As a family of churches we’re committed to unity and diversity. We are unified around our theology/ecclesiology and diverse in our contextualized missiology
We believe the Gospel is the good news of what God has graciously accomplished for sinners, not instruction for what man must do to be right with God. Through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, God has accomplished our forgiveness from sin and complete justification. This Gospel is also the foundation for our confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom and the consummation of his purpose for all creation in the new heavens and new earth.
This Gospel is centered in Christ, is the foundation for the life of the Church, and is our only hope for eternal life; this Gospel is not proclaimed if Christ’s penal substitutionary death and bodily resurrection are not central to our message.
This Gospel is not only the means by which people are saved, but also the truth and power by which people are sanctified; it is the truth of the Gospel that enables us to genuinely and joyfully do what is pleasing to God and to grow in progressive conformity to the image of Christ.
The salvation offered in this Gospel message is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; no ordinance, ritual, work, or any other activity on the part of man is required in order to be saved.
(Mark 1:1; Luke 24:46-47; John 3:16-18; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; 9:13; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 1: 7-10; Colossians 1: 19-20; 2 Timothy 1:8-14; 2 Peter 3: 11-13; Jude 3-4; Revelation 21-22)
BEING BEFORE DOING
The Church is the people of God, saved by the God’s power for God’s purposes in this world. We follow the logical flow of the Gospel by answering the following four questions from the Scriptures:
- Who is God? (Being)
- What has He done? (particularly in Christ) (Doing)
- Who are we? (The Church) (Being)
- How should we live? (Doing)
The first three questions are biblical indicatives (or statements of fact). The fourth question consists of biblical imperatives that identify God’s intent or commands for His church.
The order of Scripture and makes clear that God’s being informs His doing. His doing informs our being. Our being informs our doing. The order matters and the implications are significant. Not the least of which, in response to “Who are we?” we come to discover we are the church. We don’t go to church. This is not semantics. It’s ontological. Along these lines, Soma Churches emphasize the following three Gospel Identities.
- Family – God is our Father, so we love others like brothers and sisters.
- Servants – Jesus is our King, so we serve the least of these as Jesus served us.
- Missionaries – The Holy Spirit is our power to be witnesses to Jesus in word and deed.
The Scriptures reveal several more identities of the church such as: Saints, Beloved, the Bride, the Body (or Soma in Greek), which when emphasized, bring out the rich dimensions of what God has created in Christ. We intentionally teach this biblical, theological framework:
- to be biblical, keeping God and the Gospel functionally central in our churches
- to emphasize being before doing as a guard against legalism and activism
- to emphasize our identity is both individual and collective
- to clarify for the church who we are from God’s perspective, keeping us from a litany of errors conceptually and practically as we seek to be faithful in worship and discipleship.
(Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; 28:16-20; John 1:12-14; 13:1-17; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Ephesians 1:3-10; 2:10; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:9-12; 1 John 3:1; 4:7-12)
HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED MINISTRY
The Holy Spirit is fully God, equal with the Father and Son, whose primary ministry is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He also convicts unbelievers of their need for Christ and imparts spiritual life through regeneration (the new birth).
We have been adopted as sons/daughters and by the indwelling Holy Spirit cry out “Abba, Father.” The indwelling Holy Spirit graciously sanctifies, lovingly leads, comforts, convicts, and empowers all who are brought to faith in Christ so that they might live in obedience to all Christ commanded. The Holy Spirit empowers the mission of making disciples.
The model for our reliance upon the Spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ himself who was filled with the Spirit and entirely dependent upon his power for the performance of miracles, the preaching of the kingdom of God, and all other dimensions of his earthly ministry.
The Holy Spirit who indwelt and empowered Christ in like manner indwells and empowers believers. Additionally, He has bestowed spiritual gifts on believers for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available today, but not one of them in particular is required to give evidence of the baptism or filling of the Spirit. The gifts are divine provisions central to spiritual growth and effective ministry and are to be eagerly desired, faithfully developed, and lovingly exercised according to biblical guidelines.
