Christ Church is a Reformed and Evangelical Church in Lakeland, Florida.
Christ Church exists in order to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple the nations through the beauty of reverent and historic worship, to rebuild the family as the foundation of Christian discipleship, and to create a joyful community of full hearts and fat souls.
Christ Church is a member of the Communion of Reformed and Evangelical Churches. The CREC is a gathering of churches that is thoroughly Trinitarian, historically Reformed, and warmly evangelical. We are seeking to build communities of believers that begin each week with God-honoring worship in order to joyfully extend the fruit of that worship into every day of the week through our families, our friendships and our vocations. The church is the Body of Christ, and from this central truth flow all the issues of life. You can learn more about the CREC by visiting their website here.
“Frequently Asked Questions” can be a helpful way to explain what a visitor is likely to notice, as well as those features of a church which are least familiar to the outside world. But they also run the risk of pushing all of the various distinctives, which are actually secondary matters of importance, to the front. Christ Church wants to first be known by that thing which C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity,” the basic points of the Christian faith and the basic eternal questions which all Christians turn to the Bible for answers. We aim to be faithful worshippers of Jesus Christ and servants of God, living together in a real fellowship, growing up with our families and friends, working at our jobs, all to the glory of God and in the hopes of sharing the gospel of Christ in word and deed. But still, there are some things which people do ask often and want to know more about. We have tried to give a few of those here and some brief answers of explanation.
What does it mean to be “Reformed”?
On the most basic level, a Reformed church is one which descends from the Protestant Reformation. These churches reformed their doctrine, worship, and community life according to the teaching of the Bible. The term became more specific over the years, first denoting the Protestants who were distinct from the Lutherans (sometimes called “Calvinists” but also including the original Anglicans) and then later those churches who promoted divine sovereignty and the doctrines of grace. Christ Church is Reformed in all of these ways. We subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism. We also proudly preach the absolute sovereignty of God and the necessity of effectual grace. We do not, however, wish to be narrow-minded or sectarian, and we admire all of the Protestant heritage including the Reformers, the Puritans, and the more recent Evangelicals. We count Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, John Stott, and John Piper as “Reformed” fathers in the faith.
What is an Evangelical?
The word “Evangelical” can also mean many things. It literally means “Gospel man” and was applied in this way to the followers of Martin Luther who preached justification by faith alone and free salvation in Christ. In the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in England and America, Evangelical began to refer to those Christians who insisted on a changed heart and changed life in response to the gospel. And then most recently, Evangelical came to mean those mostly conservative Protestants who held fast to Biblical authority, confessing that the Holy Scriptures are infallible, without error, and our ultimate rule for faith and practice. Christ Church is Evangelical in all of these ways, as we believe the gospel is the power of salvation to all who believe, we believe that God does change us through new hearts and new lives, and we believe that the Bible is the only perfect source of saving truth.
Why do you worship like that?
The most distinctive feature of a Sunday morning at Christ Church is our formal liturgy. For many people this is a new and even strange experience. We have responsive readings, written prayers, a corporate confession of sins and pronunciation of pardon in Christ, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, and communion each week. Our worship looks more like an Anglican or Lutheran service than it does a Baptist or Presbyterian one. We do this out of a Biblical conviction, an appreciation of the best of Christian tradition, and an understanding of worship as training for faith and piety. While we do not believe that the Bible prescribes only one way to worship, we do believe that it gives us foundational instruction on how to approach God. The Bible teaches us to treat God with a solemn respect and to worship in reverence and joy. It also includes many types, patterns, and symbols which teach us about worship, particularly in the pictures of the worship in heaven which we see in books like Isaiah and Revelation. Our liturgy reflects this in its pattern of God’s word to us and our response to that word. First, God calls us to worship. Secondly, we confess our sins and hear His word of pardon in Christ. Next we are consecrated and taught by His word. Then we commune with Him through the Lord’s Supper. Finally we are commissioned to go out into the world in order to love and serve God and share the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations. You could call our worship “traditional” because it seeks to incorporate elements from church history. We use certain liturgical forms which go back to the early centuries. Several other parts of our service follow the Book of Common Prayer. We also sing the Biblical Psalms, including selections from the Genevan Psalter. We are not simply traditionalists, however, and we try to evaluate and reevaluate all that we do in light of Scripture and the needs of our people. Our worship is also a means of training for our people. This is why we have set forms and written prayers which we repeat each week. The liturgy teaches us how to pray and how to worship. It gives us words but also bodily directions, as we kneel, stand, and raise our hands to the Lord. This starts in the earliest years. Long before they are able to listen attentively to a sermon, our children can shout out “Amen,” “Thanks be to God,” and “It is proper and right to do so!” They begin singing the doxology as soon as they can speak, and they usually memorize the prayers and confession of faith in their third or fourth year. We’re not being cute when we say that liturgy is for kids, but the best part is that it includes all of God’s people– fathers, mothers, and children together, as well as young adults, singles, and grandparents. Each week we are changed by our encounter with God, our response to His Word, and our relationships with one another.
