STATEMENT OF FAITH
STATEMENT OF FAITH
Why do we have an invitation?
The Scriptures record many incidents where listeners to God’s word were given an opportunity to respond to God’s conviction on their hearts.
(Exodus 32:26; Joshua 24:15; Matthew 7:28-8:1; 8:22; 10:32-33; 10:38-39; 11:28-30; 15:21-28; 16:24-27; Mark 1:17; 3:5; Mark 8:34-38; 10:14-16;10:17-22; Luke 6:8-11; 6:17-19;8:40-48;9:57-62;17:11-19; John 1:38-39; 1:4; 1:7-8; 4:16; 5:5-15; 6:1-14; 32-59; 7:37-39; 8:11; 9:1-11; 11:39-44; Acts 2:41; 3:19-4:4; 8:36-39; 10:34-35, Revelation 22:17)
What Decisions can you make?
Today is the day of salvation! This is the most important decision of your life.
The Bible presents a clear path to eternal life. First, we must recognize that we have sinned against God: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have all have broken His laws, which makes us deserving of punishment. Since all our sins are ultimately against an eternal God, only an eternal punishment is sufficient. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death; physical death and spiritual death, the latter being separating from God for all eternity in Hell. Salvation is deliverance from “wrath,” that is, from God’s judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence/penalty of sin and therefore involves the removal of the guilt sin.
God calls everyone to salvation and only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin’s penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). God has rescued us through Jesus Christ (John 3:17). Jesus Christ, the sinless (1 Peter 2:22), eternal Son of God became a man (John 1:1, 14) and died to pay our penalty. “God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was buried and on the third day He rose from the dead that achieved our salvation, proving His victory over sin and death. ((1 Corinthians 15:1-4); Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
We are saved by faith. First, we must hear the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins, burial, and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe—fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ – who He is, what He did, and why – for salvation (Acts 3:19 and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13). If we place our faith in Him, trusting in the person and work of Christ, we will be forgiven and receive the promise of eternal life in heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross is the only true path to eternal life! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
Baptism doesn’t save you or prove that a person is truly saved. The thief on the cross was saved and was never baptized. (Luke 23:40-43) Baptism is a command since Jesus commanded His disciples to Baptize as part of fulfilling the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20) Therefore, baptism is not optional and must be done as soon as it is possible. Baptism is a believer’s first step of obedience after receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Christian baptism is an outward testimony/profession of their faith that memorializes/points back to the inward reality of salvation that has already occurred in a believer’s life when they were saved. The meaning of the symbol action of Baptism signifies three different realities that occurred in and for the believer at salvation.
First, Baptism symbolizes our union with Christ. A believer is identified with the person and saving work of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:11-12).
Second, the symbolic action of being immersed in the water symbolizes being freed from the power of sin and dying to our sin nature. The action of coming out of the water pictures our new life in Christ and entering into eternal life by being regenerated/born again. (Romans 6:6-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17) The immersion into water symbolizes the washing away /cleansing of sin by the Holy Spirit in regeneration (Ezekiel 36:25; Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5) Furthermore, the raising of the person out of the water also signifies the hope that one day the person will be physically resurrected from the dead as Christ was resurrected. (Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22; 42-44; 50-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)
Third, it identifies the believer with the Church through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was a waterless Baptism that occurred at Salvation. At salvation the Holy Spirit placed the believer into the Body of Christ at salvation and identified and connected the person with everyone in the believing Church. (Acts 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:5) Baptism of the Spirit makes all believers of the Church unified in spirit. Therefore, Baptism points to our union with the Body of Christ. To identify with Christ is to identify with His people. (Ephesians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 12:4-5) Furthermore, Baptism has been given to the church as an ordinance. This gives the local body of believers a visible sign that a person is a professing believer since salvation/the new birth cannot be witnessed by anyone. (Matthew 28:19-20; John 3:8; Acts 2:38-42; Acts 10:47-48; Acts 19:5)
Therefore, the symbol of Baptism and the Greek word baptizo, which means to dip into water, demands total immersion into water. In Christian baptism, there are two requirements before a person is baptized: 1) the person being baptized must have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior, and 2) the person must understand what baptism signifies. If a person knows the Lord Jesus as Savior, understands that Christian baptism is a step of obedience in publicly proclaiming his faith in Christ, and desires to be baptized, then there is no reason to prevent the believer from being baptized.
