The goal of our instruction is love that issues from a pure heart and a clear conscience and a sincere faith, says the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1:5). Our Lord Jesus made it clear that all the law and the prophets are summed up in the commands to love God and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). On the night before he died, Jesus told his disciples at least four times to love one another (John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17), and in his high priestly prayer, he asked the Father that the love with which you have loved me may be in them (John 17:26). In his first epistle, the Apostle John emphasizes the necessity for love when he says in 1 John 3:10 that anyone who does not love his brother is not of God, and in 1 John 3:18, he makes sure that we understand that this love is not just an emotion when he tells believers not to love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. This is no different from what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1ff, when he says that any deed, no matter how great, done without love is empty and meaningless. Clearly, teaching and living out love for God and for others must be at the core of our ministry at New Life Church, and love among the people of God must be the primary goal of our shepherding, teaching, and leading.
Serving God through worship is the first and primary function of the church (John 4:23; see also Rev. 4:24). Worship that is in spirit and truth is not only sincere and heartfelt, but also according to the Scriptures. It is the outflow of love for our Creator and Savior God (who first loved us; 1 John 4:19), and it is the forum in which the household of faith most often makes use of the ordinary means of grace. Therefore, faithful and dynamic worship according to the Reformed Presbyterian tradition is a core ministry value. Faithful worship is that which conforms to God’s word and exalts him alone. Dynamic worship is that which is culturally relevant, participatory, and vibrant. While we do not believe that exclusive psalm singing is required of us, we do believe that God’s people ought to sing psalms regularly and often.
Ordinary means of grace
God’s goal for his children is our complete sanctification; he will be faithful to do this (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). While our growth into Christ-likeness will not be complete in this life, it is really possible and potentially substantial in this life. God is entirely free to bestow this grace however he wants, but he has promised to bless and grow his people through what have come to be called the ordinary means of grace: all Christ’s ordinances, especially the reading and preaching of the Word, the sacraments, and prayer (LC 154). Fellowship and accountability within the church family are also among Christ’s ordinances and therefore means of grace, and there are others also. Thus, all Christ’s ordinances, these outward and ordinary means of grace, must have priority in our ministry.
Although the second birth is essential for the Christian life, once one has been born again the ultimate goal is to grow (1 Peter 2:2). The shepherds-teachers-leaders have the God-given task to nurture and disciple believers toward maturity in Christ so that they are equipped to glorify God in every area and in every role of their life. Put another way, one of our core ministry goals is to transform lives by moving people gently but purposefully toward the goal of mature Christian discipleship.
Christian hospitality is more than having some friends over for a meal; it is a Christian virtue that believers and churches ought to cultivate and practice. Hospitality is one of the requirements for those who would be elders in a church (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7-8), but it is also the right and duty of every believer (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9). The Greek word used in these verses means “love of strangers,” and while we ought to be hospitable to those whom we know, we are called to make room in our homes and at our tables for all sorts of people who are in need, even people who do not share our most deeply held beliefs. Hospitality is a sort of Gospel light, manifesting the reality our new life in Christ, who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:44-45). As someone has said, hospitality is a form of spiritual warfare that “shows this skeptical, post-Christian world what authentic Christianity looks like.”
Five times in Proverbs, integrity is contrasted with crookedness, and Solomon says, the integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them (Proverbs 11:3). In Titus 2:7, when Paul tells Titus to show integrity in his teaching, he is commanding him to be sincerely morally sound. Before God and the unbelieving world, the people of God must be careful to ponder the way that is blameless and walk with integrity of heart within my house (Psalm 101:2).
In 1 Corinthians 1: 10, Paul appeals to the Corinthians: brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. Calvin points out that this is possible only where the Spirit of Christ is reigning. This does not mean that every person must walk in lock-step with every other person, but is does mean Gospel unity of purpose and peace within the household of faith are necessary if the church is to accomplish its mission. Looked at from a different angle, it also means that the work of the church ought not to be done (indeed, cannot be done) by any one person, howsoever gifted he or she might be. Only in an environment of congenial relationships and teamwork are we able to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Growth in understanding and wisdom
There is knowledge that puffs up (Colossians 8:1). This sort of knowledge is of no use in the Kingdom of God. There is also knowledge that leads to speculation and vain discussions rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith (1 Timothy 1:4ff). This sort of knowledge is positively dangerous to the church. Every believer, and especially shepherd-teacher-leaders, must remember that the goal of all our learning is to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity (Proverbs 1:2-3), that is to say, developing the skill of living God's way in God's world.
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living,” said Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan. Tradition is not merely doing certain things a certain way because we have always done them that way (although that need not be entirely discounted), it is ultimately a conservation of what is best from those who have gone before. A respect for tradition recognizes that the Holy Spirit has been living and active in the Church from the beginning. We must be willing to listen to him speak through the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) by which we are surrounded.
Appreciating what is beautiful
The God who created all things "shines in all that's fair," as the hymnist wrote. The God who created all things loves the work of his hands, and he has filled his creation with an overwhelming array of beautiful and delightful things. In his kindness, God has created us able both to create and to respond to beautiful things with wonder and delight: things we see, or smell, or hear, or touch, or read. When God commanded Moses to have Aaron’s robes made, he also commanded that they be decorated for glory and for beauty (Exodus 28:2, 40); Likewise, both the tabernacle and the temple were “unnecessarily” decorated. Thus, we have a duty to appreciate beautiful things, and especially our worship together ought to be beautiful.