GRACE LIFE CHURCH OF DALLAS – DISTINCTIVES
Glory of God Focused – The glory of God is everything! The centerpiece of the universe for time and eternity is for God to be praised for His matchless perfections! For all eternity, those in hell will bring Him glory as they suffer eternal wrath under His perfect justice (Rev 15:1-4). Those in heaven will bring Him glory as they inherit paradise as trophies of perfect grace. Every individual Christian and every local church family must have a continual, intentional, and passionate focus on the glory of God! (1 Cor 10:31, Eph 3:21)
Christ-Centered – God is most glorified through the Person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By His unrivaled character and work (merit), He has redeemed for Himself a people (the elect). As His people, we strive above all things to know Him, love Him, praise Him, and serve Him. It is by, through, and for Him that we exist. It is our goal to keep Him the honored center of all that we say and do! “In all things He must have the preeminence” (Col 1:18, Rom 11:36).
Bible Saturated/Thoroughly Biblical – It is our desire to be thoroughly biblical in the totality of our lives. Our purpose, our methods, and our goals must be based upon the Word of God. We reject the modern concept that biblical goals can be achieved by man-centered, man-empowered methods. Our theology must dictate our methodology. (2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20)
Expository Bible Preaching – An expositional sermon takes the main point of a passage of Scripture, makes it the main point of the sermon, and applies it to life today (1 Tim 4:13). According to Scripture, God accomplishes what he wants to accomplish through speaking (Gen 1:3, Isa 55:10-11, Acts 12:24). This means that if preachers want their sermons to be filled with God’s power, they must preach what God says. The Bible has many examples of this kind of preaching and teaching: Levitical priests taught the law (Deut 33:10), Ezra and the Levites read from the law and gave the sense of it (Neh 8:8), and Peter and the apostles expounded Scripture and urged their hearers to respond with repentance and faith (Acts 2:14-41, 13:16-47). On the other hand, God condemns those who “speak of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer 23:16, 18, 21-22). Expositional preaching is important because God’s Word is what convicts, converts, builds up, and sanctifies God’s people (Heb 4:12, 1 Pet 1:23; 1 Thess 2:13, Jn 17:17). Preaching that makes the main point of the text the main point of the sermon makes God’s agenda rule the church, not the preacher’s. The pulpit is indispensable to the church’s growth in knowledge, holiness, and love. It cannot and should not be replaced or diminished. (2 Tim 2:15)
Biblical Worship/Praise through Song – We strive to lead the congregation in glorifying God and edifying one another through singing and musical instruments, ministering with spiritual passion and doctrinal integrity, while maintaining high standards of musical excellence. Worship through singing is to reinforce the faith through song and to express congregational praise and worship to Christ, our Audience. We must worship God in “spirit and truth”, so our heart and mind must be engaged. (Ps 7:17, 9:11, 21:13, 30:4, 33:2, 47:5-7, Eph 5:19, Col 3:16, John 4:23-24)
The Local Congregation – Proactive, meaningful, loving and enduring fellowship in a community of believers is absolutely essential to the Christian’s life and ministry. Media ministries can never take the place of the local church and its ministers. We are committed not only to congregate, but to do so for the purpose of fulfilling the “one another’s” found throughout Scripture, and to show hospitality to one another. (Examples of one another’s: sharpen, love, stimulate, encourage, pray for, exhort, admonish, build up, & serve). Every Christian in the local congregation, without exception, has been given a spiritual gift (s), which they are commanded to employ for the edification of the entire congregation. The administration of such gifts by every member is necessary for the proper growth, health, and ministry of the church. (Acts 2:42-46, Heb 3:12-13, 10:24-25, Prov 27:17, Prov 18:1, Rom 12:3-8, 1 Cor 12).
Elder Led (Scripture teaches that the words translated “elder”, “pastor”, “overseer” or “bishop” all describe the same New Testament office) – A New Testament church is an autonomous local congregation of born-again, baptized believers of the gospel, of whom Jesus Christ is the Head. (Eph 4:14-16, Eph 5:23-24, Col. 1:18) God has gifted the church with elders (Eph 4:12) to build-up and equip the body of Christ. Elders are instructed in scripture to rule (1 Thess 5:12, 1 Tim 5:17, Titus 3:14), to teach (Eph 4:12-16, 1 Tim 5:17, 2 Tim 2:2), to oversee and protect (Acts 20:28, 1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:7), to shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-5), and to manage (1 Tim 3:4-5) the local body of believers. The local body submits themselves under the leadership of the elders (1 Thess 5:12, 1 Tim 5:17, Heb 13:17) to the degree that the elders are in accordance to the Scriptures. Elders will give an accountability before the Lord (Heb 13:17). Scripture teaches a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5), and that elders must meet the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9. Scripture teaches that women are not to have authority over men in the church, and therefore are not to be elders (1 Tim 3:2-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim 2:11-12). An elder must be appointed by another elder(s) in the church (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5).
Deacon Service: Minister of Mercy – The life of every Christian is to be marked by service (Mark 9:35); however, the New Testament also speaks of the specific office of deacon. The word deacon (Greek: diakonos) denotes a helper or servant who serves (Greek: diakoneo). We believe that the phrase gynaikas (1 Tim 3:11) is best translated as “wives of deacons” rather than “women likewise” or “women who assist deacons” and thus that the office of deacon at Grace Life is open to only biblically qualified men. Before a man may be appointed as a deacon, he must be tested for the qualifications found in 1 Tim 3:8-13. Candidates for the office of deacon are appointed and presented by the elders. Deacons operate under the oversight of the elders. Men appointed to serve in this office will strive both to ensure practical needs are met at the corporate level, including finances and property, and to ensure practical needs of individuals and families are met. In fulfilling his calling, the deacon frees up the elder/pastor for the ministry of the Word and prayer. (Acts 6:4) If the deacon serves faithfully, he obtains for himself a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus (1 Tim 3:13).
