Sometimes people think I or our elders don’t know the rules for the game of “doing church.” In many ways, however, the difference between HPC (Highland Park Church) and more typical approaches is intentionally engineered based upon convictions and understandings derived from a fresh study of the Word back in 1995-6.
Besides studying relevant Scripture portions, the elders (yours truly included) read Gene Getz’s book, “Sharpening the Focus of the Church” as prerequisite preparation. We had a second meeting every month for the better part of a year to construct this document. When you consider all the individual work we did at home, this was quite an undertaking.
Our approach was to be different from the typical conservative evangelical/ fundamental church by trying to get as many people involved as possible in our services and church life. One key statement is, “We want people to be attracted to HPC primarily because they see God at work in the lives of our people.”
Every church has its unique flavor, sometimes based upon the weight it gives to certain convictions over others. This approach is somewhat atypical. For example, it looks at edification as the broad purpose of gathering with worship as a sub-category. The entire document can be viewed at http://www.highlandpc.com/aboutus/purpples.php. This is just the first portion.
The Purpose and Principles of Highland Park Church
By Pastor Ed Vasicek and the Highland Park Church Board of Elders
May 16, 1996
As an independent church, Highland Park Church attracts members from a variety of backgrounds and denominations. This sometimes causes difficulties as we attempt to mold our varieties of perspective into a unified body. A lack of denominational framework gives us freedom, which brings with it an added responsibility for the leaders of the church to clearly define our mission and the principles through which we seek to accomplish this mission. That is the main thrust of this document. It is sometimes called “getting everyone on the same page.” It is our hope that as you consider these statements your spirit will agree with ours, and we can, together, find ourselves on the “same page.”
As a result of much prayer, study, and discussion, the elders have agreed to this series of statements or affirmations.
Basis for Decisions Where the Word of God Is Silent
Decisions should be made first and foremost by the Word of God. However, in those cases where the Bible is silent on an issue, we must take great care to discern the right approach. For instance, the Word of God does not tell us what color to paint the auditorium. In making that sort of decision, the following are good questions to ask:
- Will this contribute toward edifying people?
- Will it create obstacles to openness and warmth?
- What is in the best interest of the church?
- What is in the best interest of those we are trying to reach? The wrong question is “What do I like?”
Substance Over Image
We believe that truth and sincerity are more valuable than slick delivery and professionalism. At the same time, we value individuals who do their best and plan ahead. We are interested in ministry more than production, integrity more than appeal, maturity more than emotional high.
Our top concern is the inner man. We want to rightly discern the difference between innovations that will encourage spiritual growth and shallow fads. We want people to be attracted to HPC primarily because they see God at work in the lives of our people.
We choose substance over image. We do not want to look like a group of loving believers as much as we want to be loving believers. We do not want marriages that look Christian as much as we want marriages that are Christian. We do not want to hold unproductive evangelistic meetings so that we have an image of concern for the lost; we want to actually care and to effectively reach them. We do not want to give an image of caring for youth, we want to minister to their needs. We do not want to call Jesus “Lord” and yet not do the things that He says.
View of Facilities
We view our facilities as existing to serve our ministry. The buildings are not a shrine or museum to be maintained but exist solely to facilitate ministry. The facilities are God’s property, held in trust by the church. We have, therefore, the responsibility to care for them well. Yet, it is what we do as a church, not where we meet, that is sacred. Our facilities and our approach to ministry should enhance interaction and warmth among believers here.
Purposes of the Local Church
Our church exists for edification and evangelism. It is our view that our church gathers primarily for edification, both in group meetings and through personal ministries. We are also commissioned to bring lost people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ through personal and corporate witness and through organized outreach.
One of the two great purposes of the local church is the edification (or encouraging growth toward maturity) of believers. It has many facets and incorporates much of what we do in the church.
Foundation and Examples of Edification
Teaching is a cornerstone of edification. A full view of edification, however, encompasses anything that encourages, trains, or motivates us toward love, good works, and a deepening walk with the Lord. We can do many things that edify, such as teaching, prayer, praising God in word and song (music), acts of mercy, all sorts of encouragement (notes, phone calls), connecting all people in the body (building family life), small group meetings, and service group meetings (Awana staff gatherings, boards, etc.).
Multifaceted Approach to Edification
Individual elements of edification should not be substituted for the whole. Being built up is a many-faceted process. Although a particular element of edification meets a felt need, this does not negate the needs we may not feel. Just like we need to eat a balanced diet, we need a sampling of the whole process of edification. It may be our nature to want all dessert and no vegetables, but we need the veggies! We might prefer teaching, but we also need prayer. The ministry of music might touch us, but we also need to be challenged.
This also means that we reject the notion that our church gathers mainly for worship or that it gathers mainly for instruction. A particular service may highlight these elements, but the sum total of our church’s activities must be much broader. Personalities and human nature draw us away from balance, but we must constantly seek to better obey the whole counsel of God.
All Believers Involved
We believe that it is God’s will for every believer to be involved in the local church in some way, and we are convinced that every believer has something to offer. The Bible compares the church to a body, each member needing to function. The church needs to be structured to let that happen.
Purpose of Meetings
Most of our church meetings and events are designed to contribute to building up believers in some way and should encourage believers toward spiritual maturity. This maturity is especially evidenced by the qualities of faith, hope, and love.
Spiritual maturity is not an end—it is a direction. We become more spiritually mature by “walking in the Spirit” over a period of time. Spiritual maturity is seen in both the absence of the works of the flesh and the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. Although the list in Galatians 5 details what spiritual maturity looks like, the New Testament often summarizes maturity in three virtues: faith (which produces works), hope (which produces a constant, enduring walk), and love (which produces a heart-felt labor).
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest. Love is others-centered, which is not to be confused with people-pleasing. It involves compassion and forbearance but not permissiveness. Love can be firm for the sake of others but is not selfish. Hope refers to borrowing strength and endurance for today in view of our eternal inheritance. Hope centers around an eagerness for the second coming of Christ. Faith refers to our personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is closely related to hope but deals more with God’s will and goes beyond our own ability. It manifests itself in good deeds, as well as in prayer, evangelism, and a hunger for growth.
Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute. He has served as pastor of Highland Park Church since 1983. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has written many weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers at his church website. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul’s Teachings.