Unanimity of elder decision-making
Our elders work together to oversee the church. While each elder is involved personally in certain ministries, as a group they are responsible to guide the entire church. There are two types of decisions the elders make. In both these decisions the elders strive for unanimity.
First are doctrinal decisions. These are decisions related to the interpretation of Scripture and setting the church's doctrinal positions. In these decisions the elders diligently (2 Tim 2:15) strive for sound, pure doctrine (Titus 1:9; 2:7) through individual and group study of the Scriptures. Since God authored Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21), there is one meaning of Scripture and so the elders strive for the same mind and judgment (1 Cor 1:10) on all doctrinal decisions.
Second are non-moral decisions. These are the most prevalent decisions and are in areas of Biblical freedom - either areas where there is no Biblical command or in the application of a general command. In these decisions each elder strives to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-3) through walking in the Spirit, dependence on the Word, prayer, and the outworking of the one-anothers to come to consensus. Since each elder is strong in faith (Rom 14:1-15:7) in non-moral areas and the application of general commands, no elder places their personal convictions in non-moral areas and the application of general commands on other elders nor the body. Therefore, we expect to see mutual submission and compromise in these areas. Once a decision is made and/or a direction set, all elders unanimously own the decision and support it publicly and privately in word, deed, and attitude because we trust the Lord and our fellow elders.
No term limits for elders and deacons
There are no terms of service for our elders or our deacons. Each one is appointed to serve for as long as they remain willing and qualified. We believe this helps the stability of our church and its leadership. Experienced leaders, working as a team, bring much needed depth to a local church. The average church leader has been a part of our church for around thirty years.
Deacons overseeing specific ministries and advising elders
Our deacons do not function in simple capacities. They each oversee at least one official ministry area of our church and, importantly, are given a large degree of freedom to lead the ministry in the way that they see best. The reason for this is they have been tested for many years and found to be full of wisdom and yielded to the Holy Spirit. We have great confidence in our deacons and their leadership ability.
Also, our deacons serve in an advisory capacity to the elders. The elders seek the counsel and support of the deacons in church issues. Our quarterly leadership meetings are specifically designed to gain this assistance from our deacons and bring about a united church leadership.
Longevity of staff
Dale Whitehead has served Valley Bible Church since 1973. Gerry Andersen came to our church in 1981 and has served in a full-time pastoral capacity since 1990. Even as we add church staff, we have added people with many years of leadership involvement with our church. One thing about Valley Bible Church is there are few surprises. Staff turnover is not a part of our church, which brings additional depth, experience and consistency to our ministries.
The longevity of the church staff is not accidental. It comes from an attitude of commitment to the local church. None are viewing Valley Bible Church as a stepping stone toward a better ministry opportunity but are content to be a part of God's work through Valley Bible. Perhaps John 10:12-13 captures this approach, for our staff do not see themselves as hired hands carrying out the work for a paycheck.
No offering taken
In the early 1980's our church became concerned with applying 2 Corinthians 9:7 and to seek for those who give to our church to do so cheerfully and not under compulsion. Since there is no biblical mandate to pass an offering plate, we decided to choose to eliminate the passing of the offering plate so that no one might feel tempted to give just because an offering plate was before them. We have boxes attached to the walls in the rear of the auditorium for the purposes of giving to our church. This method has served us plentifully over the past twenty years.
All ministries are supported through our general fund
The reason that all ministries are supported through our general fund is because we do not want our ministries to compete against each other for funding. Also, it fosters unity within the church to have giving to be united and not segmented. We do not believe it is healthy for giving to be only to selected ministries.
We see no biblical precedent for the fee-for-service enterprise underlying much of organized Christianity today. We cannot imagine Peter charging people to hear him speak or Paul expecting to be paid for consulting with church leaders. We do not charge for baptisms, weddings, funerals, music, counseling, sermons, etc. We may pass along costs that we incur (for example, housing and food for a youth camp), but do not charge for our ministry. Indeed, charging money for ministry has certain negative effects on the quality of the ministry. For example, paying for counseling gives the impression that the counselor, like a mechanic, will solve the problems of the one in need. Paying for music equates it with the entertainment industry. We should not be like many, peddling the Word of God (2 Corinthians 2:17).
This attitude is not only reflected in our website but has caused our web site to expand as a means of distributing good resources freely to the Christian community.
Conservative budgetary practices
Our church budget is set according to the projected costs of ministry we have committed ourselves to. However, our budget functions under spending limits which govern the distribution of funds. Our budget is funded according to church income to the general fund over the previous four quarters. This protects us from spending more money than we are given and this also provides a spending plan for the general fund giving.
Furthermore, the salaries are limited. The pastoral staff salaries are based upon the average salary of a local teacher, with the equivalent experience and education. All pastoral staff function off the same pay system and none will be paid more than a teacher's salary. In fact, due to spending limits our staff have never been paid the full amount due them according to the pay scale, but none are discontent with the system. They believe this is a better system than having to choose between allocating money to salaries versus other ministry needs.
All attendees are considered members
We do not have a two-tier group attending our church. We consider all who attend our church to be members. There are no tests to take or forms to sign. The reason for this is that our elders feel a responsibility for all who involve themselves with Valley Bible. Since our church is elder ruled, the congregation does not vote and therefore the stability of the church is not threatened by this approach.
