Read A Baptist Church Bylaws Manual text version

Table of Contents

CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION........................................ 1 Justification for a Baptist Church Bylaws Manual .............. 1 Development of a Baptist Church Bylaws Manual ................. 3 Phase I: The Independent Studies ............................ 3 Phase II: The Survey Instrument ............................. 4 Phase III: Enlistment of a Study Sample ..................... 5 Phase IV: Processing and Analysis of Data ................... 8 Preview of a Baptist Church Bylaws Manual .................... 10 The Role of Biblical Church Polity ......................... 10 Preview of Part I ............................................ 15 Preview of Part II ........................................... 16 Notes: Chapter I ............................................. 18 PART I CHAPTER II - THE CHURCH COVENANT: THE BEGINNING POINT.......... The Status of the Church Covenant in NWCBA Churches .......... The New Testament Church: A Covenant Community ............... The History of Church Covenant Statements .................... Biblical Covenant-Models ..................................... The Basis of the Covenant .................................. The Unconditional Covenant................................ The Conditional Covenant.................................. The Nature of the Covenant ................................. The Covenant to Relationship.............................. The Covenant to Performance............................... Initiative of the Covenant ................................. The Unilateral Covenant................................... The Bilateral Covenant.................................... Direction of the Covenant .................................. The Vertical Covenant..................................... The Horizontal Covenant................................... Priority of the Covenants .................................. The Concurrent Covenants.................................. The Priority of the Covenant to Relationship.............. The Importance of the Secondary Covenant.................. Summary and Conclusions ...................................... The Choice of a Covenant-Model ............................. and the Nature of the Church ............................... An Alternative Church Covenant Statement ................... A Secondary Statement of Lifestyle ......................... Notes: Chapter II ............................................ 21 23 29 36 40 41 42 44 46 47 49 50 50 52 54 54 55 58 59 60 61 63 65 65 67 68 70


CHAPTER III - STANDARDS FOR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP .................. 73 Practice in the New Testament Church ......................... 76 Immediate Reception of New Believers ....................... 76 Membership Lists ........................................... 79 A Methodology for Membership Standards ....................... 81 Standards of Christian Experience .......................... 84 The New Birth............................................. 84 Baptism By Immersion...................................... 86 In the Locality of the Body............................... 88 Standards of Doctrine ...................................... 89 The Doctrine of Scripture................................. 91 The Doctrine of God....................................... 92 The Doctrine of Jesus Christ.............................. 93 The Doctrine of Salvation................................. 96 Standards of Conduct ....................................... 98 Personal Character and Conduct............................ 99 Conduct that Brings Reproach.............................. 99 Conduct that Tears Down the Body......................... 103 Conduct that Causes Others to Stumble.................... 104 Conduct Manifested in Ministry........................... 105 Standards of Commitment ................................... 107 Commitment to a Relational Covenant...................... 107 Summary and Conclusions ..................................... 109 Notes: Chapter III ......................................... 112 CHAPTER IV - CHURCH DISCIPLINE................................ Church Discipline in NWCBA Churches ......................... Two Approaches to Church Discipline ......................... Behavioral vs. Relational Discipline ...................... Expulsion vs. Exclusion in Discipline ..................... The Old Testament Pattern................................ The New Testament Data................................... Repentance vs. Restoration in Discipline .................. Summary and Conclusions ..................................... Notes: Chapter IV ........................................... CHAPTER V - CHURCH POLITY AND THE BYLAWS...................... Church Polity in the NWCBA .................................. The Pattern of Leadership in the New Testament Church ....... Jewish Background of New Testament Leadership ............. From "Apostle" to "Elder" in the Book of Acts ............. Formal Offices in the Pastoral Epistles ................... Relationship of Elder, Pastor, Overseer and Deacon ........ Implications for Local Church Polity ........................ Biblical Validity of Congregational Rule .................. Summary and Conclusions ..................................... Notes: Chapter V ............................................ 113 113 115 115 119 121 125 133 139 141 143 143 146 147 150 152 153 154 155 160 162


CHAPTER VI - STANDARDS FOR LEADERSHIP ......................... 163 Leadership Standards in the NWCBA ........................... 164 Biblical Standards for Leadership ........................... 166 Standards for Pastor (Overseer) and Deacon ................ 167 Qualifications of Personal integrity..................... 170 Qualifications of Personal Spirituality.................. 172 Qualifications of Personality............................ 173 Qualifications of Relationships.......................... 174 Standards for Miscellaneous Ministry ...................... 175 Developing Qualifications for Contemporary Church Leaders ... 176 Reasons for High Standards for Biblical Offices ........... 177 Considerations in Setting Qualifications .................. 178 A Leadership Qualification Methodology .................... 178 Summary and Conclusions ..................................... 180 Notes ­ Chapter VI .......................................... 182 PART II CHAPTER VII - LEGAL ISSUES IN BAPTIST CHURCH BYLAWS........... Consistency with the Articles of Incorporation .............. Discipline of Members ....................................... Sound Documentation for Discipline ........................ Proper Procedure in Discipline ............................ A Statement of Dissolution .................................. Financial Procedures ........................................ Notes ­ Chapter VII ......................................... CHAPTER VIII - PROCEDURAL ISSUES IN BAPTIST CHURCH BYLAWS..... Issues Relating to Documents ................................ Rationale for Constitution/Bylaws/Both .................... Balancing Detail and Simplicity ........................... Scaling Organization to the Church ........................ Consistency with Current Practice ......................... Issues Relating to People ................................... Procedures in Membership .................................. Procedures for Restoration ................................ Issues Related to Business .................................. Procedural Guides ......................................... Quorum .................................................... Voting .................................................... Issues Relating to Ministry ................................. CHAPTER IX - MATTERS OF FORM IN BAPTIST CHURCH BYLAWS......... Internal Consistency ........................................ Consistency of Content .................................... Consistency of Style and Form ............................. Form and Format ............................................. Suggested Formats ......................................... 185 186 186 188 190 191 192 194 195 195 195 196 197 198 198 199 199 200 200 201 201 202 205 206 206 207 208 208


BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................. 211 TEXTUAL AND LEXICAL TOOLS ................................... 211 COMMENTARIES ................................................ 211 CHURCH POLITY AND LEADERSHIP ................................ 212 GENERAL WORKS ............................................... 214 RESTORATION MANUAL RESOURCES ................................ 215 APPENDIX A.................................................... CHURCH BYLAWS QUESTIONNAIRE ................................. PART I .................................................... Part II ................................................... APPENDIX B.................................................... A SAMPLE BAPTIST CHURCH CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS ............. PREAMBLE .................................................. OUR CHURCH COVENANT ....................................... OUR DECLARATION OF FAITH .................................. THE BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES .................................. CONSTITUTION .............................................. BYLAWS .................................................... ATTACHMENT A - OUR DOCTRINAL STATEMENT ...................... ATTACHMENT B - STANDARD OF CHARACTER AND CONDUCT ............ ATTACHMENT C - DISCIPLINE OF MEMBERS ........................ ATTACHMENT D - A MANUAL FOR RESTORATION ..................... 217 217 217 222 227 227 227 227 228 228 229 231 247 250 252 256


Justification for a Baptist Church Bylaws Manual Baptist churches and their pastors struggle with their

constitutions and bylaws.

That, in simplest terms, comprises the During more than half of which

primary justification for the present manual. three decades of pastoral ministry (more


involved membership on association boards), it has been difficult to overlook the continuing frustration that many have expressed over their formal church documents. They are a frustration for churches and ordained leadership alike. Often the prevailing attitude is that the less notice Often there is a sense of dread

given to the bylaws, the better.

over the constitutional revision expected to follow on the heels of a pastoral change. "Is something the One layman was heard to ask his pastor, In response to the pastor's


uncertainty about the expected response, the layman continued. "You've bylaws." Ironically, the very documents that should provide been here two years and haven't asked to change the

stability, continuity, and a sense of purpose in a local church are themselves a source of conflict and stress. When church and

pastor decide to work toward a revision, or when new churches consider writing an initial set of documents, there is little help available to assist them in producing documents that are soundly biblical and practically workable. Bylawsl are often held in low regard. It is apparent that

many consider their official church documents a necessary evil;


that many are resigned to an almost inevitable conflict between the constitution and the Bible; and that many churches give

biblical principles little if any consideration when generating and amending bylaws. There is a genuine need for a manual that

would assist churches in incorporating biblical principles as the foundation for bylaws. The response to the suggestion of a study designed to assist in producing biblical bylaws gave credibility to the perceived need. The following are typical comments that were received in

the early stages of this project: "I am sending a copy of our 'outdated' constitution and bylaws for your use." "Enclosed

please find a copy of our constitution and bylaws. They are in desperate need of updating." area is long overdue." "I feel that any effort in this

"Here it is, beast that it is! It's been

nickel and dime revised. We have discussed a major revision for 2 or 3 years, but it hasn't started yet." advice you could give our church "I would appreciate any in developing a good

Constitution and Bylaws."

"Please be aware that I may not be

able to furnish all you would like regarding the history and function of our bylaws. (I don't know the history and I don't "If [the project] should help

want to talk about the function!)"

produce documents for our churches that are biblical it will be worth all the effort!" "We . . . will be quite interested in

your findings as we, too, have experienced the negative side of our church's legal documents." One Pastor indicated that his

church was told by the Northwest Conservative Baptist Association office that their church bylaws ". . . [were] the most confusing and disorganized mess for a church's official document that they had ever seen of and that that kind it of needed need to be the revised." impetus for The this

anticipation manual.



Development of a Baptist Church Bylaws Manual Phase I: The Independent Studies Three biblical studies provided substance for this manual. They were designed and written to address, based on experience and observation, the significant areas of bylaws-related stress typical in Baptist churches. Four specific issues were targeted

for study: the church covenant; church discipline; qualifications for church membership (which requires a discussion of the

statement of faith and standards of conduct among other things); and qualifications of for church relating leadership to church (including polity and some the



pastoral office). Figure 1

When the research for this project was completed and the results were tabulated, those specific targeted areas comprised in excess of ninety-five percent of the stresses and difficulties that were reported by the churches relating to bylaws issues (see Fig. 1).


Phase II: The Survey Instrument A two-part questionnaire was developed, with a total of The

fifty-one questions (A copy is attached as Appendix A). responding churches received Part I of the


consisting of 28 questions dealing with demographics, the history and development of the bylaws, and the function of specific

sections of the documents. The first five questions were demographic, dealing with

church location, age, membership, stability and typical pastoral tenure. This information not only provided a valuable profile of

the responding churches and proved helpful in tracing the sources of individual church documents, but also provided valuable points of comparison of the sample with the entire NWCBA. Questions specific original six through bylaws. sources eleven traced the history of the the the

church's source or

Individual for the

questions as

explored well as


causes and process of any revisions.

Additional considerations

dealt with the role of the bylaws in the individual church, the extent to which they reflected current practice, and the question of consistency with the Articles of Incorporation. These

responses provided a good barometer of the churches' approach to bylaws issues. Questions twelve through twenty-three explored the function of specific sections of the bylaws in the church. Questions

concerned the function of the covenant, the statement of object or purpose, the statement of faith, membership, church

discipline, officers, the Pastor, and church polity. Questions twenty-four to twenty-six dealt with the overall adequacy of the documents, the specific areas of bylaws-related stress encountered, and the importance of the bylaws in the view of the membership. The final two questions of Part I asked for

the enumeration of areas of greatest strength, and the two things most in need of change. The fact that more than one Pastor

suggested, "They exist!" as the greatest strength of their bylaws 4

suggests the need for practical assistance with these issues. Many of the desired changes that were listed appeared repeatedly, and will be addressed in this study. Part II, containing questions 29 through 51, involved an analysis of the content of the bylaws. Questions twenty-nine

through forty-seven dealt the content of specific sections of the document: church the covenant, the statement church of faith, pulpit membership, committee, The final




procedures, ordination and licensure, and dissolution.

three questions examined format (constitution, bylaws, or both), descent or original source, and physical appearance.

Phase III: Enlistment of a Study Sample An initial letter was sent to the 267 Conservative Baptist churches in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, which comprise the Northwest Conservative Baptist Association (NWCBA),

requesting their involvement in a study of Baptist church bylaws. They would indicate their interest in participating by returning a copy of their church constitution and/or bylaws with a

commitment to complete and return a questionnaire concerning its development and function. The questionnaire was forwarded by return mail to each of the 53 churches (20%) that supplied a copy of the bylaws. Of

those a total of 43 churches (16%) completed the questionnaire and returned it. study. Admittedly, this did not provide a scientific sample. There They form the sample that was used for this

were no mechanisms to ensure that it would be representative of the whole NWCBA. In fact, one could assume that it might be Churches might be more

unrepresentative for several reasons.

likely to respond if there were significant problems with their bylaws in the present or in the past. Pastors with a greater

interest in bylaws issues might be more likely to participate (or pastors with no interest in desperation). 5 Churches might be more

likely to take part in the study if their leadership gave higher visibility to their bylaws. So a major question had to await the final response and compilation of data: to what degree is this sample representative of the whole Association. Would it be legitimate to project the

findings (at least in a general way) to a broader cross-section of Baptist churches? A tentative answer was provided by the

response to the first section of the instrument. The first five questions were designed to provide a

demographic profile of the churches.

Areas of focus included the

location of the church, its age, its membership, the degree of stability it had experienced, and the average pastoral tenure. Of those five criteria three could be compared with statistics from the entire NWCBA: location, age, and membership. Location of the church was the first demographic comparison (see Fig. 2), and was the most subjective of the three, since the five categories from which the respondents chose were subject to a broad range of interpretation. It could be a matter of opinion

whether a church would be classed as inner city or urban, for instance. The distinction between a suburban or a small town

church was also a matter of judgment.

Fig. 2.












correlation between the sample and the entire NWCBA. was slightly over-represented among small town

The sample and rural

churches, and slightly under-represented among urban and suburban congregations. But the maximum deviation {among suburban

churches) was approximately seven percent. higher than anticipated.

Correspondence was

The comparative data in the other two demographic categories was more objective, and the correspondence continued to be

surprisingly high.

In comparing ages of churches the percentage

was exactly the same for those between three and ten, and eleven and twenty-five years of age. Congregations less than two years

old and those between twenty-six and fifty years of age made up a slightly smaller segment in the sample, while the percentage of those older than fifty years was slightly higher than the NWCBA as a whole. Still, the maximum variation in any of the five

categories was only about five percent {see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3.


In comparing membership statistics of the sample with the entire NWCBA {see Fig. 4), with there under was 50 reasonably were close under-




represented by about 7%, while congregations between 200 and 500 members were more numerous in the sample by about 6%. The other three classifications were very close.

Fig. 4.

It seems reasonable to suggest that the data derived from this survey process should have general applicability to

Conservative Baptist churches and to others of like faith and practice. The analysis, biblical rationale, and proposed

approaches to bylaws issues which follow should have relevance beyond sample. the forty-three churches that comprised the original

Phase IV: Processing and Analysis of Data Analysis questionnaires of the data from the submitted most bylaws Baptist abd the





bylaws were written and revised using a limited number of basic source documents, and bear distinct family resemblances; many

churches had similar histories of conflict, part of which arose






churches to

continued bylaws;


grapple with

with few






exceptions, there seemed a lack of consistent biblical rationale for the forms and procedures developed in those formal documents. Further, most Baptist church bylaws were written and revised through a similar process. There are two primary sources for

Conservative Baptist bylaws: models from a CBA state office, and the documents of other churches. Thirty percent of the

respondents cited a CBA office model as the primary source for their bylaws, while sixteen percent trace them to a sister


Further, of the 49 percent who considered their bylaws a

compilation from numerous sources, over seventy percent reflected one or more of the CBA office models clearly enough to trace family lines. In fact, of the churches who traced their

documents to a "church manual," three out of four were traceable to a CBA model, as were four of the seven who had borrowed from another individual church, and two of the six who considered their bylaws an original document. Thus, eighty-six percent of

the sample can be traced directly or indirectly to one of the CBA models distributed through the years, primarily by the CBA of Oregon. Those generations. process of models show evidence of at least four distinct

(Reconstructing those specific documents involves a "textual criticism" because much of the archival

material of the NWCBA was destroyed by a fire in the CBA of Oregon office years ago.) The original version was a document One out of

developed by Dr. Kenneth Tobias in the early 1950's.

four churches in the sample had bylaws that could still be traced to that document. The second-generation model was apparently

developed in the late fifties, and simplified the original sixboard structure to three boards, in addition to other minor


The third generation, probably developed in the mid-to-

late sixties, used much of the original language but included a single-board system of polity. 9 It also included a revision of



statement as a

regarding beverage."

the The









included in the 1980 CBA of Oregon manual,2 was almost completely reworded from the Tobias document. When churches decided to modify their bylaws, the majority (63%) did so by addressing a specific issue. indicated pastor, revisions 23% were of initiated due to Twenty-six percent arrival by of a a new







Nearly forty percent of revisions were undertaken due

to a perceived need for a major change in church organization. Less than 12% indicated that extensive biblical study was part of the amendment process, although thirty percent indicated that the reason for changing the bylaws was to implement biblical

principles. The survey revealed a reasonably clear profile of bylaws processes and issues. Integrated with the information gleaned in

the biblical studies and other research, this profile formed the basis for the following manual for Baptist church bylaws.

Preview of a Baptist Church Bylaws Manual The Role of Biblical Church Polity This discussion of issues dealing with procedures and

structures for the local church leads to the question of its relevance. Is there, in fact, a framework of church polity and

practice in the New Testament that is applicable to the church of twentieth-century America? Is there a pattern in Scripture that

the church of today ought to be following, or is the contemporary situation so different that biblical structures are irrelevant? Were New Testament forms and procedures to be normative

throughout the development and history of the Church? In their book, When Pastors Wonder How, Howard Sugden and Warren Wiersbe respond to a question concerning a biblical

pattern for church polity in these words:


Any honest student of church history must confess that God has used and blessed men in just about every form of church government: congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal! Reorganizing your church is not a guarantee that God will send revival. . . . Accept the organization as you find it. If the Lord convinces you there are areas that are not scriptural, discuss it with your key leaders and give them time to pray and reflect. But don't get the idea that a certain kind of organization automatically wins the blessing of God! God 3 blesses men, not machinery. The authors seem to suggest that one form of church

government has as much biblical validity as another.

The form

and organization of the church seem to be left to the preference of the individual local body. According to the authors, the Lord

of the Church has apparently not expressed a preference that is binding on the local church. Can it be demonstrated that New Testament teaching relating to church polity is normative for the contemporary church? Are

first century forms and functions divinely mandated, or are they merely century, descriptions of the methods that were chosen in the first with complete freedom to develop new forms for the

contemporary church? It could be argued that there are cultural factors that have rendered the forms and practices of the New Testament day

irrelevant. might

The present cultural context is so different (one that the simplicity of New Testament patterns


simply does not apply. In the New Testament, new members entered the local church through conversion and baptism. They would be teachable, and

would adopt the beliefs and practices of the body of which they were a part. spiritual church. But now, prospective members come from diverse the majority by transfer from another


They may already hold firmly to divergent doctrinal

beliefs, or they may already be committed to a different approach to church polity. Does not that kind of diversity demand a


greater latitude in setting standards and adopting forms and practices than is exhibited in the first century? The first century church grew in a context of intense

persecution. everything.

The comfort and affluence of today's church change How (one argues) can you uphold the standards the No one will serve. Can you

New Testament sets for leadership?

maintain the level of accountability that is implied in the New Testament? involvement Won't people rebel at giving others such a heavy in their lives? People are just not willing to

tolerate such a level of discipline and commitment, one might argue. When people had burned all their bridges upon their

entrance into the church, when they were disowned by family and society, when they lost their vocation and their friends upon becoming Christians the church had much greater leverage to teach and to mold. It's different today, one could contend. Many

would observe that a church is not so much something you are part of today as something you go to. That doesn't make it right, People

necessarily, but (so the theory goes) it's the way it is. don't have the same kind of relationship to a church.

Raise the

questions of commitment and accountability and responsibility, and contemporary Christians begin to get nervous. one view: The concept of having a single church which people call their church home is changing. This is one of the findings reported in a newly released study from the Barna Research Group. The report, entitled America 2000: What the Trends Mean for Christianity, contains a description and analysis of trends that will affect the ways in which the church ministers in the coming decade. Barna writes that there is a transition now in progress, in which people are increasingly more likely to have a group of several churches that are thought of as home churches. The individual will choose from among that select group of churches which one to attend on any given Sunday.4 If that is the nature of the church in the next century, what good does it do to discuss biblical principles for church structure and function? There will be no membership, no body, In fact, in


just an organization and a program.

Church growth will not be so

much a matter of the spiritual growth of a spiritual body as it will be a matter of marketing and packaging and consumerism. Further, what about the issue of utilitarianism that seems to dominate in the church. Will it work? The ultimate question seems to be:

Many Pastors have caught themselves observing, "If

our church held to the qualifications for deacons in I Timothy 3, we'd have no deacons." In fact, some seem to say, New Testament And

church practice will not work in our contemporary society.

even if it would work passably well, is it not conceivable that another form might work better? Shouldn't the church pursue

those forms and practices that would show the greatest potential for getting the job done? These may seem to be logical arguments. Still, they are

relatively irrelevant if Christ, the Head of the Church, has prescribed the forms and functions that are to be operative in the local body. Significantly, the "apostles and prophets" are seen to be the "foundation" in Ephesians 2:19-22? Clearly the

Apostles understood their teaching and practice to have more than local significance. Repeatedly Paul refers to beliefs and practices he

prescribes to be observed "in all the churches" (1 Cor. 7:17. 14:33-34). extension Is it not reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the of this and teaching by the as Apostles well as would cross

chronological ones?




William Steuart HcBirnie deals with many of these issues in his book, The Search for the Early Church. He raises the issue

of the role of New Testament teaching and practice of church polity: It must be plain that the whole issue comes down to one question: Shall the principles of the early church, given by Christ and the Apostles, continue to be the ideal? Or are Christians to consider that while Christian doctrine was once


and for all revealed, the handling of the church is entirely up to them, to retain or to change as they will? How much change of the church is due to selfish ambition, to the almost irresistible impact of culture, the widespread indifference to (or ignorance of) the New Testament, or to the belief that the New Testament is not really sufficient? . . . Perhaps it would also be helpful to ask the practical question, What best preserves the truth of Christ-- the early church and its principles faithfully followed, or an everchanging church?5 It is assumed, for the sake of this study, that the New Testament patterns and principles are more than descriptive of one age of the Church. They are prescriptive for all ages of the

church, not only for individual salvation, but for the structure and function of the Body of Christ. Detailed application,

methodology, and strategy may vary from age to age and culture to culture. commission But the underlying principles remain unchanged. given to the church in Matthew 28:18-20 The is

prescriptive. saints" faith

The tenets of the "once for all entrusted to the of Jude 3 are unchanged. The nature of the

relationship that binds individual believers together in a local body is not subject to cultural whim. The qualifications for The been

membership and leadership in that body are established. basic framework of organization for the local body has

divinely designed and revealed.

In those foundational areas, the The goal of a

New Testament is prescriptive, not descriptive.

church developing its formal organizational documents should be to faithfully reflect unchanging biblical principles in the

foundation and framework of their organization and function. Those principles form the skeleton for the structure and operation of the body. Fleshing out the form and function of a

local ministry on that framework, though, will give expression to all the gifts and abilities, all the creativity, variation, and uniqueness remainder that of the body can generate. be to The purpose of the and







consider some of the issues involved in adding flesh to those bones. 14

Preview of Part I Part I will deal with foundational issues that make up the skeleton for the organization and structure of a local church. The first of these, developed in Chapter II is the nature and role of the church covenant. Four areas will be considered: the

study of the nature of the New Testament church as a covenant community will validate the church covenant principle; the

history of church covenant statements from the second century until the present will put the traditional statement in

perspective; an examination of biblical covenant models will give insight into an alternative approach to a church covenant

statement; and finally, the implications of such an approach will set the stage to for a suggested that the covenant church statement. covenant is It not is a



peripheral issue.

The way it is approached and its role in

church life are major keys to the form and function of a local church. Chapter III will consider biblical qualifications for church membership. These will naturally fall into four specific areas

of consideration: there are qualifications relating to Christian experience; must be there are qualifications membership; of doctrinal are belief standards that of




personal conduct that must be observed to qualify for membership in a local body; finally, there is a standard of commitment that must be met to be received into a local body. are developed directly from Scripture. The These standards goal of a local

church is to discover that delicate balance which demands neither less than, nor more than these New Testament criteria. Chapter IV will concern the issue of church discipline by developing two approaches under three sets of contrasts:

behavioral vs. relational discipline; expulsion vs. exclusion in discipline; and repentance vs. restoration in discipline. A











salvage countless broken members, while removing one of the major causes of reproach in the world's eyes. Chapter V will deal with the subject of church polity. It

will develop a suggested profile of the biblical offices in the body and suggest a pattern for integrating those biblical

principles in church structure.

Considering the New Testament

concept of "elder" will be central to the development of biblical church polity. Building on the foundation of leadership structure, Chapter VI will consider leadership people. What are the New Testament How do those standards Are they

standards for leadership in the church?

for leadership relate to the standards for membership? the same? they are.

In reading many church bylaws, one might conclude that Nearly one out of three documents examined required That

only that officers be "MIGS," Members In Good Standing.

indicates a need for a clear understanding of biblical principles of leadership, and the kind of people who should occupy

leadership roles.

Preview of Part II The preceding are the primary areas of the bylaws to which the New Testament speaks specifically. They should form the There are at

skeleton for a church's organization and function.

least three other classes of issues that must be considered in giving flesh and life to those bones. Part II of this work. Chapter VII will concern itself with legal considerations that fall into four categories: consistency between Articles of Incorporation and all subsequent documents is a legal necessity; bylaws statements concerning church discipline are the first line of defense for the biblical church, and must include certain elements; every church needs a statement regarding the They are the subject of


dissolution of the church as a corporation and distribution of assets; further, it is more important than ever before for

churches to ensure that their policies and procedures relating to finances, contributions, personnel policies and tax-exempt/non-

profit status are consistent with applicable law. Chapter VIII will include several procedural matters that have been suggested by the analysis of the bylaws submitted for this study: a consideration of issues related to quorum and

voting; a discussion of the question of the level of detail and complexity necessary for bylaws to be workable; some suggestions on scaling the level of organization to the size of the

congregation; and a section dealing with parliamentary law and other procedural details. Chapter IX will deal with matters of style and format. are some pitfalls to avoid to make the bylaws readable What and


What are some possible formats for the document itself The issue of internal

that lend attractiveness and practicality?

consistency will be addressed (Article I should harmonize with Article VII. right?). And the balance between brevity and

adequacy will be considered. Two appendices are attached to this study. The first is a

copy of the questionnaire that formed the basis of the study, with the total response indicated in percentages for each


The second is a sample Constitution and Bylaws, with

related documents. All the above is offered in the hope that it may be of practical assistance to pastors and churches who want to

faithfully fulfill the Great Commission through the growth and ministry of a biblical church, organized and operating according to New Testament principles.


Notes: Chapter I


Although some churches have constitutions, some have bylaws, and some have both, the term "bylaws" will be used generically in this study to refer to all church documents. Conservative Baptist Association of Oregon. Handbook. 1980. 0-10 to 0-33. Howard F. Sugden and Warren W. Wiersbe, When Pastors Wonder How (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973), 42-43. "News & Trends," Your Church, November/December, 1989, 24-25. William Steuart McBirnie, The Search for the Early (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1978), 24. Church



4 5




She had begun attending a ladies' Bible study sponsored by the author's first church. truth it became apparent As she began grappling with biblical to all that she was desperately


Over a period of time she found peace through a What an encouragement she was to

personal commitment to Christ. the whole church.

She grew by leaps and bounds.

She was like a sponge-And it was not

absorbing God's truth at an exhilarating pace.

long before she arrived at the conclusion that she needed to be obedient in following the Lord in baptism and church membership. It was a joy to review those basic fundamentals of the faith with her and watch her spirit resonate with what she knew to be truth. Then one day she called. reading problem. through the She needed to talk. and Bylaws, and She had been she had a


She was a new Christian, and there were areas in the It

covenant that she was not sure she could promise to fulfill.

would do no good to view the covenant as a goal for which to strive. She wanted to be scrupulously honest in her commitment, She probably had looked it up. area was the promise to

and it did say, "We engage." One particularly


abstain from the use of alcohol. reach her husband for Christ, and

She wanted desperately to he really enjoyed their

sharing a beer on a hot summer's day after work.

She was not

yet convicted that it was wrong, and she didn't want to put any


more stumbling blocks in her husband's way than necessary. could she do? She couldn't in good conscience make

What that

promise, and she refused to come into the church under false pretenses. So her best solution was to back off from church

membership for the time being. She continued to attend services for a while, and attended the Bible study where she had found Christ even longer. But

eventually she found another group of believers with which to affiliate. However, that fellowship was a charismatic group

that held a cultish allegiance to its leader, and eventually moved toward serious involvement in the occult. Could something have been done to avoid this tragedy? Why

did the covenant, designed to bond the church in unity, result in this new Christian becoming a casualty rather than a mature disciple? New believers were not the only ones who struggled with the covenant. There was a mature believer, a deacon in the church. He was well along in his career as a store manager for a large grocery chain when the head office made the decision to begin marketing alcoholic beverages. His initial reaction was to

resign from his vocation because the church covenant to which he subscribed excluded the sale of alcohol. Before taking any action as drastic as that, however, it seemed prudent to elicit counsel from mature believers he


He consulted with several pastors and with faculty

members of well-known Christian institutions of higher learning. The consensus of the advice he received encouraged him to remain in his position, which had high visibility and great potential for witness to employee and customer. As for the covenant, it

was not really a law he was told, but a goal to strive for.


So he remained on the job until retirement, but he may have always wondered if he did the right thing. really just a goal? Was the covenant

It didn't seem to be worded as a goal.

The Status of the Church Covenant in NWCBA Churches These two incidents introduce a struggle that has touched numerous churches. Sometimes the struggle over the covenant has In other cases it

resulted merely in uncomfortable tensions.

has resulted in serious church division, or in the exclusion of believers from the fellowship who needed to be nurtured and/or restored. This struggle was not evident in the stresses indicated by the churches in the sample. Less than five percent indicated But a closer look reveals

significant stress over the covenant.

few Conservative Baptist churches who have not made changes in their covenant statement. This conclusion is based on the


One out of four churches has documents whose primary The bylaws of an

source is the model developed by Dr. Tobias.

equal number have their primary source in an early revision of that model, both of which contained the traditional church


Revisions of that statement do not appear common Thus, it is reasonable to that time included the

before the early to middle 1960's. assume that churches formed before

traditional covenant statement. total sample fits this category.

Approximately one half of the Of those twenty-two churches,

only 27% have retained the covenant in its original form, and one of those indicated significant stress over it. Of the

remainder, 36% have made minor changes (almost without exception involving the alcohol statement). 27% have made such major

changes as to alter the nature of the document, and the rest



either Of

replaced those


deleted with the

the bylaws

traditional from other

covenant sources, in some

entirely. sixty-five

churches included




form but all but one have been modified. Obviously attention. because the covenant has received a great deal of

It is likely not considered a high stress factor now those battles were fought under previous

administrations, probably between 1965 and 1980. The fact remains that Baptists struggle to know how the covenant ought to be understood and applied. This tension can

be illustrated by citing two statements from a book designed to aid churches in understanding and using the covenant. study guide titled, We Covenant is not a ."1 Together, creed; J. it Winston is not a In his Pearce legal




document. a measure

It has never been seriously suggested that it be made of fellowship; . . Yet the very next page

seemingly contradicts the statement that the covenant does not have the binding character of a legal document when it says, "The covenant is beautifully phrased, but let it not fool you; there are claws beneath that velvet."2 make covenant obligations the In fact, many churches do of fellowship." The


following statement from the bylaws of a Washington Conservative Baptist church is typical: "To become a member of this church one must . . . subscribe to the views and practices of this church as set forth in the foregoing Articles of Faith and the Church Covenant." of the bylaws in In fact, a content analysis of the language this sample indicated that nearly eighty

percent technically required observance of covenant obligations for membership. Further, the covenant is often made a "measure of

fellowship" for purposes of church discipline in such statements


as the following (from the "Sample Bylaws" suggested by the Conservative Baptist Association of Oregon): If a member . . . neglects his Covenant obligation, the Board of Deacons may, after a period of nine months, place his name on an inactive list. After a period of one more year his name may be erased from the role.3 Many who have believed and taught that the covenant ought to be understood and used in this manner: Many Baptist church manuals, especially of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, stood rather solidly behind the idea that violations of one's covenantal agreements with one's church should be countered with disciplinary action. A typical assertion in these manuals [by William Crowell] was that "[a church] has the right to require of all its members a punctual performance of all the duties prescribed in the church covenant and in the Word of God, and to call them to account for neglect or violation."4 Churches seem to take one of two approaches to the covenant in practice. high regard Sometimes, as has been seen, it is held in very and its provisions are made requirements for

membership in the local church. disciplinary action against a

It becomes the foundation for wayward member, and it often

results in the exclusion of new believers or restored members from membership until a certain level of maturity is achieved. In other churches it becomes the little of more the than role a of goal. the




covenant may seem to coincide with the secularization of the church with its attendant de-emphasis on separated living,5 many have recognized that maintaining the covenant as a membership standard is biblically and practically untenable. questions are raised regarding the biblical Legitimate for


including many of the specific provisions of the traditional covenant as requirements for membership in a local church. For

instance, can a church require a young person who is the only


believer in his family to "maintain family . . . devotions," or can a Christian mother with a belligerent, agnostic husband

promise "to religiously educate [her] children?" These may be extreme examples, but the point remains that many of the

mandates of the covenant, though worthy and laudable ideals, have no biblical support as requirements for membership in a local church. Churches who address a tension with the covenant tend to take one of two tracks in seeking a resolution. modify the specific the provisions that of are the Many attempt to while The

troublesome covenant.




particular phrase that seems to have received the most attention is the commitment "to abstain from the sale and use of

intoxicating drink as a beverage."

Of the churches retaining

the traditional covenant statement in some form (more than 75% of the sample) 50 percent of those modified had changed this statement, while an additional 38 percent deleted it entirely. Additional modifications were made to other conduct statements. Charles Deweese, a Southern Baptist who has made extensive study of the history and application of Baptist church

covenants, would encourage such modifications, concluding: A church covenant ought to be specific enough to state concrete commitments, disciplines, and expectations, but it should be general enough to allow for flexibility in interpretation. This will state the position of the church on matters of conduct and, at the same time, give priority to the Baptist concept of the priesthood of believers.6 Still, the fact remains that a conduct-oriented statement will include lifestyle demands that have no biblical support as conditions for membership in the local church. of their validity remains unaddressed. The second approach to covenant-related stress has involved reducing the covenant to a statement of the ideal, a profile of The basic issue


a mature believer.

This was extensively true in NWCBA churches.

As noted earlier, eighty percent of the bylaws of the churches in the sample technically required members to observe the

obligations of the covenant.

At the same time, nearly fifty

percent of the respondents saw the covenant as a "goal" toward which to strive. There is obvious inconsistency between the A

language of the document and the way it is actually applied.

third of the sample churches seemed to have agreed to live with this dissonance, to have an unspoken understanding regarding the covenant despite the language. deal with the inconsistency. One approach involved the relatively simple step (taken by 16% of the churches) of substituting the word "endeavor" for the word "engage". The result of this seemingly minor change is to The A few had taken steps to try to

reduce the covenant from a firm commitment to a goal.

covenant ceases to be a covenant in the sense of a contractual agreement, its normal sense. A "covenant" is defined as "(I) a

usu. Formal, solemn, and binding agreement . . . (2) a written agreement or promise usu. under seal between two or more parties es. for the performance of some action."7 This modification may seem inconsequential to some, but if the same adjustment were to be applied to other contractual relationships its fallacy would become immediately obvious.

Imagine appending a note to a bank contract above the signature that said, "I will endeavor to pay. best shot." I will really give it my

The friendly banker would immediately clarify the It must be more than a

nature and significance of a contract. goal.

