Most churches or groups have a “statement of faith” or “what we believe” document, and those may contain considerably more beyond the foundations of Christianity, sometimes wandering into political or theological stances which frankly hold little importance (i.e. those side issues are Fluff).
What a statement of faith really reveals are the most important items in the group; if they contain stances on political issues, certain sins, or minor doctrine it demonstrates those are the most important above all else not listed.
Sadly, those can create division for the simple reason if a statement mentions one item but doesn’t mention another, it’s assumed the item mentioned holds more importance than the item not appearing therein.
For a statement of faith, what is the Gospel? And what defines Christianity?
A modest proposal — reducing those lists and eliminating items not essential to Christianity; i.e. what you must believe to be a Christian, and little else.
What We Believe
We believe in the “Four C’s.” If you accept those, we’ll fellowship with you.
- We don’t care if you worship on Saturday or Sunday.
- We don’t care what time you meet, if you meet in a building, or use virtual meetings.
- We don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican.
- We don’t care if you’re pre-trib, post-trib, or don’t know what the tribulation is.
- We don’t care if you’re a Calvinist … or not.
- We don’t care what sin you’ve found yourself in (or continue to struggle with), and won’t “rate” some sins as worse than others, as everyone is a sinner in need of God’s grace.
Those are Fluff elements; these are not:
- For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
- As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (Romans 3:10–11)
Everyone is a sinner in need of salvation.
- Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand … Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1,3–4)
- Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
The Gospel isn’t fluff or side issues; Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is both necessary and sufficient for salvation.
- All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Bible is God’s inerrant message to us.
- I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:1–3 NLT)
The church and individuals should teach and witness to others, and not chase the latest fads or winds of doctrine (political or theological). Popular opinion remains an atrocious strategy to run a church.
These boil down to:
- You’re a sinner and need Jesus as Savior.
- The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and we need to heed its message and teaching for life.
- We need to teach inside the church, and witness to people outside it.
Note political opinions or disagreement over minor issues are all rocks better left unturned (if, that is, your mission is to profess the Gospel).
Obviously many corollaries exist from those, but flow from the same basic principles.
- You can’t witness to people if you hold a legalistic position making you appear loony (“You MUST meet IN PERSON on SUNDAY — or Saturday — or else”).
- You can’t witness to people if you hold a ridiculous non-science position making you appear loony (“Don’t put that potato salad back in the refrigerator, just trust the Lord you won’t get sick if it sits out all day. Don’t you have faith?”).
- You can’t “modernize” the church or the Bible, or ignore parts of it you don’t like (“Paul didn’t really write that.” “That was only for their day and doesn’t apply today.” “This situation is different.”).
- You can’t rationalize and “pass the buck,” saying when those previous things do happen, it’s not your fault (or claim they won’t destroy your witness, both outside and inside the church).
During the dawn of the pandemic age (circa 2020), many pastors and churches fell in to error and division over political ideas, adding to the long tradition of Christians dividing over unimportant issues; arriving at the essence of Christianity and the Gospel remains simple: you’re a sinner, need Jesus Christ, and we’re here to point the way.
Beyond that, everyone is welcome no matter their sin or minor doctrinal differences; removing or denigrating those not in agreement with fluff issues remains a significant error for pastors and church leadership (again, if the mission is to profess the Gospel).
Obviously, various doctrines do have correct answers (it’s not possible for pre-trib and post-trib to both be correct). However, those minor doctrines (or non-doctrinal political issues) must be discussed in light of:
- They’re fluff and removing or defaming those disagreeing is wrong, and leadership must correct and rebuke any divisions arising.
- Everyone must be open to the idea they could be wrong, and listen respectfully (and discuss) opposing ideas; removing people disagreeing over fluff issues demonstrates serious errors in leadership.
Feel free to use the “Four C’s” as your statement of faith as you wish, because at 3am, there’s not much else to lean on (or needs to be).