Our Search For Total Christ Spirituality
You will see it all throughout our literature and printed on our bulletin covers—“that Christ might come to be first in everything” (Col.1:18-19). Yes, our name Christ Presbyterian Church really means that we want this to be all about Christ—his work, not ours, as the basis of our relationship to God and one another, and his glory, not ours or any popular leader, as the object of our ultimate affection and respect. But it needs to go beyond even this! It is our desire to experience total Christ not just one or another brand of Christ which would focus on one or another aspect of Christ’s ministry in our lives.
The term “Total Christ” originates from the 5th century pastor-theologian St. Augustine, who described the relationship of Christ’s incarnational ministry (past) to his ongoing ascension ministry (present) as “the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us; to that flesh is joined the church, and there is made total Christ, both head and body.” It is our intention to reunite these spiritualities that in modern history tend to be separated. These churches place heavy emphasis on both the grace of the gospel and the importance of the church as the locus of missions. They do not dichotomize teaching and community, but instead seek to show forth Christ’s life giving presence as these things are lived out in a particular community. We believe that gospel-centered and missional are as inseparable as Christ’s head (Word) is to Christ’s body (temple)! [cf. Jn 1:14, Eph 1:22-23] Such churches seek to mediate Christ’s vivifying presence as our Prophet (through confessional teaching), Priest (through sacramental worship) and King (through communal formation).
Our search then is the search for Christ wherein it can be hopefully said that he is a “head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph.1:22-23, also 2:19ff). In search of a holistic and healthy Christian life and church, the five marks of a "total Christ" spirituality are as follows:
We believe that the Gospel is not only the ABC’s but the A to Z’s of the Christian life in at least two ways. First, it is not only our ticket to heaven based on grace through faith, it is the way God sets us free to live the more transformed life. Second, the Gospel is not just about the “inward” person concerning our spiritual needs, but also the “outward” person concerned with our emotional, physical, vocational, etc. needs. The Gospel therefore is a holistic commitment to empowerment aimed at spiritual conversion and discipleship in reliance upon Christ together with micro-enterprise ventures and family/personal Christian counseling. (Rom.1:17, Eph 2:1-10)!
What to look for:
- The experience of Christian assurance of God’s favor based on God’s grace in Christ.
- People who are identity oriented as adopted sons/daughters vs. performance oriented as slaves/workers.
- Transparency in willingness to confess real sins.
- A different approach to suffering and trials as related to God’s training vs. God’s punishment.
- A new motivation for service that is internal and gratitude based vs. external and duty based.
- More and more set free from self-promotion, self-defending, self-justifying, blame-shifting approach to life.
- Law loving as it is the basis for personal and communal flourishing now that we are no longer law relying as the basis of being accepted by God.
- Sabbath enjoying in trustful contentment upon God’s gracious provisions in Christ.
2) Being Missional:
More than a source of mission, the carefully designed, apostolically-organized, church is the locus of mission and the very life giving and mediated presence of Christ. Just the church being the church with the whole world present is God’s missionary strategy to the world (John 1:14, 20:21)! This makes our approach to evangelism and discipleship participatory and not simply declarative.
What to look for:
- And emphasis upon participational apologetics vs. just declarative apologetics.
- Non-Christians participating in the life of the church and worship.
- Worship that both, and at the same time, is a participation in the mystery of Christ’s transcendent otherness yet is accessed through the incarnate presence of Christ with local mannerisms.
- A willingness to suffer all things for the sake of the “elect” – both unchurched and churched – no false dichotomies.
- A confidence in the outward means of grace as a missionary strategy to our world (preaching, sacraments, community, prayers).
- A church that assumes a missionary mentality both locally and globally.
3) United in Belief:
Whereas the Scripture is our only rule of faith and practice, we want to read and interpret the scripture with the consensus of the church that is passed down from every age and place through the use of “confessions”. Our consensus is reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith which is consistent with other familiar creeds such as the Apostles' and Nicene creeds. We strive to apply our beliefs to all of life and in so doing relate to Dorothy Sayers’ famous saying “the dogma is the drama!”
What to look for:
- A culture of humble submission to scripture revealed in a willingness to biblically regulated worship and practice.
- A high regard for the Christian scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice wherein the church, acting corporately, is careful to declare nothing save the whole counsel of God’s Word (not more, not less) as discerned by good and necessary inference.
- A high regard for the scriptures in preaching that is expositional and Christ-centered, careful to discern the original intent by preaching right doctrines/practices from right texts.
- A humble regard for the church vs. the individual as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” such as to read the Bible communally vs. individualistically including the use of historic creeds and confessions.
- A church that is careful to consistently teach and apply biblical theology as the friend of Christian renewal and sanctification.
- A culture of humble submission to scripture that is less prone to be blown about by every wind of faddish doctrine and philosophy of ministry.
4) Participating in Sacramental Worship:
We desire an emphasis on sacramental spirituality wherein Christ our Priest is “fleshed out” in a carefully designed four movement worship service that follows the four movements of the gospel and culminates every week in a participation in eucharistic communion with Christ as “fleshed out” in cultural styles specific to each local community (1 Cor. 10:14-17, Heb. 12:22-24, Rev. 4-5)!
What to look for:
- An awareness of divine presence and a temple spirituality in worship.
- Worship that is characterized by the full range of emotions fitting an encounter with the living God (yearning, wonder, joyfulness, sadness, resoluteness, humbleness, etc.).
- An assurance of divine presence that results in a culture of anticipation and expectancy in worship and life.
- The sacramental mystery of local presence that transforms the meaning of menial, local, social-cultural mannerisms by Christ’s mediated presence.
- A church that can distinguish the word based elements in worship from the socio-cultural based forms that the elements must assume in order to transact God’s living presence.
- A church that practices a four-movement, temple-style worship service that does the gospel in Christ’s presence vs. the revival style service that gets a person to Christ and the gospel.
5) United in Community:
We want to emphasize a local-oriented ministry where community really matters. This community formation occurs where Christ our King is fleshed out through life on life “one anothering” and holistic empowerment under the shepherding care of Christ’s under-shepherds and servant leaders. (Jn 13:34, Gal. 6:2, 1 Peter 5:1-5)!
What to look for:
- A communal, rather than individual, approach to everything – such as to change the way we think about our possessions, time, decisions, ethics – everything in relation to one-anothering!
- A community that shares its burdens with one another.
- A community that values the Christian village in child raising.
- A communal consciousness that feels the relation of the part to the whole, both in flourishing as each member flourishes and in suffering as one member suffers.
- A missional method that focuses less on the individual evangelist and more on the communal evangelist as a strategy for reaching those not yet Christians.
- Intentional shepherding and life on life (vs. just curriculum on life) discipleship.