A Constitution for Immanuel Baptist Church
Note: Early in 2017 the Leadership Team of Immanuel Baptist Church asked me write a new constitution for our congregation. Over the course of several months I did so, drawing liberally upon a number of earlier confessions and existing constitutions espousing a Reformed Baptist faith. Once the constitution was complete, the team selected several of the leading men in the church to vet my labors. Over the course of several more months we did exactly that, enjoying some vigorous debate and making a number of important changes. Also, we consulted the Director of Missions for our region here in Northern California, as well as one of the attorneys serving the California Southern Baptist Association. Finally, for nearly three more months the Constitution Committee went through the entire document with the members of our church, answering their questions, addressing their concerns, and making still more changes. The result is a constitution that reflects the prayer, wisdom, and extended labor of countless Baptist folk, all of whom desired to craft and live by a Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and system of bylaws that reflect the true teaching of Scripture. With much gratitude to God I am pleased to present it to you here, and also eager to receive any feedback by which this labor of love might be improved. My hope and prayer is that this constitution will be a blessing to a great many of my Baptist brothers and sisters. —Dean Davis
The Constitution and Bylaws of
IMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH
There are many good reasons why a New Testament Church should have a Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and Constitution. Together they can greatly assist us in our efforts to biblically organize and conduct the ministries entrusted to us by our head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, they tend towards the stability of the church and the continuity of faith and practice from generation to generation. It must be readily acknowledged, however, that these documents, despite their usefulness and precision, will avail nothing apart from the presence and power of the Spirit of God in a church. It is, then, with a keen awareness of our absolute dependence upon God, and with a fervent petition for his help, that we set forth these articles.
In a spirit of profound gratitude for God’s gift of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, and with a desire to fulfill our holy calling by worshiping and serving our triune God biblically, worthily, and effectively from generation to generation, we, the members of Immanuel Baptist Church, do adopt and submit ourselves to the following articles as a declaration of our convictions, and as a banner beneath which we purpose to walk together with Christ in joy as we make our pilgrimage through this world to the completed Kingdom of God.
ARTICLE I: NAME, LOCATION, AND INCORPORATION
This congregation of believers shall be known as Immanuel Baptist Church of . . . The church is currently located at . . . . It is registered as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of . . . . Throughout this document it shall be referred to as “this church,” “the church,” or “our church.”
ARTICLE II: PURPOSE AND MISSION
The purpose of this church is to glorify the God of the Bible by worshiping him with gratitude and joy, evangelizing his world, and edifying his Church. To this end we are committed to making disciples from all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything Christ has commanded us, and confirming and defending the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.
(Matt. 28:18f; Jude 3)
ARTICLE III: STATUS, AFFILIATION, AND COOPERATION
Ours is an independent church in the Baptist tradition, subject only to the authority of Christ, its head, the Holy Scriptures, our Statement of Faith, our Church Covenant, and the articles of this Constitution. We recognize, however, the benefits of affiliation with other like-minded believers, and are therefore pleased to associate ourselves with the Southern Baptist Convention. Also, we favor cooperation with other kindred churches and groups in our area, believing that all such manifestations of Christian unity are pleasing to the Lord. However, these associations are strictly voluntary, and may be discontinued at any time by the Board of Elders, after due consultation with the congregation.
ARTICLE IV: ARTICLES OF FAITH
Section 1: A Confessional Church
A. Articles of Faith: Ours is a confessional church. This means that we ask all our members to be in substantial agreement with our various articles of faith and to confess them publicly. These include our Statement of Faith, Positions on Current Issues, and Church Covenant. Prospective church members must agree on all essential doctrines (i.e., those that bear on a person’s salvation). If they disagree on nonessential points, the elders will ask them to explain where they disagree, and why, after which the elders will decide if membership is appropriate. / Prospective elders must agree on all points; or, if they disagree on a few minor points, they must give their reasons for disagreeing, and also consent to refrain from teaching anything contrary to our foundational documents. / We believe that requiring this kind of agreement around our faith commitments is scriptural, and that it promotes unity, stability, safety, and continuity from generation to generation.
(1 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 4:13; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 John 1:9-10)
B. Preface to Our Statement of Faith: Our church values all the orthodox creeds and confessions of the historic Christian Church. However, for our own Statement of Faith we have adopted a modified version of the New Hampshire Confession of 1853. We recognize that this document is not infallible, that it sits under the final judgment of the authoritative Word of God, and that from time to time we may need to amend it at certain points. Nevertheless, we commend it to our people as an excellent gift, substantially given to us by our risen Lord through the Scriptures and through our Protestant and Baptist forefathers. We believe it will serve us well as an aid in time of controversy, a confirmation of our faith, and a means of growing together in grace.
C. Other Confessions: This church also adheres to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (1987), and the Nashville Statement on Human Sexuality (2017). / Copies of all these documents, together with Scriptural proofs, are available to members, or prospective members, online and in the church office.
Section 2: Statement of Faith
This church adopts as its Statement of Faith the New Hampshire Confession of 1853, with the modifications presented herein. The modifications are meant to promote clarity, address urgent contemporary issues, and bring the original confession into fuller conformity with the teaching of Scripture.
A. Of the Scriptures
We believe that the Holy Bible, comprised of the Old and New Testaments, was written by divinely inspired men, and is therefore a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, with no hint of error, for its subject matter; that it reveals the principles by which God would have us live, and by which also he will judge us; that together with our Lord himself it is the true center of Christian unity, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tested; and that it will remain such so long as the world remains. / We also believe that for the purpose of preaching and teaching our leaders should use a Bible version that adheres closely to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and that strives, as much as possible, to give a word-for-word translation, rather than a loose paraphrase.
(2 Pet. 1:20-21; Ps. 19; Prov. 30:5-6; John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 7:24ff, 24:35; John 12:48; Is. 8:20; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Tim. 6:3-4; 2 Tim. 1:13)
B. Of the One True God
We believe that there is one, and only one, true and living God: the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, the covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and of all who put their trust in our Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from sin and the free gift of eternal life; that he is an infinite, personal Spirit, owing his existence to none; and that he is eternal, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, wise, loving, kind, faithful, and just. / We believe that God is intimately and intricately related to the universe as its creator, sustainer, ruler, judge, and redeemer; that before the foundation of the world he foreordained all events; and that now, by an all-controlling providence, he continually brings them to pass, yet in such a way that he is neither the author of sin, nor does he violate the will of free moral agents, whose decisions flow from themselves alone. / We believe that in the unity of the Godhead there are three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; that all three share a common essence, and are therefore equal in every divine attribute and perfection; and that each person executes distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption. / Finally, we believe that this triune God immutably and eternally overflows with delight in who he is and what he does; that in the Gospel he lovingly invites all men everywhere to partake of this infinite joy through simple faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ; and that he is inexpressibly glorious in holiness, and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love.
(Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Thess. 1:9; Ex. 3:13-15; Acts 17:34; Ps. 90:2; Is. 40:28; John 8:58; 1 Tim. 1:17; Mal. 3:16; James 1:17; Ps. 139:1-6, 147:5; Dan. 2:20f; Matt. 6:8; Rom. 11:33f; Ps. 139:6-7; Jer. 23:23; Acts 17:24; Ps. 62:11; Jer. 32:27; Matt. 19:26; Ex. 15:11; Is. 40:25; John 17:11; 1 Pet. 1:15; Deut. 7:9f; John 3:16; 1 John. 4:7 / Gen. 1:1; Is. 45:12-18; John 1:1f; 1 Cor. 8:6; Ps. 104:27-30; Acts 17:27; Is. 26:8-9; Rom. 2:5-6, 8:20-22; Is. 45:7; Rom. 8:28; Ex. 6:6-8; Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Eph.1:7; Is. 46:10; Amos 3:6; Acts 4:27-28; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11; James 1:13f; 1 John 1:5; Eph. 1:14; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4-5 / Mt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 8:6f; 2 Cor. 13:14; John 10:30, 14:11; Eph. 1:1-14; 1 Pet. 1:1-3 / Ps. 135:6; Neh. 8:10; Zeph. 3:17; Matt. 3:17; John 15:11, 17:13; 2 Cor. 1:24; Gal. 5:22; 1 Pet. 1:8; 1 John 1:4)
C. Of the Creation
We believe that in the beginning God created a good, fully formed, fully functioning universe in six literal days; that on the sixth day he created the man Adam from the dust of the earth, and his wife Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, both of which procedures were rich with redemptive significance; that the original pair were created in God’s image and likeness, and granted life, privilege, purpose, responsibility, and fellowship with their maker in the Garden of Eden. / We also believe that the flood of Noah’s day and the dispersion of mankind at the tower of Babel were true historical events, with far-reaching impact and significance; that both the Bible and good science together oppose and refute every effort to relegate Genesis 1-11 to the category of myth or poetry; and that it is impossible to harmonize biblical teaching on origins with millions of years of progressive creation or cosmic evolution.
(Gen. 1:31; Ex. 20:11; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 8:20; 2 Pet. 3:5; Gen. 2:18ff; Mark 10:6; Rom. 5:12f; 1 Cor. 15:45f; Gen. 1:26ff, 2:17-17, 3:8, 5:2; Ps. 8:3f, 115:16 / Matt. 24:37f; 1 Pet. 3:19f; Luke 3:23-38; John 8:44; Eph. 5:30-31; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Heb. 4:1-10, 11:1-7; 1 John 3:12)
D. Of Angels, Satan, and Evil Spirits
We believe that in the beginning God created a spiritual heaven, populated by a vast host of personal spiritual beings called angels; that the angels were created to enjoy the vision of God, worship him, and minister to the heirs of salvation. / We believe that one of these angels, a cherub called Lucifer, willfully fell from his state of innocence and became Satan, the adversary of God and his people; and that Satan also persuaded a multitude of other angels to join him in his rebellion, which angels the Bible also calls demons. / We believe that as a result of the fall of Adam, in which he obeyed Satan rather than God, the world-system came into being; that the world-system is populated by man in his fallen state, and is therefore hostile to God and animated by rebellion, lust, and pride; that it is controlled by the ruler of this world (who is Satan, together with his host of evil spirits), and will continue in this condition until the end; that one of the greatest goals of Christ’s redemptive mission was and is to transfer a chosen people from the Domain of Darkness into his own spiritual kingdom of light and love; and that Christ has already succeeded in this mission, and will, at the proper time, will bring it to completion. / We believe that Satan nevertheless remains a formidable foe, seeking to tempt, persecute, divide, frighten, and oppress God’s children; that such spiritual warfare is ongoing, and poses considerable danger to the saints, requiring on their part great wisdom, sobriety, vigilance, and perseverance; but that Christ himself has prayed for them, so that, despite their many different tests and occasional failures, they will never again fall into Satan’s power and kingdom. / Finally, we believe that towards the end of the present evil age, Satan will indwell, animate, and empower a personal Antichrist, who will lead the world astray and severely persecute the saints; but that shortly after his appearing, both Satan and the Antichrist, together with all their followers, will be turned into hell for eternal destruction by our Lord Jesus Christ at his return.
(Col. 1:6; Heb. 8:9; Is. 6:1f; Heb. 1:14; Rev. 4:5f, 5:11ff / Is. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:11-19; Jude 6; Luke 10:17; Rev. 12:1f / Gen. 3:1-6; Luke 4:6; John 7:7; 8:23, 14:30, 15:19; 1 John 2:16; John 12:31, 16:11; Eph. 6:12; Gal. 1:4; Col. 1:13; John 12:31, 16:13; 1 John 4:4, 5:4-5 / 2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:12; Rev. 12:13ff; 1 Pet. 5:8; James 4:7; 1 John 4:1-2; Luke 22:31f; John 17:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 John 5:18 / Dan. 7:1f; 2 Thess. 2:1ff; 1 John. 2:18; Rev. 20:7-10)
E. Of the Fall of Man and Nature
We believe that the man Adam was created in a state of innocence, but also under a law and covenant from his maker, such that by eating from the Tree of Life he would have experienced eternal life in union with his triune creator, whereas by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he would surely die, both spiritually and physically; that in Eden, Adam stood as the head and representative of the entire family of man; that by a voluntary transgression he, together with his wife, fell from his state of innocence into sin, and therefore under divine wrath and condemnation; that his transgression was imputed (or credited) to all mankind, and that his new sinful nature was imparted to all mankind, so that now all men outside of Christ are sinners by standing, nature, inclination, and choice, and are without excuse or defense in the sight of God; and that through Adam’s transgression the physical creation itself, in various ways, was subjected to violence, decay, and futility, thereafter to appear as a permanent reminder of the character, consequences, and gravity of man’s sin.
(Gen.1:27, 31, 2:9, 16-17, 3:22; John 17:3; Rev. 22:1, 2, 14, 19; Rom. 5:12ff; 1 Cor. 11:2f, 15:20f; Gen. 3:7ff; Gal. 3:10-14; Gen. 6:12; Ps. 51:5; Mark 7:21f; Rom. 3:9f, 8:7; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1f; Gen. 3:14-21; Matt 3:7; Rom. 8:20f; Gal. 5:15; Rev. 22:3)
F. Of Christ and the Way of Salvation
We believe that the salvation of sinners is, and must be, wholly by grace; that this salvation comes to us through the person and work of God’s incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; that in accordance with the Father’s eternal purpose and plan, the Son freely took upon himself our human nature; that he was born of a virgin, and was therefore without sin; that he stood before God as the Last Adam, and as the head and representative of his people, whose we are if we believe in him. / We believe that in our behalf he obeyed every divine command and passed every test, thereby acquiring for us a perfect righteousness; that by his substitutionary death on the Cross he made a full atonement for all our sins, past, present, and future; and that by this same atonement he fully satisfied the justice of God, pacified his wrath, and secured for us the blessings of eternal life. / We believe that God the Father has attested to the truth of all these things by granting that Christ should perform innumerable mighty miracles, fulfill numerous of Old Testament Messianic types and prophecies, rise from the dead to eternal life, be seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses, and (through ministry of the Church) preside over the creation of a holy people; and that the Church is boldly to set forth all such evidences in its proclamation and defense of the Gospel. / Finally, we believe that Christ now sits enthroned in heaven above as our eternal Prophet, Priest, and King; and that by uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies, the fullness of his divine perfections, and the infinite merits of his redemptive work on earth, he is in every way qualified to be a suitable, compassionate, and all-sufficient Savior to those who believe in him and humbly call on his name.
