It has been said that God’s way is like Hebrew – it can only be read backwards! In some respects that is like our own story.
In 2014 Jonathan Carson and Stuart Elliott met through a mutual friend. Jonathan was happily pastoring in a church and Stuart was seeking a home church to be rooted in with his family. Both men were convinced of the need for local churches to be ruthlessly committed to both serious attention to the word of God and serious pursuit of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit – arriving at this position from two different ends of the spectrum.
In early 2017, Jonathan began to feel stirred and unsettled in ministry and after a season of seeking the Lord, he and his wife Sandra were convinced the Lord was calling them to step out in faith and plant a church. Jonathan announced his notice and left his church at the end of 2017.
Ballyclare seemed to be the right fit – not because there was no gospel witness at all, but because it was – and is, a fast-growing area strategically sitting in the heart of the wider Newtownabbey area.
Stuart and his wife Laura were also convinced of the Lord’s call in this and were delighted to come alongside as a team in order to see a healthy gospel church planted. A combination of kind providences, confirmations and prophetic words lay the foundation for the work and public services were opened in the Town Hall beginning in January 2018.The Church was constituted in October 2018, and the Lord has remained faithful in adding to our number.
After personal prayer and wrestle, in June 2021 Stuart & Laura have moved on sensing God's call to plant a church in lower East Belfast, the area Stuart grew up in.
What We Believe
This statement of faith reflects an evangelical, reformed and charismatic theology. It is evangelical because the gospel is of first importance; it is reformed because we believe God is sovereign to save; and it is charismatic because we believe in the continuation of all spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament.
We accept the Bible (39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament) as the written Word of God. We believe the entire scriptures to be infallible (without mistakes) and inerrant (without error) meaning it is fully trustworthy. The Scriptures are the authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice and doctrine. They are totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or worldly wisdom. Every doctrinal formulation, whether of creed, confession or claims of personal revelation and prophecy, must be put to the test with the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture. Each book is to be interpreted according to its context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through it in living power. All believers are exhorted to study the Scriptures and diligently apply them to their lives.
We believe there is one God; infinite and eternal, almighty and perfect in holiness, truth and love. In the unity of the godhead, there are three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, co-existent, co-equal, and co-eternal. God the Father is the Creator of heaven and earth. By His word and for His glory, He freely and supernaturally created the world out of nothing. Through the same word He daily sustains all His creatures. He rules overall and, together with the Son and the Spirit, is the only true God. His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted. He is faithful to every promise, works all things together for good to those who love Him and in His unfathomable grace gave His Son Jesus Christ for mankind's redemption. He made all things for the praise of His glory and intends for humanity in particular, to live in fellowship with Himself.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God who is the eternal Word made flesh. He was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary and in his being He is both fully God and fully man. He was always with God and is God. By him and through Him and for him were all things created. He was before all things and in Him all things hold together by the word of His power. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation and in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He is the only Saviour for the sins of the world having shed His blood and subsequently died on the cross. By His death in our place, He revealed the divine love and upheld divine justice, removing our guilt and reconciling us to God. Having redeemed us from sin, the third day He rose bodily from the grave for our justification, victorious over death and the powers of darkness and for a period of 40 days appeared to over 500 witnesses performing many convincing proofs of His resurrection. He ascended into heaven where, at God's right hand he fulfils the roles of Prophet (as he speaks through his word), Priest (as he intercedes for his people) and King (as he rules overall). He is the Head of His body, the church, and should be adored, loved, served and obeyed by all as his inevitable return is waited for.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity and is the Lord and Giver of life who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. His ministry is crucial for the work of the gospel in the lives of both unbelievers and believers. Through the proclamation of the gospel He persuades individuals to repent of their sins and confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit unites believers to Jesus Christ in faith, brings about the new birth and dwells within the regenerate. He further is involved in sanctifying the believer as they become increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. He does this by using the means of grace provided for the believer in Bible study, prayer, fellowship & The Lord’s Supper. He has come to glorify the Son who in turn came to glorify the Father. He will lead the church into a right understanding and rich application of the truth of God's Word.