Emphasis on biblical counseling
We believe that God has given us His Word, the Bible, to produce spiritual maturity in the lives of Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because the Bible describes itself as true (John 17:17) and sufficient for this work (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3), we believe it is sufficient to solve the spiritual problems of man. Here is more information about our view of counseling.
As people accept the good news of Jesus Christ and follow Him through His Word, they will find the power to overcome any sin issue that has weighed upon them. Therefore, we see no need to look to other sources for finding victory over the non-physical problems of mankind.
Avoidance of non-biblical political issues
We believe that much of the church has sought to bring about change in our society through political means that will never deliver on its hopes. Our society will change as the people within the society change. The people in the society will change as their hearts and minds are changed, rather than laws become imposed onto them. While political muscle may alter laws within the society, unless people embrace the laws, the advancement will be short-lived. Prohibition is one example of a failed attempt to impose a level of morality that was not accepted by the society at large. Currently, the political efforts to bring about change in our abortion laws are losing because we have not changed the thinking of the people of the United States.
Far worse, we see this effort by churches to bring political change as eroding the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Too often, Bible believing Christians are seen as tied to a political party and using methods that are not appreciated, hindering our ability to speak God's Word to those who have been turned off by our politics.
More recently, churches have sacrificed the teaching of God's Word in order to unite politically with movements such as Mormonism, Prosperity teachers, the Faith Movement, Catholicism and Judaism. By diminishing the differences in doctrine, Christians have given tacit approval to erroneous belief systems...all for the sake of short-sighted political advancement. While Christians who chose political involvement have not sinned, we believe our church's best strategy for obedience to our Lord's commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is avoidance of the political arena. Here is more information about the church and politics.
We do not dictate or encourage any particular attire be worn to church. The reason for this is the Bible does not encourage any particular attire, other than modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). As a result of this and as a reflection of the surrounding culture of the Antelope Valley, we find most attend church in attire very similar to what we would wear around town. Most in our church do not dress up to attend our services.
Baptism in spas, lakes, pools, etc.
One of the unique things about our church, particularly for people not from California, is that we baptize people in spas. When our church auditorium was constructed, it did not have a baptistry. Therefore people have been baptized outside of the church buildings, usually at homes or sometimes on church trips. We do what was done in the Bible, we make use of nearby bodies of water. We have used rivers, lakes and the Pacific Ocean but the most common method has been spas and pools. The reason is that many people have pools or spas, which can be warmed, in their backyard. This has brought an appreciation for special occasions for baptisms where small groups can gather and family and friends can be invited. These great times of fellowship have added meaning to the baptisms that we fear we would lose by putting a baptistry in our new auditorium. For those who think this is odd, just remember how baptism was done in the New Testament. Also, we do not require that a pastor do the baptizing since the Scripture does not make this limitation. Here is more information about baptism.
Freedom given on non-moral issues
One distinctive of our church is what does not exist. We seek to strictly adhere to what the Bible specifically calls sin or that which necessarily violates biblical principles. This means there are no written or unwritten rules outside of the Bible that governs appropriate conduct.
Indeed, we consider such additions to the Scripture to lead toward legalism and become destructive to developing mature believers. Like the Pharisees in the New Testament, legalists develop a form of religion that emphasizes the external life. Jesus warned us to beware of this (Matthew 16:11-12).
It is important for the church to be healthy by giving freedom to people where the Scripture gives freedom. How each Christian chooses to live their lives in seeking to apply God's wisdom is important to the process of maturity.
Our sports ministry
One thing that many find remarkable about our church is that we fielded our own softball league from 1987-2022. This summer (2023), we will have our own volleyball league. This is not just that many people like softball or volleyball, but they see it as a ministry outreach and an outflow of our high school ministry and growth groups.
Small Group Distinctives
Small group leaders have an unusually high level of ministry responsibility
Our Growth Groups are the core of our church ministry. Much of the essential personal ministry occurs in this context and the leaders of these groups are in a position to minister to a broad range of pastoral issues. They will have to teach the word, defend the faith, admonish the unruly, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak and be patient with all.
Because of our view of Growth Groups, we expect our leaders to be able to handle the basic duties of pastoral ministry, including teaching. Each group decides for themselves what topics they will cover and how the study will be conducted. There is no scripted teaching that our groups move through together. This is only possible when the group leaders have a high degree of spiritual maturity and leadership ability.
Partnership with local churches in missionary effort
We believe in the local church and thus have come to emphasize a partnership with local churches in our missionary philosophy. This is more possible now than ever before due to mass communication and the reduction in travel time and expenses.
For many years we have teamed with Iglesia Bíblica Bautista Dios Con Nosotros (DCN) in Mexicali, Baja, Mexico to serve the people of Mexico. Under the leadership of Mauricio Rivas, many from our church have served in building projects and in ministry training throughout the year.
Our own Deaf church
Also, we support Francisco Aceves as a full-time Deaf pastor to reach the Deaf of the Antelope Valley through our own Deaf church. View information on our Deaf Ministry.
Sending own missionaries
There was a time when Valley Bible Church supported many missionaries at minimal amounts. We came to feel that we had a very loose connection with these missionaries and found a much greater involvement in missions with our congregation has come from a more personal involvement with a few missionary efforts.
During the mid 1990s, one of our elders, Randy Thompson along with his wife, Rebecca, served four and one-half years at Hamadera Bible Church in Osaka, Japan.
Visit our Outreach page.