An Ordinary Means of Grace Model of Ministry

There are many different ways to “do church,” as we say these days. Multiple models of church life exist. We at IPC have a model that is biblical, historical, and coherent, but we recognize that other patterns of church life exist. Ours is not the only way, but it is a good way to run a church and organize its life. Let’s be specific.

Ours is an “ordinary means” congregation. Our philosophy is that of our Presbyterian heritage and is shared by the churches of the Twin Lakes Fellowship. We stress the gatherings of the whole church on the Lord’s Day in which the word of God is read, preached, sung, and prayed, trusting that sinners will be born again by the living and abiding word, that faith will come by hearing the word of Christ, that God’s people will be sanctified by the truth, and that believers grow by the pure milk of the word (1 Pet 1:23-25; Rom 10:17; Jn 17:17; 1 Pet 2:2).

Whole church
If we read the evidence correctly, this approach has resulted in our congregation in a large number of growing, mature, and even victorious Christians. We think that the emphasis in the New Testament is on these primary gatherings of the whole congregation rather than on smaller groups within the congregation. The epistles brim with references to classes of persons who are present together in the assembly of the whole: the younger men and the older men, the younger women and the older women (Titus 2), parents and children (Eph 6), marrieds and singles (1 Cor 7), rich and poor (Jas 2 & 1 Tim 6), slave and free, Jew and Gentile, male and female (Gal 3:28). These combinations of persons give us an idea of what the early church looked like, and which we aspire to resemble. We avoid styles of music and speech that appeal to one group over another, and stick to church music, our “sacred music,” the traditional music as well as the traditional vocabulary of the church. This way we avoid preferencing one group over the others, and avoid building a church out of the preferred group, be they young or old, rich or poor, black or white. Our goal is to appeal to all groups equally. We don’t do rock’n’roll, or swing, or hip hop, or country-western. Something vital is gained when the whole congregation of diverse persons, young and old, rich and poor, married and single, the whole “body” assembles in a common worship (see 1 Cor 12; Rom 12). We think whole denominations would benefit if they could settle on a more uniform, a more catholic worship, as was the ideal of the Apostles. The Apostle Paul could speak of what was practiced “in all the churches,” or even more emphatically as he insists that Corinthian innovators conform, “we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Cor 14:33; 11:16; cf. 1:2; 4:17).

Sunday services

Consequently our emphasis and energies are devoted to the Sunday morning and evening services in which the whole church gathers. We have not stressed small groups, though we have them. We break up into age-based Sunday School classes. The Garmers have a weekday Bible Study, as do the women, the youth, the college, and the 20’s. We have a reading group for men that meets monthly, monthly circles for women, a weekly men’s prayer breakfast, and a weekly women’s prayer group. Still, we stress the public assembly of the whole church, because we think that assembly is the primary place in which Christian growth occurs and healthy Christian lives mature. See Ephesians 4:11-16 for more on this. Our youth, college, 20’s, women, and men learn to see their primary identity not in terms of the worldly demographics, not as subsets within the church, but as members of the church as a whole. We think our emphasis on the Sunday services has been biblically correct, and proven in practice. We are blessed with a high concentration of warm, loving, caring people who are serious about pursuing holiness.