Philosophy of Ministry

The purpose of ministry is to multiply and bring to maturity disciples of Jesus Christ for the glory of God in the unity of His Church. The method of growth is the working of the Holy Spirit through the preaching and teaching of the whole council of the infallible Word of God. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit works in the life of believers to encourage them in righteous obedience to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, ground them with biblical wisdom and knowledge, and call them to fulfill their biblical roles within the church body, family, and society with grace and hospitality. The outpouring of the grace of God to His people fosters loving, encouraging, and meaningful relationships in and outside the body of Christ, affecting all aspects of Christian life encouraging the expanse of the gospel.

A particular focus is to minister through families and daily life in the home with the message of a Reformed understanding of the Gospel, which we believe to be most Biblical. According to the Dictionary of Theological Terms, popularly known as “Calvinism”, the Reformed Faith is the system of doctrine regarded as consistently Biblical by the Reformed churches, i.e., those Protestant churches historically associated with Calvin and Geneva. It is most cogently set forth in such symbols as the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Standards. As a systematic and Biblical theology, the Reformed faith gives proper prominence to the sovereignty of God in His eternal decree and its execution because it is consistently a theology of the word of God, whose revelation is sufficient and whose authority is final. The Reformed faith is also a system of covenant theology, at least for its Presbyterian proponents.”[1]

We seek to welcome into our fellowship and our homes those whom God allows to cross our paths, and through the practices of hospitality, daily devotions, worship, and personal holiness, to win them to Christ. We believe the peace and stability demonstrated in a strong family loving Christ and His Word offers an irrefutable testimony to the world.

Core Values

Doctrinal Standards Lived out in Love

Our doctrinal commitment is founded on the principle that Scripture is plenary inspired, infallible, and inerrant in the original autographs. As such, we fully subscribe to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. We subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith as a faithful historic interpretation of Scripture, and to the Danvers Statement from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).

God’s desire for His Church is not fulfilled where there is a form of orthodoxy without love, or where there is an appearance of love and zeal without orthodoxy. Therefore, we long to see sound doctrine coupled with love in the members of Covenant Heritage Reformed Fellowship. By sound doctrine, we mean the doctrine expressed in the Westminster Standards without undue emphasis on one doctrine to the exclusion of others. By love, we speak of heartfelt, grateful obedience to God’s law, manifested in service to one another and to outsiders..

Robust Covenant Renewal Worship

God’s people are best edified through the means of grace offered in corporate worship, where God acts, renewing His covenant with His people in the pattern of sacrifice set forth in the Old Testament, and we respond to God. This pattern involves God calling His people to Him (Exodus 1-3; Leviticus 9:6-7; Psalm 100 – call to worship), cleansing us from sin (Ex 4-17; Lev 5:5-6, 10; 1 John 1:9 – confession of sin), consecrating us to Himself (Ex 18-23; Lev 1:6-7; Hebrews 4:12 – Word preached), communing with us (Ex 24-40; Lev 7:15; 1 Corinthians 10:16-18 – Communion), and then commissioning us into the world (Numbers 9:15-17; Lev 9:22; Num 6:22-26; Luke 24:50-51 – benediction). This pattern is deeply embedded in God’s acts of creation and redemption,[2] and is the pattern followed at the inauguration of formal worship of God’s people (Lev. 9:6-24).

Corporate worship is the exercise of the ordinary means of grace (Word, sacraments, and prayer). Our goal is to emphasize these ordinary means of grace in humble dependence on Jesus Christ for His blessing. This does not mean passivity, but active, diligent, and expectant use of the means that God has appointed. Those means include the following:

The Preaching of the Word

This is the primary means of grace that God has appointed for the calling and maturation of disciples. Therefore, we devote a large portion of our worship service to the preaching of the Word, and expect that members attend diligently. We believe the Word should be preached according to the guidance of the Westminster Larger Catechism, which states, “Those that are called to labor in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season, plainly, not in enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration and power of the Spirit, and of power, faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of His people; sincerely, aiming at His glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.”[3]

