We believe the gospel is the good news of what God has graciously accomplished for sinners; not instruction for what man must do to be right with God. Through our Saviour Jesus Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death and bodily resurrection, God has accomplished our forgiveness from sin and given complete justification to those those who believe in Him. This gospel is also the foundation for our confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom and the consummation of his purpose for all creation in the new heavens and new earth…
This gospel is centred in Christ, is the foundation for the life of the Church and is our only hope for eternal life. This gospel is not proclaimed if Christ’s penal substitutionary death and bodily resurrection are not central to our message.
This gospel is not only the means by which people are saved, but also the truth and power by which people are sanctified. It is the truth of the Gospel that enables us to genuinely and joyfully do what is pleasing to God and to grow in progressive conformity to the image of Christ.
The salvation offered in the gospel message is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; no ordinance, ritual, work, or any other activity on the part of man is required in order to be saved.
(Mark 1:1; Luke 24:46-47; John 3:16-18; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; 9:13; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 1: 7-10; Colossians 1: 19-20; 2 Timothy 1:8-14; 2 Peter 3: 11-13; Jude 3-4; Revelation 21-22)
The Church is the people of God, saved by God’s power for God’s purposes in this world. We follow the logical flow of the gospel by answering the following four questions from the Scriptures:
- Who is God? Being…
- What has He done (particularly in Christ)? Doing…
- Who are we (the Church)? Being…
- How should we live? Doing…
The first three questions are biblical indicatives (or statements of fact). The fourth question consists of biblical imperatives that identify God’s intent or commands for His church.
The order of Scripture indicates that God’s being (who He is) informs His doing. His doing informs our being (who we are). Our being informs our doing. This order matters and the implications are significant. We are the Church, God’s people, because of what God has done through Christ. So, as God’s people we don’t go to church. Rather we are the Church. This is not semantics. It’s ontological. Along these lines, Soma churches emphasise the following three Gospel Identities:
- Family – God is our Father so we love one another like brothers and sisters
- Servants – Jesus is our King so we serve others (especially the weak and vulnerable) as Christ served us.
- Missionaries – The Holy Spirit is our power to be witnesses to Jesus in both word and deed.
The Scriptures reveal several other identities of the Church such as: Saints, His Beloved, His Bride, HIs Body (or Soma in Greek). When these identities are emphasised, they bring out the rich dimensions of what God has created in Christ. Soma encapsulates these principles:
- to be biblical, keeping God and the gospel functionally central in our churches
- to emphasise being before doing as a guard against legalism and activism
- to emphasise that our identity as God’s people is both individual and collective
- to clarify for the church who we are from God’s perspective; keeping us from a litany of errors conceptually and practically as we seek to be faithful in worship and discipleship.
(Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; 28:16-20; John 1:12-14; 13:1-17; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Ephesians 1:3-10; 2:10; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:9-12; 1 John 3:1; 4:7-12)
The Holy Spirit is fully God and equal with the Father and Son. His primary ministry is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He also convicts unbelievers of their need for Christ and He imparts spiritual life through regeneration (the ‘new birth’).
God’s children have been adopted as sons and daughters; by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Holy Spirit graciously sanctifies, lovingly leads, comforts, convicts and empowers all who are brought to faith in Christ so that they might live in obedience to all Christ commanded.
The Holy Spirit empowers the mission of making disciples. Our model for reliance upon the Spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He was filled with the Spirit and entirely dependent upon the Spirit’s power for the working of miracles, the preaching of the Kingdom of God and for all other aspects of his earthly ministry.
The Holy Spirit – who indwelled and empowered Christ – similarly indwells and empowers believers. Additionally, the Spirit has bestowed spiritual gifts on believers for the work of ministry and the building up of the Body of Christ. All of the gifts of the Spirit remain available today, but no particular one is required to give evidence for a believer’s baptism nor that a believer has been filled by the Spirit. The gifts are divine provisions central to spiritual growth and effective ministry and are to be eagerly desired, faithfully developed, and lovingly exercised according to biblical guidelines.