(Eph. 1:6, 2:3; 2 Tim. 1:9f; Titus 2:11f; John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:30ff; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:14, 10:5; Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-22; John 8:46; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rom. 5:12f; 1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 1:22, 4:15, 5:23; Col. 1:18, 2:19 / Matt. 3:15, 4:1-11; John 8:29; Gal. 4:4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Is. 53:1f; Matt. 20:28; John 1:29-36, 6:22-59; Rom. 3:21-26, 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:1-3; Heb. 1:3, 7:27, 9:12; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:3 / John 3:2, 5:31ff, 20:31-31; Acts 1:3, 2:14-38; Rom. 16:25ff; 2 Pet. 1:16f / Heb. 2:1-4; Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55f; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 8:1-2, 10:12, 12:2; Rom. 8:34, 9:24; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:1; Matt. 11:28f; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:12-13)
G. Of the Holy Spirit and His Work
We believe in God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, who is of one essence with the Father and the Son, who proceeds from them both, and who shares with them all the divine attributes; that he was and is active in all the works of God, including creation, providence, judgment, and redemption; that in accordance with the will of the Father, he was the agent of Christ’s virgin birth, and the invisible power behind all his mighty words and works. / We believe that in the economy of redemption the Spirit’s special mission is to apply the fruits of Christ’s work to his people, such that he grants and secures to them regeneration, repentance, faith, sanctification, the various fruits and gifts of the Spirit, power for Christian service, guidance, instruction, perseverance, and final glorification. / We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at the moment of saving faith, at which time the Spirit seals the new believer in Christ and unites him with his Body for time and eternity. / We believe that the various gifts of the Spirit mentioned in Scripture are standard equipment for all God’s people of all time, but that some of these gifts, at God’s good pleasure, operate in different degrees at different times in different places. / We also believe that with the completion of the cannon of Scripture, God’s primary method for the sanctification of his people is the Spirit-led preaching, teaching, and “prophesying” of the written Word of God, where prophesying is understood as timely edification, exhortation, and comfort given through the Scriptures; and that every supposed or genuine exercise of a spiritual gift must be in accordance with the Word, and should be judged by it. / Finally, we believe that the Church (i.e., the people of God) is the eternal dwelling-place of God by the Spirit; that individual believers should therefore seek to be continually filled with the Spirit; and that in their gatherings they should always pray for the fullest possible operation of the Spirit, even as they yield themselves to the Spirit’s special pleasure, which is to exalt the person and work Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.
(Matt. 3:16-17, 12:28; John 14:16-17, 15:26, 16:7-8, 13; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; 2 Cor. 3:17, 13:4; Gen. 1:1-2; Ps. 104:30; Matt. 12:28; Luke 1:35, 4:14, 5:17 / John 3:4-8, 14:26, 15:26, 16:5-15; Acts 5:32, 16:14; 1 Cor. 12, 14; Gal. 5:22f; 2 Thess. 3:13; Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:27 / Matt. 3:11; Acts 10:15-18; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13, 4:30 / 1 Cor. 12:1f, 13:8ff, 14:1-33; Heb. 13:8, 1 Pet. 4:10 / John 17:17; Acts 20:32; 1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; John 8:31, 15:7; 1 Thess. 5:20-22; 1 John 2:14, 4:1 / Is. 66:1f; Ezek. 37:27, 43:4f; Luke 11:13; John 16:14; Acts 13:2, 19:1-7; 1 Cor. 6:19-20, 14:1f; Eph. 2:22, 5:18; 1 Thess. 5:16f; Rev. 1:10, 21:3)
H. Of Justification
We believe that justification is the great foundational blessing of the Gospel; that it is altogether a gift of God’s grace; that God alone is the one who justifies sinners, which is to say that he, by placing them in Christ, declares them to be righteous in his sight; that justification is not, therefore, through works of righteousness which we have done, but through simple faith in the works that Christ has done; that it includes not only pardon for our sins, which God credited to Christ’s account and then punished on the Cross, but also the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, which God credits to our account at the moment of saving faith. / We believe that justification secures for us every other spiritual blessing necessary for time and eternity: union with Christ, reconciliation with God, spiritual adoption as his beloved sons and daughters, preservation, sanctification, glorification, and more.
(Luke 24:46-47; Acts 13:39; Rom. 1:16-17; Rom. 4:16, 6:23; Eph. 2:8; Zech. 3:2-4; Rom. 8:33; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 5:1f; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Acts 10:43; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 3:7-9; Titus 3:5; Is. 53:11-12; Zech. 3:2-4; John 5:24; Rom. 4:23-25; 2 Cor. 5:21 / Rom. 5:10, 8:15-17, 29-30; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:18; Gal. 4:1-6; Eph. 1:3)
I. Of the Grace of Regeneration
We believe that in order for sinners to be saved they must first be regenerated or born again; that regeneration consists in the divine gift and creation of a holy disposition of the mind, heart, and will; that it is accomplished in a manner beyond our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with the proclamation of the person and work of Christ, and with the result that it secures a voluntary and joyful obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the spiritual fruits of repentance, faith, and newness and holiness of life.
(Jer. 31:31f; Ezek. 37:1-12; John 3:1-8; Eph. 2:4f; 1 Pet. 1:3; Ezek. 36:26; Rom. 5:5; Heb. 8:7ff; Matt. 13:18-23; Mark 4:26-27; John 1:12-13, 3:8, 12:32; Phil. 2:13; Matt. 5:1-9, 7:15-20; Acts 11:18, 16:14; Rom. 6:4; Gal. 5:16-23; Heb. 12:10; 1 John 5:1, 4, 18)
J. Of Repentance and Faith
We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, as well as inseparable graces, purchased by Christ and produced in the soul by the regenerating work of the Spirit of God; that by these twin graces the saints are convinced of their guilt, danger, and helplessness, but also of the way of salvation through Christ; that as a result of this they turn back to God with a broken and contrite spirit, confessing their sin and seeking his mercy; and that at the same time they heartily receive the Lord Jesus Christ, relying on him alone as their all-sufficient Teacher, Savior, and King.
(Mark 1:15; Acts 11:18, 17:30; Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:18; Ps. 51; John 16:8-11; Luke 15:18-21, 18:9-14; Acts 2:37, 16:25-30; Matt. 23:8; John 1:12; Acts 2:36; Phil. 3:3-4; Col. 2:1-3; Heb. 4:14f, 7:25; Rev. 1:5, 17:14)
K. Of Sanctification
We believe that sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, the saints are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work, begun in regeneration, carried on throughout their life on earth, and completed at the moment of death or at the return of the Lord; that it involves the continual use of biblically appointed means, including personal meditation upon the Word of God, faith, prayer, watchfulness, self-examination, obedience, regular participation in church life, and the exercise of one’s spiritual gifts in ministry.
(1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 12:10; 2 Peter 1:4; Rom. 6:ff; 2 Cor. 3:18, 7:1-2; Eph. 4:11-16, 20-24; Phil. 1:9-11, 3:12-16; Heb. 6:1, 12:23; 2 Pet. 1:5-8, 3:18; 1 John 3:2; Matt. 7:24f, 26:41; John 15:1-11, 17:17; Rom. 12:1f; 1 Cor. 11:27-32, 14:26; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 10:25, 11:1f; 1 Pet. 2:2, 4:10)
L. Of the Perseverance of the Saints
We believe that those whom God has justified and sealed in Christ can never totally or finally fall away, but that they are eternally secure, and will continue in the faith to the very end; that this persevering attachment to Christ is a gracious work of the triune God himself, and a grand mark that distinguishes his true children from those who falsely profess to the faith; that such preservation is not only consistent with, but positively requires, the active participation of believers, in that they must, and will, abide in Christ, and keep themselves in the love of God; that Scriptural warnings to the saints against their falling away are to be taken with utmost seriousness, and are instruments of God, used to preserve them in the faith; that from time to time, and possibly to their great injury, the saints may fall into various temptations and sins, with the result that they grieve the Spirit and fall under the chastening hand of their loving heavenly Father; but also that in the end, through the intercessions of their great High Priest, they will renew their repentance and faith, be restored, and go on to strengthen their brethren.
(John 6:35-40, 10:11-16, 25-30, Rom. 8:29-39, Phil. 1:6, Heb. 13:5, 1 John 3:9, 4:4, 5:18; Ps. 121, Jer. 32:40, John 10:28-29, 14:16-18, 17:9-19, 1 Pet. 1:5, Jude 1; Job 17:9, Matt. 13:20-21, John 6:60ff, John 13:18, 1 John 2:19; John 15:1f, Phil. 2:13, 3:12f, Heb. 6:12, 11:6, Jude 1:21; John 15:5-8, Acts 27:27-32, Rom. 11:12, Col. 1:21-23; Luke 22:31-34, 22:54-62, John 21:15-19, Rom. 8:27, 2 Cor. 2:6-7, Gal. 6:1, Heb. 7:25, James 5:19-21)
M. Of the Two Biblical Perspectives on God’s Plan of Salvation
We believe that the biblical revelation of God’s plan of salvation supplies us with two different perspectives, or paradigms, whose harmony is sure, yet also mysterious and unfathomable to the human mind. // The first is the perspective of God’s absolute sovereignty in the salvation of his people. In accordance with this perspective we believe that in eternity past, out of his mere free grace, and without reference to human works or decisions foreseen, God chose, out of fallen, sinful humanity, a great multitude of persons from every tribe, tongue, family, and nation, so that they might belong to his Son; and that in the fullness of time, by that same free grace, he sent his Son to redeem them without fail, and subsequently the Holy Spirit to call them without fail. / We believe that this glorious display of God’s sovereign grace utterly excludes all boasting, except boasting in the Lord; that it is meant to promote ever-deepening love, gratitude, humility, dependency, zeal, trust, worship, and an active imitation of God’s free mercy and grace towards our neighbors. / Finally, we believe that the mystery of divine election is consistent with the use of the means of grace, and encourages such use in the highest degree; that divine election may indeed be ascertained by the effects it has in the lives of all who truly believe; that it is a strong foundation of Christian assurance and joy; and that to ascertain it in regard to ourselves demands and deserves our utmost diligence. // The second perspective is that of man’s freedom on trial. In accordance with this perspective we believe that through his self-revelation in nature, conscience, and the Gospel, God is at work to test every man’s love of God, truth, and righteousness; that in love, and through these means, he actively strives with all men, sincerely desiring that they seek him and find him, though he is not far from any of us; that to this end he commands his Church to take the Gospel to every creature, and also that all men everywhere repent and put their trust in the Savior of the world; that everyone who is willing to do God’s will shall see and know the truth of the Gospel; that all who fear him and work righteousness are welcome to him; that whosoever will may take of the water of life without cost; and that if anyone is condemned, it is because he loved darkness rather than the light, and thereby judged himself unworthy of eternal life. // With the Bible itself, we affirm that the doctrines of divine election and predestination are high mysteries which must be handled with special wisdom and care; and that because this is so, our church must always strive to honor, balance, and lovingly proclaim from Scripture both the perspective of God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation and the perspective of man’s freedom on trial.
(Deut. 29:29, Is. 40:28, Rom. 11:3, 1 Cor. 8:2, 13:8-10 // Is. 41:8-10, 43:1-7, John 15:16, Rom. 3:11, 9:6-26, 11:5-6, Eph. 1:3-14, 2:1f, 2 Thess. 2:13-14, 2 Tim. 1:8-9, 1 Pet. 1:1-2, Rev. 5:9; Is. 53:8, Matt. 20:28, John 10:15, 17:9, 19, Rom. 8:31ff, Eph. 5:25, John 10:16, Rom. 8:30, Acts 13:48, 15:14 / Luke 18:9-14, John 15:5, Rom. 3:27, 1 Cor. 1:26ff, Eph. 1:5-6, Col. 3:15, 2 Thess. 2:13f, Rev. 5:8f / Luke 18:7, John 8:31, Phil. 3:12; Matt. 7:15f, Acts 11:23, 1 Cor. 15:10, 1 Thess. 1:2-10; Rom. 4:16, Eph. 1:6, Col. 3:12f, 1 Pet. 2:4-9; Col. 2:1-3, 2 Pet. 1:1-11, Heb. 6:1-12 // Gen. 2:16-17, Rom. 1:18f; Gen. 6:3, Acts 17:26f; Matt. 11:28f, 28:18f, Luke 24:46-47, Acts 17:23, Rom. 10:14f, Col. 1:23, 1 Tim. 2:5, Rev. 14:6; John 7:17; Acts 10:35; Rev. 21:6, 22:17; John 3:19, Acts 13:46 // LBC III:7, Acts 20:27, 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
N. Of the Harmony of Law and Grace
We believe that the moral law of God, written on human hearts and fully revealed in the Bible, is the eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government, and that this law is spiritual, holy, righteous, and good; but also that, for this very reason, the law stands as a deadly threat to fallen, sinful man, placing him under condemnation and in danger of eternal punishment due to his natural inability and unwillingness to obey and fulfill it; and that because of all this, no flesh can or will be justified by the works of the law. / However, we also believe that by placing them safely in the Righteous One—Jesus Christ—God has delivered his children from the curse of the law, as well as from their natural hostility to it; and that as a consequence of this, God’s law is no longer a burden to them, but a delight, since now they are ever-increasingly willing and able to walk in the footsteps of their holy Master, fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law in the freedom of the Gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Ex. 20:1-17, Matt. 5:17, 22:34-40, Luke 16:17, Rom. 1:28ff, 2:12-16, 7:7-12; Josh. 24:19, Rom. 7:13-24, Rom. 4:15, 8:7-8, Gal. 3:19, Heb. 12:18-21; Gal. 2:16, Rom. 3:20 / Gal. 3:13, John 5:42, Heb. 8:7-12; Ps. 40:8, 119:97, Matt. 11:30, John 1:17, Rom. 8:3-4, Gal. 5:1, 13, Heb. 8:7-15, 1 John 5:3)
O. Of a Gospel Church
We believe that a true visible church of Christ is an assembly of born-again, water-baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel; that it seeks to observe the ordinances of Christ and to be governed by his laws; that the members of such a church may freely exercise the gifts, rights, and responsibilities granted to them by God’s word; and that its only officers are Elders (also referred to as Overseers and Pastors) and Deacons, whose qualifications, prerogatives, and duties are set forth in the New Testament.