  • ·        After worship, we meet as a congregation for a time of teaching, discussion, and corporate prayer.  Time is spent teaching the precepts of scripture in the form of review and study of the historical creeds and confessions or discussion and application of the sermon.  The point is to cull out the areas of personal application from the scripture, and hold each other accountable to what the Spirit is communicating to His Church. The benefit of children attending is the tacit accountability of parents discussing matters of application before the eyes and ears of their children – a very strong family dynamic for positive change.
  • ·        We do not have a Sunday evening service. Rather, we encourage individual families to spend Sunday afternoons and evenings in rest and fellowship.
  • ·        We believe that the reading of the Word is a means of grace and include this as a regular part of our worship service. We also believe that the elders are to minister the Word privately to individuals as needs arise. This private ministry includes evangelism, teaching, reproof, correction, and disciplined training in righteousness. All the elders should make themselves available to the people for this more private ministry, and they should be ready to address specific needs as they arise in the congregation (answering questions, confronting sin, comforting the sick or sorrowing, counseling, etc.).

The Administration of the Sacraments

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two sacraments that God has ordained for the New Testament Church. Baptism is to be administered to believers upon a credible profession of their faith and to the children of believers, born into the covenant. The Lord’s Supper is served weekly to all who are baptized into the covenant community and not under the discipline of Christ’s Church. We teach paedo-baptism and paedo-communion, requiring baptism as a pre-requisite for communion. We accommodate other views by hearing professions of faith from children whose parents request it before administering the sacraments.

Prayer

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for the things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.”[4] We believe that prayer is essential for the blessing of God to attend His church, and that the use of the other means of grace without prayer is presumption. Therefore, we are committed to prayer, both public and private.

  • ·        During the service, prayers of the church are led by the men of the congregation. We also include a season of personal and corporate prayer after the worship service. In preparation for this time of prayer, all members are encouraged to bring their requests so that these particular matters can be brought to God in prayer.

The Singing of Praise

We believe that God has ordained the singing of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16) in the public assembly, “the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Therefore, we sing both psalms and hymns in our worship.

  • ·        We encourage performing arts (e.g., solos, processions, dance, and drama) to the glory of God in the home and in the theatre, but we do not use performing arts for public worship. We use instruments sufficient to assist the reverent singing of psalms and hymns by the choir of the entire congregation

Christ-Centered Education

Since its founding, the families of Covenant Heritage Reformed Fellowship have been characterized by home education of their children. However, we do not view home schooling as a necessary distinctive of our families. Instead, we emphasize the importance of a Christ-centered education, designed to inculcate faith in our children and bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)

Presbyterian Accountability

We recognize and affirm the need for accountability in the local church as exemplified by the example of Acts 15.  We believe the Presbyterian form of government to be the most Biblical system for achieving this.[5] Therefore, we covenanted together with the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC).

CHRF is governed by a session of Elders, assisted by the Diaconate. The Session assigns each family to a specific elder as their primary shepherd, so oversight can truly take place. All the families assigned to an elder are his parish, or shepherding group. Ideally, a deacon is also assigned to each group.

Outreach Strategy

We believe that our primary outreach should be through the families of the congregation. We believe that as each member lives a transformed life by God’s grace, he will have a powerful witness to those in his family neighborhood and work place. All members regularly extend hospitality to visitors at church or to those they have met at work or in their neighborhoods.

Our goal is to reach the people of the southeastern Virginia Peninsula and its surrounding area with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not want to limit ourselves to one specific age or ethnic group; instead, we want to reach out to all the residents of this area. Our plan is to minister to various sectors of the city as God opens up opportunities in His providence.

We believe the best way to reach the area is by multiplication of “single cell” churches rather than simply adding to Covenant Heritage. Therefore, if God is pleased to bring us to the place where we have sufficient leadership, stability, and financial resources, our plan is to begin working toward establishing daughter/sister churches. When our regular attendance reaches 30 families or 200 members, we will begin to consider the process of calling an associate pastor to CHRF.  His primary responsibility will be in developing and leading a core team of households to plant a new work.

Before proceeding with such a plan, Covenant Heritage will need to be well established. There must be sufficient numbers of elders and members to support the plant without disturbing the mother church, and sufficient financial resources to support another pastor and provide start up costs for the new work for at least the first year. We envision several families covenanting to attend the church plant for a pre-arranged season, and having the freedom thereafter to commit to the plant or mother congregation.

