(For an audio version of this introduction, Click here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
Revised August 2018
Welcome to Grace Bible Church
Welcome to Grace Bible Church. My name is Scott Harris, and I have had the privilege of being the teaching pastor here since 1991 when my wife, Diane, and I moved with our first son from California. We had two additional sons born here and have had the joy of raising all three of them within this church family.
In this message I would like to explain a little about Grace Bible Church, our beliefs, structure and a few key characteristics about this church. Let me begin with our name, Grace Bible Church, which describes quite a bit about who we are and what we believe.
Grace is what God extended to us in granting us salvation from sin through faith in Christ Jesus and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). The true Christian is to grow in the Lord’s grace (2 Peter 3:18), to stand firm in it (1 Peter 5:12), and to extend that grace to others (Ephesians 4:29). Our belief and trust in God’s grace separates us from the many churches that teach salvation can be attained by human effort.
Bible is the center of our name and central to what we believe and all that we do. We are committed to the fact that the living God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, who is eternal, infinite, almighty, all knowing, sovereign, holy, loving, gracious, merciful, true, unchanging, and triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), has revealed Himself in the Bible. We believe that the Holy Scriptures are the plenary and verbally inspired Word of God, inerrant in the original writings, infallible, His only special revelation to man, and are the sufficient and final authority for faith, life, and godliness. While the Creation tells us of God’s existence, His eternal power and divine nature, the Bible reveals His other attributes including His love, plan of salvation and manner in which we should live. Our belief and trust in the Bible separates us from the many churches that no longer believe it is God’s word or trustworthy.
Church describes the relationship we have with God and one another. We are those God has called out for Himself to be His people (1 Peter 2:9-10) who will worship Him (John 4:23-24), tell others about Him (Mark 16:15), and help one another live for Him (Ephesians 4:11-16). True Christians are adopted children of God (1 John 3:1), fellow heirs of Christ (Romans 8:17) and therefore brothers and sisters in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:15, etc.). Our understanding that being a church means we are part of the Body of Christ separates us from the many organizations that view themselves as a social society, community center or activist group.
Grace Bible Church is an independent, non-denominational church directed by its leaders under the authority of the Holy Scriptures and its membership. We are in association with IFCA International and seek to carry out cooperative ministry with other churches of like faith and practice while striving to remain separate from ungodliness, worldliness and doctrinal heresy.
Our Church motto is Glorifying God by Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have that printed on most of our literature including our stationary, bulletins, and even the mugs we give to our guests. It arises from from Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20, a passage often referred to as the Great Commission. It summarizes our purpose as a church and our goal for all that would join with us to fulfill that commission. We desire to be like Jesus and want to help others be like Him too.
Based on the Scripture passage of the Great Commission, our purpose statement has four components which also appears on most of our literature along with our logos. These are: Communicating New Life in Christ Through Evangelism – Mark 16:15; Caring for One Another in Christ – John 15:12; Cultivating New Life in Christ – Ephesians 4:11-13 and Celebrating New Life in Christ – John 4:23-24. I will look at each of these in detail in a moment, but first let me give a brief and clear explanation of the Great Commission.
It begins with Jesus’ statement in verse 18 that “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus has the right, power and freedom to do as He pleases and command others to do as He pleases in all things because He has all authority in heaven and on earth. It is our responsibility to obey Him. A true Christian is marked by willing obedience to Christ.
Jesus’ command is in verse 19. It is one command accomplished in three elements. The Greek grammar here is one verb, “make disciples,” with three participles: “going,” “baptizing,” & “teaching.” We are to “make disciples” by “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching.”
The command is based on Jesus Himself. The “therefore” brings back into focus Jesus’ authority. The command can be fulfilled because Jesus has the authority to send us and the power to accomplish His work through us. It is not your ability, but your availability given in worshipful submission that makes you useful to God. Jesus accomplishes His work through you.
The command itself is to make disciples. Whatever else the church does, the center of its focus needs to be in making disciples. Our fellowship, our ministries, and even our worship all revolve around being and making disciples.
