Who We Are
By Pastor Dan Vraa
I have often been asked what kind of a church Dixon Community Church is. To new members and my colleagues in ministry, I usually say something like: “we are an independent, interdenominational congregation which is part of the larger Body of Church: the Church. We see ourselves as Protestant and Evangelical.”
“Independent” means we do not formally belong to any one denomination. Yet, we do not see ourselves as the only true Christians, instead, we are a part of Jesus Christ’s larger Church comprising those, throughout history and around the world today, who profess and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“Interdenominational” means we try not to emphasize what has divided denominations, rather, we seek to emphasize what all Protestant Christians have in common, and leave many denominational particulars a matter of personal conscience.
Another way of describing us is: we are Biblical/Apostolic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical.
We are Biblical/Apostolic.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
“They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’.” (Matthew 16:13-17)
Ecclesiology (who/what is the Church) begins with Christology (who is Jesus Christ). Jesus’ hand-picked Apostles affirm who Jesus is not: merely a teacher, prophet. Then they profess the divinely inspired (“revealed to you… by… my Father in heaven”) truth that Jesus is uniquely the Messiah, the chosen one of God foretold by the Prophets throughout the Old Testament. He is God the Son incarnate. His full humanity and full divinity are professed.
We who believe in him as Lord and Savior, believe these hand-picked Apostles teach the divinely inspired truth (the New Testament) about Jesus Christ, as well as who we are, and what we are to do as his followers. We are “Biblical” in that we embrace the Old and New Testaments as God’s revealed Word to us, and that we are under the authority of the Bible on all matters of faith and life. We are “Apostolic” in that we hold to the teachings the Apostles professed, as written in the New Testament, and are kin to all Christians who do the same.
We Are Orthodox
The word “orthodox” comes from the Greek, “ortho” = “correct” and “doxy” = “glory.” Therefore, Christians correctly give glory to God as we profess the truth about Who God is, and how God expects us to live.
In the first four or five centuries of the Church’s life, a number of heresies arose, concerning the Person of Christ. The Church was challenged by these heresies, to search the Scriptures to define Who Jesus Christ is. The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Creed of Chalcedon are examples of the godly scholarship and devotion of the early Church. These orthodox Creeds establish certain core beliefs that unite Christians in our life and witness through the millennia.
Marcion the heretic (excommunicated in 144 AD), said the Old and New Testaments taught different “gods.” He claimed the “god of the Old Testament” was an inferior and wrathful god, who was supplanted by the true God of the New Testament. He rejected the Old Testament as Scripture, and accepted only certain hand-picked portions of the New Testament as authoritative.
But Christians have always believed that the Old and New Testaments are one Bible, revealing the same God Who inspired both. The Old Testament foretells of the salvation to come through the Messiah, and the New Testament fulfills it by proclaiming the Messiah Who has come. We reject those who play “Salad Bar” with the Bible – choosing to accept or reject whatever portions suit their liking. Instead, all of Scripture is authoritative for the faith and life of the Church.
Another heretic, Arius (256-336 AD), taught that God the Son (Jesus Christ) was a being created by God the Father, not co-eternal, and made of different substance than the Father. The Council of Nicea rejected his false teachings, and Church scholars affirmed the biblical truth of Christ’s eternity (not created) and deity (fully God).
The Lord and Savior the Bible reveals, is the same Lord and Savior the Church professes. We exalt and proclaim this Savior and Lord in our life and worship, and profess Him to a World in need. We reject attempts to lessen or cheapen Him, and continue to exalt Jesus Christ for Who He is, and what He has done.
Thus, as orthodox Christians, Dixon Community Church is connected with all Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals and Protestants who profess this same Jesus Christ, in whom we all put our trust as the only Savior and Lord in heaven and earth. Amen.
We Are Protestant
In AD 1514, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, nailed 95 protests against the Medieval Roman Church, to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany – thus beginning the Protestant Reformation which swept Europe and the world. These Protestant Reformers (which also included men like John Calvin and John Knox) sought to correct the errors and excesses of the Medieval Roman Church that had polluted and distorted the Christian Gospel, and to reform the Church back to its original Biblical roots, charter, purity and mission.
Dixon Community Church stands in this tradition. With them, we believe that all humans have sinned and are in need of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to forgive our sins, and transform us into people who desire to love and serve God through lives of righteousness and stewardship, and love and serve neighbor through lives of justice and compassion. This salvation is offered to all through the proclamation of the Gospel; it cannot be earned, but only received by faith through the grace of God. We believe in the Sovereignty of God over all, thus this pious transformation will transform our homes, congregations, businesses, communities and society. Thus, we are all priests and ministers in the time and place God has positioned us.
