Sometimes people will ask what our church or denomination is all about. After giving it considerable thought, I have decided to answer future inquiries thusly: “We are an SEC Church.”
No, it’s not what you think, even though quite a number of the folks in our local congregation strongly support one of the universities of the Southeastern Conference, known in athletic circles, as the SEC.
I define a sacrament as, “When the Divine touches the Common and something Holy and/or Mysterious occurs.” There are sacraments, sacramentals, and sacramental acts. For example, in the Creation account God (the Divine) touches the Common (a pile of dirt, which he also breathes on) and man is created in the very image of God (something Holy and/or Mysterious). That is a sacramental act. So is the account of Moses’ burning bush, Jesus changing water into wine … in fact the whole of scripture is full of sacramental occurrences. We believe this is supposed to be normal.
It is also about what God is doing, not us. We get to benefit, perhaps even participate, but God is doing the action. Baptism? God is circumcising the heart of the believer (See Colossians 2) not just in symbol but in truth. Holy Communion? God is doing something holy and mysterious. Jesus expounds on this in John 6. And on it goes. Perhaps the greatest sacramental act is when an unregenerate, sinful, unholy, common person accepts Christ as Lord, and the inner transformation is so profound that he or she is said to be “born again.” We believe that all of life can be a sacramental experience.
Evangelical does not mean “allied with the political Right,” or with any other political persuasion. It means that we hold to a high view of scripture and believe that its teachings are authoritative. We believe in missions, in a personal relationship with God (while recognizing that the Christian faith is a corporate thing), and that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation, or reconciliation, with God.
It is He who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” We believe in the centrality of the Cross and the price that was paid for our redemption there. We also believe that, if we have faith, it will be seen in our actions. One example is our giving out blankets and coats to Atlanta’s homeless and by being involved in other worthy efforts.
“E” could also stand for “Episcopal.” This simply means that the denomination is led and governed by men selected to serve as bishops (from Late Latin episcopus, from Greek episkopos, literally, “overseer”). Men who serve as pastors have true accountability both to their bishop and to their local council. Accountability is a good thing.
Sometimes people hear this word and imagine anything from television evangelists to snake handlers. On this, you can relax. For our purposes, we believe that the Spirit of God, aka the Holy Spirit, still inhabits, guides, comforts, teaches, empowers, and manifests Himself in the life of the Church and in the lives of the believers.
He did not retire when the last Apostles died and He is alive and well and actively involved even in today’s world and in today's Church.
Simply put, this means that (1) whatever was possible in the New Testament Church is possible today, and (2) whatever was normative in the New Testament Church ought to be normative today.
“Do you pray for the sick?” What did they do in the ancient church? “Do you believe in the gifts and fruit of the Spirit?” Same answer. “Do you believe that God can do miracles?” Again, same answer. We also believe that true worship, worship “in the Spirit,” is solely directed to God and not to man. We are not a "Christian entertainment center." We are a worshipping, serving gathering of believers.
And we enjoy singing! In our church we have worship teams and bands where the music is both quiet and, at times, enthusiastic.
We believe that God is pure love and that He thirsts for a relationship with those created in His image. We believe that He is more willing to forgive than we are willing to ask.
A visitor to our church once said, “You look kinda like a Catholic church, preach like a Baptist church, and sing like a Charismatic church.” That’s not a bad description. We’re an SEC congregation. We're looking forward to meeting YOU!
Bishop David Epps