Holy Spirit empowered ministry is often embodied in corporate prayer and is essential in worship, mission and discernment. Soma Churches are learning desperation, learning to acknowledge our weaknesses and coming increasingly to believe we do our best work in prayer.
(Matthew 3:11; 12:28; Luke 4:1, 14; 5:17; 10:21; John 1:12-13; 3:1-15, 34; 14:12; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8; 2:14-21; 4:29-30;10:38; Romans 8:9, 15, 26-27; 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-13; 12:28-31; 14:1-33; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 3:1-5; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 5:18)
MAKING DISCIPLES IN MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES
Soma Churches are committed to making disciples in Missional Communities. Missional Communities are a central environment for us to Be the Church as the priesthood of believers.
Disciples of Jesus increasingly submit to Him in all of life, are being changed by Him, obey Him, and teach others to do the same. Discipleship is the process of bringing all of life under the lordship and empowering presence of Jesus Christ.
In order to accomplish the mission of making disciples, Missional Communities create and environment where life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission can occur.
- Life-on-life. Being together in the everyday allows for visibility and accessibility. We see each other’s lives in the everyday stuff so that people know what it looks like to follow Jesus in all of life. With familiarity and accountability, we are able to assess and encourage growth in discipleship.
- Life-in-community. One on one discipleship will lead to a disciple looking like the one who discipled them. Community discipleship will lead to disciples looking more like Jesus as he works through the diverse people and gifts in his body. Community is also the context in which we care for each other as a good family and live out the one-another passages of Scripture (e.g. bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, submit to one another, etc.)
- Life-on-Mission. Mission reveals areas of life that need repentance and ensures we are equipping people to make disciples who make disciples. In order to lead people to see all of life as worship and discipleship, we must equip disciples to engage the everyday with Gospel intentionality–doing what they would normally do differently in light of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
When a discipleship environment maintains a faithful tension in regards to Gospel/Scriptural truth, community, spiritual disciplines, accountability and mission, we see the fruitful advance of the Gospel. This looks like evangelism and edification, new believers coming to trust in Jesus, and maturing believers being conformed to the image of Christ.
Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ.
Men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. God’s intent for the church is for both men and women to be encouraged and equipped to minister and serve in accordance with the gifts He has given them.
In the home, both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality, but God has given to the man primary responsibility as the head of the household along with his wife in accordance with the servant leadership and sacrificial love modeled by Jesus Christ.
The Elders (plural) of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight, set an example of what is normative for the church and serve the church through prayer and equipping. The office of Elder is restricted to men who are an example of what a godly man looks like leading a household.
(Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
CONTEXTUALIZATION & DIVERSITY
God has reconciled all peoples into a multiethnic family in Christ (Eph 2:11-22). God has also given us a ministry of reconciliation. This means we follow Jesus’ humble example in the Incarnation. Jesus emptied Himself and came to our turf and communicated on our terms so the Gospel could be communicated without cultural hindrance. Soma Churches attempt to remove any unnecessary cultural offenses to the Gospel as we seek to be a welcoming community for all-comers in the places God has sent us.
Every team of leaders and cultural context is different. God will grant each group a unique combination of capacity, calling and gifting that suits the context he sends them to for the work He calls them to do there. Just like every family member has things in common while expressing their commonalities in unique ways, Soma expects to see our common convictions expressed with great diversity and contextual consideration. To reveal this beautiful theological reality in a North American context, we intentionally pursue a multiethnic expression of the church that approaches the diversity of the average public school in our context.
We also believe we are responsible neither to retreat from our culture nor to conform to it. Instead, we are to engage culture boldly with humility and through the Spirit and the truth of the Gospel as we seek its transformation and submission to the lordship of Christ.
PLANTING CHURCHES OF MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES
The church has a clear biblical mandate to look beyond its own community to the neighborhood, the nation, and the world as a whole; thus, mission is not a program in the church but an essential identity of the Church. The Church is the missionary people of God sent into all of life to accomplish His purposes.
