Why do we baptize infants?
Throughout the Bible, God relates to His creation through covenants, which are special relationships between God and His people. Our culture encourages us to think of relationships as being just between two people, but in the Bible, God makes covenants with entire families, creating a whole new community of people with a special relationship to himself (Gen 9:8-9; 15:18; 17:23; Ex 20:5-6, 12; Deut 6:7, 20-25; 1 Cor 7:14; Eph 5:22-6:4; Col 3:18-21).
These covenants had certain practices by which new members were added to the community (an initiation ceremony). In the Old Testament, the practice was circumcision (Gen 17:10-11), which was applied to whole households (adults who believed and their children; Gen 17:23; 21:4; Josh 5:2-7). In the New Testament, initiation into the covenant is through baptism (Matt 28:19), and again, this was applied to whole households (Acts 2:38-39; 16:14-15, 32-33; 1 Cor 1:16).
Just to make it clear, we don’t think that baptism saves our children (or anyone, for that matter). Both baptism and circumcision point us to Jesus (Col 2:11-12), and a person is saved only by trusting him. But we also know that until God regenerates our hearts and gives us new life, we are helpless and powerless, unable to save ourselves (much like an infant depends on its parents). Baptism is a recognition of that. It’s a sign (a picture) and a seal (like a birthmark identifying who you are) that the baptized person is an heir of God’s promise of grace (Acts 2:39). Our children need God just as much as we do, so we baptize them trusting in God’s ability to make good on his promise, and we call them (just as we call everyone who is baptized) to live in faith and obedience to him.
Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper the way we do?
At RMPC, we believe in the “real” presence of Christ in the Supper. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are truly feeding on Christ (John 6:55-57). This doesn’t mean that Christ is physically present in the Supper; His physical body is in heaven (Ps 110:1; John 14:3). Rather, the Holy Spirit works in the Supper to nourish believers on the whole person of Christ (this view is sometimes called “spiritual presence”). This might seem sort of weird, but the apostle Paul says that the Israelites also fed spiritually on Christ as they wandered in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:3-4).
Because Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper, we believe it’s a “means of grace”; it strengthens us in our faith. We can see and feel the texture of the bread; we can smell and taste the stinging sweetness of the wine. It’s a visible reminder that the gospel is absolutely true (1 Cor 11:24-25), but it’s more than just a reminder. By faith we actually partake of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb who cleansed us from our sins (John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7). To partake without faith is to eat and drink judgment on oneself (1 Cor 11:29), so if you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, we ask that you please not partake.
Since there’s an incredible spiritual benefit to taking part in the Lord’s Supper, we believe it should be practiced frequently. The early church met often to “break bread” as well (Acts 2:42, 46). We have the Lord’s Supper during morning worship the third Sunday of the month and at both evening services (second and fourth Sundays of the month). Along with wine, grape juice is also offered for those whose consciences might be troubled by wine.
Why do we only have male officers?
The Bible very clearly affirms the value and dignity of women. At creation, God formed both Adam and Eve in His own image (Gen 1:27), bestowing on them equal integrity, glory, and responsibility over creation (Gen 1:26; Ps 8:5-6). Scripture portrays the ideal woman as someone whose hard work and faithfulness earn her honor from others, even her husband (Prov 31:28-29). Further, the New Testament clearly states that we are only accepted by God by being united to Christ by faith; our ethnic heritage, social status, and gender don’t matter (Gal 3:28). As a result, women have a vital role in the ministry of the church, shown by the examples of Priscilla (Acts 18; Rom 16:3; 1 Cor 16:19), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), and Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1:5). We celebrate and treasure the ministry of the women here at RMPC!
However, we sincerely believe the Bible teaches that those in authority over God’s people should only be men. Both creation (Gen 2:18, 21-24) and redemption (Eph 5:22-33) show that God designed the family with a coherent structure, placing the responsibility of leadership upon men. This extends also to the family of God. Women are prohibited from having authority over men in the church context (1 Tim 2:11-13, which looks back to the roles of Adam and Eve at creation). The qualifications for the office of elder and deacon which immediately follow in 1 Timothy are clearly directed toward men (1 Tim 3:1-13). This does not mean that men are “better,” but rather that God designed men and women to have different but equally vital roles in the church.