The inconsistency of such an approach would not be lost to Edward Marshall, an attorney, who wrote: When . . . a covenant is entered into whereby a church is constituted, whatever has been agreed upon in their covenants


stands in place of laws to those who made them, as parties to a contract make a law between themselves as to matters therein agreed upon. . . . Thus by this organic union there is erected a judiciary, so to speak, to declare what will be taken as law, and to compel the observance of the same.8 In this light, there seems good reason to challenge Charles Deweese' statement that ". . . it is a misuse of a covenant to treat it as a legal document. The strength of a covenant does

not lie in a legalistic attachment to its wording but in a reliance wording."9 Granted, Dr. Deweese addresses legitimate abuses. it possible to separate the covenant's wording But is the upon the biblical principles which lie behind the


principles it establishes and still call it a "covenant"? In taking this approach to the inherent problems with the traditional church covenant it would seem more consistent to call the document by another name. by a few churches. those of a covenant, This is the conclusion drawn

While the contents essentially parallel the statement is no longer termed a

covenant but is designated a "statement of lifestyle" or of "membership responsibilities" using the word "endeavor." Deweese correctly observes that to ". . . eliminate But the

covenantal emphasis from our affirmations about the church and abandon covenanting . . . will run counter to traditional

Baptist practice, at least as it existed in the seventeenth through much of the nineteenth centuries."10 a significant biblical emphasis. These attempts to minimize the serious difficulties with the traditional covenant are based on the assumption that the current statement is biblically and philosophically consistent with what a church covenant ought to be. the definition that holds: They accept as valid It will also remove


A church covenant is a series of pledges which church members voluntarily make to God and one another. These vows reflect biblically based guidelines by which church members intend to conduct themselves or practice their faith as Christians. . . . [The] church covenant centers on conduct.11 Are these struggles just a necessary part of attempting to live as the body of Christ in a godless world? Are there

adjustments that could be made in the wording of the covenant itself that would minimize the struggles it seems to create, reevaluating the role it is to play? covenant percent is of irrelevant the for today's have Is it possible that the church? (In such fact, ten




altogether.) look taken at

Or is it possible that there needs to be a new the covenant itself? Do the problems exist

because the statement itself is biblically and philosophically flawed? struggle Is it conceivable that the church will continue to with controversy until its covenant statements are

aligned with the biblical pattern?

The New Testament Church: A Covenant Community The There New no Testament does not contain to a church church covenant. members





subscribed in apostolic days.

Does that mean, then, that the If that were

concept is without biblical support or precedent?

the case, if the church covenant concept were merely human in origin, it might not warrant serious attention. But if it does

develop from biblical pattern, principle, and precedent, then the practice of the church must be consistent with that

teaching. Although there is no evidence of a formal, written church covenant in New Testament times, Marshall reaches a correct

conclusion in stating:


In those primitive churches which existed at a period anterior to written history, although we cannot find anything like a formal covenant, such as we have in these days, to have been entered into, we can very readily suppose, that the minds of all entering into church relations, spontaneously, and without any set purpose, conspired to that end. That those assemblies and gatherings were organized churches, that is, collections of members in the aggregate, is abundantly sufficient to authorize the supposition. Certain it is we can discern far more evidence of the prevalence of a common will, as actuating the assemblies, than of the prevalence of a common will of an individual assuming to erect them into churches. Every lawyer knows of tacit or implied agreements even in jurisprudence, and courts give the same force and authority to them which they do to express ones. For, although, we might not be able to find any trace in these primitive churches of an express covenant, we can discover far more evidences of that form of organization which results from one, than we Can of the self-government of individuals and for individuals.12 Evidence for the covenantal nature of the early church is developed by considering several factors: the covenantal pattern of the relationship between Christ and his people; the New

Testament concept of fellowship; the specific exhortations and instructions in Scripture; consideration of the nature of the community at Qumran revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls; and

indications in the writings of the early church fathers of the covenantal antecedents which they had inherited. A covenant body was not a new concept to the first century believers. With their Jewish roots, they clearly understood the

type of covenantal relationship that existed between God and his people, between an individual Israelite and the nation, and

between individual Israelites within the nation. begun as a result of a covenant which God

The nation had with


Abram, when in awesome ceremony ". . . the Lord made a covenant with Abram . . ." (Gen. 15:18).13 Israel's worship, government, and And later the framework for lifestyle was added as a

second covenant.

"When Moses went and told the people all the


Lord's words and laws, they replied with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do"' (Ex. 24:3). Then, following the

building of an altar, the burnt offerings and the sacrifice of bulls, Moses ". . . took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, 'We will do everything the Lord has Moses responded by sprinkling

said; we will obey'" (Ex. 24:7).

the blood of the sacrifice on the people and announcing, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Ex. 24:8). Further, even Yahweh's name defined him as ". . . the God of the Covenant, the God who chose them to be his own special people. . . , the eternal God who would be faithful to the covenant by which he bound himself to them."14 So it would not have seemed at all unusual to the early disciples to hear Christ announce, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:20). Jesus' talk of his establishing the kingdom, there In all was the And

implicit understanding of a covenant relationship with him.

growing out of that relationship a covenant relationship was established between the kingdom subjects. Second, it is instructive to consider the New Testament concept of fellowship as it relates to the church as a covenant people. covenantal John Balchin provides of helpful in insight his book, into What the the



Bible Teaches about the Church: Like other terms adopted by first century Christians, 'fellowship' had been widely used previously in secular ways. The word comes from a fairly common root meaning 'to share' or 'to have in common'. It signified 'to participate in something' rather than 'to share out something to others', though the one often issued in the other. In the Greek world, it had been used of business partnerships, of friendships, of marriage and, in pagan worship, of the


intimate relationship which the worshiper claimed to have with his god.15 This bond involves total oneness and commitment: The grounds of this fellowship are . . . inherent in genuine Christian experience. To be one with other believers was a direct result of their conversion. It was not merely a matter of people cooperating because they had a common interest like photography or fishing. There was a supernatural basis for their new found relationships with one another.16 As this concept of fellowship developed in the covenantal body of the New Testament church, amazing things happened: [The] new sharing expressed itself in a number of ways. There was . . . a sense of belonging in those early churches which cut across all other natural barriers. Men and women previously divided by race, culture, religion, sex, social status or even language now addressed each other as "brother" or "sister", and these were not empty titles. The Spirit was the Spirit of adoption, and therefore they were members of the same family, of "the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19; I Timothy 3:15; Galatians 6:10).17 Clearly, whether a written, formal covenant existed or not (and there is no historical evidence that it did), the New

Testament believers formed covenant fellowships. Third, passages one could turn the to any number of an of New Testament covenant





relationship within the body of Christ. Chapters two and four of Acts indicate

Three will suffice. an all-encompassing

commitment that the early Christians made to each other and to the body. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people (Acts 2:44-47). All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. . . . There were no needy


persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:32-35). A second passage which underscores the magnitude of the commitment anticipated (and expected) within the body of Christ is I Corinthians 12. Three great themes are developed. The

local church is characterized by unity: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body" (verse 12). It is characterized by

diversity: "Now the body is not made up of one part, but of many" (verse 14); "If they were all one part, where would the body be?" (verse 19). It is characterized by interdependence:

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!," (verse 21); "If one part suffers every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (verse 26). The

believer is exhorted to establish and maintain an organic union with a local body that accurately reflects the spiritual union already created in Christ. The final passage is Galatians 6:1-10 which is grounded on the twin themes of accountability to and responsibility for one another. oversight Accountability and rebuke), is evidenced is in verse 1 in (accept numerous



exhortations (take the risk to correct--verse 1; bear others burdens--verse 2; support teachers--verse 6; do good to fellow believers--verse 10). These qualities were not reserved for a select body. few, To but marked into every such believer's a relationship to the a




voluntary and far-reaching commitment with all the marks of a covenantal relationship. Fourth, Charles Deweese has suggested the significance of the covenant idea in the Qumran community as revealed in the


Dead Sea Scrolls.

Having a Jewish context similar to that of

the early church, it seems apparent that "[t]he covenant idea is extremely important in the qumran writings."18 Although Qumran

was not a Christian community, it does, because of its common roots, graphically demonstrate the normal way in which a Jewish religious community would be established. The examination of

such a first-century Jewish community leads one to anticipate that the foundational role of such a covenant concept would not only be possible, but probable. Deweese continues:

The covenant concept expressed itself in a special way in the context of initiation into the Qumran community. The Manual of Discipline has preserved two accounts of a ceremony of initiation. The first account shows that the persons wishing to join the community covenanted to follow the commandments of God.5 The second account contains these words: "Everyone who is admitted to the formal organization of the community is to enter a covenant in the presence of all fellow volunteers . . . and to commit himself by a binding oath to abide . . . by . . . the Law of Moses. . . .6 The covenantors at Qumran were disciplined when they failed to keep their pledge and when they violated the rules of the community. __________ Manual of Discipline 1:16f., in Theodore H. Gaster (trans. and ed.), The Dead Sea Scriptures (Garden City. N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1956), pp. 40-41.

6 5

Ibid., 5:7-20, pp. 47-48.19

Finally, the acknowledgement of the covenant concept in the early church is demonstrated in the natural use of formal Deweese

covenants within a generation of the apostolic period. notes:

[W)hat is perhaps the best description of the New Testament church as a community bound in covenant comes from a letter sent from Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan about A.D. 112. Pliny interpreted the Christian eucharist as an oath. In speaking of the Christians at Bithynia, he wrote:


". . . They addressed a solemn oath tery, never

met on a stated day before it was light, and form of prayer to Christ binding themselves by a . . . never to commit any fraud, theft or adulto falsify their word, nor deny a trust. . . .22

. . . The age of the Church Fathers employed [covenantal] ideas especially in connection with baptism and the Lord's Supper. __________ Book 10, letter 97, in William Melmoth {trans.), The Letters Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, ed. F. C. T. Bosanquet, Bohn's Classical Library, p. 395.20 Before observation leaving is in the order: early a church shift period, began one within more one



generation which changed the nature of covenantal relationships within the church. To visualize that shift, it will be helpful

to anticipate the discussion of Old Testament covenant models. Yahweh Abrahamic established Covenant, and the on two which major covenants with Israel: the a

unconditionally Covenant,


relationship; promises morality,



established in worship, was

conditioned and

Israel's The

performance to




primary to the covenant to lifestyle, as will be demonstrated later. Over a period of time, the lifestyle took priority over the relationship, resulting ultimately in classic pharisaism. Many

Israelites actually misunderstood their relationship with Yahweh to be based on the Mosaic Law, rather than responding to the Mosaic Law as a natural outgrowth of their relationship, based on the Abrahamic Covenant. A similar shift took place within the early church. The

New Testament reflects a clear commitment to a relationship with a local body and its members. The dominant themes were those of

accountability, responsibility, interdependence, and mutuality.


But within one generation of the apostolic period, the covenant became a covenant to a lifestyle (as evidenced in the letter from Pliny cited above). This is not to suggest that lifestyle issues were not major concerns in the New Testament, or that early believers were not firmly committed to (and held accountable for) a strict life of holiness and separation. secondary. But the commitment to lifestyle was

The primary commitment, and hence the covenant, was

to relationship.

The History of Church Covenant Statements Several observations are appropriate in conducting this

brief overview of the history of the covenant idea.

First, the

concept has firm roots in Scripture and in the New Testament church. revealed These roots do not rest in an explicit church covenant in the New Testament (there is none), but in the

revelation of the church as a covenant people (which would have been the clear and logical understanding of first century

saints), and in the practice of the early church as a covenant people. Second, it can be plainly demonstrated that Baptists are a covenant people. (an Marshall observation observes of the that way this is not just is





prescriptive (a clear declaration of the way things must be). His point is well taken: I conclude that the true theory respecting the origin of the polity of a gospel church, is that which starts from a covenant. There is no other way to explain the right which ecclesiastical government has over the governed. It is founded upon a covenant, under the laws of the gospel, entered into between those willing to enter the organization for mutual worship and assistance, for which each one is willing to give up his own pre-conceived notions, a state in


which each was supposed to depend upon his own will alone, and subordinate his will to that of the church.21 Charles Deweese repeatedly draws the same conclusion when he states, "Church covenants have been a feature of Baptist life since the 1600s."22 Further, "Early Baptists in America assigned much importance to church covenants."23 Deweese gives extensive and detailed consideration to the development and use of church covenants in America. For the

purposes of this review, it will be helpful to borrow several statements from his summaries of his studies: New England Baptists were the first Baptists in America to use church covenants. To a large extent, these Baptists adopted much of the form, thought, and language of their covenants from the Congregationalists, who used covenants widely and viewed them as necessary documents in constituting new churches. Covenantal developments from Baptist beginnings in America through the Great Awakening revealed different trends in different geographical areas. In the New England Colonies, where covenants were employed regularly from about 1650 onwards, all the churches seemed to have individually prepared covenants. In the Middle Colonies, where covenants began to be used toward the end of the seventeenth century, the influence of Elias Keach, an Englishman who had worked among Baptists in the Middle Colonies, resulted in a broad acceptance by numerous churches of a covenant used by Keach and his father, Benjamin, in their churches in England. In the Southern Colonies, where covenants were not generally a part of Baptist life until the early decades of the 1700's, the Keach covenant found some acceptance in South Carolina, but most cburches formulated original covenants. . . . . . . The frontier churches accentuated the relationship between church covenants and a strict system of church discipline. This enabled the Baptists to place a taming effect upon the excesses of Frontier life. Several frontier churches gave the names "covenant" to documents which were actually confessions of faith. The probable reason for this was the apparent belief that right conduct would automatically issue out of an adherence to proper doctrine. Certain individual covenants were used by many churches as members left one church to form others and retained their original covenant.24


Beginning in the 1830's two developments began a process that led toward adoption of a relatively uniform covenant: the development by the New Hampshire Baptist Convention of the New Hampshire Confession and Covenant, and the development of

several prominent Baptist church manuals, especially those of J. Newton Brown and Edward Hiscox. factors well: The original New Hampshire covenant was the product of three separate committees which functioned between June, 1830, and October, 1832. In its various stages of development, the covenant was continually subject to the alterations suggested by the Convention Board of New Hampshire Baptists. J. Newton Brown played a prominent role in the latter levels of the covenant's growth in terms of revising it and preparing it for publication. Initial publication of the covenant occurred in January, 1833. The three main factors which contributed to the spread of this covenant beyond the boundaries of New Hampshire were its inclusion in The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, which was edited by J. Newton Brown, in Robert Baird's Religion in the United States of America, and in William Crowell's The Church Member's Manual. J. Newton Brown and Edward T. Hiscox prepared the two major revisions of the original New Hampshire covenant. Brown's version of 1853 was a thorough modification of the original. Four major reasons accounted for the fact that Brown's revision became the dominant covenant among Baptists in America: (1) its early and strong identification with the publication facilities of the American Baptist Publication Society; (2) its incorporation into numerous Baptist church manuals; (3) its ready approval and sponsorship by many Landmark Baptists; and (4) its acceptance by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and its consequent wide circulation in Southern Baptist literature. Hiscox remained closer to the original in his revision of 1859 than Brown had done. Hiscox included his revision in many of his own manuals, and it was accepted as a model in the manuals and writings of many other writers. Hiscox's covenant was next to Brown's in terms of the extent of its distribution and popularity.25 (It is worth observing that Brown's 1853 revision of the New Hampshire covenant is the wording recognized by most Deweese summarizes those two


Baptists as the traditional church covenant.) After considering the above historical developments, the point is clear: "Baptist churches have a covenantal foundation."26 Third, the history and development of the church covenant verifies that there has been a consistent emphasis since the second century upon the covenant as a statement of conduct. The

definition of a covenant by Charles Deweese quoted earlier in this chapter is substantiated, at least as an accurate

descriptive definition.

He contends:

A church covenant is a series of pledges which church members voluntarily make to God and one another. These vows reflect biblically based guidelines by which the church members intend to conduct themselves or practice their faith as Christians. . . . [A] church covenant focuses on 27 conduct. Many of the covenants cited by Deweese in his landmark study contain statements which define a covenant relationship within the body. A case in point is the 1663 covenant of the Swansea Church, which states, ". . . We do . . . humble and freely offer up ourselves this day . . . to each other as fellow-members and brethren of the same household of faith."28 But a cursory reading of the 28 covenant texts included in Deweese's work demonstrates that the primary focus in Baptist church covenants as Bible he is on practice. "Covenants regular to Deweese capsulize restates the this

conclusion (prayer, group


disciplines small pledged


attendance, which church

ministries, members





But, on the other side of the coin, he notes

sadly in the same context, "Granted, covenants and discipline were sometimes so legalistic and punitive in function that their weaknesses outweighed their values. . . ."30 This observation: last with comment the introduces of time, the fourth summary tended to













prescribe, and seemingly more prone to legalistic application. This was the clear implication of the conclusion Deweese drew regarding European Baptist covenants which he analyzed, and it seems to hold generally true. An interesting example of this

tendency is discovered by comparing the original New Hampshire Baptist Convention covenant with the revision by J. Newton

Brown, written twenty years later.

While the earlier statement

acknowledges a ". . . special obligation henceforth to walk in newness of life,"31 the later statement substitutes a whole list of specific duties: ". . . to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage; ..."32 Once it is accepted that the purpose of the covenant is to state Christian conduct, there will be continual pressure to ". . . list all the social ailments to which a covenant might address itself."33 Surely there is a way to maintain a strong, healthy and biblical covenant relationship within the local church without undue vulnerability to legalism. must grow out of a restored Such a covenant relationship understanding of the biblical

concept of covenant.

Biblical Covenant-Models Clearly God is a covenant-keeping God. From the earliest

stages of His self-revelation, He has indicated that He is a God who makes and keeps covenants, and that the people with whom He chooses to deal will become a covenant people. There are some 300 uses of the Hebrew term berith (commonly translated covenant), the vast majority of which deal with


relations between God and His people.

Noting the difficulty berith,

that translators have had in rendering the sense of Girdlestone notes:

Expressions answering to the words alliance, bond, compact, covenant, disposition, treaty, have been resorted to, but none of them are perfectly satisfactory, and for this reason, that while they represent the nature of a covenant between man and man, none of them is adequate for the purpose of setting forth the nature of God's gracious dealings with man.34 Nevertheless, for the purposes of this study, it is

sufficient to understand


in its most common sense of

"covenant" in order to develop a general profile of the two major covenants-types in the Old Testament. They will provide

two alternative models for considering the covenant-concept in general, as background for considering the church covenant in particular. contrasted in In the five following respects: pages the the basis two of models the will be


unconditional or conditional; the nature of the covenant, to relationship or to performance; the initiative of the covenant. unilateral or bilateral; the direction of the covenant. vertical or horizontal; and the priority of the covenant. relationship or performance.

The Basis of the Covenant Covenants in the Old Testament divide themselves into two classes depending or on the basis for their establishment: A simple way as to

unconditional illustrate

conditional distinction is

covenants. to suggest




covenants say "I will. . . ," while conditional covenants say "If you will. . . , I will. . . ." Clearly the Abrahamic

Covenant falls into the former class while the Mosaic occupies the latter.


The Unconditional Covenant The initial statement of the covenant with Abraham is found in Genesis 12:1-3 (although the term berith is not used until 15:18): The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." And in 12:7 the additional promise is added, "To your

offspring I will give this land." Chapter 15 records the formalizing of this commitment in the form of a covenant. This interchange between the Lord and Following several specific he requested assurance is

Abram took the better part of a day. questions concerning voiced the by Abram in

which the





reported in Genesis 15:9-19: So the Lord said to him. "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the


pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites. In Genesis chapter 17, verses 1-10, the covenant is again confirmed, adding the sign of circumcision: When Abram was ninety-five years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my Covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. It might be suggested that there were, in fact, conditions attached to the Abrahamic Covenant, such as the necessity of Abram's obedience in leaving home and family {chapter twelve), and the imposition of circumcision {chapter seventeen). Still,

while there are conditions attached to the establishment of the covenant (as in chapter 12), and to an individual's inclusion under its terms (as in chapter seventeen), there are no

conditions attached to its fulfillment once it is established. That is the key. And that was Israel's hope. was totally unconditional. The covenant made to Abraham

So after the nation had left the


worship of Yahweh to follow other Gods it could still be said that ". . . the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham. Isaac and Jacob" (II Kings 13:23). With the establishment of

the church it was recognized that the covenant with Abraham was still operative. Acts 3:25 that, Peter notes in his declaration to the Jews in "You are heirs of the prophets and of the

covenant God made with your fathers.

He said to Abraham. . . ."

In fact, the covenant with Abraham continues as the foundation for eschatology as it relates to the nation of Israel.

The Conditional Covenant By contrast, the Mosaic Covenant was clearly a conditional covenant. 27: Then the Lord said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will. . . ." . . . Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel" (34:10-11a. 27). In some respects that record does not read too differently from the establishing of the covenant with Abraham. But as the The covenant is formally established in Exodus 34:10-

continuing history of God's dealings with Israel unfolds, the distinction becomes obvious. This is an "If you will, I will" kind of covenant. One

has only to review of Moses' message relating to the blessing and cursing attached to the keeping and violating of the

covenant to be convinced. both excellent examples.

Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are Deuteronomy 28:1-6 and 15-19 declare:

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set


you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock--the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. . . . . . . However, if you do not fully obey the Lord your God and do not follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. In conclusion, "Carefully follow the terms of this

covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do" (Deut. 29:9). Further, Covenant which a term would is be used in connection with the the Mosaic




Jeremiah 11:10 serves as a typical instance: They have returned to the sins of their forefathers, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers. They broke the covenant! Now, in order for a covenant to

be broken, it would have to have conditions imposed for its fulfillment. This was indeed true of the covenant given through It was not true of the covenant

Moses, a conditional covenant. with Abraham.

Before leaving the distinction between a conditional and unconditional covenant, two illustrations serve to point out the implications of mistaking one for the other. In Genesis 28:10-

22 Jacob receives his famous vision of the stairway to heaven. During the course of that vision, the covenant with Abraham is confirmed to Jacob and his descendants. Yahweh promises:


I am the Lord, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you (Gen. 28:13-15). The interesting turn of the incident is that Jacob responds as if this were a conditional covenant. Note his response (It

must have really warmed God's heart!): "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking . . . , then the Lord will be my God" (Gen. 28:20-21). How foolish! One's

relationship with God is never an "If you will, I will" matter. In a real sense, stripping the believer's security from the "New Covenant" of salvation for this age does essentially the same thing. Although there is danger in oversimplification, it

is still valid to suggest that believing that one genuinely born again could ever do anything that would separate him from his salvation is to say that salvation was extended on an "If you will, I will" basis. It is essential that the people of God

distinguish which of His commitments are conditional, and which are unconditional.

The Nature of the Covenant The second aspect of the Old Testament covenant-concept to be examined is its nature. Here again, the two covenants under

consideration as models offer a clear contrast: the Abrahamic Covenant is a covenant to a relationship; the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant to performance, or to a lifestyle. This distinction

has rather far-reaching implications when considering the church covenant.


The Covenant to Relationship The covenant God established with Abraham involves

commitments on His part to do certain things (to give Abraham a seed and a land, to bless the nations of the earth through his descendants). However, it is obvious that the stated promises That focus is

are not the primary focus of that covenant.

stated in Genesis 17:7, where Yahweh declares. "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." Although there were specific promises that would find their fulfillment on Israel's behalf, clearly the primary promise God was making to Abraham was the establishment of a unique

relationship between Himself and Abraham and his family. "I will be your God," the Lord said. secondary to that central fact. All the other commitments were That is why Jacob's response, He replied to God's

examined previously, sounds so strange.

promise as if he were entering into a business agreement, by declaring, "If God will . . . , then the Lord will be my God" (Gen. 28:20-21). He was evidencing the fact that he saw God as He did not really respond to God as Only after that humbling struggle did

a benefactor, not as God. his God until Genesis 32.

he recognize that what God had given him was "face to face" fellowship, not just possessions, blessings, or services. Although it is a general characteristic of such agreements that "[a] covenant creates a new relation between the parties, not existing previously, . . ."35 some establish a relationship as their primary purpose. For others relationship is

incidental. Even in their darkest days Israel recognized this truth (perhaps, at times, without even realizing it). When they had


sinned to the extent that they lost the least evidence of God's blessing, and when His wrath was poured out so there was no indication of His providence, the nation still recognized that they were uniquely His. Their prophets appealed to Him on that

basis. Isaiah 64 provides clear illustration: Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause nations to quake before you! . . . You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. . . . Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people. Although the idea of a covenant is not explicitly stated in the context, Job clearly recognized that his dealings with God revolved around relationship, not performance. He acknowledges

as much in his profound declaration, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; . . ." (Job 13:15a). The same kind of covenant is evidenced in the friendship between David and Jonathan. In spite of the growing realization

that David was destined to be the next king, a position Jonathan would naturally have held, ". . . Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself" (I Sam. 18:3). It is clear from the record that the sole reason for this covenant at this time was to establish, in the strongest possible terms, a relationship of brotherhood. Admittedly, out of that

relationship developed certain obligations, but they were not the focus of the covenant; they were ancillary to it.


Likewise marriage is a covenant relationship, and the focus of the covenant upon which it is based is relationship, not performance. His people So in Malachi 2:13-16, when the Lord challenges regarding laxness in fulfilling the marriage He for have

covenant, He does not raise specific issues of conduct. condemns breaking them for failing Why? to guard their the spirits and





disregarded is a covenant to a relationship.

The Covenant to Performance On the other hand, the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant to do, to perform, to live a lifestyle. Of course that covenant could

not be separated totally from relationship, for its terms were to be fulfilled in the context of the relationship that existed between God and His people. But that relationship was not

established by the Mosaic Covenant. made His covenant with Abraham.

It had existed since Yahweh

The terms that predominate in the stating of the Mosaic Covenant demonstrate that the focus is on conduct. It

emphasizes doing, obeying, keeping, and observing.

The issues

do not relate to whether or not Israel is the people of God, but to whether or not their crops flourish, and whether or not they have national security against surrounding nations. words, the issue is quality of life. As Deuteronomy 28 demonstrates, the way that God would In other

conduct Himself toward the nation was directly related to how the people conducted themselves in the land toward God and

toward one another.

It was a covenant to performance.

It was

an "If you will, I will" arrangement.


Initiative of the Covenant The third major aspect of the Old Testament development of covenants has to do with the initiative of the covenant. it that establishes the covenant? Is it Who is or



Is it established solely on Yahweh's initiative, or

is it established by mutual agreement? Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible suggests: The word 'bond' would approximate more nearly towards expressing the various usages of berith than any other word, for the term is used not only where two parties reciprocally bind themselves, but where one party imposes a bond upon the other, or where a party assumes a bond upon himself.36 Clearly the Hebrew term supports the development of

covenants which are either unilateral or bilateral.

The Unilateral Covenant It can be clearly demonstrated that the Abrahamic Covenant was a unilateral covenant. Perhaps it is necessary to define For the

precisely the way in which that term is being used.

purposes of this study, "unilateral" is understood to define a commitment (There may whose or obligation not be is imposed on only one to party. a





unilateral or bilateral agreement.)

This may depart from normal

usage in that both parties may make a unilateral commitment. There is a sense of that in the affirmation by Job cited previously from Job 13:15. Earlier, in Job 1:8, Yahweh had Upon what

asked Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?" basis could Job be called the servant of God?

It was on the

basis of God's having extended to him a unilateral covenant of grace. But Job's response was to ratify that covenant with a

commitment of his own that said, "No matter what Yahweh does, I will trust in him." Perhaps the result could be termed a "dual-


unilateral" covenant.

That is the kind of covenant into which

Yahweh entered with Abraham. Numerous aspects of that covenant emphasize its unilateral nature. Girdlestone argues that the nature of the term berith He sees a reflection of this fact in

bas unilateral overtones.

the approach of the translators of the LXX. He notes, "[They] . . . evidently felt the difficulty, and instead of using

suntheke, which would be the natural word for a covenant, used diatheke, which means a legal Disposition, and hence a Testament."37 There seemed to be a clear sense that viewing such

covenants as nothing more than mutual agreements between two parties was inadequate. That was certainly a valid reservation,

as Leupold suggests with reference to Genesis 17:9-10: A covenant is to be established. God condescends to let it be made after the fashion of covenants made in those days, particularly among the Chaldeans. . . . The covenanting parties would pass between the halves of the beasts, and this may have implied that a similar lot, viz., being killed, was to befall their cattle in the event of their violating the covenant. But a modification of the procedure is involved in this case: neither do both parties pass between the halves, nor is the threat implied.38 In reference to Genesis 17:17-18 he concludes: Lastly, it should not be forgotten that the covenants God makes with men are not mutual agreements as between man and man. They are rather agreements emanating from God. For in the nature of the case here are not two parties who stand on an equal footing. In fact, in the instance under consideration God binds Himself to the fulfillment of certain obligations; Abram is bound to no obligations whatsoever. God's priority is a prominent feature of the covenants of this type.39 So God established a covenant with Abraham on His

initiative alone.

Its sole basis was His unilateral commitment It did not depend on Abraham's

to Abraham and his descendants.

faithfulness, nor that of the nation to come after him.


The Bilateral Covenant Webster reciprocally defines two sides the or word "bilateral" It is as "affecting to parties."40


understand the emphasis on the reciprocal nature of a bilateral covenant. The covenant made with Israel through Moses was

indisputably of that type. When the covenant was established, God clearly said, "If you will, I will." The promises made by God were dependent on One need only There Moses

Israel's conformity to the demands of the Law.

review Deuteronomy 28 to see that element clearly.

reminds the people, "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will . . ." (Deut. 28:1). Beginning in verse 15 of the

same chapter, it is clear that if they should fail to keep the Law God's promises would not materialize, but the nation would fall instead under the curse of His displeasure. Significantly, the covenant did not become operative until it had been ratified by the people. initiative, details of it the was Law not had a unilateral been Although God took the agreement. Yahweh Before the a



preliminary commitment from the people.

At the first mention in

Exodus 19:3-6 of the fact that this covenant was conditioned upon their obedience, Israel responded, "We will do everything the Lord has said" (Genesis 19:8), after which God called Moses to the mountain to receive the Decalogue. It is instructive that this conditional covenant seemed to require ratification by each generation in order to remain in place. This process is recorded on several occasions. The

following provision was made in Deuteronomy 27:12-26 for the renewal of the covenant after the land was occupied:


When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali. The Levites shall recite to all the people in a loud voice: "Cursed . . . ." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!" A renewal of the covenant at the end of Joshua's life is recorded in Joshua 24, concluding with the following challenge and commitment: "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other Gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed these great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God." . . . . . . "Now then," said Joshua, "throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey him." On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then be took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord (Joshua 24:14-18, 23-26). A similar transaction was made after Josiah found the book of the law during his reign. II Kings 23:2-3 records: He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets --all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their bearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant,


which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord--to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. After the captivity, the returnees to Jerusalem renewed the covenant under Nehemiah's leadership (Neh. 8:1-10:39). All of

these instances serve to underline the reciprocity essential to the Mosaic Covenant that is absent in a unilateral covenant, such as that established with Abraham. One final note of significance is the fact that the people of Israel had it within their power to reject the covenant at any time. One such instance is recorded in II Kings 17:15,

which states, "They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them." And they were carried off by the Assyrians to captivity.

Direction of the Covenant The fourth major aspect of Old Testament covenants is their direction. There are covenants established between God and man, which can be defined as vertical. Then there are agreements

between man and man, which constitute horizontal covenants.

The Vertical Covenant Clearly, examples are found on both sides of each of the aspects of Old Testament covenants examined thus far which are vertical in nature. God has established covenants with man

which are both unconditional and conditional, to a relationship as well as to performance, unilateral and bilateral. Both the covenant with Abraham and his descendants, and the covenant vertical. established with Israel through Moses are clearly

They are established between God and a man or a group


of men.

Vertical covenants are not restricted to any one type

of covenant.

The Horizontal Covenant In considering horizontal covenants in the Old Testament, (that is, those which are established between men and men) there are at least three points of significance. First, men can enter

into each of the types of covenants previously examined in this chapter. appropriate Third, when Second, models God the for vertical covenants of each of type that form type.

horizontal a

agreements covenant




individuals, a horizontal covenant relationship is also created between those individuals. Men can enter into covenants which are unconditional or conditional, bilateral. type. to relationship or performance, unilateral or

It is relatively simple to find examples of each

For instance, Abimelech made covenants with Abraham in Both of

Genesis 21:22-32, and with Isaac in Genesis 26:25-31.

those covenants were clearly bilateral, conditional covenants to performance. beneficial. They created a treaty that was mutually

Basically all military treaties are of this type.

But there are also examples of unilateral, unconditional covenants to a relationship that are horizontal. Reference has

already been made to the commitment between David and Jonathan reported in I Samuel 18:3-4. context: After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt (1 Sam. 18:1-4). That incident is seen in its


This covenant is renewed in I Samuel 20:8-17, and again in 23:18. In analyzing the original establishment of the covenant,

it is clear that there were no reciprocal favors requested or offered. And, although the behavior of these two men was

certainly impacted by this covenant, they did not covenant to do anything. unilateral Their covenant bound them to a relationship. and unconditional. Along with the It was covenant

relationship established in marriage, it provides a beautiful example of a unilateral, unconditional covenant to a

relationship. It is significant that these various types of covenant

relationships are possible on a horizontal level.

But it should

be noted that the perfect pattern for each is the corresponding divine covenant. This is illustrated by the parallels

established between Yahweh and the nation of Israel, and between Christ and the Church in the Old and New Testaments

respectively. The entire book of Hosea is a beautiful development of the significance relationship. of a unilateral, unconditional covenant to a

The portrayal of Yahweh's love for wayward Israel

serves to highlight the qualities that are necessary for the parallel covenant between husband and wife. It is certainly a

legitimate conclusion to assert that God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants is a valid model for the marriage covenant. The same truth is developed in Paul's great exhortation in Ephesians 5:22-33, which draws a clear correlation between the vertical covenant between Christ and the Church and the

horizontal covenant between husband and wife.

Clearly Christ is

the model for husbands, the Church the model for wives: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the


church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. The third point to be explored is the unique relationship established among people who are included in a covenant relation with God. This is evidenced in a number of ways. For instance,

the financial dealings between individual Israelites were to be distinct from dealings with other people. people: If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God (Lev. 25:35-38). Clearly there was a distinction made, because the Yahweh instructed his

prohibition of interest and profit applied only to a fellow Israelite (Deut. 23:19-20). What was the difference? The

implication is clear.

The fact that Yahweh was the God of both

parties created a special covenantal relationship between the two of them. Christ develops a similar theme in Matthew 25:31-46 in the parable of the sheep and goat nations. He makes it clear that


the covenant relationship which exists between himself and his people finds its expression in relationships among those people. When individuals become children of God, they inevitably become brothers and sisters with each other. This truth is borne out John urges, "Dear

in exhortations by New Testament writers.

friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another" (I John 4:11), and Paul harmonizes, "Therefore, as we have

opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" If you (Gal. share 6:10). a The





relationship with God, you share a covenant relationship with one another. Further, that horizontal relationship between the people of God (Israel or the Church) ought to reflect the relationship that exists between Yahweh and Israel or between Christ and the Church. That is the clear teaching of John 13:34: "A new

command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." It is also stressed in Ephesians

4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Priority of the Covenants The final aspect of them. the two These covenant two models is are the not




unrelated, nor was the Mosaic Covenant intended to replace the Abrahamic. But it is important to examine the relative priority

of the two covenants. In doing so one will discover that they operate

concurrently: they are not consecutive nor is it necessary (or possible) to choose between the two. It will further become

apparent that the covenant to relationship takes priority over









Finally, one will observe that a covenant to a relationship normally requires some form of commitment to conduct or

performance for its full implementation.

The Concurrent Covenants It is not difficult to demonstrate the concurrency of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. In Deuteronomy 4, as Moses

recounts the process by which Israel entered into the Mosaic covenant, he anticipates their infidelity and captivity. in that same context he also anticipates their Yet,


"For," he says, "the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath" (Deut. 4:31). The reference here seems to be to the Abrahamic Covenant, based on the phrase "covenant with your forefathers" and the reference to "covenant by oath." There are numerous references to the

currency of the Abrahamic Covenant during the time the Mosaic Law was in effect. II Kings 13:23 is only one example:

But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day [the time of the death of Elisha) he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence. In the eloquent historical review of Psalm 105, the

psalmist concludes by uniting the two covenants as he reminds the people of God: For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham. He brought out his people [from Egypt] with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for--that they might keep his precepts and obey his laws [of the Mosaic Covenant] (Ps. 105:42-45).


There is abundant evidence that the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants operated concurrently.

The Priority of the Covenant to Relationship Likewise, the priority of the Abrahamic Covenant over the Mosaic seems relatively self-evident. Unquestionably, the

Abrahamic covenant holds priority chronologically. operation for some six hundred years before the

It was in Mosaic was

established. of events. Israel Covenant. by."41

But its priority transcends the historical order










As John Balchin observes, "It was not because they

deserved it or that they had anything to commend themselves Moses demonstrates that fact in Deuteronomy 7:7-9, where

he reports: The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharoah king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. The covenant with Abraham is seen as an "everlasting

covenant," in its inception in Genesis 17:7, 13, 19; and, in Jeremiah 32:26-41, after the Mosaic Covenant was forsaken and broken beyond repair. Comparing Leviticus 26:36-45 makes it

obvious that it is the Abrahamic Covenant in view in Jeremiah 32. After the captivity, Yahweh promises: You will perish among the nations; the land of enemies will devour you. Those of you who are left waste away in the lands of their enemies because of sins; also because of their fathers' sins they will away. your will their waste


But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers--their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies--then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. . . . I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God (Lev.26:38-42. 44). Balchin concludes, "Later leaders of Israel would come to found their hope for the nation on this fact that Israel belonged in a special way to God himself."42

So it was not the

covenant made with Moses that would guarantee the restoration of Israel, but the covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why? Because the Abrahamic Covenant was the primary commitment,

the Mosaic was secondary. After the Mosaic Covenant had been set aside, the New

Testament Jews were still being reminded that they were heirs of the covenant made to Abraham (Acts 3:25). covenant takes priority over the Mosaic. Clearly the Abrahamic By implication, then,

a covenant to relationship takes priority over a covenant to performance or lifestyle. Marriage is an apt illustration. In

the course of building a marriage, many conduct issues must be considered and agreed to. But all of them remain secondary to

the primary commitment: a commitment to a particular type of relationship.

