Philosophy of Ministry
We believe our philosophy of ministry is faithful to the Scriptures, dependent on the power of God, and sensitive to the needs of people in our culture.
As a body of Christians, we want to grow in spiritual maturity through teaching, preaching, discipleship, ministry experience, and mutual encouragement. As ambassadors for Christ in a post-Christian culture, we have a strong emphasis on discipleship, sharing our faith, and participating in world-wide missions. We seek to multiply the number of people who will glorify God in heaven whether they live next door or across the globe. Our philosophy is summarized by the phrase Upward, Inward, and Outward.
The heart of our faith is a relationship with God. To love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment (Mk. 12:29-30). It is our purpose to nurture this relationship in our church family as individuals and as a body.
1. Worship. When the church family meets together, worship is the primary way that the "upward" relationship to God is expressed. This includes adoration, praise, thanksgiving and song. We use several music styles, such as favorite old hymns, chorus songs and classical music. Because of our culture, we have chosen a worship style that is warm, personal and open, rather than formal and liturgical. During worship, the focus of both leaders and congregation should remain firmly fixed on God and His perfections.
Ps 34:1-3 “I will extoll the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.”
The teaching of the Scriptures is also central to the "upward" relationship, because we cannot have a deep relationship with God without spiritual knowledge. We recognize the authority of Scripture over us, and we are committed to obeying it. We believe that expositional preaching (usually the study of an entire book of the Bible) is the best practice for letting the Scripture speak for itself. Special topics are covered from time to time.
2. Devotions. In addition to having meaningful times of group worship, we want every believer to enjoy a personal relationship with God. We encourage personal devotions which include Bible study, worship and prayer. This practice is expected of the church family, and occasional classes are offered to improve our devotional life.
1. Discipleship. We stress the need to bring every member to maturity in Christ and to equip every member for ministry. The role of pastors is to equip the saints for ministry, rather than for the pastors to do everything themselves. Every believer is responsible for a complete life in Christ as stated in our purpose, "Upward, Inward, Outward."
Discipleship is not communicated through sermons and classes alone. It is mainly transferred through the modeling of Christlikeness. This requires older, more mature believers to spend a significant amount of time with younger believers. Pastors cannot do this alone, so we have several types of groups to meet this need for everyone. Some groups such as the College and Career Group have both men and women. We also have a men's discipleship group and a women's discipleship group. The leaders watch over the lives of the people in their groups, providing shepherding, personal discipleship, and mutual accountability.
2. Teaching. We aggressively encourage spiritual growth so that a significant impact can be made in a short period of time. A particular characteristic of our community is mobility, and many of our members are a part of the church family for only a few years. Therefore, we hope that the training given here will advance the kingdom of God elsewhere.
The teaching aspect of our church life takes many forms. We encourage everyone to get a "basic diet" through worship, Bible classes and small groups. Those who are running well and exhibiting leadership skills are invited to join a leadership training class.
The teaching of our children is also a high priority. Parents have the primary responsibility, and the church aids them by providing Sunday School classes and Children's Church.
3. Relationships. We recognize the deep need of every individual for love and personal attention. Friendliness and mutual concern are a part of our church culture and much support occurs spontaneously. Church leaders also oversee the church family so that no one "falls through the cracks."
4. Service. The final characteristic of our Inward family life is service. Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body (Rom. 12:3-6 and Eph. 4:11-13). Much of the "behind the scenes" work is accomplished by a group of volunteers who are assigned to particular tasks. One of our basic principles is "everyone has a job", and giving newcomers a job after a few months of attendance is part of our integration process.
We stress the need for the body to proclaim the gospel to a lost world (Mt. 28:18-20). Evangelism is the most difficult part of ministry because it is a direct challenge to the Enemy's rule. We give this area particular attention, not because it is more important, but because it is so difficult. It is often more comfortable for the church to stay within its own concerns, building, and relationships. Evangelism requires that we move beyond this. In Acts , we read the history of God moving the church forcefully to reach those who had not heard the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul said that he had become all things to all people (1 Cor. 10:22) so that nothing about himself would keep people from accepting the good news he carried. We, too, need this attitude. We are no longer a Christian church in a Christian land; we are missionaries and tentmakers. Not only must we accurately understand the Scriptures, we must accurately understand our culture in order to be good stewards of the good news of Jesus Christ.
There has been a radical change in the status of Christianity in our culture in the past generation. In the 1950s, Christianity was thought respectable. Many people came willingly to the church for worship, Sunday School, and revival meetings. Today, we live in a post-Christian society. Our Christian culture which includes hymn books, pews, and a special "Christianese" language is foreign and can be intimidating. Even worse, Christianity can be equated with mythology, fanaticism, greed and hypocrisy. Rather than there being respect and openness from the world to the church, there often exists barriers and prejudices.
Our approach to overcoming the cultural obstacles to the Gospel is to send our members out of our building the "turf" of the unbeliever. For example, a teen ministry would meet at a playground instead of inside the church building. We look for opportunities to serve people, building relationships where we can share about our personal faith in Christ. The church building is used primarily for the Upward and Inward ministries to the church members, not necessarily the Outward ministries to unbelievers. This approach is the most natural one for the non-Christian, but it is the most costly in time and money for believers.
1. Prayer. Prayer is not a method of evangelism, but it is so critical to the advance of the kingdom that we list it here with our evangelism philosophy. Prayer, like evangelism, is difficult because it hits directly at the Enemy. God is very willing to answer our prayers (John 15:7). Unfortunately, we often have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Any attempt at Outward ministry apart from serious prayer will fail from the start. In addition to personal prayer in devotions, which is expected of our members, prayer meetings convene weekly for the specific purpose of praying for missions and evangelism.
2. Evangelistic Ministries. Unbelievers rarely come to the church to hear the gospel. We have several outreach ministries to actively seek points of contact in the world to build relationships with non-Christians so that the gospel can be shared. This strategy is similar to the parable of the wedding guests (Mt. 22:1-14) where the Lord sent his workers out into the highways to find people who were willing to come to the banquet. These ministries are a key part of our evangelism strategy and considerable effort is invested in them, especially in summertime.
Sharing the good news in our daily lives is a strong expectation for our members. Programs of evangelism and strategic ministries of outreach can never replace genuine friendship. This is not just stressed through sermons, we also pray for each other's friends and occasionally hold classes are held to equip people for sharing the good news.
We maintain a strong missions program in three ways:.
1. Financial giving to missions, which is a significant portion of the total giving to the church.
2. Prayer meetings to intercede for missionaries and increase our knowledge of world missions.
3. Missions education occurrings through many other planned activities in our church life.
A further expression of our desire to reach unbelievers for Christ is to plant new churches in the Boston area-- , by either supporting this work or engaging in it directly. We recognize that our present form of ministry is not appropriate for many cultural subgroups in this international city. We believe that our obligation goes beyond making individual disciples. We believe our disciple-making should lead to new churches.
Our church planting strategy is consistent with other facets of our philosophy of ministry. We believe that two smaller churches can reach more unbelievers and minister more effectively to their members than a single larger church. A smaller group attracts new members by its "everybody knows everybody" friendliness, and it encourages responsible involvement.
We at Hope International Church are a multi-ethnic congregation that comes together to encourage and develop one another through personal discipleship that is caught not just taught, service, and missions, all for the purpose of glorifying God and expanding His kingdom.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)