1. What is a Reformed church?
The name of our church is New Covenant United Reformed Church. You might be wondering what the word reformed means. It is a historical word referring to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, which responded to gross errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Another word you may have heard that is basically synonymous to the word reformed is the word Calvinism, from John Calvin, one of the leading figures in the Protestant Reformation.
What was the Protestant Reformation about and what does the word reformed mean to us today? It was all about returning to the Holy Scriptures as the ultimate rule and authority for the church. In addition to this, the reformed faith, as it came to be called, stresses the biblical doctrines of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:8-9). Contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the reformers stressed that salvation was a free gift of God, that sinful man does nothing to earn it, but rather is made righteous before God only by faith in Jesus Christ.
2. What place do children have in the church?
Children have a very important place in the church. We do not put them outside the corporate gathering of believers in what some have called “children’s church”. Rather, we believe that children are members of the church by virtue of the covenant God has made with believers and their children, and therefore ought to take their place among the gathering of believers (Deut.31:12; Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 8:2). Jesus himself said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). While we do provide nursery for toddlers and infants, we heartily believe that children should be taught from a young age to listen attentively and add their precious voices to the praises of God’s people. He justified their sweet praises in the temple precincts stating, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matthew 21:15-16).
3. Is church membership necessary?
We believe that church membership is a biblical and proper expression of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, there were ceremonial rites performed for those wishing to belong to the people of God. In the Old Testament, it was circumcision, and in the New Testament, it is baptism. Both of these ceremonies signify, among other things, the joining of oneself to the people of God. Thus the New Testament book, The Acts of the Apostles, consistently records in the same breath baptisms and the increase of the church (Acts 2:41,47). The church was an identifiable company of believers, who by their baptism testified that they belonged to Christ and to his new covenant people: the church.
Church membership is therefore a biblical and faithful expression that you belong to Christ and to his people. It is the proper fruit of your baptism. Besides this, it brings you many practical benefits, such as closer fellowship and discipleship within the body and under the leadership of the church.
4. Why do you have Creeds, a Catechism, and Confessions?
To many, the mention of creeds, catechisms, and confessions produces thoughts of suspicion or fear. Some connote these documents with an outdated faith and an old-fashioned, out-of-touch church. We believe that creeds, catechisms and confessions have a very important function in the overall health and stability of the church. They are beneath the Scriptures as a standard that says, “Here is what we believe the Scriptures teach on this or that subject.”
Creeds, catechisms, and confessions are formulations of what the church before us has settled as the clear teaching of Scripture on various topics. This historic value assures newcomers that we are not a church shifting its teaching with every new teaching. The shortest of the Creeds is the famous Apostles’ Creed, dating back to the 2nd century A.D. It states in simple form the work of the Triune God in creation and redemption and the application of redemption in the church by the Holy Spirit. Catechisms are longer and are in the format of questions and answers. Confessions tend to be even more fulsome in their explanation of our faith.
Are these documents important? We believe they are. They are great teaching resources. They are also handy tools to show others what we believe in greater detail. They give solid explanations on such important things as “How am I made right with God?” or, “What does the Bible teach about the Holy Spirit, the church, the end times?” They also serve to protect and defend our holy faith because they explain the truth succinctly and identify error.