The Importance of the Secondary Covenant That fact raises the final essential observation: whether formal or informal, to implicit or or explicit, conduct is a a commitment necessity (or in



carrying out a covenant to a relationship.

A statement from


Young's Bible Dictionary highlights the relationship between the two agreements: God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham and to be his God. Circumcision was its sign. God promised the land of Palestine to Abraham and his seed forever and that in him and his progeny all the families of the earth would be blessed. God promised to deliver his people to Canaan and to be their God. This was the national covenant of Israel and the Law given at Sinai was its charter and basis of operation [emphasis added].43 This pattern can be seen in the other covenants to

relationship cited.

Clearly the covenant struck by Jonathan and Yet,

David in I Samuel 18:3 was a covenant to a relationship.

in the course of that relationship, they entered into secondary commitments to conduct themselves in particular ways. Samuel 20:1-4, the following exchange takes place: Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?" "Never!" Jonathan replied, "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." Jonathan said to David. "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you." The point here is simply that David and Jonathan asked and offered specific conduct commitments to each other in the course of their friendship. But all of those informal or formal In I

commitments were secondary to their basic commitment to their relationship. That constituted the primary covenant, but it did

not stand alone. Israel's primary covenant with God was the Abrahamic. It

established for them a unique relationship as the people of


Yahweh, and established Him as their God. could not stand alone, either.

But that commitment

Of necessity, there had to be a

secondary covenant which answered the question, "How is this unique relationship to be expressed? What is to be its form and What kinds of

substance as it is enfleshed in time and space?

conduct are consistent with that relationship, and what are not? What will strengthen it and what will weaken it?" of questions were answered by the Mosaic Covenant. Those kinds

Summary and Conclusions This chapter has examined problems related to the use of the church covenant in Baptist churches, has surveyed the

historical development of the church covenant and has considered two biblical models for covenants drawn from Yahweh's dealings with Old Testament Israel. The definition of the covenant by Charles Deweese

accurately describes the covenant as it has developed in Baptist churches: A church covenant is a series of pledges which church members voluntarily make to God and one another. These vows reflect biblically based guidelines by which church members intend to conduct themselves or practice their faith as Christians. Whereas a confession of faith focuses on doctrine, a church covenant centers on conduct.44 In examining the biblical pattern it was discovered that the Old Testament offers two covenants for models: the Abrahamic and the Mosaic. Five aspects of these two models were

contrasted. There models. is a contrast in the basis of the two covenant-

The fulfillment of the commitments of the Abrahamic The fulfillment of the promises of While in the Abrahamic

covenant is unconditional.

the Mosaic Covenant is conditional.


Covenant God says. "I will. . . ," in the Mosaic be says, "If you will. . . , I will. . . ." There is a contrast in the nature of the two covenantmodels. The basic thrust of the covenant with Abraham and his

seed is a covenant to a relationship, wherein God says, "I will be your God, and you will be my people." The primary thrust of

the covenant given through Moses on Mt. Sinai is a covenant to performance, expressed in a demand for obedience to a set of laws in exchange for various blessings. There is a contrast in the initiative of the covenants. The covenant with Abraham is a unilateral covenant because the obligation God assumes to His commitment does not depend on the continuing response of Abraham or his descendants. The covenant

on Sinai, on the other hand is a bilateral covenant because the obligation of each party depends upon the performance of the other. There is a contrast that relates to the direction of the covenants. While both of the covenant models were vertical,

established between God and man, the types of covenants they represent are also possible horizontally, between man and man. Further, the vertical covenant-models were seen to represent a legitimate pattern for horizontal covenants. And, in fact, those who share in a vertical into covenant a relationship body by with an God are





horizontal covenant. Finally, it was seen that the covenant to a relationship takes priority over a covenant to performance, although the two exist concurrently. In fact, a covenant to a relationship seems

to necessitate a covenant of conduct or performance for its expression.


So Abrahamic covenant



Testament is an



covenant-models. unilateral, Covenant


Covenant to a

unconditional, the

vertical is a or

relationship; vertical

Mosaic to

conditional, conduct.




Historically, from the second century to the present, the emphasis in church covenants has been upon conduct. As this

pattern is compared to the two models developed in this chapter, it becomes obvious that the church covenant has consistently been patterned after the model of the Mosaic Covenant. It has

functioned as a conditional, bilateral covenant to performance. or conduct. Is there any problem with that?

In answer, it is important to consider the implications of the two models for a church covenant. The choice of a model for

a church covenant will have significant implications for the faith and practice of the church in at least three areas: first, it will shape the understanding of the nature of the church for that body; second it will define the nature of the covenant, and the qualifications for membership in the church; and third, it will shape of the church's disciplinary and practices. discipline While will the be





discussed in subsequent chapters, a consideration of the nature of the church and the covenant is in order here.

The Choice of a Covenant-Model and the Nature of the Church For the sake of argument, it might be theoretically

possible to establish a covenant to performance or conduct that was unilateral and unconditional. But, for all practical

purposes, it is normally assumed that a covenant to performance is based on mutual obligations that form the conditions for its


fulfillment. in practice

So it should not be a surprise to discover that, (if not in philosophy), the church covenant is

normally treated as both conditional and bilateral. This is demonstrated by the commonly established standard of "keeping covenant obligations" as a requirement to become and remain a "member in good standing" 80% of cited the in many church this

constitutions, study.





This standard is not unique to Conservative Baptists.

The qualifications suggested in the sample bylaws included in The Churchbook by Gaines S. Dobbins, a Southern Baptist, are a case in point. Dobbins suggests: "The membership of this church

shall consist of such persons as confess Jesus Christ to be their Saviour and Lord, and who . . . enter into its covenant."45 The resulting practical implication is that the individual is obligated to the church, and the church is obligated to the individual members so long as their mutual expectations are met. If such expectations cease to be met, then further obligation is partially or fully nullified. The typical result is the

termination of membership by one party or the other. The biblical pattern for church relations, however,

suggests that an individual's relationship with a church body should accurately reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. That relationship is neither bilateral nor


There are many scriptures that emphasize Christ's

continuing obligation to the believer in spite of failure on the part of the Christian. II Timothy 2:13 states, "If we are

faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself." Clearly, this relationship is both unconditional and unilateral. So in the church, failure by one party does not nullify the obligation of the other. The endurance of a covenant

relationship (even during failure and subsequent discipline) is


clearly in view in II Corinthians 2:5-11 and II Thessalonians 3:14-15. For the primary commitment of members of the body of Christ to be a commitment to a code of conduct, and for the foundation of that relationship to be based upon continued faithful

performance of that lifestyle is to make the union of the body fragile indeed. church. It is and It departs from the biblical nature of the only practice possible of the to maintain of the a biblical church by



establishing the church on a covenant to a relationship which is unilateral and unconditional. Only then will the relationships

within the body duplicate the relationship between the body and the Head. Admittedly, many local churches, if challenged, would

acknowledge that their primary commitment is to relationship, not performance, even though their covenant is a conduct

statement. only exist

But that primary commitment to relationship could because implied, they had unknowingly covenant that entered into an the




formal, written one.

How much better if the formal written

covenant stated the true foundation for their union.

An Alternative Church Covenant Statement What would an unconditional covenant to relationship look like? the How would one express the centrality of relationship in covenant? Here is a suggested statement which


focuses on relationship:

OUR CHURCH COVENANT Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the


Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, to become one body in Christ. We commit ourselves to one another in dependency, acknowledging that through this body and its members the Lord will meet our needs for nurture and growth, and will provide opportunity for service and worship; in responsibility, devoting our gifts and abilities to the building up of this body and its members; in accountability, submitting ourselves with this body and its members to the authority of Christ as head of this church, of the scriptures as our sole guide for faith and practice, of the congregation as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and of the biblically constituted leaders of this body. It is not to be suggested that this is the ultimate

statement of such a covenant, nor is it being offered as a universal covenant. There is real merit to Charles Deweese's

contention that, "Every Baptist church not only has absolute and complete freedom to prepare its own covenant but also should exercise this privilege to achieve maximum covenantal benefit."46 A Secondary Statement of Lifestyle Is this to suggest that lifestyle and conduct issues are unimportant? Quite the contrary. It is arguable that one of

the major weaknesses in the contemporary Western church is the growing laxity in teaching and practice with regard to lifestyle issues, and the increasing accommodation of a secular lifestyle in the Church. But the point is that these issues are not the

foundation for union within the body of Christ, and ought not to be included in the church's primary statement of commitment: the covenant. That statement ought to bind the members of the body

to a relationship with one another. But, as was demonstrated earlier in this study, just as the Abrahamic Covenant needed the Mosaic to spell out the shape and context of its operation, so a church covenant to relationship calls for a statement that deals with living the Christian life


within that relationship.

If the traditional covenant were

understood in such a secondary role, and were called something besides "The Church Covenant," then it could serve that purpose quite adequately, and such studies as A Community of Believers by Deweese would be very much to the point. Along with revising the covenant so that its primary focus is relationship, it would be entirely appropriate for a church to add a statement profiling acceptable Christian character and conduct. B. This discussion of the covenant is offered in the hope that it will assist churches in taking a fresh look at their covenant relationships. Doing so should result in the building of Such a statement is found in Appendix B as Attachment

stronger, more biblical local churches.

Local churches will

understand that they are not providers of goods and services, but living covenant communities. The end result desired is the

enhanced exaltation of Christ the Head of the Church, and the strengthening of the churches.


Notes: Chapter II


J. Winston Pearce, We Covenant Together {Nashville: Broadman Press, 1964), 5. Ibid., 6. Conservative Baptist Association of Oregon, G-15 to G-16. Charles W. Deweese, A Community of Believers Judson Press, 1978}, 73. {Valley Forge:

2 3 4


Charles W. Deweese, "The Origin, Development, and Use of Church Covenants in Baptist History" (Th.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1973), 164-168. Deweese, A Community of Believers, 30. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1975 ed. , s.v. "Covenant." Edward P. Marshall, A Treatise upon Baptist Church Jurisprudence (Washington: The Columbian Publishing Co. , 1898), 187-188. Deweese, A Community of Believers, 30. Ibid., p. 20. Ibid., p.19. Marshall, 48-49. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Young's Bible Dictionary, 1984, s.v."God, Names of." John F. Balchin, What the Bible Teaches about the (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1979), 22. Ibid., p. 23. Ibid., p. 24. Deweese, "The Origin, Development, and Use of Church Covenants in Baptist History," 6. Ibid., 6-7. Church

6 7 8


10 11 12 13

14 15

16 17 18



20 21 22 23 24

Ibid., 11-12.

Marshall, p. 47. Deweese, A Community of Believers, 19. Ibid. Deweese, "The Origin, Development, and Use of Church Covenants in Baptist History," 118-119. Ibid., 186-188. Deweese, A Community of Believers, 35. Ibid., 19-20. Henry Melville King, Rev. John Myles and the Founding of the First Baptist Church in Massachusetts, 52-55, quoted in Deweese, "The Origin, Development, and Use of Church Covenants in Baptist Churches," 298. Deweese, A Community of Believers, p. 16. Ibid., p. 16. Charles Riley MacDonald, "The New Hampshire Declaration of Faith," (Th.D. diss., Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1939), 57-58, quoted in Deweese, "The Origin, Development, and Use of Church Covenants in Baptist Churches," 317. Edward T. Hiscox, The Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1964), 247. Deweese, A Community of Believers, 25. Robert Baker Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1897), 213. A Dictionary of the Bible, 1903, s.v. "Covenant." lbid. Girdlestone, 214. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, Volume I (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1942), 480.

25 26 27 28

29 30 31


33 34

35 36 37 38


39 40 41 42 43 44 45

Ibid., 489.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, s.v. "Bilateral." Balchin, 17. lbid., 18. Young's Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Covenant." Deweese, A Community of Believers, 19-20. Gaines S. Dobbins, The Churchbook (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951), 11-12. Deweese, A Community of Believers, 26.



Consider two hypothetical Baptist churches: Church "A" has a long tradition of solid ministry in its community. It is

noted for strong commitment to doctrinal purity and to separated living. The membership is composed, for the most part, of

mature believers. The church has a detailed statement of faith that spells out its doctrinal distinctives. It has retained the traditional

church covenant, whose requirements are taken seriously. Prospective members are expected to complete an extensive orientation and training program before they are admitted to membership, and they are examined closely as to their doctrine, practice, and lifestyle. There are a substantial number of

issues that could prevent an individual's acceptance into the membership, doctrinal and behavioral. The church has concluded that it is safest to allow only those individuals into membership who are well-grounded in

doctrine and in practice. people assuming positions

This avoids the danger of unqualified of leadership and ministry. This

approach seems to have worked well for Church "A" through the years. In contrast, Church "B" has a considerably different

history and approach. experienced growth. an

It was begun as a mission church, and period of exciting and explosive


There has always been a tendency to put more emphasis The thrust of the with only minimal

on people than on procedures or programs. ministry has been strongly evangelistic

emphasis on doctrinal instruction.


There has been a steady stream of new believers in the church, who were baptized immediately following their The and

conversion, and assimilated into the church membership. primary consideration in selecting people for leadership

ministry positions has been enthusiastic participation in the life of the church. The only stated qualification for

leadership is to be a "member in good standing." Admittedly, there have been several tense situations

through the years because of the immaturity of some leaders. Some have been concerned that the individuals holding the office of deacon do not seem to measure up to the biblical standards for that office. There is considerable diversity in doctrine among the

leadership of the church.

This was particularly apparent when

the church was faced with calling a new pastor, and there seemed to be a lack of consensus regarding many doctrinal and practical issues. Still, the church has seen consistent growth and the

approach they have taken seems to have worked reasonably well for them. Admittedly these two "sketches" may be over-drawn and oversimplified. confronts standards? In the first church, Church "A," the standards were set high. Significant doctrinal and conduct demands were made of members. reservoir draw was for This of had a real advantage in that it But they do highlight Baptist a tension that do repeatedly you set




prospective provided which to a


well-grounded ministry. excluded

believers The from


leadership individuals

and were

downside, membership



without biblical warrant.

The standards for membership went

considerably beyond scripturally justifiable requirements.


The second church, Church "B," set its standards at a level that immediately admitted a new believer to the fellowship. It

did not place impediments in the way of entrance into the body. But it struggled with many of those enthusiastic new believers who found themselves in leadership and ministry roles before they were ready. The results were considerable turmoil for the

church, and the frequent discouragement and burnout of immature believers. This matter of membership standards is a source of

considerable stress in Conservative Baptist churches. one in five churches indicated that they had

More than a


significant problem over the issue. The majority of Conservative Baptist churches in the sample resemble Church "A" in principle. of their documents require Approximately eighty percent agreement (or "substantial

agreement") with the statement of faith as a doctrinal standard. The same proportion require fulfillment of the covenant as a conduct standard. prior to Additionally, 44% require membership classes others have miscellaneous members names requirements, for specified

acceptance, posting of



periods without objection from existing members, acceptance of tithing, practice a signed application, gifts, agreement freedom not to teach or





judgments in a former church or community. In practice, however, Conservative Baptist churches are

more like Church "B" above. documents require

A substantial number of those whose with the doctrinal statement


acknowledge membership is possible without such agreement, and fully half of the responding churches see the covenant as a goal, not as a binding agreement. A struggle is apparent










church membership. In seeking biblical standards for membership and leadership for the contemporary church, the quest begins with the basic question: "What can be discerned with relative certainty Is there

concerning the practice in the New Testament church?"

a consistent pattern that can be drawn from the biblical record? A cursory examination of the New Testament record leads to four observations concerning church membership/leadership that are pertinent to this study: first, new believers were received immediately into the church with a minimum of restrictions;

second, there were formal lists maintained in various contexts in the early church; third, there were specific formal offices and leadership positions in the apostolic churches; and fourth, qualifications for those offices were high, in marked contrast to the qualifications for membership. This chapter will

consider the qualifications for membership in a local church. Discussion of standards for local church leadership will be

deferred to Chapter VI.

Practice in the New Testament Church Immediate Reception of New Believers New believers were admitted immediately into the church

with a minimum of restriction. the first day of the Church's

This is apparent literally from existence. In Acts 2:37-41,

following Peter's great Pentecost sermon, the account continues: When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The


promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Lest one would conclude that this were a unique, one-time situation, Acts 2:42 notes, "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." By Acts 4:4 it is reported,

". . . many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand." The pattern continues, ". . .

more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number" (Acts 5:14). There were no membership classes (at least not before

membership) in contrast to the requirement in 44% of the sampled bylaws, no probationary periods, no restrictions to speak of. With evidence of conversion manifested in baptism, a person was received into the body. This principle is further underscored in several

interesting ways, with the record of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus a case in point. If ever a body would be justified in

excluding someone from membership, at least until he had proven himself Jerusalem (preferably as somewhere in Acts else), it was the church he came at to




Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles." It is likely that Paul had been a believer for some three years at that time. Perhaps he had spent most of that time But

engaged in some form of witness in Nabataean Arabia, for as F. F. Bruce notes, "It is plain that he annoyed not only the

Damascene Jews by his activity but the Nabataean authorities as well."1 (The account in II Cor. 11:32 notes the involvement of


the Nabataean governor.)

Still, Paul was neither known nor It's significant that The end result about freely in

trusted by the believers in Jerusalem.

Barnabas urged them to receive him immediately. was that "Saul stayed with them and moved

Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord" (Acts 9:28). The same principle is in view in the record of major

extensions of the church, as when the Gospel extended to the Samaritans in Acts 8. Why was it necessary for the apostles to

be present before the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit (and, it is reasonable to assume, spoke in tongues)? Was it not to

remove any objection as to the reception of that ethnic group into the church? Peter was given a vision and sent to the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 for a similar reason. In 11:15-18, Peter defends his

actions against the strong criticism of the Jewish believers: "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." Clearly this debate still raged in Acts 15. The Jerusalem Council concluded that believers in general, and Gentile

believers in particular, were to be received into the church with a minimum of restriction. Only those things necessary to

avoid creating a hindrance to reaching the Jewish population were spelled out in the words of James: It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been


preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath (Acts 15:19-21). In his conclusion, James urged the church toward this

principle: . . . that all attempts to impose circumcision and its attendant legal obligations on Gentile converts must be refused. The way of salvation and the terms of church fellowship were to be the same for Jews and Gentiles alike: their basis was God's free grace in Christ, to be received by faith alone. The fundamental principle of the gospel was thus safe-guarded.2 For it was the intention of the Lord of the Church that no unnecessary restrictions be placed in the way of new believers.

Membership Lists The second observation is that formal lists were maintained in various contexts in the church. membership roll? categorically. Did these include a formal

That question is probably impossible to answer Still, there are several indications that such a

procedure existed. For instance, the specific number of believers in the

Jerusalem church is noted on at least two occasions (Acts 2:41 and 4:4), and in I the implementation 5:4-5 of formal disciplinary means of The





determining who was and who was not part of that assembly. requirement specific to assemble limited the body in 5:4 indicates That the a





disciplinary action involved withdrawal of fellowship (I Cor. 5:11-13) indicated a clear understanding by each member of the body of who was (and who was not) a part of the fellowship. So

the local body had authority to include into fellowship (as with the Jerusalem church and Paul in Acts 9:26-28) and to exclude from fellowship (as with the disciplinary actions demanded in I Cor. 5:4-5; Rom. 16:17-18; II Thess. 3:6. 14-15).


Further, there are recorded instances of the church making other corporate decisions, most notably the selection of the first deacons in Acts 6:1-2, and the Jerusalem Council process in Acts 15:12. 22. 25. It is reasonable to assume (taking into

account the size of the church by that time--numbering many thousand) that there was some system for keeping track of who was part of the fellowship. Finally, there are indications of lists being kept,

formally or informally, in several contexts. these is found of that in I Timothy widows 5:9-10, which

The clearest of refers an to the

enrolling ministry

certain was


qualified by

for the

apparent As




Guthrie notes, "Special duties in the Church were reserved for some of the old widows receiving aid, and some official recognition of this fact was given."3

Further, Vine notes that

"The verb katalego (from the corresponding noun from which the word catalogue is derived} here denotes to reckon in a list."4 Clearly there were lists maintained of certain groups in the church. It is likely that the social service programs which had developed in the church by the time recorded in Acts 6

necessitated a certain amount of enrolling and record-keeping. The reference in Acts 6:2 to the need to "wait on tables" can create a false impression of the magnitude of the task. Earlier

statements make it clear that there were considerable resources to be administered. were together and Acts 2:44-45 states, "All the believers had everything in common. Selling their

possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need." The same process is emphasized in Acts 4:32-35: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they bad. With great power the apostles


continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. The "waiting on tables" was actually the administration of a comprehensive people, social services more. program for as many many as of ten the




believers were excluded from family and employment opportunities when they became Christians. those of the fellowship. The only resources they had were

Yet it could be said, "There were no How could such a program be

needy persons among them" (4:34a).

administered without some listing of recipients, and some way of keeping track of those who were eligible for assistance, i.e., a church membership roll? So the maintenance of a formal church membership is not without foundation in the New Testament church, although there is no explicit reference to such a process. And even if it was

not done formally, clearly the early church knew exactly who was a part of it.

A Methodology for Membership Standards Given the two preceding principles (that new members were received into the body immediately and that there is precedence for a formal church membership), how would one go about

developing a statement of qualifications for church membership based on the New Testament? The answer lies in the consideration of four categories of New Testament passages. The first consists of passages that declare basic factors essential for a relationship with God. For instance, Hebrews

11:6 declares, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he


exists, Clearly

and this



rewards lays a Such





him." for a

verse with

doctrinal a

qualification as Romans





suggests a procedural requirement for a relationship with God through Christ: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and

are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. In addition to passages that state the factors necessary for a relationship with God, passages such as Acts 2:47b clearly declare that such a relationship is a basic qualification for admission to the church: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." will concern the requirements for So the first type of data a relationship with God

through Christ. The second type of passage concerns narrative statements regarding the inclusion of new members in the New Testament church. By what process were new numbers added to the body? A

classic example is found in Acts 2:41, 47: "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. . . . And the Lord added to their

number daily those who were being saved." Additionally, the narrative of the circumstances leading up to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is crucial. It underscores

the growing understanding in the New Testament church regarding the requirements for membership. The basic conclusion is

summarized in James' words, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." It will be essential to survey the narrative passages


which recount the growth of the church to determine the basis upon which new members were received into the church. The third type of New Testament passage is that which

states factors necessary for fellowship with other believers. Many of these will overlap with the narrative passages cited above. For instance, the new birth and baptism clearly fell Romans 14:1 and 15:7 would also

into this category (Acts 2:41).

deal with the grounds for fellowship: "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. Accept

one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Those passages which detail factors

essential to fellowship would have to be considered. Finally, there are a significant number of passages which enumerate factors that would exclude from fellowship with the local body. These passages, normally associated with church

discipline, nevertheless relate to qualification for membership in the local from church: a if they of would require they withdrawal would of






extension of fellowship to a prospective member. Some of these passages deal with doctrinal issues, as in II John 10-11: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.

Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." Other passages deal with moral conduct, as in I Corinthians 5:1-13, which concludes: "Expel the wicked man from among you." Still other passages deal with the effects of an individual's teaching or ministry as in Titus 3:10: "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. to do with him." After that have nothing


There are other passages that list conduct that is totally at odds with the life of Christ. I Corinthians 6:9-10 is

representative of such passages: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Such passages will need careful consideration to determine their bearing on qualifications for church membership. These, then, are the four types of New Testament data which will be considered in order to develop a statement of New

Testament qualifications for church membership.

The resultant

standards will be considered under four headings: standards of Christian experience; standards of doctrine; standards of

personal conduct; and standards of commitment to the body.

Standards of Christian Experience As might be expected, Conservative Baptists firmly believe in and practice regenerate, baptized membership. In excess of

95% of the bylaws surveyed required testimony of conversion and baptism by immersion for membership. And rightly so, for these are clear biblical qualifications for membership.

The New Birth The new birth was the first prerequisite for entrance into the visible body of Christ beginning with the Day of Pentecost, the initial day of the Church's history: "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you. in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." . . . Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.


And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:38-39. 41. 47) As F. F. Bruce notes in commenting on this passage, "It is the Lord whose prerogative it is to add new members to His own community; it is the joyful duty of the community to welcome to their ranks those whom Christ has accepted."5 understood this. The early church

The church's insistance on a regenerate church

membership has simply underscored this clear biblical teaching. That this is an essential qualification is not difficult to demonstrate. Virtually every word picture used in the New

Testament to describe the church lays emphasis on the centrality of a personal relationship between Christ and the individual member of the body. In John 10:14 Christ declares. "1 am the good shepherd: I know my sheep and my sheep know me." Earlier in verses 3-4 He notes, "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. . . . he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." Clearly this passage is teaching a personal

relationship between the shepherd and the individual sheep, not just between the shepherd and the flock. Each sheep is part of

the flock because he belongs to the shepherd, not the converse. In branch. John 15 one finds the picture of the vine and the

Here again, the clear focus is on the necessity of "Remain in me,

relationship between each branch and the vine. and I will remain in you. it must remain in the vine.

No branch can bear fruit by itself: Neither can you bear fruit unless Again, the emphasis is on the

you remain in me" (John 15:4).

unique relationship which each branch possesses with the vine. The same truth is born out in Romans 12:4-5, where the model of the relationship between the head and the body is

developed: "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have the same function, so in Christ we


who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." The crucial phrase here is "so in Christ." It is only

being "in Christ" that creates the possibility of unity with the rest of the body. The new birth, then, is the first requirement

for inclusion in the Body of Christ, and in a local body of believers. In the book of Acts it is variously reported that people "accepted his message" (2:41), "were saved" (2:47), "believed" (4:4), "believed in the Lord" (5:14), "accepted the word of God" (8:14). It is not unreasonable to assume that in each of these

situations there was a credible profession of faith, as exhorted in Romans 10:9-10: That believe will be and are and are So it if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you saved. For it is with your heart that you believe justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess saved. is safe to say that the first requirement for

inclusion in the body was the new birth expressed in a credible profession of faith. It was the new birth that resulted in the

believer being baptized with the Spirit into the Body of Christ {1 Cor. 12:13), and it was on the basis of a profession of faith that the believer was accepted into the local body.

Baptism By Immersion The second requirement of Christian experience was baptism by immersion. In reading the book of Acts, it is easy to There

conclude that baptism immediately followed conversion.

were no classes, no waiting periods, no procedural matters to care for. Wherever the sequence is spelled out, the uniform

testimony is "they believed and were baptized." This was clearly the pattern in the infant church in Acts: "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three


thousand were added to their number that day" (2:41); "But when [the Samaritans] believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (8:12); "As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?'. . . and Philip baptized him" (8:36-38); "[Saul] got up and was baptized"

(9:18); "Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? just as we have.' They have received the Holy Spirit

So he ordered that they be baptized in the The same was true in Paul's

name of Jesus Christ" (10:46-48).

ministry: "The Lord opened [Lydia's] heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were

baptized, she invited us to her home" (16:14-15); "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized" (16:33); "On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord

Jesus" (19:5). There seems clear evidence that the first step of obedience on the part of a new believer under the apostles' ministry was baptism by immersion. Balchin makes a good point:

We may conclude that, for the apostles, baptism was no optional extra for which some applied and about which others did not bother. Jesus had commanded it and they required it of those who responded. . . . When Paul wrote even to churches he did not found, he could assume that all professing Christians had been baptized and could base his argument on that fact.6 Clearly baptism was tied closely to conversion. It is

equally clear that baptism was tied closely to the local church. As Balchin concludes: Christian experience always has a corporate as well as individual aspect. For Paul to be 'in Christ' is almost the same as saying 'in the body', that is, in the church.


Because of this baptism is not just a personal response or a personal confession of faith. It was a rite of initiation into the church: 'you . . . were baptized into Christ. . . . you are all one in Christ' (Gal. 3:27f.)7 What mode of baptism was used? been largely avoided if the Greek That question could have word had been translated

rather than transliterated in the English text. following regarding the verb baptizo:

Vine notes the

To baptize, primarily a frequentative form of bapto, to dip, was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc. Plutarchus uses it of drawing of wine by dipping the cup into the bowl (Alexis, 67) and Plato, metaphorically, of being overwhelmed with questions 8 (Euthydemus, 277 D). There is no good textual reason to conclude that the

Apostles used any mode of baptism but immersion. From the beginning the apostles must have understood that baptism was not a negotiable item. After all, Jesus had used

baptism to sum up everything involved in the first stages of the disciple-making process in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:1820). All that remained was to "teach them to observe all

things." should

It would have been inconceivable to them that anyone into the church without baptism--or that anyone


would want to.

Baptism was the second essential requirement

related to an individual's Christian experience.

In the Locality of the Body The third requirement related to an individual's Christian experience is that he be geographically in the locality of the church. There is no such biblical concept as a non-resident Granted, there were those (as Paul

member of a local church.

and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-3) who were sent out by the church as arms, to extend the ministry of the church. But it was


understood from the beginning that a believer was part of the church where he lived. As a result, some New Testament saints (most notably Aquila and Priscilla) found themselves in numerous different cities, and were discovered functioning as part of the body wherever they were. Aquila and Priscilla are first seen in Corinth and

perhaps were saved through Paul's ministry there (Acts 18:1-4). Leaving Corinth with Paul, they went to Ephesus where they were instrumental in completing the instruction of Apollos (Acts

18:18-20, 24-26).

By the time Paul wrote to Rome, they were in By the end of

that city, with a church meeting in their home. Paul's ministry, they were back in Ephesus. they part of? The church where they lived.

What church were

In order for the church to be the kind of living, growing organism that Christ intended, it is essential that its members live in its locality. Otherwise, its role in the life of the

individual member becomes largely a sentimental one. Thus, there are these three basic requirements relating to the spiritual experience of a member of a local church: he must evidence by a credible profession of faith that he has

experienced the new birth; he must have experienced believers' baptism by immersion; and he must live in the locality of the body.

Standards of Doctrine What should a prospective church member believe? What

specific doctrinal positions should he be expected to hold? the security of the believer? the pre-tribulation rapture?

charismatic or non-charismatic understanding of the Holy Spirit? There were two distinct answers to these questions in the church bylaws submitted. One answer came from the specific


statements percent



documents that

themselves. agree with

Over the

eighty-five doctrinal



statement. were

Among doctrines held to be factors for membership belief or practice (9%), progressive


sanctification (12%), the security of the believer (28%), and the position on the Millennium/Tribulation (35%). On the other hand, forty percent indicated that a person could be a member "without full agreement" with the doctrinal statement. Interestingly enough, over eighty percent in the

latter category had bylaws that technically required doctrinal agreement for membership. This common discrepancy between

stated requirement and actual application evidences that many churches are attempting to balance documents that require

agreement with doctrines that are important but not essential. Often these questions arise because many new members come from previous church backgrounds with considerable doctrinal


One method for dealing with diversity of doctrinal

background is typified by Rick Bundschuh: Even though faith in Christ is what makes a person a member of God's Church, a Christian, many bodies of believers require things in order to become a voting member of their group. Sometimes their requirements have to do with a particular belief they emphasize, sometimes it is for more practical reasons such as to screen out those who want to join the Church for the wrong reasons.9 The commendable effort and to maintain doctrinal However, distinctives is




qualifications for membership is not the way to accomplish that goal. have a In addition to the statement of essential doctrines that bearing a "Here on we membership stand!" standards, each church out should their





doctrinal position as comprehensively as possible.

It would


relate to leadership, to teaching positions and to the stated convictions of the body--but not to membership standards. The biblical doctrinal standards for membership are limited to four essential doctrines. These are stated (implicitly or

explicitly) to be essential for a relationship with Christ and fellowship with His body: the doctrine of Scripture, the

doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of salvation.

The Doctrine of Scripture The prospective member must believe that the Bible is the Word of God. the The early churches had a profound understanding of of revelation. They understood that it was


contained in the Scriptures, which we now know as the Old and New Testament. Revelation was not open, but closed. First-

century believers were urged to contend for "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). It was to the

Apostles' teaching that they devoted themselves from day one (Acts 2:42). They spoke clearly concerning the nature of

Scripture, as well as its content (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Peter 1:19-21, 3:15-16). As Chafer affirms: Although written by human pen, the Bible is God's message to man rather than a message of man to his fellow man. Regardless of whether Scripture records words which God actually dictated, the copying of ancient records, the results of research of the human author, or the thoughts, aspirations, and fears of the writer, in every particular God guided the men so that what they wrote was precisely what God intended for them to write with the result that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. Although passages of the Bible may differ greatly in their character, every word of Scripture is equally inspired of God.10 Every other doctrine that is held will be shaped by the way one approaches the scriptures, and by the conclusion one draws











require a new member to hold the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the final guide for faith and practice.

The Doctrine of God The prospective member must believe in the triune God who reveals Himself in Scripture. areas of truth. First, it This includes at least three encompasses the truth of God's

existence. "And

Hebrews 11:6 states this necessity when it declares, faith it is impossible to please God, because A


anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists. . . ."

relationship with God is impossible apart from faith in his existence. And apart from a relationship with God through In this

Christ, one is ineligible for membership in the church. connection, Charles Pfeiffer notes:

The constituent elements of faith are few. but there is no substitute for them. The man of faith believes in the existence of God (11:6). He mayor may not know a great deal about this God. After Jesus had healed a man who was born blind, the man testified, "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). It is possible for us to have many false conceptions about God and still be men of faith. We must, 11 however, believe Him. There is an element of exclusivity to this faith in God. It is not sufficient to "add Him to the god-shelf." characteristics seen in I Corinthians 6:9 to One of the be totally

inconsistent with the life of Christ is "idolatry."

Belief in

God's existence acknowledges Him as the only God, laying aside all gods previously acknowledged (Ex. 20:1-6). Second, the essential doctrine of God encompasses His basic character. This is clearly seen in the remainder of Hebrews

11:6, which declares, "Anyone who comes to him must believe . .












Barclay notes: There were those in the ancient world who believed gods, but they believed that the gods lived out in the between the worlds, entirely detached, entirely entirely unaware of these strange animals called men. said Epicurus as a first principle, "does nothing."12 This Christian is obviously not an adequate basic view of God. that He in the spaces happy, "God," The is





personal, entering into relationship with His people; that he is faithful, making and keeping commitments to His people; that He is gracious, responding to the needs of His people. rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Third, trinity. the essential doctrine of God encompasses the He is a

It is instructive that at the point of initiation into

the church, baptism, the believer is confronted by the trinity. The Great Commission calls the Church to baptize "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). It is

reasonable to assume that no one could accept such baptism who did not believe in the tri-unity of the God in whose name he was baptized. So the trinity is woven into the foundation of truth

essential to acceptance into the church. A prospective member of the church, then, must believe in God: that He exists as the only true God; that He is personal, faithful, and gracious to His people; and that He has eternally existed, one in essence, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are non-negotiable truths.

The Doctrine of Jesus Christ The prospective member must believe in the deity, the

humanity, and the atoning death of Jesus Christ.

Each of these

issues is declared to be essential for fellowship, either with the body, or with God Himself. Obviously it is beyond the scope


of this study to prove these truths; the purpose here is simply to demonstrate that the New Testament church recognized them as essential to fellowship in the body. The early church understood that the deity of Christ was a non-negotiable truth. deity of Jesus which Christ affirms Chafer rightly states: "The eternity and are His asserted infinite in an extensive and His body of



eternal I

existence coequal with the other persons of the godhead."13 John 2:18-23 makes this crucial doctrine a foundation stone:

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they really did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. It is impossible to read the writings of the Apostle John without understanding that he is declaring the full deity of Christ, in this passage among others (note John 1:1-3, 14, 18: John 17:5: John 20:28). declaration: The one who denies that the Son of God has become man denies the Father-Son relationship, too. If there is no Son, there is no Father. . . . John reveals the heart of the gospel: God the Father has sent his Son Jesus Christ to redeem sinners. If a person rejects Jesus Christ, he also rejects God the Father and nullifies the message of the gospel of Christ. Such a person, writes John, is the antichrist.14 Kistemaker notes the impact of John's


Certainly there is no middle ground here. Slavin is correct to contend. "Either these are true and He is the Son of God, or

else Jesus is a liar or a madman. If He is not as He claimed to be, He is not worthy of our worship and admiration, let alone our trust in Him as Saviour and Lord."15 Belief in the deity of

Christ is essential for inclusion in the local body. The second essential truth concerning Jesus Christ is His full humanity. Dr. Chafer







reasons for its necessity.

