What kind of church is God calling us to be?
A Biblical Church
First and foremost, we are called to be a biblical church. This is the foundation for everything we do as a congregation. It is only by the ministry of God’s Word that sinners come to faith in Christ, grow to spiritual maturity, and reach out in compassion.
We accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as our only infallible authority for life and doctrine. The Bible remains at the center of our life as a congregation. We preach it from our pulpit. We teach it in our classes. We read it in our homes. We study it in our small groups. We teach it to our children. And as God gives us grace, we seek to obey it in our daily lives. We want the Bible to guide and govern everything we do as a church.
The Bible is also at the heart of our witness. In one way or another, all the ministries of Tenth Church communicate biblical truth. This is true not only of our Bible classes and worship services, but also of our outreach to people in need. Whether we are visiting prisoners, teaching ESL, or feeding the homeless, we combine the ministry of the deed with the ministry of the Word, and in this way people’s lives are transformed.
An Evangelical Church
Tenth is also an evangelical church. The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek evangelion—the biblical word for “gospel.” And what is the gospel? It is simply the good news about Jesus Christ and the salvation he accomplished on the cross and through the empty tomb. The good news is “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3b-5 ESV). And it is only by believing this gospel—this evangelion—that we are saved. In the true biblical sense of the word, an “evangelical” is someone who believes in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord.
A Catholic Church
Every Sunday at Tenth we recite the Apostles Creed which is a biblical summary of what we believe as Christians. In that creed we say some bold things that we believe about the church itself: it is the “holy, catholic Church.” Whenever someone asks about what kind of church we are, this is our response:
The word, “catholic,” is used in its original sense (I.e., the true Christian Church) which is rooted in Jesus’ teaching and his sacrifice for sin as the only basis for salvation and in the teaching of his apostles who are its sure foundation. We believe what Christians have always believed about God (the Trinity), about Christ (the mediator), and about the Spirit (the sanctifier).
We are Reformed. By that we mean Reformed catholics. We do not pretend that Christianity began in earnest at the time of the reformation. The earliest church pushed the boundaries of Christianity down into Africa; east to Syria, Persia (Iran), India and China (all in the first century). Later the gospel was taken north to the French, Germanic and British tribes and further north to the Nordic and Russian peoples. By the time of the reformation, it was apparent that the church needed a course correction—not the introduction of new doctrine—but, as the reformers were keen to show, the retrieval of original doctrine for the sake of the future.
A Reformational Church
Being Reformed catholic also means being a confessional church. By that we mean the church affirms the ecumenical creeds of the early church and the confessions of the era of Reformed orthodoxy. These creeds are often summarized by the Five Solas of the Reformation:
Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”) means that the Bible alone—not the church, not a confession, and certainly not our own private judgment—is our ultimate authority for faith and practice.
Solus Christus (or “Christ alone”) means that because Jesus has done everything that needs to be done to redeem us, salvation is not our work, or even Christ’s work plus our work, but Christ’s work alone.
Sola gratia (or “grace alone”) means that in our lost and fallen condition we are not capable of earning, seeking, or even cooperating with God’s grace, and therefore there is no human method or technique we can use to save ourselves or anyone else.
Sola fide (or “faith alone”) means we are not justified by anything that we can do, but only by believing in what Christ has done in his crucifixion and resurrection.
Soli Deo Gloria (or “to God alone be the glory”) means that the supreme purpose for everything is for God alone to receive all the honor and praise: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1).
We honor the principle of sola Scriptura by making God’s Word the foundation for our worship, teaching, and witness. We honor the principle of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone by denying any merit of our own and putting complete trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. We honor the principle of soli Deo gloria by making the glory of God our ultimate aim in all we do.
An Ordinary Means of Grace Church
At Tenth we believe in being “an ordinary means of grace” church. That is, we see the primary expression of our Christian faith; the essential key to our Christian growth; the focus of our Christian fellowship; and the basis of engagement with God himself is to be found in our Lord’s Day worship.
We see ourselves to be in communion with the saints in glory and around the globe. In our worship liturgy we use the same elements that would be recognized by the earliest Christians—the Gloria Patri, Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer. Our aim is that early church fathers; medieval, as well as reformers would happily join in worship with us. Clement (first century), Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas are teachers of the universal church still. From the earliest church we have received the sacred deposit of truth including how to confess the Holy Trinity, and our Savior’s incarnation.
