The dream for Grace Church is to see God create in University City a Christian Church which clarifies what it means to be “Christian.” We know we live in a culture that has witnessed many misrepresentations of both the Christian life and Christian message and that, consequently, finds neither Christians nor the church very attractive.
The term “Christian” has come to mean just about anything in our time. Everyone who is even remotely connected to Jesus in any way calls themselves a Christian. From Mormons to Roman Catholics; from Liberals to Conservative Fundamentalists; from people involved in New Age belief systems to people who call themselves “born again.” The word “Christian” has become a meaningless term.
Our desire is to bring clarity and re-infuse this term with its proper, biblical meaning. Our desire is to get out of the way so that the Holy Spirit of God can minister to people through the faithful proclamation of His Word. The preaching of the Word will be accompanied by deeds of love and mercy in outreach to the community. Such deeds can only be empowered by the love of Christ that has been poured into our hearts at the new birth. Our prayer is that skeptical attitudes will be changed about the Christian faith, and that it will begin to look attractive to unbelievers who are alienated from God and have never had a saving conversion experience with Jesus Christ.
We believe that Christianity is the most joyful, beautiful, and attractive belief system and worldview that this world has ever seen. We need to stop making this beautiful, precious thing so utterly unappealing to so many.
We want to teach, embody, live, and faithfully represent Christianity before a world and culture that has totally rejected the Church and everything she stands for. We believe that a good amount of the hostility and skepticism that outsiders have toward Christianity is not so much a rejection of the pure, biblical faith of Jesus and His apostles, but is a rejection of the misrepresentations and distortions of the faith that many churches have gotten hung up on.
Many unbelievers think that the Church is filled with arrogant, prideful, materialistic, uncaring, legalistic, homophobic, bigoted people who are primarily focused on promoting a political agenda or party. And unfortunately, their observations are not without merit. We believe that when outsiders look at the Church, they should see love, mercy, and grace rather than hatred, hostility, and hypocrisy. Our desire is to fully embody and incarnate the love, mercy, and grace of God before others.
Acts 2:42-47 tells us that the early Christian community was so filled with people who had humility, confidence, understanding, courage, generosity, sincerity, and joy that they had “favor with all the people” of the surrounding community. There was a beauty resting upon the church (Keller & Thompson, p. 183). Our dream is for this type of Holy Spirit-empowered beauty to rest upon Grace Church of Philly.
Acts 2:47 states that the early Christians in Jerusalem had “favor with all the people.” We want to be a ministry that has “favor with all the people” in University City and in Philadelphia.
We want to be a church that has an “outward” stance toward the world rather than a church that is “inward” in its focus. An “inward” church is one that pours all, or nearly all, of its energies back into itself and the saints present in that ministry. Churches with that are inwardly-focused usually have a hostile stance toward unbelievers and the world. We desire to have an “outward” stance, dedicated to engaging our culture for Christ, faithfully and lovingly bringing the saving Gospel to unbelievers whom we love and who desperately need our Savior.
We have chosen the word ‘grace’ for our church as a starting point in clarifying and communicating the essence and simplicity of Christianity.
Grace is that undeserved, unearned blessing of God that meets us where we are and transforms us. Grace is what we want to show to others, indiscriminately serving them and loving them in the name of Jesus.
We ask you for the opportunity to share life together with you in an environment marked by grace. At the outset, we confess the imperfections of our grace and our need for more grace, but we desire to meet you as you are and to grow with you in understanding and living the magnificent grace of God.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
OUR DISCIPLESHIP COMMITMENTS – 4G
•We gather each Sunday to worship our great Lord and Savior in spirit and in truth.
•We grow through small group Bible study and fellowship to lead grace-filled lives of genuine significance for the glory of God with other believers.
•We give our resources and time to support the work of God and to love our community with acts of kindness.
•We go to intentionally make disciples both locally and globally in announcing the Good News of God’s grace to all peoples without regard to ethnicity, gender, or social standing.
Our discipleship commitments are our discipleship process. This is part of our overall “simple church” philosophy of ministry (following Rainer and Geiger). Our philosophy of ministry includes the following concepts: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.
