What kind of a church is Stonebridge?
We are an Evangelical, Reformed, Presbyterian congregation that is committed to living out and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ here in Perrysburg and metropolitan Toledo.
The core values of our church can be summarized in four words: Gospel, Covenant, Worship, and Mission.
The Gospel: The Gospel is at the 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 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 our life after death. One is to sin (as there will be no sin in God’s presence) and the other is to share the Gospel with those who don’t yet know it. We believe that God has left us here to introduce people to Jesus and to help grow them into disciples. We are 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.
There are a variety of ways we seek to live out our core values. Generally speaking, we strive to fit everything we do to advance these four core values.
You should expect to find people who love Jesus and who joyfully come to worship Him together through prayer, singing, and the preaching. 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.
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!
Our service currently begins with worship and is followed by Discipleship Class, or Sunday School. We have an adult and a children’s (ages 6–12) discipleship class. We have a nursery available for children 3 and under. In addition to these things, we are committed to helping parents practice family worship and train their children.
In our service we follow an order of worship, or liturgy, that follows patterns set by the Reformers, especially from those Protestant churches of Switzerland, France, Holland, England and Scotland. The Reformed church has sought to derive its worship from the Bible’s instructions and patterns. Some of the details vary from Reformed church to Reformed church, but we share in the main elements.
- Announcements: Because every aspect of the called worship of God is supposed to be directly worshipful, we do all of these before the actual call to worship.
- Prelude: The 4th Commandment states that on the Sabbath Day, or Lord’s Day, God’s people are to rest from their worldly affairs of the rest of the week in order to clear their minds of other distractions so as to focus on worship. In order to help us do this, we have a brief musical prelude to allow us to settle in, calm the children, and take a deep breath in order to prepare ourselves for the coming service.
- Call to Worship: God’s worship always begins as a response to God’s Word. God speaks and we respond. Rather than begin by inviting God to come, we begin by responding to God’s call to worship. The good news of the Gospel is that God has drawn us who were far from Him near to Himself through the death of Jesus on our behalf. The Holy Spirit then invites and commands God’s people to come into God’s presence to receive the Lord’s blessings. The Call to Worship reflects this truth, as the church session, in the name of the Lord, commands, and invites God’s beloved people to come into His presence and worship Him. The Call to Worship is thus the first Gospel act of our worship: God calls us to worship the true God, and Him alone.
- Hymn of Adoration: We generally begin with an upbeat hymn of adoration & joy, as we respond to God’s gracious invitation to come before Him with thanksgiving.
- Prayer of Invocation: We transition from praising God for Who He is and what He has done to asking Him to ask for His help and grace and to bless our service. On the first Sunday of the month, we pray the Lord’s Prayer together.
- Confession of Faith: Together we confess what we believe. On the first Sunday of the month, we recite the Apostles Creed. Other Sundays alternate between various creeds and catechisms.
- Old Testament Reading: After we confess our faith, we turn to God’s Word. Our worship is a response to God’s Word, and we believe God’s Word is contained in both Testaments as a unified whole.
- Prayer of Confession: In light of Who God is and what He has done, and in light of the great truths of our confession, we recognize that we do not in and of ourselves stand up to God’s holy standard. In our worship we therefore take time to confess our sins privately before approaching God’s throne of grace together in corporate confession. God invites and commands His people to repent of their sins, thus we confess our sins weekly, even as we sin in thought, word, and deed daily.
- Assurance of Pardon: Having confessed our sins together, next we hear from God as His Word offers us assurance of our pardon, forgiveness for our sins. God declares us forgiven in Christ alone, and God declares us forgiven according to His mercy and grace alone, not because of our works. God promises in His Word to forgive His people who repent of their sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.
- Hymn: We respond to God’s assurance of our pardon by praising Him or singing of His forgiveness or affirming our commitment to repentance.
- Tithes & Offerings: At this point we respond to God’s salvation and gracious provision by reminding ourselves of the fact that all that we are and have belongs to Him. We are merely stewards of His blessings. And so we collect the offering at this time. This offering is used to support the ministry of the church and missionaries at home and abroad.
- Praise of God: We sing either the “Gloria Patri” (Latin: Glory be to the Father) or “The Doxology.” We sing these to give glory to God for His great mercy in giving us new life in Christ, which is evidenced in the fact that He has caused us to believe the faith which we have just confessed.
- New Testament Reading: Following the time of giving, we have a second reading from God’s Word taken from the New Testament.
