What we believe...
About the Bible
The Bible, consisting of both Old and New Testaments, is the revealed word of God. It was given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and written by men, as they were guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). It is free of error in the original writings and is our sole authority on all matters of doctrine and conduct.
There is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) who eternally exists in three persons - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The three persons of the Godhead are distinct personalities; yet are co-equal one with the other (Ephesians 4:4-6, Hebrews 9:14). God is spirit - invisible, personal, self-existent, eternal, and unchanging.
About God the Father
God the Father is holy and cannot overlook or be associated with evil in any way. God is love (1 John 4:8) and has shown His love and mercy to all people in sending His Son, the Lord Jesus, to earth to pay the penalty of sin (1 John 4:10). God the Father was fully satisfied with the life and death of His Son and to demonstrate this He raised Him from the dead. Now that the price for sin has been paid, people can enter God's holy presence on the basis of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. God is not limited or localized by time and space; however His throne or place of administration is in heaven (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48-49).
About God the Son
God the Son entered human history as a man - Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:16). He was born of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:34-35) having been supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). While here upon earth He was, in one personality, both truly God and truly man (John 10:30). He lived a perfect and sinless life and then died on the cross having offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). He rose bodily from the dead (Luke 24:39), ascended to His Father's right hand in heaven (Ephesians 1:20) and appears there as our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:24).
About God the Holy Spirit
God the Holy Spirit is the Comforter sent by the Lord Jesus to abide with His people (John 14:16-18). He permanently indwells those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; 2 Timothy 1:14), thus putting God’s seal of ownership upon them and guaranteeing their security until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13--14; 4:30). The function of the Holy Spirit is to instruct believers in things about the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:26; 15:26-27), to transform them into the likeness of the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 5:22-26) and to equip and empower them for service (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
Humans are a special creation of God, made in His image (Gen 1:27), distinct from the animal world and given dominion by God over the rest of His creation (Gen 1:26). All human life is sacred, from conception (Ps 139:13-16) until death.
Adam was created by God in a state of innocence in which he enjoyed a personal relationship with God. By a deliberate act, he sinned and thereby incurred not only physical death but also spiritual death, which is separation from God (Romans 5:12). All his descendants are born into the world as sinners and are sinners in thought, word and deed. A restored relationship with God has been achieved by God Himself who provided His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Saviour (Romans 5:10,11). This reconciliation is received by individuals through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36). All who accept Him are eternally saved (John 10:28).
About the Church
The Church, which is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), is composed of all persons who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. All believers are incorporated into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, and have thus become members with each other of that body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 1:24). Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32) and directs the activities of His Church on earth.
About the Future
At any moment our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may return for His Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This event will be followed by a period of tribulation, a time of unparalleled hardship and judgement. This period will culminate in the return to the earth of our Lord Jesus Christ with His saints and the establishment of His 1000 year kingdom. Subsequently, unbelievers will be raised and condemned to everlasting, conscious punishment (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:5-6, 11-15).
New Testament Pattern
The word "church" is a religious word which was coined to describe a Christian congregation or meeting place. The NT word translated "church" had no such religious connotation. It referred to a group of people who were called out as, for example, the citizens of a town at a public gathering. The English word which probably best approximates the meaning of the Greek term is "assembly".
It is necessary that a local church (or assembly) give prayerful consideration to the teaching of the NT as to its purposes, activities and organization, recognizing that:
- the NT does not attempt to cover every detail relating to church practice. Indeed it may well be that the NT is deliberately silent on certain issues which may be handled differently depending upon the culture, the local situation, the composition of the assembly, etc.
- much of what the NT contains relating to church order is in reference to the practices of early churches rather than in specific commandments. Care has to be taken in determining which of these practices were of local or temporary nature rather than for all churches in all places at all times.
- there is considerable diversity of opinion among Christians on the operating practices of the local church, but the elders of each church must take a stand on what they believe to be Biblical and appropriate.
The objectives of the assembly may be summarized as follows:
- Godward - to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21)
- Inward - to promote spiritual growth in the life of each individual (Ephesians 4:12), providing scope for individuals to develop and exercise spiritual gifts (Romans 12:4-8)
- Outward - to reach others with the gospel, locally and elsewhere (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 1:8).
All believers in the Lord Jesus are members of the church, which is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-13), sometimes referred to as the universal church. In NT times the local church was a visible, recognizable entity (note the references to churches in the plural e.g. Galatians 1:2) which met for the purpose of celebrating the Lord's Supper (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:20-34), prayer (e.g. Acts 4:31) and teaching (e.g. Acts 20:7). It clearly was the practice for believers to:
- identify themselves with a local church (e.g. Acts 2:42);
- recognize those who do the work of elders and deacons within the church (e.g. Acts 14:23; Philippians 1 :1);
- accept the discipline which was exercised (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13);
- give expression to the fellowship they shared in meeting together and sharing together in a variety of privileges and responsibilities e.g. in the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17); prayer (Acts 2:42); service (Philippians 1:5; 4:3); giving (Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Each person in fellowship in the assembly will demonstrate these characteristics; a person who fails to do so on a consistent basis disqualifies himself/herself from fellowship.