Clarity – Our commitments and process is simple to communicate and easy to remember. It is not overly complex or complicated. We believe that the discipleship process should never be left up to chance and should never be a mystery.
Movement – Our focus is going to be on moving people through this process, facilitating their building up and edification in the faith.
Alignment – All of our ministries, from the youth programs to small groups to mercy ministries, will be aligned around this simple 4G process.
Focus – We will not be a “program-heavy” church. Our philosophy is not “more programs,” but excellence for the glory of God in the programs that we will have.
OUR CORE VALUES – TRIM
Being transformational means that we are prayerfully depending upon the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to transform any life. The grace of God means that there is no one alive who is beyond the hope of redemption and transformation in Christ Jesus.
Being relational means that we are joyfully offering love and grace to everyone, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. First, this means we will actively cultivate redemptive relationships with believers as well as non-Christians. Second, we will be conscious of and welcoming of non-Christians in our midst. Third, we will communicate not just what we believe but why, in a way that invites questions, engages people in dialogue and take a process approach (not a crisis approach) to communication. Tim Keller observes, “Many people simply have ‘process personalities’ – they will never come to faith if they are pushed. They need to come in stages.”
Being incarnational means that we will strive to live out and model the gospel of grace within the culture. We want to be deeply involved in our communities. Ed Stetzer remarks, “We don’t back away from godless people but instead embrace godless people because we understand the hearts of lost people conquered by the lordship of Jesus builds the Kingdom.”
Being missional means that we are intentionally committed to engage those who either do not know or misunderstand Jesus. We are intentional about and absolutely committed to adapting everything we do in worship, instruction, community, and service so as to be meaningfully engaged with the non-Christian society around us. Being missional, we understand that we are co-citizens with non-Christians and seek to build redemptive relationships in the culture instead of totally separating ourselves from the culture.
Each of the TRIM values undergirds and empowers every aspect of our 4G discipleship commitments. How we fulfill out 4G discipleship commitments should always reflect our TRIM values.
OF IMPORTANCE TO US
We believe that God calls every believer to wholehearted discipleship. A church full of Christians running hard after God, living with intent as His children and using their gifts to extend his kingdom, brings God great glory and is a powerful witness to the world. We are eager to help every Christian live as a learner, minister, evangelist, and steward.
We believe that the church is a ‘glocal’ mission outpost. By ‘glocal’ we mean being missional both locally and globally. As a mission outpost, the church actively seeks ways to penetrate the community, the nation, and the world with the Gospel. Bob Roberts, Jr. states, “When we start a church, we realize we are doing so not just for the community but for the world, based out of that community. Every church you start is a church for the world” (p. 124).
We believe that effective ministry must be biblically based as well as culturally relevant. We do not need to sacrifice either biblical truth or cultural relevance. All of our ministries will be in the ‘vernacular,’ speaking directly to the immediate culture and people without compromising Scripture or theology. Regarding speaking directly to the culture: Christians, frequently, are great at speaking to each other, but not so great at communicating with the wider culture. Our desire is to speak to the non-Christians of the culture in a powerful, compassionate, Scripturally-saturated manner.
AN INVITATION TO BECOME PART OF OUR GRACE COMMUNITY
We ask you to prayerfully consider becoming part of the GCP core group for the birth phase of the church for as long as the Lord leads you for the following:
1. To pray daily and persistently for the city of Philadelphia and for the launch and establishment of Grace Church of Philly in University City.
2. To be involved in the lives of the believers and unbelievers in that area; to build bridges with them that might serve to further the kingdom of God.
3. To maintain a consistent devotional life and consistent walk with Christ.
4. To open yourself to the Lord as to what types of ministry roles He may have for you at Grace Church.
5. To give to the work of this ministry as you are able to do so.
We want to encourage people to commit for as long as they believe that they are being ministered to, for as long as they believe that their gifts are being effectively used for kingdom purposes, and for as long as they believe that this is what the Lord wants them to be doing.
Grace and peace be with you.
Keller, Timothy J. and J. Allen Thompson. Church Planter Manual. New York: Redeemer Church Planting Center, 2002.
Rainer, Thom and Eric Geiger. Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006.
Roberts, Bob Jr. The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting New Churches. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.