(Matt. 26:28, John 10:16, 1 Cor. 1:1-3, 11:25, 12:13, Phil. 1:3-7, Eph. 2:11-18, 1 John 1:1-4; Matt. 7:24ff, 16:17-19, 18:15-20, 28:20, John 14:15, Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 4:17, 11:12, 23-25, Gal. 6:2, 1 Thess. 4:1-2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6, 2 John 6; Rom. 12:1f, 1 Cor. 12:4ff, 14:12, Eph. 4:7, Heb. 13:17; Acts 14:23, 20:28, Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1)
P. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
We believe that the Lord of the Church has ordained two sacraments, to be administered regularly until his return. / The first, Christian baptism, is the immersion in water (or, if necessary, the sprinkling with water) of a believer into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe that water baptism—by means of a solemn, beautiful, and richly symbolic action—displays the believer’s faith in his crucified, buried, and risen Savior; that it also displays the fruit that faith, which is spiritual cleansing, as well as death to sin and resurrection to newness of life; and that this sacrament is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership. / The second sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, is observed whenever the members of the church, by the sacred use of bread and wine (or grape juice) commemorate together the dying love of Christ, and participate afresh in the redemptive fruits of that love. We believe this sacrament is always to be preceded by careful instruction and solemn self-examination, through which it may properly result in spiritual refreshing, gratitude, and joy.
(Matt. 3:5-6, 13-17, 28:18-20, Mark 16:16, John 4:2, Acts 2:37-42, 8:12, 10:47-48, 16:32-34, 18:8, 22:16, Gal. 3:26-28, Rom 6:4, Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38, 8:12, 9:17f, 10:47-48, 19:1-6, 22:16, 1 Cor. 1:13f, 12:14, Pet. 3:18f / Matt. 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20, (John 6:41-58), 1 Cor. 10:14-22, 11:23-34, John 15:11, 1 John 1:4)
Q. Of the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day
We believe that the Sabbath Day, which in the beginning God set apart as a day of rest and worship for all mankind, and which at the giving of the Mosaic Law was instituted as a day of rest and worship for his OT people, stood as a type and picture of the eternal rest he now offers to all men—and commands them to enter—through the Gospel. / We believe that Christians do in fact enter this rest, first at the moment of saving faith, then more fully at the entrance of their spirits into heaven, and more fully still at the resurrection of the righteous at Christ’s return. / We believe that in order to underscore the blessed NT truth that God’s children can and should rest in Christ at all times, the NT does not, by an ordinance, tie the worship of God to the Sabbath or any special day of the week. / Nevertheless, we also believe that through a holy tradition inaugurated by Christ himself on the day of his resurrection, and perpetuated in the practice of the early church, God’s people are invited and encouraged to designate the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day; that on this day they do well to assemble themselves together in order to celebrate and be refreshed in the spiritual rest God has given them, as they reverently and joyfully observe the ordinances of NT worship; and that in doing so God will be pleased, Christ exalted, his people blessed, and the world confronted afresh with the good news of the Gospel.
(Gen. 2:3, Ex. 20:8, Mark 2:28, Col. 2:16-17 / Heb. 4:3-11, Rev. 14:13, 20:4-6 / Rom. 14:5, Col. 2:16 / Matt. 28:1, Mark 16:2, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, Rev. 1:10; Is. 56:1-5, 58:13-14, 1 Cor. 16:2, Heb. 10:26; Is. 56:1-5, 58:13-14, Mark 2:27-28, 1 Cor. 11:26)
R. Of Civil Government
We believe that the institution of civil government is by divine appointment, that it exists for the interests and good order of human society, and that its proper role is the administration of justice, consisting in the impartial application of God’s law; that governmental leaders are servants of God, and for this reason are to be prayed for, honored, and, so much as possible, conscientiously obeyed. / However, we also believe that in the providence of God, good or tolerable governments can become bad; that under such circumstances it is the positive obligation of the Church to speak prophetically to rulers, calling them back to God, truth, and righteousness; that for conscience’ sake Christians may, at times, find it necessary to disobey man’s word out of obedience to God’s; that Christians may, at times, also find it necessary to join together with other men of good will in lawfully withdrawing themselves from beneath a wicked government, in order to create and/or place themselves beneath a good one; and that at all times their supreme loyalty is to Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of their conscience, and the one true Ruler of the kings of the earth.
(2 Sam. 23:3, Ps. 94:8-11, Rom. 1:18f, 2:12-16, 13:1-7, 1 Pet. 2:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:1-4, Matt. 22:15-21, Rom. 13:7, Titus 3:1 / Ex. 1:8f, Dan. 11:29-35; Ex. 5:1f, 1 Kings 1:17f, Dan. 5:1f, Matt. 14:1-5; Dan. 3:16-18, 6:7-10, Acts 4:18-20, 5:29; Ex. 2-15, Judges 3, 4, 6-8, 11-12, 15, 1 Kings 11:1-12:24, Dan. 9:29-35; Ps. 2, 72:11, Rev. 1:5, 17:4)
S. Of the Righteous and the Unrighteous
We believe that there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the unrighteous; that only those who have trusted in Christ, and who are sanctified by the Spirit of our God, are righteous in his sight; and that all who continue in impenitence and unbelief are unrighteous in his sight, and remain under the curse of the law; and that this distinction holds among men for time and eternity.
(Gen. 18:23, Is. 5:20, Prov. 10:25, 11:31, 14:32, Mal. 3:18; Acts 10:34f, John 3:36, Rom. 1:17, 6:17-18, 22-23, 7:6, 1 Cor. 1:30-32, 6:9-11, 1 John 5:12; Gal. 3:10, Matt. 7:13-14, John 3:19, 36, 1 John 5:19; Matt. 25:46, Luke 9:23-26, 16:19-31, Rom. 2:8f, 2 Thess. 1:3-10, 2:12, Rev. 22:11)
T. Of the Intermediate State
We believe that after death and prior to the resurrection and judgment at Christ’s return, the spirits of the unrighteous descend into Hades, where, in darkness and flame, they consciously know themselves to be excluded from the life-giving presence of God, and under his wrath; but that the spirits of the righteous ascend into Heaven, where, in a state of spiritual perfection, they consciously enjoy unhindered fellowship with God, Christ, the holy angels, and the spirits of righteous men made perfect, even as they await their eternal reward at the resurrection of the dead and the day of judgment.
(Ps. 73:15-20, Luke 8:31, 16:19-21, 2 Thess. 1:9, Jude 6-7; 2 Cor. 5:6-8, Phil. 1:19-26, Heb. 12:22-24, Rev. 6:9, 20:4-6)
U. Of the Consummation and the World to Come
We believe that the Consummation of all things is certain and soon to come; that with a view to the greater glory of his Son, God the Father has appointed the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplish it; that Christ will indeed come again bodily, in power and great glory, with all the holy angels; that he will raise the dead, transform the living, judge all men and all angels, destroy the present earth and its works by fire, and create new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells; that in the Last Judgment a solemn separation will occur, based on principles of righteousness, wherein the unrighteous are judged and sent to eternal punishment, but the righteous are rewarded and welcomed to eternal joy; that in the world to come the saints will live in perfect union with their triune God, beholding, enjoying, worshiping, and serving him; and that in heart, word, and deed, they will be to the praise of his glory, and to the praise of the glory of his grace, forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Cor. 7:29-31, 1 Pet. 4:7, 1 John 2:17-18, Rev. 22:20; Acts 3:21, Rom. 8:21, Phil. 3:20-21, 1 Pet. 2:13, Rev. 21:21; Matt. 24:29-31, 25:21, Acts 1:11, Heb. 9:28, 1 John 2:28, Rev. 1:7; Is. 25:6-8, Dan. 12:2, Luke 20:27-38, John 5:28-29, 6:40, 11:25-26, Acts 24:15, 1 Cor. 15:20-28, 51-53, 2 Cor. 5:1-5, 10, 1 Thess. 4:13ff; Matt. 24:35, 2 Pet. 3:7; Matt. 13:36-43, 47-50, 25:14ff, Acts 10:42, 17:31, Rom. 2:2-16, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Thess. 5:1f, 2 Thess. 1:3f, 1 John 4:17, Rev. 20:11-15; John 14:1-6; Rev. 21:1-7, 22:1-5; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14, 3:21)
Section 3: Positions on Urgent Contemporary Issues
Here are some short statements indicating the position of this church on several contemporary issues of great importance. As need arises, others such statements may be added through our regular amendment process.
A. The Sanctity of Human Life
We believe that human life, being created in the image and likeness of God, and embraced by the Son of God through his incarnation, is sacred and invaluable; that the intentional destruction of innocent human life at any stage, from the moment of conception to natural death, is a violation of the Fifth Commandment forbidding murder; that abortion (even in cases of rape or incest) is never justified, except to save the life of the mother; that human cloning, in vitro fertilization (as currently practiced), assisted suicide, and active euthanasia all involve the destruction of true human beings, and are therefore forbidden by God; that it is the positive duty of civil government to protect innocent human life from conception to natural death; that Christian citizens should strive to see this principle implemented in law; that Christians should treat aborted or abortion-minded women with great compassion, since in deciding to abort their baby they are often frightened, deceived, and intimidated; and that there is abundant pardon, healing, purpose, and hope for all who have sinned in this matter, but who have sincerely repented of their sin and placed their trust in the loving giver of all life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Gen. 1:26, 9:6, John 5:27; Ex. 20:13; Ex. 21:22-23, Job 1:21, Ps. 139:14-16, Is. 44:24, 49:1f, Luke 1:44, James 2:26; Gen. 9:5-7, Ps. 82; Pr0v. 24:11-12, Dan. 4:27; Mark 6:64, Acts 13:7, 17:30; Ex. 34:6, Ps. 103:1-14, Matt. 9:9-13, 11:28-29, Luke 7:36-50, 1 Pet. 1:3, 13, 21)
B. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage
We believe that marriage was instituted by God for the purpose of companionship, mutual help, sexual delight, procreation, and the spiritual formation of children; that in all these ways it serves as a picture of the loving covenant relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church; that as a result of this it is meant to bind one man to one woman for one whole life; that the husband is to be the servant leader of the home, and to love his wife as Christ loved the church, laying down his life both for her and her children; that the wife is to submit herself to the godly leadership of her husband, even as the church submits herself to Christ; that divorce is permitted, but not required, in the case of adultery, or spousal abandonment and subsequent remarriage; that remarriage is permitted when a spouse dies, commits adultery, or forsakes his (or her) partner and remarries; that a man who, as a Christian, has initiated a divorce or impermissibly remarried, may not serve as an elder or deacon; that some Christians are called by the Lord to remain single and celibate throughout their lifetime, in order to serve him without distraction in the work of the Kingdom; and that in a world suffering from profound confusion about gender and sexuality, it especially behooves God’s people to fulfill their marriage vows diligently and honorably, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of their neighbors.
(Gen. 2:18-25, Matt. 19:4, John 3:28-30, Eph. 5:22-25; Gen. 2:24, Prov. 5:18-20, Mal. 2:14-16, Matt. 5:31-32; Eph. 5:25-32, 1 Pet. 3:7; Eph. 5:22-24, 1 Pet. 3:1-6; Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-10, 1 Cor. 7:15; Rom. 7:1-3, 1 Cor. 7:10-16, 39; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7, 10, 12, Tit. 1:6; Matt. 9:12, 1 Cor. 7:25-40; Matt. 5:16, John 15:8, 1 Cor. 10:31)
C. Gender and Sexuality
We believe that God is the author of gender, marriage, sexual expression, and the laws by which sexual expression is to be governed; that he is a great friend to full and free sexual expression within the bounds of monogamous marriage; but also that, out of love and for our good, he identifies all other kinds of sexual activity—such as fornication (i.e., sex outside of marriage), adultery, polygamy, homosexuality, bisexuality, pedophilia, incest, bestiality, and the use of pornography—as departures from of his norm and forbidden. / Accordingly, we believe that churches, leaders, and believers must not endorse, or seem to endorse, any of these activities; that they must not participate in, or allow their facilities to be used for, homosexual, polygamous, or incestuous marriages or unions; and that if the State should try to force them do so, they must respectfully but firmly obey God rather than man. / We believe that a person’s gender is determined from the moment of conception, and is easily discerned by simple inspection of his/her reproductive organs (or, if necessary, by chromosomal analysis); that gender confusion is not by God’s creative act, but flows from man’s fallen nature, distorted family relations, and worldly error and lies; that abnormal sexual orientation or a mistaken sense of sexual identity, though traceable to man’s fallen nature, are not in and of themselves transgressions of God’s law, but that acting upon them is; and that any attempt to alter one’s gender or appearance by hormone treatments, surgery, or cross-dressing is forbidden. / Finally, we believe that Christians should strive to show God’s love and compassion to all who suffer from gender confusion; that we should encourage such neighbors to realize that they are not alone in their struggle, since in one way or another we all must fight to manage our sexuality faithfully; that by the power of the Holy Spirit, believers in Jesus are well able to resist and overcome every kind of sexual sin; and that in some cases (and perhaps many) those who suffer from gender confusion can indeed be healed and restored to the joys of heterosexual love and marriage.