These following points: the “five solas;” are the heart of who we are and what we believe as Reformed Protestants.
Soli Cristi = “Christ alone”. God’s salvation, reconciliation and righteousness is offered in Jesus Christ alone – and in no other. It is through Christ’s merit – His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, and His resurrection – that salvation is possible. Forgiveness comes from God because of the blood of Jesus; not from the Church through confession and penance. No human religious activity or work can supplement Christ’s perfect and complete work. Salvation is not through the Church, not by veneration of the so-called Saints, and not in the adoration of Mary; instead, it is through Christ alone.
Sola gratia = “Grace alone”. God, self-motivated by Grace, freely chose to extend salvation to the human race. God’s love and favor are unmerited, originating within the character of God, not as a coerced or manipulated response to our feeble attempts at religiosity. Motivated by Grace alone, God offers salvation to any who will come to His Son.
Sola fide = “Faith alone”. Faith is how we receive God’s Grace – not by works. We reject the barriers of rituals, works, proscribed prayers, sacraments and indulgences erected by the Church, that prohibit people from experiencing the Grace of God freely offered in Jesus Christ. By faith alone, one comes to God to receive the new life in Jesus Christ.
Sola scriptura = “Scripture alone”. God speak to the Church in and through scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Thus, the Bible is the only authoritative rule of Faith (what we believe) and Life (how we live) in the Church. The Bible is the only authority – not the Pope, not the Priest, not Church tradition, nor Church councils.
Soli Deo Gloria = “to God’s glory alone”. Because God has done such wonderful things for us, we live life in grateful devotion to God, as stewards seeking to honor and glorify God in all things. All of life is sacred (not secular) and offered to the glory of God: our Worship, prayers, thoughts, affections, choices, decisions, morality, ethics, proclamation, charity, education, careers, time, finances, possessions, gifts, talents, marriages, families, friendships and hobbies. All good gifts come from God, and are returned to God for God’s glory. We do not seek to glorify nature, Church, self, others, nor any institution – only God is worthy to be glorified.
We Are Evangelical
“Evangelical” comes from a compound New Testament Greek word, “Euanglion” = “eu” is “good” and “angelion” is “message,” meaning “good message” or “good news.” Evangelicals are Christians who center everything we are, and everything we do around this good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, rose from the dead as a sign of God’s defeat of sin, death and evil; and anyone who believes in this Jesus Christ will be saved. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This message is our identity, and the source of our hope and joy.
Evangelicals try to “get back to the basics” of the pure and simple Gospel message of first century biblical Christianity, without all the layers of centuries of various Church traditions, institutions and denominations. To us, walking in relationship with Jesus Christ is what it’s all about. We emphasize core New Testament doctrines, and favor leaner structures with a grass roots appeal to ministry.
Historically, we have roots in the two “Great Awakenings” of the 1730’s - 1740’s, and then the 1820’s - 1830’s. Biblical preachers arose with an urgent message for all people to experience personal conversion through repentance from sin and a lifestyle of Christian piety. Prayer and Biblical preaching were the tools of these revivals that transformed Great Britain and the United States. Because such a high percentage of people gave their lives to Christ, the First Great Awakening spawned the abolitionist movement in England and the American Revolution in North America, and the Second Great Awakening led to the abolition of slavery in the USA, Civil War, child labor laws, women’s right to vote, and the seeds of the prohibition movement.
Following the Modernist-Fundamentalist debates of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Evangelicals honed our identity further. The two extreme positions of that debate bifurcated Society: Modernists claimed modern scientific methodology could explain the whole cosmos in purely secular and natural ways (religion was a myth); Fundamentalists shunned any and all scientific claims as a delusion of the devil. But Evangelicals hold to the truths and truthfulness of the Bible in highest esteem, while embracing higher education and discoveries made by Science in moderate esteem (the Word of God is higher than the words of men). Thus, we respect the words and opinions of fallible people, but we obey the infallible Word of God = Bible.
Today, Evangelicals see ourselves as we read the pages of the Bible. We know Jesus personally and love Him dearly. We believe Jesus Christ passionately loves all people, and wants all people to passionately love Him. Thus, we have an urgency for missions and evangelism, believing Jesus Christ is coming back soon. We believe Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior for all humankind, and that all must come to know Him by faith in order to be saved.
We believe the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God that shows us Who God is, how we should trust Jesus Christ, and how He wants us to live our lives. We believe we witness to the world about Jesus Christ through our personal testimonies, and that we glorify Him by our godly lifestyles under submission to the teachings of the Bible.
“It’s all about Jesus” is one way to describe Evangelical Christians everywhere, including at Dixon Community Church.