Distinctives

Preamble

Acts 29 is a diverse, global community of healthy, multiplying churches. Our deeply held gospel-centered convictions unify us and motivate us. However, unity does not mean uniformity as it relates to applying our theological beliefs. As a global community of churches serving in diverse areas, we trust Acts 29 pastors and leaders to apply our gospel-centered vision in a way that is both biblically faithful and contextually wise. 

Further, we believe that elders of local churches will give an account to the Lord for their teaching and leadership in the local church (Heb. 13:17), and consequently, Acts 29 does not assume responsibility for monitoring or policing matters of orthopraxy in our member churches. With this being said, because of our robust assessment practices, we are confident that when a leader or member of an Acts 29 church visits another Acts 29 church anywhere in the world (or an Acts 29 conference), he or she can expect to find Christ exalted and our values and beliefs reflected, and as a result, will be built up in our most holy faith and encouraged in our shared mission. 

Throughout our history, a number of statements and papers have been added to our beliefs and distinctives for consideration and/or affirmation. As helpful as these statements may have been, we do not see them as being part of our official Acts 29 theological foundations. We believe that the Lausanne Covenant, our five theological distinctives, and our four hopes provide sufficient theological clarity and promote effective unity. These core beliefs, values, and longings have been part of the Acts 29 story for several years now, and we continue to affirm them gladly.

We are passionate about gospel centrality.

We believe the gospel is the good news of what God has graciously accomplished for sinners through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ—namely our forgiveness from sin and complete justification before God. This gospel is also the foundation for our confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom, and the consummation of his purpose for all creation in the new heavens and new earth.

This gospel is centered in Christ, is the foundation for the life of the church, and is our only hope for eternal life. This gospel is not proclaimed if Christ’s penal substitutionary death and bodily resurrection are not central to our message.

This gospel is not only the means by which people are saved but also the truth and power by which people are sanctified; it is the truth of the gospel that enables us to genuinely and joyfully do what is pleasing to God and to grow in progressive conformity to the image of Christ.

The salvation offered in this gospel message is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; no ordinance, ritual, work, or any other activity on the part of man is required in order to be saved.

(Mark 1:1Luke 24:46-47John 3:16-18Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-26, 5:1-111 Corinthians 1:18-252:215:1-42 Corinthians 4:1-69:13Galatians 1:6-9Ephesians 1: 7-10Colossians 1: 19-202 Timothy 1:8-142 Peter 3: 11-13 Jude 3-4Revelation 21:1-22:21)

We enthusiastically embrace the sovereignty of God’s grace in saving sinners.

We affirm that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, not on the basis of foreseen faith but unconditionally, according to his sovereign good pleasure and will.

We believe that through the work of the Holy Spirit, God will draw the elect to faith in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, graciously and effectually overcoming their stubborn resistance to the gospel so that they will most assuredly and willingly believe.

We also believe that these, the elect of God whom he gave to the Son, will persevere in belief and godly behavior and be kept secure in their salvation by grace through faith.

We believe that God’s sovereignty in this salvation neither diminishes the responsibility of people to believe in Christ nor marginalizes the necessity and power of prayer and evangelism, but rather reinforces and establishes them as the ordained means by which God accomplishes his ordained ends.

(John 1:12-136:37-4410:25-30Acts 13:4816:30-31Romans 3:1-4:258:1-17,31-399:1-2310:8-10Ephesians 1:4-52:8-10Philippians 2:12-13Titus 3:3-71 John 1:7,9)

We recognize and rest upon the necessity of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit for all of life and ministry.

The Holy Spirit is fully God, equal with the Father and Son, whose primary ministry is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He also convicts unbelievers of their need for Christ and imparts spiritual life through regeneration (the new birth).

The Spirit permanently indwells, graciously sanctifies, lovingly leads, and empowers all who are brought to faith in Christ so that they might live in obedience to the inerrant Scriptures.

The model for our reliance upon the Spirit and our experience of his indwelling and empowering presence is the Lord Jesus Christ himself who was filled with the Spirit and entirely dependent upon his power for the performance of miracles, the preaching of the kingdom of God, and all other dimensions of his earthly ministry.

The Holy Spirit who indwelt and empowered Christ in like manner indwells and empowers us through spiritual gifts he has bestowed for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. 