(Gen. 2:18f, Heb. 13:4, 1 Thess. 4:2-5; Prov. 5:18-19, Song 5:1, 1 Cor. 7:1-7, Heb. 13:4; Lev. 18:1ff, Matt. 5:28, Rom. 1:24f, 1 Cor. 6:9ff, 1 John 2:6, 1 Tim. 1:10; Rom. 1:32, 1 Cor. 5:1f, Eph. 5:3; 1 Cor. 3:10-17, 5:1ff, 1 Tim. 5:22, 1 Pet. 1:14-16; Acts 4:19, 5:29 / Gen. 17:9-14, Ps. 139:13-16, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 4:7; Gen. 18:16-21, 19:4-5, Matt. 9:12, Mark 7:21-22, John 8:44, Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 14:40, James 3:16, 1 John 2:16; Matt. 15:16-20, James 1:14-16; Deut. 22:5, 1 Cor. 11:13-15; Gen. 39:6-12, Rom. 7:13f, 1 Cor. 7:9, Gal. 5:23, 2 Tim. 2:22; Rom. 6:1-6, 7:25, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:17, Phil. 4:16)
D. Church, State, and Freedom of Religion
We believe that God has ordained three foundational institutions for the good of individuals and society: the Family, the Church, and the State, and that each has its unique role, privileges, and responsibilities; that the Church is never to unite with, or seek to control, the State, but rather must speak to it prophetically, so as to help it fulfill its divine calling to a godly administration of justice; that the State is never to unite with, seek to control, patronize, or supply revenues to, any religious body; that it is never to impose a particular faith, philosophy, or ideology upon its citizens; that instead it is to create and maintain a civil and legal environment within which all people of all nations may fulfill their divine calling to seek and find the truth about God; that this mandate requires the State to make every effort to safeguard the faith, conscience, and freedom of expression of all its citizens, insofar as the latter are consistent with the law of God and the well-being of all people; and that Christians should not hesitate to speak up publicly in favor of these principles. // We also believe, from Scripture, that from time to time, and especially at the end of the age, the State will fall under power of Satan, abandon its proper calling, usurp God’s prerogatives, and persecute his people; and that whenever such a government seeks to force Christians to violate God’s laws and/or their own conscience, believers have both the right and the responsibility to disobey the State, so as to keep their conscience devoid of offense, glorify God, and bear witness to the one true Ruler of the kings of the earth.
(Gen. 2:18ff, Eph. 5:22-6:4, Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15, Rom. 13:1f; Ex. 5:1f, 1 Kings 1:17f, Dan. 5:1f, Matt. 14:1-5, 22:21; Matt. 22:21; Dan. 3:1f, Rev. 13:11f; Is. 55:6-7, Acts 15:13-18, 17:22-31, Rom. 1-2; Acts 19:23ff, 25:23ff, 26:24:32; Ps. 2:10-12, Acts 13:4-12, 1 Thess. 2:13-16 // Dan. 3, 1 Thess. 2, Rev. 13; Matt. 5:16, Acts 4:18-20, 23-31, 5:29, 23:1, 24:16)
Section 4: Core Values
Confessional churches are guided and held together not only by their doctrinal distinctives, but also by their core values: the things they deeply care about and try at all times to keep in view as they walk through the wilderness of this world to the completed Kingdom of God. At this church we deeply care about the presence of God in our gatherings, the exaltation of Christ, the centrality of the Gospel, doctrinally rich preaching and teaching, biblical apologetics, personal integrity supported by loving church discipline, strong families led by strong men and women, every-member ministry, Spirit-led outreach to our community, world missions, the glory of God, and the joy of the Lord. May the Lord of the Church richly enable us to pursue and enjoy these great goods!
ARTICLE V: CHURCH COVENANT
Section 1: Purpose
In the unfolding of Church history, it fell to the Baptist movement to develop the idea of a gathered church. A gathered church is a family of born-again believers who voluntarily join together around Christ and the ordinances of the Gospel. But as in the natural, so in the spiritual: A family cannot live in peace, or function together properly, unless its members understand, agree with, and abide by the purpose, goals, and rules of the family. Hence the church covenant, which has shown itself to be an effective tool for preserving the purity and unity of the church by making all these things clear.
This church uses our covenant in two ways. First, we ask all prospective members to read it, and then to affirm before the elders their willingness to live by it, with God and the church family helping them. Secondly, at our quarterly church business meetings we remind ourselves of this covenant by hearing it read aloud. In this way we seek to spur one another on to live in accordance with a far greater Covenant: the one initiated in love, sealed by sacrifice, and kept for eternity by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The document presented here is the covenant we read aloud at our various gatherings. The same document, with appropriate modifications, is to be read and signed by all persons desiring membership in our church.
Section 2: Church Covenant
Trusting that our Heavenly Father, by his Spirit, has brought us to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and having been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we do now solemnly and joyfully renew our covenant with each other:
With God as our help, we will seek to promote the edification of our church by faithfully engaging in personal and family devotions; by raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; by fulfilling all family obligations and commitments; by regularly assembling ourselves together for worship, teaching, prayer, and the observance of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; by welcoming, and critically testing, instruction from the Word of God, thereby seeking to grow towards the unity of the faith; by praying for the members of our church family, and especially for its leaders; by discovering and using our spiritual gifts, both within and without the church; and by cheerfully and faithfully giving of our time, talent, and treasure to the work of the church.
With God as our help, we will seek to preserve the unity of the Spirit in our church by walking together in Christian love; by bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, and tangibly helping one another; by avoiding factions, gossip, backbiting, and anger; by being slow to take offense, and, in the event of offense, quick to seek reconciliation through repentance, confession, and forgiveness, both extended and received; by willingly offering and receiving encouragement and admonition as circumstances may require; by participating in, and submitting to, the disciplinary procedures of this church in regard to sound doctrine and ethical conduct; by obeying our church leaders as men who are called by Christ, and who must give an account of their labors to the Lord; and by gladly living together in accordance with the provisions of our Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and Constitution.
With God as our help, we will seek the advance of Christ’s kingdom by living in such a way as to be a city on a hill before a lost, dying, but beloved world; by denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present evil age; by offering Spirit-led testimony of our faith in Christ to family, friends, and neighbors, and by always doing so with love, gentleness, and respect; by being a true friend of world missions; by being thoughtful and engaged Christian citizens; by seeking to aid the poor and oppressed; and by living with humility, justice, compassion, holiness, and peace before all men.
As we pursue these worthy goals, we pray the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with us all. Amen.
Section 3: Our Church’s Authoritative Interpreter of Scripture
This church seeks to live under the authority of God, Christ, Holy Scripture, and a Statement of Faith and Church Covenant that accurately represent the teachings of the Bible. However, in our life together as a church family, situations will inevitably arise in which some person, or group of persons, must issue an authoritative decision as to the proper interpretation of Scripture and/or our governing documents. In our church, that group of persons is the Board of Elders. It is understood, however, that in accordance with the provisions of this constitution members may challenge the elder’s interpretation(s) with a view to amending our governing documents accordingly. Nevertheless, until those documents are so amended, the decision of the united Board of Elders will stand as the official interpretation of Scripture and the policy of this church.
ARTICLE VI: CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
Section 1: Requirements for Membership
Membership in this church is open to all qualified persons, without reference to age, sex, color, or ethnic background. To qualify for membership, a person must profess faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrate a good understanding of the gospel, give a personal testimony of his (or her) spiritual rebirth, and be baptized in water. / If a candidate was baptized as an infant, but has never publicly declared his faith in Christ through water baptism (ideally, by immersion), we will point him to the example and teaching of the Lord on this subject, and encourage him to do so; in the end, however, we will honor his conscience and conviction on the matter. / Persons desiring to become members of our church must sign a Church Membership Agreement, in which they declare that they have read our Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and Constitution, are in substantial agreement with them, and are willing to abide by the provisions of these documents.
Section 2: Procedure for Taking Membership
Any person seeking membership in this church—whether a new Christian, a Christian new to the area, or a local Christian who is changing churches—should communicate his (or her) intentions to one of the elders. That elder will direct him to the next membership class, which will normally consist of three sessions, each supplying ample opportunity for questions and answers. At the first class, the candidate will receive a packet containing our Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and Constitution, and will also be asked to complete an application for membership. Upon completion of the final class, if the candidate still desires membership, he will meet with the Board of Elders for an interview. In some cases, the elders may recommend that the candidate simply attend our church for a season in order to gain a better understanding of the Gospel or to align himself more fully with the teachings of the church. If, however, the elders all agree that the candidate meets the qualifications for membership, they will ask him to express his desire for membership by signing the Church Membership Agreement. Following this, they will introduce the candidate to the church family at their earliest convenience, give the members time to offer input, and then ask the congregation to ratify their recommendation by a show of hands. If a simple majority so ratifies, the elders, in behalf of the entire church family, will extend the right hand of fellowship to the new member. At that time, if he so wishes, the new member will briefly share his Christian testimony with the church family.
Section 3: Privileges of Membership
A. Participation: Members may freely participate in all the ministries of the church; they may expect conscientious instruction, counseling, and spiritual oversight on the part of the elders, and practical assistance from the deacons; if approved by the elders, they may lead any ministry to which they are called, or occupy any staff position for which they are hired; also, if approved by the elders and the congregation, male members may hold the office of elder or deacon.
B. Consultation and Voting: As Article VII of this constitution indicates (page 16), our church seeks to be governed by Christ through a Board of Elders working in consultation with the entire church family. Often such consultation will involve voting. Members are eligible to vote if they are eighteen (18) years of age or older, attend church faithfully (i.e., on average once every two weeks), and are physically present at the meeting(s) in which a vote is taken. In particular, this constitution stipulates that members will vote on: 1) the induction of new members, 2) the selection, annual re-affirmation, and (if necessary) removal of elders and deacons, 3) the annual budget, 4) special expenditures not covered by the approved budget, 5) any transactions involving real property, 6) the calling and salary of vocational elders and staff, 7) the adoption, amendment, or repeal of one or more articles of this constitution.
C. Limitations: Membership in this church, and/or financial gifts to it, does not confer upon members any right to the physical and financial assets of the church, or a share in them. These belong exclusively to the church corporation, such that, if and when the corporation winds up, they will be distributed to evangelical ministries in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.
D. Inspection of Records: Members may inspect and copy the prepared financial statements of the church, as well as the minutes of church business meetings. They may not, however, under any circumstance, inspect or copy any record relating to an individual’s contributions to the church other than their own.
Section 4: Responsibilities of Membership
This church spells out the responsibilities of its members in its Church Covenant, a document that we believe presents a biblical picture of healthy Christian discipleship. Elders are encouraged to carry out their ministry of spiritual oversight with its provisions in mind; members are encouraged to read and reflect upon it often. Our prayer is that the Lord of the Church will use this covenant to enable us all to fulfill the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Section 5: Discipline of Members
The Christian life is a life of discipleship, and discipleship involves discipline. Ideally, all discipline is self-discipline, a believer’s free-will response to God’s Spirit and Word. However, because of the power indwelling sin, there may be times when corrective discipline on the part of the church family is necessary. This section of our constitution addresses corrective church discipline.
A. Occasions of Church Discipline: Church discipline may be necessary when a believer adopts or teaches doctrines contrary to the Scriptures or the church Statement of Faith; when he persistently engages in immoral behavior as specified in Scripture; when he engages in activities that disrupt the peace and unity of the church; and/or when he refuses to repent of specific offenses.
B. Purposes of Church Discipline: Church discipline is purposeful. It is designed to: 1) produce repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual growth in the person who is disciplined, 2) teach and warn other Christians, 3) protect and promote the spiritual purity of the church, 4) maintain the testimony of the church in the sight of non-Christians, and 5) glorify God, whose holy character, through the godly lifestyle of his people, is manifested to a watching world.
