The word "church" means many different things to many different people. Does it mean the spires and bell-towers of wood and stone that dot the skylines of our cities? Does it mean the organised religious institutions, named after men, and their own ideas? What does "church" mean in the Bible, and why does that matter to us today?
In the Bible, the word translated as "church" is ekklesia, literally: a "called-out assembly", "meeting", or "congregation". Despite how ever our word "church" may have evolved in the centuries since the New Testament was written, at Eastern Shore, we strive to apply Biblical meaning to Biblical terms - we want to understand and use the concepts and institutions in the Bible in the way that the authors intended them.
Read the pages of the New Testament for yourself, and see that the church is described not as a monolithic, hierarchical authority, nor is it a secluded, secretive cult; it is simply the body of believers, both local and universal - those who share in the same faith, who gather weekly, wherever they are, for corporate worship, fellowship and mutual encouragement to good deeds: the work that God has called His church to do in the world.
"The church" does not refer to the bricks and mortar that make up its building or meeting-place, nor does it mean a man-made entity aligned to a particular denomination, it means the gathering of the believers: the church is its people: their lives, their stories, their weaknesses and strengths. Through assembling together regularly, the church is builds itself up together in love for God, for each other and for our fellow man.
The collection of 66 books we call "the Bible" (the name literally means "books!") remains the single most influential writing in the history of the world. We believe it to be the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God, written by prophetic authors from varied economic, social and ethnic backgrounds across 1,500 years of history. God worked through these writers, despite their geographic diversity and disparate contexts, to present in the Bible a unified, consistent narrative of His plan of redemption for the fallen race of mankind, meaning far more than those individual human authors ever understood or comprehended at the time of their writing.
This "love" - agape in the New Testament - is not just an affectionate feeling, it is volitional goodwill: choosing to seek each other's highest good. This means that the church must
support and supply each other's every need: the emotional, mental, financial and spiritual wellbeing of our brother or sister is more important than our own; and it is in learning this discipline, in sharing in each other's joys as well as our losses, that we help each other become closer to the ultimate example of humanity made in the image of God: Jesus Christ.
As such, we believe that the Bible is the highest source of authority in our lives, and the only rule in religion. We do not subscribe to any creed beyond the words of the Bible itself, and reject the formal confessions by which denominations are defined and divided. Our doctrine (teaching) is not derived from the authors and theologians of Christian history, nor is it determined by its agreement with partisan or cultural definitions; it is held only against the standard of what is Biblical - that is, what God said about it!
We bear the name of no man, group or identity, other than Christ Himself. He alone is our founder, our head, and our history, as for all throughout the world who put their faith in Him only - the church universal.
Bible study is a constant, lifelong pursuit of both the individual Christian, as well as the community of the church. Through reading, meditating, studying, and discussing this Word, the body of believers seeks to grow together in the knowledge and grace of Christ - to better understand its unchanging, timeless truth, as well as God's will for our lives, our families, and His church.
The Word is not unique to any culture or tradition, and is immune to change over time in societal or political opinion. As products of diverse backgrounds, the Bible can be confronting, even radically counter-cultural to the reader; yet, it transforms them through faith to understand that God's ways and thoughts are inherently higher than ours.
We do not believe church should be spectator sport, or a commodity to be consumed, but a community to be engaged in and contributed to, by every member, using every gift and every experience to encourage and build up the body together. See below some of our member-led ministries, as well as works around the world that we support.
How we structure our services as a church, then, is determined by the direct command of scripture: what Jesus and His witnesses called us to be and do. In everything, we aim to follow the example of the first-century church: a pre-denominational, undivided Christianity.
You will notice that we have no organ, piano or guitars around our auditorium, just as the church in the first century had none: we sing a capella (Italian for "in the church"), in simple, vocal harmony. We also have no set-apart choir or solo performances, believing that every Christian is called to sing to each other, meaning the entire congregation participates (rather than spectates) in corporate worship, mutually and multilaterally encouraging one another. We sing songs from a range of historical times and cultural styles, but always ensure that our hymns are speaking truth about God's creation and His work in the world - to educate, as well as to encourage.
We hold three services per week, two on Sunday (The Lord's Day), and one on Thursday evening. On Sunday mornings (9:30AM), alongside prayer, singing, a collection of freewill offering, and Bible reading, we also take communion in the Lord's Supper, following the early church's example of weekly remembrance. We also hold Bible Classes afterward (11:00AM) with teaching content tailored toward specific age groups. On Sunday evenings (5:00PM), we are led through a topical lesson series. We do not have a professional preacher, but rather a rotation of teaching men, volunteering their time and efforts out of a passion for God's Word, across these different services.
Our Thursday night mid-week (7:30PM) hosts a cycle of different services throughout the month, including prayer meetings, singing workshops and games nights. Visitors to our services are, of course, welcome at any time. If you would like any more information about getting here, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Daniel Smith is a youth minister, husband, and full-time evangelist at the Gipps St church in Toowoomba, Queensland. He is an Honours graduate of USQ in microbiology and immunology, and further studied at Tasmania Bible School, graduating in 2016.
Daniel recently delivered a seminar series in Hobart entitled Who is Jesus?, a four-part introduction to the historical person of Christ, which he has shared at churches around Australia. He has also been involved in Mission Guinea, the church's ongoing refugee support, food relief and school-building work in West Africa.
Chris Banda has been working for the church in various congregations in Zambia since the 1980's, and travels extensively to different parts of the province to preach, teach, encourage and meet the physical & spiritual needs of the saints in his country.
Chris is one of the Elders at the Mpenzi Park church in Chipata, Zambia. With his wife Annie, they have five children, and have recently adopted three more. Chris is actively involved in local Bible conferences, the construction of schools & church buildings for congregations, and manages the distribution of Bibles, hymnals and food relief across Zambia.