F.A.Q.s

What kind of a church is Stonebridge?
What are Stonebridge Church core values?
What should I expect when I come to worship?
What does the worship service look like, and what does it all mean?
How do Sunday attendees dress at Stonebridge?
Is there stuff for my children?
What is the denominational affiliation of Stonebridge Church?
What does it mean to be Evangelical?
What does it mean to be Reformed?
What does it mean to be Presbyterian?
What does the EPC Motto stand for?
Has your denomination taken positions on social or theological issues?
How can I join Stonebridge Church?
What kind of a church is Stonebridge?
We are an Evangelical, Reformed, Presbyterian congregation that is committed to winsomely living out and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ here in Perrysburg and metropolitan Toledo. [Back to questions]

What are the core values of Stonebridge Church?
The core values of our church can be summarized in four words: Gospel, Covenant, Worship, and Mission.

The Gospel: The Gospel is at the very heart of who we are and what we are to be as God’s people. We acknowledge there to be but one truth; that is set forth in the “God-breathed” Scriptures. That truth in its most succinct form is the Gospel: that all people are in need of a Savior, that God has planned for those needs from the beginning of time itself, that Jesus Christ – who is the Savior – has come and finished the work, and that He will come again to complete the plan. The Gospel is the center of all we do. It is the reason, the inspiration, the motive, the source of all strength and encouragement. It is what the world needs and it is the gift that we are to share. We believe that all of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, is Gospel (“Good News”) and that its doctrines are well summarized in “The Essentials of Our Faith” and explained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

Covenant Family and Community: God’s people are intended to live out the Gospel in the context of the family and the body of Christ. God created people; they matter to Him and to us. The Gospel sets us free from self-concern and enables us to love and serve others in faithful obedience to membership vows. We believe that God intends us to live this Gospel out in faithful covenant families and in the covenant community. The covenant community is the Church; where Christians unite in intimate, ever-deepening relationships and through which we experience the message of God’s and Christ’s covenant It is from this community and these families that we reach out with the Gospel to make disciples of all nations, and it is to this community and these families that we invite them.

Worship: Our eternal purpose is to worship the Lord and we are blessed to begin our worship even now. The Gospel is the story of God’s work of sending His Son to earth to give life and hope to a desperate world. The worship of God is a reflective responsive as our hearts are transformed by His grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we grow in grace, every moment and aspect of our lives becomes the worship of God as we glorify Him by enjoying Him. We are committed to worshiping our Lord more and more with the goal that all our thoughts, words and deeds might become sacrifices of praise to Him. We believe that we especially encounter our Triune and sovereign Lord in Called Worship, as we celebrate His person and work through prayer, the sacraments, and the reading and preaching of His infallible and inerrant Word.

Our Mission: God has left us on earth to carry the message of the Gospel to the world. We believe that there are only two things that people can do now that they cannot do in Glory. One is to sin (as there will be no sin in Glory) and the other is to share the Gospel with those who don’t yet know it (as everyone there will already know the Lord). We believe that God has left us here to introduce people to Jesus and to make them His disciples. We are therefore committed to doing the work of the evangelism and mission both here and abroad, through prayerful support and personal sacrifice of our time, resources, and active involvement in the work of Christ in our community. [Back to questions]

What should I expect when I come to worship?
You should expect to find people who love Jesus and who joyfully come to worship Him together through prayer, singing, and the Word. Our worship service follows a traditional Presbyterian model (see below), but with the relaxed, family atmosphere that marks out one of the best aspects of a healthy small church. [Back to questions]

How do Sunday attendees dress at Stonebridge?
When you come to worship with us you’ll find that people dress in a variety of ways. The range runs from ‘Sunday best’ to business casual to relaxed jeans and shorts. Dress however you feel comfortable. The important thing is to come and worship the Lord, not to worry about how you’re dressed! [Back to questions]

Is there stuff for my children?
We do. We have a nursery for the little tykes, and a Sunday School program for toddlers on up through High School. Being a small church, we have a lot of personal relationship-building and focused attention on the kids in a family environment. And being excited about Jesus and the Word of God, we use an excellent curriculum (from Great Commission Publications) and seek to communicate a passion for Christ to all the kids at Stonebridge. We are committed to helping parents to train their kids up to love the Lord. [Back to questions]
What is the denominational affiliation of Stonebridge Church?
Stonebridge Church is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, often known by its initials, the EPC. If you’d like to know more about the EPC, you can see the denominational website or read this (slightly dated) article at Wikipedia[Back to questions]

