Our children sing a song that goes like this: The church is not a building; The church is not a steeple; The church is not a resting place; The church IS the people.
Too often in our society, religion is confused with the worship of buildings and programs. We believe that God cares very little for either of those things. God did not send a shrine or a new program to redeem lost humanity. God sent his son so we may be saved through him and so we may learn of his love for us. God’s agenda has always been people-centered.
We hope you find us to be a group that cares about people. Our goal is that all people, of all races and backgrounds, of all levels of health or handicap, of all nationalities and age groups feel welcome in our Church family.
You will hear us talk about our Church family. This is more than talk. God uses images of the family in His Word to speak of the Church. For us, these images are very real. God speaks of Christians as his sons or children, the heirs of his promise– all images are taken from the family. God speaks of himself as our father and the Church as his household. Those who help others believe in Christ and live more like him speak of these new Christians as their spiritual children in the faith. Fellow Christians are known as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The more we are together and share in each other’s needs, rejoice in each other’s triumphs, minister to each other’s pain, and share in each other’s joys, the more we truly feel like real family. The talk becomes more than empty words and the reality becomes a much more precious gift than anything money could buy.
Now as a family, we are not perfect, but then few families are. We just know we have a perfect Father. We want you to know him too! We hope will decide to be part of the Sunset Avenue family with us. The following pages tell you a little bit more about who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we get together.
I JUST WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN
As the church of Christ meeting in Sunset Avenue; we are a group of people who just want to be Christians. Our desire is not to be another church denomination. There are already too many divisions among those who believe in Jesus. We want to be obedient to God’s word and be Christians like the original Christians we read about in the New Testament. There are several things about which we feel very strongly. These strong feelings will also tell you a little more about us as a Church.
INDEPENDENT–we are independent of any denominational structure. We are not bound by any denominational creeds, written traditions, or regional/national organization. We want to be undenominational! We are completely independent and autonomous in terms of our doctrine, practice, and church government. We do have a group of men who are our spiritual guides and leaders. These men are called elders, bishops (overseers), or pastors (shepherds). These men are all members of our congregation and have been chosen by us based upon the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. They guide us as a church body and they are responsible to God for our spiritual lives.
BIBLE BASED–we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God which tells us how to live and also how to conduct our life as a Church (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We also believe there is only one way to unify all the many different divisions among those seeking to honor Jesus Christ as Lord: John 3:16) Jesus died on the cross to bring salvation to all kinds of people (1 John 2:2). The Holy Spirit was promised as a gift to all who responded obediently to the call of God (Acts 2:38-39). Christians are to do good deeds for all people, Christians and non-Christians (Galatians 6:10). We try to practice these principles through the various ministries of the church and through our personal lives.
MISSION MINDED— The purpose of the Church of Jesus has always been to reach the lost of every nation, language, and culture with the message of salvation. We want to do our part in this great task.
HOW DO I BECOME A PART OF THIS CHURCH? We hope this is the question you want to ask. In a city like Madera, where there are so many opportunities and so many needs, we can use all the help we can get to do the Lord’s work.
If you are already a Christian, all you need to do to be a part of the Sunset Avenue church family is to let us know of your desire to work with this congregation and to serve the Lord in this place. By doing this, you also show your willingness to minister and to worship under the spiritual guidance of our elders. You can do this in one of the following ways: during one of our Church assemblies, come to the front during our invitation song and let us know of your desire to be a member at Sunset Avenue; speak to one of the Elders and let them know personally of your desire; or put on your visitors card that you want to be a member. We would love to have you as a part of our Church family!
BUT HOW DOES ONE REALLY KNOW IF HE OR SHE IS REALLY A CHRISTIAN? This is the most important question that anyone could ever ask! Despite all the confusion in the religious world, God’s teaching in the Bible is very clear. The only thing that truly saves a person and allows that person to become a Christian is the saving death of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us there is nothing, no work or deed, that can bring us salvation. Salvation rests on the love and grace of God (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
The real question is, “How do I come in contact with the grace of God and receive this salvation?”
The New Testament tells us over and over again that we come into contact with the grace of God and receive salvation through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26). Remember it is the grace of God shown in the life of Christ which saves us. Our role is to accept this gift through saving faith.
True faith involves several specific actions. It involves confessing aloud that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Faith involves repentance, the changing of our heart and life to do the things of God (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20). Faith involves surrendering our lives in baptism to the will of God for the forgiveness of our sins (Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 2:38; 16:29-34; 22:16). Faith also involves living with commitment toward God and with compassion toward those around us (Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-16). While we submit to God’s will in these actions, God is at work bringing us into his kingdom, his Church, forgiving and cleansing us of all our past sins, and placing his Holy Spirit in us (Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 2:38-41; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7; Romans 8:9-17, 26-27). We become new people (2 Corinthians 5:17), born of God to begin a new spiritual life of service
for him (John 1:10-13; 3:1-5).
