The Purpose and Principles of Highland Park Church
May 16, 1996
As an independent church, Highland Park Church attracts members
from a variety of backgrounds and denominations. This sometimes causes
difficulties as we attempt to mold our varieties of perspective into a unified
body. A lack of denominational framework gives us freedom, which brings with it
an added responsibility for the leaders of the church to clearly define our
mission and the principles through which we seek to accomplish this mission.
That is the main thrust of this document. It is sometimes called "getting
everyone on the same page." It is our hope that as you consider these
statements your spirit will agree with ours, and we can, together, find
ourselves on the "same page."
As a result of much prayer, study, and discussion, the elders have agreed to this series of statements or affirmations.
Basis for Decisions Where the Word of God Is Silent
Decisions should be made first and foremost by the Word of God. However, in those cases where the Bible is silent on an issue, we must take great care to discern the right approach. For instance, the Word of God does not tell us what color to paint the auditorium. In making that sort of decision, the following are good questions to ask:
Substance Over Image
We believe that truth and sincerity are more valuable than slick delivery
and professionalism. At the same time, we value individuals who do their
best and plan ahead. We are interested in ministry more than production,
integrity more than appeal, maturity more than emotional high.
Our top concern is the inner man. We want to rightly discern the difference between innovations that will encourage spiritual growth and shallow fads. We want people to be attracted to HPC primarily because they see God at work in the lives of our people.
We choose substance over image. We do not want to look like a group of loving believers as much as we want to be loving believers. We do not want marriages that look Christian as much as we want marriages that are Christian. We do not want to hold unproductive evangelistic meetings so that we have an image of concern for the lost; we want to actually care and to effectively reach them. We do not want to give an image of caring for youth, we want to minister to their needs. We do not want to call Jesus "Lord" and yet not do the things that He says.
View of Facilities
We view our facilities as existing to serve our ministry. The buildings are not a shrine or museum to be maintained but exist solely to facilitate ministry. The facilities are God's property, held in trust by the church. We have, therefore, the responsibility to care for them well. Yet, it is what we do as a church, not where we meet, that is sacred. Our facilities and our approach to ministry should enhance interaction and warmth among believers here.
Purposes of the Local Church
Our church exists for edification and evangelism. It is our view that our church gathers primarily for edification, both in group meetings and through personal ministries. We are also commissioned to bring lost people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ through personal and corporate witness and through organized outreach.
One of the two great purposes of the local church is the edification (or encouraging growth toward maturity) of believers. It has many facets and incorporates much of what we do in the church.
Foundation and Examples of Edification
Teaching is a cornerstone of edification. A full view of edification, however, encompasses anything that encourages, trains, or motivates us toward love, good works, and a deepening walk with the Lord. We can do many things that edify, such as teaching, prayer, praising God in word and song (music), acts of mercy, all sorts of encouragement (notes, phone calls), connecting all people in the body (building family life), small group meetings, and service group meetings (Awana staff gatherings, boards, etc.).
Multifaceted Approach to Edification
Individual elements of edification should not be substituted for the whole.
Being built up is a many-faceted process. Although a particular element of
edification meets a felt need, this does not negate the needs we may not
feel. Just like we need to eat a balanced diet, we need a sampling of the
whole process of edification. It may be our nature to want all dessert and
no vegetables, but we need the veggies! We might prefer teaching, but we
also need prayer. The ministry of music might touch us, but we also need to
This also means that we reject the notion that our church gathers mainly for worship or that it gathers mainly for instruction. A particular service may highlight these elements, but the sum total of our church's activities must be much broader. Personalities and human nature draw us away from balance, but we must constantly seek to better obey the whole counsel of God.
All Believers Involved
We believe that it is God's will for every believer to be involved in the local church in some way, and we are convinced that every believer has something to offer. The Bible compares the church to a body, each member needing to function. The church needs to be structured to let that happen.
Purpose of Meetings
Most of our church meetings and events are designed to contribute to building up believers in some way and should encourage believers toward spiritual maturity. This maturity is especially evidenced by the qualities of faith, hope, and love.
Spiritual maturity is not an endit is a direction. We become more
spiritually mature by "walking in the Spirit" over a period of
time. Spiritual maturity is seen in both the absence of the works of the
flesh and the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. Although the list in
details what spiritual maturity looks like, the New Testament
often summarizes maturity in three virtues: faith (which produces works),
hope (which produces a constant, enduring walk), and love (which produces a
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest. Love is others-centered, which is not to be confused with people-pleasing. It involves compassion and forbearance but not permissiveness. Love can be firm for the sake of others but is not selfish. Hope refers to borrowing strength and endurance for today in view of our eternal inheritance. Hope centers around an eagerness for the second coming of Christ. Faith refers to our personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is closely related to hope but deals more with God's will and goes beyond our own ability. It manifests itself in good deeds, as well as in prayer, evangelism, and a hunger for growth.
We believe that Christian education is one of the keys to edification of
believers. Our philosophy of education is based on the following principles:
Our education classes should offer a balanced approach so that over time participants get instruction emphasizing many aspects, such as the following:
Teaching the Bible, especially to children, is essential to passing on the
faith to the next generation. Indeed, this was commanded to Israel
concerning the ongoing teaching of God's law.