What does it mean to be Evangelical?
When we say that we are “Evangelical,” we mean that we believe in the importance of sharing the Gospel (in Greek: “evangel,” or “Good News”) that through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, freeing people from the guilt and power of sin through personal faith and repentance. In our denomination, the EPC, we express this priority on evangelism by stating in our governing documents that we believe that, in terms of its work, evangelism the first and preeminent duty of the church. [Back to questions]

What does it mean to be Reformed?
The question of what it means to be Reformed is one that often arises. Is it essentially a theological term? Is it more of a worldview thing? Is it a codeword for being a Calvinist? Or is it just another way of saying ‘Presbyterian?’

At the most basic level, the goal of the Reformed faith is to be as consistent with the Bible as possible. What we call the Reformed faith has roots in Christianity that go back to the very earliest days of the Church. St. Augustine is often cited as being the first to systematically explain what we today call the cardinal points our view of Scripture. Over the centuries, the Christian church began to drift from the foundational truths that are contained in Scripture; replacing some with traditions and with the wisdom of men. A small number of Godly men began an effort to “reform” the church … to bring Her back to where God wanted Her to be all along! Beginning in the early 1500’s, a movement within the Western Christian Church began to grow that has been labeled “the Reformation”.

The central issue of the Reformation was this: On what basis are we saved from our sins? Who is it that saves us? Do we save ourselves? Do we work together with God to save ourselves? Does God wait for us to come to Him, and then help us along the way to reach a point of salvation? Can we lose our salvation? (Remember, if it is up to us, then this is a serious possibility!) What part does Jesus play in saving me, and what part (if any) do I play?

These questions and their answers led to a deep and fundamental split in the Western Christian Church. Those who fell on one side became known as the Reformers (out of which began to grow the various Protestant denominations). The others, who stayed with the Pope’s views, form what we call today the Roman Catholic Church.

As the history of the Reformation unfolded, the leaders of that movement began to explore other questions and sought to think through and understand what God in the Bible has to say about other important and central themes of Christian knowledge such as: Who is God? Who is Christ? Who is man? What is man’s problem? How did God in Christ resolve man’s problem? How does Christ’s work get applied to men and women? For whom did Christ die? What does God call His people to be? How shall we then live? These questions and others were addressed by these men in an attempt to explain to God’s people (who had long been living in spiritual darkness in the Middle Ages) what the Bible actually said to them … and says to us as well!

The fruit of their work, along with the subsequent half-millennium of Bible study and reflection, is what we call the Reformed faith today.

So what are the nuts and bolts? If you had to boil all of the doctrines and positions of Reformed theology down to the nuts and bolts, a three-word sentence can define Reformed theology. Here they are:

God saves sinners.

That’s it. All of the work of Calvin and Knox and Owen and all the rest can be boiled down to that.

So what does that mean?

Well, the way to look at this is to read it to yourself aloud, each time emphasizing one of the words. That is: “God saves sinners.” “God saves sinners.” “God saves sinners.”

First, we believe that the Bible shows that from 1st to last the work of salvation is up to God. He is the one who began the work of creation in the Garden, and He is the one who began the work of Re-creation in Christ. As we will see in a moment, because of the fundamental problem that men, women, boys, and girls all have, there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. What’s more, there is no reason why we would want to. And that is because deep down, we like our sins and we want to hold on to them.

But, because of the great love of God for us (why He loves us no one knows!), He sent His one and only Son, the man Jesus Christ, to be born like one of us, to die in the place of His people, and to rise again from the dead to prove that He had been victorious. As Jesus said as He died on that cross in Jerusalem, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). The work was done.

Now, that work was completed around the year 30 AD. This means that Jesus said, “It is finished,” before you or I was ever born. Almost 2000 years ago He did it, once and for all, so that we could be sure that God had done it, and that there was nothing else left to do for us to fret over.