- Prayer of Intercession: After the New Testament reading, the minister or one of the elders offers prayer to God on behalf of the congregation, even as the congregation joins the minister or elder, praying in spirit.
- Hymn: Together the congregation sings another hymn.
- Sermon: This is the place in the service where we hear the Good News about Jesus Christ! It is our conviction that all of Scripture is Good News when we rightly understand it. All of it, from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New, is a unified witness to Jesus. As a result, it is our desire that every message at Stonebridge should point us to Christ and the hope we have in Him.
In our tradition, the preaching of the Word of God is a very weighty and serious matter. One Reformed confession states that “the Word of God rightly preached is the Word of God.” It isn’t to be a matter of personal opinion or a time for the preacher to ride a hobby horse. Rather, it is a time for God’s people to hear what Scripture has to say. In the sermon, we come to learn about the Good News of Jesus Christ and how we are to live out our Christian faith.
- Song: We respond to God’s blessing of giving us His Word by again praising Him in song.
- Closing Prayer: The pastor prays a prayer for the congregation, closing the service, and sending the people out into the rest of their week.
- Benediction: Following our last hymn, the minister pronounces the Lord’s blessing upon His people. This is a time to hear of God’s promises and declarations about His people.
- Congregational Response: Our worship ends with the congregation singing praise in response to God’s Word and benediction.
- Communion: Once a month we celebrate the sacrament of Communion after the post-sermon hymn. This sacrament is also sometimes known as the “Eucharist” (from a Greek word meaning “to give thanks”) or the “Lord’s Supper” (because it is a memorial of Jesus’ Last Supper). The name “Communion” refers to the fact that in this sacrament we commune with God as we celebrate it. We believe Christ is spiritually present in this meal, and that as we partake of this meal together, Christ strengthens us by the Holy Spirit.
All persons who have sincerely repented of their sins, who have entrusted their lives to Christ, who have made a public profession of faith, and who are members of a Bible-believing church in good standing are welcome to celebrate the sacrament with us.
We believe this sacrament is not for the righteous but the unrighteous. That’s the Good News after all—that Jesus came for people who have wandered from God, broken His law, and who are broken down, worn out, hurting, and weak! God invites the humble and repentant to His Table, where He reminds us of His promise that He loves us, has forgiven us, and accepts us despite our shortcomings!
- Baptism: Whenever we have a baptism, another element of worship is replaced by this sacrament. The sacrament of baptism is not merely a declaration of our salvation nor does the act of baptism confer salvation. Rather, baptism is a sign and seal of God’s covenanting grace towards His people in which His sovereign grace and His great promises are shown forth as the recipient is brought into God’s kingdom passively. A proper baptism does not depend upon the minister’s holiness or the recipient’s sincerity of faith, but upon God’s Word. Baptism is thus to be administered only once in a person’s lifetime, and baptism is be administered both to believers and their children. Because baptism is not a guarantee of salvation, God’s grace and promises signed and sealed in baptism are not made effective to its recipients except through faith in Christ. We baptize a person into the singular name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
If you desire to become a member of Stonebridge Church, you may inform the pastor or one of the elders of your desire to join. We will arrange for an Inquirers Class, after which you would meet with the elders (or session). At that meeting, you will be asked to share:
- how you came to faith in Jesus,
- how you’ve seen God at work in your life since coming to know Him,
- how you would like to serve the Lord alongside of the rest of the congregation,
- and how the elders, deacons, and members can serve and encourage you.
After meeting with the elders, a day will be scheduled for you to take public membership vows during the worship service. At that time, you will be formally received into the congregation.
The basics of being Evangelical are summed up in the Five Solas, which teach that we are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. To be evangelical means 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.
The Reformed faith desires to be as biblical as possible in worldview, faith, and practice, to be as consistent with the Bible as possible. The Reformed faith has its roots in the Apostle Paul, the Patristic era, and in the teachings of St. Augustine. The Reformed faith was articulated during the Protestant Reformation from roughly 1517–1650.
Being Reformed means that we emphasize and teach particular doctrines, or teachings. These are:
- God’s glory as the purpose of all creation and God’s work of redemption
- God’s sovereignty over all things
- The utmost importance of biblically derived worship
- The understanding of God’s relationship with man and promises to man through covenants, also called Covenant Theology
- The continuing importance and benefit of Church history and creeds and confessions
- The teaching of the Doctrines of Grace (or TULIP, or Calvinism)
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?“
The name “Presbyterian” is a reference to our form of government, or polity, 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,” [you can think of it as a Board] 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).