Although there are different understandings in our networks of the nature and function of these gifts, we all recognize that they are divine provisions central to spiritual growth and effective ministry, and are to be eagerly desired, faithfully developed, and lovingly exercised according to biblical guidelines.

(Matthew 3:1112:28Luke 4:1145:1710:21John 1:12-133:1-153414:1215:26-2716:7-15Acts 2:14-214:29-3010:38Romans 8:912:3-81 Corinthians 12:7-1312:28-3114:1-332 Corinthians 1:21-22Galatians 3:1-5Ephesians 1:13-145:18)

We are deeply committed to the spiritual & moral equality of male & female and to men as responsible servant-leaders in both home and church.

Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ. Men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. Therefore, men and women are to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to utilize their gifting in ministry, in service to the body of Christ, and through teaching in ways that are consistent with the Word of God.

While husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality in the home, God has given to the man primary responsibility to lead his wife and family in accordance with the servant leadership and sacrificial love characterized by Jesus Christ. 

This principle of male headship should not be confused with, nor give any hint of, domineering control. Rather, it is to be the loving, tender, and nurturing care of a godly man who is himself under the kind and gentle authority of Jesus Christ.

The elders/pastors (terms used interchangeably) of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight and to teach/preach the Word of God in the corporate assembly for the building up of the body. The office of elder/pastor is restricted to qualified men.

(Genesis 1:26-272:18; Acts 14:23, 18:24-2620:17-361 Corinthians 11:2-16Galatians 3:28Ephesians 5:22-33Colossians 3:18-191 Timothy 2:11-153:1-7, 4:11-16, 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:1-4Titus 1:5-9, 2:3-51 Peter 3:1-71 Peter 5:1-4)

We embrace a missionary understanding of the local church and its role as the primary means by which God chooses to establish his kingdom on earth.

The church has a clear biblical mandate to look beyond its own community to the neighborhood, the nation, and the world as a whole; thus, mission is not an optional program in the church but an essential element in the identity of the church.

We are called to make Christ known through the gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring his lordship to bear on every dimension of life.

The primary way we fulfill this mission is through the planting of churches that plant churches and the training of their leaders. Our aim is that Jesus Christ would be more fully formed in each person through the ministry of those churches God enables us to plant around the world.

We also believe we are responsible neither to retreat from our culture nor to conform to it, but with humility, through the Spirit and the truth of the gospel, to engage it boldly as we seek its transformation and submission to the lordship of Christ.

(Isaiah 52:7Matthew 10:5-2528:18-20Luke 4:18-1924:46-47Acts 28:31Romans 10:14-152 Corinthians 10:4-5Galatians 2:10Ephesians 3:104:11-162 Timothy 4:1-5Hebrews 10:23-251 Peter 2:4-59-10)

Postscript

As a church-planting organization with a rigorous assessment process, Acts 29 places a high value of trust in our pastors/elders. Consequently, Acts 29 does not seek to micromanage the specific outworkings of the aforementioned beliefs and distinctives in local churches, but does expect to see Acts 29 churches reflecting these shared beliefs and distinctives consistently, and in a way that is contextually wise and pastorally faithful in the sight of God. 

Further, each member church in Acts 29 is invited to renew their covenantal commitments to the Acts 29 community of churches on an annual basis. We trust that as part of the annual covenantal renewal process, our churches are evaluating their ongoing alignment to and implementation of the above stated beliefs and distinctives. 

In short, Acts 29 is made up of theologically driven, like-minded churches committed to church planting, led by competent pastors and leaders. We have some very distinctive beliefs (as stated in the Lausanne Covenant and in our five theological distinctives), and have shared longings (as stated in our four hopes), but we do not wish to engage in endless theological debates that will keep us from staying on mission of facilitating and catalyzing global church planting. 

Finally, belonging to a global community of healthy, multiplying churches has many privileges, like the opportunity to learn from each other humbly, to discuss non-essential debated issues charitably, and to share resources with one another cooperatively. We welcome this kind of spirit in today’s divided age, and seek to put the character of Christ on display by how we engage with one another, and by how we partner in mission together— all to the glory of Christ, who is the Head of the Church.