What is a disciple? A disciple is simply someone who follows the teachings of another. They learn from the teacher. They identify with the teacher. They seek to be like the teacher. Luke 6:40 gives a good description stating that the “disciple is not above his teacher . . . but after being fully trained will be like his teacher.” Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all those that will be saved are “predestined to be conformed to the image of [Jesus].”
If you claim to be a Christian, then being a disciple of Christ is not an option. Even the term, “Christian,” speaks of discipleship since as Acts 11:26 states it was the “disciples” that were first called “Christians” in Antioch. The term itself means to be “a little Christ.” A true Christian is someone who has died to themselves and has Christ living in and through them (Galatians 2). When people see you, do they see Christ living in you?
It is important at this point to emphasize that Jesus expects His followers to obey His commands. It is ludicrous for someone to say that they believe Jesus’ claims and trust Him for salvation from sin and then reject what He says and not submit to His authority. That only proves the claim to believe in Jesus is false and that such a person is not a disciple of Jesus, is unsaved and still in their sins.
In order to make a disciple, you must first be a disciple of Jesus yourself. Like Paul in 1 Cor. 11:1, we call people to “be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ.” We then make disciples of Jesus Christ by going, baptizing and teaching.
The “going” is our efforts in evangelism both personally and as a church which also encompasses our missions involvements. The “baptizing” is also part of evangelism and missions because it is the first step of obedience of a new Christian in identifying with Jesus Christ. The “teaching to observe all that I commanded you” encompasses the rest of the church’s ministry, for it is the aspect of building one another up in Christ that we might care for one another properly and worship God in spirit and in truth. The teaching ministry consumes a large part of the church’s effort for it will continue from the time a person comes to salvation in Christ until they depart this life to be with Him.
I will now explain each of these aspects of making disciples within the four components of our purpose statement.
Our first component is Communicating New Life in Christ Through Evangelism
In Mark 16:15 Jesus commanded His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Going out to evangelize sinners is the first step in making a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is we who are Christians that need to make the effort to reach the lost. We are the ones who are to be inconvenienced, be in places that make us uncomfortable and expend our time and money in the endeavor. We are the ones that are to “go.”
This building is not the church. It cannot make disciples. This building only gives us a place to meet. You are the church, and you do the work of making disciples. It is only reasonable that we should be Communicating new life in Christ through evangelism, because telling others about Jesus Christ should be our natural response of joy of being cleansed from our sins and being given new life in Him. “Evangelize” simply means to tell good news to others, and in the context of the New Testament gospel, it is specifically telling them the good news that they can receive forgiveness for their sins against God through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, His substitutionary death, for them on the cross.
The command in Mark is to take the gospel to “all creation.” The command in Matthew 28 is to make disciples of “all nations.” There is no room for prejudice in the church. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek – black or white – red or yellow. The modern idea of “race” is from evolutionary thought. God only made one race – the Human race in all its morphological variations. God separated the human race into various “nations” and we are to go out to those nations and make disciples for Christ.
Making disciples of all nations also shows the necessity of missions. We have to leave our comfort zone to reach out to people who are different from us. They may have different physical characteristics. They may have customs you do not understand. They may eat food you consider unusual, to say the least. You may not even understand their language. They may live somewhere else. But whether they are around the block or around the world, the command is for us to go to them that we might make them disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This aspect of Jesus’ command encompasses our efforts at local outreach and cross-cultural and overseas missions.
Among the many efforts that are made by Grace Bible Church in this area are personal evangelism by people in the church, planned outreach efforts to hand out tracts and talk with people in our community, Vacation Bible School, our Children’s programs and our multi-pronged presence on the internet. We also support cross cultural and overseas missionaries and missions organizations. Over the last several years, folks from this church have made an annual missions trip to the Dominican Republic to assist churches in their outreach efforts among the poor.
As the gospel goes out, there will be those that respond to it and that brings the next element of making a disciple which is Baptism. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In a real sense, baptism should be the last step of evangelism and the first step of obedience in a new believer’s walk of faith.
Baptism is an act of faithful obedience in public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While there are many traditions concerning baptism, the scriptures are clear that it was only done to those who believed, which excludes infants. It is also clear that it was done by immersion. Baptism does not save nor does it extend any special grace. If you baptize an unbeliever or a baby, all you do is make the person wet.