Those who desire to fellowship in the assembly must clearly confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and be living in obedience to God's Word. Their interest in fellowship should be communicated to one of the elders who will arrange an interview with several elders. In the case of believers from other local churches, it is preferred that they provide a letter of reference from their former church. Announcements concerning those received into fellowship are made at the Lord's Supper for the information of others in the assembly. Such an announcement expresses the desire of the individual to actively share in the life of the assembly and the response of the assembly in receiving them (Romans 15:7; 16:2).
If a person is habitually away for a period of time (three months) without reasonable explanation, then he/she may expect a pastoral visit and a review of their relationship within the assembly.
Anyone desiring to withdraw from fellowship should inform the elders, preferably in writing, of their intent. All such may expect a personal visit to inquire as to their concerns, well-being and future direction. The assembly will be notified of such departures in order to be able to properly extend their blessings and show their love.
The Lord has entrusted the local church with the authority and responsibility to discipline those in the assembly who are guilty of flagrant sin or serious doctrinal error, the objective being that the erring believer might be restored to fellowship with the Lord and those in the assembly (Matthew 18:17; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). The elders provide leadership in disciplinary actions but discipline is a collective responsibility.
Discipline will normally involve exclusion from participation in ministry and/or communion at the Lord’s Supper. Other action may be taken as deemed appropriate by the elders and the assembly, in light of various examples in Scripture (Matthew 18:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15; Titus 1:10-11; 3:9-11 etc.).
It is important that one who is welcomed back after discipline should demonstrate meekness, love, humility, godly sorrow and repentance.
It is desirable that individual disputes be handled quickly and discreetly, between the offender and the offended alone (Matthew 5:23-23; 18:15). If no reconciliation takes place, a third party should be sought as a mediator (Matthew 18:16; Philippians 2:4). Only if that fails is the matter brought to the assembly.
The ordinances are those practices of the church specifically ordained and commanded of God. They are twofold:
Believer's Baptism involves immersion in water (Acts 8:38) and is a public confession by a believer (Acts 8:12) of his or her identification with the Lord Jesus. It was commanded by the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20), practised by the early church (e.g. Acts 8:36-38), and explained by the apostles as symbolizing the identification of the believer with the Lord Jesus in death and resurrection (Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 2:12). Candidates for baptism are expected to be mature enough to explain their experience of salvation and understand the implications of baptism i.e. of identifying oneself with Christ in a world that has rejected Him.
Those requesting fellowship in the assembly are encouraged to be baptized if they have not already been baptized.
The Lord's Supper is celebrated on the first day of each week (Acts 20:7). Since the Lord Himself requested that we should celebrate this supper in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:20-34), it should be the desire of all those in the assembly to attend this meeting. Visiting believers are welcomed upon their presenting a letter of introduction from another assembly or upon their being introduced by a believer known to those in the assembly or upon their confession of faith in the Lord Jesus. The meeting takes the form of spontaneous expressions of worship in prayers, hymns, reading and expounding of the scriptures (1 Corinthians 14:26), and partaking of the emblems (bread and cup).
A NT assembly of believers stands accountable to the Lord alone, an autonomous unit which owes no allegiance to any ecclesiastical system established and controlled by men. However, there is a prescribed pattern for leadership within a local church, involving both elders and deacons (Philippians 1:1).
Leadership of an assembly is the responsibility of a plurality of elders (Titus 1:5), also described as overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-7), pastors (Ephesians 4:11) and leaders (RSV. Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24). For example, the elders in the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17) were overseers (Acts 20:28) who were to pastor the church (Acts 20:28).
Elders are responsible to shepherd the people of God (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). This involves feeding (Acts 20:28), guarding (Acts 20:31), supporting (Acts 20:35), guiding by exhortation (Titus 1:9) and example (1 Peter 5:3; Hebrews 13:7). Ministries in which the elders should be primarily involved include teaching, evangelism, discipling and counseling. They meet regularly to pray and to discuss issues relating to the assembly. Individuals in the assembly with concerns about personal or assembly related matters are encouraged to approach one of the elders or to request a meeting with one or more of them.
Elders are raised up by God (Acts 20:28) but are to be recognized and esteemed (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) and obeyed (Hebrews 13:17) by those in the assembly. Elders should be sensitive to the growth and activities of men in the assembly with the intention of recognizing others who are doing the work and have the necessary qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). Suggestions about recognizing an additional elder will be discussed by the elders and, if they concur and the brother agrees, the name will be announced to the assembly for consideration. The elders will then make the final decision on the recognition of a new elder.
Ministers (or deacons) are those appointed to perform a particular service within the assembly. The nature of the service may be spiritual e.g. teaching (Acts 6:4; Ephesians 3:7; 1 Peter 4:10-11) or practical (Acts 6:2-3). Therefore, those responsible for the leadership or co-ordination of the various assembly activities, including the administration of financial matters, are performing the work of deacons.