Holy Spirit empowered ministry is often embodied in corporate prayer and is essential in worship, mission and discernment. Soma churches are learning do desperately depend upon the Spirit; learning to acknowledge our weaknesses and to come increasingly to believe we do our best work in prayer.
(Matthew 3:11; 12:28; Luke 4:1, 14; 5:17; 10:21; John 1:12-13; 3:1-15, 34; 14:12; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8; 2:14-21; 4:29-30;10:38; Romans 8:9, 15, 26-27; 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-13; 12:28-31; 14:1-33; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 3:1-5; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 5:18)
Soma churches are committed to making disciples within the context of Missional Communities (or Gospel Communities). Missional Communities are a central environment for us to ‘Be the Church’ as the priesthood of believers.
Disciples of Jesus are called to increasingly submit to Him in all of life; are being changed by Him; are called to obey Him as well as to teach others to do the same. Discipleship is the process by which we – through the Word and by the Spirit – bring all of life under the lordship and empowering presence of Jesus Christ.
Missional Communities are designed to create an environment where disciples are made and formed by Jesus. They are a context where believers live life-on-life, life in community and life on mission together.
- Being together in everyday life allows Jesus’ disciples to be visible and accessible to one another and to the world. We see each other in the everyday stuff of life so that we learn together what it looks like to follow Jesus in all of life. We are able to assess and encourage growth in discipleship through close familiarity and deep accountability.
- One-on-one discipleship will lead a disciple to look like the one who discipled them. Community discipleship leads to disciples looking more like Jesus as He uses the diverse people and gifts within His body. Community is also the context in which we care for each other as good family and live out the ‘one another’ passages of Scripture (e.g. bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, submiting to one another, etc.)
- Mission reveals areas of life that need repentance and ensures we are equipping people to make disciples who make disciples. In order to lead people to see all of life as worship and discipleship, we must equip disciples to engage their everyday lives with gospel intentionality; doing what we would normally do differently in light of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
When a discipleship environment maintains a healthy balance – with regards to gospel/Scriptural truth, community, spiritual disciplines, accountability and mission – we see the fruitful advance of the gospel. This looks like evangelism and edification, new believers coming to trust in Jesus, and maturing believers being conformed to the image of Christ.
Both men and women are together created in the divine image of God and are therefore equal before God as persons; possessing the same moral dignity and value. Men and women have equal access to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Men and women are both recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. God’s intent for the Church is for both men and women to be encouraged and equipped to minister and serve in accordance with their gifts. In the home, both husbands and wives have the responsibility of nurturing and revitalisation within a marriage and family. However, God has given to the man primary responsibility as the head of the household to exercise servant leadership and sacrificial love which Jesus himself modelled and embodied.
The Elders (plural) of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight, to set an example of what is normative for the church and serve the church through prayer and equipping. The office of Elder is restricted to men who are an example of what a godly man looks like leading a household.
(Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
God has reconciled all peoples into a multiethnic family in Christ (Eph 2:11-22). God has also given us a ministry of reconciliation. This means we follow Jesus’ humble example in His incarnation. Jesus emptied Himself, came down to earth and communicated to us in a way we could understand. Jesus made it possible for the gospel to be communicated without cultural hindrance. Soma churches attempt to remove any unnecessary cultural offenses to the gospel as we seek to be a welcoming community for all no matter where we are from.
Every team of leaders/elders and their societal & cultural context is different. God will grant each group a unique combination of capacity, calling and gifting that suits the context he sends them to for the work He calls them to do there. Just like every family member has things in common – alongside expressing their commonalities in unique ways – Soma expects to see our common convictions expressed with great diversity and contextual consideration. We seek to reveal this beautiful theological reality in our Australian context.
We believe we ought neither to retreat from our culture nor to conform to it. Instead, we are to engage culture boldly with humility and by the Spirit and the truth of the gospel as we seek its transformation and submission to the lordship of Christ.