Why do you baptize infants?
Christ Church practices what is known as paedobaptism, the baptism of children born into Christian families. We do this because we believe God has already included them in His covenant and given them His saving promise. “For the promise is to you and to your children…” (Acts 2:39). The Scriptures also teach that the children of just one believing parent are holy (1 Corinthians 7:14), and so we believe that the sign of God’s covenant should be given to them. Baptism is a visible marker of God’s promise of love and forgiveness, and it is also a marker of the recipient’s inclusion and participation in the church.
What is paedocommunion, and why do you practice it?
Paedocommunion simply means child communion, or the participation of children in the Lord’s Supper. At Christ Church we do not believe that a confirmation examination is necessary as a prerequisite for participation in the Lord’s Supper. Instead, all baptized persons are invited to the table when they are able to eat and drink and participate in the other parts of the service. Usually between the ages of 1 and 2, our children begin taking communion along with the rest of the Church. The Lord’s Supper must still be received in faith, of course, and so we instruct Christian parents to teach their children the meaning of the Supper and that they are to believe God’s word in it. We do not believe in transubstantiation or other sacerdotal doctrines which would teach that there is an automatic blessing in the bread and wine. Instead, we believe that the Lord’s Supper is an ordinary element of worship and that our children’s participation in it, like their singing and praying, is a means of grace which God uses to strengthen their faith.
Why do you sing the Psalms?
The book of Psalms in the Bible was the original song book for Israel’s worship. The words are inspired directly by God and are given to us even today for use in worship. The psalms also teach us how to pray, and they represent the full range of human emotion, from gladness and joy to repentance and lament to sorrow and despair. The singing of the psalms is a great blessing to the Church, and we make them a regular feature of our service.
Why do you use wine in communion?
Wine was used by Jesus Himself at the Last Supper, and wine is the only drink mentioned by the Bible in reference to the Lord’s Supper. While it is not a sin to use grape juice, we believe that the practice of substituting grape juice for wine was an overreaction on the part of modern Christians to correct the sins of alcohol abuse. A proper and orderly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, however, should not pose a temptation to this sin, and we believe that a right use of wine in faithful worship helps to set a corrective example. We are happy to make concessions to individuals with particular serious obstacles in this regard, of course, and so you should speak with one of our elders if you have more questions.
Are you Catholic or something?
Christ Church is an Evangelical Protestant congregation in the Reformed tradition. Most people use the term “catholic” to mean “Roman Catholic,” and so we are not “catholic” in that way. We acknowledge God’s gifts among Roman Catholics, especially over the centuries, but we believe that the Roman Catholic Church has departed from many essential points of the Biblical faith, and therefore we take our stand with men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Thomas Cranmer in proclaiming justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the belief that the Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith.
There is another way in which we are “catholic,” however, and that is the original meaning of the word. “Catholic” originally meant “universal,” and refers to the whole of the Christian heritage. This is how it is used in the Nicene Creed– “And we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church…” Christ Church is very much catholic in this way, claiming the best of our Christian heritage from the early church, through the Middle Ages, into the Reformation, and even the American founding. We believe that the theologian and historian Philip Schaff was exactly right to say that “the Reformation is the legitimate offspring, the greatest act of the Catholic Church.” We seek to model that catholicity today by an open and welcoming attitude, open communion and recognition of other church jurisdictions, and a joyful appreciation of historic Christianity.
Is there a Sunday School time?
Yes. After the worship service we have a group Sunday School class for the whole church. There is a short time of instruction for the children, and then there is a group study for the whole congregation. We rotate between books of the Bible, historic catechisms, and Christian discipleship and family training.
What sort of other activities do you have?
Christ Church does not offer lots of programs. We believe that our time of Sunday worship is our first priority, and then we believe we are called to promote the discipleship of Christian families and adults in their vocations. We do offer regular Sunday evening discussion groups and musical gatherings. Once a month we hold our “Psalm Roar” in a church member’s home, where we enjoy refreshments and fellowship while singing favorite psalms and hymns and learning new music. We also have a monthly fellowship meal at the church after worship, and we have occasional recreational events and parties. See our calendar or sign up for our email list in order to stay up to date on all the news and announcements.