantle the Bible and Christian thought. In this text however, Peter is not calling everyone to defend their faith in that manner, but in the sense of a defense for the hope that every believer has in Christ. So in this sense, Apologetics is something every true believer is to be involved in!
In our text, Peter is not recommending you be able to defend your faith; he’s commanding you to do this – first, "by sanctifying Christ as Lord in your hearts;” second, “by always being ready to make a reasonable answer to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you;” and third, “by doing it with gentleness and reverence.
My Church is a Church of the Spirit. It puts people first – before programs, committees, or things. It is a Church which seeks the highest, but humbly and fearlessly follows God’s Light as God gives us the ability to see the Light.