What You Can Expect From Heritage Bible Church
When it comes to the local church, there are about as many ideas of what is important and what should be done as there are people in the church.
In response to questions from many people and with the desire to let you know what you can expect from us, here is an attempt to describe the things we stand for and how we go about doing what we do.
Questions and comments are always welcome.
THINGS WE ARE COMMITTED TO
There are some things we consider non-negotiable in the local church, which we endeavor to practice at all times. These form the basis for our ministry, and many of the things you see in the ways we carry on various ministries are because of our commitment to these things.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
We believe the Bible contains all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We believe that the Scriptures, accurately understood and applied, will equip every believer in Christ for every good work God desires to do in and through the believer (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:10).
For that reason, every ministry of the church focuses on the Bible. Different people of different ages and different circumstances have different needs, but all those needs are addressed in the Bible. That’s why we seek to mine the gems of the inexhaustible riches of God’s word in all our classes, in our small groups, and from the pulpit.
Expository Preaching and Teaching
“Expository” means that you expose something or put it on display. By “expository preaching” (or teaching) we mean that it is our duty and our calling to search out and to proclaim precisely what is in the Bible, and everything that is in the Bible.
When we prepare a sermon or a Bible study, we begin with the text of the Bible. Outlines are derived from what the text actually says, not from what the teacher or preacher wants to say. We don’t make up messages and then go look for Bible verses which support our points. We start with the Bible, and do our best to communicate what is there.
Most of the time, our preaching is in the form of series of messages from certain portions of Scripture, sometimes whole books, sometimes parts of books. Other times we may address certain subjects or themes in the Bible, but in every case what we preach and teach is our best effort to communicate what the words of the Bible actually say.
We put great emphasis into understanding and proclaiming the Bible in context. We must understand the historical context and the cultural background of each book of the Bible, and we must give rigorous attention to the grammatical forms and context of what is there. To ask “what does this mean to me?” is irrelevant until you have asked and answered “what does this mean, as God intended it for its original readers or hearers?”
Because of our deep commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture and the need for expository preaching and teaching, along with teaching the actual contents of the Bible, we work hard at helping Christians know how to study the Bible for themselves and we endeavor to help people know how to use the best available resources for studying the Bible.
Plurality of Leadership
The Bible describes two offices in the local church, elder and deacon. Whenever either of those are described in the setting of a local church, the words are always plural. From this and from the example of the early church in the book of Acts, we believe that every local church should have a plurality (more than one) of elders and deacons.
The elders are those who are entrusted with the oversight of all the ministries of the church (Acts 20:28), and they collectively serve as the shepherds of God’s flock. Elders must be mature believers who are recognized by fellow believers as meeting a number of criteria for spiritual maturity, character, and leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9).
Some among the elders are to be supported by the church, especially those who work hard and distinguish themselves in preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Their special calling is to preach the word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-2). These men are among the elders, but not superior to their fellow elders. They hold the same office (elder), but they are different only in the sense that they are supported by the church so they can be devoted to preaching and teaching and “ruling well.” See our church bylaws for how we further describe the pastors and the elders.
Deacons are men who meet similar qualifications of maturity and character (1 Timothy 3:8-13) and who serve hand-in-hand with the elders. The main difference in descriptions of the ministries of deacons and elders is that the elders are entrusted with the general oversight, including the doctrine and teaching, and the deacons are entrusted with the oversight of physical needs matters of practical organization. We agree with the traditional position that the first deacons are described in Acts 6:1-6.
The vast majority of those who become Christians do so before they become adults. For this reason, we concentrate much energy on equipping parents to train their children in the faith.
We also believe in reaching out to young people in their teen years. We strive to develop strong ministries to teenagers, equipping Christian young people to know the basis for their faith and to share it with others. These young people are a high priority and we will keep striving to reach more of them and to teach them the precious truths of God’s word.
We offer a variety of activities for youth, but the underlying motivation for our youth ministry is the same as all our other ministries: Our goal is to teach and preach the word of God in its context.
Spreading the Word
In addition to offering ministries in the church and for our churches, we reach out to others in as many ways as we can. We encourage our people to be involved in their communities in any way they can which affords them opportunities to influence other believers and to take the gospel to unbelievers.
We sponsor a daily radio program, Heritage Bible Radio, to model expository preaching and to help equip Christians who are not part of our church.
Some of our members carry on regular outreaches to senior citizens, to those in care facilities and to the Lighthouse Rescue Mission in Nampa.
The core of our foreign missions is our commitment (along with eight other like-minded churches) to a long-term partnership with the churches in the Tambov region of Russia. This ministry is in partnership with Slavic Gospel Association and involves many activities including evangelistic outreaches, training Russian pastors and church planters, prayer, and financial support. Several members of Heritage Bible Church have traveled to Russia as part of this ministry.