C. Procedure for Church Discipline: The biblical guidelines for corrective church discipline are spelled out by Christ himself in Matt. 18:15-17 and in related NT texts (see Section F). Five steps are usually involved. (1) A concerned brother, in all humility, goes to another brother who seems to be engaged in sin, questions him about his activity, and, if necessary, urges him to repent; (2) If the erring brother refuses to repent, the concerned brother takes with him one or two more brothers to act as witnesses and to speak again with the erring brother. (3) If the erring brother still refuses to repent, the concerned brothers bring the matter to the church. We believe that in practice this means first bringing it to the elders, who represent the church. During this stage of the disciplinary process, the elders will interview the erring brother and investigate the charges against him; as necessary, they may also warn the erring brother that the next step in the process will be to make his sin known to the whole church. During this investigative stage of church discipline, the elders may require the brother to abstain from participation in a leadership role, the Lord’s Supper, voting, or other privileges of church membership. (4) If the erring brother still remains unrepentant, the elders will bring the matter to the whole church. In practice, this usually involves calling a special meeting in which the elders will inform the members about the matter and answer their questions. Since love covers a multitude of sins, the elders will strive to share only the essential facts of the case; nevertheless, all members should understand that biblical church discipline involves naming the particular sin involved. / If the sinning brother is not present, the elders will urge the people to reach out to him, reason with him, and warn him that he is about to be dis-fellowshipped. At such a meeting the congregation will discuss specific strategies for executing this kind of outreach in an orderly manner. (5) If, after all this, the sinning brother still does not repent, the elders, at a further meeting of the church, will announce that from now on he is to be regarded as “a Gentile and a tax-gatherer” – that is, as an unbeliever. During this time the people will avoid all contact with the brother, except in order to speak with him for the purpose of evangelism and/or restoration. / If necessary, the elders will also inform other churches in the area of their decision to terminate the membership of the erring brother, and to break fellowship with him. / The elders will not welcome into this church any person from another church who is presently under biblically valid church discipline, but will instead call upon him to repent and be reconciled to his home church. / Because of the power of residual sin in our flesh, the above principles and practices should be applied as diligently and swiftly as possible, yet always with humility, love, grace, holy fear, and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
D. Discipline of Church Officers: The procedure for the discipline of church officers is the same as that for members. Church members, following the guidelines given above, have a right and responsibility to call the observed sins of elders and deacons to their attention, and, if necessary, to the attention of the other elders. However, elders must not receive a charge against a fellow elder unless it comes from the mouth of two or more witnesses. If charges are thus brought against an elder, and they seem to merit investigation, the other elders will ask the accused elder to step down from his duties until the disciplinary process has run its course.
E. Restoration after Church Discipline: It is the joyful privilege of the entire church family to forgive and restore to fellowship any previous member who gives satisfactory evidence of genuine repentance. As a rule, a repentant brother will first approach the elders of the church, seeking restoration. They will hear and evaluate his story, seeking to gauge the genuineness of his repentance. Possibly, they will agree to restore him immediately. Or, they may agree to place the brother on probation, limiting his privileges in various ways until they are convinced he has brought forth spiritual fruit worthy of repentance. When the elders are satisfied that the erring brother has truly repented, they will schedule another meeting of the church. At that time they will declare their judgment that the brother has indeed repented of his sin, encourage him to address the congregation, and urge the people to forgive and receive him from their hearts.
F. Scriptural Basis of Church Discipline: The principles and procedures outlined in this section of our constitution are found in the following biblical texts: Matt. 18:15-20; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-13, 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 2:1-11; Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6, 10-15; 1 Tim. 5:19f; Titus 3:10-11.
Section 6: Termination of Membership
A person’s membership in this church, and the presence of their name on the church rolls, may be terminated in the following ways:
A. Death: Any member who has died shall be removed from the membership roll at the next quarterly church business meeting.
B. Transfer: If a member decides to transfer his membership to another church of similar Baptist faith and practice, and if he is a member in good standing, he may request and be granted a letter of recommendation from the elders. / If he decides to transfer to an evangelical church of dissimilar faith and practice, and if he is a member in good standing, he may request and be granted a letter of character. / Letters of transfer and character to non-evangelical churches will not be granted.
C. Withdrawal: If a member desires to terminate his membership in the church, he may do so by submitting a letter of withdrawal to the Board of Elders. / If the member is under church discipline, this constitution and the Church Membership Agreement he has signed stipulate that he is not allowed to withdraw from membership until the disciplinary process has run its course. / If a member under church discipline does depart, the elders will inform him that for conscience’ sake they must report the particulars of his case to the leaders of any other church he may join.
D. Exclusion: Members can exclude themselves from church membership in various ways. 1) Attendance: If a member’s participation in the gatherings of the church is weak, the elders will make an effort to understand why, and then seek to help the person become a more active member. If, without good reason, a member has not attended church for six consecutive months, his membership will be terminated. If, without good reason, a member’s attendance at Sunday worship (or, in the case of those who cannot regularly attend Sunday worship, at a mid-week gathering) falls below 50% of the meetings for more than six months, his membership will be terminated. 2) Church Discipline: The membership of any person dis-fellowshipped because of church discipline will be terminated. / The elders will write a letter to any person excluded from membership, informing him of their decision to terminate his membership, explaining why the decision was made, and encouraging him to find a church where he can more actively participate.
E. After a Departure: Because we are one body in Christ, the departure of any member, for any reason, will be mourned, though often it can be a cause for great joy, as well. In any case, the elders of this church must strive to understand and learn from the departure or exclusion of any member. / Also, as much possible, the elders must strive to ensure that those who depart find their way into sound evangelical churches, where they can continue to thrive in their walk with the Lord.
ARTICLE VII: CHURCH GOVERNMENT
Section 1: Overview
Whether we think of the Family, the State, or the Church, God has been pleased to govern people through appointed leaders whose privilege and responsibility is to teach and rule those under their charge with a view to the well-being of the society involved. This church believes that God desires to govern his spiritual family and nation through Christ, the head of the Church, and also through a team of spiritually qualified elders given to the church by Christ. However, we also affirm the need of congregational participation in certain decisions so as to avoid abuse of authority on the part of elders. Our church government is, then, a blend of elder and congregational rule.
Section 2: Elders
A. Synonyms for: The New Testament uses three different words to describe the leaders of the church: elders, pastors (or shepherds), and overseers (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:f). These words are used interchangeably; contrary to some church traditions, they do not represent different offices. / While these words do indeed designate an office in the church, we do not believe they should be used as forms of address, something our Lord explicitly forbade in order to avoid self-exaltation and the worship of man. Instead, he desired to promote something of great importance: a spirit of brotherhood among the elders and among the entire church family (Matt. 23:8-12). Thus, following Scripture, we believe members should simply call their leaders by their names, or address them as “brother so-and-so”.
B. Plurality of: The New Testament consistently represents each local church, and each city, as having a plurality of elders. While for a season it may be necessary that a given church have a single elder, the biblical norm is for a team of elders to oversee the affairs of the church (Acts 14:23; James 5:14; Heb. 13:17). For this reason, members should pray that God would grant such a team to the church; existing elders should take positive steps towards achieving this.
C. Responsibility, Accountability, and Authority of: The broad responsibilities of elders are revealed in the biblical terms used to describe their work. As elders, they are mature Christians who function as fathers in the family of God. As overseers they keep watch over God’s people and over the various ministries of the church. As shepherds they feed the flock the good Word of God with a view to its spiritual growth and equipping; also, they protect the flock from spiritual predators, and care for them when they are sick, injured, confused, or afraid (Acts 6:2f, 20:17ff; Eph. 4:11f; 2 Tim. 4:1f). / In the church, the buck stops with the elders. For this reason it is written that elders will give an account to God for the proper fulfillment of their ministry (1 Pet. 1:5f). However, with accountability comes authority. Accordingly, the New Testament repeatedly bestows upon the elders authority to govern the affairs of the church, even as it instructs the people to submit to their leaders and obey them gladly (Acts 5:29, 6:3; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Tim. 3:4-5, 5:17; Heb. 13:17). Such authority is, however, limited to the affairs of the church. Elders have no right to usurp the God-given authority of husbands, fathers, or mothers (Eph. 5:22-6:4); nor can they force the conscience of any believer, or seek to control his (or her) private life (Rom. 14:1ff). Moreover, in the unlikely event that an elder urges obedience to an immoral or unscriptural command, members are under a positive obligation to challenge the legitimacy of such commands (Gal. 2:11-13; 3 John 9-11), and to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
D. Duties of: In line with these general principles, but subject to the limitations found in this constitution, this church confers upon the elders the authority to administer and/or to oversee: 1) the selection of new elders; 2) the formation and operation of the Board of Deacons; 3) the ministry of the Word in preaching and teaching; 4) the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s supper; 5) church discipline, 6) the vetting and induction of new members; 7) the formation and/or operation of various church committees, ministries, meetings, and activities; 8) the financial, legal, and clerical affairs of the church; 9) the appointment and dismissal of vocational pastors and other employees; 10) the care and comfort of individual members and their families; and, 11) any other necessary ministries not reserved to the members themselves. / The NT makes it clear that the elders are not called to do all these things, but (in most cases) simply to oversee them; that one of their primary goals is to equip the saints for works of service; and that one of their greatest joys is to see God’s people step forward with a vision to create, lead, participate in, and complete new or existing ministries in the church. Here is how “this” church becomes “our” church. Wise elders will remember these things, and will preach and teach them often (Eph. 4:11-16).
E. Qualifications of: An elder must be an active member of this church, and a man of good character, ability, accomplishment, and standing. In particular, he must be a man and not a woman, for God has ordained that men hold the positions of leadership in the home and the church; he must aspire to the office of elder; he must be a mature Christian, and not a recent convert; he must be above reproach, temperate, sensible, self-controlled, gentle, upright, devout, hospitable, and zealous for what is good; he must not be pugnacious, contentious, quick-tempered, self-willed, given to drink, a lover of money, or greedy for dishonest gain; if married, he must be the husband of one wife (i.e., he must maintain covenant loyalty to one woman), govern his family well with all dignity, and have trustworthy, submissive children who are not accused of unruliness or rebellion; he must hold firmly to the Word of God, and be able both to teach and defend it against those who would oppose it; and he must have a good reputation among people outside the church (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). / Elders must not be motivated by a spirit of pride or selfish ambition, but by a humble, loving, self-sacrificing desire to serve and build up the brotherhood. This was Christ’s spirit; it must be the elder’s as well (Matt. 20:20-28, 23:1-12; Luke 22:24f; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). / We also believe it is highly desirable that a vocational elder receive formal theological training, a process that not only equips him to serve, but also tests his commitment to do so. / Finally, we recognize that different elders will have different gifts; that while all must be able to teach basic Christian doctrine, not all will be separated to the ministry of preaching and teaching; that some elders will be more active in counseling, administration, evangelism, etc. Such diversity in the gifts and callings of the Board of Elders is to be expected, sought, and gratefully appreciated (1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4:7f; 1 Tim. 5:17).
F. Selection of:
1. Principles of Selection: In NT times elders were appointed by the apostles (or an apostolic representative), just as the apostles themselves were appointed by Christ; there is no biblical record of believers nominating elders or voting to approve an apostle’s choice (Mark 3:13-19; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:3f). In our view, this implies that the apostles meant for existing elders to search out, examine, train, and finally appoint new elders. / However, we also observe that in the appointment of deacons for the church in Jerusalem, the apostles entered into close consultation with its members, demonstrated confidence in their judgment, and apparently ratified their choices (Acts 6). Therefore, since the Lord is tarrying, and since we no longer have apostles in our midst, we think it wise for our church to be guided by the following principles when selecting new elders: nomination by the Board of Elders, followed by close consultation between the elders and the members, followed by a vote of all the members, followed by final appointment and installation by the elders.
2. Normal Procedure for Selection: The procedure for selecting new elders will normally involve the following steps: 1) The existing elder(s) will constantly be on the look-out for qualified, motivated, active church members whom they think might make suitable elders. One way to discover such men is to hold occasional classes on biblical eldership. 2) If there is a need or a desire for a new elder, the existing elders, by unanimous consent, may approach a brother and inquire about his interest in the job. Or, they may invite the members of the church to nominate a candidate. In that case, the elders will discuss the nominee and, with the unanimous consent of the Board, approach him as well. 3) If a candidate desires the office, the existing elders will interview him carefully to determine if he is qualified to fill it; they will make outside inquiries as to his character and previous ministry performance; with the candidate’s knowledge and consent, they will run a background check on him through the State Department of Justice and/or local police department; also, if they wish, they may invite likeminded pastors or leaders in the community to vet the candidate; 4) If the elders desire to appoint the candidate, they will next involve the congregation in the vetting process, asking the members to bring their thoughts, questions, and/or concerns to the Board, whether personally or in writing. 5) If concerns are expressed and found to be valid, the elders will dismiss the candidate. 6) If there are no such concerns, the elders will inform the congregation that the candidate has won their approval, and will ask the members to affirm him by secret ballot. 7) If a 2/3 majority of the members affirms the candidate, the elders will appoint him to office; if not, they will postpone the appointment until such time as the Lord is pleased to create broader support for this particular candidate, or for another (Acts 15:1-30). 8) If the candidate receives the required 2/3 majority vote, the elders will appoint and install him in office as soon as possible, with prayer and the laying on of hands, in a regular Sunday worship service (1 Tim. 4:14, 5:22).
3. The First Elder(s): In the case of an existing church family that has no elder(s), the people themselves must pray that God will grant them one (or more), and then search him (or them) out. If a likely candidate appears on the scene, the members should interview and evaluate him in light of the biblical texts and criteria discussed above. And if, after prayer and discussion, he seems to be qualified, and if the church family is so inclined, they may place him in office by a 2/3 majority vote. The first elder(s), like all elders, will be subject to annual reaffirmation.
G. Composition of: Ideally the Board of Elders is a team of qualified men differing in spiritual gifts yet equal in decision-making authority. For such a team to function smoothly, the elders will need to elect, by unanimous vote, a Team Leader who will facilitate the Board meetings and represent the eldership before the people. God willing, this man will have the spiritual gift of leadership. / The Team Leader will serve in this capacity for a term agreed upon by the other elders; this could be as short as a few months, or as long as a number of years. However, in order to impress upon the members the great truth that Christ alone is the Senior Pastor of the church, it is probably wise for the elders to rotate the position of Team Leader on a regular basis (Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:4:7f; 1 Pet. 5:4). Prayerfully, the elders will let the Lord guide them in implementing this principle.
H. Term of Office: Once elected to office, an elder may serve as long as he wishes, subject to annual reaffirmation by the congregation. An elder’s term of office may be brought to an end by his voluntarily stepping down, or by dismissal. Also, an elder may take a temporary leave of absence; or, with good biblical reasons, and for his own wellbeing, the other elders, by unanimous decision, may require him to do so. The Board of Elders will inform the members of all terminations or leaves of absence, and give an explanation.