If you want a full understanding of what the Bible teaches about Baptism there are information sheets in the back of the church and posted on our website – www.GraceBibleNY.org. Read through the material, and if you have not been baptized by immersion since you have professed faith in Jesus Christ, then we can arrange for you to be included in our next baptism.
Our second component is Caring for One Another in Christ Through Fellowship
In John 15:12 Jesus commanded “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” This is only one of many commands in the Bible concerning the care that Christians are to have for one another and for the unsaved. In Galatians 6:10 Paul said, So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
True Christian fellowship is the practice of all the one another commands of Scripture. Our love for God must be demonstrated in a true love of people. While fellowship fulfills social needs and includes having a good time together, true fellowship is much more than that. It is also in action when you weep with someone who is experiencing heartache or you lend a helping hand in a practical manner when others are sick, or something breaks, or just to ease the pressure of life on them. It is also occurs when someone stumbles in sin and you lovingly admonish them for it.
We hold Men’s, Women’s and all church fellowships and other activities in order to provide opportunities for people to spend time together and talk or do things together. However, most of true fellowship occurs on a personal basis. The social functions of the church create opportunity, but individuals have to take advantage of those to talk and pray with others on a deeper level. You also have to take the initiative to get together with others. Over the years I have found it to be almost invariable that when a person complains that other people do not care about them, that is also the person that neither comes to our fellowship activities nor takes initiative to have fellowship on a personal level or show concern for others.
Everyone must always be striving to put into practice Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Closely related to caring for one another in true fellowship is the third component of our purpose as a church.
Cultivating New Life in Christ Through Edification.
Paul explains how the church is to function in Ephesians 4:11-13. And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. The Church is the body of Christ and it is to be about the business of building one another up in Christ to maturity. “Edification” is “building one another up in Christ.” This is the teaching ministry of the church that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:20 – “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” It includes the preaching and teaching at group levels and the personal teaching that occurs in true Christian fellowship, which is why caring and edification are so closely linked. Teaching is not just imparting academic knowledge, but the transfer of wisdom which is the application of that knowledge in living daily life for the glory of God. That usually takes personal interaction.
While learning to do all that Jesus has commanded will be a lifelong process, it should only take a short time for someone to learn enough to begin the process with someone else. Even someone who has been a Christian only a few months can disciple and teach a new Christian that knows even less about living for Christ. Every Christian is involved in a teaching ministry in some aspect.
Here at Grace Bible Church, teaching is done from the pulpit, in our Sunday school classes, home Bible studies and our children’s and teen ministries. In those formats, the Word of God is explained so that we learn His commandments as well as suggestions for application. However, that teaching ministry must continue in the personal interaction of one life with another in applying the knowledge to life. That is why there is the Kids Corner and Think About It sections in the bulletin. They are there to help you apply the teaching in the sermon by both personally contemplating what you heard and interacting with others
The teaching ministry also takes place in the daily activities of life as you live in godliness yourself and as you take the time to point out how the Word of God applies to whatever situation you are in. It should occur as you parent your children and interact with other parents. It should happen at work through your honest dealings and godly example. It will be done while sitting in a living room or coffee shop hearing someone’s turmoil and praying with them. It even happens in the more formal setting of committing yourself to meeting with others for the express purpose of accountability and mutual encouragement in living for Christ. It could be formal Bible study, discussing books, memorizing scripture or just talking about how things are going. We also have an active One-to-One Discipleship ministry in which two individuals meet for at least 11 sessions to go over basics of the Christian life and develop godly habits of personal worship and service.
The key to success in teaching what Christ has commanded in making a disciple is simply doing it. Live the life yourself. Take advantage of opportunities to encourage others to live the life. And develop accountability relationships where you can mutually challenge one another to live according to Christ’s commands.
The fourth aspect of our purpose in making a disciple is:
Celebrating New Life in Christ
Jesus said in John 4:23,24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
There is much that goes on in churches that is claimed to be worship, but in reality it is only entertainment. It is a sad fact that many churches cater to “tickling the ears” of those that come. I have found, in both my personal experience and in talking with other pastors, that the vast majority of people who are looking for a church go “church shopping” looking for just the right mix of music that fits their taste, the right programs that will meet their felt needs, and a preacher that will leave them feeling good about themselves. If they don’t get what they want, they leave.