A Presbyterian church is “connectional,” meaning we believe our “church” is more than just our local congregation. Our “church” 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 17:1ff 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 the Sessions of that region. 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. As a member of the EPC, we reside in the Midwest Presbytery, encompassing Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
At the national level, this connectionalism is called the “General Assembly,” or “GA.” Like the Presbytery, our GA consists of all of the Presbyteries in our bounds. The GA 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. The GA meets once per year.
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. AD 430), 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 issues over which Christians may disagree but which matter for the Church’s teaching. The EPC allows ministers, elders, and deacons to state exceptions to the Westminster Standards, so long as these exceptions do not violate the system of doctrine contained therein. In other words, these issues are considered essential for church leaders but not church members.
“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.
Why is the pulpit in the center of the chancel (i.e., “the stage”)?
Prior to the Reformation, the altar was at the center of the chancel. This emphasized the fact that the sacrifice of the mass was the heart of the service. But in a Reformed church, the pulpit is in the center of the chancel to remind us that the very center of all of Christian worship is the Word of God. The centerpiece and high point of the Protestant worship service is the reading and the preaching of the Word of God.
Why do the elders serve the elements when the church celebrates the Lord’s Supper?
Rather than the people approaching the table, our elders serve the bread and the cup as a symbol of God’s grace to us. God serves us at the table.
In our understanding of the proper governance of the Church, we believe that the Lord governs His Church through a plurality of elders. He also shepherds, teaches, and leads His people in this same way. As a result, when we come to celebrate the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), it is not the pastor who administers them of his own authority, but rather the minister acts as a representative of the session as a whole who in turn represent the mind Christ to His people. Also, all elders—both “ruling” and “teaching”—share the same office of “presbyter,” a Greek word meaning “elder.” Presbyters exercise their authority jointly. Thus, the elders act together to serve the Lord’s Supper to His people.
The reason the pastor does not serve himself is because all of us come to the Lord’s Table in the same manner—as beggars who have found the Bread of Life. The minister must be served just as he serves, for the only One who serves Himself at the Lord’s Table is the Lord Jesus Himself.
Do you observe a church or liturgical calendar?
We don’t believe Christians must hold to the Church Calendar, but we invite people to observe some of the Evangelical Feast Days and events as they find suitable to their growth in Christ.:
- Advent:The four weeks before Christmas in which we remember the Old Testament promises of the coming of Christ & the story of the Nativity. Each week we have a different reading, light a candle in the Advent Wreath, and sing Christmas hymns.
- Christmas: Every year we have a special evening worship service on Christmas Eve in which we retell the Christmas Story through the reading of some of the key Old Testament prophecies, the Nativity story, and a whole lot of singing of Christmas carols. When Christmas is on the Lord’s Day, we celebrate worship as God commands us in the 4th Commandment.
- Lent: The forty days leading up to Easter is a time of prayer and reflection on the reason why Jesus went to the cross to die—namely, our many sins. This is a time both to examine ourselves that we might remind ourselves how sinful we are as well as a time to rejoice that our God loves us enough that He would willingly choose to send his one and only Son to die that we might be forgiven and accepted.
- Holy Week: The week before Easter is a time to remember the great love of Jesus for us as well as the awesome culmination of prophecy that climaxed in Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. One major aspect of this week’s celebration is Maundy Thursday. This is a special church fellowship dinner in which we walk through the Jewish Passover in order that we might see how Jesus fulfilled the hope of Passover in the Last Supper, and how he reinterpreted it when he established the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
- Easter: Every year we celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection. This Sunday service is particularly fitting to hear the Gospel presented in all its glory and to celebrate the forgiveness of our sins in Christ’s name.
Why do you say, “One holy catholic Church” in the creeds?
Many Protestant churches have decided to replace the original wording (“catholic”) with some other wording. Usually they say “one holy Christian church.” However, this fundamentally changes the meaning of the phrase as defined by the early ecumenical councils. The word “catholic” is a Latin word which means “universal.” After the Reformation the part of the church that was not reformed and which remained loyal to the Pope in Rome claimed to be the only true Church, and adopted the name “Roman Catholic Church.” However, we would assert that every church that can affirm the “ecumenical creeds” (the Apostles’, the Nicene, the Athanasian, etc) is a part of the “one, holy, universal Church.” It is not necessary to be a part of the Roman church in order to be a part of the catholic Church. (Note that we use a little “c.”) When we affirm that we believe in “one, holy, catholic Church,” we are affirming the same faith using the same creeds that have been used by Christians for at least 1800 years.