Second, we believe that the Bible reveals that God actually saves people, and that He saves them all the way. Some people think that God just made salvation possible for everybody while actually saving no one. They think that God made a way for us to be saved, but that you have to do the last little bit to bridge the gap that He left open—as though He did 99.99% of the work, and you just have to do the last 0.01% yourself. Usually people of this persuasion say that the 0.01% is your decision for God.

But the problem with that is that, as we saw above, Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did it. He actually saved people when He died for them! Now, some will pick at this and point out the bad news, saying that if He actually saved people, and not everyone is saved, then He didn’t save some. They will often then point out that this seems awfully neglectful or mean-spirited … or just plain unfair.

But this is actually Good News! And it is so because of this fact: if it is up to you or me, even a little bit, even 0.01%, then we will blow it. Plain and simple: we will blow it. So, if Jesus actually saved us, then we have just been told really good news, because He has done what we could never do!

Third, we believe that the Scriptures teach that God saves sinful people who can in no way save themselves. Jesus said that a tree yields fruit according to its nature (Matthew 7:17-20). A good tree gives good fruit, and an evil tree gives evil fruit. Similarly, we sin because we are sinners. We do the things that people like us do: we sin. And the Apostle Paul said that we sin because we are spiritually dead. Like the stench that a corpse gives off, we sin because we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2).

And because we are dead in our sins, we can’t do anything to make ourselves better. A dead man can’t heal himself of what caused his death, nor can he raise himself back up to life. If either of those things is to happen, someone else has to do it for him. And that is what Jesus does for us. He is both God and the Son of God. And God saves sinners! (For further study, we suggest spending some time reading Romans chapters 1-3 and Ephesians chapters 1-2.)

How would we elaborate on that? If that’s the nuts and bolts, then where would we go for a more detailed explanation of what Reformed theology is? Well, there are two good places to go. 1st …

T U L I P

This memory device was 1st used in the Netherlands … hence the flower reference! The five principles of salvation (from the Reformed perspective) that they represent were actually written in response to five similar points originally taught and advocated by a man named James Hermann (in Latin: Jacob Arminius) later on in the Reformation. They conflicted with what the Reformers had come to understand from Scripture, so learned men gathered at the Synod of Dort and prepared a response.

Arminius was teaching that :

  1. Man isn’t essentially sinful and bad, but is essentially neutral, capable of doing good or bad at any time.
  2. God chooses us to be his because He sees something good and desirable in us.
  3. Jesus dies on the cross for all men and women without exception, except for this one: He only died to bring us so far. We have to do the rest.
  4. God’s grace is completely resistible. He earnestly hopes that men and women will come to Him, but essentially all He does is hope and wait. And, once someone becomes a Christian, he or she can resist God’s love and Spirit at any point.
  5. As a result of this, there is no sense of security in our relationship with God. We can only remain in His good graces by working hard and by being good. Otherwise we will be lost and go to Hell.

Comparing these teachings to the “nuts and bolts”, we can easily see how far from the Reformation (Scriptural) understanding this was. So the leaders of the Dutch church gathered (at the Synod of Dordt) and stated five points that corrected Arminius’ teachings in these areas with “The Five Points,” or (usually negatively) “The Five Points of Calvinism.” (Although Calvin didn’t write them!) The five letters represent five terms used at that time; 1)Total Depravity; 2) Unconditional Election; 3) Limited Atonement; 4) Irresistible Grace; and 5) Perseverance of the Saints.

Unfortunately, the modern English language has changed enough that these terms are often more confusing to us than they are helpful … so we’ll set aside the terms and simply explain the concepts. Also, to help see an example of where these ideas come from in the Bible, we will give a reference to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here goes:

  • T) I am more sinful than I could ever imagine, being sinful from my mother’s womb and corrupt in my thoughts, words, and actions. (Eph. 2:1-3)
  • U) But God has loved me from the beginning of the world, and he has loved me for nothing good in me, but just because He wanted to. (Eph. 1:3-6)
  • L) Because of His great love for me (even me personally), the Father sent His only Son Jesus to die for me. He lay down His life and was punished on the cross by the Father for each and every sin that I (and each and every one of those whom the Father has chosen) have ever or will ever commit. (Eph. 1:7-10, 2:4-6, 8-10)
  • I) Having died for me, this same Jesus has now risen from the dead and sits enthroned in Heaven as Lord of lords and King of kings. As such, He directs the whole course of history and bends the heavens themselves if need be to prove His love and grace to His people so that each of those for whom He died will come to be His, and will grow in His love and grace through their lives. (Eph.1:11-14, 2:7-8, 10)
  • P) And now, having died for us and having determined to prove His love for us, the Holy Spirit now lives in our hearts and will never leave us nor forsake us, for He is the Covenant Lord, the God who promises and who always delivers on His promises. (Eph. 1:13-14, 15-23)