The Reformation was about worship as much as it was about the gospel. Elements of worship from the earliest days were included in Reformed worship. There was much discussion before and after the Reformation about music in the church, but the Reformation gave birth to a specifically Christian form of music with specifically Christian texts. The range of the music was deliberately designed to allow the maximum number of people to take part, and the words were written to elevate the minds and move the hearts of the saints. Our music at Tenth seeks to preserve the rich heritage of words and music that is within the range of most voices. The result is earnest, united and energetic (loud!) singing by the congregation.
Worship is a form of prayer, whether of praise (sung or said), adoration and thanksgiving, confession of sin, confession of faith, intercession and the “our Father.”
Christian living is possible because God has given us a new heart with new motivations. We understand that it is the love of Christ that compels to be able to live for him, rather than ourselves. The indwelling Holy Spirit teaches us his inerrant Word and uses sacraments as spiritual food and drink to nourish us on the way to Jesus Christ who is himself our destination. Through our worship we prepare ourselves for the Beatific Vision, that is, the sight of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Presbyterian Church
As its name indicates, Tenth has always been a Presbyterian church. By this we mean at least three things. First, we mean that we believe that Presbyterianism—or rule by elders—is the most truly biblical form of church government. Second, we mean that we belong to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)—a national church that seeks to reach our nation and our world with the gospel. Third, we mean that our theology is Reformed or Calvinistic.
Specifically, as Presbyterians we follow the principle of rule by elders under Christ who is the Head of the Church. Teaching elders are called by the church to teach and preach the Word of God and thereby shepherd the flock of God. Ruling elders are elected by the church to guide and rule the church according to the Word of God and are answerable to the chief shepherd of the sheep – Christ himself.
Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), understands that it is one communion in the worldwide church. It exists to glorify God by extending the kingdom of Jesus Christ over all individual lives through all areas of society and in all nations and cultures. To accomplish this end, the PCA aims to fill the world with churches that are continually growing in vital worship, in theological depth, in true fellowship, in assertive evangelism, and in deeds of compassion.
Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America, receivesthe Westminster Confession of Faith along with its Larger and Shorter Catechisms as our subordinate standard under the Holy Scripture which is the Word of God and our supreme authority. In addition, the era of orthodoxy produced several confessions which we receive in fellowship with our brethren.
We believe these confessions alongside the ancient creeds express the teaching of Holy Scripture faithfully. More specifically,
- Natural Theology (Romans 1), which teaches that the heavens declare the glory of God and that the divine nature can be seen in the universe God made.
- Covenant Theology is the foundation for our understanding of salvation in Christ. Several covenants operate in Scripture (works in Eden; grace in Abraham; redemption in Christ), but all point us to Christ for their fulfillment. The covenant of grace has outward signs and seals in baptism and holy communion.
- Trinitarian theology draws from the creeds of the early church and the works of Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373), Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and well as Reformed doctors such as Petrus van Maastricht (1630-1706); William Perkins (1558-1602); Francis Turretin (1623-1687); John Owen (1616-1683); and John Gill (1697-1771)
Further, we believe the distinctive doctrines known as “the Five Points of Calvinism” and identified by the acronym TULIP:
Total depravity means that because sin pervades every part of our physical, intellectual, and emotional makeup, nothing we are or do is completely free from sin, and we cannot seek God or respond to the gospel without the life-giving work of God the Holy Spirit.
Unconditional election means that the salvation of any individual Christian is determined by the sovereign will of God, who chose to save us apart from anything good that we have done or might do.
Limited atonement (or “particular redemption”) means that the death of Christ truly atoned for the sins of those whom the Father had given to the Son before the foundation of the world, but not for the sins of those who never come to him in faith.
Irresistible grace means that the Holy Spirit’s inward call to salvation is made only to the elect and that it inevitably and invincibly draws them to faith in Christ.
The perseverance of the saints means that God perseveres with his people, remaining faithful to the very end, and that because God perseveres with us, we will never fall away, but persevere to the end and inherit eternal life.
Together these doctrines preserve the sovereignty of God’s grace. Rather than emphasizing what human beings can do to choose God or remain faithful to him, we believe that from beginning to end salvation is all of God, who really does save sinners! Every aspect of salvation is the gracious work of our totally sovereign God.
A City Church
Tenth is also an urban church. The city is our church home. About half our members have an address in the city of Philadelphia. Further, Tenth Church has made a commitment to “making God’s Word plain” from the corner of 17th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We understand that our city is a place of great spiritual need, full of poverty, greed, homelessness, crime, racism, corruption, violence, and alienation. We believe that God has put us in Philadelphia to pray for its peace, pursue its prosperity, and minster in Jesus’ name. We know that God is building his eternal city, and one day it will triumph.