Who We Are: The Compelling Mission
Mercy. Mission. Community. We exist to significantly change the world as a Christ-centered Church.
The word used to describe the way our church looks at the world, interacts with people, helps those in need, and generally understands the vision of Jesus Christ, is the word “mercy.” Jesus, in His sermon recorded in Matthew 5-7, describes a vision for living as people focused on God’s Kingdom and God’s will. The vision, described by Jesus involves blessing the “poor in spirit” and the “meek” and the “peace makers” and the “merciful.” In addition, Jesus embodied God’s will through His interactions with people. Jesus had a heart for people; He touched those rejected by the culture (Mark 1:41); Jesus shared a meal with those who religious leaders labeled as “sinners” (Matthew 9:10); Jesus redefined the meaning of following God with a single idea “mercy.” God’s love is hardly restricted to a certain group or those who have perfect lives or those from the right background but “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). Likewise, a relationship with God (or salvation) is not based on merits or performance. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” Grace is greater than law. Compassion is greater than a judgmental attitude or haste to condemnation that draws “lines in the sand.” Jesus love and heart for people often challenges our initial assumptions, traditions, expectations, and values. Jesus demonstrated an “attitude of humility” (Philippians 2:5) and based on a humble attitude, God calls us to embrace Jesus’ heart, helping those who are broken; but compassionately loving those who are broken realizing we are just as broken (or more so) and in need of mercy. So, a desire to “significantly change the world” whether through teaching disciples, counseling, interacting with believers, orphan care, tending to the needs of widows, feeding the hungry, or other ministries, we embody Jesus’ vision of mercy. Embracing Jesus’ heart for the world helps us to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with our God (Micah 6:8).
The word used to describe the way our church influences the world by continuing the work of Jesus is “mission.” After the resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples into the world (Matthew 28:19-20). The book of Acts records how God’s great plan of salvation came to fulfillment in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Messiah, and continues to unfold as the Spirit-filled church takes the message of salvation from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The idea of continuing the mission of Jesus is that we will equip disciples to recognize they are the personal ambassadors of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20). We affirm that God’s Kingdom is not just coming “one day” in the future; Christ has inaugurated His Kingdom on earth today (Acts 2). And while we certainly anticipate and wait with great anticipation for the full consummation of God’s Kingdom on earth, we are optimistic for what the church will accomplish for God’s glory until the Second Coming of Christ. Likewise, as the people of First Baptist Jackson, we see our primary duty as that of being on a mission with and for God.
The word used to describe the way our church lives in the world is “community.” God is a relational being eternally existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 1:1). In the same manner God chose to create humans to exist in fellowship as evidence by the creation of man as male and female (Genesis 2). Jesus chose to build a close group of disciples giving them a new commandant – “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). In fact, Jesus maintained that love for one another is the distinguished mark of true discipleship. Holistic life was never for isolation but community. The gospel message demonstrates how God takes people from every race, social background, economic level, and geographical region and unties them as a community (Ephesians 4). Under the Lordship of Christ and the Fatherhood of God, believers are brothers and sisters, and the church is a spiritual family. The basis of our community is both the redemption found in Jesus Christ and the common purposes of completing the mission of Jesus. We can say with the Apostle Paul, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). While the church is a community that is on mission together with and for God, the Scripture teaches that believers should gather in worship and gather to grow as disciples (both of which are expression of the churches partnership in accomplishing the mission):
Community Worship: Jesus taught that when believers gather in His name He is “present also” (Matthew 18:20) and promised believers He would never “leave them nor forsake them” (Hebrews 13:5) and that He would be with them “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The Holy Spirit indwells believers as Christ’s presence in the church (Ephesians 3:7-13). Thus, we are people who seek to experience the presence of Christ as we are empowered by the Spirit to share the gospel in missions (Acts 4:31), empowered by the Spirit to congregationally offer praise in worship (John 4:24), and empowered by the Spirit to live as a faithful community called the church (2 Corinthians 2:15). Jesus also said, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). We are a Christ-centered community committed to the worship of God. Worship occurs in both personal and community