Christ became a man to reveal God

to man (John 1:18), to reveal man (I Peter 2:21), to provide a sacrifice for sin (Deb. 10:1- 10), to destroy the works of the devil (Col. 2:13-15), to be a merciful and faithful High Priest (Deb. 2:16-17, 4:14-16), to fulfill the Davidic covenant (Luke 1:32), and to be the Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22). It is again necessary to turn to the Apostle John, this time in his second epistle: Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house, or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work (II John 7. 10-11). John, in fact, states that the humanity of Jesus is the foundation of fellowship: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (I John 1:1-3). So it is fair to say that membership in the local church would be conditioned on belief in the full humanity of Christ,


incorporating His virgin birth, sinless life, physical death and bodily resurrection. The third non-negotiable truth concerning Jesus Christ

declares his death to be a substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. Hebrews 9:26b-28: But now [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Concerning the finished work of Christ--his substitutionary death, there burial, is no and resurrection--let way to it suffice to to say that to Among many passages that could be cited is





fellowship with the Father (Acts 4:12).

In the words of I

Corinthians 15:17, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." Without faith in

His substitutionary sacrifice, there is no salvation, and there is no access to church membership. The prospective member must

have his feet firmly planted in the doctrine of Christ: His deity, His humanity, and His substitutionary atonement.

The Doctrine of Salvation The prospective member must believe in salvation by grace through faith. Obviously there is overlap with the previous And these issues the individual's

section relative to the doctrine of Christ. should have been dealt with relative to

personal experience and profession of faith.

But it is an area

of doctrine that is declared to be essential to a relationship with the Father and with the Church. Paul had some very strong things to say about anyone who would redefine the terms of the gospel:


I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned (Gal. 1:6-9)! The apostles understood that there was no room for

discussion when it came to the basic claims of salvation by grace through faith. "For it is by grace you have been saved,

through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). "But

when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. renewal by He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:4-5). And in fact,

salvation would never be found in any other approach to God. This was non-negotiable. There could be no creative

alternatives here.

"Salvation is to be found in no one else,

for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Finally, zeal is no substitute for a clear understanding of the gospel of Christ. In Romans 10:2-3, Paul declares

concerning the futility of any other approach to God: "For I can testify about [the Israelites] that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. know the righteousness their own, that they comes did from not Since they did not God and sought to to





And consequently true righteousness before God

continues to elude them.










elements of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith. That truth joins the doctrine of the Scripture, the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the four corners of the believer's doctrinal foundation, a foundation essential to

qualify for membership in the local church.

Standards of Conduct What standards of personal conduct should the church demand of a prospective member? Is the traditional church covenant as

found in the majority of the Baptist churches in the sample a legitimate yardstick? Do the elements of conduct in that

statement have biblical warrant as membership qualifications? As was noted earlier, nearly eighty percent of the bylaws

studied demanded the fulfillment of the covenant for membership. As has been suggested previously, it is essential to

clearly distinguish conduct that is biblically desirable (even necessary, in the course of spiritual growth) from that which is necessary for fellowship. It is the latter category that is the

focus of this chapter: what conduct is specifically stated in the New Testament either to be necessary to fellowship within the body, or to preclude such fellowship? is stated to be the least common In other words, what of Christian


conduct that allows one to maintain fellowship?

That is the

conduct that must be required of a prospective member. Such general essential conduct will be seen to and fall under two and





conduct manifested in ministry, especially teaching.

Under each

category there are several types of conduct that would exclude one from fellowship in the local church, or that would hinder













Personal Character and Conduct Conduct that Brings Reproach There are several statements in the New Testament that

enumerate conduct that is totally inconsistent with the life of Christ. It might be well to ask why those particular kinds of

conduct seem to be repudiated so strongly. Perhaps it is, at least in part, because many of those so kinds of conduct-- associated





with heathen worship practices.

They are totally inconsistent

with true worship, and denote domination by the flesh, not the Spirit. That association is clearly made in Romans 1:21-25:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Beyond that consideration, however, these sins all seem to have a common characteristic: the potential such conduct has for defaming the name and reputation of Christ and His church.

Several illustrations will suggest how strongly the Lord feels about this issue. When Moses struck the rock in the desert to obtain water (contrary to Yahweh's instructions) in Numbers 20:1-13, what was the reason for such an extreme consequence as to be disqualified from leading Israel into the promised land? It was because of

the effect on God's name and reputation in the eyes of Israel:


"Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." And when David sinned with Bathsheba why did the child born of that union die? reason. It was for exactly the same clearly stated

"Nathan replied, 'The Lord has taken away your sin. You

are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of God show utter contempt, the son born to you will die"' (II Sam. 12:13b-14). So it is that certain kinds of conduct preclude fellowship in the body of Christ. There is no room for tolerance or Such conduct would result

exceptions where they are concerned.

in public reproach being directed at Christ and His church and, consequently, would make fellowship impossible. The following texts demonstrate this concept: Therefore, if you are offering there remember that your brother leave your gift there in front of reconciled to your brother; then (Matt. 5:23-24). your gift at the altar and has something against you, the altar. First go and be come and offer your gift

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matt. 18: 15-17). It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: a man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? . . . But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat (I Cor. 5:1-2, 11).


Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (I Cor. 6:9- 11). The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. . . . We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (II Thess. 3:6, 11-15). Although there are many aspects of these passages that are beyond the scope of the present study, several things are worth noting. First, these are kinds of flagrant, public conduct that Second, if

are totally inconsistent with the Christian life.

these kinds of conduct are indulged in by a member of a local church, it necessitates the withdrawal of fellowship. Third,

these kinds of conduct seem to have in common their potential for bringing reproach on Christ and His church. the sort of thing which, if made public, Each of them is "[make] the Such


enemies of the Lord show utter contempt" (11 Sam. 12:14). conduct naturally falls into several categories.

All kinds of sexual immorality preclude fellowship, and are included in virtually every list. This would include all kinds


of illicit sexual conduct, all forms of commercial sex, and homosexuality. Clearly, there are few areas of conduct more

crucial to the Lord's reputation and the church's mission than sexual morality. Second, any involvement in another religious system would preclude fellowship in the church. Galatians 5:19 is one of

several verses that cites idolatry, but it also addresses the issue of witchcraft. Vos, commenting on this verse, notes:

Witchcraft (better, "sorcery"), is the translation of the Greek Pharmakia, from which our word pharmacy comes. Condemnation here rests not on the use of medicine but on the fact that among pagans the use of drugs was regularly accompanied by occult practices. Drugs were commonly the media in the practice of magic or sorcery: so the word comes to signify secret tampering with the powers of evil.17 Thus this area of conduct extends to involvement with the occult. A third category covers conduct that demonstrates a

flagrant lack of personal integrity which is serious enough to result in public in I reproach. Corinthians dealings This 6:10 ("a would include to and failure as and of

enumerated business


personal honesty



speech ("a slanderer"} and action ("thieves"}. lack of self control II ("drunkard"} and

It also includes materialism failure to

blatant add





provide for one's family. A fourth category of conduct would include that which so seriously disrupts interpersonal relationships as to constitute a reproach. Galatians 5:20-21 would list these as "hatred,

discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy." A final category that brings reproach on Christ and His church is the presence of unresolved conflicts with a fellow


believer (or with a former church fellowship}.

Matthew 5:23-24

delineates the effect of such an unresolved conflict on one's fellowship with the Father. Matthew 18:15-17 suggests its

effect on fellowship with the church.

This kind of conduct was

clearly seen in the church in Corinth, where members were even dragging one another into the civil courts. Paul was horrified His heart cried

that they cared so little for the fellowship.

as he wrote in I Corinthians 6:7, "The very fact that you have lawsuits already. cheated?" among Why you not means rather you be have been completely Why not defeated be



Such an unresolved conflict would preclude admission

to the local church. These are the types of conduct that would constitute a barrier to admission to the local church. conduct preclude that biblically require they They are the kinds of action. They in

disciplinary would





public reproach being directed at Christ and the church.

Conduct that Tears Down the Body A second class of conduct that would disqualify an

individual from church membership is conduct which tears down the body of Christ. Clearly this is a major issue. Paul noted

Christ's response to such conduct in these words: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him: for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (I Cor. 3:16-17). Further, actual case studies are noted in Scripture, with the appropriate response on the part of the body specified: I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For


such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people (Rom. 16:17-18). As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Bphesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith (1 Tim. 1:3- 4). Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is selfcondemned (Titus 3:10-11). Obviously these passages related to an individual already in the body and would not be as likely to apply to a new


But the possibility exists today of an individual

applying for membership who has had that kind of divisive impact in a former church. That conduct would have to be addressed

before he could come into the body.

Conduct that Causes Others to Stumble In dealing with the question of Gentile converts in Acts 15, the early church was very careful to place no more demands on prospective members than necessary. issue that had to be observed. But there was one major

These new believers had to be

free of conduct that would cause others to stumble--that would form a barrier to Jews coming into the church. necessary to meet several criteria: Abstain from immorality, from blood. For Moses earliest times and (Acts 15:20b-21). food polluted by idols, from sexual the meat of strangled animals and from has been preached in every city from the is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath So it was deemed

Admittedly, great care would have to be taken at this point to avoid lumping all of the cultural preferences of the present membership under this category. Romans 14:1 makes it clear that

these kinds of personal or cultural issues are not to be a


consideration as a grounds of fellowship: "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters." The mature believers have to be careful that their demands do not become a stumbling-block to the prospective member, as Paul notes in Romans 15:1: "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." continuing need from the first century to the This is a present, as

Balchin suggests: Jewish and Gentile Christians had widely differing attitudes to a whole variety of things, like the food they were free to eat, or the days they observed as special. Paul's general argument is that the gospel brings liberty from legalistic requirements like these, and that it is 'the weaker brother' who still feels committed to such regulations. However, in love we must not only welcome one another because Christ has welcomed us irrespective of our backgrounds we must be considerate to the point of waiving our freedom and rights lest we unnecessarily offend 'a brother for whom Christ died.'18 Still, it is a necessary consideration that a new believer could be engaged in conduct that would be a stumbling-block to others, particularly those outside the faith. in the first century--and in the Its possibility it a


legitimate concern that must be reflected in qualifications for membership.

Conduct Manifested in Ministry In addition to conduct that stands in the way of fellowship in the local body, certain beliefs practices in teaching also preclude fellowship. counsels Timothy: Avoid godless chatter. because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the In II Timothy 2:16-18, for example, Paul


resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. In the same vein he instructs Titus: For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain (Titus 1:10-11). But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned (Titus 3:9-11). As has been noted previously. Paul warns the church at Rome of the same danger: I urge you. Brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people (Rom. 16: 17-18). There are two issues in view in these passages: the

doctrine that is being taught, and the spirit and motivation of those teaching it. As was discussed earlier, the doctrinal But that

requirements for entrance into the body are minimal.

does not imply that the local church is to be an "open forum." Balchin's point is well taken: It was quite legitimate to have different opinions on a variety of issues, but when the central truths of the faith were involved it was no longer opinion; it was heresy. It is spoken of as a 'work of the flesh', in Paul's terms, a product of sinful, fallen human nature {'party spirit' Galatians 5:20). It is seen as 'destructive' {2 Peter 2:1), and Christians are told to avoid it as 'unprofitable and futile' {Titus 3:9).19 The requirement for new believers--and for all members--is that they abstain from teaching contrary to the doctrine that expresses the understanding and interpretation which the body


has carefully and prayerfully formulated. the body is to formulate such a statement. represent as detailed and

The responsibility of This document should a declaration of


doctrinal positions as possible. Perhaps the real issue is one of willingness to come under the authority of the body and its leadership, as exhorted in Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey

them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." Such leaders are, in fact commanded to rebuke false

doctrine, as in Titus 1:13: "Rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith." One who was unwilling to accept such accountability and authority over his doctrine and teaching would not qualify for admission into the fellowship.

Standards of Commitment There is one final area of standards for membership in the local church that must be addressed: standards of commitment to the body, spelled out in the church covenant. to require entrance into the covenant, It is appropriate the covenant


serves to establish a relationship, not to mandate a lifestyle. As has been emphasized repeatedly, certain lifestyle issues must be addressed, but they are not addressed in the covenant. function is to formalize a relationship. Its

Thus, admission is

posited on a willingness to enter into such a biblical covenant relationship with the body.

Commitment to a Relational Covenant The local church needs to develop a statement which, in its focus, is structured as an unconditional, unilateral covenant to


a relationship. relationship body. into a is a

A willingness to enter into such a covenant qualification for membership in the local

The prospective member of a local church needs to enter covenant relationship the characterized by four to elements: the body,





dependence upon the body, and submission to biblical authority in the body. This commitment involves assuming responsibility for the body and for the other members of the body. The early church

demonstrated this kind of responsibility in a tangible way in Acts 2-4: All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people (Acts 2:44-47). All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:32-35). This commitment is expressed in an accountability to the body. In Galatians to 6:1-19 one one discovers (accept the twin themes of






verse 1) and responsibility for one another (take the risk to correct, verse 1; bear burdens, verse 2; support teachers, verse 6; do good to fellow believers, verse 10). To enter into such a

relationship necessitates a voluntary commitment which bears all the trademarks of a covenantal relationship. This commitment is demonstrated in a dependence upon the body--an interdependence, really--as the members of the physical












dependence is given in I Corinthians 12, which develops the three great themes of unity (verse 12), diversity (verses 14. 19), and interdependence (verses 21. 26). The believer is

exhorted to establish and maintain an organic union with a local body which accurately reflects the spiritual union already

created in Christ. Finally, the commitment involved in entering into a

covenant community--the local church--includes a willingness to submit to the biblical authorities which Christ has instituted in the church. One aspect of this commitment (the submission to

spiritual leaders) is developed in Hebrews 13:17, which exhorts, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority." Actually

this is just the fourth of four levels of authority provided for the operation and oversight of the church: the first is Christ himself, the Head of the Church; the second is the Scriptures, final guide for faith and practice; the third is the body

itself, the temple of the Holy Spirit; and the fourth is the biblically constituted leadership of the body. A prospective member must be willing to commit himself to this kind of covenant relationship with the body. Apart from

that kind of commitment, there can be no biblical church.

Summary and Conclusions In summary, this chapter has suggested the biblical pattern for membership in a local church: members were received

immediately with a minimum of demands placed upon them; the New Testament clearly indicates that local church membership was

definite, not nebulous, and involved specific criteria.


criteria for New Testament church membership fell under four headings: standards of Christian experience; standards of


doctrine; standards of conduct; and standards of commitment to a covenant relationship. Standards of Each category includes several elements. experience would require a


prospective member to give a credible profession of the New Birth. He would need to submit to baptism by immersion

subsequent to his conversion.

He would need to live in the

locality of the body, so as to function as a part of the body. Standards of doctrine would focus on four necessary areas of the faith. First, a candidate for membership would need to

declare belief in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God. Second, he would need to

acknowledge belief in God: that He exists as the only true God; that He is personal, faithful, and gracious to His people; and that He has eternally existed, one in essence, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Third, he would His need to His






humanity, and His substitutionary atonement. need to acknowledge the basic elements of

Fourth, he would the gospel of

salvation by grace through faith. Standards of conduct would focus on four areas of behavior. Conduct that would bring Christ and the church into public

reproach would exclude from membership. down the body would likewise exclude.

Conduct that would tear Conduct that would be a

prohibitive stumbling-block to others coming into the body would be a hindrance to membership, as would teaching that would lead others astray, or divide the body. Finally, standards of commitment would require entrance

into a covenant relationship with the body. is expressed in responsibility for the body, the body, dependence on the body, and

This relationship accountability to submission to the

biblical authorities over the body.


These are the qualifications that should be expressed in the bylaws of a local church. To demand less than these

standards is to expose the local church to reproach and render it ineffective. To go beyond these standards will result in the

exclusion from the local church of those Christ has included in The Church.




Chapter III

F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966), 204. Ibid., 311. Donald Gutbrie, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957), 102. W. E. Vine, The Epistles to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), 79. Bruce, The Book of Acts, 81. Balchin, 58. Ibid., 63. W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966), 97. Words

2 3


5 6 7 8


Rick Bundschuh, The Church (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1988), 28. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), 16. (Grand Rapids:



Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), 93-94. William Barclay, The Letter to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955), 157. Chafer. 53. Simon J. Kistemaker, James & 1-111 John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 282. George H. Slavin, Basics (unpublished outline of basic Bible doctrines), 16. Chafer, 58-59. Howard F. Vos, Galatians: A Call to Christian Liberty (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 104. Balchin, 41. Ibid.


13 14


16 17

18 19









Gordon Each of church seemed

MacDonald have all been in the news in recent years. them has come In to national attention the because process of has




productive; in others it was a travesty. Church discipline continues to be one of the major

perplexities for the contemporary church.

Numerous biblical,

practical and legal questions plague those bodies that desire to function under the headship of Christ. As this society

continues to move away from concepts of personal responsibility and accountability, and as the foundation of absolute values continues to erode, it can be anticipated that these struggles will intensify.

Church Discipline in NWCBA Churches Do results from the present survey of NWCBA churches

reflect the above paragraph? indicated discipline that to they be viewed

Fifty-six percent of respondents their bylaws and statement adequate. on A church narrow



majority indicated that discipline was exercised as often as necessary, appears to although have have one candid seldom." Pastor added, "But our to need



relating in

church of the






responding churches.

Those three statements might indicate that

church discipline is not a major problem in most Conservative Baptist churches.


Such a judgment would be ill advised. discussion will demonstrate, the survey

But as the following underscores three

conclusions: bylaws statements are not adequate, biblically or legally: many churches fail to exercise discipline where it is needed; and the biblical goal of discipline, restoration, is often unreached, even when discipline is practiced. The survey instrument suggested several elements that ought to be a part of a bylaws statement on discipline. These

included the biblical basis for discipline, a statement of the goal of discipline, a statement of the kinds of conduct

necessitating discipline, and an outline of "due process" in disciplinary proceedings. Less than five percent of the bylaws Seven percent included

statements included all those elements.

three of the four, and sixteen percent included two. Although half the churches indicated discipline was

practiced as often as necessary, nearly one half indicated it was not. One pastor commented, "This is an area lacking in the We are now dealing with some very difficult Another pastor suggested, "This is a Nearly one out of four

church's history.

situations because of it."

major area of weakness in our churches."

churches indicated that church discipline was attempted only in cases of major scandal. Thirty percent indicated discipline was

practiced seldom or never, even when warranted. The biblical goal of discipline is seldom realized: the restoration of the fallen member. One church included a helpful set of statistics regarding the results of discipline: 20-30% of cases resulted in restoration of the member; 15-20% of cases ended with church action to remove the member; 50-70% of cases ended with the member withdrawing voluntarily with body

approval, not knowing the details. conclusion that this church has

Experience would lead to the a much-better-than-average


record in both the willingness to practice discipline and in the results achieved. reported objective. The only common element that is almost universally present in bylaws statements on discipline is a provision for removing an offending member from the body {91%). Presumably, this But the fact remains that as many as 80% of cases failed to achieve the biblical


represents the final resolution of most disciplinary cases. Several issues raised relative to church discipline will be deferred to a later chapter on legal issues. The remainder of

this chapter will develop a biblical rationale and framework for church discipline, for that must precede practical and legal considerations. In establishing that framework, the way one

views the church covenant and the covenantal relationship that it establishes will significantly shape the conception and

practice of church discipline.

Two Approaches to Church Discipline Behavioral vs. Relational Discipline Chapter II suggested that there are at least two approaches to forming a church covenant: a behavioral or covenant-to-

lifestyle model; and a relational or covenant-to-relationship model. One benefit of is developing provision whose a for church an focus body around a

relational practice of


understanding is





rather than behavior. As one examines the literature regarding church discipline, the commonly understood purposes for discipline develop by


"One important end of [discipline's] appointment is

to preserve the purity of churches, or to restore it when lost, and to prevent those evils which naturally result from their



A second purpose for discipline is ". . . to

vindicate the honor of God, and of the churches,--either in the recovery of offenders, or, if they prove incorrigible, in their expulsion from the ranks of the faithful."2 A third purpose

relates to the good of the offender, for ". . . the whole process of corrective discipline, from first to last, is evidently designed to effect the reformation of the offender."3 The key term in the previous aims quotation discipline is at the word

"reformation," behavior. issue here be




While all discipline has a behavioral component, the is focus and by priority. examining Such Isaiah a distinction 29:13, "The can Lord



says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'" quoting from this passage in Matthew 15:8, Jesus was In not

minimizing the importance of conduct.

But he did highlight the

priority of heart relationship over hand conduct. John Wounded, White picked and up Ken on Blue, in their book, of Healing the





They note concerning discipline which is designed to maintain the purity of the church and to restore the sinner: Two even more important principles have been neglected, both of them arising out of the very heart of the gospel: reconciliation and freedom. Sin brings alienation, alienation from God and alienation among brothers and sisters. Christ died and rose that we might be reconciled to God and to one another. Church discipline must aim at reconciliation among the brethren. Christ also died to set us free, free from bondage, and free both from guilt and from feelings of guilt. Christians are to be set free from the fear of criticisms by their fellow Christians. We were meant to fear God and sin alone. Corrective discipline when properly carried out should set us free from every fear save the fear of God and the fear of sin."4


Sin destroys many things. effects observe, therefore is its effect corrodes on

But one of its most devastating As White and Blue It truly

relationships. fellowship that


multidirectionally. fellowship which is



fellowship with Christ."5 expression horizontally

That fellowship with Christ finds its in relationships within the body, as

well as vertically with Christ Himself.

It is the disruption of

that fellowship by sin that needs to be the primary focus of corrective discipline. Such a focus becomes more probable in the context of a relational covenant, whose basic commitment is to relationship, than under a behavioral covenant where the basic commitment is to a standard of conduct. For, in fact, it is possible to deal

fully with behavioral problems, and never have restoration of relationship. In such a case, the biblical goal of discipline

would remain unreached. This pattern was certainly common in the development of the relationship of Yahweh and His people Israel. Testament record chronicles the sins of Much of the Old Israel, with the

resultant challenges by Yahweh for their basic lack of holiness. How did Yahweh handle it? What was His approach to discipline?

"For peace to be restored he had to deal with sin. But holiness was not in itself the end. It was a necessary condition without So it is in Repentance which God and his people could not be reconciled."6 church discipline. must be achieved. Issues of conduct must be faced.

But this restoration to a biblical lifestyle White and Blue conclude:

is one of the means, not the end.

Restoration . . . opens the door to reconciliation. The former rebel becomes a friend again. The fallen become comrades in arms with the fighters. The once wounded resume their roles as integral members of a healthy community. The goal of their reconciliation is achieved along with that of their restoration to holy living.7


In his unique case study of effective discipline, Don Baker implies that not enough emphasis was placed on relational

aspects of that process.

He says:

One of the many mistakes I made during Greg's twenty-sixmonth restoration period was that I failed to maintain constant contact with him. In fact, Greg admitted later that he felt that I and other members of the staff had let him down. One staff person took him to lunch, . . . but we never established a routine.8 Baker suggests a further weakness in the process: We seldom prayed for him publicly--which is something we should have done. I'm sure all of us prayed privately, but corporate discipline requires corporate prayer. . . . Specific prayer makes it possible to accurately measure God's responses, and since the experience of discipline was given low prayer visibility, the level of joyous response to God's continuing involvement was also low.9 This is not to suggest that there was no relational element to the process. There was a group of five men that met with Greg weekly. Of this group Pastor Baker states, "This quickly became the supportive fellowship that met many of Greg's needs. They accepted him completely. They treated him as a human being and as an equal."10 One of the dangers with behavioral discipline is that it fails to recognize the necessity of restoration on two levels: the restoration of the person to moral, theological, or

spiritual health; and the restoration of a body that may feel angry and betrayed to a genuinely forgiving love and a

willingness to have the former offender re-assimilated into the life and ministry of the body. those issues. Discipline must address both of

There will be a need for restoration of the body

to the sinner, as much as for restoring the sinner to the body. As Paul dealt with the disciplinary case at Corinth in I

Corinthians 5:1-13 and II Corinthians 2:5-11, there was as much need for attention to the body as to the individual. changed the whole body. what was going on. The sin

"They were doing well until they heard

But once they knew, changes began to take


place in them, resentments, doubts, fears, justifications of guilts and so on."11 Discipline was not complete until the

individual had been restored to full fellowship in the body. Thus, the purpose of discipline is not just to maintain personal holiness in the lives of individual believers. It is to

maintain the body. including

In other words, ". . . if church discipline, discipline is training in holiness, it


necessarily follows that it will aim to create and maintain reconciliation among Christians."12 The form of church

discipline that grows naturally out of a relational covenant will focus on the maintenance the body, not and/or just restoration conformity to of a

relationships lifestyle.


Expulsion vs. Exclusion in Discipline If the covenant relationship that exists within the body of Christ is conditional, then it follows that the ultimate step in church discipline would be the nullifying of the covenant by expulsion from the body. If, however, the covenant is

unconditional (based on the model of the Abrahamic Covenant) then exclusion from fellowship and privilege, not expulsion from the covenant relationship would be the ultimate act of

discipline. This section will suggest that, in fact, expulsion from membership in the body is neither required nor encouraged in scripture. Two lines of evidence will be pursued: the model of

Yahweh's disciplinary dealings with Israel under the Abrahamic covenant; and the examination of New Testament exhortations used to support expulsion. Virtually addressing every book in the contemporary with literature or















discipline. One example from A Guide to Church Discipline by Carl Laney will suffice: Jesus had instructed His disciples that there was one final step in church discipline designed to restore the sinning saint. That step is excommunication--the cessation of church membership, fellowship, and sharing together in worship at the Lord's table (Matt. 18:17).13 Two worthy variations of note. on this approach to based excommunication on his are



theology, He

understands impenitence to result in the loss of faith. summarizes his view:

Only when a person ceases to be a Christian brother or sister through persistent impenitence is this fellowship broken. Even then the very breaking of fellowship becomes a reminder that that person has ceased to be a brother or sister and begins the invitation to return. The second variation is developed by Gaines Dobbins in The Churchbook. After reviewing the disciplinary process of Matthew

18:15-17 and other scriptures, he concludes: Should all this fail, then what? A final question remains: "Are you a Christian? Do you consider that you are saved?" If the answer is in the affirmative, then the course is clear-the church must continue its unceasing efforts to reclaim and restore this "lost sheep of the house of Israel." If the answer is negative, the person being dealt with declaring sincerely that he does not count himself to be a regenerate believer, the course is equally clear--he should be requested to ask that his name be removed from the church membership roll where it has never really belonged. In the former case, the church should be called to intercessory prayer that its straying child may yet be recovered. In the latter case, the church should be challenged to prevailing prayer that the one whose name is being removed as having never been saved may be brought to true repentance and redeeming faith.15 A disciplinary process could result in the clear conclusion that the individual with the was body unregenerate, under false and had entered Then into the




necessary action would be to remove him from the body (of which he had never actually been a part). But the question remains whether it would ever be

appropriate to remove a regenerate church member from membership for disciplinary reasons. The biblical basis for an answer to

that question will be found in a review of God's dealings with sinning Israel. How did he respond when Israel violated that

covenant relationship?

The Old Testament Pattern Now, a crucial issue here is whether the relationship

between Yahweh and Israel under the Abrahamic covenant is a legitimate model for the covenant relationship within the local church body. There Scripture suggests that it is. numerous instances in Scripture where it is


clearly stated that the relationship between God and his people should be accurately reproduced among God's people. Hosea uses

the covenant relationship between husband and wife to highlight crucial aspects of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. Paul does essentially the same thing in Ephesians 5:22-33,

demonstrating a clear and necessary correspondence between the husband-wife and Christ-Church relationships. In John 13:34

Jesus says, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another". Ephesians 4:32 reminds believers to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you". John 17:20-23 assumes a corresponding unity among

believers both with that which exists between Christ and the Church, and with that which exists within the Godhead ("My

prayer is that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, I in them and you in me.").


Assuming the validity of the parallel, what conclusion does one draw from examining God's dealings with Israel. The simple

fact is that the Abrahamic Covenant was totally unconditional once it was in place. under which Israel There were no conceivable circumstances would be expelled from their unique

relationship with Yahweh.

After numerous cycles of rebellion

and failure, it was still true that ". . . the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. has been unwilling to destroy them or banish To this day he them from his

presence" (II Kings 13:23). In Acts 3:25 Peter emphasized that the Covenant was still operative when he declared that, ". . . you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers, He said to Abraham. . . ." And, in fact, this same truth is in view in Several statements

Romans 11, in the analogy of the olive tree.

in that chapter attest to the continuing covenant relationship alongside millennia of severe discipline. Paul raises the

question from the first verse: "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of God did not reject his

Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. people whom he foreknew" (Rom. 11:1-2a).

Further, he demands in verse 11, "Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!" Again, in

verse 24 he suggests, "After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!" In verses 25-27 this mystery is presented: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be


saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." Finally, Paul declares, "They are loved on account of the patriarchs, (11:28b-29). for God's Israel gifts and his lost call are irrevocable" blessing,



privilege, usefulness, and ministry. disciplinary touched. process, unique but the basic

Much was lost through the relationship was never with





Abraham and his descendants was unchanged.

The covenant was

unconditional, and expulsion from the covenant relationship was unthinkable. It might be valuable to consider at this juncture that, during this process, Yahweh claimed to have written Israel a bill of divorcement. perspective: This is what the Lord says: "Where is your mother's certificate of divorce with which I sent her away1 Or to which of my creditors did I sell you1 Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away" (Isa. 50:1). During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done1 She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery." . . . Go, proclaim this message toward the north: "'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the Lord, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the Lord, 'I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the Lord your God. you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me.'" declares the Lord (Jer. 3:6-8. 12-13). Two passages will put this response in


Several factors are obvious: first, there was a radical change in Israel's situation, described as a "divorce." The same fact is alluded to in Hosea 2:2 ("Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. . . ."). Israel lost all the rights and privileges of that unique

relationship which she had enjoyed. with protection and provision. Yahweh was to be her lot.

Fellowship was gone, along

Exclusion from the favor of

This was no small thing.

But, (and this cannot be emphasized too strongly) the basic relationship terminated. banishment infidelity. was There when she undisturbed. has was never not been Accountability a time during to God was not

Israel's for her


There has never been a time when she was free to

pursue other gods without consequence. Israel's unique place as the people of God, in whom would eventually be fulfilled the promises to Abraham, never changed. God's commitment to Israel as His people was never terminated. As we read in Jeremiah 3:12-13 above, there was never a time when Yahweh did not extend an open invitation to wayward Israel to repent and be restored. Further, Hosea 2:15-16, 19-20 makes

it clear that, from the beginning, it was Yahweh's unwavering intent to restore His beloved Israel to the rights and

privileges once hers: "There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. In that day," declares the Lord. "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.' . . . I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord." Perhaps it would be helpful to render this divine

declaration this way: "Thus says the Lord.

'I have obtained a


legal separation from you, O Israel, and a restraining order.


have placed an ad in the classifieds which reads, "I will no longer be responsible for debts incurred by Israel. - Yahweh."'" The point is that fellowship changed drastically,

privileges were taken away, and the umbrella of protection was removed, leaving vulnerability. But the basic covenant

relationship remained intact. And if the church covenant is an unconditional, relational covenant, a parallel situation will exist in a case

necessitating the ultimate step of discipline: exclusion from fellowship and ministry, not expulsion from the covenant.

The New Testament Data Does such a view harmonize with the New Testament teaching regarding discipline? Obviously discipline of an unrepentant

church member calls for drastic action, and this cannot be taken lightly. 16:17; I In commenting upon the call for avoidance in Romans Corinthians 5:11; II Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; II

Timothy 3:2-5; and Titus 3:10, Marlin Jeschke rightly observes: This is a forceful array of texts from five different books of the New Testament--six, if we include Matthew. They show that one cannot write off avoidance as a custom of sectarians. It must be reexamined and understood within the framework of truly Christian church discipline.16 The question is, can the demands of these texts be fully satisfied with exclusion from fellowship, communion, privilege and ministry without expulsion from the covenant relationship? It is essential to examine the language of these passages, at least briefly. Matthew 18:17b concludes, "If he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." A literal translation of the words esto soi osper (rendered

rather interpretively "treat him as'') might be "let him be to


you as." term "as."

But the NIV rendering is warranted because of the key The spotlight shines on the response of the church, In fact, the

not on the spiritual condition of the sinner.

focus is not on covenant position, but on outward fellowship, avoidance, and access to privilege. The fact that one is

treated as a pagan (one outside the covenant) does not mean salvation is lost, or that one is no longer a child of God. Nor

does it mean that the covenant relationship with the body is severed. This distinction is borne out by I Corinthians 5:9-11:

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. There is a clear distinction made between a member under discipline and an unbeliever. Why? Is it not because a

covenant relationship still exists, and all possible leverage must be utilized to restore it to full expression? The second passage is Romans 16:17-18: I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. The literal meaning of ekklinw, ("keep away from") is to "turn away from," to "shun" or "avoid."17 This passage can be

fully satisfied by exclusion, without demanding expulsion from the covenant relationship. The next passage is I Corinthians 5:2. 5. 11 and 13: And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? . . . Hand this man over to Satan, so that the


sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. . . . But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. . . God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you. What is meant in verse 2 by the words "put out of your fellowship?" up."18 The verb airo has the basic significance "to lift

Interestingly, it is the same word translated "cuts off"

in John 15:2, creating debate over whether unfruitful branches are amputated from the vine or lifted up to enhance the

possibility of fruitfulness.

The same interpretive problem is

created in I Corinthians 5:2 by the broad range of meanings the verb can have. They range from a simple physical lifting up, to What is specific withdrawal, to removal, to blotting out, to killing.19 certain is that the church must take drastic and

action, and that action is to result in a separation of some sort. The language would allow for removal from membership, but So the decision must be made on broader

it does not demand it. grounds.

Verse 5 clearly states that this lifting up or taking away will result in the individual being "handed over to Satan." Adams observes in that connection: That God should use Satan and the world as a whip to spank His rebellious children should be no surprise to those who are conversant with the Old Testament. Take, for instance, the Book of Judges. The book is a story of God's dealings with rebellious Israel who, sinning against Him, wanders away from Him only to be brought to repentance by the rigors of subjection to one or another unbelieving foe. In subjugation, Israel cries out in repentance and God raises up a deliverer. To God's glory and the enemy's discomfort, his efforts to "destroy" God's church only end in leading it back to him in repentance. The exile in Babylon perhaps even more closely approximates the fifth step of church discipline. In exile--in the kingdom of darkness--God taught His people to repent and flee idolatry.20 Jay


It should be noted that Adams interprets the "fifth step" of discipline as expulsion from the body. made is equally legitimate when related However, the point to exclusion from


Joy and Kenneth Gage see the same significance, as

they state, "Our conclusion is that when the believer who has sinned is excluded from the protective fellowship of the body, he is then exposed to all the wiles and wrath of Satan. hedge is removed. He is in a vulnerable position."21 The

Obviously, the purpose of this "handing over to Satan" is the reclaiming, the salvaging of the brother. There is no

indication that it absolves the body of further responsibility for the wayward brother or sister, or that it relieves the The

sinning member from further accountability to the body. relationship remains intact.

Paul used this same approach with two men named Hymenaeus and Alexander. In I Timothy 1:20 he observes that they had been

". . . handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." His clear expectation was that they would be restored to


He had not given up on them, but had "sent them out

for repairs," as it were. This process does not involove a termination of the In

relationship, but an exclusion from fellowship and ministry.

fact, the anticipated restoration seems to imply (and require) an ongoing relationship growing out of a continuing

responsibility and accountability.

This is implied by Paul's The church is

follow-up instructions in II Corinthians 2:5-11.

not instructed to readmit him, or to begin a new relationship, but to "forgive and comfort him" (verse 7), and to "reaffirm your love for him" (verse 8). There was never a time when the

Corinthians could wash their hands of this fellow, and there was never a time when they could cease loving him. Nor was there


ever a time when he was free of accountability to them.


their love had, for a time and of necessity, taken different forms of expression. Now it was time to reaffirm their love in

a positive, accepting expression of forgiveness and restoration. Paul continues to emphasize the drastic response

necessitated by unrepentant sin in I Corinthians 5:11: "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. man do not even eat." The verb sunanameignumi (translated "associate with"), has the literal idea of "mix up together" and in the passive signifies mingling or associating together.22 here relates to the interruption of With such a

Clearly the idea not to the


termination of membership. Baker when he concludes:

This point is underscored by Don

Exclusion or withdrawal does not imply departure. The rights and privileges that are withdrawn are meant to cause sorrow and shame to the point of repentance, and such repentance is meant to lead to requests for forgiveness and restoration to the excluding body.23 Perhaps one might question the effectiveness of such a

response in the contemporary church.