It is important to remember there is not one thing we can do to earn our salvation. These several actions do not cause our salvation to happen, they are simply the ways that God has provided for us to receive the salvation given us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This point is clearly shown in Romans 6 where Paul talks about baptism. Notice that the whole discussion on baptism is framed by the concept of grace (verses 3 & 14)! Notice also that baptism is not some arbitrary act that is done to be saved, but is actually a participation, a sharing, in the saving death of Jesus Christ so that we can share in his new life (verses 3-10). It is sharing in what Christ has done, through our faith, that allows us to receive the grace of God already provided for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We would love to have you be a part of our Sunset Avenue Church Family. If you are a Christian, please let us know you want to be a part of our Church family. If you are not a Christian, then we would encourage you to become one today so you can share in our hope and joy found only in the Lord. If you have further questions about any of these matters, we would be happy to visit with you. Let us know by telling one of us personally, or checking the little box on the visitors card. If you have further questions, please feel free to call us, our staff ministers or any of our elders would be willing to visit with you at your convenience. We are so glad you chose to spend time on our web site. God bless you as you seek to honor him with your life!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CHRISTIANS MEET TOGETHER? When the woman at the well asked Jesus where the proper place to worship God was located, Jesus responded by saying, “You will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and now has come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in Spirit and truth”. (John 4:21, 23-24).
By saying these things, Jesus is sharing with us several very important concepts about worship: first, he tells us that worshipping God is not place centered–the thing that makes worship important is not the place where it happens; second, he tells us that worship is directed to God who shows himself as our Father–we worship from the perspective of a family; third, true worship comes from those who have the Holy Spirit, because God is Spirit, and true worship is worship in Spirit; fourth, true worship involves truth–it must be done how God wants it done and done by people whose lives are in tune with the worship they offer; fifth, God our father, actively seeks those who will worship him in these ways.
Why is it so important to understand all this? Jesus’ five principles about true worship tell you a great deal about what we do when we assemble together as Christians.
First, we know that while part of our worship to God occurs when we come together Sundays, Wednesdays, or other special occasions, a large part of our worship occurs at home, on the job, or while we are with friends. Our church building is just a convenient tool that lets us meet together, butit is not a special “holy place.” What we do in our daily lives is every bit as important in worshipping God as is our singing and praying (See Romans 12:1-2 or 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This does not mean our meeting together at church assemblies is unimportant (see Hebrews 10:25). We just recognize that all of life is part of our worship to him.
Second, we come together as a family to honor our Father in Heaven. As a family, we have hurts and pains and illnesses that bother us. We speak plainly about them to each other and to our Father. We believe sharing and praying to our Father about these spiritual and physical needs is a very vital part of our worship that pleases God. We have seen God mightily answer our prayers to meet both spiritual and physical needs in our church family. We also share a family “meal” when we come together on Sundays. Each Sunday we gather as one body, as one family, remembering the death of Christ in the Lord’s Supper and proclaiming to all that he
is coming again to take us to our home (1 Corinthians 11:27-34).
Third, because worship involves the work of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3:3), we understand that it is a privilege to worship God. As Christians who have received the Holy Spirit, we are reminded of the grace of God that saved us and of his precious presence in us that he gave us when we were saved (Acts 2:38). We know that our prayers are made even more precious to our Father because of the work of the Holy Spirit interceding for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27; Jude 20). Our singing is joyful and full of praise because the Spirit fills us as we speak of our hope and teach one another in our singing (Ephesians 5:18-20). We recognize in the blending of the many voices and the sharing of our different backgrounds the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us into closer fellowship (2 Corinthians 13:13; Philippians 2:1; Ephesians 4:3-6).
Fourth, God is Ruler and King of our lives and is worthy of our devotion and praise. When we meet together, we worship God to please and honor him. Worship must be offered in ways that truly please Him–in ways he has told us please him! He has given us his grace and has generously blessed us by making us his people, so we joyfully try to please him by being obedient to his will in our worship of him. But right forms and right words do not make God happy when they come from hypocritical hearts and lives that belie the words spoken in church services. So we try to worship God as he has revealed to us in His Word, the Bible. We also try
to live lives that are consistent with the words we proclaim. This doesn’t mean we are always right or perfect. We still live in a real world and are imperfect people, but we are trying to have our worship words and our daily lives be consistent with the will of our Holy God. This is why much of what we do when we come together involves encouraging and building up one another so that we can better live to please our God (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 14:26).
Fifth, God yearns for and seeks out men and women who long to live for him and worship him. God is a Father longing to draw his children back into that special relationship which brings joy to both Father and child. As the apostle Paul said, God wants us to “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). As his children, we invite you to join us in honoring God as your Father.
To sum it all up, we meet together to share in our common life in the Spirit by praising, honoring, and seeking God. Since this is directly tied to the way we live the rest of the week, we also speak to one another and seek to meet each other’s needs, encouraging one another to a more dynamic life lived for God. He has done so much for us and is fully worthy of our worship!
Please let us know if we can be of help in any way. We want you to have a place you can come and worship the Father, remember the Son and his sacrifice for us, and be filled with his Spirit as you sing, pray, and share in encouragement. We hope you will want to come and join us so we can all honor him as one big family, the church of Christ in Sunset Avenue.