The Definition of Church Membership
When an individual is saved, he becomes a member of the body of Christ universal; in Heaven and on earth. (1 Corinthians. 12:13). The believer now possesses the qualifications necessary to become member of a local expression of that Body. To become a member of a church one has to commit oneself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for the purposes of the Church. These purposes include receiving instruction from God’s Word (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy. 4:2), serving and edifying one another through the proper use of spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), participating in the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42), and proclaiming the Gospel to those who are lost (Matt. 28:18- 20).
Although Scripture does not contain an explicit command to formally join a local church, the biblical foundation for church membership, formal or informal, is discussed in principle in the New Testament. This biblical principle can be seen most clearly in the example of the early church, the existence of church government, the exercise of church discipline, and the exhortation to mutual edification. In the early church, the idea of experiencing salvation without belonging to a local church is foreign to the New Testament. When individuals repented and believed in Christ, they were baptized and added to the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). More than simply living out a private commitment to Christ, this meant joining together formally or informally with other believers in a local assembly and devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42).
The letters of the New Testament were written to local churches that possessed certain spiritual and practical boundaries. In the case of the few written to individuals—such as Philemon, Timothy and Titus—these individuals were leaders in churches. The New Testament letters themselves demonstrate that the Lord assumed that believers would be committed to a local assembly. There is also evidence in the New Testament that just as there was a list of widows eligible for financial support (1 Tim. 5:9), which could illustrate the possibility that local churches were tracking their members through lists as they grew in size. (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). In fact, when a believer moved to another city, his church often wrote a letter of commendation to his new church (Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1; Col. 4:10; 2 Cor. 3:1-2).
The idea of experiencing salvation without belonging to a local church is foreign to the New Testament. In the book of Acts, much of the terminology fits only with the concept of some type of church membership. Phrases such as “the whole congregation” (6:5), “the church in Jerusalem” (8:1), “the disciples” in Jerusalem (9:26), “in every church” (14:23), “the whole church” (15:17), and “the elders of the church” in Ephesus (20:17), all suggest recognizable church membership with well-defined boundaries (also see 1 Cor. 5:4; 14:23; and Heb. 10:25). Therefore, whether or not the membership was formal or informal, there were clear boundaries of who belong and who did not that one cannot deny.
The Existence of Church Government
The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that a pastor/pastors is/are to oversee each local body of believers. The specific duties given to these pastors presuppose a clearly defined group of church members who are under their care. Among other things, these men are responsible to shepherd God’s people (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2), to labor diligently among them (1 Thess. 5:12), to have charge over them (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17), and to keep watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Scripture teaches that the pastors will give an account to God for the individuals allotted to their charge (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:3).
Those responsibilities require that there be a distinguishable, mutually understood membership, formal or informal, in the local church. Pastors can shepherd the people and give an account to God for their spiritual well-being only if they know who they are; they can provide oversight only if they know those for whom they are responsible; and they can fulfill their duty to shepherd the flock only if they know who is part of the flock and who is not. The pastors of a church are not responsible for the spiritual well-being of every individual who visits the church or who attends sporadically. Rather, they are primarily responsible to shepherd those who have submitted themselves to the care and the authority of the church, and this is only done through some type of formal or informal church membership.
Conversely, Scripture teaches that believers are to submit to their pastors. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them.” The question for each believer is, “Who are your leaders?” The one who has refused to join a local church and entrust himself to the care and the authority of the pastor has no leaders. For that person, obedience to Hebrews 13:17 is impossible. To put it simply, this verse implies that every believer knows to whom he must submit, which, in turn, assumes clearly defined church membership.
Therefore, even though requiring a formal church membership is not discussed in Scripture per se, it is also not forbidden to require it either. The Scripture discusses the spiritual organization of the church such as the two offices of pastor and deacon, the roles of men and women, its discipleship and evangelism goals and values, and the behavioral expectations for believers. However, there is a great amount of flexibility in how each individual church decides to function in its cultural and contextual setting. For example, in the United States a church can file Articles of Incorporation with its respective state in order to protect individual leaders within that church from being sued personally. The negative of having Articles of Incorporation is that the church, which is consider a non-profit, must have a board with officers. Articles of Incorporation are not discussed in the Scripture but neither are they forbidden. Therefore, they become a preference issue, which allows a church the freedom to have this protection or not. (Romans 14:1-23; Colossians 2:16-17) Rock Harbor Church (RHC) has taken advantage of this law to protect its leadership and members from being sued. However, a church has the freedom to file Articles of Incorporation or not to. Therefore, having a formal church membership is categorized under this same freedom. One church may decide not have a formal church membership while another one has the freedom to require it based on the context and cultural setting. Neither of the decisions are wrong. Therefore the issue is morally neutral if the intent is for good reasons and church does not try to force its decision on other churches.