This should help us to see a bit more clearly what it means to be Reformed. And just to reassure you, the three chapters on Romans and the two in Ephesians aren’t the only places we see these things taught. They are just a couple of really good places to start looking at these things.

The Westminster Standards

The 2nd place to go for a more in-depth explanation of the Reformed faith is what we call the Westminster Standards. These are: The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Westminster Larger Catechism, and The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Along with The Essentials of Our Faith, these three documents are the teaching standard for our denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

These Standards are the result of something called the Westminster Assembly of 1640-1642. This assembly was called by the Parliament of England to write a document that could serve as the official teaching position of the churches in the British Isles. After a great deal of study, discussion, prayer, and work, the Westminster Assembly produced these three documents.

The first, the Confession of Faith, is a short explanation of a number of key Christian doctrines such as the nature of Scripture, who God is, what place good works have in the Christian life, what God’s Church is supposed to look like, what the sacraments are all about, and so on.

The other two are catechisms. That means that they are each a series of questions and answers that are meant to be memorized. The Apostle Peter in I Peter 3:16 says, “always be ready to give… a reason for the hope that is in you.” So the Assembly wrote these so that the Christians in the British Isles would have answers for common questions about their faith. The reason that there are two (the Larger and the Shorter) is because one was originally written for children (the Shorter), and one for adults (the Larger). However, nowadays people don’t memorize things like they used to, and so mostly today we memorize just the Shorter Catechism. (Believe it or not, it used to be the case in the Old Testament days that young men had all five of the books of Moses memorized by their 13th birthday! That is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy!)

The content of the catechisms follows this pattern: Who is God? What is wrong with mankind? What was God’s solution? How does Jesus save us? What must we then do? What are the Sacraments? What are the 10 Commandments, and what do they teach us? What is the Lord’s Prayer, and what does it teach us?

Together, the Westminster Standards give us a wonderful summary of basic Christian teachings, and help us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have within us!

Is this all that it means to be Reformed?

Actually, to be Reformed goes far beyond these basics, encompassing a distinctive understanding of who and what the Church is, how one should think about culture and the arts, and a whole host of things.

As we said at the first, to be Reformed means that we try to be as consistent with the Bible as possible. That is, we want to know what God says in the Bible, we want to believe what God says in the Bible, and we want to do what God says in the Bible. The hope and goal of our faith is that we will learn God’s ways. We long to think God’s thoughts after Him. We long to do the works that He did (healing, loving others as ourselves, praying for others, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and so on). And we long to speak His message (the Gospel—literally, “the Good News”—about Jesus Christ) to the world around us as clearly and winsomely as we can.

It is sometimes said that the goal of the Reformed faith is to have a truly Biblical World and Life View. That is, we want to see the world and our lives within it in as Scripturally a way as possible.

In summary, at the end of the day our goal isn’t to ‘be Reformed,’ but to be Biblical. We want to be faithful to our Lord with everything in us—heart, mind, soul, and strength. For more information, see also R.C. Sproul’s online video series, “What is Reformed Theology?“ [Back to questions]

What does it mean to be Presbyterian?
The name “Presbyterian” is a reference to our form of government, which we believe is clearly found in Scripture. In essence, to be Presbyterian in government means that our churches are governed by elders (Greek: “presbyter”), which includes both lay elders (“Ruling Elders”) and pastors/ministers (“Teaching Elders”). At the local level, the body of elders is called the “Session,” and has responsibility to oversee the affairs of the congregation, to provide prayerful pastoral care for the members, and to provide Biblical teaching and preaching.

A Presbyterian church also has deacons (Greek: “diakonos”, meaning servant). If the elders are responsible for the ‘spiritual’ care of the church, the deacons are responsible for its ‘physical’ care. But this is not to say that the office of deacon is not spiritual, far from it. The deacons are to lead in service, in mercy ministries, and in care and concern for the people’s needs. Between the offices of elder and deacon, God provides leadership for the church to both show the Gospel (through service) and to tell it (through teaching, preaching, and the ministry of prayer).