Obviously a persecuted

church has a great deal more leverage in the sense that an excluded saint has nowhere else to go. been burned, so to speak. All of his bridges have

Today, there is not the same sense of It is a simple matter, if

dependence on the local assembly.

excluded by a local body, to drop out of church involvement altogether or to become involved in the church down the street. Relational discipline will only work if biblical relationships are developed within the body. the privileges of ministry The loss of fellowship and of only drive the erring to



repentance and a desire for restoration if something of great value is actually lost. The final statement in I Corinthians 5 is found in verse 13, where Paul commands, "Expel the wicked man from among you." Using the same root as that discussed above in I Corinthians 15:2, this verb, exairo, has the significance of "take up out of" and suggests "removal" or "driving away," and occurs only here in the New Testament.24 The choice of this term by the Apostle would allow for the concept of expulsion from the covenant relationship. question remains whether it demands it. suggested in part by another question. But the

Perhaps the answer is Would this be too strong Would it be accurate That is and

a term to use of the Babylonian captivity?

to say that God expelled or drove out His people Judah? exactly what happened, with all the loss of


blessing that resulted. But the covenant relationship remained intact. Judah

became the people of God in exile.

Likewise, here Paul is

demanding that this brother be considered a member of the body in exile. The next passage dealing with avoidance or exclusion is found in II Thessalonians 3. Paul states: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. . . . If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (3:6, 14-15). An interesting term, stello, is used in verse 6 which has the basic idea of preparation, making ready, then sending. But In a warning against the idle,


it is used here in the middle voice, and hence implies, "send yourself" or "avoid," "stand aloof" or "keep away,"25 In verse 14, the exhortation is to take particular note of an individual, to "mark him out for yourself" and to not mingle with him (the latter verb having already been considered in I Corinthians 5:11). The clear intent is exclusion, for the

purpose of a positive response by the one excluded (" . . . in order that he may feel ashamed"). In fact, it is commanded that

the excluded brother still be treated as a brother (". . . warn him as a brother"). In II Timothy 3:2-5 Paul outlines a series of doctrinal and practical errors which men will indulge in "in the last days." Timothy is warned to "have nothing to do with them (3:5)." here, the following context seems to establish that But these

individuals are not really believers. In the final passage, Titus 3:10, Titus is exhorted to issue two warnings to a divisive person, then to "have nothing to do with Him." in a local It is unclear whether these were individuals because Titus was working to install It


leadership in all the churches on the island of Crete (1:5). is possible that the people in view here were


preachers, and that Paul's intent was that Titus not give them a platform churches. to disseminate their divisive doctrines in the

The issue here is apparently not expulsion from a

local church. From the above survey of New Testament passages, it seems reasonable to conclude that, though there are passages that

would grammatically allow for expulsion from the local church, honesty Exclusion with from the text does and not demand such the a response. rights and













unrepentant brother which these texts require. Such a response was perhaps the most striking feature of Don Baker's record of discipline undertaken by Hinson Memorial Baptist Church and recounted in Beyond Forgiveness. In

retrospect, Pastor Baker observes: "The most difficult and yet the most crucial decision that we had made was to request Greg and Joanna to remain at Hinson Church. We didn't realize at the time what a big part this was to play in the restoration process."26 The pattern really grew out of the Pastor's remarks to the church on the Sunday evening when Greg confessed his sin to the church. The shocked body was challenged with these words:

Greg has been wounded, critically wounded. and the wounded need time for wounds to heal. Greg has been emotionally, spiritually, physically wounded. He is embarrassed, ashamed, terribly depressed, and he needs time to recover. He needs to rebuild confidence in himself, and we need time to rebuild our confidence in him. He needs to be proven, and such proving will take time. In order to help him reestablish himself, we have made certain recommendations to him--to which he has already agreed, and some of which he has already performed. One, that he acknowledge his sin to his wife and family. Two, that he confess his sin to the church family. Three, that he surrender his ordination until such a time that we feel he might again be qualified for ministry. Four, that he not engage in any public ministry without our permission. Five, that he submit to extensive psychological counseling. We recommended a psychologist within the church family, and offered to pay counseling fees if necessary. Six, that he and his family remain right here in Hinson and allow us the privilege of helping in his restoration. . . . . . We are going to pray for Greg, that he will be empowered by God to break a pattern that has existed for thirteen years, and that he will be restored fully to a ministry that is productive and fruitful. How long will it take? I don't know. But a sufficient length of time to prove to himself, to his family, to his


church family, and to his God that he is truly spiritually mature enough to carry on a ministry where he can honor Christ. So we've asked him to stay right here and be restored. It's been said of the family of God that it's the only army in the world that deserts its wounded. One of our family has been wounded, but by God's grace, we are not going to desert him, do you agree?27 One of the key factors in this most unusual example of restorative church discipline was that the relationship remained intact, though fellowship and ministry were damaged critically. This is one of the marks of relational discipline, and should be the rule, not a striking exception in a generally bleak

landscape of failures.

Because the covenant relationship is

unconditional, the last resort in discipline is exclusion, not expulsion. intended The probability only is of discipline accomplishing the its





relationship remains intact. slip through the cracks.

Otherwise broken people tend to

Repentance vs. Restoration in Discipline Church discipline based on a typical behavioral church

covenant tends to focus on behavioral issues.

That point was

raised earlier, but its implications need to be explored at this point. When church discipline is a response to an action or a pattern of behavior, there is a tendency for it to become a problem-solving infidelity, then exercise. genuine For instance, and if the the problem of is the



adulterous relationship would conclude the discipline.

But the

question must be raised, "Is repentance the end which church discipline seeks?" Numerous church bylaws state that true

repentance by the offending member will end all disciplinary


action. repentance.









Gordon MacDonald acknowledges as much:

In talking about restoration we begin with the assumption that the broken-world person has acknowledged actions and attitudes that have led to consequences and offenses grievous to the Christian community. That is confession and repentance, and no one can do that for the sinner. But conversely, the repentant person cannot restore himself or herself: he or she must be restored by others. Again, I must say that I feel free to write on this subject only because I have received such restoration personally.28 Two crucial points are made here: one, true restoration must go beyond repentance; and two, restoration must occur in the context of the body. Blue assert: Thus to be restored means more than to have repented and been forgiven. Sin damages. It weakens resistance, dulls conscience, debases appetites, brutalizes instincts. It is habit-forming and character-changing. Sinners need to be healed and rehabilitated. We do not use the word 'restoration' to refer to being restored to fellowship. Rather 'restoration' means being brought back to the holiness one held before a fall. At best, in practice, it means something more than the narrow definition of the word would suggest--but rather becoming better, wiser and strong. It is to such a condition that repentance must be the doorway.29 Jay counsels: A forgiven adulterer needs more than restoration: the thought life and daily habits that contributed to the act, as well as his bad relationship with his wife, must be dealt with. . . . Apart from this additional help, the brother or sister will more than likely fall into the same sort of difficulty again.30 And in addition to the necessity of a process of restoring the fallen to spiritual health, fellowship, and fruitfulness, there is also the need of restoration of the body to him. Adams would recognize the same necessity as he Concerning this first point White and

Gordon MacDonald cites the problem of repentant saints who do












sinned: Without restorative grace, broken worlds cannot be rebuilt according to God's standards. Unfortunately, there are many stories of men and women who in their distress felt so abandoned and so ostracized that they put their own worlds back together in whatever fashion was possible. But this kind of rebuilding process was fueled perhaps by anger or by the need to survive or by the energy that comes from wanting to stubbornly prove oneself. The results of such rebuilding are usually something like my attempts to rebuild an appliance. Several pieces are left over, and the thing doesn't work well. And usually such people have subsequently chosen to go elsewhere, lost to the Christian community where they perceive they are no longer welcome. I think that's a waste. It's also an indication that sometimes we misunderstand one of our central purposes: to rescue the perishing and grace the failing.31 This truth is illustrated in the church at Corinth. The

individual dealt with in I Corinthians 5 responded positively to discipline. Paul follows with instructions for a two-phase

restorative process: The punishment inflicted on him by the sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your (11 Cor. 2:6-8). The "forgive," process and is really or summarized "assist." in Jay two majority is forgive and by excessive love for him key words: some




helpful comments on those two concepts which develop out of verse 7. Concerning the responsibility of forgiving, he

suggests: Forgiveness is granted upon repentance. Why would some have hesitated to forgive? Why does Paul say to stop carrying out the punishment and forgive immediately? Probably for two reasons. First, there are always some who want to exact a pound of flesh. They cannot think that a person has suffered enough. To all such, Paul says, "It is enough. Stop it and


forgive!" Second, there are always some who want to be sure the repentance is genuine. . . . You must not wait for fruit in order to grant forgiveness. The fruit will come in time--but it takes time. ..But at the moment when one comes saying that be is repentant, you must forgive him. If we are to err at this point, it must be on the side of leniency. The church, then, must make a formal declaration of forgiveness to the repentant sinner and place on the records that it has done so and that the matter is closed.32 Although the matter is closed as far as forgiveness is concerned, the process has just begun in dealing with causes and consequences. exhortation. That is the purpose of the other half of Paul's The word translated "comfort" in the same verse is

the verb parakaleo, from the same root used of the Holy Spirit in John 16:7, et al. assist, Adams remarks: In this passage it has that very general meaning [to call alongside for assistance]. It refers to giving the returning brother or sister whatever help--and all the help--needed to be reestablished properly in the congregation. This assistance, or help, is too frequently missing in churches. As a result, reinstated members make their way only with great difficulty and may fall again into sin. Converted Sauls must be welcomed with open arms and hearts, because they will need much help. What kind of help? Counseling about the problems and the sins that led to their ouster in the first place. Help in becoming reassimilated into the body. Help in making new social contacts and reinstating old ones. Help in reconciling themselves with others to whom they spoke hard words or toward whom they did despicable things. They will need guidance in finding their place in the body so that they can once again begin to use their gifts (none of this business of making them wait six months to rejoin the choir!). They may need medical assistance; Satan can be rough, and if they have been in his hands for any length of time, they will probably bear the marks that show it. They may need financial help.33 MacDonald reminds every broken believer, and every local church body which would seek to reclaim a broken believer, "This Concerning this obligation to comfort or












Restoration and hope?

Most definitely."34 There

Regrettably there are always consequences for sin. are scars that remain for a lifetime.

There may be limitations It must be include

on ministry that are either temporary or permanent. understood that restoration does not


resumption of previous ministry.

Walker rightly observes:

The act of restoration should be regarded as having respect merely to the common church relation. The person restored is reinstated by that act in all the rights and privileges of membership in the body, but not in any official station which he may have occupied previous to his exclusion. He can have no right to resume such station, or to exercise any of its functions,except through the suffrages of the brethren, subsequently given.35 Jeschke catches the delicate balance that must be achieved, providing full restoration on the one hand, yet maintaining the biblical standards for office and ministry on the other. suggests: Now, it may be necessary to exercise discretion in appointing restored persons to office, just as in the appointment of new converts to office. Such appointments should be by virtue of spiritual fitness, not automatic reappointment. However, it is inconsistent with forgiveness to hold truly restored members in a state of perennial disgrace. It is inconsistent with forgiveness to make them "pay" with continual humiliation or to put them on any other "probation" than that under which all believers live all the time.36 Gordon MacDonald acknowledges that broken saints will He

nearly always live with permanent consequences and heartbreak that develop out of wrong choices {which restoration will not totally remove). But he hastens to note that the goal of a

restoring body should be to ". . . ensure that, to the best of their ability, no soldier is ever lost to the fight: no gifts ever wasted: no call, if possible, ever terminated."37 Though it

may not be possible for the restored individual to return to the


same office or ministry, one goal of restoration is to return every believer to useful ministry. When Gordon MacDonald speaks of this kind of assisting

restorative work, there is the ring of authenticity, growing out of his own past dependence on just such a process. steps are necessary to bring about such a reclamation: A number of elements of a full restorative process are helpful to think about. Each fits with the others like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, and when they are complete, we may see a broken world on its way to rebuilding. RESTORATION FIRST REQUIRES CONFESSION BY THE BROKEN-WORLD PERSON. The secrets of the heart and of past actions have to be put into the light. . . . This is a confession of guilt and responsibility. It avoids all excuses and rationalizations. It makes no attempt to blame others or to shirk responsibility for what has happened. Until this happens, the healing process has no chance to begin. A SECOND ASPECT OF THE RESTORATION OR REBUILDING PROCESS TAKES PLACE WHEN THE BROKEN-WORLD PERSON AND A RESTORATIVE TEAM TAKE TIME TO GO INTO THE HISTORY OF THE EVENTS THAT LED TO MISBEHAVIOR. This is an important process, like the drilling of that tooth before the dentist can fill the cavity and rebuild it to former strength. . . . I must underscore the importance of counseling at this point. Although we may give or receive forgiveness, that is no guarantee that all the roots of misbehavior have been discovered. Third, RESTORATION REQUIRES DISCIPLINE. The broken world person cannot take this into his own hands. He needs to trust in a body of mature, godly people whose agenda is rebuilding. Along the way some painful steps must be taken to regain the confidence of others and to experience healing, and the members of the restorative body should determine how much time to allow. Discipline usually means restrictions: being relieved of certain responsibilities, being asked to account to others on personal spiritual activities, and being required to submit to pastoral oversight or counseling. In some cases, discipline may even require the act of restitution--the formal seeking and granting of forgiveness to offended parties, repayment of monies that have been taken, or agreements that there will no longer be verbal attacks or slanders. As much as possible, discipline will require that damages and offenses are recognized and settled. This is not punishment; but it is a recognition that, for everyone's Several


good, a time of withdrawal is wise so that the rebuilding work of Christ and His church can take place. We do no favors to one another if we rush a wounded soldier back to action. . . . THEN [fourth,] RESTORATION INVOLVES COMFORT. . . . If the Christian community desires to restore an individual, regular attempts have to be made to pour courage and confidence into him. . . . A FIFTH ASPECT OF RESTORATION IS ADVOCACY. The process of rebuilding always has a stated objective, which is healing and a return to service or usefulness. Those involved in the rebuilding actually take on the responsibility to speak for the broken-world person, to represent the possibilities for his rebuilding to others. I have heard little in the church about the subject of advocacy. Yet Barnabas, the favorite New Testament character for many of us, was an advocate on at least two occasions. . . . Who will advocate for the broken-world person? Who will make sure that news about his or her personal world is truthful? Who will stand with the repentant sinner and assure that he or she receives the forgiveness and grace the Scriptures tell us God wishes to give? . . . . . . Finally, RESTORATION REQUIRES AN OFFICIAL DECLARATION WHEN IT IS ACCOMPLISHED. A specific time must come when one is released from discipline. . . . The news of what has happened should be widely circulated since it is usually true that bad news travels far and wide, but good news crawls. It needs to be declared.38 A system of church discipline which only remedies Proper It

behavioral problems falls short of the biblical pattern.

church discipline is primarily relational, not behavioral.

must address the full restoration both of the individual to spiritual health and usefulness, and of his relationship with the body and his Lord to full fellowship. short of the model which God provided. Anything less falls

Summary and Conclusions One of the bylaws sections that needs greater attention than it has received is that dealing with church discipline. Many churches in the NWCBA sense inadequacies in this area, in application and result as well as in documentation. Part of the


suggested solution is the rethinking of the church covenant as it relates to church discipline. The typical covenant statement is a conditional agreement to a code of conduct, and discipline is a response to the

violation of that code.

Consequently, most discipline deals

with behavior modification, and, more often than not, results in the expulsion (voluntary or forced) of the individual from the body. Under ideal circumstances the typical church discipline

case ends with repentance. In contrast, under a covenant that resulted in an

unconditional commitment to a relationship (following the model of the Abrahamic (the It Covenant), core issue) discipline rather result should than in focus on (the from

relationships symptom).

behavior exclusion



fellowship and ministry but not expulsion from the body, and would strive for restoration, not merely repentance. Churches need to incorporate in their formal documents a statement on discipline that reflects this biblical framework. It needs to reflect Further, would the it biblical needs in to rationale spell and purpose types for of

discipline. behavior that







with the process that would be followed. One of the weaknesses in Conservative Baptist churches is the failure is to to maintain develop biblical documents discipline. that reflect Part the of the



approach to this crucial dimension of church life, and train leadership and laity to implement those principles in a biblical spirit.


Notes: Chapter IV


Warham Walker, Church Discipline (Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, 1844; reprint, Rochester, NY: Backus Book Publishers, 1988), 83 (page references are to reprint edition). Ibid. Ibid., p. 84. John White and Ken Blue, Healing the Wounded (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 81-82. Ibid., 66. Ibid., 47. Ibid., 70. Don Baker, Beyond Forgiveness Press, 1984), 66. (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah

2 3 4

5 6 7 8


Ibid., 68. Ibid. White and Blue, p. 66. Ibid., p. 48. J. Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 64. Church (Minneapolis: (Scottdale,

10 11 12 13


Marlin Jeschke, Discipling in the Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1988), 93. Dobbins, 90. Jeschke. 91.

15 16 17

William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1957. s.v. "ekklino." Ibid., s.v. "airo." Ibid.

18 19



Jay E. Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 79-80.


Joy P. and Kenneth G. Gage Restoring Fellowship (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 27. Arndt and Gingrich, s.v. "sunanameignumi." Baker, 65. Arndt and Gingrich. "exairo." Ibid., s.v. "stello." Baker, 65. Ibid., 58-59. Gordon MacDonald, Rebuilding Oliver Nelson, 1988), 212. White and Blue, 70. Adams, 43. MacDonald, 188. Adams, 93-94. Ibid., 95. Ibid., 51. Walker, 152. Jeschke, 102. MacDonald, 219. MacDonald, 216-219. Your Broken World (Nashville:

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38


Church Polity in the NWCBA One of the crucial issues addressed in a church's bylaws is the basic organizational and governmental structure with which the church operates. This is the definition used (for the

purposes of this paper) for "polity."

It may be that there is

no longer such a thing as "Baptist church polity," for there is no singular form that is universally followed in organizing

Baptist churches.

The results of the present survey indicate

that there is more variety in polity among NWCBA churches now than at any time in the history of the Conservative Baptist movement. That variety is not without stress. Just over 25% of the

responding churches indicated "church organization or structure" as a point of significant stress. generated more problems than they New forms have sometimes have solved. One pastor

indicated, "A new pastor prior to my tenure changed to eldership [sic] rule and brought conflict to the church." In establishing picture a profile of NWCBA church polity, operate the with





multiple boards, sixty-five percent have one board.

Of the

multiple board churches, forty-six percent have three or more boards besides Deaconesses. One third operate with Deacons and

Trustees (usually with Deaconesses as well), and twenty percent operate with Elders and Deacons (or, in one case, Elders and Trustees). Of the churches with multiple boards, one third

indicated that they were in the process of reorganizing as a


single board, or were desirous of doing so.

Twenty-one percent

have their original organizational structure still in place, but those percentages decline rapidly with age. churches original incorporated structure, between 1965 to 22% and of Fifty percent of 1980 those retain their



between 1940 and 1965, and 7% of those incorporated prior to 1940. Of the churches with a single-board polity, 82% operated with a Board of Deacons, 18% with a Board of Elders. One of

those churches indicated an interest in returning to a multipleboard polity. Baptist churches have traditionally believed in and

practiced congregational government.

One part of the content

analysis was classification of the respondents according to the form of government developed in the bylaws. This judgment was

based on such factors as the appointment or election of officers and other personnel, including the process for establishing a nominating committee; the control of budgeting and expenditure decisions; decisions regarding receipt and dismissal of members, including disciplinary cases; frequency and function of

congregational business meetings; and decisions regarding hiring and dismissal of pastoral staff, including provision for a

pulpit committee.

Using those criteria, twenty-eight percent of

the churches had clear congregational government with multiple boards, thirty-three percent had clear congregational government with a single board, nineteen percent had limited congregational government with a single board. boards) had primary government Five percent (with multiple by the pastor, and sixteen

percent were governed by the board. Three trends are evident in NWCBA polity: churches are

moving, for the most part, from multiple board to single board


structures; there is a general increase in the use of the term "elder" for lay leadership; and there is an erosion of the role of the congregation in church government. The primary drive

behind these trends (at least on the basis of the response to this survey) is efficiency and pragmatism: what will work best. Note these typical responses to the question of desired changes in bylaws: "The church has outgrown present structure. We need

to redefine board/committee/pastor relationships, functions and lines of communication." "Combine the board of deacons and "Change from

trustees for greater utilization of manpower." multi-board system to a one board system."

Obviously a church

needs an organizational structure that is a help rather than a hindrance, but is that the only criteria to consider? Are there

also biblical parameters that must be included in developing these basic structures? Is it possible to discern a biblical pattern that would define what church polity ought to be? McBirnie notes that

"Some Christians have contended that the beliefs, organization, and practices of the early churches were sufficient for the first century, but the world has changed so much that the churches must also change."1 But he goes on to suggest that this premise, like the

similar rationale that would change doctrine, must be subjected to at least three evaluatory questions: 1. Will changing the concept of the church from the New Testament pattern help or hurt Christianity? 2. If change is permitted, just how much shall occur without utterly transforming the church into something different from that envisioned by the Lord and His Apostles? 3. Can we really improve on the church patterns established by Jesus and the Apostles?2 It biblical is the basic of thesis New of this study that there is a







leadership, church.









The Pattern of Leadership in the New Testament Church As was suggested in an earlier chapter, a cursory

examination of the New Testament record will lead one to make four general observations concerning church

membership/leadership that are pertinent to this study: first, new believers were received immediately into the church with a minimum of restrictions; second, there were formal lists

maintained in various contexts in the early church; third, there were specific and formal offices and leadership positions in the apostolic churches: and fourth, qualifications for those offices were high, in marked contrast to the qualifications for


In addressing the issue of church polity, the third

observation is particularly pertinent, that there were clearlydefined offices and leadership roles in the early church. The initial leadership, of course was in the hands of the apostles, and not just anyone could be an apostle. Passages

such as Ephesians 4:11 clearly establish that Christ ". . . gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and, some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers" (KJV). As Homer Kent notes, "The point is not that He gave to some men the gift of apostleship, but that the church as a whole received apostles as a gift from Christ."3 individuals Obviously, mentioned the with same is true The of the other of the gifted Church



gifted, set apart, and gave to the church these leaders. Subsequently, reference is made to elders (Acts 11:30),

overseers (I Tim. 3:1), deacons (I Tim. 3:8), as well as the prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers of Ephesians 4:11. Of

these various groups of leaders, the two that are specifically


and formally defined as officers are the "overseer" and "deacon" of I Timothy 3. (Consideration of the question of including

"elder" as a formal office will be a crucial piece in the puzzle of biblical church polity.) Whether there is agreement on the specifics of the list of New Testament church officers, the fact remains that there were definite offices set forth in Scripture for the church.

Jewish Background of New Testament Leadership Although some writers question the degree of connection, there seems good reason to conclude that the basic concept of leadership in the New Testament church has its roots in Old Testament Israel, and in the synagogue of the first century. There one discovers the basic function of leadership residing in the elders. At least two conclusions can be drawn regarding the elders of Israel that are undisputed, and a third conclusion will be offered that seems relevant to the present study. The first

conclusion is that the concept of "elder" originally referred to one of mature of years. elder "It rule, is as generally the word agreed itself that the



originally was based on age: the older, more influential men of society naturally formed a ruling council."4 The same Hebrew

word (zaqen) was used alternately for older men, and for men considered among the leaders of Israel. It is defined as: Lit. "bearded ones," perhaps reflecting the age, wisdom, experience and influence necessary for a man expected to function as an elder. As heads of local families and tribes, "elders" had a recognized position also among the Babylonians, Hittites, Egyptians (see Ge 50:7), Moabites and Midianites (see Nu 22:7). Their duties included judicial arbitration and sentencing (see Dt 22:13-19) as well military leadership (see Jos 8:10) and counsel (see I Sa 4:3).5











leaders of Israel. with particular upon

"Elder was originally applied to older men to but their still wisdom. it still Later it was the

reference others,



connotation of wisdom."6 This introduces the second conclusion: that the elder

concept detached somewhat from an age designation to designate leadership, with less dependence on age. As someone has

suggested, at the age of fifty, some men have amassed fifty years of experience. fifty times. Some men have one year of experience--

Elders were selected from the former group.

But there is a third conclusion that seems to be biblically warranted, and is relevant to New Testament church leadership: "Elder" was a general term, denoting one who functioned in

leadership, not a formal office. this conclusion. Elders seem to be men

There are several reasons for





and The

possess the role of elder almost as an ex officio function.

first reference to Israel's elders is found in Exodus 3:16 when Moses is sent back to his people to begin the process of


There is no indication who these elders were, but

presumably they included heads of families, clans and tribes.7 Those were the functional units by which Israel had organized itself from the beginning. The "offices" these men held were

"heads of families," "heads of clans," "heads of tribes," etc. Collectively they exercised the function of "elders of Israel." It appears valid to translate "elder" as "leader" without doing violence to either text or historical record. The concept seemed to imply, on the one hand, a function of leadership

shared by various officers, and, on the other hand. a pool of qualified men from which officers were drawn. In Numbers 11:16-


17 such an incident is recorded. load of leadership.

Moses was overwhelmed by the

The Lord created a new office to assist

with the administration of the affairs of Israel. The Lord said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel.s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone. Several passage: important this implications particular



be or



this is




separate and distinct from eldership.

Moses was to select the Second,

seventy from the pool of elders that were available.

the fact that Moses is instructed not only to choose from among the elders, but from among the elders were who are "leaders were and not







considered "leaders and officials."

Perhaps (to put it in a

contemporary context) they were between terms of office, they did not occupy any formal office, yet were still considered elders. They were acknowledged by their family or clan or tribe

as having a leadership function. Reference is made (in Deuteronomy 21, among other places) to the "elders of a city." It is reasonable to assume that

these men held offices equivalent to the current mayor, city council, municipal judge, etc. In the context, it is stated

that "The priests, the sons of Levi, shall step forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister and to pronounce

blessings in the name of the Lord and to decide all cases of dispute and assault" (Deut. 21:5). Just a few verses later, the

elders are called upon to decide the fate of a rebellious child (Deut. 21:18-21). Apparently the priests were sometimes

classed, with other leaders, among the elders.


The term seems capable of a number of uses, some broader than others. For instance, in I Kings 20:8 it is stated that At that

"the elders and the people" all answered King Ahab.

point, all the officials seem to be included in the designation "the elders," as opposed to "the people." At other times,

holders of various offices are distinguished from "the elders," as in Deuteronomy 29:10: "All of you are standing in the

presence of the Lord your God--your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel." Again, a case can be made for normally rendering "elders" in the general sense of "leaders" as is the case in comparing the rendering of II Kings 19:2 in the NIV ("Shebna the secretary and the leading priests") and in the KJV ("Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests"). separate occupied class the of priests of elected There is no indication of a "elders," and but priests offices who were





recognized as holding, by virtue of their several offices, the function of eldership. They were the leading priests.

Likewise, it seems reasonable to conclude that there was no separate office of elder, per se, but rather, men who occupied the various offices and positions of authority in Israel's

society were acknowledged to function collectively as the elders of the land or the city or the tribe. This was the model of

leadership familiar to the leaders of the early church.

From "Apostle" to "Elder" in the Book of Acts Without question, the initial leadership in the infant

church of Jerusalem consisted of the Apostles. to understand that the final pattern of

It is essential did not


arise, fully developed, overnight. It developed over the course of three decades, in response to a growing understanding of the














perception of the needs that would exist over the long haul. Christ would not return in a year or two. structure and leadership that would The church would need its health and


vitality beyond the apostolic day. The Apostles led the church until Acts 6, when the need became apparent for a broader leadership base. recognize the seven men chosen at that time It is common to as the first

deacons. That is certainly an appropriate term for the ministry to which they were called. First, their But two things need to be noted. was one of considerable


administrative responsibility.

As was noted earlier in this

study, it is necessary to envision the "waiting on tables" of Acts 6:2 as actually encompassing a comprehensive social service program for a body of ten thousand people or more. These seven

men became the functional administrators of the program of the church. Second, these men were obviously involved in more than mere administrative work. The book of Acts only tracks two of the

seven in detail, but if Stephen and Philip are typical, these men also had far-reaching spiritual ministry in Jerusalem and beyond. The next stage in the evolution of leadership in the church is the introduction of the term "elders" in Acts 11:30. These

men are introduced into the narrative without any indication of who they are or where they came from. that the first reference to It is interesting to note involves receiving a


financial contribution to alleviate the material needs of the church in Jerusalem. It is further interesting to note that the

first deacons were chosen in Acts 6 to oversee the financial


resources of the church to alleviate the material needs of the church in Jerusalem. Is it possible that the elders of Acts 11:30 are in fact the deacons of Acts 6? text as to their between If not, then there are no hints in the identity the or selection. in both The passages close would



perhaps make such an identification plausible, if not probable. From this point on in the narrative of the church, "elders" becomes the term of choice with reference to local church


They were prominent, with the Apostles, in the

account of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, and as leadership was established in newly planted churches, it inevitably

consisted of elders (as in Acts 14:23, 20:17, 21:18, Titus 1:5}.

Formal Offices in the Pastoral Epistles The final stage in this evolution is seen in I Timothy 3:113 (reflected in Phil. 1:1}. There the two formal offices,

"Overseer" and "Deacon" have their qualifications set forth. Now, one might argue that the third office of elder is similarly specified in Titus 1:6-9. It is more likely that

"elder" is used in Titus 1 as a broader term to refer to leaders generally. Either that is the case, and Paul gives general

instructions about biblical church leaders (including deacons and overseers} and then adds more detailed qualifications for overseers in 1:7-9, or he uses the two terms interchangeably and synonymously. If such is the case, it is strange that the churches of Crete are given no instruction concerning the need of deacons. But it would be reasonable to suggest that Paul might prescribe a less detailed organization for Crete than for Ephesus. The

church at Ephesus was much more mature in its development than


the churches of Crete. The indication in Titus 1:5 that formal organization was newly instituted, especially in view of the culture and background of the new believers making up those churches (hinted at in 1:12-13}, would give credence to the expectation of simpler structure for the churches of Crete.

Relationship of Elder, Pastor, Overseer and Deacon It is possible that "elder" is not intended in the New Testament to be synonymous with "pastor" or "overseer." Nor does elder denote a third biblical office. Rather, it is a function In fact, the

of leadership that deacons and overseers share.

first reference to elders in the history of the church in Acts 11:30 may very well denote the deacons selected in Acts 6. Obviously, this is an area of interpretation, and a case can be made, using the same scriptural evidence, for numerous other views. Strauch writes in his book Biblical Eldership, "A

number of New Testament passages make it obvious that the two terms ["overseer" and "elder"] refer to one and the same group and are used interchangeably."9 He then goes on to cite Acts

20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; I Peter 5:1, 2; I Timothy 3:1-13, 5:1725 and Philippians 1:1. Concerning the latter passage he notes:

At Philippi, only two corporate bodies are designated: "overseers and deacons." It is improbable that there was a body of overseers in addition to a body of elders. It is equally improbable that Paul would greet "overseers and deacons" but omit the elders who held an essential place in early church leadership. Thus, one must conclude that overseers and elders are one and the same.10 It is equally possible that Paul does not mention elders separately in the passage because both deacons and overseers were elders. Granted, where the three terms of "elder,"

"pastor," and "overseer" exist together (as in Acts 20:17. 28; I Peter 5:1-2) it is clear that there is a very close



But that correspondence only indicates that the That

overseer--shepherd of the flock--is, in fact, an elder. does not limit the function of eldership to overseers.

One key

to unraveling of the biblical concept of elders is to realize that deacons are also elders. If the New Testament concept of elder does not encompass both deacon with and overseer, then for there most is no instruction for






leadership principles specify "elders."

This is true of the

support of spiritual leaders (I Tim. 5:17-18), the discipline of spiritual leaders (I Tim. 5:19), the role of spiritual leaders in essential areas of ministry including spiritual and physical healing (James 5:14-16), and valuable counsel from the Apostle Peter, himself an elder (I Peter 5:1-4). In attempting to

understand the relationship between the various terms, it might be fair to say that "Overseer" and "Deacon" are formal titles of office, focusing on the administrative role, with the deacons operating as the functional administrators of the ministry of the church while the overseer is, in fact, the overseer. Pastor

denotes the element of spiritual ministry involved in the office of overseer. Elder denotes the function of leadership inherent

in both offices in relation to the body.

Implications for Local Church Polity How would these principles play out in the organization of a contemporary Baptist Church? Several patterns seem to emerge:

One, there is good reason to retain the statement regarding "officers" in the Constitution developed by Dr. Kenneth Tobias in the 1950's (as nearly as can be determined), and found in numerous NWCBA church documents.11 That statement declared:


The Scriptural officers of this church are pastors and deacons, and the bylaws shall determine their election, term, and succession. The church shall elect and appoint to the various forms of service indicated by their titles, and as defined in the Bylaws, such other officers as are deemed advisable. The bylaws should reflect that the biblical officers are pastors (or overseers) and deacons. Second, "elder" does not define a separate office, but a function deacons. of leadership seems discharged little to jointly be gained by by pastors and



"elder" as title for either office. issue.

It merely confuses the

Because the term "deacon" is the formal title chosen in

I Timothy 3 (the only place the two offices are formally defined together), it would seem the title of choice. Third, it would seem that a single board structure would more nearly approximate the New Testament pattern. practical advantages in terms of coordination and There are flow of

information with a single board, but that should not be the initial or primary consideration. constructing a biblical skeleton First priority should go to for the organization and

structure of the church. that.

A single Board of Deacons accomplishes

Biblical Validity of Congregational Rule Once the question of a biblical structure of organization has been determined, attention shifts to the issue of the form of government carried out within the context of that structure. What are the lines of authority within the body, and by what process are decisions made? As was suggested earlier in this

chapter, there are three basic approaches to governing a church: congregational rule, board rule, and pastoral rule. Every

church will find itself somewhere on a continuum between those



If there is a trend among NWCBA churches it seems to

be to move away from congregational rule toward a partial or full board rule. Is one form preferable to another? Two lines

of investigation might assist churches in drawing a conclusion. It is instructive to examine the decision-making process recounted in the book of Acts and in the Epistles. examples are available. Several

The first is found in Acts 6:1-6:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said. "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. Several things are clear here. There was a body of

believers, and a spiritual, gifted core of leadership.


was also a problem that had to be addressed and a decision that had to be made. What process was utilized? The leaders defined

the problem in verse two, and proposed a solution in verses 3-4. The body accepted the recommendation in verse 5a and carried it out in verses 5b-6. Although there was invaluable input by the

leadership that resulted in a recommended plan of action, the decision was made and implemented by the congregation. In Acts 13 the first missionaries are commissioned by the church. Verses one to three recount:

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit


said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Here one could debate whether the Holy Spirit is addressing the named leaders or the entire congregation, but there is good reason to conclude the latter. It was standard procedure for the Lord to work through the entire body, as was just seen in Acts 6, and as will become evident in Acts 15. It would be

consistent for this to be accomplished through congregational action. As F. F. Bruce notes, "They were sent out by the whole

church, and it was to the whole church that they made their report when they returned to Antioch (Ch. 14:26f.)."12 Acts 15 allows insight into the most crucial decision to come before the fledgling church to date. Acts 15:1-2: Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. Once again the church is faced with a clear issue that must be decided. The congregation in Jerusalem is asked to make a Notice in 15:4-5 that the problem The stage is set in

determination in the matter.

was addressed to the congregation as well as the leadership: When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." It became clear that this question would not be quickly or easily resolved. The issues were too complex and the emotions

too deep. So the matter was referred to the leadership for study and interpretation in 15:6-8:


The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. In 15:12-14 the scene returns to the congregational

meeting, with further testimony by Paul and Barnabas leading to a recommendation by the leadership, outlined in 15:19-21: The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. ... ..."It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." Finally this recommendation by the leadership was accepted and implemented by the entire congregation in verse 21. It is

noteworthy that the letter was sent from the apostles and elders (verse 23) and not from the church. This may simply underscore This was, this

the unique role the apostles had in the early church. after single all, an inter-church issue, not an issue a







pattern of carefully considered recommendations by leadership, which are adopted and implemented by the congregation. One final illustration is found in I Corinthians 5:1-5: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I


have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Verse 4 makes it clear that this was an action to be

initiated by the body assembled.

It was not a matter for the

leadership, but for the congregation. There seems to be a clear pattern in the New Testament of congregational government. the cuff. Major True, decisions were not made off followed careful and prayerful


deliberations by leadership. But that preliminary process did not result in action. It resulted in recommended action, which

the congregation then endorsed and implemented. A second line of reasoning in pursuit of a biblical pattern of church government 3:16. "Don't is In you the significant declaration challenges are of I the God's

Corinthians Corinthians,

consternation know that you



temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"

It is important to

understand that the pronoun "you" is plural in this context. This contrasts with the singular "you" in the very similar

declaration of I Corinthians 6:19.

