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South Bend is a great city.
Thankfully, God takes beautiful things and people that are broken and marred by sin, rightly deserving destruction, and makes them new, by the Spirit, through faith in Jesus, His death and resurrection. That’s the good news of the Gospel.
South Bend is located in north-central Indiana. One of the top five largest cities in the state, it is also one of the most diverse (among the top five cities, it is second only to Indianapolis, and that by only a fraction). Its Hispanic population is twice the state average, and its African American population is almost three times the state average. While it is an average Midwestern city with plenty of cultural Christianity, 35% of the city still claims no religious affiliation whatsoever.
Jesus charged his disciples to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbors. We’re deeply committed to learning to love God with everything we have and everything we are. But we’re also committed to loving our neighbors. It involves sharing the gospel and finding practical ways to demonstrate our love. It’s a long learning process – one that probably doesn’t stop.
In the gospel, Jesus brings the lost into His family – which gives us a new record. The gospel is also God’s power to train and discipline those who have already been brought into the family to live as children – which brings a new heart. The gospel roots a family in the broader community to serve and work for God’s glory – which promises a new world.
A New Record
Through faith in Jesus, we are brought into his family and united to him. And when that happens we get a new past, a new record, a new legal standing. That Jesus faces judgment for us on the Cross is good news for those outside the church and means that at New City, we want to talk to those outside the church about what Jesus has done and invite them to repent and believe.
A New Heart
We receive a new heart (e.g., Ez. 36.26) and are also brought to life by the Spirit, by whom we cry ‘Abba Father’. This means that Christ has broken the power of cancelled sin in our lives and frees us to live lives of radical transformation, lives of free children, empowered by His Spirit. This is good news for those inside the church and means that at New City, we care deeply about spiritual growth within our community.
A New World
Our adoption into the family of God isn’t just good news for us. The gospel is also the whole story of what God is doing through the death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son to renew the whole of creation (see Rom. 8). This is good news for the world and means that at New City we serve our neighborhoods, city, and the world to bring glory to God.
Christ our prophet: We are a confessing church
While committed to Scripture as the only infallible guide, a confessional church won’t approach or interpret the text in cavalier fashion. We’re not lone rangers: a confessional church is prevented from being too individualistic in its beliefs and practices in two ways.
First, it is guided by historic confession: New City is an Evangelical Presbyterian Church. As a Presbyterian church, the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms serve as consensus documents that codify what we believe and teach. They’re not infallible or comprehensive documents, but they preserve the sufficiency of Scripture in their teaching and serve as anchor documents.
Second, the confessional church is part of a denomination that provides plurality in leadership and connectedness to others. A confessional church isn’t driven by any one leader: a local congregation is led by a plurality of leaders (called elders in the Presbyterian tradition), and it is connected to other churches in a given region to provide still more accountability (called a ‘Presbytery’ in the Presbyterian tradition).
Christ our Priest: We are a sacramental church
Sacramental churches believe that Christ is really present in gathered worship. We’re committed to participating weekly in the means of grace: Word, Sacrament, and Prayer.
Our gathered worship has rhythms or cycles: (1) A praise cycle where we rediscover the glory of God. (2) A renewal cycle where we confess our sins and receive the assurance of our pardon in Christ. (3) A response cycle where we respond to God’s grace by submitting to His Word as it’s preached and tasting His goodness to us at the Table. At the Table, we are united to Christ, transformed and strengthened so that we can leave empowered for service, strengthened by His Word of benediction.
Christ our King: We are a communal church
Christ’s Kingly ministry in the local church motivates a commitment both to building community and serving the local community. We’re committed to life-on-life shepherding and discipleship. We’re committed to the prosperity of the city and serving its interests (Jer. 29.5-7).
And we’re building an evangelistic community through community – and discipleship groups that are committed to worship, sacrificial generosity, suffering with one another, accepting others as sinners while relentlessly pursuing holiness, and lovingly confronting one another as we speak the truth in love while at the same time encouraging and building one another up.
In Ephesians, Paul describes the gospel as a mystery. Part of the mystery is how gospel is such a unifying power. The gospel of Jesus is the same good news for different ethnicities, different economic classes, different genders. In another of his letters, Paul goes so far as to say, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28).
Paul even says that this glorious, manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church. In other words, the local church is at the center of God’s plan to see a new, united community – a community that’s not united by cultural distinctives, but instead by the broken body and shed blood of his Son. A community of people who would otherwise never gather, united by faith in his Son: that makes visible God’s manifold wisdom.
That’s why we describe New City as a cross-cultural church. We want to cross cultural boundaries with the good news of the gospel, praying that God would draw men, women, and children to Himself and find a family in this local church. As people are gripped by Christ and his gospel, we find a deeper kind of unity than education or race or economics or clothing styles or anything else could ever achieve. The broken body and shed blood of Christ is all that is needed to forge unbreakable, cross-cultural community at the local level. And that’s the kind of local church we pray God will build at New City.
At least since the first century when Paul rented a lecture hall in Ephesus (Acts 19.9), the Church’s mission has involved academic ministry. And at least since the second century, when Clement started a school in the academic city of Alexandria, the Church’s mission has engaged the classroom.
The university is supremely strategic in the cause of Christ’s Kingdom. And the City of South Bend has lots of colleges and universities: Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, Bethel College, Holy Cross, and Indiana University, to name a few. Universities can – and should – be hubs for gospel creativity and mission. But that doesn’t happen in isolation from the local church.
At New City, we also focus on training area graduate students and faculty to discover in concrete ways how the Gospel changes our scholarship, teaching, and academic research.