I. Meetings of: The Board of elders shall meet regularly, preferably weekly, for prayer, discussion, interviews, and decision-making. Whichever elder is currently serving as the Team Leader will prepare an agenda, prioritize the items for discussion, indicate ideal time limits for handling each item, facilitate the meeting, and make every effort to keep the length of the meeting within the limits agreed upon by the Board. / The church secretary or one of the elders will take minutes, and will ensure that a typewritten copy is properly filed in the office for future reference. Since, ideally, all decisions are made by unanimous consent, elders should be conscientious about attendance. A quorum shall consist of not less than 2/3 of the elders.
J. Decisions of: It is our fervent desire that all decisions related to our life together be made by the head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. But how shall we know his will? In response to this question the Bible sends the elders to the Scriptures, and also to God and Christ in prayer. However, we also believe that because the church is a spiritual family, the fathers of the family (i.e., the elders), in working towards good decisions, should consult often with its members, both informally and formally (i.e., in business meetings). / Also, believing that the Lord reveals his will through consensus, we affirm that the elders should strive for unity in all their decisions. If they cannot reach full agreement, they should postpone the decision and pray. As they pray, they may consult the deacons, the congregation, denominational leaders, and/or other spiritual leaders in the community. If they still cannot fully agree, they may table the matter; or, if a decision is required, they may agree to decide by a simple majority of the elders, but always keeping in view the likely effects of their decision on the peace and unity of the congregation.
K. Dismissal of: At times it may be necessary to dismiss an elder. We believe it is the responsibility of the other elders to do so, but always in close consultation with the members of the church. / Elders are not to receive an accusation against a fellow-elder except from the mouth of two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). If such accusations are substantiated, the offending elder has disqualified himself and must step down. If there is any question about the charges, the remaining elders will investigate, after which, by a simple majority vote, they will decide whether to retain or dismiss the elder, always bearing in mind that a church cannot function in peace or unity if there is widespread doubt about the integrity or competence of its leaders. / If some of the members judge that an elder is not fulfilling his duties conscientiously or competently, they may petition the Board of Elders in writing, with at least seven signatures on the petition, for his dismissal. The elders will interview the signatories, investigate the charges, and, if they are substantiated, dismiss the elder. If the charges cannot be substantiated, the elders will inform the congregation of their findings, after which they will hold a vote of the membership. If a simple majority of the members still votes to dismiss the elder, the other elders must do so. / The congregation may also recommend the dismissal of an elder by declining to re-affirm him with a 2/3 majority vote at the annual business meeting of the church. The other elders will prayerfully discuss and evaluate such a vote. If they are so inclined, they may defend the elder in question to the congregation, and hold another congregational vote. If the church still declines to re-affirm him by a 2/3 majority vote, the other elders must dismiss him.
L. Safeguards Against Abuses of: This constitution, following the New Testament, places great responsibility and authority in the hands of the Board of Elders. However, because of residual sin in the flesh, and because of the inevitability of sharp spiritual warfare directed at church leaders, it also sets up important safeguards against the abuse of that authority. In particular, we affirm that: 1) all candidates for elder must be carefully vetted according to the Scriptures; 2) as soon as possible, there must be a team of elders, with equal decision-making authority, so that no one man holds too much power; 3) the elders should always seek full agreement in their decisions; in some cases, this constitution requires them to have it; 4) the elders are to function as the spiritual fathers of the church family, and will therefore consult regularly with the members of that family, listening carefully to their ideas, wishes, and concerns; 5) the people themselves may nominate new elders; 6) no elder can be appointed unless and until a 2/3 majority of the people approve him; 7) the people may petition the Board of Elders for the removal of an elder; 8) the people will annually reaffirm their approval of an elder by a 2/3 majority vote, with failure to re-affirm leading to immediate evaluation and action by the Board; 9) all physical and financial holdings of the church belong to the corporation, and the use of such holdings is subject to the approval of the people through their votes to confirm the annual budget, special expenditures, and the purchase or sale of property; 10) in the unlikely event of a stalemate between the Board of Elders and the people, this church is required by its constitution to bring the matter to trusted peace-makers outside the church for final mediation, arbitration, and reconciliation (see Article XV below, p. 30).
Section 3: Vocational Elders (Pastors)
It is often desirable, especially in a growing church, that one or more of its elders be set apart and remunerated for full or part time ministry. In this section we will use the term “vocational elder” to describe such persons, but the term “vocational pastor” would work just as well, and may be used by the members if they so wish.
A. Appointment of Vocational Elders from Within: If the Board of Elders agrees that a full or part-time vocational elder is needed, and if a qualified man who has been a church member in good standing for at least one year is available for the job, and if he is interested in it, the elders will discuss and agree upon his job description and a suggested compensation. In a meeting of the church the elders will consult the people on this matter. If, after consultation, a 2/3 majority of the people vote by secret ballot to hire the vocational pastor at an agreed upon salary, the Board of Elders will appoint him to the position; if the people do not so vote, the Board will either withdraw the candidate from further consideration, or postpone such consideration until a time when the people are more favorable to him.
B. Appointment of Vocational Elders from Without: It is the philosophy of this church that new elders, and especially vocational elders, should normally arise and be appointed from within, since this practice gives church members ample time to test the faith, character, and competence of a prospective leader. However, from time to time it may necessary to hire a vocational elder from without. If so, the existing Board of Elders will seek out viable candidates and then follow the normal procedure for selecting a new elder. The existing elders will make sure that the people have as much time as possible to get acquainted with the candidate, both in public and private settings, since the approval of a 2/3 majority of the membership will be required. Once he is vetted, approved, and appointed to the Board of Elders, a vocational elder hired from without will be subject to all the guidelines set forth in this constitution.
C. Titles of: Vocational elders should not be arranged in a hierarchy, such that one is called the Senior Pastor (or Elder) and others his Assistant or Associate. The Board of Elders is a brotherhood, with each member having equal authority and standing in the church. Vocational elders should be called vocational elders (or pastors). However, by agreement of the Board, individual vocational elders may receive titles based upon their gifts, calling, and job description (e.g., Pastor of Teaching and Preaching, Pastor of Counseling, Pastor of Church Administration, Missions, Evangelism, Visitation, etc.). Non-vocational elders may fill all such positions as well.
Section 4: Deacons
Feeling the need to devote themselves without distraction to the Word of God and prayer, the apostles, in consultation with the members of the Jerusalem church, appointed deacons to oversee the distribution of money (or food) to widows (Acts 6). Through the apostles, Christ ordained that deacons be appointed in the Gentile churches, as well. Therefore, this church will seek to have at least two deacons at all times.
A. Duties of: Following the Scriptures closely, this church takes a narrow view of the duties of deacons, limiting them to: 1) the proper distribution of benevolence funds and material aid to needy church members, and 2) the oversight and physical care of needy widows, single mothers, and their children. Other duties of a practical nature (e.g. preparing for communion, maintaining buildings and grounds, handling church finances, etc.) should be fulfilled by church members serving on committees devoted to those tasks. The Board of Elders will oversee and take final responsibility for the ministry of the deacons.
B. Qualifications of: Deacons must be members of this church, and actively involved in its body life. They must be men of dignity and respect, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not eager for sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. They must be the husband of one wife (i.e., they must show covenant faithfulness to their own wives), and must govern their children and households well. Prior to their appointment, they must be tested and found above reproach. / Since their duties often involve ministry to women, deacons will need a female presence and perspective. Accordingly, it is scripturally assumed (though not required) that they be married, and that their wives not be malicious gossips, but rather dignified, temperate, sober-minded, and faithful in all things (1 Tim. 3:8f). In view of the apostle’s teaching on this matter, we affirm that the ministry of single or widowed deacons should be confined to other men. / This church finds no NT warrant for the office of deaconess; indeed, it finds much that speaks against it (Acts 6; 1 Tim. 3). Nevertheless, the participation of women in all areas of church ministry, except where explicitly prohibited by Scripture, is not only permitted, but deeply needed, wanted, and appreciated by the entire church family (Rom. 16:1-2, 6-7).
C. Selection of: The procedure for the selection of deacons shall be the same as for elders (seeVII-2-F of this constitution).
D. Accountability of: Since the deacons will have a measure of liberty in the distribution of funds earmarked for benevolence, it is highly desirable that this church should have two or more deacons so that there may be accountability in the deaconate. The leaders and people should pray and work towards this end. / The deacons shall disperse funds in accordance with guidelines developed by the Board of Elders. / Together with the church treasurer, they shall supply quarterly reports of all dispersals to the Board of Elders. / In questionable cases, deacons should seek the guidance of the elders before dispersals are made. / The church family will decide on the amount of money to be spent on benevolence when it discusses and approves the annual budget. Special offerings, designed to supplement the benevolence fund, may be taken as needed throughout the year.
ARTICLE VIII: CORPORATE OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES
This church shall have, and shall continuously maintain in the State of California, a registered office, as well as a registered agent whose office is identical with the registered office; normally, the agent will be one of the elders or officers of the church, as determined by the Board of Elders. Also, the church may have other offices within or without the State of California, as the Board of Elders, in consultation with the church family, may determine from time to time.
Section 1: Officers
The officers of this church shall be the President, the Treasurer, the Secretary, and any others that the Board of Elders, in consultation with the church family, may desire to appoint in accordance with the provisions of this article.
Section 2: Selection and Term of Office
The President, being the Team Leader of the Board of Elders, shall be chosen by a unanimous vote of the Board of Elders. / The Treasurer and Secretary may not be elders or deacons of the church. As a rule, these officers should be members of the church in good standing. If this is not possible, non-members serving as Treasurer or Secretary must read the IBC Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and constitution, and affirm, in writing, their willingness to abide by the provisions of these documents. / The Board of Elders, and/or members of the church, may nominate any qualified person to these offices. The elders, in consultation with the people, will vet all nominees. If the elders approve a candidate, the church family will vote. If a candidate receives a 2/3 majority vote of the members, the elders will appoint the candidate to office and, in the presence of the people, pray over them for their good success. / The term of office of each officer is open-ended, subject to the officer’s desire to serve, the proper performance of his (or her) duties, and the annual reaffirmation of the members. / Also, if the Board of Elders deems it wise, they may urge an officer to step down for a season, in order to take a needed break, or to allow other interested persons to have an opportunity to serve.
Section 3: Removal
The President, who is an elder, may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions set forth in this constitution (see VII-2-K, page 19). / The Board of Elders, by a unanimous vote, may remove a Secretary, Treasurer, or other employee, when, in their judgment, it would best serve the interests of the church family; however, such removal must be accomplished without prejudice to the contract rights, if any, of the person so removed. / In explaining to the members their reasons for removing an officer or employee, the elders must strive to do so in a way that promotes the safety, unity, and peace of the entire church family.
Section 4: Vacancies
In the event of a vacancy due to death, resignation, removal, or otherwise, the Board of Elders, following the selection procedures set forth in this constitution, will make every effort to fill the vacant office as soon as possible, in accordance with the procedures outlined in VIII-2 of this constitution.
Section 5: The President
The current Team Leader of the Board of Elders of this church shall be the President of this corporation. Together with the rest of the elders, he shall supervise and direct all the business and affairs of the church. / In accordance with the laws of the state of California, the President, together with at least one other elder, may sign any deeds, mortgages, bonds, contracts, or other instruments whose execution the entire Board of Elders has authorized. However, all such actions must be performed in accordance with the provisions of this constitution, which place final decision-making authority for the management of the financial and physical holdings of the church in the hands of the membership. / In general, the Team Leader shall perform all duties incident to the office of President. / In the event of a vacancy in the office of the President, the remaining elders shall prayerfully elect a new Team Leader/President by unanimous vote.
Section 6: The Treasurer
A. Selection of: The Treasurer shall not be an elder or deacon of the church. / He (or she) will be chosen in accordance with the provisions of this constitution as set forth in VIII-2 (page 21). / If it is appropriate, the Board of Elders shall recommend a salary for the Treasurer. Normally, the salary will be approved at the annual church meeting, when the members vote on the budget; if necessary, it may be approved earlier, at a quarterly meeting of the church, or at a special meeting designed for that purpose. / If required by the Board of Elders, the Treasurer shall, at the expense of the corporation, be bonded in such an amount, and with such guarantees, as the Board of Elders shall determine.
B. Duties of: The treasurer of this church shall: 1) keep correct records of the corporation’s properties, assets, liabilities, and financial transactions, submitting a report of these things to the Board of Elders on a quarterly basis, or upon request; 2) count (with an assistant), transport, and deposit all funds received in appropriate bank accounts; 3) maintain a permanent weekly record of individual giving, guarding as a sacred trust the confidentiality of such records; 4) issue an official receipt to each contributor at the end of the fiscal year; 5) write, sign, record, and mail checks in payment of the church’s bills and routine expenses; 6) receive, and give receipts for, moneys due and payable to the church from any source; 7) interface with outside financial agents, such as CPAs or bookkeepers who assist in the management of funds; 8) provide an annual financial report that will be distributed to all members; 9) preserve all church financial records for at least seven years, making them available for review upon member’s request (with the exception of the Treasurer’s record of individual giving); 10) perform all other duties incident to the office of the Treasurer, and such special duties as, from time to time, may be assigned to him by the President or by the Board of Elders. / Upon retirement or removal from office the Treasurer shall deliver to his successor, or to the Board of Elders, all records, files and/or other papers belonging to the church, and shall present them complete, including all transactions up to the time of surrender. However, the elders may not examine the record of giving of any individual member or family other than their own.