Here the temple is the local

congregation, as opposed to the individual believer in 6:19. Nowhere is the official Board said to be the "temple of the Holy Spirit." operation. decisions. It is the congregation that comprises His base of It is through the congregation that He will make To the congregation He has entrusted the

responsibility of fulfilling the Great Commission. This is not to denigrate the important role given to

scriptural leaders, and the considerable authority resident in that role. But the government of the church is committed to the



Summary and Conclusions This polity. NWCBA chapter has endeavored to examine biblical church

It began with a brief profile of church polity among churches. There is considerable variety among the

sampling of churches, with both multiple-board and single-board structures common. Three trends seem evident: there is a strong

shift from multiple to single-board systems of government: there is considerable interest in the concept of "elder" in non-

traditional roles (that is, roles other than as a synonym for "pastor"): there seems to be a general erosion in commitment to the principle of congregational government. are strongly of or moderately While most churches in government number are

congregational an





governed largely or exclusively by a governing board. The development of New Testament leadership was traced from its roots in the Old Testament and synagogue concept of "elder." It was discovered that the term "elder" is not so much used of a formal office in Old its Jewish context, uses of as the of term a function could of




invariably be rendered "leader" with no change in meaning. As New Testament leadership evolved from "apostle" to

"elders" to "bishops and deacons" the elder-concept appears to parallel its Old Testament equivalent: it seems to be a function of leadership shared by pastors and deacons, rather than a third distinct office, or a synonym for pastor. This pattern is

easily reflected by a contemporary church with a Pastor (or pastoral staff) and a Board of Deacons--who together function as the elders of the church. Finally, the validity of congregational government was

examined in the light of Scripture.

There is a clear pattern of


decision-making church:

throughout studies

the and



the the






enacts and implements. be the temple of the

It is the congregation that is said to Holy Spirit, and it is through the

congregation that the Spirit will lead and speak and work in our world.


Notes: Chapter V

1 2 3

McBirnie, 111. Ibid., 112. Homer A. Kent, Jr., Ephesians: the Glory of the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 71. Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership (Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1986), 39-40. Kenneth Barker, gen. ed. , The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985). 91. Ralph G. Turnbull, ed. , Baker's Dictionary of Practical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967). s.v. "The Pastor's Calling," by Herschel H. Hobbs. Gerhard Kittel, ed. , tr. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. VI (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), s.v., "presbus." Ibid. Strauch, 130. Ibid., 131. The archives of the CBA of Oregon were destroyed by fire, so original sources for this and other documents are no longer available. Bruce, 204.





8 9

10 11












churches, church "A" and church "B," of Chapter 3: church "A" maintained high standards for membership and consequently always had a highly qualified pool of individuals from which to select leaders; church "B" required little beyond the new birth of members, but endured a succession of immature leaders. churches had difficulty in maintaining If the proper was standards on Both for






membership standards, leadership seemed to suffer. was on biblical leadership standards,

If the focus was


unnecessarily restrictive. Is this a real struggle in contemporary churches? How

should standards for membership and leadership relate to one another. Four observations were made in the third chapter of

this study concerning the New Testament patterns of membership and leadership. First, new believers were received immediately Second, there

into the church with a minimum of restrictions.

were formal lists maintained in various contexts in the early church. Third, there were specific and formal offices and

leadership positions in the apostolic churches.

And fourth,

qualifications for those offices were high, in marked contrast to the qualifications for membership. standards Testament. for leadership in NWCBA This chapter will examine churches and in the New


Leadership Standards in the NWCBA A cursory examination by four the of leadership to standards the of in NWCBA

churches uncovers

(evidenced at least


present the 76

survey) bylaws-



related stresses indicated by the 43 responding churches, nearly half (49%) were related to leadership. The largest single

category involved "calling or dismissing a pastor" (indicated by 49% of the churches) followed by "leadership standards or

procedures" (cited by 37% of the churches).

Sixty-five percent

indicated stress with one of the two categories, nearly twenty percent indicated a past problem in both. Leadership standards

and relations constitute significant areas of stress in NWCBA churches. A second for pattern is the with equal almost the total lack of of stated and

standards deacons.

leadership an

exception of






considered their standards for leadership to be "understood and taken seriously" and "biblically defensible," the content of the submitted bylaws indicates considerable weakness. Slightly over

one third of the churches have no stated qualifications for officers and leaders (except for pastors and deacons). An equal

number require only that officers and leaders be MIGS: Members In Good Standing. be active members One church requires that "all officers must of the church. stated All of teachers officers shall and be





leaders, "Each is to determine his own qualification before the Lord." manual" One which church referred to a separate "job description for the





various offices. duties and

One pastor suggested that, in his church, for officers were basically "what the


person before you did."

On the other side of the spectrum, a


small segment of the churches {5%) demanded the qualifications of I Timothy 3 for all leadership and ministry positions.

Leadership standards appear to be an area needing attention in most NWCBA churches. The third pattern related to biblical qualifications for pastor and deacon. deacon/elder stated are As noted earlier, the offices of pastor and exceptions for to the above observations. offices were But not




without their surprises. percent of the churches

While it is encouraging that ninety specifically refer to the biblical

qualifications of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for pastors and/or deacons, one in ten have no such requirement. Of those who set

such biblical standards, fifty-one percent apply them to both offices. In constructing the questionnaire, it was anticipated

that higher standards would be set for pastors than for deacons, and churches would be more likely to specify biblical standards for pastors. A response was included regarding bylaws that Not

applied biblical standards "for pastors but not deacons." one church followed that pattern. who demanded biblical

But nearly half the churches {49%) applied them to


deacons but not pastors.

This leaves over forty percent of the

churches with no stated biblical qualifications for pastors. The fourth pattern observed was the considerable variety and significant weakness of provisions for nominating and pulpit committees. In fact, several church bylaws lacked any provision Others lacked

at all for a nominating committee or process. specific provision for a pulpit committee. bylaws Board. provided for selection of a pulpit

Fifty percent of committee by the

The next most frequent process was the utilization of

specified officers, usually with the addition of a number of "at-large" members. This was true in twenty-five percent of the


responding churches.

Only slightly more than one third seemed None of NWCBA

to guarantee a broad representation of the church body. the responding bylaws required consultation with


office in the pastoral selection process. It did not appear that most churches had given significant thought to qualifications for leadership, or to the procedures for leadership selection. Little wonder, then, that leadership

qualifications and selection are sources of significant stress in a majority of the responding churches. close examination of the biblical There is need for a of leadership


standards, and for incorporating that biblical pattern into the constituting documents of contemporary local churches.

Biblical Standards for Leadership Earlier (in Chapter III) the qualifications for membership in the first century church were considered. The goal of those

standards seemed to be the immediate and unimpeded access of every true believer to the fellowship of a local body. Clearly,

the qualifications for leadership in the early church in terms of doctrine, Christian maturity, character and lifestyle are

radically different from those demanded for membership. This New Testament "double standard" (if it is possible to divest that term of its negative connotations) begins to assert itself from the earliest stages of the Church's development. The initial leadership, of course, was in the hands of the

apostles. apostle.

The church recognized that not everyone could be an In fact, when the church filled the vacancy left with

the suicide of Judas Iscariot, candidates were limited to ". . . the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one


of these must become a witness with us of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22}." It was not enough just to be a member of the body. were high standards for leadership. This contrast in standards continued to be developed for the Church over the long haul. Certain positions of leadership There

required qualifications that not every member of the body would possess. Regarding teachers, James notes, "Not many of you

should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." William Barclay highlights this truth when he notes: There are two dangers which every teacher must avoid. In virtue of his office he will either be teaching those who are young in years or those who are children in the faith. . . . He must always have every care that he is teaching the truth, and not his own opinions, or even his own prejudices. . . . He must have every care that he does not contradict his teaching by his life, . . .1 In its most rigorous form the New Testament sets forth the qualifications for overseers and deacons in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. It would be appropriate to restate the assumption (James 3:1)

at this point that these qualifications are prescriptive, not descriptive. They were implemented in the first century with They

the intent that they would shape church life in every age. were given by the Lord of the Church. devoted to considering these standards.

This chapter will be

Standards for Pastor (Overseer) and Deacon It should come as no surprise that Scripture sets specific qualifications for the biblical offices of overseer and deacon. These basic requirements for biblical office are found in I Timothy 3:1-13, and Titus 1:6-9. Depending on how the various

terms in those lists of criteria are combined, something over twenty items are listed. For the purpose of this discussion,


the list from The NIV Study Bible will be followed.2 contains twenty-four separate items (Fig. 5). Fig. 5.

That list

___________________________________________________________ _____ BIBLICAL LBADERSHIP QUALIFICATIONS

Qualifications for all Elders (Overseers and Deacons) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Above Reproach (Blameless) I Timothy 3:2, 9; Titus 1:6 Husband of One Wife I Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6 Sees That His Children Obey Him I Timothy 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Temperate Respectable Not Given to Drunkenness Manages His Own Family Well Does Not Pursue Dishonest Gain Keeps Hold of the Deep Truths I Timothy 3:2, 8; Titus 1:7 I Timothy 3:2, 8 I Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7 I Timothy 3:4, 12 I Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7 I Timothy 3:9; Titus 1:9

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Additional Qualifications for Overseers - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Self-Controlled I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8 Hospitable I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8 Able to Teach I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9 Not Violent but Gentle I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7 Not Quarrelsome I Timothy 3:3 Not a Lover of Money I Timothy 3:3 Not a Recent Convert I Timothy 3:6 Has a Good Reputation with Outsiders I Timothy 3:7 Not Overbearing Titus 1:7 Not Quick-Tempered Titus 1:7 Loves What Is Good Titus 1:8 Upright, Holy Titus 1:8



Titus 1:8

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Additional Qualifications for Deacons - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Sincere I Timothy 3:8 Tested I Timothy 3:10 ________________________________________________________________ Three of those terms relate to elder, overseer and deacon. Six terms relate to both overseer and deacon. relate to overseer alone. Thirteen terms In

Two terms relate to deacon only.

the light of the previous suggestion that "elder" is a broad term relating to leadership function encompassing both offices of overseer and deacon, it is instructive that there are no qualifications stated for elder that are not shared by both overseer and deacon. One qualification seems to constitute a summary statement, defining the essential quality which is amplified in the other terms. It is required of a biblical officer that he be

"blameless" or "above reproach."

It might have been clearer had

the translators followed the word with a colon, rather than a comma in I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6. Vine comments concerning

this term, "The word anepilemptos (or, -leptos) literally means "not to be laid hold of," i.e. not open to censure,

irreproachable, irreprehensible. N.T. only in 5:7 and 6:14. cause for blame."3 The term could be

It is found elsewhere in the

It describes one who gives no just





emphasis is upon being free of those things that would destroy credibility and restrict ministry. deacons must be "without handles," It means that overseers and without chinks where the

enemy could insert a hook that would destroy ministry and render followers shipwreck. Given the framework of "blamelessness," an


analysis of the additional qualifications demonstrates that the Lord of the Church expresses strong concern in four general areas of life: personal integrity, personal spirituality,

personality, and relationships.

Qualifications of Personal integrity First, the personal integrity of the spiritual leader is crucial. frequently This as touches three on three critical pitfalls areas, of the suggested spiritual



leader: sex, money and power. Two terms define the standard for sexual morality: "husband of one wife," and of the "self-controlled." former fills many The books, variety but a of few


comments are appropriate.

Paul uses an identical phrase with What It

reversal of gender to refer to widows in I Timothy 5:9. does it mean to specify that a widow be the wife of one man?

is not intended to exclude multiple spouses, for polyandry was not an issue in the culture. It can't refer to her present It has to refer to

situation, since she has no husband at all. her marital history. that parallel

Following sound hermeneutical principle, in parallel contexts should be


interpreted in the same way, the statement that overseers and deacons be "husband of one wife" logically encompasses marital history also. It is acknowledged that the phrase can also be rendered "a one-woman man." In actuality, this rendering does not demand It moves

less than an unblemished marital history, but more. into the area of heart and mind.

It demands not only physical This emphasis That term

fidelity, but fidelity of thought and interest.

is extended by the qualification of "self-control."

reins in the mind as well as the body, and demands that conduct


be governed by internal restraint, not just by the external restraint of fear of exposure or punishment. It covers a wider

area than sexual morality, but it surely applies there. Regarding money, it is required that a biblical officeholder not be a lover of money or one who pursues dishonest gain. This covers the two issues of motive and method. Numerous

references are made to those who use the gospel or the ministry for personal gain. I Timothy 6:3-5 is a good case in point:

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. An unhealthy desire for material gain can lure one from sound doctrine and ministry. is an area of of a prime Attitude toward and use of money in It evaluating is an the

consideration leader.




spiritual barometer. Two terms define the necessary attitude toward power for a leader. A leader must not be "overbearing." This spotlightsw John 13:3-4

the whole of leadership Jesus lived and taught.

suggests an intriguing principle at this point: "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist." A possible paraphrase would be, "Jesus, knowing who In relation to power, a

he was, took the place of a servant."

spiritual leader has to be secure enough in who he is to take the servant's role. Finally, it is required that he not be violent, but gentle. There is no room for the macho, overbearing leader which pure


utilitarianism might expect.

Nowhere is this evidenced more

clearly than in Paul's reminiscences in I Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12: We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. . . . For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. Qualifications of Personal Spirituality It should go without saying that a spiritual leader should be actively cultivating a deep personal spirituality. There are six terms that seem to relate to individual spirituality, under three headings. First, spirituality should be objective, not just

subjective: spiritual leaders keep hold of the deep truths of the faith. There are many who would appear to have a dynamic

relationship with Christ, but because they are not well grounded in biblical doctrine, there is no objective foundation. It is

the responsibility of the local body to provide for itself a detailed, comprehensive statement of their doctrinal beliefs. Spiritual leaders should be chosen who are well-grounded in

those beliefs, and who conform their ministry and teaching to them. basic This statement of doctrine is in marked contrast to the beliefs essential to membership. A sample doctrinal

statement is included in Appendix B as Attachment A. Second, spirituality should be seasoned: not a recent

convert. This demand contrasts markedly with the tendency toward "celebrity Christians" in the contemporary western church.

Ministries are destroyed and potential leaders are lost because this requirement is not observed. Personal spirituality must be


seasoned and proven before the responsibilities of the office of overseer or deacon are assumed. Third, spirituality must be demonstrated in an orientation toward spiritual things. It must evidence temperance (avoidance

of control by outside influences), and discipline (possessed of a mastery of self). It must be characterized by a love for what

is good (not just an avoidance of what is evil), by holiness and uprightness (not just of conduct, but of orientation).

Qualifications of Personality There are certain personality traits that are essential for the biblical officers in a local church. Four of them are

listed in the New Testament qualifications for the offices. Respectability is an essential characteristic. The word

literally means "well ordered," and has the idea of being worthy of respect. It is variously rendered "grave," "serious,"

"dignified," and "reputable."

The verb form is used in Titus

2:10 with the idea of "adorn" or "make attractive." A further essential personality trait is the absence of a quarrelsome spirit. A deacon or overseer cannot be disposed to He

settle things by fighting, either physically or verbally. cannot be contentious, or have a chip on his shoulder.

A related characteristic is rendered "not quick tempered." Spiritual leaders should not come equipped with short fuses. They need to be able to avoid sinful anger: anger that is

aroused too easily (Titus 1:7), lasts too long (Eph. 4:26-27), seeks revenge (Rom. 12:17), or is aroused over self-concern

(James 1:19-20). The final personality trait essential to spiritual It has

leadership is sincerity: literally, not double-tongued.

the idea of avoiding speaking one thing and meaning another.


Few things are more destructive of credibility for spiritual leadership.

Qualifications of Relationships Relationships are crucial to spiritual ministry. There are

several circles of relationship that are defined in the lists of qualifications for spiritual leaders. Relationship considered. to the ministry itself is an area to be In

A spiritual leader is called to be hospitable.

contemporary usage one might assume this implies entertaining and social activities. quite different. When In the first century, it meant something term literally that means many faith, "a first and lover of

The one

strangers." believers Christians persecution, were

considers for to

century many of

dispossessed from to

their place

that because it

moved or

place on

(either ministry),




clear how essential it was to have a core of leaders who were hospitable. Two further qualifications in relation to ministry are the ability to communicate the word with clarity and depth, and a credible record of service in other areas of responsibility. A

spiritual leader must meet certain criteria in relation to the ministry itself. Second, a man must meet certain criteria in relation to his family. It is necessary that he manage his family well--that

his children not be out of control, and that his children be believers--not wild and disobedient. three qualifications that appears In fact this is one of the in all three lists of

requirements, placing particular emphasis upon its importance. Paul's summary question wraps up its significance, "If anyone


does not know how to manage his family, how can he take care of God's church" (1 Tim. 3:5)? The final circle of relationships has to do with a man's relationship to the community outside the church. leader must have a good reputation with outsiders. A spiritual It would be

interesting to know how many pulpit committees or nominating committees explore this issue before naming an individual for the office of overseer or deacon. The final criteria that

relates to the world is the avoidance of addictive substances, specifically wine. The term used in I Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:7

literally means to be alongside wine, and has the idea of making wine one's companion. These four areas define the biblical qualifications for the offices of overseer and deacon. meet qualifications of Men holding those offices must integrity, of personal


spirituality, of personality, and of relationships.

Standards for Miscellaneous Ministry Beyond the requirements for these two offices, there are at least three other types of ministry that are given specific attention in Scripture. In I Timothy 3:11 there are several This verse is commonly

qualifications given for "the women."

understood to refer either to the wives of the deacons, or to "deaconesses." Because the statement occurs in the middle of

the discussion relating to deacons, it is perhaps more likely that it relates to the wives of the deacons. are four brief statements dealing with At any rate there integrity,


speech, personal habits and reliability. In I Timothy 5:9-10 there is brief mention of dependent widows who were apparently enrolled for special ministry, and were at least partially supported by the church. In addition to


matters of age and marital history, such a widow had to be ". . . well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good

deeds." The final ministry that is given attention is the ministry of teaching. whose Decisive action was to be taken toward the teacher content (11 John 10-11) or teaching methods


(Titus 3:10; Rom. 16:17) created difficulties in the church and endangered 1:10-11). To be able to expound and explain such God-given truth required the special God-given ability of teaching which not everyone had (1 Corinthians 12:29f.). Nor was this a task which a man took up lightly. Knowledge involves the responsibility of living in the light of it; truth requires integrity of life to exemplify it. Moreover, it is one thing to know and believe for one self; it is quite another to influence the life and faith of another. Whereas the man with the gift is responsible for its exercise, he who teaches must remember that he is all the more answerable to God. As James advises: 'Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.' (James 3:1.) A sobering thought!4 Spiritual leaders, then must meet the high standards The the spiritual well-being of the believers (Titus

spelled out in Scripture for their respective offices. stated biblical qualifications cover personal


personal spirituality, personality and relationships.

Developing Qualifications for Contemporary Church Leaders It is undeniable that there are biblical qualifications for leadership in the local church which are distinct from, and more demanding than, the qualifications for membership. In Chapter

III it was concluded that the requirements for membership were minimal, setting no unnecessary hindrances before new believers.


In the present chapter it was discovered that the standards for the biblical offices of overseer and deacon are extremely


Reasons for High Standards for Biblical Offices In the course of developing a clear rationale for setting qualifications for additional officers and ministries in the

contemporary church, it is essential to consider the biblical reasons for such high standards. suggested. First, the standards are high because these leaders have the spiritual growth and well-being of others in their hands. II Timothy 2:14 suggests that wrong leaders have the potential to "ruin those who listen." made in 2:17 to false In the same context reference is that will "spread like a Several such reasons could be


gangrene." Second, the standards are high because biblical leaders are a model for other believers to pattern themselves after. In I

Corinthians 11:1 Paul says "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." He exhorts Timothy to "set an example for

the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12). Third, the standards are high because the name and

reputation of Christ and His church are in these leaders hands. As was noted earlier in this study, David's sin with Bathsheba was particularly heinous because "by doing this [he] made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt" (11 Sam. 12:14). Fourth, the standards are high because the holders of these offices, the elders of the church, are the ones to whom others are to be subject. They have a high level of authority, and in After all, who

a sense, are at the top of the chain of command.


oversees the overseer?

It is true that the elders are subject

to Christ's authority, and are accountable to the body, but in a sense they are not "under authority" in the same way other

officers and workers in the church are. men of unquestioned integrity.

Therefore they must be

Considerations in Setting Qualifications There ought to be two goals in setting the qualifications for all the offices and ministries in a local church. On the

one hand, it is essential to maintain biblical standards for the biblical debate. offices. This ought not even to be a matter for

Certainly there are elements of those qualifications But

that will demand careful study and thoughtful application. the biblical qualifications should be a given.

But the other essential consideration is that there ought to be a place of ministry and service open to every member. Every believer is gifted for ministry from the day of his

spiritual birth (I Cor. 12:7).

Every believer is called to

exercise his/her gift for the growth of the body (Eph. 4:16). Bvery believer is called to bear fruit (John 15:1-8). It does not take a very intensive study of the New Testament to conclude that service and ministry is essential to healthy growth. So

how does the local church develop standards that are thoroughly biblical, yet make a place of ministry for every member?

A Leadership Qualification Methodology Perhaps the simplest way to visualize a methodology for setting qualifications for leadership in the church is to plot a line graph. The two planes (vertical and horizontal) would be labeled "Level of Responsibility" and "Level of Qualification,"


respectively. composed of the

Level four


responsibility explaining

would the

be high





required of elders: degree of impact on others, degree to which the individual would be a model to younger believer, level of visibility, and level of authority. indicate the level of responsibility. Those four factors would This would be plotted on

the vertical plane of the graph, ranging from a very low index at the bottom, to the responsibility of an elder at the top. The level of qualification would be plotted on the horizontal plane, ranging from no qualifications beyond those for

membership at the left, to the qualifications for an elder at the right. (See Fig. 6)

Figure 6

The diagonal line from the bottom left corner to the top right would indicate the relative level of qualification














It would be the task of the local church to

establish the level of responsibility each task entailed, and hence its level of qualification. Granted, there is a great deal of subjective judgment

involved, but such a procedure would at least help to avoid serious serious imbalance. error of It placing would an dramatize, individual for with instance, the


barely above those required for membership {with a rating of "2") on the Nominating Committee, a task with an extremely high index of responsibility {perhaps an "8"). It would also

highlight situations where qualifications are set much higher than the responsibilities of the task warrant (like requiring the qualifications of I timothy 3 for all choir members and ushers.)

Summary and Conclusions Doubtless there are many methods that could be devised for establishing qualifications for the various offices and

ministries in the local church. suggested here. that will

Many may be superior to the one

The point is, the local church needs a method that biblical qualifications for biblical


offices are maintained, while, at the same time, ensuring a place of ministry for every member of the body. The lack of

such a procedure seems to be a serious weakness in the bylaws of the NWCBA churches surveyed in this project. There must be separate qualifications for members and

leaders in the local church. be minimal, satisfying the

The standards for membership must non-negotiable requirements of

Scripture for fellowship, while avoiding unnecessary hindrances for the prospective member. Standards for leadership are a


different matter.

As Dobbins notes, "The selection of its lay

leadership is one of the gravest responsibilities of a church."5 The standards for leadership must be commensurate with the

responsibility of the task, ranging from minimal requirements to the high demands for the offices of overseer and deacon. Only when these principles are observed will the church avoid the exclusion of believers who ought to be admitted, the placing in office of those who are not qualified, and the May

restriction of new believers from any meaningful ministry.

the Lord be pleased and the Church be strengthened as biblical standards leadership. are developed and followed for membership and


Notes ­ Chapter VI


William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), 94-95. The NIV Study Bible, 1839. Vine, The Epistles to Timothy and Titus, 50. Balchin, 104. Dobbins, 63.

2 3 4 5




Part I of this study has considered biblical issues that form the foundation or skeleton for church bylaws. that skeleton needs But to be are in place before other that Obviously areas must are be





considered in creating church documents that are effective and efficient tools for fulfilling the Great commission. The final The

three chapters of this study deal with these concerns.

purpose of the following discussions (of legal and procedural issues, and matters of form for the documents themselves) is to raise the kinds of questions a church must consider in writing bylaws. They are designed to be suggestive, not conclusive. of those concerns deal with legal issues; four


categories of issues fall within the scope of this chapter. First, consistency between the articles of incorporation and all subsequent documents is a legal necessity. Second, bylaws

statements concerning church discipline are the first line of defense elements. for the biblical church, and must include certain

Third, every church needs a statement regarding the

dissolution of the church as a corporation and the resulting distribution of assets. to ensure that their Finally, it is essential for churches policies and and procedures relating status to are




consistent with applicable law.


Consistency with the Articles of Incorporation If the bylaws of the local church are a mystery to its members (less than 15% of churches indicated a "good working knowledge" of the bylaws by their membership), then the articles of incorporation may be totally lost in antiquity. Yet, the

articles of incorporation are the sole link between the state and the corporation. It is essential that all other documents

maintain consistency with the articles of incorporation, or that the articles be amended appropriately. In the survey, 44% indicated consistency between the

articles of incorporation and the bylaws.

Less than one church

in five consistently checked bylaws amendments for consistency with the articles. Nearly one half indicated either that the

current bylaws had not been checked for such consistency or that they did not know. Only one church indicated that their

articles of incorporation had been modified to coincide with a major bylaws revision. The article of the bylaws that provides for its amendment should include a statement to the effect that "amendments shall not conflict with the Articles of Incorporation." If the

church's formal documents include both constitution and bylaws, then the provision to amend the constitution should require

consistency with the articles of incorporation, the provision to amend the bylaws the should require consistency Amendments with should both the





involve such a check for consistency before adoption.

Discipline of Members The second major area with tremendous legal implications for the church is the biblical discipline of members. Is it

feasible to implement a system of relational church discipline?


If so, what is necessary to do so?

In most respects, the

answers are found in the several excellent guides for church discipline that are presently available to the church. Several

volumes cited in this work, especially those by Laney, Jeschke, and Walker would give assistance in developing a biblical

disciplinary process. to which a with local its

But there are several practical concerns must give attention on in our present and







tendency toward litigation. this section.

Those concerns will be the focus of

Several contemporary situations highlight the necessity of a local church approaching disciplinary actions carefully.

None, perhaps, does so as dramatically as the situation which arose in the Collinsville, Oklahoma, Church of Christ involving one of their members, Marian Guinn. That case received national

press attention when it came to civil trial in 1984, and is chronicled by Carl Laney in A Guide to Church Discipline.1 In that case {which resulted in the church and three elders being found the liable for


"inflicting of a woman

emotional admittedly

distress involved

and in



adultery), there are clear lessons to be learned.

The tragedy

is that, for many churches, the assumed lesson learned will be to give up any attempt to maintain a disciplined fellowship. That option is clearly not open to a church that desires to maintain biblical standards. words of Warham Walker: That law [of church discipline] prescribes the method which our Lord himself has judged most happily adapted to accomplish the ends in view. Who, then, will presume to say that his judgment was erroneous, and that some other method will answer equally well? Those who adopt another method, practically say this. Those who neglect to observe the rule, are guilty of this presumption. But, aside from the adaptation of the measures enjoined by the law, to effect the It might be well to listen to the


objects which it contemplates,--the fact that the disciplinary acts of the church are performed in strict obedience to the law, will give a force to its admonitions, and a weight to its censures, which it can derive from no other source.3 Although there is probably no way to make church discipline risk-free for the church and its leadership, it is possible to minimize the risk, and to act with confidence in the Lord's commitment to protect and preserve the reputation of His church. This will involve strict attention to two areas: documentation and practice.

Sound Documentation for Discipline By documentation is meant that set of documents by which a church governs its actions, and through which it communicates to its members its beliefs and practices. There are at least three

separate documents related to church discipline which a church needs to develop in strict accordance with biblical principles. The first of these is a clearly relational church covenant. Such a covenant needs to establish that it is more than a code of conduct that ties the members of the body to each other. needs to demonstrate a relationship of "responsibility It


"accountability to," and "interdependence with" within the body. That covenant relationship, with its biblical basis and

development, forms the foundation for all disciplinary actions. Second, Yahweh supplied the Mosaic Covenant to spell out many of the specifics of necessary the for the implementation established by and the




Abrahamic Covenant.

Likewise the church needs to develop a

statement that spells out standards for Christian character and conduct. It needs to specify the kinds of conduct, mandated by A sample

Scripture, which would result in disciplinary action. is included in Appendix B as Attachment B.











regarding discipline itself.

As Carl Laney counsels:

Include a complete statement in your church constitution detailing the congregation's beliefs regarding church discipline. Outline the steps for church discipline and provide the scriptural basis for disciplinary procedures. State clearly that the Bible, as interpreted by the church leaders, will serve as the ultimate guide for church discipline.4 The necessity of grounding such a statement in Scripture cannot be overstated. could have that That becomes the best argument a church actions by the church are not


capricious, but are a reasoned response to principles sincerely held as a divine obligation. relational covenant focus, rooted it in was The statement would reflect a the unconditional using nature of and the not





expulsion as the ultimate act of discipline, and would strive to accomplish true restoration, rather than mere repentance. Further, such a statement would need to clearly specify "due process" with a clear progression of the steps of A

discipline, and the response to be expected at each step.

sample of such a document is included with the Sample Bylaws in Appendix B as Attachment C. Such a statement on discipline is sorely lacking in

virtually all of the bylaws examined. above are considered essential to

Four elements alluded to minimize legal liability

exposure in carrying out biblical discipline: a clear biblical rationale for discipline; a statement of the goal and purpose of discipline; a statement delineating the specific issues/conduct necessitating discipline; and a step-by-step outline of "due

process," including provision for the exclusion of a disciplined member. Less than 5% of the submitted bylaws included any or











significant legal liability for the churches.

Proper Procedure in Discipline In all disciplinary proceedings, the church must follow due process. defense. This cannot be overstated. It is the church's only

Tremendous risk exposure develops when the body spells The process must be

out due process and then takes a shortcut.

followed to the letter, and those actions must be documented in detail. For instance, a commitment should be endorsed by the

membership to ". . . not pursue legal action or sue the pastors, elders, deacons or church staff in connection with the performance of their official duties."5 with regard by to the issues concern of

Great care must be taken and privacy.

confidentiality a desire for





careful wording can be used to 'tell it to the church' without violating confidence."6 This further applies to the danger of publicizing

discipline outside the church family.

Two possible exceptions

are cited: in cases of inquiry by other churches the individual may wish to join, and in if cases a it of revocation is a filed, of ordination effort credentials.7 should be

Finally, to








administered by believers. the Christian Conciliation Society,8 among others.

Such services are offered through Service of the Christian Legal

It is encouraging that twelve percent of

the churches surveyed make provision for such a process, but that is just a beginning. Maintaining sound church discipline will necessitate the development of adequate documentation for the task, and a


commitment to consistent, biblical practice. worth the effort.

But it is surely

A Statement of Dissolution Every non-profit corporation needs a statement outlining the distribution of assets of the corporation in the event of dissolution. Churches may have such a statement in the articles of incorporation. But that document is virtually unknown to the It seems wise to include such

membership of the average church. a statement in the bylaws.

Twenty-five percent of the documents An additional ten

in this survey included such a statement.

percent had a statement on dissolution, but it was inadequate. Typically such a statement would fail to specify the

recipient(s) of the assets of the corporation upon dissolution. Sixty-five percent had no statement at all dealing with this issue. In addition to the potential of legal problems, it

is easy to anticipate the added stress and rancor created if a dissolving church has to also settle the disposal of the

remaining assets of the corporation. Such a statement should contain at least four elements: a declaration that all assets of the corporation are irrevocably dedicated to religious purposes; a declaration that no assets will transfer to any member of the corporation; provision to transfer all assets to another nonprofit evangelical

corporation; and a declaration of the corporation(s) to receive the assets of the corporation. The sample from the CBA of Oregon Handbook provides an adequate guide: The property of to church purposes abandonment of the the benefit of any the corporation is irrevocably dedicated and upon the liquidation, dissolution, or corporation its assets will not inure to private person, but rather will be given


to [____________________________________ ]. In the event organization is unable to accept the assets of corporation, they shall be distributed to some Conservative Baptist agency whose purposes are within specified above.9

this this other those

Financial Procedures In this day of growing societal antagonism to the church in general, and to the evangelical church in particular, it is increasingly important that financial procedures be proper.

Most of the churches with multiple boards have a statement under the duties of trustees to the effect that: "They shall acquaint themselves with the federal, state, and local laws that pertain to churches and see that such laws are faithfully obeyed in all matters affecting the church." This is nowhere more important

than in areas relating to finance. The bylaws should lay the foundation for sound fiscal


For example, one of the bylaws in the survey assigns

to the treasurer the responsibility of appointing an auditor. That is definitely not "sound fiscal procedure." Granted, not If the

all procedures need to be spelled out in the bylaws.

church has a policy manual or a set of standing rules, that is an appropriate place for much of the detail. churches, especially smaller ones, basic But for most procedures


should be included in the bylaws. Policy should be set for the collection, counting, deposit, and dispersal of funds. For example, church funds should never The authority to disperse

be counted by one individual alone.

funds should not be held by the same person who deposits funds. Consideration should be given to the advisability of bonding for those who handle church funds.


The protected.









This involves care in handling of certain types of

giving (especially designated giving), and in the support of individuals status. and organizations that do not have tax-exempt

The tax exempt status of the corporation becomes an

issue as it relates to involvement in causes that are considered "political" (beyond allowable limits}, and to uses of the

building and property for other than religious purposes. If these issues are not addressed at any other level, it would be well to consider inclusion of basic policy in the

bylaws. the

It is important not only to maintain the reputation of in the world, but to minimize the risk of


governmental intrusion, and to protect the body from internal stress over financial issues.


Notes ­ Chapter VII


Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 127-136. 2 Ibid., 127. 3 Walker, 154-155. 4 Laney, 136. 5 Ibid" 137. 6 Ibid" 138. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Conservative Baptist Association of Oregon, G-9 & G-IO.



One establish



functions and



bylaws for





to of






The function of this chapter is to review some of

the procedural issues that must be addressed in developing and maintaining church bylaws. The purpose of this discussion is suggestive, not


That is, the following suggestions are not designed

to give ultimate solutions, but to suggest areas that need to be addressed. Ultimate solutions are beyond the scope of this Although there is a

study, because every church is unique.

common scriptural framework that will be common from church to church, the fleshing out of that structure will be as varied as the churches who share that common skeleton. the following discussion will survey With that in mind, categories of


procedural issues that must be addressed: issues relating to the documents themselves; issues relating to people; issues relating to business; and issues relating to ministry.

Issues Relating to Documents Rationale for Constitution/Bylaws/Both Should a church have a constitution, or bylaws, or both? Of the sampling of churches responding to the present survey, approximately one quarter had constitutions, forty-two percent had bylaws, and one third had constitutions and bylaws. Is one


format superior to the other? Are two documents redundant? there any rationale for multiple documents?


Charles Losie has suggested the following distinction: "The Bylaws amplify the Constitution and take care of many details of the procedures rules They of the organization. important be more They are really less

important study.



enough easily



serious the





That last comment may be the most important

consideration in deciding on the general format for a church's documents. The constitution should be almost exclusively

framework, with clear biblical roots. change. more

It should be difficult to

The bylaws include the fleshing out, and should be much more easily adapted to the changing needs of a


growing church reaching out to a changing world. A possible third level of documentation would be a set of "standing rules" or a "church manual" or policy manual. This

could contain job descriptions and policies or procedures of a more will temporary probably nature. include Realistically, all their formal most smaller churches in the


bylaws, although a few of the bylaws studied alluded to such a manual.

Balancing Detail and Simplicity In response to the question regarding desired changes in the surveyed bylaws, the single most frequent reply was,


One respondent commented, "Condense the length and They look like the constitution of the

make them more readable. U.S."

The goal of any committee charged with writing or revising bylaws must be to achieve while the highest level covering of brevity and







ground. length. and

Some areas will need to be covered at considerable Examples might include statements on church discipline doctrinal simple, positions. but is not The an following adequate statement statement is on

formal and


discipline: "Members whose conduct or beliefs are contrary to Biblical principles shall be dealt with according to the

Scriptural guidelines of discipline for the sake of restoration" (Matt. 18:15-17). On the other hand, in certain instances brief is better. A

number of churches (approximately twenty percent) have developed a very succinct statement of purpose or mission to replace a much lengthier article. This has increased the sense of

ownership for that mission statement, and has resulted in a statement that permeates the whole ministry. The following is

an example of such a statement: "The mission of this church is to enhance God's reputation by assisting people, at home and abroad, in becoming eager followers of Jesus Christ." In striving for simplicity and adequacy, two comments by Charles Losie are apropos: "High sounding phrases may sound big, but are quite useless. . .. should be functional."2 simple as possible. Every item of the constitution

Church documents should be as brief and They should demonstrate the balance one "(Our bylaws) are general enough

pastor praised in commenting.

to not require much change; they are specific in areas where it is needed."