The Holy Spirit also empowers believers for Christian witness and service. The promise of the Father is freely available to all who believe in Jesus Christ, thereby enabling them to exercise spiritual power in ministry and mission. The Holy Spirit desires to continually fill each believer with power to witness and imparts Spiritual gifts for the edification of the Body and the work of ministry in the world. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first century are available today and are to be earnestly desired and practiced in an orderly manner in accordance with the scriptures. The gifts are essential for the mission of the Church in the world today.
We believe in a real, literal, personal Devil who is the archenemy of God and of God’s people. He is completely opposed to everything that is godly and true. He is called many names in the scriptures including “the destroyer”, “Accuser”, “adversary”, “Liar”, “murderer”, “deceiver”, “evil one” and “enemy”. He is a creature, originally created in perfect goodness and beauty but who subsequently fell and is accountable for his actions as every created being is for their rebellion against God. He is not equal with God in any of his attributes and even as he plans his wicked schemes, is used in sovereign ways by God to execute his wise, good and holy purposes for His glory and the believer’s joy. He attacks God’s people through lies, temptations and spiritual warfare but his time is short. When Christ returns he shall banish Satan forever along with the whole evil realm and the unrepentant in the bottomless pit where he will be locked and sealed for all eternity.
We believe that God made humanity — male and female in His own image as the crown of creation that they might glorify Him through enjoying fellowship with Him. In doing this he also made the blueprint for heterosexual union as the biblical design for marriage. Tempted by the Devil, mankind rebelled against God. Being estranged from their Maker, yet responsible to Him, they became subject to divine wrath, inwardly depraved and apart from a special work of grace, utterly incapable of returning to God. This depravity is radical and pervasive. It extends to the mind, will and affections. Unregenerate men and women live under the dominion of sin and Satan, being described in the scriptures as “dead”. They are at enmity with God, hostile toward God, and hateful of God. Fallen, sinful people, whatever their character or attainments, are lost and without hope apart from salvation in Christ alone.
We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ who has lived the life that we could not have lived and died the death that we should have died and who rose again victoriously. Christ's crucifixion is the heart of the gospel; His resurrection is the power of the gospel and His ascension is the glory of the gospel. Christ's death is a substitutionary and propitiatory (wrath absorbing) sacrifice to God for our sins. It satisfies the demands of God's holy justice and appeases His holy wrath. It also demonstrates His mysterious love and reveals His amazing grace. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. There is no other name by which we must be saved.
The proper response to the gospel therefore is faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a faith that is naturally accompanied by repentance from sin. This is how sinful humanity can be “justified” (declared right in the courtroom of heaven before a Holy God) whereby the action of double imputation (credit to another’s account) takes place; our sin on Christ and his perfect righteousness on us.
This response to the gospel is rooted and grounded in the free and unconditional election of God for His own pleasure and glory. Since we do not know God’s wise and sovereign decrees regarding the salvation of his people we are not called to speculate and pontificate but in obedience to the great commission preach this gospel of grace to all people in all nations.
We believe that God by His Word and Spirit creates the Church, calling sinful people out of the whole human race into the fellowship of Christ's Body. By the same Word and Spirit, He guides and preserves that new redeemed humanity. The church is not a religious institution or denomination. Rather, the Church universal is made up of those who have become genuine followers of Jesus Christ and have personally appropriated the gospel. The Church exists to worship and glorify God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It also exists to serve Him by faithfully doing His will in the earth. The ultimate mission of the Church is worship and the means by which this is accomplished is the making of disciples through the preaching and embracing of the gospel. Upon conversion, newly redeemed men and women are added to a local church in which they devote themselves to teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.
All members of the Church universal are to be a vital and committed part of a local church. In this context, they are called to walk out the New Covenant as the people of God and demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God. The ascended Christ has given gift ministries to the church including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the equipping of Christ's body that it might mature and grow. The gifts of apostle and prophet must be distinguished from the offices of apostle and prophet who spoke with infallibility as God’s progressive revelation in the formation of the scriptures was still in progress. The gift of apostle is seen in church planting and pioneer work and the gift of prophet is seen in those who by God’s grace speak words in season to build up individuals or the whole body via means of revelation/insight or appropriate application of scripture. All prophetic utterances are to be tested in accordance with the scriptures. Through the gift ministries, all members of the church are to be nurtured and equipped for the work of the ministry.
