Purpose & Principles of a Local Church, Part 2

Introduced by Pastor Ed Vasicek. Read Part 1.

In the first installment of our “Purpose and Principles of Highland Park Church” document, I explained how the elders (1996) unanimously embraced the views expressed in it, and that this document still represents my viewpoint.

When I tell folks, “I don’t want our church to be like other churches,” they almost always say, “I don’t either.” But we often mean different things by that statement. This document goes a long way toward explaining what I mean.

Last time, we saw that involving a lot of people in our gatherings (body life) was key to our view of a successful church. We look at edification as the template and rubric for our services. This is one of the major, intentional distinctives between our church and most others in our area. While many other churches are putting their “best” in the limelight, we want to develop our people via participation and body life (as we understand the Bible to mandate). We also want people to be attracted to HPC because they see God at work in our people (not just a few), and we want to showcase that reality as much as we can.

In this second of three segments, you will note some distinctives that are perhaps a bit more subtle. For example, our intentional, overt respect for parental domain and the option of what we now call “inter-generational” classes is not typical in many churches.

Let me share a few interpretive notes. PTK (Praise Time Kids) was what we once called our Children’s Church and SOC (Soldiers of Christ) is what we called our youth group. We currently do not offer Sunday School classes for children (except teens), but we do offer an inter-generational class.

The Purpose and Principles of Highland Park Church (Part 2)

Christian Education

We believe that Christian education is one of the keys to edification of believers. Our philosophy of education is based on the following principles:

Our education classes should offer a balanced approach so that over time participants get instruction emphasizing many aspects, such as the following:

The revealed truths of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), the historic truths of the Bible (1 Corinthians 10:11), sound doctrine and theology (Titus 2:1), spiritual depth (Hebrews 6:1), relevancy of scripture to daily life (Proverbs 6:23).

Teaching the Bible, especially to children, is essential to passing on the faith to the next generation. Indeed, this was commanded to Israel concerning the ongoing teaching of God’s law. (2 Timothy 2:2, 3:15; Psalm 78:5-7)

We believe that parents bear the primary responsibility for instructing their children. However, we also recognize that God equips the body of believers with people especially gifted to teach. We, therefore, use these talents in the church to assist our parents’ efforts. (Proverbs 1:8; Romans 12:7)

The emphasis of training should vary depending on the age and spiritual maturity of the group being addressed. For instance, children need material at appropriate reading levels. Also, newer converts need a different emphasis than mature believers. (1 Peter 2:2)

We believe that many approaches to teaching are valid. Therefore, rather than leadership selecting all methods and materials, we normally prefer that teachers select those techniques and materials that fit their particular gifts and agree with our doctrinal positions. (Deuteronomy 11:19)

All teachers within the church are merely servants of Jesus Christ. We recognize that the real teacher is God, working through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and our relationship with Jesus. (Matthew 13:52; Romans 15:4; Luke 12:12; Luke 11:1)

Respect for Parents’ Authority

We acknowledge and work with the sovereignty of the family. We recognize that parents, not the church, are responsible to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We try, therefore, to work with families and respect parental domain. We reject the idea that an institution automatically has a better idea of what is in a child’s best interest than the parents.

Therefore,

  • We think parents should determine if their child is ready to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
  • We believe that both fathers and mothers are to be the main source of Christian teaching, with Sunday School, Praise Time Kids, Awana, and Soldiers of Christ adding information and support. We recognize this is not always possible, especially in instances when the father isn’t saved.
  • When approved by the elders, we allow believing parents to baptize their own children upon the child’s profession of faith.
  • We allow parents to bring their child into an adult Sunday School class as long as the child does not disturb the class.

Building Relationships

Every believer should seek opportunities to encourage other believers. This involves a willingness to meet, visit with, and get to know individuals beyond one’s current circle of friends. As a church, we can provide opportunities for body life and relationships. Casual conversations after Sunday morning and evening services can develop into friendships. Attending Flock Groups or inviting people to dinner are other ways to build relationships. We encourage each person to take advantage of these and other opportunities.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to want people to be available when we need them, yet to feel that we don’t have the time when others need us. Many people want close friends, but they are not willing to move beyond intention when it comes to sacrificing time or eliminating other activities to have them. We hold the individual responsible to build friendships and the leadership responsible to organize ways to make this easier.

Some individuals need help in getting to know others. The leadership and the body of believers need to help connect these people to appropriate ministries, to opportunities, and to other people. Offering to drive to a social gathering or flock group, sitting with new or unconnected folks during a service or at a church meal, and inviting them for coffee are some ways to accomplish this.

Provision For the Needy

Provision for the needy in the body is a basic tenet that dates to the first church in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:45, 4:34-35) Jesus instructs us that this is a test of our obedience and devotion to Him in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. There are many instructions in the New Testament pertaining to the care of those brothers and sisters who are in need. From these references, we draw the following principles:

  • We place a high emphasis on personal responsibility of believers. We are each to strive to be financially independent of the charity of others. Anyone who can, should work to provide for their own needs. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12)
  • We are to take care of our own relatives rather than rely on the church for charity. (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16)
  • As a church, we will follow the scriptural guidance of helping those who are truly needy and devoted to the Lord within our church family. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 Timothy 5:5, 9-10; 1 John 3:17)
  • Whenever we help brothers or sisters in need, we do it quietly, seeking only the heavenly reward of the Father, not the praise of men. (Matthew 6:1-4)

Ed Vasicek Bio


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.

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Thanks for the bit about saved parents making the decision about when their children follow the Lord in believer's baptism. This is very wise and helpful. I'm filing that one away. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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