Section 7: The Secretary
A. Selection of: The Secretary shall not be an elder or deacon of the church. / He (or she) may, but need not, be the office secretary of the church. / He will be chosen in accordance with the provisions of this constitution as set forth in VIII-2 (page 21). / If it is appropriate, the Board of Elders shall recommend a salary for the Secretary. Normally, the salary will be approved at the annual church meeting, when the members vote on the budget; if necessary, it may be approved earlier, at a quarterly meeting of the church, or at a special meeting designed for that purpose.
B. Duties of: The Secretary shall: 1) keep the minutes of the business meetings of the church, making sure that typewritten copies are filed and available to members as needed; 2) be responsible for all correspondence requiring an official signature; 3) maintain records of the church membership, reception and dismissal of members, baptisms, deaths, and ordinations; 4) issue letters of transfer or character to other churches; 5) certify to banks the names of the officers authorized to access safety deposit boxes and to sign checks for the church; 6) function as church historian, recording important events in the life of the church, or, in consultation with the elders, delegate this task to an interested member of the church; 7) perform any other duties that properly belong to this office. / Upon retirement or removal from office, the secretary shall deliver to his successor, or to the Board of Elders, all records, files, and/or other papers belonging to the church, and shall present them complete, including all transactions up to the time of surrender.
Section 8: Church Employees
In consultation with the people, and attentive to their concerns, the President, with the unanimous consent of the Board of Elders, may hire employees to fill any positions needed (e.g., vocational pastors, secretary, treasurer, janitor/groundskeeper, etc.). / All employees must read the IBC Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and constitution, and then affirm in writing their willingness to abide by the provisions of these documents. / This church regards all employees as ministers of the Gospel in the broadest sense, that is, as servants of the Lord who are able and willing, as needed, to communicate the basic truths of the faith to those they serve, and to pray with them. / Salaries will be recommended by the Board of Elders and approved by the members in accordance with the procedures set forth in this constitution. / The church Treasurer will be responsible for the proper administration of the terms of their contracts.
ARTICLE IX: MINISTRIES, COMMITTEES, AND ORGANIZATIONS
With the Scriptures, this church affirms that all of its members have received one or more spiritual gifts, with which God has equipped them for works of service (Eph. 4). Accordingly, the elders will regularly teach the people about the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, and will encourage them prayerfully to discover their unique expression of Christian service, whether in the church or in the surrounding community. / In pursuit of this goal, wise elders will be proactive, publicizing specific ministry opportunities, and approaching people whom they think might lead or participate in them effectively. They will also be open to creative ideas and initiatives that come from the members themselves; and, so far as possible, they will encourage and tangibly support them in the pursuit of their vision. / We trust that through this process the Lord himself will raise up, maintain, and (if necessary) bring to an orderly conclusion, all the ministries, committees, and organizations that he desires to grant this church. These may, but will not necessarily, include ministries/committees devoted to worship, Christian education, youth activities, all-church activities, missions, outreach evangelism, community service, hospitality, website development, budget and finance, and maintenance of the buildings and grounds. / Scripture is clear that the full participation of women in the life of the church is vital for the good success of its mission. Therefore, we enthusiastically affirm that, with the exception of the offices of elder and deacon, our sisters in Christ may freely participate in, and in some cases lead, all ministries and/or committees. / With due attentiveness to the voice of the members, the Board of Elders shall appoint the leaders of all such ministries/committees, establish guidelines for their operation, and be responsible for their oversight.
ARTICLE X: CHURCH MEETINGS
Over and again the New Testament speaks of believers coming together for various activities, through which the Lord ministers grace to each one, and also binds them together as a spiritual family. This article addresses different kinds of church meetings, and sets forth the guidelines under which they will operate.
Section 1: Men and Women in Church Meetings
In a day when the world is openly rebelling against God’s creation order for the sexes, it is vital that Christians understand, maintain, and reflect that order in the home and in the church. Only thus will the Body of Christ enjoy the fullness of God’s presence; only thus will the world see the truth and beauty of his ways. / The Scriptures make God’s creation order for sexes clear: Men are to be loving, self-sacrificing, servants, with responsibility and authority from God to lead; women are to be cherished and sheltered helpers, with responsibility from God to submit to male leadership, as long as that leadership is in accordance with the Word of God. / The Scriptures are also clear that in every gathering of believers, whether mixed or unmixed, men and women are to be mindful of these principles, and to obey specific biblical commandments designed to honor and reflect them. / Because these principles and commands are now highly counter-cultural, the elders must teach on them often, and must endeavor to show, in a loving and gracious spirit, that they are given to us for our good, and especially for the good of our sisters in Christ. The following guidelines for church meetings and ministries reflect our current understanding of how we may best conform our practice to God’s will in this area.
(1 Cor. 1:11f, 1 Cor. 14:35f, Eph. 5:22ff, 1 Tim. 2:1ff)
Section 2: The Lord’s Day
A. Elements of Sunday Worship: The NT pictures the saints coming together to worship God on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day of Christ’s resurrection. / Sunday worship in this church will be crafted, overseen, and led by the elders, or by other ministry leaders under their supervision. / It will include worship in song, prayer, the reading of Scripture, preaching and teaching, and, at the appropriate times, water baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and other special ceremonies supported by Scripture. / As led by the Holy Spirit, the elders may also explore other biblically authorized forms of worship, and, after proper instruction, introduce these to the people.
(Acts 2:42, 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:18, 20, 33, 34, Rev. 1:10 / 1 Cor. 11:17f, 14:26ff, 16:2, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Tim. 2:1f, 4:13 / 1 Cor. 14:26f, 1 Thess. 5:19-22)
B. Women and Sunday Worship: In an effort to honor God’s creation order for the sexes, the NT places certain restrictions on the verbal participation of women in gatherings of the whole church on the Lord’s day. These restrictions are not meant to reflect on the value of the spiritual insights of our sisters in Christ, who are indeed called to teach and “prophesy” in appropriate settings (1 Cor. 11:1f; Titus 2:3-5). Rather, they are given to safeguard good order in the gatherings of the whole church. / The relevant texts (1 Cor. 14:34-36; 1 Tim. 2:1ff) are easy to understand in principle, but difficult to apply in practice, with the result that different churches have settled on different policies. This church believes that during the worship service on the Lord’s Day our sisters in Christ are free to participate in congregational singing, the corporate recitation of prayers or creeds, and prayer groups comprised of women only. However, we find Scripture stating (or clearly implying) that in this gathering the men alone are authorized to pray aloud individually, teach, preach, and prophesy. / Beyond these things, it is left to the Board of Elders to understand, agree upon, teach, and implement any further guidelines for female participation that may properly be drawn from these texts.
C. Worship in Music and Song: The proper goal of worship in music, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is that individual Christians may contemplate and celebrate the great truths of their redemption, and that they may do so together, as a spiritual family before the Lord. / For this reason the elders must see to it that the lyrics of the songs are thoroughly scriptural; that the music—by its simplicity, beauty, and appropriate volume—does not distract from a proper contemplation of the words; and that nothing is said or done by the worship leader or his team to hinder the congregation from fully focusing on God and Christ.
(1 Chron. 25:1-7, 2 Chron. 5:11ff, Psalms 7:1, 9:11, 13:6, 18:49, 30:4, 57:9, Matt. 26:30, Acts 4:23f, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Rev. 5:9, 14:3 / John 8:31, 15:7, Rom. 12:1-2, Col. 3:16, 1 Thess. 2:13, 1 Tim. 6:3f, 2 Tim. 1:13 1 John 2:14; 1 Cor. 7:35, 2 Cor. 11:3; Matt. 17:18, John 16:4, 1 Cor. 7:35, Heb. 12:2; Job 31:1, Matt. 5:28, Rom. 14:13 / Ps. 95:1-7, John 4:23-24, 1 Cor. 10:31, 14:24-26, 2 Cor. 2:15, 2 Tim. 2:22)
D. Attendance at: As a rule, a member’s commitment to the life of the church is most clearly reflected in the regularity of his attendance at Sunday worship. Our church puts a high priority on this gathering. Therefore, if a member is unable to attend one or more Sunday worship services, we ask that he try to inform one of the leaders in the church. / By whatever means that seem good to the elders, this church will keep a record of the attendance of individual members on the Lord’s Day. If a member’s attendance is faltering, church leaders will reach out in an effort to understand why. Absenteeism due to sickness, work commitments, or other difficulties will be taken into consideration. However, strategies will be discussed, and arrangements made, to ensure that members can and do participate in Sunday worship (or, if necessary, a mid-week gathering) as often as possible.
Section 3: Other Ministry Gatherings
The NT depicts believers meeting often in small groups, usually in homes (Acts 2:46, 5:42). Our church encourages such meetings, since they deepen our sense of family and promote practical Christian care. Though not necessarily led by the elders, these meetings will be under their oversight. They may include:
A. Mixed Adult Bible Studies: These meetings may occur on Sunday or at various times during the week. Here members gather together for the study of the Scriptures or sound evangelical books. Men approved by the elders are to lead all such meetings. While there is liberty in these meetings to discuss different views, leaders may not promote views contrary to our church Statement of Faith. Women may participate freely in the discussions, but always in such a way as to honor both their husbands and the other men in attendance (1 Cor. 11:1f, 14:34-36).
B. Child-Care and Children’s Education: As the Lord leads and enables, this church will offer Sunday morning child-care and Sunday School classes for children up to 12 years old. Men and women approved by the elders may lead or help out in such ministries. / All children’s workers must pass a background check through our state Department of Justice, local police department, or some other approved agency. Ideally, there will always be two workers in any given class. At no time are children to be left alone in a room with a single male teacher or aid. If, after thorough investigation, the elders determine that any kind of child abuse has occurred in any class, the offending teacher will be immediately suspended, and the incident reported to Child Protective Services. / We believe it is good for children to worship with their parents as often and early as possible; however, we leave the decision as to when they graduate into the adult worship service to their parents.
C. Men’s and Women’s Meetings: This church sees great value in men meeting with men, and women meeting with women, not only to discuss the Scriptures, but also to grow in an understanding of their unique roles, privileges, and responsibilities as men and women. / As a rule, one of the elders will lead a men’s meeting; however, he is at liberty to consult with the other men about the topic of the meeting, and to delegate the privilege of facilitating the meetings to maturing men in the group. The members of the group are free to discuss and debate different theological views; however, no leader of a men’s group may promote doctrines contrary to the church statement of faith. / This church encourages younger women to meet formally or informally with older, spiritually mature women, to discuss the special concerns and needs of widows, wives, mothers, and daughters (1 Tim. 5:3f; Titus 2:3-5). / Women are also encouraged to meet formally for Bible study. Since, however, elders will not usually attend such gatherings, a woman’s Bible study must adhere to the following guidelines: 1) The leader must be a spiritually mature Christian woman, approved by the elders; 2) she is to function as a discussion leader, rather than as an authoritative teacher, a role that the NT reserves for the teaching elders of the church (1 Tim. 3:12, 5:17; James 3:1); she must know well, and be in basic agreement with, the church Statement of Faith, and must be willing and able to steer the discussion away from views to the contrary; 4) when faced with difficult theological questions or sharp differences of opinion, she is to direct the women to their husbands or to the elders of the church for answers (1 Cor. 14:35).
D. Prayer Meetings: Prayer, both “secret” and corporate, is the breath of our spiritual life. Members of this church are encouraged to meet informally for prayer, as the Lord may lead. However, any official church prayer meeting, whether in a home or at the church facility, must be approved by the elders, and its leader(s) approved by the elders.
E. Home Fellowships: If and when members so desire, they may gather together regularly in home fellowships. Typically such fellowships meet once or twice a month, when the members share a meal, discuss Scripture or this week’s sermon, pray, and, as needed, meet one another’s practical needs. Some home fellowships participate in occasional service projects, or go on family outings together, etc. Church sanctioned home fellowships must be led by men or couples approved by the elders.
F. Focus Groups and Ministries. These groups are focused on a particular interest, activity, or ministry. Many of the committees of our church will be focus groups. Such groups could devote themselves to worship, evangelistic outreach, missions, community service, the reading and discussing of books, recreation, etc. Members with a vision for a focus group should approach the elders, who will prayerfully help them discern God’s will in the matter, and, if appropriate, support them tangibly in their ministries.
Section 4: Church Business Meetings
A. The Church Year: The official year of the church shall begin on the 1st day of January and close on the 31st day of December.
B. The Annual Business Meeting: The annual business meeting of our church will occur in January. Items on the agenda will normally include: a report by the Board of Elders on the state of the church; reports from the leaders of various ministries; votes on candidates for elder, deacon, or church officers; the annual vote to reaffirm elders and church officers; a review of the church’s financial condition, followed by a discussion of the proposed budget, followed by a vote on the budget; discussion of issues placed on the agenda by members; and the transaction of any other business deemed necessary by the elders. / Public notice of the annual meeting shall be given from the pulpit for two successive Sundays immediately prior to the meeting, and agendas for the meeting will be distributed during that time.
C. Quarterly Business Meetings: The purpose of quarterly meetings is to conduct routine business and/or discuss any matters of concern or interest that have arisen in the months prior to the meeting. Quarterly meetings shall occur during the months of April, July, and October, at a time set by the elders. Public notice of these meetings shall be given from the pulpit for two successive Sundays immediately prior to the meeting, and agendas distributed during that time.
D. Special Church Family Meetings: The Board of Elders may call for a special church family meeting at any time. Also, 20% of the voting members of the church may call for a special meeting. In a letter to the Board of Elders they must state the purpose of the meeting and all must sign that document. As a general rule, public notice of a special meeting shall be given from the pulpit for two successive Sundays prior the meeting, and agendas distributed during that time.