We are called to make Christ known through the Gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring his lordship to bear on every dimension of life. The primary way we fulfill this mission is by making disciples who make disciples leading to the starting and establishing of Gospel-centered churches of Missional Communities. Our aim is that Jesus Christ would be more fully formed in each person through the ministry of the churches God enables us to plant around the world.
(Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 10:5-25; 28:18-20; Luke 4:18-19; 24:46-47; Acts 28:31; Romans 10:14-15; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Galatians 2:10; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 10:23-25; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10)
The Soma Family of Churches is committed to the pursuit of Gospel Saturation in North America and beyond until we see every man, woman, and child have a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed. We believe the local church is God’s means for bringing this about. We see God’s heart for unity in the church when we observe Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and we desire to press into God’s desires. We observe the Apostle Paul’s “concern for all the churches,” evident in both the content and tone of his letters, and this global concern was a powerful force used by God in building the early Church. Finally, we recognize that Gospel Saturation is too big (i.e. every man, woman and child) for any one church, or family of churches, to tackle so we eagerly pursue Kingdom Collaboration with other partner churches, networks, ministries, nonprofits and individuals. For all these reasons we believe it right and good to care about all of God’s church and not just our church or family of churches.
The Soma Family pursue’s partnership with other organizations that adhere to Christian orthodoxy. Each city is unique. Leaders in each context prayerfully discover areas where partnership increases strength and fruitfulness. Among them may be shared commitments like: pastoral connection events for building relationships and trust, centralized justice initiatives, sharing resources (e.g. facilities, sound equipment, etc.), city-wide prayer gatherings, or church-based theological education (Porterbrook, Antioch/BiLD, Surge, etc.).
(John 17; 2 Cor 11:28; Eph. 1:22-23; Phil 2:1-2; Col. 1:3, 27-28; Gal 2:10)
ALWAYS BEING REFORMED
“The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God” (Van Lodenstein). The passive verb phrase “always being reformed” speaks to the Spirit’s work through the Word of God to bring about greater faithfulness and fruitfulness. We are always on the receiving end of God’s self-revelation, and because we see through a glass dimly, we need help from the Scriptures, the Spirit, our contemporaries, and other saints throughout church history to help us get it right. We aim to have the humility to admit when we have gotten it wrong and to turn. Michael Horton has observed that the phrase,“The church is reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God….keeps us from making tradition infallible but equally from imbibing the radical Protestant obsession with starting from scratch in every generation.” Practically, this looks like taking time as elders to evaluate our Family of Churches, to learn from others, and to make adjustments as necessary. When sin is involved, this could look like the the Soma servant leadership team, the Soma board, or Soma elders repenting publicly of ways we haven’t trusted God or loved well.
The story of God, as told in the Bible, reveals the missional record of who God is and what God is doing in, through, and for the world. It is the true story of the whole world. This single story from Genesis to Revelation is the controlling metanarrative that contextually shapes the way the church understands her identity and, consequently, her mission in the world.
Discipleship is story participation. Followers of Jesus grow in their maturity as their lives conform to the true story of the world. Since the only way humans make sense of their existence is through stories, God’s story provides the church with a countercultural, true story to live out together as Jesus’ witnesses to the presence of the new creation.
The story of God is not merely a rhythm or an evangelistic tool. It is the foundation through which we ground our understanding of the Gospel, theology, and life. Without being grounded in this metanarrative the church is susceptible to both being swept into idolatrous narratives of the dominant culture and possessing sub-biblical, ecclesial methodologies.
The story of God protects missional communities from methodolatry. It allows each church to work out what it means to be God’s saved people in their respective cities as they base their identity and mission on the story of God. Only as the church continues to grapple with this unfolding story will they joyfully dwell together as sons and daughters of the most high God and faithfully witness to the resurrection of Jesus through the power of the Spirit.