By Mark A. Taylor
If someone asked you for a statement to explain what you believe, how would you answer?
And if someone charged you with writing such a statement for your church to share with visitors, what would you include?
In the past, when potential customers of Standard Publishing have asked us for a doctrinal statement, we’ve told them we didn’t have one. “We believe the Bible. We believe all of it is true. We believe all of it came from God. To say more than that risks leaving out something it teaches that we believe.”
But, of course, such a response doesn’t satisfy some who are eager to filter every Christian organization through the complicated sieve created by 2,000 years of church history. So, we’re working on a statement that is true to our heritage (“No creed but Christ. No book but the Bible.”) but also helpful to those just getting acquainted with us.
Evidently this is a decision most Christian churches and churches of Christ have already reached. “What We Believe” is a button that appears on most of their Web sites, and we decided to survey a few of them for this week’s issue.
I’m making no comment on the quality of these statements. Those published this week (click here) are not necessarily the “best” we found. Frankly, they are simply among the shortest. Others, copied and pasted into my word processing program, filled as many as four single spaced pages! The longest began with the usual subheads the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and salvation and didn’t quit till it had taken a position on spiritual gifts, healing, and a five point biblical approach to church discipline.
“What We Believe” is important to churches in the Restoration Movement. And, considering how most of them are growing (including those represented by this week’s faith statements), belief also is important to those looking for a church today.
That’s a lesson not every local church has learned. Just as an experiment, I searched through random sites for individual congregations wearing the name Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist. Many (although certainly not all) of them contained no “what we believe” statement whatsoever. “Mission statements,” yes. “Vision statements,” “ministries,” and “activities” were easy to find. Some buried faith statements deep inside their Web sites or simply referred to a creed or catechism that has been adopted denomination wide.
It is interesting to me not only that all the Christian churches I surveyed state “what we believe,” but that they have such individual ways of doing so. There’s no sense that these sentences have been copied from some central source. Each is a unique, heartfelt attempt to explain bedrock beliefs that provide the foundation for life and ministry.
They’re a reminder that personal faith makes a public difference. “What we believe” is important for all of us.