We believe that parents bear the primary responsibility for instructing their children. However, we also recognize that God equips the body of believers with people especially gifted to teach. We, therefore, use these talents in the church to assist our parents' efforts. (Proverbs 1:8; Romans 12:7)
The emphasis of training should vary depending on the age and spiritual maturity of the group being addressed. For instance, children need material at appropriate reading levels. Also, newer converts need a different emphasis than mature believers. (1 Peter 2:2)
We believe that many approaches to teaching are valid. Therefore, rather than leadership selecting all methods and materials, we normally prefer that teachers select those techniques and materials that fit their particular gifts and agree with our doctrinal positions. (Deuteronomy 11:19)
All teachers within the church are merely servants of Jesus Christ. We recognize that the real teacher is God, working through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and our relationship with Jesus. (Matthew 13:52; Romans 15:4; Luke 12:12; Luke 11:1)
Respect for Parents' Authority
We acknowledge and work with the sovereignty of the family. We recognize that parents, not the church, are responsible to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We try, therefore, to work with families and respect parental domain. We reject the idea that an institution automatically has a better idea of what is in a child's best interest than the parents. Therefore,
Every believer should seek opportunities to encourage other believers.
involves a willingness to meet, visit with, and get to know individuals
beyond one's current circle of friends. As a church, we can provide
opportunities for body life and relationships. Casual conversations after
Sunday morning and evening services can develop into friendships. Attending
Flock Groups or inviting people to dinner are other ways to build
relationships. We encourage each person to take advantage of these and other
Unfortunately, it is human nature to want people to be available when we need them, yet to feel that we don't have the time when others need us. Many people want close friends, but they are not willing to move beyond intention when it comes to sacrificing time or eliminating other activities to have them. We hold the individual responsible to build friendships and the leadership responsible to organize ways to make this easier.
Some individuals need help in getting to know others. The leadership and the body of believers need to help connect these people to appropriate ministries, to opportunities, and to other people. Offering to drive to a social gathering or flock group, sitting with new or unconnected folks during a service or at a church meal, and inviting them for coffee are some ways to accomplish this.
Provision For the Needy
Provision for the needy in the body is a basic tenet that dates to the first church in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:45, 4:34-35) Jesus instructs us that this is a test of our obedience and devotion to Him in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. There are many instructions in the New Testament pertaining to the care of those brothers and sisters who are in need. From these references, we draw the following principles:
VIEWS ON MINISTRIES
Flexibility Toward Ministries
We believe ministry forms and patterns are not Biblical absolutes.
recognize the need for patterns of ministry and for variety in ministry.
must constantly evaluate whether an existing ministry adds to the edification
of our body or whether it is merely a shrine to the past.
We must also be cautious about establishing new, on-going ministries or practices; many events may be worthwhile on a one-time or occasional basis or for a limited time. We must flex based upon fruit, workers, and current needs. Therefore, we feel free to eliminate practices no longer productive, no matter how long-standing. We recognize that edification is a varied process which is not necessarily limited to existing methodology.
The style of our ministries is open to change. We freely draw on various styles based on who the Lord has placed in the local body and what we sense is most edifying. Although we value both our heritage and creative newer approaches, we consider them our servants, not our masters. Our concern is that we are headed toward involving our people in edification and ministry, not matching anyone's model.
View Regarding Varied Ministries
We want to discourage "tunnel vision" when it comes to ministry. We value every ministry, while recognizing some as more crucial than others.
The other of the two great purposes of the local church is evangelism, the
proclamation of the Gospel in our world.
We believe that the command given to the eleven disciples in the Great Commission to "go and make disciples of all nations" necessarily means both evangelism and edification. (Matthew 28:19) Just as we cannot successfully evangelize the world without a mature, built-up body, neither can we become a mature body without sharing the gospel. In the area of corporate evangelismwhich simply means those times when we work together as a church to reach the lostwe hold the following principles:
Interaction With Other Churches and Ministries
We do believe that the broader evangelical church has much to offer us.
therefore, interact with solid churches, quality magazines, and solid
inter-church movements, campaigns, and outreaches. In seeking to "salt
the earth," we can join with people of various faiths to promote common
cause items so long as we do not convey the image of endorsing the beliefs
of those involved or that our differences are unimportant. In such cases,
what unites us is a common cause not a common faith.
Our level of cooperation with other churches shall be dependent upon the nature of the project or ministry and the beliefs of other churches involved. In matters that address detailed doctrinal issues (such as Bible conferences, prophecy conferences, etc.), we expect a higher level of agreement than in matters addressing evangelism. In matters of moral issues, the level of agreement is based on the issue itself.
In both doctrinal and evangelistic cooperative efforts, we would like to see leaders and counselors who hold to the basic fundamentals of the faith, such as:
In matters involving more doctrinal instruction, we would be concerned with
many issues, such as the nature of the church, principles of interpretation,
the security of the believer, the work of the Spirit, or the literal
interpretation of Genesis. Again, the determining factor will be the issues
We go on record as opposing the World Council of Churches because it is composed predominantly of non-Bible-believing churches. We can work with conservative churches in denominations affiliated with the WCC if we are satisfied with the individual church's footing.
We recognize our calling as salt and light to the earth.
This means that we seek to persuade men by telling the world the truth about
God's hatred of sin, His inevitable judgment, and the good news that Jesus
died for the salvation of those who believe.
At times, this
means that we speak out concerning the sinfulness in our society, such as
when we publicly condemn abortion.
We also recognize our residence in a free and democratic land. The issues debated in the public square today cry out for moral direction, which can only be found in the unchanging truth of God's Word and the love of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is right and proper that our people, as dictated by their conscience, should participate fully in the democratic process of our governance. If they speak out, let them speak with grace and truth. If they seek office, let them serve selflessly and righteously, while always remembering that a believer's citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
We, as a body, choose to refrain from endorsements or denouncements of particular candidates or political parties. We do so because we do not wish to be unequally yoked to ideologies and movements, which while appealing for evangelical support, are not truly Bible-based or accountable to the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Highland Park Church