But being Presbyterian means more than just that. A Presbyterian church is also what is called “connectional.” This means that we believe that our ‘church’ is more than just our local congregation, but includes all of the congregations we are connected to in our denomination, who are responsible for us even as we are responsible for them. We hold that all of the various congregations should be united together for ministry, mission, fellowship, and mutual care and accountability. Though this is a far cry from Jesus’ prayer in John ch.17 that all of His people and congregations in the entire world would be one, we are thankful for the reflection, limited as it is, of that unity that we find in connectionalism.

At the regional level, this connectionalism is called the “Presbytery.” The Presbytery consists of all of the churches in a given region, which are represented by all of the ministers in its region as well as two lay elders for each minister. The Presbytery is responsible for the oversight of the churches in its area, for pastoral care of pastors, for church planting, and for ordaining new pastors, among other duties. Our Presbytery (that of the Midwest, encompassing Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana) generally meets five times a year, each time at a different host church.

At the national level, this connectionalism is called the “General Assembly,” or “GA.” Like the Presbytery, the GA consists of all of the churches in its bounds (the United States), which are represented by all of the ministers in the denomination, as well as two lay elders for every minister. It is responsible for overseeing the ministries of the various Presbyteries, for sending missionaries at home and overseas, for assisting Presbyteries with church planting, for providing a benefits program, and a variety of other functions. Again, like the Presbytery, the Assembly meets once annually, each year at a different host church.

What is the EPC motto, and what does it mean?
The Motto of the EPC is “In Essentials, Unity; In Non-Essentials, Liberty; In All Things, Charity; Truth In Love.” It comes from St. Augustine of Hippo (d. AD430), who was the bishop of a city in what is now Algeria.

Functionally, the way the motto works out in the EPC is a sort of three-tiered approach to theological issues. These may be thought of as “A,” “B,” & “C” issues.

“A” issues are those which have to do with the “Essentials of Our Faith.” This is a summary of those issues which are foundational to Christian faith. In the EPC, there is no allowance for disagreement among church officers (ministers, elders, and deacons) on these issues. Indeed, it is expected that all members will affirm these fundamental tenets of the faith.

In other words, these issues are considered essential for all Christians.

“B” issues are those issues which are essential to the Reformed understanding of the faith, such as the so-called “Five Points” (or “TULIP”), Covenant Theology, Presbyterian government, etc. The definition of “B” issues for the EPC is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. As these issues aren’t as foundational as the Essentials of Our Faith, the EPC allows ministers, elders, anddeacons to state exceptions to the Westminster Standards, so long as these exceptions do not violate the system of doctrine contained therein. It is understood that the teaching position of the EPC is found in the Westminster Standards.

In other words, these issues are considered essential for church leaders.

Finally, “C” issues are those that, while important to many of us, are not the sine qua non of denominational unity, but are things over which orthodox, Reformed Christians can disagree, and which do not violate the system of doctrine of the EPC.

In other words, these issues are considered important, but not essential to Christian unity.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of our denomination is summarized in this motto, for it reflects the spirit of the denomination—we are serious about what we believe, but not in such a way as to get upset over the smaller things. Rather, in a spirit of humility and love, we seek to be faithful to Scripture as we seek to do what Jesus calls us to do. [Back to questions]

Has your denomination taken positions on social or theological issues?
Yes. The General Assembly of the EPC has a number of position papers and pastoral letters which are intended to offer thoughtful, Biblical guidance on a variety of topics. [More]

How can I join Stonebridge Church?
Persons desiring to join Stonebridge Church can do so by informing the pastor or one of the elders of their desire to do so. We will arrange for such persons to attend a membership class, after which we ask that prospective members meet with the elders to share with them: a) how they came to faith in Jesus, b) how they’ve seen God at work in their lives since coming to know Him, c) how they would like to serve the Lord alongside of the rest of the congregation, and d) how the elders, deacons, and members can serve and encourage them. After meeting with the session (elders), we will have a brief ceremony during the worship service in which prospective members will be formally received into the congregation. [Back to questions]