Highland Park Church (Kokomo.IN.USA)A Church Where You Can Grow. Reach. Connect. Deepen.

About Us:
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:

  • Will this contribute toward edifying people?
  • Will it create obstacles to openness and warmth?
  • What is in the best interest of the church?
  • What is in the best interest of those we are trying to reach? The wrong question is "What do I like?"

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.

Edification

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 be challenged.

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

Spiritual maturity is not an end—it 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 Galatians 5 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 heart-felt labor).

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.

Christian Education

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. (2 Timothy 2:2, 3:15; Psalm 78:5-7)

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,

  • We think parents should determine if their child is ready to participate in the Lord's Supper.
  • We believe that both fathers and mothers are to be the main source of Christian teaching, with Sunday School, Praise Time Kids, Awana, and Soldiers of Christ adding information and support. We recognize this is not always possible, especially in instances when the father isn't saved.
  • When approved by the elders, we allow believing parents to baptize their own children upon the child's profession of faith.
  • We allow parents to bring their child into an adult Sunday School class as long as the child does not disturb the class.

Building Relationships

Every believer should seek opportunities to encourage other believers.  This 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 opportunities.

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:

  • We place a high emphasis on personal responsibility of believers. We are each to strive to be financially independent of the charity of others.  Anyone who can, should work to provide for their own needs. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12)
  • We are to take care of our own relatives rather than rely on the church for charity. (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16)
  • As a church, we will follow the scriptural guidance of helping those who are truly needy and devoted to the Lord within our church family. "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 Timothy 5:5, 9-10; 1 John 3:17)
  • Whenever we help brothers or sisters in need, we do it quietly, seeking only the heavenly reward of the Father, not the praise of men. (Matthew 6:1-4)

VIEWS ON MINISTRIES

Flexibility Toward Ministries

We believe ministry forms and patterns are not Biblical absolutes.  We recognize the need for patterns of ministry and for variety in ministry.  We 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.

Ministry Style

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.

Evangelism

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 evangelism—which simply means those times when we work together as a church to reach the lost—we hold the following principles:

  • Every body of believers must be responsible to its own community first.  To the church in Jerusalem, this meant witnessing to Jerusalem before reaching out to all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)  For our church, this means that we will not substitute world missions for local outreach. We will do both.
  • Corporate evangelism is basic to personal evangelism. This is seen in two ways. First, our effectiveness in individual witness is related directly to the strength of our body life. Jesus said, "Love one another that all men will know that you are my disciples." Second, the witness of two or more establishes truth more effectively than the witness of one. Sometimes men will only be convinced if they see several people witnessing together for Jesus (e.g., Paul and Barnabas). (John 13:35; Deuteronomy 19:15)
  • Presenting the gospel to the unsaved is to take place primarily in the world not in the church. While we certainly do not exclude non-believers from church gatherings, most of our contacts with them are outside the church. Rather than preaching salvation messages to the saved, we prefer to send the saved out to seek the lost.
  • The primary target for evangelism should be adults and consequently whole households. The biblical models we see for evangelism usually involve the salvation of adults who then reach their spouses and children. (Acts 16:15, 31-34)  This does not mean we should not try to reach children, but it does mean that our efforts are more likely multiplied when we focus on adults rather than children.
  • The church is responsible to identify those who are especially endowed by God as people who can carry the good news into the community and beyond—"even to the remotest part of the earth." While not implying that other members of the body are released from the responsibility to witness, we do recognize that God has gifted and chosen some as evangelists and missionaries. (Ephesians 4:11)  We bear the responsibility as a church to identify, train, encourage, and in some cases, support the work of evangelists and missionaries from among our people.
  • New believers should be integrated into the life of the church as soon as possible. This is clear given our emphasis on edification.
  • Today's church must develop its own contemporary structures and approaches to evangelism utilizing the principles and purposes just stated as biblical guidelines. We believe that some evangelism techniques which may have been effective at one time are not as effective today. This means that we seek new ways to transmit the gospel more effectively. "Sermons from Science" is an example of an approach that combines the gospel with a format that can reach people in our community today.

Interaction With Other Churches and Ministries

We do believe that the broader evangelical church has much to offer us.  We, 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:

  • Inerrancy, inspiration, and sole, absolute authority of the 66-book Bible;
  • Trinity, deity of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit;
  • The virgin birth;
  • The sacrificial, atoning work of Christ on the cross and His physical resurrection;
  • The return of Christ (second coming);
  • Salvation by grace through faith apart from rituals or good works;
  • A literal heaven and hell.

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 discussed.

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.

Political Activity

We recognize our calling as salt and light to the earth. (Matthew 5:13)  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. (2 Corinthians 5:11)  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)

ON THE WEB
SINCE 1996

 


Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
765.452.1779
church@highlandpc.com