Who We Are
Our Focus is Relational
For at least three reasons
The Bible opens (Genesis 1-2) with a vision of God creating all things good, and a key aspect of that goodness is seen in the wholeness and connectedness of all things. Adam and Eve had fellowship with God, who gave generously to them and was present with them. They were described as “naked and not ashamed” – vulnerable, but without the negative self consciousness we experience emotionally and psychologically. The relationship between Adam and Eve was fundamentally good (Adam breaks into a poem of delight when he sees Eve for the first time). Their environment was beautiful, nourishing, and their task was to work to fill the earth. When humanity turns from God in Genesis 3, there is a break down in all relationships. Adam and Eve are exiled from the garden and separated from God. They cover themselves with leaves to hide their shame. Their coverings begin humanity’s tendency to hide from one another, and Adam casts blame on Eve as he tries to justify himself before God. The earth is cursed and now there will be thorns and thistles – the beauty of the earth remains, but now there is pain and frustration. Jesus comes, as the gospel message announces, reconciling all things to himself, making peace by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:19-20). Our trust in Jesus reconciles us to God, and the gospel works within us to heal us, to stir in us love for God and for neighbor, and to send us out into the world as renewed people who serve God with our work, our concerns for our world, and our participation in society.
New York City is a great city, and there are many obvious reasons so many people choose to live in New York. Yet there are great challenges to city life. One, particularly among professionals, is that the city is so transient and people devote so much time to work (with little margin to develop deep relationships) that it can be a very lonely and isolating place. Being intentional about a Godward-focus helps keep us from getting caught up and crushed in the pressures of the city, puts perspective on the things that worry or harden us, helps us to see people as living beings to be loved and not objects to be used, and reminds us that whatever we do we do for the glory of God.
The 21st century is an exciting time, particularly with all of the technological advancements, yet we have managed to connect ourselves broadly but not always deeply and meaningfully. We are more connected but more lonely, and it is perhaps more important now to be mindful of how central the love of God and neighbor is – not just in principle, but in how we live.
We highlight five practices as the ordinary ways that Christians live and grow spiritually
The word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) in the New Testament has the connotation of “sharing.” Spiritual friendship involves sharing our lives. We spend time together, we encourage, support, correct, pray for each other, celebrate together, eat together, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. We live as the family of God, watching out for one other, and building each other up so that we all reach maturity. United with God, we have a spiritual bond that has implications for how Christian community demonstrates the truth of the gospel in how we love one another. Without neglecting our personal spiritual duties, we recognize God has put us in a family and we participate and contribute for our own growth and the growth of others.
We value the Bible, recognizing God has revealed Himself through what He has said and done in history, and has appointed prophets and apostles to write what we have in the Bible under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Because we love God, we are eager to humbly listen, to meditate on Scripture, and to come to know God and His ways and align our lives with what we hear and see. We assume personal, devotional Bible reading as a regular practice, but our commitment is not only to read the Bible (at home, in our worship and home fellowship groups) but also to use it (to direct us as a church, in our prayers and songs, etc.).
Prayer is a key means of our walking with God. We speak our desires, offer worship and thanks, confess our sins, seek God’s help and support, and sit before Him with the knowledge and awareness that God is real and we aim to be present with Him. Prayer reveals that we depend on God as a child depends on a parent.
There are two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s supper. Baptism marks our entrance into the visible church, our joining with Christ, and is an outward sign of the covenant of grace (the Spirit being poured out, our sins being cleansed, and our uniting with Christ in his death and resurrection are seen through the practice of pouring water on the person being baptized). In the Lord’s Supper we break bread and drink wine (or juice) in remembrance of him, recognizing the gospel hope of his broken body and shed blood being what constitutes the gathered church as the united body of Christ. We remember our baptism as marking us as having new life, united to Christ, which signifies a new identity out of which we live. We renew our faith every time we remember the covenant and participate by faith in the taking of the elements of communion. As we strive to live a faithful life, we are reminded that Jesus feeds us and sustains us, but also that we continually (when we gather) confess our sins and seek his on-going grace and sustenance. What we hear in the gospel that is preached, we see and take hold of every time we gather for worship on Sundays in the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus comes to us, and Jesus sends us out. We must take time to personally be healed and renewed, but we won’t thrive unless we are energized to love others. We are saved by grace, and not by our works, but as we receive grace through faith we are reoriented to love others as we have been loved. Two areas of focus for our intentional serving others is through care of the poor and those in need, and to speak the gospel to those who do not yet know or understand Jesus. Our mission broadens, however, as we do all things for the glory of God.