contexts, as individuals pursue the worship of God in daily life, as parents lead their children into worship, and as our faith community gathers for weekly worship. The primary emphasis of our worship gathering is to know God as a community of Christ. Therefore, worship occurs as we hear God’s Word, worship occurs as we offer prayers of praise to God, and worship occurs as we sing biblically accurate Christ-centered songs. Sometimes it is helpful to think about worship in terms of beliefs or words, styles or forms, and order or structure. The beliefs and words of our worship gathering are based upon the doctrinal truths communicated to us in God’s Word and will generally focus on the glory of God and Christ’s redemptive work. The style or form of our worship gathering encompasses various acts, while maintaining a focus on Christ as the goal of worship. The order or structure of our worship gathering, while holding firmly to truths of the gospel and sound biblical theology, will often contain the following elements:
- Prayer to the Almighty God
- The Expository Teaching/Preaching of God’s Word
- Corporate Singing
- Corporate Affirmation of Doctrinal Statements
- The Public Reading of Scripture
- Words Testimony, Repentance, and Praise
- Celebration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
- Tithes and Offerings
Community Discipleship: We are a Christ-centered community committed to equipping believers to live as biblical disciples of Jesus Christ. We believe the best means to live as Christ-centered disciples’ is by forming relational community groups where believers may mature in the faith. Spiritual maturity is the goal; even Jesus’ commission extends beyond an initial conversion to full discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20). Discipleship refers to the process of following Jesus that seeks transformation through the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. Following Christ changes us as we are no longer “conformed to this world” but “transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2).To be authentically transformational we recognize that our beliefs impact our lifestyle. Christ taught that both hearing and acting on God’s Word is necessary for a firm foundation in life (Matthew 7:24-27). Authentic discipleship as found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) illustrates how we should obey Christ and live as He lived so that God’s Kingdom will be manifest on earth as it is in heaven. Both belief and practice lead to the same goal. What we believe matters. Jude wrote “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).Correct belief (or doctrinal truth) from “hearing the Word of God” is a rock solid foundation that leads to practicing the Word of God (Matthew 7:24).Combining both ideas of belief and practice, the bible states “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15); likewise James writes “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Our community discipleship structure is focused on equipping believers of all age groups to actually live as mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches that the goal of church leadership is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Since the path of our church for equipping disciples is through a small group style ministry, attention will be given to building methods of accountability.In addition, specific attention will be given to equipping parents to lead their children as disciples of Christ in a way that recognizes the home as the primary training-center for the next generation of disciples. The equipping ministry of First Baptist Jackson is viewed as a process more than a program. Other structures that will take place through the small group ministry process are assimilation, teaching, and membership care. Thus, while pastors or directors may be responsible for coordinating the small group ministry the actual individuals within the group are responsible for carrying out the support systems of pastoral care, accountability, and teaching structures that are provided by the church leadership.
Jesus Christ is the focus of all the created order and in the drama of existence He takes center stage. Colossians 1:17 tells us that Christ “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Christ is the very image of God, for He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). Christ is also the focal point and hero throughout the biblical narrative. God’s spoken word creating the universe is Jesus (Genesis 1), the first message of hope in Scripture given to Adam referenced the work of Jesus (Genesis 3:15), the ark of salvation that saves humanity from judgment is Jesus (Genesis 6), the promise to Abraham to make his seed as of the sand of the seashore is found in Jesus (Genesis, Galatians), the Davidic warrior who can save Israel from Goliath is Jesus, and the promised King to rule all nations is Jesus (Psalm 2). In the same manner God’s Word and God’s world focuses on Jesus, so should the church. To be Christ-centered means as a church we will focus our attention on magnifying Jesus Christ and sharing the gospel message, which is the “Good News” of Jesus Christ’s perfect life, propitiation for sinners, resurrection from the dead, Lordship over the created universe, and ascension to the Father. We are committed to making Disciples of Christ who acknowledge that salvation is a surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior but who also live out His Lordship in all spheres of life.