Biblical Conversion and Assurance – A biblical understanding of regeneration and conversion has been lost by the modern church. Salvation requires hearing the Gospel accompanied by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8, Eph 2:5). This supernatural work, called regeneration, produces repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21). The truly saved person perseveres in faithfulness (Phil 1:6, Matt 7:16-20), walks in the light (1 John 1:6-7), obeys God’s commandments (1 John 2:4-6), loves other Christians (1 John 3:7-8), and although they are tempted by and struggle against sin, they do not continue to live in knowing sin (1 John 3:9-11). This perseverance, along with faith in the promises of God concerning salvation, are the basis of assurance. The man who walks in a continual state of carnality with no divine discipline can have no assurance of sonship (Heb 12:8), no matter how adamantly he professes his allegiance to Christ. (1 John, 2 Cor 13:5)
Biblical Evangelism – It is the duty of every believer to evangelize the lost. We adamantly stand against being cold or un-evangelistic on the one hand and against man-centered unbiblical methods of evangelism on the other. We are committed to preach the Gospel to every creature and to implore ALL men to repent and believe. Scripture teaches that whoever believes in Christ will be saved. At the same time, we recognize that neither repentance nor faith can be produced by manipulating the emotion or coercing the will. They are the result of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and the first fruits of regeneration. (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 1:15, John 1:12-13, Eph 2:8-9, Acts 11:18)
Personalized Local, Continental and Global Missions – The Great Commission is a great command and a divine privilege. Personal involvement in missions is not a suggestion or an option, but it is demanded of every true believer. The entire local church family should be personally and strategically involved in missions, mobilizing laborers, prayer, and finances to the end of glorifying God among all peoples. The Great Commission is more than preaching the gospel, and includes going, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching all of God’s Word. We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission personally in our daily lives. In continental and global missions, we are either called to go down into the well (be a missionary) or to hold the rope for those who are going down (support missionaries). Either way, our dedication must be costly and enduring. (We are currently working with HeartCry Missionary Society, & Anchored in Truth). (Matt 28:18-20, Acts 1:8)
Family Discipleship – Parents have the God-given privilege and responsibility for the discipleship and discipline of their children. The church should not usurp the authority of godly parents, nor assume the responsibilities of parents who are lax in their duties. The church should give itself to teaching the biblical principles of parenthood and to holding parents accountable to carry them out in the context of families. Our goal is to strengthen parents in their God-called responsibility to “bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
We encourage and seek to equip families to worship together at home throughout the week, in addition to gathering congregationally every Lord’s Day. (Gen 18:19, John 4:21-24)
We believe every Christian family should strive to give their children a Christian education. (Psalm 1; Prov 1:7-9; 2:1-7; 3:1-7; 9:10; Luke 6:40; Rom 12:1-2; I Cor 1:18-21; II Cor 10:3-5; Col 2:8-10; Eph 6:1-4; 1 Tim 6:20-21).
Biblical Manhood/Womanhood – God has given clearly defined roles to men and women in the family and in the church. In the family, husbands are called to loving and humble leadership, rather than the cultural norm of passive or domineering headship. Wives are called to intelligent and willing submission, rather than usurpation or servility. Redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation and both are equally valued in God’s economy; however, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men. (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:11-15; Prov 31, 12:4; Titus 2:3-5; I Tim 5:14).
Biblical View of Relationships Prior to Marriage – We believe that dating as it is practiced in our contemporary culture is an unbiblical practice that has led to untold misery among the people of God. We believe that as Christians, we should take a biblical approach to relationships prior to marriage, where the blessings of engagement and marriage are reserved for engagement and marriage. We believe that Christians should not marry, and thus should not enter into pre-marriage relationships, with non-Christians (2 Cor 6:14). We believe that the father should be recognized as the authority of the young woman (Num 30:5, Gen 29:28, Ex 2:21, Deut 22:16, 1 Sam 18:27). We believe that relationships prior to marriage should be like brothers and sisters in the Lord (1 Tim 5:1), moral and pure (Eph 5:3), guided by Scripture rather than culture (2 Tim 3:16-17), have the purpose of determining the will of God rather than fulfilling passions of the flesh (1 Pet 4:2), take into account God’s high view of marriage (Eph 5:31-32), and have the main objective be the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).
The Blessing of Children – We believe that children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps 127:3) and not an inconvenience or a burden; therefore, we rejoice with those who receive children in abundance, and we mourn with those whose prayerful plea for the blessing of children has gone unanswered. We believe that God is sovereign in all areas of life (Gen 29:31, 30:2), and we praise Him whether in plenty or in want (Phil 4:11-12)
Compassionate Church Discipline – In the broadest sense, church discipline is everything the church does to help its members pursue holiness and fight sin. Preaching, teaching, prayer, corporate worship, accountability relationships, and godly oversight by elders are all forms of discipline. In a narrower sense, church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin. This narrower sense of church discipline is a clear Scriptural truth, practiced historically, but now almost non-existent among churches today. This forgotten and often misunderstood Bible doctrine is still practiced at Grace Life. Scripture teaches that if we truly seek to honor God, and care for the well-being and purity of His people, we will obey Christ’s commands to practice church discipline. When practiced Biblically and compassionately, it is a powerful means to restore the fallen and to preserve Christ’s honor in the church and the unbelieving world. (Matt 18:15-20, 1 Cor 5)