Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do Churches Need Statements of Faith?

I visit a lot of church websites and most of them have a statement of faith somewhere where you can read a list of the things they believe. While I think it is good for churches to believe things I wonder if a faith statement is the way to go. I have not put a statement of faith on our church web site yet. Instead I have put links to some thoughts about how we process the faith journey and what kind of church we envision. If one reads through the articles they will see that we are definitely a Christ centered, Bible believing church but probably won't walk away with a creedal statement. I am not opposed to statements of faith but they do seem more to me like preaching to the choir rather than about connecting with outsiders. The truth is we do have a brochure in our church with a statement of faith published by the national Vineyard office.

What do you think about statements of faith and their visibility on web sites?
Also if your church have a statement of faith on your web site give me a compelling reason why I should put one on my site.
And finally, is there perhaps a better framework to communicate belief than a creedal statement?


greenturtle said...

Does a church NEED a statement of faith?

Not necessarily although it's good to have.

It can clear confusion for outsiders, as to what the general consensus of the group is.

On the other hand, it's so easy to just give "lip service" to a document without actually practicing what's written on it.

Many churches who don't have a statement of faith, say "Oh we just believe the bible."

Which is very nice, but there are as many different interpretations of what the bible really means, as there are people who read it.

I was a Catholic for two years, and during that time, I heard many comments from outsiders, made out of complete ignorance.

For example: Catholics aren't Christians. Catholics don't believe in the bible. Catholics worship demons. Catholics think Jesus is still nailed to the cross. Catholics are cannibals and wolves. (I wish I were making this up!)

But the Catholic church has a statement of faith, called the Nicene Creed, which is recited in every service.

I'm sure a lot of people just recite it without even realizing what it means, but, it does have a meaning!

Let's compare their written statement of faith, to what the majority of "non catholics" believe:

We believe in one God, the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth of all things seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the father.

He is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one being with the father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, Jesus came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of a virgin, Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontious Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again, according to the scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the father and the son. With the father and the son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic church, and in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Does any of this differ from what the majority of christians believe?

Does any of this contradict the bible?

The only thing that might be "fuzzy" is the "one holy catholic and apostolic church".

But, catholic actually means "universal". So if you believe that christians are christians as long as they believe in Jesus, then you believe in a "universal" church.

Anyway, you can do anything you want-- You're the church owner.

A statement of faith is good to have but as far as a mandate from God, no, it's not.

Kevin said...

I have heard said like this "no creed but Jesus is a creed..."

Wouldn't it be helpful to those perusing your website to identify what you believe? Wouldn't the outsider appreciate a Church being forthright and upfront with what they believe to be nonnegotiable?

Imagine if you were invited to a party but not given any details. For all you know it might be a 4 yr old birthday party with cupcakes and hot dogs or a 40 yr old birthday party with burgers and brews. Wouldn't be polite for the person extended the invite to give some details to what sort of party it is?

greenturtle said...

Helpful for someone like me anyway.

I'm not always the best at "guessing" what the social norms are, and have been very highly skilled at making a complete ass of myself.

So, a written statement of faith for me would be helpful.

On the other hand, most of the time the "majority opinion" prevails regardless of what is written in the statement of faith... or the bible for that matter.

Crispin Schroeder said...

You make a good point about informing people on what to expect. But on the other hand I know of many churches that have very similar statements of faith that are quite different when you get there. For instance in our area there is First Baptist Church, Church of the King, and a church called Northwood right across the street from our church. I figure we would all have very similar statements of faith yet we have very different philosophies of ministry and practices.

To me a statement of faith is good to help people understand that you are a Christian church that believes the Bible but beyond that they don't seem all that helpful to outsiders. Statements of faith seem to matter much more to insiders than outsiders. I suspect that the average unchurched person doesn't really care about a faith statement.

I would just like to see a faith statement that not only addressed doctrine but values and practices. I would like to see a statement that doesn't simply read like a religious fact sheet but that connects with people in a more meaningful way.

greenturtle said...

Your observation that four local churches have similar "statements of faith" yet very different philosophies and practices, further proves my statement that the majority opinion tends to rule, regardless of what is written.

You can bet that all four churches claim to "follow the bible" as well. But, everyone's interpretation of the bible is different.

I don't know if it's possible to have a written "statement" that spells out what the actual practices in the church are, since that tends to continually change as members come and go.

I was active in a college campus ministry for 8 years. The "mission statement" was "reconciling students to Christ, transforming the university, the marketplace, and the world."

But, the philosophy and practices vastly changed from semester to semester. Sometimes two consecutive semesters were similar, but it never stayed the same.

Frankly, the actual practices were seldom fully in line with the written statement anyway.

At times they tried to connect with outsiders, but mostly it was just a club, slapped with a "christian" label.

You could take a jar of chicken fat and slap the "christian" label on it, too.

So as far as connecting to outsiders, first you have to WANT to, and I mean really want to, not just because the bible says you're supposed to.

Otherwise a written statement won't help with that.