E. Procedures Prior to Business Meetings: Individual members may submit an action item to the Board of Elders any time prior to a scheduled business meeting. If the elders reject the item, it may be re-submitted in written form with the signatures of seven voting members. Unless the elders and deacons unanimously agree that discussing this item would be unscriptural and/or potentially injurious to individuals or the church as a whole, the elders must place the item on the agenda for the next scheduled meeting.
F. Procedures at Business Meetings: Unless extraordinary circumstances make it impossible, all business meetings of this church must take place at the church facility. / All meetings will open with prayer. / The Team Leader, or a replacement elder, will preside as moderator. If the Team Leader himself is under discussion, he will temporarily turn the meeting over to another elder or deacon; if appropriate, he will leave the room. / Non-members may attend these meetings and ask questions, but they may not vote. / The Board of Elders will select and/or develop a simple set of rules, by which business meetings are to be governed, and will explain them to the people. / The moderator, while adhering to the rules for church meetings, will provide all members and guests with a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a given matter. / The moderator will have full authority to require non-members to leave the meeting room, and also to order the immediate removal of any person who in any way disrupts the gathering.
G. Voting: A quorum for any vote will consist of 50% of the members of this church. / Active members eighteen years of age and older are eligible to vote. / Voting will take place during the meetings. Voting by proxy is not allowed, but members unable to attend due to special circumstances may vote by absentee ballot. / Unless otherwise stated by this constitution, all votes will be held by a show of hands, and all decisions made by a simple majority vote of the members. However, on any given matter a simple majority of the members in attendance may agree to hold the vote by secret ballot. / The annual vote to re-affirm existing elders and deacons will take place at the annual meeting. Elections to add new elders or deacons will be held as the Board of Elders recommends. Newly elected officers will assume their responsibilities at the close of the business meeting in which they are elected.
H. Use of the Church Facility: Since our church facility is consecrated space dedicated to the glory of God and the well-being of men and women, we have created and adopted a set of guidelines reflecting these spiritual priorities for use by outside individuals or groups desiring to use our facility. The IBC Facility Use Policy is available upon request to interested persons at the church office.
ARTICLE XI: CHURCH FINANCES
Section 1: The Fiscal Year
The fiscal year of the church shall begin on January 1st and end on December 31st.
Section 2: Revenues
This church and its ministries will be financed strictly through the gifts of God’s people. / The Board of Elders may accept or reject on behalf of the Church any contribution, gift, bequest, or device for the general purposes, or for any special purpose, of the Church. / This church may not engage in, or sponsor, commercial activities of any kind. In particular, it may not contract to rent its facility, or any portion thereof, to any person or group, for any amount of time. It may, however, enter into a mutual understanding with individuals or groups of like faith and purpose, such that they give a regular, voluntary love offering to the church in order to express their gratitude for the use of the facility and to offset costs involved. / As a general rule, if the church family wishes to make a large expenditure, it should set up a special fund (e.g., a Building Fund), and then pray, give, work, and save towards that end. However, under special circumstances the Board of Elders, with the approval of 3/4 of the membership, may borrow money.
Section 3: The General Fund
All monies received are to be placed in a General Fund and shall be dispersed under a unified budget. / Designated funds must be dispersed according to their designated purpose. If the church budget contains no provision for the use of a particular designated gift, such a provision may be proposed by the Treasurer and approved by congregation; if not, the gift must be declined or returned to the giver. / If the purpose for which the gift was designated is no longer viable, the gift must be returned to the giver; if the giver is deceased, the Treasurer will recommend one or more closely related purposes found in the existing budget, and the congregation will vote to divert the gift to the one that seems best to the majority.
Section 4: The Annual Budget
The church Treasurer, in consultation with the Board of Elders and the Budget Committee, will prepare an annual budget. Early in November the budget will be submitted to the congregation so that members may review it, ask questions, and make suggestions. The budget will be further discussed and voted on at the annual meeting.
Section 5: Salaries
All salaries shall be paid out of the General Fund. They shall be reviewed and determined once yearly by the Board of Elders and the treasurer, with due consideration being given to any rise in the cost of living. All salaries and raises are subject to the approval of the congregation as stipulated in this constitution.
Section 6: Discretionary Spending
The Board of Elders, Deacons, and leaders of various ministries and committees shall be free to spend the money allotted to them under the budget at their own discretion. / No single discretionary expenditure may exceed $1000 without the spender(s) first consulting with the elders. / If any leader is in doubt about the propriety of any expenditure, he must consult the elders and the Treasurer.
ARTICLE XII: PROPERTY
Section 1: Disposition of Properties
This church shall have the right to own, rent, lease, buy, and sell tangible properties, both real and personal, in its own name, and through its properly elected officials. The Board of Elders shall have the authority to effect such transactions, but only after consultation with the congregation and the favorable vote of 2/3 of its members.
Section 2: Benefits from Properties
No part of the assets, holdings, net earnings, or other transactions of this church shall result in the benefit of, or be distributable to, its officers, members, or other private persons; however, in transactions related to church properties, the Board of Elders shall be authorized to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered.
ARTICLE XIII: INDEMNIFICATION
Section 1: Indemnity Clause
Members of this church agree not to pursue civil litigation against this corporation, its elders, deacons, paid staff, or members; all grievances will be aired and resolved personally, or with the assistance of Christian mediators and/or arbitrators (1Cor. 6:1-11). / This provision shall not prevent a member from pursuing a claim for personal injury against an insurance company.
Section 2: Insurance
This church may purchase and maintain insurance on behalf of any person who is, or was, an elder, deacon, officer, employee, or agent of the church, against any liability asserted against him and incurred by him in that capacity, or arising out of his status in that capacity, whether or not the church would have the power to indemnify him against liability under the provisions of this Article.
Section 3: Actions Subject to Indemnification
The church may indemnify any person who was or is a party, or is threatened to be made a party, to any threatened, pending or completed action, suit, or proceeding, whether civil, criminal, administrative, or investigative, including all appeals (other than an action by or in the right of the church) by reason of the fact that the person is or was an elder, deacon, officer, employee, or agent of the church, against expenses, including attorneys’ fees, judgments, fines, and amounts paid in settlement actually and reasonably incurred by him in connection with the action, suit, or proceeding; and if that person acted in good faith and in a manner he reasonably believed to be in, or not opposed to, the best interests of the church and, with respect to any criminal action or proceeding, had no reasonable cause to believe his conduct was unlawful.
The determination shall be made by: (a) a majority vote of the elders who were not and are not parties to, or threatened with, the action, suit, or proceeding; (b) an independent legal counsel, if a majority of the elders is involved in the action, or if the majority of elders so directs; or (c) by a majority vote of the members of the church.
Section 4: Timing of Indemnification
Expenses of each person seeking indemnification under this Article may be paid by the church as they are incurred, in advance of the final disposition of the action, suit, or proceeding, as authorized by the Board of Elders in the specific case, on receipt of an undertaking by, or on behalf of, the elder, deacon, officer, employee, or agent to repay the amount if it is ultimately determined that he or she is not qualified to be indemnified by the church.
Section 5: Extent of indemnification
The indemnification provided by this Article shall be deemed to be discretionary unless otherwise required as a matter of law or under any agreement or provided by insurance purchased by the church.
ARTICLE XIV: ORDINATION, COMMISIONING, AND LICENSURE
Section 1: Ordination
This church believes it is God himself who ordains, calls, spiritually equips and prepares Christian leaders, whether elders, deacons, church planters, or other ministers specially set apart for the work of the Gospel. We also believe it is the privilege and responsibility of the Board of Elders, in consultation with the church membership, to discern the call of God on such persons, vet them scripturally, see to their training, and, in due season, publicly confirm their ordination and commission them to their work. / Before such commissioning, the elders will submit the ordination of a candidate for office or special ministry to the congregation, doing so in accordance with the guidelines set forth in this constitution. / The elders, in accordance with the provisions set forth in this constitution, shall have the power to exercise church discipline upon any ordained minister, even to the revocation of his commissioning or license.
Section 2: Commissioning
Following a candidate’s final approval, one of the elders, in a regular worship service of this church, will introduce the new ministry leader and question him follows: “Do you believe that God has called you to the office (or ministry) of Elder (or Deacon, Church Planter, etc.)? Do you receive his call willingly? Do you purpose, with God helping you, to fulfill its privileges and responsibilities faithfully? Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and do you purpose, with God helping you, to live under its authority? Are you in fundamental agreement with the Statement of Faith, Church Covenant, and Constitution of Immanuel Baptist Church, and do you purpose, with God helping you, to carry out the responsibilities of your ministry in accordance with them?” / If the candidate responds positively to these questions, the existing elders, normally in company with other local pastors and/or denominational leaders, will lay hands on the new elder (or deacon, etc.), and pray God’s blessing upon him and his ministry. / If ordination is to the office of elder, the Team Leader will exhort the people to support, honor, and obey the new elder whom—to the best of our knowledge—God has now placed beneath us as servants, beside us as brothers, and over us as leaders in the church.
Section 3: Licensure
As needed and desired, the Board of Elders may grant to any ordained and commissioned officer or minister a license to fulfill their Gospel ministry under the auspices of this church. This license shall be valid for one year, and shall remain subject to review and renewal by a unanimous vote of the elders. / In the case of a licensed church planter, the annual renewal of his license on the part of our church will cease upon the formation, in the new church, of a Board of Elders consisting of at least two men, and the adoption of a constitution by its members.
ARTICLE XV: RESOLUTION OF DISPUTES
In a fallen world, disagreements and disputes will certainly arise, even in the church. Among Christians these can often be resolved by following the guidelines for church discipline set forth by Christ and the apostles. In some cases, however, the disputes are complex and seemingly irreconcilable. Happily, Scripture helps us here, as well (1 Cor. 6:1-11). Following its lead, this church will hold to the following guidelines for the resolution of disputes:
Section 1: Disputes Between Members
Before becoming a member of this church, all candidates for membership must agree that in the event of a dispute with another Christian they will not go to law (i.e., initiate a legal action) against a brother or sister, a course of action that prevents the work of the Spirit in changing hearts, and results in dishonor to the cause of Christ. / In the event of a dispute, members will instead seek mediation, whether by an individual elder, or by a special court set up by the Board of Elders. / If mediation does not produce agreement, members must submit to binding arbitration, whether through the Board of Elders, a church court, or a para-church organization specializing in reconciliation, such as Peacemakers. / If one of the parties to the dispute, in violation of Scripture and this provision of our constitution, refuses to submit to mediation or arbitration, that party will be subject to church discipline; if he is dis-fellowshipped from the church, thereafter to be treated as an unbeliever, the other party, if necessary, may go to law against him. / If the conflict is between a member of this church and a Christian attending another church, the Board of Elders of this church will endeavor to work with the leaders of the other church in the application of these principles.
Section 2: Disputes Between Members and the Board of Elders
In the unlikely event of an intractable dispute between the full Board of Elders and the congregation, the congregation, represented by leaders of its own choosing, may submit in writing a petition signed by a simple majority of its members, requesting mediation or binding arbitration of the dispute. At this point, the Board of Elders must hand the matter over to a special court comprised of at least five trustworthy Christian men drawn from like-minded churches or denominational agencies in our the area. Or, the elders may hand the dispute over to a para-church organization specializing in reconciliation, such as Peacemakers. The decision of the arbitrators will be final.
ARTICLE XVI: WIND-UP AND DISSOLUTION
Section 1: Provision for Wind-up and Dissolution
If, for whatever reason (e.g., dwindling membership, lack of qualified leadership, insufficient income, etc.) this church is no longer able to function as a church for three consecutive months, offering competent pastoral care and regular Sunday worship services, this constitution stipulates that the remaining leaders and members must place the future of the church in the hands of the . . . Southern Baptist Convention and/or the . . . Baptist Association, whether to take steps towards its renewal, or to dissolve the corporation, sell the property, and use its remaining financial assets to promote the work of these two organizations. We make this provision on the understanding that, so much as possible, these organizations will direct the church’s assets to ministries that reflect the faith and practice declared in this constitution.
Section 2: Safeguard Against Fraudulent Wind-up and Dissolution
In order to safeguard the assets of IBC against fraudulent manipulation by a small remnant of leaders and/or members, this constitution stipulates that the present constitution cannot be repealed or amended by less than 15 active members serving under the leadership of at least two duly elected elders.
ARTICLE XVII: AMENDMENTS AND/OR REPEAL
Section 1: Provision for Amending or Repealing
The Board of Elders, on their own initiative, or at the request of a group of seven or more church members, may present to the congregation at any quarterly meeting, or at a special meeting, a proposal to amend, alter, revise, or repeal this constitution, or any part of it. / Again, this constitution cannot be repealed or amended by less than 15 active members, serving under the leadership of at least two duly elected elders.
Section 2: Procedure for Amending or Repealing
The Board of Elders, on at least four successive Sundays prior, will announce to the congregation a meeting in which the church membership will discuss amending or otherwise altering this constitution. / The elders must provide written copies of the proposed amendment(s) or change(s) to each voting member at least four weeks prior to the meeting. / A quorum of 50% of the voting members must be present at the meeting. / The Board of Elders will gauge the sentiment of the church by means of a secret ballot. If the proposed change(s) is (are) approved by a 2/3 majority of the members, the elders will make them. If not, the matter will be tabled. However, if they are so inclined, the Board of Elders may continue to reason with the congregation about such changes, and also schedule further votes, as seems good to them and to the Spirit of the Lord.
ARTICLE XVIII: ADOPTION
This constitution was adopted and ratified this day, _________________, by a ¾ majority vote of the members Immanuel Baptist Church. It supersedes any other constitutions or bylaws previously adopted by this church.