HOW CAN WE DISAPPOINT YOU?
We recognize that there are many fine churches and many Christian para-church organizations which do other things, hold different doctrinal positions and have different ways of doing things. We recognize and accept that there is great diversity in the Body of Christ, and there is therefore a need for us to help you know how we fit with other churches and ministries.
We have come to our convictions through much study and experience, and these basic convictions are thoroughly ingrained in what we do. With great respect for other ministries in the body of Christ, and without a judgmental spirit, we want to be honest in recognizing that some brethren in Christ may not be comfortable in serving with us.
Hence we will “disappoint” some people, and we don’t want to mislead anyone. You will probably not be comfortable with us if any of the following things trouble you.
We are non-charismatic
We do not believe that modern phenomena of “speaking in tongues” or “praying in tongues” fit the Biblical definition of the gift of tongues. Though God is able to do anything He chooses to do, we do not believe that currently there are individuals alive who possess the spiritual gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles, or healings.
We believe miracles and healings happen according to the sovereign will of God, but we do not believe that individuals today possess the spiritual gifts to manifest those things as was the case in the early church.
We do not believe that God gives special revelations to the church today through individuals apart from or in addition to what is contained in the Bible.
For more on these matters, you may request our Heritage Bible Radio article “What Is The Gift of Tongues?” and our position paper on spiritual gifts.
We believe most psychology is antithetical to Biblical counseling.
Nearly all modern psychology represents an unbiblical view of man, sin and salvation. Even much of what is called “Christian psychology” either misrepresents or ignores what the Bible teaches on those subjects.
For that reason, we are zealous to help believers deal with personal problems by searching the Scriptures, discovering what God says relevant to their circumstances, and by obeying what He says. We believe fellow Christians are the best resource for counsel and encouragement in times of trouble for a Christian.
We are extremely careful in making referrals for counseling.
We believe most converts to Christ are won through personal relationships rather than through “evangelistic events.”
God works in many ways, and He will always use His word. Over the history of the church, however, it’s clear that most people are won to Christ by family members and friends. Most “mass evangelism” produces a high percentage of responses which fall short of what the Bible describes as true faith.
For that reason, we generally do not participate in mass media evangelism or in crusade-type evangelistic projects. Instead, we teach people that the church “gathers to teach and scatters to evangelize.” We do not oppose specific evangelistic ministries; we simply don’t usually urge our people to participate.
We are Premillennial
We believe Jesus Christ will return to earth bodily, followed by a literal thousand-year kingdom on earth. We recognize that some evangelicals are amillennial and postmillennial, but we respectfully disagree with those positions.
Agreement with every specific of our doctrinal statement is not required for membership in our churches. What is required is that members agree not to teach contrary to the position of the church and not to attack the doctrinal positions of the church. Discussion of possible areas of disagreement is always welcome.
For more on such issues, see our Position Paper “Doctrinal Diversity.”
We believe in teamwork in ministry
Closely related to the Biblical mandate for a plurality of leadership by elders and deacons is the New Testament example of teamwork in ministry. We follow that example the best we can.
Throughout the book of Acts, all ministry was led by teams: Peter, James and John; Paul and Barnabas; Paul and Silas; Paul and Timothy; Paul with Priscilla and Aquila, etc. We resist “solo” leadership of ministries in favor of as much teamwork as possible. We find this is synergistic, creative, and has a high level of accountability built in.
Our pastors meet regularly. Our boards seek unanimity before making decisions. We cultivate teamwork in Sunday School teaching and youth ministry.
We believe every Christian should have a ministry of some sort among the Body of Christ, and in the community on behalf of the church. As the cliché says “Christianity is not a spectator sport.”
We support all parents regardless of the form of education they choose for their children
We teach that the non-negotiable Biblical standard for parents when it comes to educating children is that the parents must take responsibility for overseeing what goes on. We resist the idea that any alternative (home school, private school, or public school) is innately “more Christian.”
We offer encouragement and the use of our facilities to home school families. We support good Christian schools, have many children who attend Christian schools, and members who teach in Christian schools. Likewise, we support those who choose to be involved in public schools and we have a number of public school teachers in our church.
For more on this matter, see our position paper “Educational Alternatives.”
SO LET’S TALK
This article is offered as a preliminary effort to answer some of the questions most often asked about churches, specifically as it applies to Heritage Bible Church.
We welcome your questions, and we will take the time to discuss whatever things matter most to you.
If you choose to be involved with us, your presence, your spiritual gifts, and your fellowship will make our ministries ever more developed and help us continue to make our contribution to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”