At Rock Harbor Church we have decided to require membership for 5 reasons:
In America commitment is a rare commodity, and in general church membership ranks very low on many believer’s priorities. Sadly, American Christians practice horrible ecclesiology because they tend to move from church to church on whims of children, teens, or some perceived felt need. Many practice what is commonly called “cafeteria Christianity.” In other words, they pick and choose the best programs from different local assemblies to meet the needs of themselves and their families. Therefore, they never commit to a specific church, but simply take the best from multiple churches. RHC desires that its members be committed to every aspect of the church and its agenda. RHC’s desire is for its members not to get into the practice of taking the best of churches in the community but to find ways to increase the ministry capabilities by their commitment to the cause of RHC. The New Testament teaches that the church is the body of Christ, and that God has called every member to a life devoted to the growth of the local body they belong to. In other words, Scripture exhorts all believers to edify the other members by practicing the “one-another’s” of the New Testament (e.g., Heb. 10:24-25) and exercising their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). Mutual edification can only take place in the context of the corporate body of Christ in a local church setting. Exhortations to this kind of ministry presuppose that believers have committed themselves to other believers in a specific local assembly. Church membership is simply the formal or informal way to make that commitment.
It is a sad fact but many American Christians do not want accountability in their lives. They refuse to submit themselves to the care of the pastors and deacons, and they never commit themselves to a group of fellow believers. In essence, they try to practice Christianity in isolation which goes against how the church was designed as a body. When one becomes a member of a church, formally or informally, he submits himself to the care and the authority of the biblically qualified pastors that God has placed in that assembly as long as they function correctly. (1 Timothy 3:1-7) Furthermore, believers are all responsible to serve the local body of Christ, but this can only be done in the context of a local church. If that local church has chosen to practice a formal church membership, then that is the step the believer would have to take in order to effectively serve at that church. This would be an issue of submission. (Hebrews 13:17)
3. Church Discipline
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus outlines the way the church is to seek the restoration of a believer who has fallen into sin—a four-step process commonly known as church discipline. First, when a brother sins, he is to be confronted privately by a single individual (v. 15). If he refuses to repent, that individual is to take one or two other believers along to confront him again (v. 16). If the sinning brother refuses to listen to the two or three, they are then to tell it to the church (v. 17). If there is still no repentance, the final step is to put the person out of the assembly (v. 17; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13). The exercise of church discipline according to Matthew 18 and other passages (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 3:10-11) presupposes that the pastors of a church know who their members are. For example, the pastor/pastors has neither the responsibility nor the authority to discipline a member of the church down the street. Sadly, the widespread lack of understanding of church membership by Christians has made it necessary for pastors to discipline not only formal members but also non-members who regularly fellowship at the church but never join. However, the Bible’s teaching on church discipline assumes church membership formally or informally.
One of the biggest factors for congregations losing their churches is due to being sued. Even though the Scriptures admonish brothers not to sue one another, the culture that we live in is a very litigious one; believers included. Many believers ignore the warning in Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:1-8) and actually sue the very church they attend. This ability to sue a church does not really exist in third world countries or even throughout church history, but it is a reality today in America. This sad reality requires that a church protect itself. Therefore, membership becomes a way to protect a church from being sued. Membership protects against several things that has and does happen:
Defamation of Character/Public Slander lawsuits.
If RHC did not have membership requirements and we publically churched disciplined someone as prescribed in Matthew 18:15-19, then we could be sued for either defamation of character or public slander. The fact that we require church membership protects us as a non-profit entity in the State of California. For example, if we church disciplines a member for living in open sin and we had to take it to level three of Matthew 18:17, then that member could not sue us for public slander or defamation of character. The ability to sue a non-profit organization is lost when a person decides to give up that right when they join and sign a membership agreement. By signing a membership agreement, the person has submitted to the non-profit organization’s rules and understands that rule violations are grounds for dismissal. Our rules for dismissal are found in Matthew 18:15-19, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5:5,9-11-13, 2 Thessalonians 3:6,13-15, and Titus 3:10. This reality exists for all non-profits and not just churches. We have handled several instances of church discipline since the inception of RHC, but those issues were handled privately at the first and second levels of Matthew 18. However, it is very real possibility that one day RHC will have to publicly church discipline one of its members due to the person’s unrepentance reaching the third level of Matthew 18. If this happens, RHC will have to take the issue to level four of Matthew 18 and publicly disciplined an individual. RHC is protected from being sued at this point for defamation of character or public slander due to our formal membership covenant that the person signed. The courts will defend us and not them since they submitted to the non-profit’s form of discipline for non-compliance.