As God provides the resources and opportunities, we desire to do this over and over again until there are churches all around Hampton Roads fromWilliamsburg to Virginia Beach, bearing the reformed distinctives and core values laid out in this philosophy of ministry. These other congregations would not necessarily be carbon copies of Covenant Heritage, and in some cases might even be formed to accommodate those who have a somewhat different emphasis in ministry, though we would want them to be sound churches that are committed to a Reformed confession (i.e., the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, etc.) and our Presbyterian form of government. While these documents are not in themselves inspired, they do form a precise and historically sound synopsis of Biblical doctrine. They and many of the creeds were formed as doctrinal positions as well as responses to particular heresies that arose over the two millennia of Church history, and their accuracy has stood the test of time.

Family Life and the Church

Children in Church

We believe that the basic means of grace are appointed for the children of believers as demonstrated in our commitment to infant baptism. Therefore, we believe that children of all ages ought to join their parents in public worship and participation in the sacraments on the Lord’s Day.

  • ·        Our congregation appreciates the work involved in training children to participate in worship, and will with Christ, “suffer the little children to come to Him”, encouraging parents with patience and support as they train their children.
  • ·        In the sacrament of infant baptism, all members vow to assist the parents in raising their children under the admonition of God’s word; therefore, we all watch over and correct children as needed.[6] We seek the peaceable fruit of righteousness in our children as a general characterization, and as a demonstrable testimony of Christ in our families.
  • ·        We encourage all of our older children to take part in the meetings of the church, including older sons attending the Session meetings, and older daughters attending the women’s meetings.

Marriage Preparation

We believe courtship is the more excellent way of preparing for the responsibilities of marriage rather than contemporary recreational dating. We encourage parents to consider the scriptural principles for marriage preparation compared to the dangers of emotional and physical defrauding found in current recreational dating practices. Modesty of dress and deportment between members of the opposite sex is encouraged and expected to be in keeping with “what becomes the followers of Christ.”

Family Devotions

We believe that in addition to the public means of grace, regular family devotions are essential to the family ministry. Parents are responsible to help their children implement the Word in their lives from day to day. In this, the parents are to take the Word that has been preached on Sunday or studied in their home and apply it to life. As the head of the home, God has given this responsibility to the husband who is to call his household together and instruct them out of the Word. The elders model and provide assistance to heads of household in leading and instructing their households in the truth of the Word.  Help may include modeling family devotions for them in the own households (simply inviting them and their families over for the own devotions, developing a schedule in which devotions are a priority, learning how to study and apply the Word, encouraging them, and helping them maintain consistency by providing accountability. 

Family-Friendly Church Schedule

We understand that busy schedules can make it difficult for families to maintain regular family worship. Therefore we generally avoid scheduling church activities that would encroach on family time and seek to optimize the use of our meetings for the best means of instruction, encouragement and accountability. We organize men’s meetings, Session and Head of household meetings, etc., in the later evenings so as not to pull men away from the instruction of their households, which for many, occurs at the supper hour

Women in the Local Church

We are committed to developing each person’s unique God-given talents and acknowledging God’s sovereign design for each individual while affirming the Biblical distinctives between men and women. Therefore, we emphasize a woman’s ordinary Biblical calling as a wife and mother.

We believe that wives and mothers should receive special encouragement in their calling, because so many women in our culture look on this calling with disdain. This encouragement is to come from their household head, the elders, older women and one another. In accordance with Titus 2, older women offer biblical wisdom in matters of marriage and family life. This is best given informally in contexts where modeling can occur, and may be assisted by an informal women’s study, as approved by the Session.

We have attempted to establish a church culture in which the men are discipled by the elders and then, in turn, disciple their own wives and children. Wives are encouraged to look to their own husbands for leadership, while receiving secondary counsel and advice from other women. Our church format is meant to reinforce the former, while not excluding the latter. The elders can directly disciple any individual, but the head of the home should be involved as much as possible.

We believe fathers should provide covering for their daughters prior to marriage while mothers, other women and the elders all seek to encourage them as they grow into their future roles as mothers and wives.  Single women are encouraged by their elders and other women to use their gifts in the service of God’s kingdom.