The church has a clear biblical mandate to look beyond its own community to the neighborhood, the nation, and the world as a whole; thus, mission is not a program in the church but an essential identity of the Church. The Church is the missionary people of God sent into all of life to accomplish His purposes.
We are called to make Christ known through the Gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring his lordship to bear on every dimension of life. The primary way we fulfill this mission is by making disciples who make disciples leading to the starting and establishing of Gospel-centered churches of Missional Communities. Our aim is that Jesus Christ would be more fully formed in each person through the ministry of the churches God enables us to plant around the world.
(Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 10:5-25; 28:18-20; Luke 4:18-19; 24:46-47; Acts 28:31; Romans 10:14-15; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Galatians 2:10; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 10:23-25; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10)
The Soma Family of Churches is committed to the pursuit of Gospel Saturation in North America and beyond until we see every man, woman, and child have a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed. We believe the local church is God’s means for bringing this about. We see God’s heart for unity in the church when we observe Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and we desire to press into God’s desires. We observe the Apostle Paul’s “concern for all the churches,” evident in both the content and tone of his letters, and this global concern was a powerful force used by God in building the early Church. Finally, we recognize that Gospel Saturation is too big (i.e. every man, woman and child) for any one church, or family of churches, to tackle so we eagerly pursue Kingdom Collaboration with other partner churches, networks, ministries, nonprofits and individuals. For all these reasons we believe it right and good to care about all of God’s church and not just our church or family of churches.
The Soma Family pursue’s partnership with other organizations that adhere to Christian orthodoxy. Each city is unique. Leaders in each context prayerfully discover areas where partnership increases strength and fruitfulness. Among them may be shared commitments like: pastoral connection events for building relationships and trust, centralized justice initiatives, sharing resources (e.g. facilities, sound equipment, etc.), city-wide prayer gatherings, or church-based theological education (Porterbrook, Antioch/BiLD, Surge, etc.).
(John 17; 2 Cor 11:28; Eph. 1:22-23; Phil 2:1-2; Col. 1:3, 27-28; Gal 2:10)
“The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God” (Van Lodenstein). The passive verb phrase “always being reformed” speaks to the Spirit’s work through the Word of God to bring about greater faithfulness and fruitfulness. We are always on the receiving end of God’s self-revelation, and because we see through a glass dimly, we need help from the Scriptures, the Spirit, our contemporaries, and other saints throughout church history to help us get it right. We aim to have the humility to admit when we have gotten it wrong and to turn. Michael Horton has observed that the phrase,“The church is reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God….keeps us from making tradition infallible but equally from imbibing the radical Protestant obsession with starting from scratch in every generation.” Practically, this looks like taking time as elders to evaluate our Family of Churches, to learn from others, and to make adjustments as necessary. When sin is involved, this could look like the the Soma servant leadership team, the Soma board, or Soma elders repenting publicly of ways we haven’t trusted God or loved well.
The story of God, as told in the Bible, reveals the missional record of who God is and what God is doing in, through, and for the world. It is the true story of the whole world. This single story from Genesis to Revelation is the controlling metanarrative that contextually shapes the way the church understands her identity and, consequently, her mission in the world.
Discipleship is story participation. Followers of Jesus grow in their maturity as their lives conform to the true story of the world. Since the only way humans make sense of their existence is through stories, God’s story provides the church with a countercultural, true story to live out together as Jesus’ witnesses to the presence of the new creation.
The story of God is not merely a rhythm or an evangelistic tool. It is the foundation through which we ground our understanding of the Gospel, theology, and life. Without being grounded in this metanarrative the church is susceptible to both being swept into idolatrous narratives of the dominant culture andpossessing sub-biblical, ecclesial methodologies.
The story of God protects missional communities from methodolatry. It allows each church to work out what it means to be God’s saved people in their respective cities as they base their identity and mission on the story of God. Only as the church continues to grapple with this unfolding story will they joyfully dwell together as sons and daughters of the most high God and faithfully witness to the resurrection of Jesus through the power of the Spirit.