Why do we have guitars and drums in worship?
We believe the Lord desires for us to use the gifts and means he has bestowed upon us to worship him. When we observe Scripture, we know that the people of God employed such instruments for use in worship. For example, in Ex. 15:20, the people of God worshipped the Lord after crossing the Red Sea with corporate singing and the tambourine (i.e. a percussive instrument). We also can observe from Scripture that percussion and stringed instruments (i.e. harp, lyre) were used in temple worship (cf. Psalm 33:2; 71:22, 81:2; 92:3; 149:3; 150:4). The Psalm, which was the hymnbook of Israel, not only incorporated such instruments but they encouraged the people to use them. We know that even in temple worship that such instruments were used to not simply accompany sacrifices offered up to the Lord, but to help lead God’s people in praising him through corporate singing. We believe such praise continues in New Testament worship as Christians were exhorted to continue praising God with the songs of God’s people.
Why do we use ancient man-made confessions and creeds in worship?
Following the examples in Scripture (e.g., Ps 32; 51; 130; Ezra 9–10; Neh 9), we confess our sins together in unison as an expression of our unity as one people before God. Because our confessions are public and corporate prayers, they address more general types/categories of sins common to us all (more specific, individual sins are confessed silently). These categories often relate directly to the particular themes of the Scripture reading(s) and sermon for that day. The prayers also encompass all aspects of our sinfulness by mentioning both specific sinful actions and the deeper brokenness and distortion of our motives and character that result from the corruption of original sin. This is followed by an appeal for forgiveness and new ability to love and obey the Lord by the Spirit’s power. In order to express humility, we lower ourselves by sitting to pray.
The Christian church formulated the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed in the early centuries of the church’s history for use in corporate worship, baptism, and Christian education. They are based soundly upon biblical revelation, and they are the most ancient and universally received summaries of the foundational content of the Christian faith. In the liturgy, we confess these creeds not merely as a list of facts or ideas that we affirm but more as an expression of our personal trust in God in response to God’s call to renew our commitment to him in the reading and preaching of Scripture. We are saying not simply “I think that…” but rather, “I put my trust in God the Father…and in Jesus Christ…[and] in the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, these creeds are an oath of covenant loyalty to the Triune God, a renewal and remembrance of our baptism into Christ and the covenant. By confessing these ancient and universally accepted creeds, we also confess our unity with the whole catholic (i.e., universal) Christian church throughout history and across different denominational lines.
Why do we meet on Sunday for worship?
The New Testament contains only some brief references to the corporate worship practices of the early church as well as some commands to engage in particular acts of corporate worship. The day for corporate worship shifted from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday (called the Lord’s Day) to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10). The main elements of worship were the following:
- Ministry of the word of God in the reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13) and the preaching/teaching of Scripture to explain and apply its meaning (Acts 2:42, 20:1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:1–5)
- Responding to God’s word in prayer (Acts 2:42, 4:23–31; 1 Cor. 11, 14; 1 Tim. 2:1-8), which includes singing songs of praise and thanks to God (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19, 1 Cor. 14:26)
- The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26–28/Mark 14:22–25/Luke 22:14–23; Acts 2:42, 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:16–18, 11:17–34)
We also have evening worship services twice a month based on these worship practices—it follows the pattern of Acts 2:42 of gathering together on the Lord’s Day to devote ourselves to teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. On Sundays when we do not have evening worship, we follow a similar pattern through our LIFE Group meetings in homes.
Why do we have a Youth & Family Ministry?
Youth & Family Ministry is a movement which recognizes that God has already given structures for nurture and discipleship (Deut 6:1-9). Parents are the primary disciplers of their children, even when they enter the teen years. The role of youth ministry isn't to replace parents, but to come alongside them, to affirm the authority and responsibility of parents, and to supplement what (should) already be going on in the home.
There are two challenges to this. First, parents often don't know where to start! Teens struggle with emotional and physical changes, increasingly complicated relationships, and greater responsibilities. How are parents supposed to disciple them? In these situations, RMPC’s Youth & Family Ministry is a resource for parents, providing them with ideas for family discipleship, insight into teens' lives, and accountability for parents.
