Who We Are

Who are you?

Who we are, basically, is a gathering of people committed to following Jesus. Jesus lived in Israel about 2,000 years ago, teaching and doing a lot of mysterious and wonderful things. For example, he taught that he was always God, but that he was now also human. Jesus taught that he would die so that God would no longer hold our sins against us, then after he died, he rose from the dead.

Overall, Jesus taught people to learn from the Christian Bible (parts of which were written by his authorized representatives shortly after he died) about God and about how to live a good life. Jesus talked a lot about misunderstandings of God and of what a good life is.

Anyhow, one of the things Jesus taught his closest followers was that they should spread his teachings and establish local churches that were set up a certain way and did certain things. And those churches were to establish other ones like them, and on and on. So we are just one of these local churches.

Some of us were born into Christian families and were raised to follow Jesus and the Bible. As we got older our understanding of Jesus and our confidence in him grew (even though some of us for a time rejected Jesus, or had serious doubts and questions about him that were not settled until later). Others of us growing up were not taught about Jesus, but we learned about him later. Some of us followed other religions and philosophies. But here we are today, no matter how we got here, committed loyalists to Jesus, still learning from him. We love all people no matter what they believe, but we reject all other competing religions and philosophies. Regardless of your background, your beliefs, or your level of understanding, we see it as our privilege to welcome you, serve you, and help you work through your own convictions about God and the Bible.

How are you the same as other churches?

One interesting thing is that even among followers of Jesus, there are different understandings of who Jesus is and what he did and taught, different understandings of what the Bible says and means. But the vast majority of churches throughout the world and throughout history, all these people that claim to follow Jesus, they actually agree on many, many beliefs and practices. In that way, though they have some differences, they are a lot more alike than people sometimes think. One way you can see how many followers of Jesus think alike is by the three “creeds” (creeds means official belief statements) of our church. These three creeds are the same ones used by all kinds of Christian churches for almost the whole 2,000 years since Jesus’ time. We use them today, not only because they are true, but because we want to show our unity with these churches throughout history.

The Apostles’ Creed is a short summary of the Christian religion used in this form perhaps in the early 5th century, and itself is taken from older statements used in the ancient church. The Nicene Creed is a 4th century summary of the Christian faith written to express clearly what the Bible teaches about Jesus being God, and about his relationship to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. The Athanasian Creed is a 6th century, more detailed statement of the Bible’s teaching about these things, and it also says more about how Jesus is both God and man. Anyway, these three creeds are an example of the great unity of understanding that Jesus’ followers have had.

How are you different from other churches?

And yes it is also true, there are some important differences among churches throughout history and today. Consequential differences. Sometimes people don’t give much thought to this. Whatever is popular among churches in their time, or whatever they grew up with in church, whatever feels right, this may seem enough. The three other documents in this book (together called “The Three Forms of Unity”), they help describe some important differences among churches, and they also summarize what we think the Bible actually teaches on those issues.

The Belgic Confession was written in the Reformed churches in the southern Netherlands in the 1500s and is the best thorough overview of what Reformed churches believe. The Heidelberg Catechism was written in the Reformed churches in Germany in the 1500s in question-and-answer format. It is simple and useful for children, also profound and insightful for advanced learners. The Canons of the Synod of Dordt were written and agreed upon by church leaders from all over Europe in the 1600s to express in more detail what the Bible teaches about how God rescues people from the ruin of sin. Anyway, these three writings help answer the question: “what do Reformed churches believe and why does it matter?”.

What does “Reformed” mean?

Sometimes churches use labels to give people an idea what they are like. Our church uses the label “Reformed” in our name. We belong to the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) federation of churches. And the URCNA belongs to even larger groups of churches, both the North American Presbyterian & Reformed Church Council, and the International Conference of Reformed Churches.

Our church is “Reformed” in two ways. First, we are “Reformed” in that we come from and agree with the churches that participated in the “Protestant Reformation.” This was a movement of Christians in the 1500s who protested against some deep corruptions in beliefs and practices of the largest churches of that day. There was still a lot of good in those large churches, but this movement sought to reform those churches where they had become deformed. Inevitably it seems that churches become corrupt over time, so we always need to return to form, striving to be aligned with our only perfect guide, the Bible. The Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism explain more, but if you want to have an idea what the original Protestant Reformers were passionate about, they wanted to uphold the supreme authority of the Bible over human opinion, they wanted to be clear about how God forgives sinners through Jesus apart from their moral and religious works, and the Reformers wanted to worship God the way he demands and desires.

Second, we are “Reformed” in that we agree with some specific biblical reforms most famously expressed in the 1500s by John Calvin, a French theologian and pastor. We mention Calvin not because he should be idolized and not because we agree with all of his teachings, but because he is the most influential Reformed person in history, and the churches he influenced the most came to be called Reformed churches.

What does Jesus teach?

The great theme in Jesus’ teaching is how he loves, forgives, and restores broken people who ask him for help. There is hope for us in Jesus. He is loving and powerful enough to forgive you and to change you, to reform you, not just once, but through your whole life. And he is powerful enough to raise you from the dead someday. We know the power and comfort of Jesus’ love. Jesus has rescued us, and so we invite you to experience that rescue with us, and honor Jesus, and extend his love to others. Again, welcome.