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"An Ancient Tool to Explore and Explain the Faith"
by Tom Goodman

August 31, 2006

As I mentioned last week, I begin a new sermon series September 10 to help you and your seeking friends understand Christian basics, and I’m giving away a copy of my new book to everyone who attends (one per household, please).

The sermon series and the book are organized around the Apostles’ Creed.  I will explain this to the rest of the church when I launch the series; but since you are a leadership-partner with me, I wanted you to know a little about the series in advance.

If you were raised in a Baptist church like I was, it’s unlikely you have ever recited the Apostles’ Creed in a church service.  However, millions of believers around the world and down through the centuries have recited it every week:

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the one holy church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Here we have a summary of Christian belief.  It’s not called the Apostles’ Creed because the Apostles wrote it but because it summarizes what we find in the Apostles’ inspired writings—the Bible.  Every line in the Creed can be defended by reference to apostolic Scripture.

The Creed has a rich history in Baptist life.  When the Baptist World Alliance was formed in 1905, participants convened their first meeting by reciting the statement of faith.  Southern Baptists have parted ways with the BWA, but the Alliance’s decision to convene their 2005 centennial anniversary with the Creed met with hearty approval by Southern Baptist leaders.  Furthermore, the 1994 Southern Baptist Founders Conference included a session on the benefits of the Apostles’ Creed in a church’s teaching ministry.

So, the Creed is not entirely foreign to Baptists.  And I’m not the first to see the benefits of the ancient statement as a training tool for believers.  When John Calvin wrote his 1536 Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is still in use by pastors and professors today, he used the articles of the Apostles’ Creed as the outline for his work.

In addition to helping believers understand key Christian concepts, however, I’ve found that I can use the Creed in my work with people on a spiritual search.  Many people who visit a church have little background in church attendance or Bible study.  They are drawn in by a crisis or by a friendship, and they are respectful and curious about what we believe.  My course through the Apostles’ Creed will give them an overview of our beliefs.

What is it about these 1800-year-old words that resonate with both believers and seekers today?

First, the Creed has the authority of that which has prevailed from antiquity.  Clearly, people are impressed with words that have been recited around the world for eighteen centuries.  The late Christian musician, Rich Mullins, put the statement of faith to music in his number-one hit “Creed” in 1993, a song that returned to popular airplay when it was covered by the band, Third Day, in 2003.  The bold commitment to the Creed in the song’s chorus connected with many listeners:

“I believe what I believe
Makes me what I am.
I did not make it.
No, it is making me.”

Of course, the Creed is not the basis of truth but rather a summary of the truth found in the Bible.  In our new sermon series and in my book, I use the Creed as simply an ancient outline for a Bible study of key Christian beliefs.

Second, the Creed transcends denominational divisions to summarize what all Christians believe.  I think the Creed “speaks” to people today not only because it is ancient but also because it is universal.  The statement of faith is a brief overview of what all believers hold in common.

Believers need a grasp of the “basics,” of course, but I’ve found this to be especially attractive to seekers.  The spiritually curious do not find the fine points of denominational differences interesting.  They simply want the key concepts explained to them so they can draw some conclusions about Christianity.

Third, the Creed helps us address the concerns people have.  Considering how brief and how ancient this statement is, I’ve been surprised at how clearly the Creed addresses twenty-first century concerns.  For example, consider the article about the church:  “I believe in the one holy church” and “the communion of saints.”  Seekers frequently tell me that Christians and churches have been the biggest source of disillusionment in their spiritual search.  When seekers look at the vision Jesus cast for the church, though, they can see a vision worth pursuing.  The church is to be “one,” “holy,” and “a communion.”

So, I hope you are already praying for this series.  According to Acts 2:42, one of the characteristics of the early church was that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”  We need to devote ourselves to the apostles’ scriptural teaching, too.  The Apostles’ Creed is an ancient tool to help us accomplish this.  When we boldly assert what we believe, Christians will grow and seekers will find what they’re looking for.  Isn’t that what church is supposed to be all about?

We will begin giving away the books on the Sunday the series begins, September 10.  The free book isn’t just for members.  Anyone who attends Hillcrest any week during the series can get a copy.

Keep in mind we want to limit the offer to one free book per household.  If you want copies for friends or relatives who cannot attend the series, we will have these available for $13 each.  You can also order copies online.  Sorry: we cannot ship copies from our church office.

As I mentioned last week, a generous donor has made it possible for me to give these books away for free, so no budget monies will be used for it.  In addition, I gain no financial profit from giving away my books.

To learn more about the book, go online to www.anchorcourse.org or to www.lulu.com/content/355275.

Please be in prayer as we approach this series, and be thinking about someone you should bring with you!


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