Church of the Open Bible
". . .many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 'You do not want to leave too do you?' Jesus asked . . . Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'" (John 6:68).
Following Christ is not easy. He describes it in terms of self-denial and cross-bearing (Mark 8:34). Left to ourselves, we are constantly susceptible to the allure of short-cuts, distractions, and simplifications that accommodate the faith to our more natural preferences. For this reason, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was instrumental in the nurture of a "confessing church" that stood opposed to Hitler's regime, defined discipleship with the apparently contradictory phrase costly grace. "It is costly," he said, "because it costs people their lives; it is grace because it thereby makes them live" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol 4 , Fortress Augsburg, 2001, 45). In order to maintain this dynamic tension we want to hold our thinking, relationships, and worship practices subject to the ongoing scrutiny of God's word. The phrase reformed and ever reforming emerged in the early Protestant era as a way of flagging this same concern. In its formative stages, the early church identified four defining priorities. "They devoted themselves," we are told, "to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). We believe these practices provided a vital and enduring structure for the ongoing renewal of the Christ-following community.