In the context of the local church, God's people receive pastoral care and leadership and the opportunity to employ their God-given gifts in His service in relation to one another and to the world. We therefore believe in the priesthood of all believers in understanding that every believer in the church has the gifts and ability to serve one another and lead one another in worship. Furthermore, the local church is to be free from outside interference and is autonomous and self-governing, free to make decisions from within, including the appointment/affirmation of its leaders.
The only recognized offices in the New Testament are elders and deacons. Elders (sometimes referred to as Bishops and pastors) are God’s under-shepherds responsible for the oversight, rule and spiritual direction of the church. They are gifted and set aside by the Holy Spirit, in recognition by the church to carry out their tasks. Deacons are those recognised by the church who lead and assist in the practical welfare and mercy ministry of both the church and the local community.
The two ordinances given to the church are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is to be administered only to those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour and is an expression of their spiritual baptism into the body of Christ and union with him. The Lord’s Supper is a privilege for all believers to remember the Lord’s work on the cross and be refreshed in their walk with him as they live their lives in a fallen world waiting for his return. Although the emblems used do not change in any shape or form or have any saving merit in them, the Lord’s Supper is a privileged means of grace for believers who partake of it.
We believe that the consummation of all things includes the future, physical, visible, personal and glorious return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead of both the just and the unjust and the translation of those alive in Christ at his coming. When Christ returns he will consummate his kingdom and usher in the new heavens and the new earth where his people will serve and enjoy him forever and those unrepentant will suffer eternal conscious punishment for their sins against a Holy God.
These are the fundamentals of “eschatology” (study of last things). We promote people to have conviction and share their views regarding other issues such as Millennialism (the understanding of the “thousand years” in Revelation 20) and prophetic/apocalyptic passages in the scripture but discourage divisiveness over such issues; desiring to keep the bonds of peace and glory in what is clear - namely Christ is returning.
We believe every believer is to live as salt and light in the world that others may see our good deeds and glorify our father in heaven. It is expected that Christians are to live counter-cultural lives as an expression of how the Gospel has changed them.
Acknowledging the difference of opinion between Christians when it comes to views such as alcohol, Lords day activities and worship style (among others), we believe in the liberty of conscience of each believer as well as the command to not put a stumbling block in front of others.
When Christian behaviour is compromising to the gospel and/or to the local church the necessary form of church discipline will be carried out.
Distinctives & Values
Evangelical in our emphasis
We are a gospel people, desiring to proclaim the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things through his gospel. The word gospel means ‘good news’ so that our central message is a ‘done’ as opposed to a ‘do’. Despite other distinctives we may emphasise, we believe the gospel is of ‘first importance’.
Reformed in our understanding of salvation
We believe the reformed view of man’s inability to save himself or turn to God, alongside the nature of unconditional love and grace on God’s part, best reflects the teaching of the scripture. We believe the members of the Triune God work in perfect unity in their distinct roles – the father predestines, the son comes to pay atonement on their behalf and the Spirit effectively regenerates and unites believers to Christ through the power of the gospel.
Charismatic in our ethos
We do not believe the Holy Spirit has ceased from giving any of the gifts he gave the early Church. We therefore are theological continuationists. With this, we believe there is a gospel imperative to pursue the gifts and to practice them according to the biblical guidelines. We believe God grants signs of the presence of the kingdom in not only salvation and sanctification, but in deliverance from demons, healing from disease and oral gifts of the Spirit being in operation. While not denying the omnipresence of God and his promise to be with his people – we believe scripture also calls us to ‘seek his presence’ and that he is willing to manifest it amongst us.
We believe in the sufficiency of the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the written word of God. The kingdom of God extends not through pragmatism but through power; a power that is accompanied in and through the preaching of Christ crucified.
Set Apart Community
The church is a called-out community of saints and priests who are called to model what it is like to walk under the Lordship of Christ. This will simultaneously attract and repel the world. As a set apart community, we value corporate worship as God’s people come together to meet with him.
God has given and continues to give gifts to his church by his sovereign will & in response to his people pursuing them. The local church is therefore a gifted community. Because of this, church ministry should be gift driven as opposed to programme driven. Ministry should work through the people as opposed to being based from a building.
Jesus' final words to his church was to ‘go’. God's people are sent missionaries. We want to be a mission minded people focusing first and foremost on our own doorstep as well as the nations - especially the unreached. The end will not come until all people groups hear, and the lamb receives the full reward of his sufferings.