What We Believe
Evangelical in Spirit
Reformed in Theology
Evangelical in Spirit
Westkirk Presbyterian Church is an independent, Reformed church within the larger, ‘conservative evangelical’ tradition. When we say that we are ‘evangelical in spirit,’ we mean that we are committed to carrying out the mission given to the Church by Jesus Christ himself, prior to his ascension into heaven. His mission for us is clear. “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Therefore we are determined to:
- Bear witness (verbally and non-verbally) to the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ
- Disciple new believers in Christ to greater spiritual maturity,according to the Scriptures
- Equip and encourage emerging believers within the Church toward greater leadership and future ministry growth
Reformed in Theology
Westkirk believes that the historic and foundational tenets of orthodox Christianity are non-negotiable. These beliefs are called major doctrines or essentials. A major doctrine, “is one that has a significant impact on our thinking about other doctrines, or that has a significant impact on how we live the Christian life” (Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: an introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 29.
The major doctrines that we hold to be undeniably true are:
- The Authority and Inerrancy of the Bible
- The Trinity
- The Virgin Birth
- The Deity of Christ
- The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead
- The Deity of the Holy Spirit
- Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone
- The Church as the Body of Christ
Those who disagree with these historic and foundational beliefs will have a differing worldview than those of us within the conservative, evangelical tradition. However, within this conservative, evangelical tradition there are many rich and diverse views on other non-essentials or minor doctrinal matters.
But What Makes Us Distinct From Others?
When we say Reformed, we also mean that we hold to the traditional Reformed teachings from the Bible. Most of these teachings are shared by other denominations and traditions as well. The distinction between Reformed churches and others can be summed up with this quote by Cornelius Plantinga:
"Our accents lie more on the sovereignty of God, on the authority of Scripture, on the need for disciplined holiness in personal Christian life, and finally, on Christianity as a religion of the Kingdom." (A Sure Thing: What We Believe and Why, Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 2001), p. 281
Our roots come from Martin Luther, the Father of the Protestant Reformation (Germany), and John Calvin (France), the reformer whose Biblical exposition forms the foundation of Reformed thinking. This movement of protest sought to emphasize the following Biblical truths.
Five Solas of the the reformed faith:
- Sola Scriptura (scripture alone
- We believe in the Word of God alone as the basis for faith and life. While the words of men and women may be&bsp;instructive, those words are not equal to the Word of God in authority over the hearts of believers.
- Sola Gratia (grace alone)
- And the Word of God, tells us that God (seeking to extend his love and mercy to us, while also satisfying his justice), gave us something that we did not deserve. That is grace - ‘unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.’ It is only by that gift of grace, that we may receive eternal
- Sola Fide (faith alone)
- That gift is faith. As we discussed in Things First,’ we are justified and accounted righteous before God because of our faith.
- Solus Christus (Christ alone)
- And that faith is in Jesus Christ who, on Calvary, was our substitute, paid for our sins, died our death and rose in victory to validate His offering to God on our behalf.
- Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)
- The Bible tells us that design for our salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is ultimately for his glory. We were created to glorify God!
Therefore, the central doctrine of Reformed Theology is the sovereignty of God. That is, we are firm in our belief that God is powerful enough to accomplish all that he desires to accomplish, according to his pleasure and character. This strong emphasis on God’s sovereignty is outlined for us in the Biblical and systematic theology first detailed by John Calvin.
One way these truths have been expressed is through the acrostic -TULIP:
- Total depravity
- Unconditional election
- Limited atonement
- Irresistible grace
- Perseverance of the saints
While this is a helpful and well-known way of remembering and discussing these distinctives, here at Westkirk Presbyterian Church, we have studied these five doctrines of grace (known as the five points of Calvinism) as follows:
- Radical Depravity (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:1-3)
More than just recognizing that we all sin, the Bible teaches us that the nature and extent of our sin has affected the whole person and we cannot take even the smallest step toward God without his intervention on our behalf. Therefore, we cannot seek God or even respond to the message of the Gospel when it is presented to us.