Deacons are appointed by the assembly taking into account the spiritual qualifications that are required (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Anyone in fellowship in the assembly may suggest the name of an individual for consideration for a particular service (Acts 6:3).
For an assembly to flourish spiritually it cannot be dependent on ‘one man’ or ‘one gift’. All those in fellowship within the assembly have a Biblical responsibility to support the ministry of the body. This will be done in accordance with the gifts they have received from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-14; Ephesians 4:7-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Romans 12:3-8). The elders will provide opportunities for believers’ gifts to be revealed and developed. For example, it is the responsibility of elders to arrange for public teaching. Since the Holy Spirit has not endowed every believer with the gift of teaching, not every believer will be asked to participate in this aspect of the ministry.
Men's participation - In meetings where spontaneous participation is the order, the men are encouraged to audibly present worship, praise, prayer and exhortation. In doing this, each one should be mindful of ministering to the Lord and edifying the believers. This is not an opportunity to exalt self but rather to provide grace to the hearers.
Women's ministry - An assembly cannot function properly without the ministry of women. Therefore, God has given to women as well as to men both speaking and serving gifts. However, God has also placed restrictions on the public participation of women in meetings where the whole church comes together (1 Corinthians 14:23, 34). This is not an arbitrary choice nor does it reflect less spirituality or giftedness; it is a scriptural mandate relating to church order. Consequently, women (qualified by their particular spiritual gift) are able to lead women’s Bible study classes, disciple other women and teach children. They may also be involved in evangelism among women, hospitality and other ministries, which do not require them to exercise authority over the man. But the instruction given in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:8-12 precludes women leading the congregation in prayer and assuming the role of a teacher in the church gatherings.
A manifestation of women’s submission to God's designed order is the wearing of a head covering in meetings of the whole church where both men and women are present (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).
Each believer is responsible as a steward to God for all that he or she has and should, out of love to the Lord and as an act of worship, give to Him financially (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:9)
The Bible teaches that giving should be done devotedly (Philippians 4:18), voluntarily Corinthians 9:7), liberally (2 Corinthians 9:6), cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), regularly (1 Corinthians 16:2), and proportionately as God has prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:11-12).
An offering is received from believers at the Lord's Supper. Envelopes are made available and a number is assigned for recording purposes to those wishing receipts for Income Tax purposes. An effort is made to keep information confidential by recording the amounts given throughout the year against each number. This information is then provided to the Treasurer who issues the annual receipts at the end of the calendar year.
The ministry of the assembly includes supporting workers commended from Markham and from other assemblies. Those who wish to recommend that a donation be used for a particular worker should enclose a note with their offering. The donation will be sent as from the assembly with no mention of the donor's name. In the event that it is not considered appropriate to use funds in the manner suggested, the donation will be returned to the donor or used for another purpose with the consent of the donor. Donations to other charities should be sent directly to these charities.
Each month expenses for the operation and ministry of the assembly are paid and all funds remaining are disbursed to the work of the Lord at home and abroad. Retention of funds for any purpose (eg. for capital expenditures) and the amounts involved and the manner of setting the funds aside must be approved by the assembly. Recommendations regarding distribution for each ministry are prepared each year by those responsible for that ministry and included by the Finance Committee in the annual budget eg. a proposed distribution to missionaries is prepared each year by the Missionary Committee. The budget is reviewed by the elders and submitted to the assembly at the annual meeting for approval.
A financial statement for the calendar year is prepared and made available to those in fellowship at the Annual Meeting.
The assembly is committed to the support of missions at home and abroad, with primary attention to those commended from Canadian assemblies. The involvement of individuals within the assembly in missions is encouraged (Matthew 28:18-20). The great commission calls on all believers to be engaged in the work of the Lord and to have a global vision. The purpose of missions involvement is to further the work of the Lord elsewhere, increase awareness of missions among those in the assembly and provide exposure to Christian service.
Commendation to Christian service is an action of a local assembly in which those in the assembly:
- recognize the call of God to individuals in the assembly (Acts 13:2);
- have some understanding of the work to be undertaken (Acts 13:1; 14:26);
- know the worker and their qualifications for the work (Acts 16:2);
- express their fellowship and oneness with the workers in sending them forth (Acts 13:3);
- hand the workers over to the Lord for His blessing (Acts 14:26; 15:40);
- maintain an ongoing interest in the workers and their work (Acts 14:27; 15:40).
‘Short term service’ is used to describe a number of opportunities to serve the Lord in various capacities and time periods. Students, retired persons and others may go to assist a missionary for a few weeks or months, and be engaged in preaching and teaching or construction and other technical support. Some may go to assist during times of natural disasters or other overwhelming needs. Those wishing to serve in a practical way on a short term basis may contact www.TeamWorkers.org to register their interest and explore upcoming opportunities.
Those considering missions service, whether of a short term or longer term nature, should do so in consultation with the elders.
MSC Canada is a service organization, which forwards funds to assembly commended missionaries around the world. Anyone wishing to send money to missionaries in addition to those supported by the assembly may use MSC Canada for this purpose. For further information, refer to MSC’s web page at www.msccanada.org