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.
It is important first to affirm that men and women are created equally in the image of God and are therefore equal in personhood, importance, and dignity before God. As believers saved by the grace of God through the gospel, men and women are co-heirs of the grace of life, and neither can claim special status or privilege in the church. Moreover, all Christians are called to be vital and committed members of a local church and to use their gifts for the edification of the church and the glory of God.
All of this points to the vital role that women are to play in the church. However, in keeping with God’s created design, Scripture restricts women in one area: they are not permitted to teach or to have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12). The distinction between men and women is therefore not one of worth, but of role. The role differences between men and women reflect the differences in roles among the members of the Trinity and differences in the creation order (that is, man was created before woman, yet both are equal in the image of God). We therefore believe that all members of the church are to use their gifts for God’s glory, but that the leadership of the church is reserved for men.
Yet the leadership role is only a small portion of church life. Women in Sovereign Grace churches have vital roles to play in the building up of the church and the advancement of the gospel, as do men who are not pastors. Women are expected to cultivate their gifts, use them to the glory of God, and labor alongside their brothers for the cause of the gospel.
Complementary roles for men and women, including an honor and respect of women equal to that of men, contribute to the overall vitality of the church. Pastors are called to equip the church as a whole for the work of ministry, not to do all the work of the ministry. Because we are all focused on Christ and Him crucified, we all share in the joy of seeing the gospel advanced.
Do You Want To Know More? We support the complementarian position of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Two highly recommended books on the subject are Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, by Wayne Grudem (Multnomah), and Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper (Crossway). The latter is available as a free PDF download. You can also read the Danvers Statement, which Sovereign Grace supports.
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.).