View of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit

The primary work of the Holy Spirit is in the area of sanctification. “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”[7] Only when the believer passes directly into the presence of Christ is he fully sanctified, We believe that the Spirit works primarily through the means of grace to accomplish His work of sanctification, and that He gives gifts to enable the means to be used effectively. For this reason, we pray for the Spirit’s working through the ministry of the Word and the proper use of the sacraments, and seek to encourage one another in the application and implementation of the Word of God.

Leadership Development

The Bible teaches that a man’s leadership is first proven at home by the way he manages his own household. We believe, therefore, that the first stage of training men for leadership is training them to be good leaders at home. By his example, the wise father disciples his growing sons to be future leaders.

Once a man’s leadership is established in the home or in his community, it is only natural that members of the congregation will begin to look to him as an example and to seek out his counsel. In other words, his ministry will expand from his home into other areas and the congregation may recognize him as one suited for the office of deacon or elder. However, before a man is ready to take the office of deacon or elder, he will need special training and examination.

In working with single men, the goal is to see them learn to use their season of singleness in various kinds of service to the Lord in their community and church. Their leadership would be evidenced in their faithfulness in these particular ministries.

Giving/Service

We believe that it is a church member’s responsibility to support the church with his tithes and offerings. The moneys received are to be overseen by the deacons and elders, and distributed according to an established budget. The primary use of funds is to be directed to the ministry of the gospel, supporting the ministers of the Word and providing places of worship. Apart from the day-to-day cost of operating as a church, we see outreach to the culture around us and to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18ff) as a proper use of the monies given into our care. We also encourage our families to become familiar with local mission opportunities like crisis pregnancy centers, rescue missions, mission medical clinics, etc., so that beyond simply supporting with our money, we are physically ministering as families and as a congregation. Funds are also directed to those who are unable to support themselves or who fall into financial crisis, first within the church, but also, as there is opportunity, to those outside the church.

Secondary Doctrinal Positions and Practices

We affirm the sentiment expressed by Augustine of Hippo when he said, “In essentials unity, in doubtful matters liberty, in all things charity.” Where secondary doctrinal disagreements occur, the elders will encourage collegial discussion, with regard to scriptural basis, historical background, and potential ramifications. The following are some areas of liberty at CHRF, where differing Biblical views are held.  This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but is provided as an example of some of the more common areas of differing Biblical views in which we must endeavor to extend liberty to one another.

  • ·        Doctrine: Areas of eschatology, apologetics, and mode of baptism are left to the individual heads of household, with the elders available to answer questions and assist in biblical research on the topics.
  • ·        Practices: children’s education (home schooling versus day schools); the role of  single women; alcohol consumption; smoking; how husbands and wives live out headship and submission; how men and women express modesty in dress.

When discussing these differences we guard against dogmatic positions, easily giving and taking offense, and allowing roots of bitterness to spring up. We must let grace govern all our discussions. We affirm the freedom to charitably discuss without binding others’ consciences to a position which goes beyond Scripture.

Adopted January 8, 2004

Revised January 13, 2004

Revised February 22, 2005

Revised March 21, 2006

Revised October 23, 2007

Revised March 2, 2008

Revised April 20, 2010

Revised September 21, 2010

Revised September 29, 2011 (name change)

Revised March 21, 2018 


[1] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, Greenville, SC, 1998, page 303

[2] See “The Lord’s Service,” by Jeffrey J. Meyers, pages 46-51

[3] Westminster Larger Catechism, question #159

[4] Westminster Shorter Catechism, question #98

[5] The Presbyterian form of government involves a plurality of elders. These men, meeting the criteria of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, are elected as representatives from among the congregation. This body of men  constitutes a Session and represents the local congregation to the next higher level of oversight – the Presbytery. The essence of Presbyterian government captures two principles – representative leadership and accountability, both vertical and horizontal.

[6] Any adult is welcome to make appropriate remarks to young people who, by their actions, necessitate correction or reproof. We ask the person making the correction to inform the parents of the child to allow them the opportunity to ensure repentance and reconciliation, and restitution as necessary.

[7] Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 35