The word “distinctive” is defined as a characteristic of a person or thing that distinguishes it from all others. In Christian contexts this usually refers to what a local church believes and is known for, particularly what makes it different to the other churches in an area.
For public teaching with consistency throughout the church, we use translations of the Bible closer to formal equivalence rather than functional; typically the New King James Version (NKJV) with occasional references to the Amplified Bible (AMPC). We believe this decreases the tendency to read from translations which are heavily biased towards the theological prejudice of the translators. Our belief is that Scripture is interpreted correctly only by agency of the Holy Spirit.
Statement of Faith
At Emmanuel Christian Centre we unite around the beliefs of historic, biblical Christianity which also align with the Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith. Although some concepts may seem complex for new believers, this page can serve as a helpful resource for those who want to know our foundational evangelical position.
We believe in...
The one true God who lives eternally in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit;
The love, grace and sovereignty of God in creating, sustaining, ruling, redeeming and judging the world;
The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God - fully trustworthy for faith and conduct;
The dignity of all people, because they are made male and female in God's image to love, be holy and care for creation, yet corrupted by sin, which incurs divine wrath and judgement;
The incarnation of God’s eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who was born of the virgin Mary; truly divine and truly human, yet without sin;
The atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross: dying in our place, paying the price of sin and defeating evil, so reconciling us (who believe on Him) with God;
The bodily resurrection of Christ, the first fruits of our resurrection; His ascension to the Father, and His reign and mediation as the only Saviour of the world;
The justification of sinners solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ;
The ministry of God the Holy Spirit, who leads us to repentance, unites us with Christ through new birth, empowers our discipleship and enables our witness;
The Church, the body of Christ both local and universal, the priesthood of all believers - given life by the Spirit and endowed with the Spirit's gifts to worship God and proclaim the gospel, promoting His justice and love;
The personal and visible return of Jesus Christ to fulfil the purposes of God, who will raise all people to judgement, bring (the fulness of) eternal life to the redeemed and eternal condemnation to the lost, and establish a new heaven and new earth.
Emmanuel Christian Centre (ECC) is an independent church, which means it is governed locally rather than being controlled externally by a national denomination or person. This frees us to grow in our understanding of doctrine and to make local spirit-led decisions relevant to our community. That said, we are accountable to some external bodies to ensure good-standing in the Faith, to maintain an evangelical Christian foundation, to endorse those in ministry and for financial transparency. Decisions made locally are through a board called the Church Council who work within the limits of a written Constitution.
In practice, ECC operates a variation of congregational polity where governance is delegated to the ministers of the Church Council working with the elders and deacons, all of whom are elected from the congregation. As in many other autonomous and free churches, day-to-day leadership and overall responsibility is vested in the Senior Minister of the Church Council who is an accountable ‘primus inter pares’. The Senior Minister is subject to the Church Council contractually, and accountable to them and external bodies for continual training and credentials. Therefore, bishopric is local rather than at regional level. All ministers, elders and deacons at ECC are to meet the biblical qualifications found in 1 Tim. 3:1-11, Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Pet. 5:1-4. We purposefully do not have all members of the Church Council accredited or affiliated with one or the same organisation so as to maintain autonomy, probity and impartiality.
We also have church membership. This is because the Church Council is legally accountable to members for financial reporting and an annual statement of charitable objectives. Anyone is welcome to be part of our congregation, but only ECC members have the right to vote on specific areas such as holding general meetings, agreeing the accounts and church discipline. We do not believe that being a member of ECC is an essential criteria of faith, but membership is helpful administratively and for accountability both ways.
ECC itself is a member of the Evangelical Alliance, the oldest and largest evangelical unity movement in the UK. Churches in Communities International (CIC) acts as an accrediting body to ensure good-standing through an accountability structure recognised within the Free Churches Group. CIC is not a typical denomination because it works with independent churches, which means each CIC church may function differently according to the community they operate in, within the scope and tenets of evangelical Christianity. ECC also serves as an office for Servants of the Lord Ministries and some of our members train with them. As with almost all credible UK churches, ECC is registered with the Charity Commission for fiscal transparency and governance best practice.
We believe Jesus' prayer for unity is too powerful to disregard (John 17:21) and that's why we have taken the view that we can work together with sincere believers and biblically-minded churches for the sake of the gospel in specific areas. We cherish 'unity of the Spirit' until we reach 'unity of the faith' (Eph. 4:3 & 13), but we balance that with a prayerful consideration to be holy and to stand for the historic Christian faith as revealed in Scripture (Matt. 24:35, 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Pet. 1:16-17). As a member church of the Evangelical Alliance, our doctrinal stance is based on what is considered the authentic, mainstream evangelical position. Therefore, we cannot enter formal working relationships with churches or denominations that adopt a progressive divergence from essential doctrines of the Faith. We wholeheartedly seek spiritual unity, love and Christian fellowship with those who affirm biblical truth and call on the Lord with a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22, 1 Pet. 1:22).
We teach and practice believers’ baptism by full immersion in water (credobaptism). The word baptism itself means to dip, immerse or submerge and has no other use. We would actively encourage all who have a profession of faith, have counted the cost and demonstrated repentance towards God (Acts 2:38), to be baptised in obedience to Christ’s ordinance. Baptism signifies and symbolises cleansing from sin, dying to the old life and being raised to new life in union with Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). In response to the grace of God, we believe each person should make a personal decision at a rightful age. This may include older children who call on the Lord (Acts 2:38-39), if they possess saving-faith. Baptism is undertaken in our main hall pool or other appropriate location such as a nearby lake.
