We share a great deal with other congregations: a common profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, the belief in a faithful God who calls us to be faithful people, an emphasis on gathering for worship, service, fellowship and spiritual growth. These elements don’t distinguish us from other congregations; they affirm our bond of unity. But each congregation in the world has its own spiritual and communal DNA. This diversity is part of the Kingdom’s beauty.
Seven Identifying Traits of Emmanuel Baptist Church
- Intentionality of worship
- Being Church to one another
- God’s mission made flesh
- Formation of the heart, mind and soul
- Every member a minister
- Reflecting the creative spirit
- Sacred presence in the ordinary
Intentionality of worship
Worship at Emmanuel is rooted in the rich traditions of congregational singing, proclamation of scripture, corporate prayer and the liturgical year. We try to deliberately make room for the head and the heart, encouraging leadership from all generations. We have no desire to reinvent the wheel with worship. The heart of corporate worship is fed by a story that has shaped God’s people for generations. By the same measure, we do not simply “press play” on what was done the previous Sunday or the previous year. We seek meaning and purpose for every element of worship so that each contributes something to the larger experience.
Being Church to one another
Whenever someone joins the church, we affirm the covenant that binds us: “We will help to carry burdens and celebrate joys. We will be church to one another.” It is not enough to be friendly or courteous to others. This is a good start, but it doesn’t get to the heart of Christian fellowship. True fellowship means belonging to one another in a deeper sense. It means acknowledging differences and facing conflict. Most of all, it means that our commitment to one another through the Holy Spirit is more important than whatever might potentially divide us.
God’s mission made flesh
In accordance with the Great Commission, we are called to go and share the love of God with others – whether across the street or across the sea. We want to participate in God’s redeeming of the world, making a lasting difference in the lives of those we serve among. At Emmanuel we embrace our immediate context in downtown Alexandria, and we seek to embody the gospel through our words and actions. By divine grace, we become the hands and feet of Christ and move beyond spiritual platitudes and religious advice. Our faith compels us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift up the downtrodden and welcome those in need of grace.
Formation of the heart, mind and soul
Every moment, every relationship, every experience, old or new, helps to shape us. While we celebrate the faith that has brought us where we are, we also acknowledge that the spiritual journey is unfinished. Just when we feel like we’ve discovered all there is to find, some unexpected depth of truth reveals itself. Spiritual growth requires us to walk a particular path, one paved by ancient wisdom and more seasoned saints. But growth also requires our willing exploration, trusting that the questions we ask are just as important as the answers we seek. In this process, the Spirit works to shape us more and more in the image of Christ.
Every member a minister
The gospel ministry isn’t carried by professional clergy; it is carried by laypersons putting into practice their own spiritual gifts. We trust our ministerial staff to shepherd us along the way, but we all work together as partners in ministry. Through committees, mission groups and Sunday school classes, church members contribute to our shared ministry, within the walls of the church and beyond. Believing that we are a holy priesthood, baptism becomes a kind of ordination to Christian service for all rather than a few.
Reflecting the creative spirit
Since everyone is made in the image of God, we all bear the Creator’s glory through an inherent spark of imagination. The creative arts serve as a vastly important avenue of worship, lifting our hearts in the language of wonder and awe. The arts also shape our most basic views of God and the created world. Each Sunday the architectural beauty of the sanctuary and stained glass heightens our worship experience. We also incorporate the creative arts into spiritual formation, beginning in the lives of our children. In addition we seek to remain in faithful relationship we the arts community of Central Louisiana.
Sacred presence in the ordinary
We know that God is in our acts of praying; we want to be equally assured that God is in our acts of playing. As CS Lewis once said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” At times we come together for worship or service, for business session or teaching. But we also gather for enjoyment. We don’t have to hide that experience from God, nor do we need to summon the Spirit. Our laughter is a sign of grace and blessing, a reminder that our experience is already blessed. There is something holy in the conversation around a table or an afternoon at the lake. These moments need no “baptism” of formal prayers or religious language. They exist as a celebration God’s abiding presence and pleasure.