Next Step: The Membership Covenant
Posted by Aaron Knight on December 27, 2009
Last Tuesday the congregation adopted a new doctrinal statement, the product of almost three years of revision and discussion. This robust document will serve our church well for generations.
Now we turn our attention to revising SSBC’s membership covenant. Section 13 of our new doctrinal statement begins, “We believe that a visible church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel.” So what is a church membership covenant?
A church’s covenant is one of its three core documents, along with the doctrinal statement and constitution. While the doctrinal statement encapsulates core biblical teaching and the constitution distills our beliefs about the biblical structure of a local church, the membership covenant summarizes the biblical lifestyle commitments of church members to one another and to the Lord.
So membership entails far more than having one’s name on a church database. Being a member of a church involves more than attending church occasionally, accessing a youth program, or having a place for family weddings and funerals. Biblical membership means living in a committed community where believers support one another and hold each other accountable in following Christ. Churches have used covenants for centuries to trace out clearly the shape of those commitments.
How countercultural such a church covenant would seem today! Commitment? We switch phone companies and gym memberships on a whim. Community? Never have so many been so technologically connected and yet remain so isolated and lonely. Accountability? Our relativistic, post-modern mood makes the idea of submitting to one another’s rebuke unthinkable.
And so it is imperative that we articulate clearly, joyfully and repeatedly what we believe biblical church life looks like. We need to put on paper our commitment to praying for one another, serving one another, forgiving one another, and challenging one another. We need to hear one another say aloud that we intend to gather regularly, in person (not just on Facebook), to worship God, to give of our finances, and to use our gifts to bless each other.
I’ll be working with Pastor Seth and a few elders to draft a new membership covenant to bring to the church for discussion, much as we did with the doctrinal statement (though I hope it won’t take quite so long!). Here’s a question for starters: “What commitments should we include in this covenant?” I look forward to drafting, adopting and living out a membership covenant with you.
- Pastor Jeramie