Communion (The Lord's Table)
Taking communion in the form of bread and wine (grape juice) is a continued sign of God’s fellowship with us, a reminder of the price that Jesus Christ paid and a call to remember His return (1 Cor. 11:24-26). We believe it should be taken regularly by all who, after personal reflection, are in right standing with Jesus and His Church (1 Cor. 11:28-29). There is no 'supernatural' change to the bread and wine itself but we do believe Jesus is with us by His Spirit. As a sacrament received by faith, it unifies God’s people and ought to demonstrate this when taken. For some not to participate is part of our church discipline because it signifies broken communion with Christ and/or His Church (1 Cor. 11:27-32, 2 Thess. 3:14).
Holiness and Spiritual Fruit
We believe in the new birth of those who receive the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eze. 36:26-27, John 3:3, 2 Cor. 5:17). We also recognise that each one must work out their salvation with reverence and humility (Phil. 2:12). On accepting Jesus’ gift of salvation a believer is justified by God, then there is a process of transformation subsequent to the new birth which is wrought by submission to the work of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16). Therefore, we believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit who empowers obedience and holiness, which is characterised by a life of continual growth towards that holiness and to overcoming sin (Col. 1:9-10, Eph. 4:13, 1 John 5:4, Rev. 3:5). None of this equates to earning salvation which is solely by grace through faith, but it's about each person surrendering to the grace and power of God within on a daily basis (Eph. 2:8-9, Phil. 2:13, 1 Cor. 15:10). No one can boast in his own efforts because Christian growth is by God's power as we trust His sure promises, and ultimate sinless perfection is only found in Christ. We believe that trusting Jesus Christ results in demonstrable good works and spiritual fruit (John 15:8, Gal. 5:22-23, James 2:18-26, 1 John 4:8).
As continuationists, we believe in the operation of spiritual gifts which are not learned skills or inherited talents, but rather particular gifts received by grace (Rom. 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:4-11 & 28-31). The gifts are to be used for the edification of the Church and for the glory of God (1 Cor. 12:4, 1 Pet. 4:11). Each believer is given at least one gift either at salvation, by the laying on of hands, or in response to earnestly seeking them, but only as God chooses (Rom. 1:11, 1 Cor. 14:1, 2 Tim. 1:6, 1 Pet. 4:10). We do not believe that there is any particular gift which a believer must manifest to validate their salvation or to prove they are baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Distinctively, we hold to the view that operating in spiritual gifts should be subject to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and they are not necessarily a sign of maturity or oneness with Him (Matt. 7:21-22, John 5:19-20). That said, each believer is responsible for stirring up, exercising and cultivating the gift/s within them as led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12:31, 2 Tim. 1:6). Spiritual gifts are not to be mimicked or abused, which means they are for the building-up of the Church, to be used in love, subject to discernment and order, and must follow biblical guidelines where applicable. The gifts are not esteemed greater than growing spiritual fruit or maturing in love, and therefore we do not promote the seeking of charismatic encounters over consistently walking in the Spirit (John 15:8, Acts 8:18-21, 1 Cor. 12:31-13:1-3,14:1-33, 1 John 4:1-8). While we recognise that God may grant a variety of gifts as He chooses, we are circumspect towards hyper-charismatic manifestations which do nothing to build up the Church (1 Cor. 14:12, Gal. 5:25, 1 Thes. 5:19-21, 1 John 4:1).
As we believe in the leading and gifting of the Holy Spirit, we accept divine direction in our lives because we acknowledge Jesus is our literal Lord, meaning Master (Luke 6:46, Acts 2:16-17, Rom. 8:14, Gal 5:16). The Bible also teaches that we can hear the voice of Jesus (by the Holy Spirit), have consistent communion with Him and live out His plan for our lives (John 8:47, 10:27, 14:21-26 & 17:3, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 2:10, 1 John 1:3). God has also given ministry gifts to the Church for teaching and direction (Rom. 12:7, Eph. 4:11, Heb. 3:17), as well as gifts of prophecy, dreams and visions (Acts 2:17-18, 1 Cor. 14:30-31).
Therefore, we adopt a form of the prima scriptura doctrine, which means that canonised Scripture is first and regulates all other sources of divine revelation; i.e. any other form of interpreting God and/or His will is primarily subject to, verified against, and corrected by the rightly divided written Word of God (John 14:26, 2 Cor. 10:5, Gal. 1:8, 2 Tim. 2:15 & 3:16). We believe that Scripture can only be rightly divided by agency of the Holy Spirit and not merely by personal experience, natural reason or human tradition (Prov. 3:5, Rom. 8:6-8, 1 Cor. 2:14, Col. 2:8). In that sense, The Bible is the supreme court of discernment over personal revelations that come through fallible human beings (Rom. 12:2, 1 Thes. 5:19-21, 2 Tim. 3:16, 1 John 4:1, Rev. 2:2). We do not endorse novel insights or sinful behaviours which are contrary to the Bible (Rom. 16:17-18, 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 1 Tim. 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, 2 Pet. 2:1-3).
These distinctives are not a comprehensive overview of all our beliefs and practices. Any of our beliefs are based on the best light or insight we have been granted at any given time. We are open to change should the Holy Spirit confirm that, in our infallibility, we have discerned incorrectly or there is more to add. In areas of Chistian doctrine which we have not yet reached a clear view on, we will lean to a conservative and evangelical position to minimise, as much as possible, moving beyond the truth of Scripture and/or God's order.