All Sovereign Grace churches ascribe to 7 Shared Values, our priorities as a family of churches. A fellow Sovereign Grace pastor has noted how a purposeful commitment to these values, specifically a devotion to “Gospel-Centered Doctrine & Preaching,” has developed a distinct culture among Sovereign Grace leaders and churches. This is a summary of his reflections on that culture, which he christens our 7 Gospel Cultural Values. We share these here not only to help newcomers understand what we hold dear, but also to fan the flames of godliness and gospel centrality among our members. “We seek to press these values down into our local context that we might see biblical Christian community flourish, not only for our sake, but as an apologetic to the world that Christ has come and is setting up his kingdom in human hearts” (Ben Kreps).
Humility: A healthy Gospel culture is marked by “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness” (C.J. Mahaney, Humility). In this place of humility before God, we tremble at His Word and commit ourselves to live under its authority, and there we receive and are amazed by the grace of God given to us in Christ. Humility is essential for church elders, whose position of authority inclines them to the temptation of pride; faithful pastors must always have firmly positioned in their minds Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?” and must live as radically dependent men who, apart from Christ, can do nothing.
Godliness: We are saved and kept by the grace of God, accounted as righteous in Christ, and now we get to work putting off our former way of life and putting on righteousness and holiness. We aim not only to kill sin in the power of the Holy Spirit but also earnestly to pursue growing to be more like Jesus. The faithful pastor prioritizes this pursuit of godliness, for the sake of his own soul, to set an example for the flock, and to maintain the integrity of His preaching and care for the church.
Serving: We serve a Savior who came not to be served but to serve us by dying in our place to bring us to God. His service toward us in the cross not only gives us an example to emulate but provides the grace we need so that serving others for the glory of God is made possible. Thus, we endeavor to use our gifts and energy for the purpose of serving others. The wise pastor sees himself as the lead servant in his church, purposing with energetic and robust leadership to preach and teach, to raise up new leaders, and to labor so that his church thrives after his days of serving come to an end.
Generosity: Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” When we remember the grace of Christ, that he poured out his life so we might have every spiritual blessing, it is our joy to be generous givers — not only with our finances but also with every resource we have been given. A faithful pastor, too, pursues a lifestyle of generosity through sacrificial financial giving to the work of the church and an eagerness to pour out his time and energy in blessing his family, church, and community.
Gratefulness: In light of the grace of God, we of all people should be most grateful and full of thanksgiving — we deserve the righteous wrath of God for our sin and have instead received forgiveness, justification, and adoption through the cross of Christ. A healthy church is marked by a discernible gratitude towards God and His gracious activity in the lives of others, expressing itself in a culture of honoring and encouraging others; gratefulness is a bedrock in the way we function. The healthy pastor cultivates an awareness of the grace of God at work in the lives of others and is eager to point to that grace in order to glorify God and build others up.
Fellowship: God saves us individually but does so in order to bring us into the community of the church, the people that he has purchased with his own precious blood. Here we pursue more than just friendship — we aim for biblical fellowship. We help each other pursue holiness, care for one another practically and spiritually, and seek to experience and express the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We cultivate sympathy and affection for the brothers and sisters in our local context and beyond, for biblical fellowship is marked by the distinct presence of love. The pastor does not isolate himself from the fellowship of the church but enters into it, pursuing a lifestyle of hospitality and community, not only as an example, but for the purpose of keeping a close watch on his life and doctrine.
Joy: God intends that the Christian life be marked by the presence of biblical joy, which comes through the Holy Spirit applying the gospel to our souls. We pursue biblical joy by keeping the cross in view so that in every season, whether prospering or suffering, we locate our joy in Christ and not ultimately in our circumstances. One primary way that we express joy in Sovereign Grace is through passionate worship and vibrant singing in response to the mercy and grace of God toward us in Christ. Faithful pastors seek for their people to experience them as joyful worshippers and glad volunteers, for not only have they been saved from wrath, but they also have been called to the great privilege of serving those for whom Christ shed his precious blood.