True worship of God is about God, not the people in the pew. True worship to be done in spirit and in truth. True worship is coming to sacrificially give of yourself to God, not to come to get. True worship is hard work and often leaves you uncomfortable because you cannot come into the presence of an absolutely holy God and still feel good about yourself. Like the prophets of old, when a glimpse of the awesome holiness and glory of God is perceived, we can only cry out that we are people of unclean lips longing for His cleansing and then praising our savior, Jesus Christ, for making us righteous through His sacrifice on our behalf. True worship prods you to holy living.
When it comes to music in our worship, while we desire to present quality music, we have no interest in entertaining you. We are not even concerned that the styles are according to your tastes. Part of that is because everyone tastes are so varied, but the real reason is that we choose the style and content to move you both emotionally and mentally to true worship. In general, the songs are to move you emotionally from the hectic pace of the world and into the contemplative reality that we are here together to worship the living God. The hymns are used to challenge your thinking about our Lord as well as allow you to express your commitment to Him. The reports and testimonies are to encourage you to give sacrifices of praise to the living God while the prayer time is so that we all might humbly present our petitions, both individual and corporate, before Him.
I am an expository preacher meaning that I strive to explain the meaning of a Scripture text according to its grammatical and historical context because I have a primary concern that you understand God and what he has said and commanded. I preach sermons instead of give lectures because my other great concern is to challenge you to live according to what God has said and commanded. While I would like you to feel good when you leave, I know that the best worship of God may occur when you leave feeling pretty bad. Why? Because you cannot come into the presence of the living God in true worship without it confronting your imperfections and thereby changing your life.
Neither myself nor anyone on our worship teams comes to entertain you. You are not the audience. You are the ones on stage. God is the audience and we are here to prod you to the performance of the sacrifices of true worship.
God can and will use you to make disciples if you are available, a worshiper of Christ, and willing to obey His commands. Why am I so sure of this? Not just because it has been true in my own life, but more importantly, because Jesus has the power and authority to accomplish it and He will be with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The only question still unanswered is whether or not you will be available and obedient to be a disciple of Jesus yourself and let Him use you to make disciples of Him. What will you do?
God’s Provision for the Church
There is one final aspect of our purpose as a Church I need to address if we are to fulfill it. It takes personal commitment to the task, and that means a sacrifice of time and resources. It is right at this point that the majority of people resist. It is one thing to come to church on Sunday morning, and it is quite another to be a living sacrifice for Christ day by day. God does not save people to be pew sitters. He saves people to glorify Him and that includes serving Him in whatever ways they are capable.
All ministries take place in the context of being a local manifestation of the body of Christ as described in multiple places in the Scriptures such as Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. Every believer is part of this body, and God equips every believer to serve within it so that the whole body may mature and fulfill its purpose in proclaiming and glorifying God. If you are a Christian, then you need to be involved in a church where you can grow in Christ and serve Him using the gifts and abilities God has entrusted to you.
1 Corinthians 12 makes it especially clear that there is no room for pride within the body of Christ because there are a variety of gifts, ministries and abilities and each and every one of them is needed just like the various parts of a physical body. The hand needs the foot. The ear needs the eyes. The head needs the legs. The church functions best when every part is present and working. If a part is missing or refuses its role, then the rest of the body will suffer. If you are not involved in the body of Christ, then not only is it detrimental to your own spiritual health, you leave the rest of the body handicapped. We will not be able to accomplish all that we should.
Related to this is our view that Grace Bible Church is only one manifestation of the Body of Christ, so we seek to be used of God for His glory in the greater body throughout our community and the world. Our desire is to be cooperative with other churches of like faith and practice, which means our desire is to help you function to the best of your ability in the Body of Christ even if you choose to fellowship at another local church. That means we welcome you to take advantage of the ministries here so that you can grow in your knowledge of the Lord and ability to serve Him. We know that if you grow in Christ, then you will help others do the same, and our purpose will be fulfilled of Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you have any questions about Grace Bible Church, please explore this website, write to us, or call us.