Unconditional Election (Proverbs 16:4; John 12:39-40, 13:18, 17:12; Romans 9; Ephesians 1:3-12, 2:8-9; 1 Peter 2:7-8)
The Bible is full of examples of God choosing persons or entire nations for particular purposes. These examples of ‘election,’ apply to our salvation as well. Since we are never going to seek God on our own, in his love and mercy, God himself reaches out to those he is determined to save.
- Particular Redemption (Isaiah 53:8; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:68; John 6:38-39,
10:11-15, 13:1, 17:1,2,9; Romans 8:28-32; Ephesians 5:25; Hebrews 2:17)
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is sufficient and powerful enough to save everyone who ever has and ever will walk on the face of the earth; its object however, is the actual (not potential) atonement and salvation of those whom the Father has given the Son from before the foundations of the world.
Efficacious (effective) Grace (Isaiah 55:10-11; John 11; Romans 1:6-7, 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:8-9; 2 Peter 1:10)
The effective work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate us (give us a new heart disposition), so that when we (the elect) hear the message of the Gospel, we believe it, repent of our sin, and trust in Jesus for salvation – thereby applying the benefits of Christ’s work to those he has redeemed.
Persevering Grace (Psalm 34:7; Jeremiah 31:3, 32:40; John 5:24, 6:51, 10:27-30; Romans 8:35-39, 11:29; 2 Corinthians 4:8,9, 14; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 John 5:11-13.
Those whom God has brought to faith in Jesus Christ are able to persevere and stand firm in their faith because God perseveres with them.
This security (like our very salvation), is based on God’s ability and determination, not our own. The Westminster Confession of Faith is the doctrinal standard for Presbyterian churches in the Reformed tradition. First adopted and affirmed by the ‘Assembly of the Divines’ between 1643-7 at Westminster, the doctrinal standards include: the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The authorized versions we use today have been re-written into modern English. The Westminster Confession is the doctrinal statement of Westkirk Presbyterian Church.
To find the Confession online, go to: Reformed Historic Church Documents.
Presbyterian in Polity
Being Presbyterian in polity, Westkirk governs itself through a representative form of church government. Our congregation selects Ruling Elders (Ephesians4:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7) who, along with the Pastor and Head of Staff (Teaching Elder), comprise the Session (governing board). The Pastor is the Moderator of the Session. Together they provide oversight and are responsible for all the ministries of the congregation; and also serve as the Trustees for the corporation.
Westkirk is also served by a Board of Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13), who are the care-givers (Parish Deacons) and administrators (Commission and Committee Deacons) of the congregation. The Board of Deacons is led by a Moderator who is not the pastor and this person oversees all the leaders of the various ministries.
The Parish Deacons assist the Elders (including the Pastor) in their role as shepherds of the congregation. They too have a Moderator that oversees the administration and leadership of this very important group. As each member or member family becomes a part of an Elder-designated parish, the Parish Deacons come alongside the Elders as assigned, to help them care for particular persons or families in need.
Parish Deacons may be connected to a family for a variety of reasons and are available when extra care or support is required. Elders and Parish Deacons remain in continuous and consistent contact by telephone or through fellowship at church, hospital and/or home visitation.
The Commission and Committee Deacons each chair one of the key ministry teams of the church. Our three commissions correspond to Westkirk vision (TO KNOW CHRIST AND MAKE HIM KNOWN) and the three areas of spiritual health and responsibility for all biblical churches: Worship, Discipleship and Evangelism.
The church committees accomplish all the other required aspects of being a 21st century church in America: Fellowship, House & Grounds, and Stewardship. Each Commission and Committee Deacon recruits and leads their respective team as they administer their various ministry commitments.
Unlike many Presbyterian churches, Westkirk Presbyterian Church owns and manages its own property and ministry.