The second challenge is that the nuclear family is quickly becoming a thing of the past. More parents today work long hours, are divorced, were never married, or are in prison. An increasing number of teens are raised by relatives, and some have never known anything other than a one-parent household.
It's in these situations that the Church as a body of believers is so important. We are, in the truest sense of the word, a family. In these situations, the youth & family ministry acts like an arm to draw hurting and broken families into the embrace of the Church, helping with both practical needs (rides to and from school, tutoring, financial needs, etc.) and spiritual needs (friendship, mentoring, and counseling). It's a whole-person, whole-family philosophy of ministry.
Why should I join the church and what should I expect as a member?
Every Christian should join the local church, not because church membership insures salvation or because it is a social club but because it is a reflection of salvation. It is a testimony to our membership in the universal church and a testimony to the world of our love for God and others. Christianity is corporate in nature and church membership expresses a commitment to other believers that we will live together in community through good times and bad. In addition, it delineates the flock entrusted to the care of the elders and ultimately brings glory to God who has brought us into the church through his Son, Jesus Christ. Finally, our efforts at reaching outside our four walls into the community around us are multiplied when we do them in concert with others who are like-minded and who share the same commitments.
As a member of the church, you should expect that the church leadership will humbly oversee all aspects of the church insuring that the glory of God is pursued in all things by all people, that the Bible is the basis of all teaching and that the gospel is what drives all ministry. Church members should expect that the elders will work hard to know them and to meet their spiritual needs through the formal ministries of the church and through the informal means of fellowship and care. They should expect that the deacons will work hard to meet their physical needs, eradicating poverty and hunger in the church and alleviating it in the community around us. Members should also expect that they will be trained and equipped by current leaders to do gospel ministry and to attain leadership roles in the future.
In addition, membership carries with it certain responsibilities. Members should expect to be in worship services on a regular basis, to give to the work of the church, to serve God in the church and in the community with their gifts, to grow in their understanding of the Bible and God’s will for them, and to participate in the fellowship of the body. Uniting with a local body of like-minded Christians with whom you can share your gifts builds the body and honors the head, Jesus Christ.
What am I expected to give to the church?
When we consider a question like this, we have to put the question in the proper perspective. When it comes to many organizations or businesses we rightly ask, “What goods or services will I get in return for my ‘dues’?” But when it comes to the church we don’t give because we expect a certain ROI - ‘Return On Investment’. No, we give because of the immensity and greatness of what we have been given.
In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth, Paul lets the Christians there know that he will be visiting them soon for the express purpose of taking up a collection of money to help with the needs of the poor and hungry in Jerusalem. He boasts about the generosity of the Christians in northern Greece in order to stir up the generosity of the Christians in Corinth. But the ultimate motivation for giving that Paul gives is found in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
The motivation for giving to the work of the church is not because of what I might get back nor is it only because of how generous others are. The motivation for giving to the church is because of how much Jesus gave—to the point of becoming poor—so that we could be rich. The implication, then, is that having been made rich we would give. In using the word ‘rich’ here the Apostle Paul is not saying that faith in Jesus makes us materially rich but spiritually rich. We give out of that richness.
So what are we expected to give to the church? We are to give three things to the Lord through the work of the church: time, talent, and treasure. We give time in attending the core discipleship, fellowship and worship events of the church. We give of our talents by participating in some of the many and varied opportunities for service in the church. We give of our money by giving of our financial resources in support of the work of the church.
We’re all challenged by time constraints, but at a minimum we should be regular in attendance at worship where we hear the word of God proclaimed, in Sunday school where we hear the word of God taught, and in a LIFE group where we grow in gospel-centered fellowship with other believers.
We are all in some way “talent-challenged,” but each of us has been given gifts by God to be used for the edification of the church. Find one area of service in which your spiritual gifts can be used now and another area of service in which your gifts can be identified and developed.
Money is tight, and we all generally believe we need more than we have. But God commands us to give him the first fruits of our labors. He gets the first cut and he makes sure we can make do on the rest. That first cut, those first fruits, are a minimum of a tithe or ten percent of your income. That is the minimum, ground floor, starting point. Beyond the tithe we might give gifts and offerings either to the local church or to other charitable organizations.
A giving church is a blessed church, especially when we all give in accord with what we have been given.