In a world often confused about personal accountability, some churches have seen fit to abolish what has been a historic mainstay, namely the Church Covenant. At Grace Life Baptist Church, we recently renewed our covenant commitment as a church family, and we discussed why having and holding onto such a covenant is wise. We defined a biblical covenant this way: A covenant is a God-initiated agreement between He and His people, established with mutual obligations for His glory and their joy
Before I offer you 4 reasons for having a church covenant, let me make one clarifying note. I must admit there’s no biblical command prescribing that a local church have a church covenant. Therefore, a church should never present a covenant as anything more than a descriptive document of what the Bible teaches about living the Christian life in relation to Christ and a local body of His disciples.
With that said, there are biblical principles in Scripture that make a church covenant wise.
1) A covenant summarizes what it means to be in fellowship with Christ and His Church. The Bible is our only authority in matters of doctrine and practice; but the Bible is a big book and a summary statement is helpful, especially for new believers. Our church covenant is a reasonable way to define God’s expectations of us in the New Covenant.
2) A covenant clarifies accountability. Without mutual accountability, you don’t have a church because you won’t have unity of faith and practice—everyone would just do whatever’s right in their own eyes. Without accountability, sheep and elders won’t get along—both will vie for control. Using our covenant, we can hold each other accountable while still allowing for lots of grace, patience, and understanding toward each other.
3) A covenant protects the Church from wolves. Our covenant is threatening to potential new members that are just church-hopping, trouble-makers because they’re less likely to join a church that tells them up front what is expected. It warns them of the consequences of not walking in humility before Christ and His people. Our covenant threatens to expose wolves for who they really are.
4) A covenant limits personal preference. You may prefer 1,001 things, but most of your preferences are irrelevant to the gospel. Perhaps you prefer dressing up for church or dressing down. Or you prefer 20-minute sermons instead of 40-minute ones. The list could go on. Your preferences are important, but important doesn’t equal biblical or helpful.
For example, the trending craze todayis having churches for specialty groups like hipsters, homeschoolers, cowboys, or bikers, etc. Are these preferences important? Yes, it’s a part of who these people are. But none of these is the defining mark of what it means to be a Christian committed to a local church.
The defining mark of the Church is the gospel. At Grace Life, we advertise our purpose as Proclaiming God’s Glory in Christ because that’s at the heart of the gospel. God’s glory is best magnified when the Church is like a prism refracting and reflecting all the colors of the spectrum—the hipsters, homeschoolers, cowboys, bikers, and on it could go. May the Lord continue to build His Church with a beautiful array of people.
Soli Deo Gloria,