5. A Vetting System.
If someone comes to faith in Christ for the first time in their lives, then we can properly vet them with our own discipleship program. However, the majority of people who join RHC come from other churches and that brings a whole new dynamic to our context. We are not in an isolated area such as in the first century or some remote place on the mission field. Churches in America are on every block it seems and so we believe that there needs to be a vetting system to ensure that RHC’s members are professing salvation according to the Scriptures, Biblically baptized, living biblically consistent lives, and are not under church discipline. In the American culture of churches, there exists the fact that other churches do an extremely poor job leading people to the Lord, baptizing, and disciplining people. Some of these churches are liberal or apostate so the person comes with a host of heresies and are at times practicing an immoral lifestyle. Therefore, when the people who have been attending these kinds of churches decides to join RHC, we have discovered that they have major spiritual, theological, and moral issues that need to be confronted since we don’t want heresies or immorality infecting our people. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that false doctrine acts as a cancer. (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Therefore, to protect our people and our reputation in the community, we have decided to have a vetting system. This vetting system of membership allows us to maintain our theological standards and to present a membership whose behavior is consistent with the Scriptures. Lastly, one of the last safety nets that RHC has is a public invitation after the sermon. If someone comes forward to join the church during the invitation, then the members can see who is joining RHC. If a member is aware of an issue regarding a person desiring membership, then they can alert the leadership of the church of any issue they deem to be problematic. Therefore, in our cultural context, RHC is exercising the freedom given in Scripture by requiring membership as the vehicle used for vetting people.
What are we doing?
- Love the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- Love People of all Nations.
- Share Jesus the Messiah.
- Make Disciples of all Nations.
What are our values?
- A maturing relationship with the Messiah.
- Biblical authority as God’s perfect standard for life and faith.
- Biblical hospitality to all people to know the Love of the Messiah.
- Ministry excellence since we serve the Messiah.
- Ministry integrity since we are accountable to the Messiah.
What makes us successful in the eyes of the Lord?
We worship the LORD.
- Love the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- We read and study the Scriptures.
- We pray.
- We obey.
Love People of all Nations
- Our family relationships are growing.
- Our church family relationships are growing.
- I’m involved in a Bible Study.
- I give care to the believers at church.
- I serve at church.
Share Jesus the Messiah
- We are prepared to share the Gospel to the Jew first and the Gentile.
- We are proactively developing relationships with lost people.
- We engage in witnessing opportunities with lost people.
- We are supporting missionaries who are taking the Gospel to the nations.
Make Disciples of all Nations.
- We are personally accountable to other believers.
- We are involved in equipping other believers.
- We are multiplying disciples.
- We are using our spiritual gifts to edify one another.
How are we doing it?
- We worship, serve and connect weekly.
- We reach and equip regularly.
Where is the Lord taking us?
We believe God is calling us to be a light in the darkness to a lost and ever-darkening world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Good News about the Person and work of the Messiah) provided the way for sinners to move from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light. Once we receive this truth by faith personally, we’re compelled to share the effects of this spiritual change with others and to grow in our relationship with the Messiah.
ROCK HARBOR CHURCH
We're On a Mission
Rock Harbor Church is a community of believers devoted to God’s Word. Founded upon an unwavering commitment to “anchor ourselves to the rock of Christ,” we teach the entire Bible verse by verse from Genesis to Revelation, and seek to apply its truth to our daily lives in order to go deeper in our walk with the Lord. We are a growing body of believers committed to reaching our culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that the Bible is God’s Holy Word, and that it contains God’s perfect plan to redeem humanity from sin, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
We defend God’s absolute truth in a relativistic culture. We desire to ground our understanding of current events from a biblical and prophetic perspective. We protect our people by warning of the growing apostasy inside and outside of Christendom. We value the Biblical family unit which was created by God to be the bedrock of a society. Therefore, our desire is to preserve our marriages and seek to protect and prepare our children to encounter a culture that is hostile to a biblical view of the family. We support the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, and the Lord’s plan for them.