Scaling Organization to the Church The size and complexity of the organization should fit the church. important Such an observation may seem self-evident, but it is an consideration. It becomes particularly crucial

considering that the majority of church bylaws are borrowed from


another church or are developed from a compilation of documents. And the process for revision is similar. church."3 point. One It is well said that,

"It is practically impossible to suit a ready-made constitution to the needs to of another the One example in should the be





submitted bylaws which include fifty-eight elected and appointed positions in their organizational structure. less than fifty members. The church has

Structure needs to fit the church, and

the documents need to be flexible enough to allow the structure to grow and change as the church grows.

Consistency with Current Practice It is essential to maintain consistency between a church's documents and practice. The ideal would be for the documents to Typically, that is not the case, are often seen as peripheral.

lead the church in change. perhaps because the


Although the members in most churches have access to a copy of their bylaws, and more than half were instructed in the bylaws before membership, only fourteen percent of respondents felt

their members had a "good working knowledge" of their bylaws, and only nine percent felt the membership had a sense of

ownership of the bylaws.

It is little wonder then that less

than half considered their current practice to be consistent with the bylaws.

Issues Relating to People Considerable emphasis has been placed on issues relating to membership and discipline during the course of this study.

Several procedural considerations should be mentioned at this point.


Procedures in Membership Procedures for membership need to align with the philosophy and theology of the covenant and doctrinal statement of the church. If there is a requirement for membership classes,

should they come before or after baptism and reception into the body? Is there a biblical pattern? and non-resident What is the rationale for If the covenant is



unconditional, is it appropriate to drop an individual from the church roll after a set period? These and other questions need

to be considered in determining procedures for receiving and dismissing members.

Procedures for Restoration Suppose an individual has been disciplined by the body. The actions taken have brought him to genuine repentance. He

has renounced his sin, acknowledging full responsibility for his actions. end of it? Unhappily, as has been noted repeatedly, it often is. one has to wonder if the individual is really whole Yet, again. He has asked the church for forgiveness. Is that the

Almost without exception, the answer will be no.

And wholeness

will often elude that individual permanently unless the body of which he is a part implements a process of restoration. There

will be a need for the kind of process spoken of in the fourth chapter of this study, which will implement the "comforting" or "assisting" element of II Corinthians 2:7. A sample restoration manual has been included in Appendix B as Attachment D. It is offered in the hope that it might be

suggestive of the possibilities for developing a definite and effective plan for the restoration of members who have either


been subjected to discipline, or who have fallen into areas of sin that would make such a restorative process appropriate.

Issues Related to Business In a church governed by congregational rule, the bylaws set the procedures for conduct of business. So it is no surprise

that there are issues related to the transaction of business addressed in the bylaws.

Procedural Guides Many churches include a reference work as authority for the conduct of business. Seventy percent cite Roberts Rules of

Order as authority in parliamentary matters, thirty percent cite Hiscox, New Directory for Baptist Churches as authority in

matters of polity.

Such citations need to be done with care,

however, or one ends up with the compartmentalization evident in the following suggestion: "Roberts Rules of Order are adopted to govern all business meetings. Churches, for Polity and, spiritual matters."4 Hiscox, New Directory for Baptist the Bible, the authority in all

One of the primary aims of this study has

been to demonstrate that the Bible is primary guide in business matters, polity, and every other area. While these other

reference works are helpful, the following statement, found in two of the sampled bylaws, is an excellent reminder of primary procedural authority: The business of the church shall be conducted as becometh the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Regular parliamentary procedure shall be followed until such time as it is evident that neither the Holy Spirit is directing or Christian grace manifest. At such time, any member so cognizant of the loss may call the group to this remembrance, and regardless of what is before the house, the floor shall be cleared and a new effort made to be led of God in an orderly manner concerning the business at hand.


Although the language is dated, such a statement could well be adapted for inclusion in every church's bylaws.

Quorum Churches take a variety of approaches to setting a quorum for business. Twelve percent of churches do not address the

issue at all, or state that the quorum consists of whatever members are present. Nearly eighty percent set the quorum for

business at twenty-five percent or less, while a few churches require more than fifty percent of active members to conduct business. Within those general guidelines, there were two other One church had a declining scale for a

variations of note.

quorum as the membership increased varying from 40% to 20% with a maximum quorum of 20 members. Other churches varied the quorum depending on business to be transacted. This concept has merit. In one example, routine

business required a quorum of 25%, the annual meeting required a quorum of 50%, and calling of pastoral staff required a quorum of 75%. Otherwise, in churches with a quorum as low as 10%, as

few as 5% of the membership could feasibly revise the bylaws, call or discharge a pastor, or dissolve the corporation.

Voting Closely related to the question of quorum is a series of questions related to the voting process. Seventy-six percent of

the churches required a set posting period for matters to be voted upon by the congregation. Consideration needs to be given Is it

to the time and procedure for posting items of business.

the same for all business, or does it vary depending on the business to be transacted? Do all actions require a posting Consideration needs to be given

period, or just certain issues?


to the vote necessary to enact certain business. of officers require a plurality (more votes

Does election the other


candidates), a simple majority (a majority of all votes cast), or a greater majority (two-thirds or three-fourths, for

instance)? dismiss

What majority is necessary to call a pastor or to How about What purchasing is or selling property amend or the







constitution or the bylaws? carefully considered.

All of these issues need to be

At what age are members qualified to vote? different age for votes that involve certain

Is there a questions?

Approximately forty-five percent required voters to be of legal age to vote on legal questions. This is probably a good policy.

A few churches make provision for the casting of absentee ballots. In some instances, absentee ballots were permitted, Such provisions were rare, and it

but only for specific issues.

is likely that such a procedure would create more difficulties than it would solve. One other observation regarding voting comes from a church which amended their bylaws to require at least two weeks notice before taking action on a motion. off, no This allowed time There acting on for is a

"questions, perhaps motion

prayer, in the a

cooling general

surprises." that which avoids it is

wisdom during

policy at




Provision would need to be made for emergency situations.

Issues Relating to Ministry One of the ministries of the church is equipping people for leadership. will It should be expected that periodically young men the gifts and qualifications essential for


vocational ministry.

In anticipation, nearly half the churches


surveyed make provision for licensing and/or ordaining to the ministry. Sadly, more than half have no such provision. Of

those who have a procedure for licensure, over 80% provide for a license for a limited time, usually one year with provision for renewal. Less than five percent of the NWCBA churches have formally included the ordination procedure adopted by the Association in their ordination statement. There would be value in churches

seriously considering the inclusion of this policy as their own. These are procedural issues to which churches ought to give attention. There is genuine need to think through procedures

related to the bylaws themselves, procedures related to people, procedures ministry. related to business, and procedures related to


Notes ­ Chapter VIII


Charles F. Losie, "Guide Points for Writing a Church Constitution," CBA of Oregon Handbook of Suggestions, 1961, 22. Ibid., 21. Ibid., 20. Losie, 22.

2 3 4


Though not unexpected, one of the disappointing conclusions of this study was the lack of any effective role for the bylaws in many NWCBA for churches. in Although the the majority for new of churches and





eighty percent of the respondents claim that members have access to a copy, their bylaws have little practical function. The

sense of ownership by the members is extremely low, claimed by less then one tenth of the churches. Only slightly more,

fourteen percent, feel that their members have a good working knowledge of the bylaws. One pastor observes, "The bylaws are

virtually unknown; only the older members and elders have a 'knowledge' of their value for reference purposes. We don't

even have enough bylaw copies to issue to all new members." Another pastor notes, "Most really 'don't care.' most of the true leaders pay much more attention." Though impression Perhaps it that was many never explicitly are stated, one by gets the

pastors bear the

intimidated of


bylaws. wars.





Perhaps they feel the less exposure the bylaws receive, the better. Approximately one church in ten acknowledges that the An equal number find that Three of ten That

bylaws have virtually no active role.

they are "wielded like a club" by a few members.

consult the bylaws occasionally when there is a problem.

leaves approximately one half who find the bylaws to have a significant role in the normal conduct of church life.


Two general suggestions may be helpful in correcting the under-utilization of documents that should be a solid resource for the church: improve the documents in content and format so they are biblical, practical, usable and attractive; raise the level of visibility, understanding, and ownership of the bylaws in the life of the church. The churches primary in the intent of this of manual their has been to assist




functionally and practically.

This final chapter is dedicated

to improving the form of the bylaws.

Internal Consistency It should go without saying that a church's formal

documents should be grammatically correct with proper spelling and punctuation. of sources But it after is years easy of for modifications the bylaws from to a



consistency, both in content and form.

Consistency of Content The contents of the various articles and sections of the bylaws should be consistent with each other. the case. This is not always

Sometimes an area of the bylaws is amended and the For of But

rest of the document is not checked for possible conflict. example, one church leaving renamed the the covenant the "Agreement





throughout the remainder of the document reference is still made to the "covenant." Its prospective members are to be

"instructed in the church covenant, constitution and by-laws." Another church has developed an excellent section on church discipline. It states, "A member refusing to repent shall have

his name entered on a roll of 'members under discipline' and


shall be persona non grata at all business and social meetings and at the Lord's Table." transfer or dismissal It It further states that a letter of not be granted are a not person removed under from






membership as a disciplinary action.

However, under the section

dealing with termination of membership it is stated that members may be terminated "by exclusion on recommendation of the Elder Board." There appears to be an inconsistency here. bylaws states, "The following three membership


lists shall be published annually." four membership classifications.

Following this there are

Many other examples could be The content of the bylaws

cited, but the point should be clear.

needs to evidence internal consistency, and every change should result in a survey of the entire document to eliminate


Consistency of Style and Form A church's bylaws should have the appearance of one unified document. It should not be an obvious compilation from various This is not

sources, each with its distinct style and format.

to disparage the borrowing of material from work done by other churches. There is no reason to "reinvent the wheel." But

those sections that are adapted from another document need to be edited so that they follow the style and format of the entire document. One set of bylaws in the survey enumerated the sections of some articles alphabetically, Sections relating those to of some others were listed listed



"composition" as "a" and "duties" as "b" followed by specific duties listed numerically. Other commissions had "composition" as "a" with specific duties listed as "b," "c," "d," etc. A


little extra effort would have resulted in a document which appeared much more unified.

Form and Format Do matter? correlate the form and format of a church's formal documents

It is assumed that the appearance of a document will with the importance of its role. In fact nearly

ninety percent of bylaws of churches claiming a good working knowledge of the bylaws by their members were above average in appearance. Seventy-five percent of churches whose member had a

high sense of ownership of their bylaws were above average in form and format. The documents submitted for this survey were assigned to one of five categories based on appearance and form. They were

judged "neat and attractive--obviously for distribution" (14%), "clear and readable--intended for use" (35%), "intact and

usable--for resource only" (40%), "early mimeograph--file copy only" (9%), and "an embarrassment--a copy found with difficulty" (2%). At best the documents were clear and attractive, At worst

suggesting a church which was proud of who they were.

they were nearly illegible with years of amendments scrawled in the margins, suggesting a church which wasn't sure who they were.

Suggested Formats Form and format are obviously matters of personal taste to some extent. helpful. But several observations about appearance may be

The physical format of the submitted documents fell The most common was a full page

into three general classes.

format, often with a plain paper title page, stapled either in one corner or down the left side. This constituted about


seventy percent.

Those with a cover or title page made a A few bylaws

considerably better impression than those without.

(about seven percent) were placed in a binder of some sort. That was an upgrade from a stapled document. The remaining

documents were a half-page format in booklet form, usually with an attractive, heavy-weight cover. These tended to make the This

best impression and were the easiest to read and use. format seemed worth the extra trouble.

At least one church had apparently taken the full-page text and reduced the page size for a booklet format. very legible and quite professional in appearance. One document utilized a superb format with biblical This The result was

rationale for each sections printed on the opposing page.

created the indelible impression that the Bible really was the final rule for faith and practice for that body. This was not

only true for doctrinal areas, but for sections dealing with polity and procedure as well. A church's bylaws can be an asset and not a liability. For

that to happen, however, those documents must be built around a strong, thoroughly biblical skeleton of faith and practice.

They must be fleshed out with policies and procedures that are consistent with the framework, that are practical, and that fit that individual body and its unique ministry. These documents

must be given a significant role in the life and ministry of the church. They must be produced in a form that is attractive, It will take effort and strong leadership,

readable and usable.

but the benefits will prove the investment a sound one. Toward that end, this study is offered to the churches and their leaders. May the Lord increase the effectiveness of our efforts because our work is done "decently and in order" and


because the Scriptures really are our final rule for faith and practice.


TEXTUAL AND LEXICAL TOOLS Arndt, William F., and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957. Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Synonyms of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1897. Kittel, Gerhard, ed. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 volumes. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964. Nestle, D. Dr. Eberhard. Novum Testamentuum Graece. Stuttgart: Privilegierte Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1957. Vine, W. E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Westwood. NJ: Fleming H. Revell. Co., 1966.

COMMENTARIES Barclay, William. The Letter to the Hebrews. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955. ________. The Letters of James Westminster Press, 1960. and Peter. Philadelphia: The

Bruce, F. F. Commentary on the Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966. Guthrie, Donald. The Pastoral Epistles. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964. Hiebert, D. Edmond. First Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press, 1957. ________. Second Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press, 1958. ________. Titus and Philemon. Chicago: Moody Press, 1957. Kent, Homer A., Jr. Ephesians: The Glory of the Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.


Kistemaker, Simon J. James and 1-111 John. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986. Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Genesis, Volume I. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1942. Morris, Leon. The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956. Pfeiffer, Charles F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962. Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Volumes. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930. Vine, W. E. The Epistles to Timothy and Titus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965. Vos, Howard F. Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971. Wuest, Kenneth S. Hebrews in the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1947.

CHURCH POLITY AND LEADERSHIP Adams, Jay H. Handbook of Church Discipline. Zondervan Publishing House, 1986. Grand Rapids:

Baker, Don. Beyond Forgiveness. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1984. Balchin, John F. What the Bible Teaches About Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1979. the Church.

Bundschuh, Rick. The Church. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1988. Deweese, Charles W. A Community Judson Press, 1978. of Believers. Valley Forge:

Dobbins, Gaines S. The Churchbook. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951. Gage, Joy P. and Kenneth G. Restoring Fellowship. Chicago: Moody Press, 1984. Hiscox, Edward T. The Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1964.


Jeschke, Marlin. Discipling in the Church. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988. Kent, Homer A. The Pastor and His Work. Chicago: Moody Press, 1963. Laney, J. Carl. A Guide to Church Bethany House Publishers, 1985. MacDonald, Gordon. Rebuilding .Oliver Nelson, 1988. Marshall, Edward Jurisprudence. 1898. Your Discipline. Broken Minneapolis: Nashville:


P. A Treatise upon Baptist Church Washington: The Columbian Publishing Co., Church.

McBirnie, William Steuart. The Search for the Early Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers. Inc.. 1978.

Pearce, J. Winston, We Covenant Together. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1964. Perry, Lloyd M. and Edward John Lias. A Manual of Pastoral Problems and Procedures. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962. Strauch, Alexander. Biblical Eldership. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1988. Sugden, Howard F. and Warren W. Wiersbe. When Pastors Wonder How. Chicago: Moody Press, 1973. Turnbull, Ralph G., ed. Baker's Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967. Practical

Walker, Warham. Church Discipline. Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, 1844; reprint, Rochester. N. Y.: Backus Book Publishers, 1981. White, John and Ken Blue. Healing the Wounded. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985. Your Church. "News & Trends." November/December, 1989. pp. 24-25


GENERAL WORKS Barker, Kenneth, gen. ed. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985. Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Major Bible Zondervan Publishing House, 1974. Themes. Grand Rapids:

De Jong, Peter Y. The Covenant Idea in New England Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Berdmans Co, 1945. Dumbrell, William J. Covenant and Creation. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. Hastings, James, ed. A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. I. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903. Merriam-Webster, A. Webster's New Collegiate Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1975. Dictionary.

New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1985. Young, G Douglas, gen. ed. Young's Bible Dictionary. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984. UNPUBLISHED WORKS Conservative Baptist Association of Oregon. Handbook. 1980. Deweese, Charles W. "The Origin, Development, and Use of Church Covenants in Baptist History." Th.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1973. Losie, Charles. "Guide Points for Writing a Church Constitution." in CBA of Oregon Handbook of Suggestions, 1961. Slavin, George H. Basics. Unpublished outline of basic Bible doctrines. Wecks, John C. "Leadership Structure for the Local Church," 2 Volumes. D. Min. Product, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1984.


RESTORATION MANUAL RESOURCES Alcorn, Randy C. Christians in the Wake of the Revolution. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985. ________. Money, Possessions and House Publishers, Inc., 1989. Eternity. Wheaton: Sexual Tyndale

Burwick, Ray. Self Esteem. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1983. Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. Advanced Leadership Guide. Oak Brook, IL: Campus Teams, Inc., 1971. ________. Basic Notebook. Oak Brook, IL: Campus Teams, Inc., 1969. ________. A Resource Manual for Campus Teams, Inc. , 1975. Rebuilders. Oak Brook. IL:

Peterson, J. Allan, ed. The Marriage Affair. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1971. ________. The Myth of the Greener Grass. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1983. Richards, Larry and Norm Wakefield. Fruit of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981. Sproul, R. C., Jr. Money Publishers, Inc., 1985. Matters. Wheaton: Tyndale House

Swindoll, Charles L. Sensuality. Portland. OR: Multnomah Press, 1981. Unger, Ken. True Sexuality. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1987. Welter, Paul. How to Help Publishers, Inc., 1978. Wiersbe, Warren W. Be What Publishers, Inc., 1988. a Friend. You Are. Wheaton: Wheaton: Tyndale Tyndale House House

Wright, H. Norman. The Christian Use of Bmotional Power. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revel1 Co., 1974.



CHURCH BYLAWS QUESTIONNAIRE NWCBA Churches (Survey responses expressed in percentages) NOTE: The following questionnaire is designed to give a general profile of the function of your church Bylaws. For purposes of definition, "Bylaws" is used synonymously with "Constitution" or "Constitution and Bylaws" depending on what your document is called. Some questions will call for more than one response. Mark as many as are appropriate. Do not make it too difficult on yourself. My purpose is not to obtain a detailed history, but a general profile. Thank you for your assistance. PART I DEMOGRAPHICS Is your church location best described A. An inner-city area = = = = = = = = B. An urban area = = = = = = = = = = C. A suburban area = = = = = = = = = D. A small town = = = = = = = = = = = E. A rural area = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks


as = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = 02 = = = 07 = = 21 = 53 16


Was your church incorporated as a Baptist Church A. Less than two years ago = = = = = = = = = = B. Three to ten years ago = = = = = = = = = = C. Eleven to twenty-five years ago = = = = = D. Twenty-six to fifty years ago = = = = = = = E. More than fifty years ago = = = = = = = = = Remarks Is your church membership A. Less than fifty = = = = = = B. Fifty to one hundred = = = C. One hundred to two hundred D. Two hundred to five hundred E. More than five hundred = = Remarks

= = = = 00 = = = 09 = = 19 = 42 30


= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = 19 = = = 26 = = 23 = 26 07



Has your church history been A. Marked by unity and consistent growth = = = = = = = 02 B. Generally stable = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 30 C. Generally stable - one or two major conflicts = 56 D. Dominated by a major split or conflict= = = = 02 E. A succession of conflicts = = = = = = = = = 07 Remarks your church = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = pastor= = = = = = = = = been = = = = = 05 = = = = 26 = = = 58 = = 07 = 05

5. Has the typical pastoral tenure in A. Less than two years = = = = B. Between two and four years C. Five years or more = = = = D. The church has only had one E. Other = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks

BYLAWS HISTORY 6. Were your bylaws originally written from A. A model bylaws from a CBA state office = = B. A Church Manual (Hiscox. etc.) = = = = = = C. The bylaws of another church = = = = = = = D. A compilation from numerous sources = = = = E. An original document written by your church Remarks

= = = = 30 = = = 09 = = 16 = 49 14

7. Were your bylaws typically revised when A. A new Pastor arrived = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 16 B. The church experienced a conflict = = = = = = = = 23 C. Need for major change in church organization = 40 D. There was a new generation of leadership = = 14 E. A desire to implement biblical principles = 30 8. The process for amending the bylaws was A. Gather a collection of bylaws from other churches = 26 B. Address immediate problem - to the bylaws = = = = 63 B. Accept the Pastor's recommendations = = = = = = 30 C. Conduct an extensive study of the NT Church = 12 D. Do not know = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 05 Remarks

9. The role of our bylaws in our church life is A. Virtually no active role = = = = = = = = = = = = = 09 B. Consulted occasionally when there is a problem = 35 C. A helpful guide for conduct of church affairs = 72 D. Wielded like a club by a few members = = = = 12 E. In competition with the Bible in practice = 05


Remarks 10. How well do your Bylaws reflect current practice? A. They are consistent = = = = = = = = = = = = B. There are no major inconsistencies = = = = C. There are serious inconsistencies = = = = = D. Being modified to reflect current practice E. Little effect on current practice = = = = = Remarks

= = = = 47 = = = 28 = = 09 = 26 09

11. Compared with your Articles of Incorporation A. The Bylaws have no inconsistencies with them B. All amendments are checked for consistency: = C. Have not been checked for consistency = = = = D. Do not know = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks

= = = 44 = = 19 = 28 19

BYLAWS FUNCTION - COVENANT 12. What is the role which your covenant plays? A. Sets conduct to which members must subscribe = = = 14 B. Establishes a goal toward which to strive = = = = 49 C. Read and emphasized often = = = = = = = = = = = 05 D. Little practical role in church life = = = = 26 E. Few members know it exists = = = = = = = = 30 Remarks 13. Is your Church Covenant read A. For Communion services = = = = B. For Baptismal services = = = = C. In membership classes = = = = = D. At the reception of new members E. Other = = = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = 00 = = = 00 = = 47 = 19 30

BYLAWS FUNCTION - OBJECT 14. Concerning a statement of purpose or mission A. We have not developed a specific purpose statement= 16 B. Few are aware of our purpose statement = = = = = 21 C. It is so general it is of little value = = = = 09 D. It is an adequate statement of our purpose = 49 E. The whole ministry is evaluated by it = = = 23 Remarks


BYLAWS FUNCTION -STATEMENT OF FAITH 15. Concerning your statement of faith A. It sets the doctrinal base for all ministry = = = = 81 B. It specifies what each member must believe: = = = 23 C. One could be a member without full agreement = 40 D. All officers must subscribe to it fully = = = 35 E. Doctrine not a major issue in this body = = 00 Remarks BYLAWS FUNCTION -MEMBERSHIP 16. Are these membership standards developed from A. Scripture = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = B. Practical experience = = = = = = = = = C. Baptist Tradition = = = = = = = = = = = D. Other = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = E. Do not know = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = 63 = = = 44 = = 65 = 05 00

BYLAWS FUNCTION -CHURCH DISCIPLINE 17. Do you consider your bylaws section on Church Discipline A. Clear, biblical and adequate = = = = = = = = = = = 56 B. More detailed than necessary = = = = = = = = = = 00 C. Less detailed than necessary, Ambiguous = = = = 23 D. Lacking essentials (biblical, legal, etc.) = 16 E. Woefully inadequate = = = = = = = = = = = = 12 Remarks 18. How frequently is church discipline practiced? A. As often as necessary = = = = = = = = = = B. Only in extreme cases of scandal = = = = C. Seldom, even when it is needed = = = = = D. Not in recent memory = = = = = = = = = = E. Never = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks BYLAWS FUNCTION - OFFICERS 19. Are the duties and standards for leadership A. Understood and taken seriously = = = = B. Applied universally = = = = = = = = = = C. Developed according to clear criteria = D. Biblically defensible = = = = = = = = = E. Providing for effective growth/ministry Remarks

= = = = =

= = = = 51 = = = 23 = = 16 = 14 05

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = 60 = = = 30 = = 28 = 60 33


BYLAWS FUNCTION - THE PASTOR 20. Does the statement regarding the office of Pastor A. Demonstrate reaction to past problems = = = = = = = 28 B. Easier to discharge a pastor than to call him = = 16 C. Give priority to biblical roles & duties = = = 58 D. View the Pastor as an employee of the Board = 14 E. Distinguish one man as `Pastor' = = = = = = 72 Remarks BYLAWS FUNCTION - CHURCH POLITY 21. How long has the present structure been in place? A. Less than two years = = = = = = = = = = = = B. Between two and five years = = = = = = = = C. Between five and ten years = = = = = = = = D. More than ten years = = = = = = = = = = = = E. Since the church was founded = = = = = = = Remarks 22. How well does the above structure serve the A. It operates smoothly, efficiently and B. It is adequate in most respects = = = C. There are periodic breakdowns = = = = D. We are considering structural change E. It is a source of continual strife = Remarks 23. Does the Board of Deacons (Elders) relate A. With the Congregation = = = = = = = B. With the pastoral staff = = = = = = C. With other boards = = = = = = = = = D. With Committees {Commissions} = = = E. Among themselves = = = = = = = = = Remarks

= = = = 07 = = = 12 = = 26 = 37 21

church? spiritually = 26 = = = = = = 65 = = = = = 12 = = = = 21 = = = 05

well = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

= = = = 84 = = = 98 = = 51 = 79 91

EVALUATION 24. In general would you say your bylaws are A. Unnecessarily detailed = = = = = = = B. Inconsistent with biblical patterns = C. Lacking essential specifics = = = = = D. Outdated = = = = = = = = = = = = = = E. A good, well-honed tool = = = = = = = Remarks

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = =

= = = = 14 = = = 12 = = 23 = 30 47


25. Has your church faced significant conflict/stress from A. Doctrinal Issues = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 13 B. Issues in the Church Covenant = = = = = = = = = = 05 C. Membership standards or procedures = = = = = = 21 D. Church Discipline = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 21 E. Leadership standards or procedures = = = = 37 F. Church organization or structure = = = = 26 G. Calling or dismissing a Pastor = = = = 49 H. Other: = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 05 Remarks 26. Do the members of your church A. Have a good working knowledge of your bylaws = = = 14 B. Feel the bylaws are important = = = = = = = = = = 37 C. Have access to a copy of the bylaws = = = = = = 84 D. Receive bylaws-instruction upon joining = = = 53 E. Have a sense of ownership of the bylaws = = 09 Remarks IN CONCLUSION 27. What do you feel is the greatest strength of your bylaws?

28. What two things would you most like to change? 213 PART II

Part II BYLAWS CONTENT -COVENANT 29. What is your present church covenant? A. The traditional Baptist church covenant = = = = = = 16 B. Traditional church covenant, minor changes = = = 37 C. Traditional church covenant, major revisions = 23 D. An original covenant written by this body = = 07 E. No formal church covenant statement = = = = 14 Remarks 30. How does your covenant differ from the traditional? A. A goal, rather than a covenant = = = = = = = = = = 07 B. Changes `engage' , to `endeavor' (or equivalent)= 09 C. Modifies the statement on alcohol = = = = = = = 30 D. Deletes the statement on alcohol = = = = = = 23 E. Modifies other conduct statements = = = = = 19 Remarks


31. Is the primary emphasis of your covenant statement A. The responsibilities of the body to the member = = 00 B. The responsibilities of the member to the body = 07 C. Acceptable Christian lifestyle and conduct = = 74 D. The relationship that exists with the body = 02 E. Other = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 00 Remarks 32. Does your church have a separate statement of Christian conduct or lifestyle besides the covenant? A. Yes = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 05 B. No = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 95 Remarks BYLAWS CONTENT -STATEMENT OF FAITH 33. Is your statement of faith A. As detailed and comprehensive as we can make it = = 40 B. Short and simple, essential doctrines only = = = 53 C. Required beliefs for all members = = = = = = = 79 D. A goal toward which our people grow = = = = = 07 E. Required norms for all teaching = = = = = = 23 Remarks 34. What doctrines would exclude from membership? A. Charismatic beliefs and practices = = = = = = = = = 09 B. Denial of the security of the believer = = = = = 28 C. Post-Millennial or Post Tribulation beliefs = = 35 D. Holiness view of sanctification: = = = = = = 12 E. Other = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 00 Remarks BYLAWS CONTENT -MEMBERSHIP 35. Do your qualifications for new members include A. Conversion and baptism by immersion = = = = B. Subscription to the statement of faith = = C. Completion of a membership class = = = = = D. Acceptance of all covenant obligations = = E. Other = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Remarks 36. Under A. B. C. D.

= = = = 95 = = = 84 = = 44 = 79 07

what circumstances would a member be removed? Death = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 63 Transfer to a church of like faith and practice = 91 At his own request = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 47 Inactivity = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 79


E. Disciplinary action = = = = = = = = = = = 91 Remarks BYLAWS CONTENT -CHURCH DISCIPLINE 37. What elements does the statement on discipline include? A. The biblical rationale for church discipline = = = 07 B. A statement of the goal/purpose of discipline = = 21 C. Issues/conduct necessitating discipline = = = = 16 D. A step-by-step outline of `due process' = = = 16 E. Provision for removal from membership = = = 79 Remarks 38. Do your bylaws include provisions for A. A process of restoration following repentance = = = 02 B. A process for arbitration/mediation of disputes = 05 B. Exclusion Procedures for disciplined members = 05 C. Preventative and restorative discipline = = = 05 D. Formal and informal discipline = = = = = = 05 Remarks 39. Do your bylaws distinguish between A. Exclusion from fellowship and expulsion = B. Handling public and private offenses = = C. Discipline of pastors/leaders and members D. Active and Inactive membership = = = = = E. Resident and non-resident membership = = Remarks BYLAWS CONTENT -OFFICERS 40. Do your bylaws provide clear qualifications A. For pastors and deacons = = = = = = = B. For teachers = = = = = = = = = = = = C. Sketchy at best = = = = = = = = = = = D. No qualifications are spelled out = = E. Included for every position = = = = = Remarks

= = ~ = =

= = = = 07 = = = 12 = = 14 = 81 21

for = = = = = = = = = =

officers? = = = = = 72 = = = = 07 = = = 28 = = 09 = 05

41. Do your bylaws apply the standards of I Tim. 3 (Titus 1) A. Strictly and literally = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 70 B. With considerable latitude of interpretation = = 00 C. For all church officers = = = = = = = = = = = = 05 D. For pastors and deacons (elders) = = = = = = 44 E. For pastors but not deacons (elders) = = = 42 Remarks


BYLAWS CONTENT -CHURCH POLITY 42. Does your bylaws organize your church A. Clear congregational government, multiple boards= 28 B. Clear congregational government, single board = 35 C. Limited congregational gov't, single board = 26 D. With primary leadership from the Pastor = = 05 E. With primary leadership from the Board = 18 Remarks 43. Are the members of the Board of Deacons(Elders) elected A. By the congregation for a limited term = = = = = = 77 B. By the congregation for an indefinite term = = = 02 C. By the congregation with unlimited succession = 33 D. By the body, nominated by the Board = = = = = 02 E. By the Board, congreg'l ratification = = = 02 Remarks BYLAWS CONTENT -PULPIT COMMITTEE 44. Does provision for the Pulpit Committee A. Assign its selection to the Board = = = = = B. Provide for election from open nominations C. Designated officers plus `at large' members D. Guarantee broad representation of the body E. Require counsel with the NWCBA office = = = Remarks

= = = = 49 = = = 16 = = 26 = 37 00

BYLAWS CONTENT -PROCEDURE 45. Do your bylaws A. Specify Roberts Rules in parliamentary matters = = 70 B. Specify Hiscox in matters of polity = = = = = = = 30 C. Require Sunday eve and/or Midweek services = = 53 D. Specify the fiscal year = = = = = = = = = = = 72 E. Require business mt'gs at least quarterly = 74 Remarks 46. In order to conduct business, do your bylaws A. Specify a quorum less than 25% of active members = 79 B. Specify a quorum of 50% of act. members or more = 07 C. Restrict voting to legal age on legal issues = 44 D. Require posting of special meetings = = = = = 77 E. Specify no quorum = = = = = = = = = = = = = 12 Remarks


BYLAWS CONTENT -ORDINATION & LICENSURE 47. Do your bylaws include provision for A. Licensing for ministry for an indefinite term = = = 07 B. Licensing for ministry for a limited term = = = = 40 C. Ordaining members for the Gospel ministry = = = 47 D. Implementing the Ordination Policy of NWCBA = 05 E. Revoking ordination for cause = = = = = = = 00 Remarks DISSOLUTION 48. Do your Bylaws provide procedures for A. Yes = = = = = = = = = = = = = = B. No = = = = = = = = = = = = = = C. Yes, but Inadequate = = = = = = Remarks

dissolution? = = = = = = = = = = 26 = = = = = = = = = 65 = = = = = = = = 09

EVALUATION 49. Are your church documents formatted A. ConstItutIon only = = = = = = B. Bylaws only = = = = = = = = = C. Constitution and Bylaws = = = Remarks

as = = = = = = = = = = = 23 = = = = = = = = = = 09 = = = = = = = = = 67

50. Do your bylaws show clear descent from A. The model written by Kenneth Tobias = = = = = = = = 26 B. The model in the CBA-Oregon Manual = = = = = = = 47 C. No discernible source = = = = = = = = = = = = = 33 Remarks 51. Are your Bylaws appearance A. Neat and attractive-obviously for distribution = = 14 B. Clear and readable-intended for use = = = = = = = 35 C. Intact and usable-for resource only = = = = = = 40 D. Early mimeograph-file copy only = = = = = = = 09 E. An embarrassment-copy found w/difficulty = 02 Remarks


A SAMPLE BAPTIST CHURCH CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS PREAMBLE We the members of First Baptist Church of Anytown purpose to be organized as closely as possible to the New Testament pattern of church life. As such we recognize the Bible as our authority, guide, and true constitution. This constitution and bylaws, as written here, is not intended in any way to replace or add to the Word of God. It is conceived for the following purposes: 1. To state those fundamental and essential doctrines of the Christian faith that we believe ought never to be compromised; 2. To define the nature of the church as a covenant community; 3. To state our purpose and mission as a church; 4. To state the qualifications, privileges, and responsibilities of membership and leadership in this body; 5. To set forth the biblical organization and structure of this body; 6. To facilitate orderliness understanding, communication, and unity in the exercise of church ministries. For these reasons this constitution and bylaws are intended to be an implementation of scripturally based principles, embracing the true spirit of God's Word.

OUR CHURCH COVENANT Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, to become one body in Christ. We commit ourselves to one another in dependency, acknowledging that through this body and its members the Lord will meet our needs for nurture and growth, and will provide opportunity for service and worship; in responsibility, devoting our gifts and abilities to the building up of this body and its members; in accountability, submitting ourselves with this body and its members to the authority of Christ as head of this church, of the scriptures as our sole guide for faith and practice, of the congregation as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and of the biblically constituted leaders of this body.


OUR DECLARATION OF FAITH We believe: 1. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inspired of God, and inerrant in the original writings; and that they are of supreme and final authority in faith and life (Mark 12:26, 36; Acts 17:2-3; Rom. 15:4; II Tim. 3:1617; II Peter 1:19-21). 2. In one God, existing in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, coequal and eternal (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19-20; John 1:14; II Cor. 13:14; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 1:4-6). We rejoice that He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of men (Heb. 11:6). 3. In the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:5-8; Matt. 16:16; Rom. 1:4); and in His full humanity, evidenced in: His virgin birth (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:3, 35); His sinless life (II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15, 7:26); His miracles; His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood (Heb. 2:9; I Peter 1:18-19); His bodily resurrection (Acts 2:23-24, 4:33; II Cor. 4:14); His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:5; Acts 1:9); and in His personal, bodily return in power and glory (Acts 1:11; John 14:2-3; Rev. 20:4-14). 4. That for the salvation of lost and sinful man, personal faith in Jesus Christ resulting in regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential and totally sufficient (John 3:3, 5, 8; II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:8).

THE BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES We identify ourselves as Baptist because we recognize the biblical validity of the teaching and practices of the Baptists and those great distinctive principles for which they have ever stood, namely: 1. The Bible, the final standard of faith and practice; 2. The Lordship of Jesus Christ; 3. Regenerated membership; 4. Believer's baptism by immersion; 5. Progressive sanctification; 6. Soul liberty and the priesthood of the believer; 7. Congregational government; 8. Separation of church and state. We, therefore, unite as a covenant body of believers in Jesus and adopt for our government, plan of worship, and service the following articles, which hereby replace and supersede all previous articles and actions.


CONSTITUTION ARTICLE I. NAME The name of this organization, a corporation, shall be the First Baptist Church of Anytown.

ARTICLE II. OBJECT The object of this corporation shall be to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ by: A. Offering regular worship to the Triune god. B. Promoting the preaching and teaching of the Word of God for the maturing of the saints and the leading of people to a personal faith in Christ as Savior and Lord; C. Seeking the spiritual growth and well-being of its members by providing true Christian fellowship, by providing opportunity for meaningful service to Christ, and by encouraging compassion for one another; and, by D. Participating in local and world-wide mission; This object is expressed in our Mission Statement: "We exist to enhance God's reputation by assisting people at home and abroad in becoming eager followers of Jesus Christ."

ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP Membership in this church is open to all who evidence membership in the Body of Christ, the Universal Church, and who meet the biblical qualifications for membership in a local church.

ARTICLE IV. OFFICERS The scriptural officers of this church are Pastor and Deacons, who constitute the Elders of the church. The Scriptures shall determine their qualifications and the Bylaws shall determine their election, term, and succession. The church shall elect and appoint to the various forms of service indicated by their titles and as defined in the Bylaws such other officers as are deemed advisable.

ARTICLE V. AUTHORITY AND GOVERNMENT In authority and government: A. This local church is a self-governing body, independent of all other church bodies. It may cooperate with other


churches of like faith and order for the purpose of attaining its objectives. No such cooperative effort may be made with any financial support given to any group whose doctrinal position or practices would effect compromise with the Statement of Faith. B. The congregational form of government shall be the basis for the polity of this church. The membership vests in the scriptural officers the responsibility of leadership in order to implement the objectives of the church, subject to the approval of the membership. All ultimate human authority, therefore, rests in the membership, the church body.

ARTICLE VI. MEETINGS Meetings for worship, prayer, praise, fellowship, business, and special purposes shall be held as set forth in the Bylaws.

ARTICLE VII. DISSOLUTION OF THE CORPORATION In the event of the dissolution of the corporation, property of the church shall be distributed as follows: all property, real or personal, owned by this corporation shall be, and, hereby is irrevocably dedicated to religious use, and upon liquidation, dissolution, or abandonment of the corporation will not ensue to the benefit of any private person except through a fund, foundation, or corporation organized and operated for evangelical religious purposes determined by the Northwest Conservative Baptist Association.

ARTICLE VII. AMENDMENTS This Constitution may be amended by a three-fourths vote of members present and voting at any quarterly business meeting provided: A. The proposed amendment has been submitted in writing at a previous quarterly business meeting and posted for two weeks preceding the meeting; B. The proposed amendment does not conflict with the Articles of Incorporation of the church; and C. A quorum of two thirds of the active membership is present.


BYLAWS ARTICLE A. MEMBERSHIP Section 1. Qualifications of Members Members of this church shall be those who: a. Are born again through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and have been baptized by immersion; b. Acknowledge unreserved assent to the Declaration of Faith; c. Meet the essential biblical standard of character and conduct for membership in a local church; d. Enter into the Covenant; and e. Are received into the fellowship by vote of the church. Section 2. Reception of Members a. Written application for membership shall be made to the Board of Deacons, followed by interview and consultation with the Pastor and the Deacons. Upon satisfaction that the applicant meets the qualifications for membership and understands the Covenant and Declaration of Faith the Board shall recommend to the church his/her reception by one of the following: 1) Confession of faith and baptism 2) Letter from another church of like faith and practice 3) Statement of Christian experience 4) Restoration to fellowship according to the procedures of Attachment B b. Members may be received by action of the church upon recommendation of the Board of Deacons at any worship or business meeting. A three-fourths majority is necessary to receive members. c. Church action to receive an applicant for membership shall be tabled upon the request of any church member. The member shall state all reasons privately to the Board who shall determine their validity and take appropriate action. Section 3. Orientation of Members a. Applicants for membership shall receive a copy of the Constitution and Bylaws to be read prior to interview by the Board. b. New members, following their reception into the body, shall take a prescribed course of study, which covers the first principles of salvation and Christian living,


Section 4. Responsibilities of Members Attached to these Bylaws are a full statement of doctrine adopted and taught by this body (Our Doctrinal Statement, Attachment A), and a profile of mature Christian character and conduct as presented in the Bible (Standard of Character and Conduct, Attachment B). While these are not intended to be qualifications for membership, they do express the beliefs and practice toward which every Christian should be moving as he/she matures. The result is specific responsibility: a. TO GOD: Each member should grow in love and worship of God through prayer and a personal study of God's Word. He should desire to know Him better, trust Him more, and obey Him more fully. b. TO FAMILY: Each member should lovingly encourage, support and spiritually strengthen family members (spouse, children, parents) as his/her most precious earthly responsibility. c. TO THE CHURCH: Each member should pursue his/her Godgiven role in the body of Christ by biblically investing his/her energy, gifting, and income in His church, by caring for the physical and spiritual needs of one another in the body of Christ, and by respecting those in leadership. d. TO THE WORLD: Sharing in Christ's concern for extending the Gospel to the world, each member should live in such a way that by their conduct and speech those around them may be able to see in their life and be drawn to Him. Section 5. Privileges of Members Members in good standing may act and vote in the transactions of the church and may hold office with the following exceptions: a. Members under 14 years of age are ineligible to vote on all matters of the church; b. Members under 18 years of age are ineligible to hold elective office or to vote on corporate matters, the purchase or sale of church property, and matters of discipline.


Section 6. Conflict Resolution a. Interpersonal conflicts shall be resolved according to the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-17. b. Any member who is dissatisfied with the general operation of any element of the church or finds himself in disagreement with the Doctrinal Statement shall make his case known to the Pastor and/or Deacons. Such dissatisfaction shall not be voiced among the membership, but every effort shall be made to strive for peace (Rom. 14:19). c. No member shall pursue legal action or sue the pastors, deacons, or church staff in connection with the performance of their official duties. d. Conflicts not otherwise resolved shall be submitted for conciliation and arbitration, using the services of the Christian Conciliation Service. Section 7. Discipline of Members a. Members whose conduct or beliefs are contrary to biblical principles and disruptive to true fellowship shall be dealt with according to the scriptural procedures delineated in Attachment C for the sake of restoration. b. A member may be restored to full fellowship at any time by an expression of repentance and a request for forgiveness in the presence of the largest group concerned with his offense. Section 8. Classification of Members Members shall be classified as: a. Active Members; b. Inactive members according to Attachment B; c. Under Discipline according to Attachment B

the the

procedures procedures

of of

Section 9. Dismissal of Members Because the covenant relationship into which we enter is unconditional, members may only be dismissed from this body: a. By letter of transfer to a church of like faith and practice; b. By his/her own request to a church of another denomination; and c. By death.


ARTICLE B. LEADERSHIP - GENERAL CONTROLS Section 1. Listing of Officers a. Elected officers of this church shall be Pastor, Deacons, Deaconesses, Clerk, Treasurer, Financial Secretary, and Sunday School Superintendent. b. Elected Commissions shall include Worship, Missions, Christian Education, and Property & Finance Commissions. c. Elected Committees shall include Nominating, Nursery, Fellowship, and Pulpit Committees. Section 2. Qualification of Officers a. The Pastor, Deacons and Deaconesses shall meet the biblical qualifications of I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 for their respective offices. A Pastor or Deacon is to be "husband of one wife (meaning he has not entered into marriage while a former mate is still living) and a "one woman man" (meaning he demonstrates an inviolate fidelity and loyalty to his wife). b. Associate ministry staff positions are open to any qualified candidate, male or female, as appropriate. Terms of call and job descriptions for specific positions will clearly reflect whether that staff member functions as an elder. Those not qualified as elders will not be eligible for ordination. c. All other elective and appointive positions shall be filled from the active membership of the church. Specific qualifications for those positions shall be detailed, with their duties, in the Church Manual based on four criteria: 1) Level of impact on others spiritually, doctrinally, etc.; 2) Level of modeling for younger believers; 3) Level of visibility - representing the body; and 4) Level of authority over others, ministry, funds, etc. Section 3. Election, Terms, and Succession of Office a. The Pastor and other ministry staff shall be called for an indefinite period of time by the church upon the recommendation of the Pulpit Committee. Election shall be by ballot at any regular or special meeting of the church, provided public notice is given from the pulpit two Sundays preceding and notice has been sent to each active member. A quorum of two thirds of the active membership is required and a three-fourths






majority of members present and voting shall be necessary to make such action valid. Members of Boards and Commissions shall be elected for a term of three years and shall be eligible to serve two consecutive terms or major portion thereof. One year must elapse before eligibility for reelection to the same Board or Commission. Approximately one third of each Board and Commission is to be elected annually. Board and Commission members must receive a majority of votes cast for election. Other officers and committee members will be elected for a term of one year, unless otherwise provided. There is no limit on their succession. A majority of votes cast is necessary for election. Except for the Pastor and ministry staff, all leadership shall be elected at the Annual Business Meeting and shall take office immediately, unless otherwise provided. Officers shall immediately deliver to their successor all books and records in their possession.

Section 4. Removal of Officers a. With the exception of Pastoral/Ministry staff, removal of officers for good and sufficient cause, shall be by action of the church upon the recommendation of the Board of Deacons. No officer shall be removed from office until positive effort has been made to assist that officer in correcting the problem. b. A majority of those present and voting shall be necessary for removal from office, unless otherwise provided. c. Resignations of officers shall be in writing to the Chairman of the Board of Deacons, effective on the date specified in the resignation. d. Vacancies shall be filled as they occur from nominations submitted by the Nominating Committee.

ARTICLE C. LEADERSHIP - PASTOR/MINISTRY STAFF Section 1. Background and Preparation a. The Pastor/Ministry staff members shall hold doctrinal positions in keeping with the faith and practice of this church and shall be in sympathy with the Conservative Baptist movement. b. They shall have formal training and practical experience sufficient to equip them for their assigned responsibilities.


Section 2. Duties a. The Pastor shall be the leader, teacher, shepherd, and guide of the church, and shall perform all of the scriptural and necessary duties of the pastoral office. He shall be an ex-officio member of the Board of Deacons and all Commissions and Committees of the church and its Auxiliary Organizations. Copies of the Terms of Call and Job Description are included in the Church Manual. b. Each ministry staff member shall supervise, develop, promote, and administer his/her designated program area in cooperation with the Pastor, other staff, and the Board of Deacons. He/she shall be administratively responsible to the Pastor and shall be an ex-officio member of the Board of Deacons and Commissions, Committees and Auxiliary Organizations involved in that area of ministry. Section 3. Considerations a. The initial salary, allowances, and vacation, as well as any other considerations deemed advisable shall be determined by the church at the time of call and submitted to the candidate in writing. These considerations will be reviewed annually. b. The Board of Deacons shall conduct an evaluation of all pastoral/ministry staff prior to the end of each church year. c. Pastoral/Ministry Staff and their spouses will automatically become members of the church upon their acceptance and arrival. Section 4. Termination a. The pastoral/ministry relationship may be terminated by either party upon 30 days written notice, or sooner by mutual consent. b. Any such action to terminate shall be presented to the church by the Board of Deacons at a special business meeting called for that purpose. Notice of such meeting shall be given from the pulpit on at least two consecutive Sundays preceding the meeting, except in the case of gross moral, civil, or criminal misconduct, in which case termination from staff will be immediate. The individual will be encouraged to remain in the body for restoration in accordance with Attachment C. c. Accusations against a pastoral/ministry staff member shall be handled in accordance with I Timothy 5:19-20.


d. A majority of those present and voting is necessary to terminate a pastoral/ministry relationship.

ARTICLE D. LEADERSHIP - OFFICERS Section 1. Board of Deacons a. Composition and Organization of the Board 1) The Board shall consist of five Deacons for the first hundred active members, and one Deacon for each additional fifty members or major fraction thereof. 2) The Board shall select from its membership a chairman and secretary of the Board, and a chairman for each Commission. b. Chairman of the Board 1) The Chairman shall preside at all meetings of the Board. In his absence the Board shall elect a temporary chairman to preside. 2) The Chairman shall serve as moderator at church business meetings. In his absence the Pastor shall serve as moderator. 3) The Chairman shall serve as Registered Agent of the Corporation. c. Meetings of the Board 1) The Board of Deacons shall hold regular monthly meetings. 2) Special meetings may be called by the Pastor, the Chairman of the Board, or by a majority of Board members. 3) Any Board member failing to attend two consecutive meetings without sufficient cause may be removed from the Board and his position declared vacant. 4) A quorum shall consist of a majority of the members of the Board. d. Duties of the Board 1) The Board functions with the Pastor(s) as the Elders of the Church. 2) The Board, along with pastoral/ministry staff, shall be responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church. Primary function shall be to define objectives and church goals; to review and coordinate program plans; and to evaluate program achievements in terms of church goals and objectives. 3) The Board shall provide for the interview of prospective members and the development and


conservation of the membership for maximum spiritual growth. 4) The Board shall, with the Pastor, administer the Fellowship Fund. 5) Fully detailed duties are included in the Church Manual. Section 2. Board of Deaconesses a. Composition and Organization of the Board 1) Deaconesses shall be the wives of current Deacons whenever possible. 2) The Board shall consist of a minimum of three members. 3) It shall elect from its membership a chairperson and secretary of the Board, and chairpersons for the Nursery and Fellowship Committees. b. Meetings of the Board 1) The Board of Deaconesses shall hold regular monthly meetings. 2) Special meetings may be called by the Pastor, the Chairperson of the Board, or by a majority of Board members. 3) Any Board member failing to attend two consecutive meetings without sufficient cause may be removed from the Board and her position declared vacant. 4) A quorum shall consist of a majority of the members of the Board. c. Duties of the Board 1) They shall assist the Pastor in developing the spiritual life of the women and girls of the church for the best possible Christian service. 2) They shall implement appropriate ministries to the sick and bereaved. 3) They shall prepare the elements of the Lord's Supper, care for the Communion ware and assist in the ordinance of baptism. 4) They shall oversee the regular and seasonal decorations for the services of the church. Section 3. Church Clerk a. The Clerk shall keep accurate minutes of all business transacted by the church, including the reception and dismissal of members of the church. b. The Clerk shall request letters of transfer and issue letters of dismissal as authorized by the church. c. The Clerk shall conduct necessary official correspondence.


d. The Clerk shall preserve and properly file all minutes, reports, letters, and other documents pertaining to his office, and maintain current lists of active members, inactive members, and members under discipline. Section 4. Church Treasurer a. The Treasurer shall pay by check budgeted expenditures and bills which have been approved by the Property and Finance Commission. b. The Treasurer shall present monthly reports to the Property and Finance Commission, and an itemized report of receipts and disbursements to the church at its quarterly and annual business meetings, showing the actual financial condition of the church. c. The Treasurer shall present the books to the Property and Finance Committee to be audited annually. d. The Treasurer shall be responsible to the Property and Finance Commission. Section 5. Financial Secretary a. The Financial Secretary shall receive all offerings of the church and, with the authorized member of the Property and Finance Commission, count and record all funds, depositing the same in the designated bank account. b. The Financial Secretary shall keep an itemized record of amounts received for respective funds each week, supplying the Treasurer with an itemization. c. The Financial Secretary shall keep a confidential record for each contributor, showing contributions by fund for ten years. d. The Financial Secretary shall be responsible to the Property and Finance Committee. Section 6. Sunday School Superintendent a. The Sunday School Superintendent, under the direction of the Christian Education Commission, shall have general supervision of the Sunday School. b. The Superintendent shall conduct regular Sunday School staff meetings, and promote training classes for the training of workers. c. The Superintendent shall encourage regular attendance, follow-up of absentees, and promote visitation to the homes of students.


ARTICLE E. LEADERSHIP - COMMISSIONS Section 1. General Controls a. Each Commission shall consist of five elected members plus a Deacon, assigned to that Commission by the Board of Deacons as Chairman. b. Each commission shall elect a secretary from their members who shall keep records of their meetings and prepare an annual report of their activities. c. Each Commission shall hold monthly meetings. Special meetings may be called by the Pastor, by the Chairman of the Board of Deacons, or by the Chairman of the Commission. Section 2. Worship Commission a. This Commission shall assist the Pastor in planning and supervising the public church services as he may request. b. This Commission shall administer the music program of the church, recommending to the Board of Deacons its selection for Choir Director, Worship Leader, Organist, and Pianist. It shall schedule special musical programs and other special worship events, as well as regular special music, in cooperation with the Pastor. c. This Commission shall appoint, with the approval of the Board of Deacons, a Head Usher, who will be responsible for the appointment of a staff of ushers and greeters for the Sunday services and other services as requested. Section 3. Missions Commission a. This Commission shall develop and maintain a program of missionary education and promotion through all the organizations of the church. b. This Commission shall recommend to the church the missionaries and projects to be supported, with support levels. c. This Commission shall be the channel of communication between the church and the missionaries and projects it supports. d. This Commission shall develop and promote the interest of the church in evangelism, both group and individual. e. This Commission shall coordinate all evangelistic activities of the church, such as special meetings and personal home visitation.


Section 4. Christian Education Commission a. This Commission shall develop, promote, and integrate a program of Christian development for all age groups in the church. It shall coordinate the work of such organizations as the Sunday School for all ages, youth groups, AWANA Clubs, Vacation Bible School, camp and conference programs, and such other groups and activities as are considered advisable. b. This Commission shall evaluate and appoint all superintendents, teachers, counselors, coordinators, leaders, and helpers for all groups under its supervision. It shall develop the qualifications and duties of such workers for inclusion in the Church Manual. c. This Commission shall approve all curriculum materials used in the organizations under its supervision, providing a Sunday School curriculum that covers the entire Bible. d. It shall appoint a church librarian who shall catalog and maintain a church library. Section 5. Property and Finance Committee a. This Commission shall serve as Trustees of the Corporation, holding in trust all the property belonging to the church and taking all necessary measures for its protection, insurance, and management. It shall perform such other duties as may be imposed upon the Corporation by the laws and statutes of the State of Oregon. It shall not mortgage or otherwise encumber the assets of the church without the consent of a two-thirds majority of members present and voting at a duly called business meeting. b. This Commission shall acquaint themselves with the federal, state, and local laws that pertain to churches and see that such laws are faithfully obeyed in all matters affecting the church. c. This Commission shall solicit budget requests from each agency of the church and prepare and submit an annual budget to the Annual Business Meeting for approval. Additional expenditures in excess of $250.00 not included in the budget shall be submitted to the church for approval. d. This Commission shall designate a bank for general banking and savings and a depository for securities and other valuables of the church.


e. This Commission shall arrange for a proper surety bond for the Treasurer and Financial Secretary. f. This Commission shall arrange for an annual audit of the financial records of the church, preferably by a CPA. g. This Commission shall employ one or more custodians, recommending their salaries and determining their duties. h. This Commission shall approve all uses of church facilities and property other than for church ministries. i. This Commission shall appoint a church historian.

ARTICLE F. LEADERSHIP - COMMITTEES Section 1. Standing Committees a. Nominating Committee 1) This Committee shall consist of three elected members, one of whom shall be a Deacon. It shall elect a chairman and secretary from its membership. 2) This Committee shall submit the names of one or more qualified candidates for each office to be filled in the annual elections. Candidates shall be interviewed and give written consent to their nomination on forms provided by the church. No name shall be placed in nomination by the Committee without their unanimous approval. 3) Opportunity shall be given at least one week prior to the Annual Business Meeting for additional nominations by the church. Those nominated must meet the qualifications for the respective office and give written consent for their names to be placed in nomination. 4) Meetings of this Committee may be called by the Chairman at any time to submit nominations for offices declared vacant. b. Nursery Committee 1) This Committee shall consist of three elected members plus a Deaconess, assigned to the Committee by the Board of Deaconesses as Chairperson. 2) 2) This Committee shall supervise and provide attendants the nursery at all necessary times involving activities of the church. It shall recommend salaries and determine duties of paid staff.


3) This Committee shall see that the Nursery meets health safety standards, and shall oversee the purchase of necessary equipment and supplies out of budgeted funds allocated for purpose. c. Fellowship Committee 1) This Committee shall consist of five elected members plus a Deaconess, assigned to the Committee by the Board of Deaconesses as Chairperson. 2) This Committee shall supervise the equipping and use of the kitchen facilities and Fellowship Hall. 3) This Committee shall plan fellowship activities for the church, advising and assisting the various agencies of the church in developing a wholesome social program. 4) This Committee shall seek to welcome new members, and promote a general acquaintance among the church members and congregation. Section 2. Special Committees a. Pulpit Committee 1) Upon a vacancy in the office of Pastor or other pastoral/ministry staff position, the Nominating Committee shall carefully select a list of nominees representative of the church in its various departments, and the church shall elect from this list a Pulpit Committee of seven members, of whom two shall be Deacons. For the selection of a pastoral/ministry staff member, this committee shall consist of six members plus the Pastor. 2) This Committee shall explore the field of available prospects who are qualified for the position to be filled, in consultation with the Northwest CBA office. 3) After thorough examination, prayerful consideration, and unanimous endorsement this Committee shall submit one individual to the church as a candidate. 4) Following the call, arrival and installation of the new Pastor or staff member this Committee shall be dissolved. 5) Complete policies and procedures for the function of the Pulpit Committee are specified in the Church Manual.


ARTICLE G. AUXILIARY ORGANIZATIONS Section 1. Officers All officers or teachers of auxiliary organizations shall be active members of this church, and shall be elected by their organizations. Section 2. Bylaws The bylaws of any auxiliary consistent with these bylaws.




Section 3. Meetings Meetings of auxiliary organizations shall not conflict with meetings of the church and shall be under the guidance of the Pastor and Board of Deacons. Section 4. Missionary Support No auxiliary organization shall assume the responsibility for the support of missionaries without approval of the Missions Commission. Section 5. Approval All auxiliary organizations of the church must be approved by the Board of Deacons.

ARTICLE H. MEETINGS Section 1. For Worship a. Public worship shall customarily be held Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and one evening during the week. b. The Lord's Supper shall be observed monthly, at which time the Fellowship Fund offering may be received. Section 2. For Business a. The annual meeting of the church shall be held as near January 1 as conveniently possible to receive reports, elect officers, approve the budget, and conduct other business as necessary. b. The church shall convene for quarterly business meetings in the months of April, July, and October. c. Special meetings may be called at any time at the request of the Pastor, the Board of Deacons, or upon written request of a quorum of the active voting members of the church. The agenda for a special meeting shall be posted one week in advance of the meeting.


Section 3. Quorum and Voting a. A quorum of two thirds of the active voting membership is required to amend the Constitution and to call a Pastor. b. A quorum of one half of the active voting membership is required to amend the Bylaws and its Attachments and for the Annual Business meeting. c. A quorum of one fourth of the active voting membership is required for the conduct of all other business. d. Unless otherwise specified a majority of those present and voting shall be necessary to enact business and elect officers. Section 4. Rules of Order a. Robert's Rules of Order and The Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches shall govern the business procedures of the church except where they conflict with these bylaws. b. The business of the church shall be conducted in a manner appropriate to the Body of Christ. Regular parliamentary procedure shall be followed until such time as it is evident that neither the Holy Spirit is directing nor Christian grace is manifest. At such time any member aware of the loss of Spirit control may call this to the attention of the body. Regardless of what is before the house, following a season of prayer, the floor shall be cleared and a new effort made to be led of God in an orderly manner concerning the business at hand.

ARTICLE I. FISCAL YEAR The fiscal year shall begin January 1 and end December 31.

ARTICLE J. LICENSURE AND ORDINATION Section 1. Licensure Any male member, who, in the judgment of the church, gives evidence by his Christian life, zeal, aptness to teach, and biblical qualification that he is called of God to the work of the ministry after having preached in the hearing of the church, may be given a license for a term of one year, subject to renewal, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, provided that three fourths of the members present and voting at any regular meeting called for that purpose agree.


Section 2. Ordination If the church, upon three fourths affirmative vote of the members present and voting at a regularly called meeting decides that a male member possesses the scriptural qualifications and training necessary for ordination to the Gospel ministry, it shall institute the process leading to ordination following the Northwest CBA Ordination Policy and Procedure.

ARTICLE K. AMENDMENTS These Bylaws and any Attachments to them may be repealed or amended at the Annual meeting, or any other meeting of the church called for that purpose, by a three fourths majority of the members present and voting, providing that proposed amendment is in writing and notice has been submitted to the church at least two weeks previous to the meeting. No provision of the Bylaws shall be amended or adopted which shall conflict with or void any provision of the Articles of Incorporation or Constitution.


ATTACHMENT A OUR DOCTRINAL STATEMENT BIBLIOLOGY We believe in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as verbally inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16-17), and inerrant in the original writings (II Peter 1:19-21), and that they are of supreme and final authority in faith and life (Matt. 5:18). THEOLOGY PROPER We believe that there is one living and true God (Isa. 45:5-7), who is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. We further believe that God is one in essence (Deut. 6:4), but eternally existent in three persons (Matt. 28:19; Gen. 1:26), Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each having precisely the same nature, attributes and perfections, and each worthy of precisely the same worship, confidence and obedience (Ps. 139:8; Mark 10:18; John 4:24; Acts 17:24-29; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:6). CHRISTOLOGY We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and the second Person of the Godhead, became man without ceasing to be God (John 1:1-2, 14; Phil. 2:5-11), having been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary (Matt. 1:20-21; Luke 1:35), in order that He might reveal God and redeem sinful man (John 1:12, 18). We believe in His sinless life (II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:18), in His miracles (Acts 2:22), in His vicarious (in our place) and atoning death through His shed blood (Heb. 2:9; I Peter 3:18), in His bodily resurrection (Acts 2:23-24, 4:33; I Cor. 15:4), in His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20), and in His personal, bodily return in power and glory (Acts 1:11; John 14:3). We believe that Christ is the only mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25); the Head of His body, the Church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), into which He baptizes every believer in (with or by) the Holy Spirit at conversion (Acts 1:5; I Cor. 12:13); the coming universal King who shall reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:31-33); and the final judge of all who fail to place their trust in Him as their Savior from sin (John 5:27-29; Rev. 20:11-15).


PNEUMATOLOGY We believe that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the trinity, to execute the divine will with relation to the world of men. We affirm His sovereign activity in creation (Gen. 1:2), the incarnation (Matt. 1:18), the written revelation (II Peter 1:20-21), and the work of salvation (John 3:5-7). His work in this age includes that of convicting the world (John 16:7-11), restraining the forces of evil (II Thess. 2:6-7), glorifying the Lord Jesus (John 15:26, 16:13-14), and transforming believers into the likeness of Christ (II Cor. 3:18). We believe that this work in believers involves regenerating (John 3:5-7), indwelling (I Cor. 6:19), sanctifying (II Thess. 2:13), instructing (John 16:13-15), empowering for service (Acts 1:8), and preserving to the day of Christ (Eph. 1:13-14). We believe that the Holy Spirit alone administers spiritual gifts to the Church according to His sovereign will (I Cor. 12:11). These gifts...are given to bring glory to the Head of the Church (John 16:13-14; I Peter 4:10) through the edifying (building up) of the body (I Cor. 12:7, 14:12; I Peter 4:10). Every believer is equipped with at least one spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:7, 11; I Peter 4:10), regardless of his spiritual maturity (compare I Cor. 1:7 and 3:1-3). ANGELOLOGY We believe that the angels were all created simultaneously by God as a great host of spirit-beings (Ps. 148:2-5; Matt. 22:30; Col. 1:16), most of whom kept their first estate of holiness and presently worship God and serve His purpose (Heb. 1:14; Rev. 7:11-12). We believe that one of the angels, Lucifer, fell because of the sin of pride, thereby becoming Satan (Isa. 14:1217; Ezek. 28:12-16), and that he influenced a large company of angels to follow him, who thus became demons (II Peter 2:4; Rev. 12:7-9). ANTHROPOLOGY We believe that man was directly and immediately created, male and female, in the image of God, free from sin (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15-25). He was originally created with the divine intention that he should glorify God (Isa. 43:7; Rom. 9:22-24; Eph. 1:314; Rev. 4:11), enjoy His fellowship (Gen. 3:8-9; John 14:3), and fulfill His will and purpose in the earth (Gen. 1:26-30; Col. 1:16).


We believe that by voluntary transgression man fell into sin, thus plunging the whole race into condemnation and death, so that now all mankind is born with a sin nature (Rom. 5:9-21), every man becomes a sinner in deed, thought, and motive (Rom. 3:23), and so are without excuse before God. We believe man is totally depraved, and, of himself, utterly unable to remedy his lost condition (Eph. 2:1-3, 12). SOTERIOLOGY We believe that all who receive by faith the Lord Jesus Christ are born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Eph. 2:8-9) and thereby become the children of God (John 1:12); that they are thereafter indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9) who makes possible a life of personal holiness and a walk of obedience to the will of God (Gal. 5:16); that all who are truly born again are "kept by the power of God" (John 10:27-30) and are, therefore incapable of losing their salvation. ECCLESIOLOGY We believe that the local church is a body of believers organized for worship, work, and fellowship (Acts 2:41-47); that the two ordinances of the church are baptism (immersion), and the Lord's Supper (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:3-5; I Cor. 11:23-31); that the local church is an independent and self-governing body responsible alone to Christ who is its Saviour and Lord (Eph. 1:22-23). ESCHATOLOGY We believe in the pretribulation return of Christ for His Bride (Eph. 5:26-27; I Thess. 4:13-18), and in the premillennial return of Christ with His Bride to establish His reign upon the throne of David (Rev. 19:1-20:6). We believe in the ultimate fulfillment of the promises made to the physical nation of Israel: both of the purging climaxed in the Great Tribulation (Dan. 9:24-27), and of the blessing consummated in the Millennium (Zech. 14:1-11). We believe in the bodily resurrection of all men, the saved to life eternal, and the unsaved, after the Millennium, to judgment at the Great White Throne and everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; I Cor. 15:51-58; Rev. 20:4-6, 11-15).


ATTACHMENT B STANDARD OF CHARACTER AND CONDUCT In the area of moral/ethical or spiritual development, First Baptist Church of Anytown recognizes the freedom of each individual to develop under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. However, it must also be noted that each member should be growing in a manner that is consistent with the biblical pattern for a disciple of Jesus Christ, and that he is viewed by the community as a representative of this church and of Christ Himself. (II Cor. 5:20) Thus, it is essential that each exemplify a spirit-controlled life in public and in private, conforming to the highest standards of conduct. Standards of behavior for the believer are based on the Bible and are divided into at least four categories: (1) those things that are commanded for every believer; (2) those things that are expressly forbidden by Scripture; (3) those things that are seen to be inconsistent with a Christian lifestyle based on biblical principles; and, (4) those things that are neutral, and a matter of individual conscience. 1) It is always right to love the brethren (John 13:35), to assemble for worship and fellowship (Heb. 10:25), to strive for the unity of the body (Eph. 4:1-3), to develop personal disciplines that will result in spiritual growth (II Peter 1:2-8), and to maintain the biblical pattern for marriage and family (Mal. 2:14-16, Eph. 5:22-6:4). 2) It is always sin to practice all forms of immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings (Gal. 5:19-21). Christians must not be fornicators, nor idolaters, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, nor swindlers (I Cor. 6:9-10). Such conduct would necessitate disciplinary action by the church body. 3) An honest study of God's Word in the light of our culture leads to the conclusion that social dancing and gambling, as well as the use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and the distribution, sale, possession and misuse of non-prescribed drugs are not consistent with a spirit-controlled life. It is expected that Christian responsibility will be exercised in the choice of entertainment in television, music, radio, movies, theater, and reading matter.


4) In areas that are not issues of right and wrong, each believer needs to be sensitive to the manner in which the Holy Spirit would apply appropriate passages of Scripture to his own life (note Rom. 14, I Cor. 8-10). As we are entered into a covenant relationship with each other, then, we ought to have a growing desire, by the aid of the Holy Spirit: To strive for advancement in God's knowledge (II Peter 3:18), holiness (I Peter 1:16), and spiritual growth (Eph. 5:14-21); To support the Church in its worship, teaching, discipline, government, and observance of the ordinances, which are believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper; To submit 13:17); to those who have oversight of the body (Heb.

To participate cheerfully and regularly in the financial support of the ministry and the obligations of the Church; To walk together and to watch over one another in Christian love (I John 3:14); To uphold one another in prayer and to aid each other during sickness and distress; To cultivate a fellowship of Christian sympathy, slowness in taking offense and readiness in seeking reconciliation; To maintain family and private prayer and study in the Scripture, and to train our children to revere and seek His will for their lives through instructing and encouraging them in the Scriptures; To seek the salvation of family, relatives, and acquaintances; and actively to participate in the Church's ministry of spreading the Good News (Gospel) through all nations; To walk uprightly within our world as a Christian example; To seek to understand and to exercise our spiritual gift(s) and to participate actively as an important member of this local church; and To study the Scriptures and seek to understand, support, and follow the Church's "Doctrinal Statement."


ATTACHMENT C DISCIPLINE OF MEMBERS Members of this body shall be lovingly disciplined with restorative grace according to the following policies and procedures: a. Foundation for discipline: It is vital to the testimony of this church and the glory of our Lord that true fellowship with Christ and with fellow members be maintained by all, that the wounded be restored to fellowship and usefulness, and that the purity of this church be preserved and its peace protected. With these ends in view, we accept the responsibility and authority for church discipline on the following basis: 1. Delegation: Christ has specifically charged the local church with the responsibility and authority for discipline in Matthew 18:18-20, which responsibility is mandated by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 5:12. 2. Accountability: each member in the local church becomes accountable to the body in matters of discipline (I Cor. 5:3-5). 3. Responsibility: each member in the local church becomes responsible for his fellow-member, bearing his burdens and watching over him in humility and love (Gal. 6:1-2). 4. Reputation: Christ has placed the reputation, not only of the Church, but of Himself in the hands of the local church, and it must be preserved blameless before the world (I Cor. 5:6-7, 12:12. II Cor. 5:20). b. Occasions for discipline: 1. Inactivity: A member who absents himself will be deemed inactive; 2. Private Offenses: Matthew 18:15-17. 3. Public Offenses: a) Immorality: I Corinthians 5:1-5, 6:9, Galatians 5:19; b) Disorderliness: II Thessalonians 3:6-15, I Corinthians 6:10, Galatians 5:20-21; c) Dissension in the Body: Romans 16:17-18, Galatians 5:20; d) False Teaching: Titus 3:10. c. Procedure in Discipline: 1. Inactivity a) It shall be the duty of the Board of Deacons to maintain and provide the Clerk with a roll of inactive


members, resident and non-resident. A member who absents himself for six months from the church and fails to function as prescribed in Article A, Section 4 - Responsibilities of Members, without indication of intent to remain active, shall be deemed inactive and, therefore, transferred from the active roll by the action of the Board of Deacons. The Board shall inform persons immediately after being placed on the inactive list. No inactive member shall be permitted to vote or hold office. The Board of Deacons may, in their judgment, restore any name to the active roll. b) A member may remain on the inactive roll for an indefinite period. Consistent efforts should be made to encourage a renewed commitment to the body, or if it is not likely that the individual's needs will be met in this body, to encourage him to commit himself to another body of like faith and practice. 2. Private Offenses: Matthew 18:15-20 a) When offense is given to one member of the church by the language or conduct of another, if the offense relates only to himself and is known to no one else, the offended shall, without consulting or informing anyone else, seek to make an appointment privately with the offender with an honest view to reconciling the difficulty. b) If the matter is not reconciled in private, the individual offended shall go with one or two witnesses (Pastor or Deacons) for the purpose of reconciliation. c) If the matter is not resolved by the above informal means, charges shall be presented in writing to a duly called business meeting. If the offending party refuses to repent and make restitution as appropriate, or if the church body is unable to resolve the conflict, the services of the Christian Conciliation Service shall be sought. As a final resort, the offending member shall be placed under discipline and excluded from fellowship, by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. d) Repentance, a request for forgiveness in the presence of the largest group concerned with the offense, reconciliation and restitution at any point shall end disciplinary action in a private offense, except for a plan for restoration as needed under the direction of the Board of Deacons.

3. Public Offenses: Matthew 18:15-20, I Corinthians 5:1-13


a) If a member has personal knowledge of another member who has fallen into a serious "public offense" or if common rumor charges such a serious offense against a member, it shall be the duty of the member hearing it to visit the accused and inform him of the reports (Gal. 6:1). As an alternate procedure, that member can disclose what he knows to the Pastor or to a member of the Board of Deacons who would then visit the accused. If the accused member shall acknowledge the charges as true, and shall repent, no further action shall be taken except for a corrective plan under the direction of the Board of Deacons, to restore the individual to fellowship, holiness and usefulness. b) If the charges, after the most judicious investigation, are deemed correct, the accused shall be asked to meet with the Pastor and Deacons to address the charges against him and to speak in his own defense. c) If repentance is not obtained through these informal proceedings, formal charges shall be preferred, in writing, before the body in a duly called business meeting. The charges shall be read in the hearing of the accused, and he shall have opportunity to give his defense. If the accused member fails to give satisfaction to the church in relation to the charges, or perversely refuses to appear before the church when cited, action shall be introduced to declare the individual under discipline. A two-thirds majority of those present and voting shall be required for such action. If the member shows true repentance at this or any point in the proceedings, he shall be urged to remain in the body, to attend services, and shall be placed under a plan of restoration to be administered by the Board of Deacons. Such a plan would include, but not be limited to, such things as resignation, if necessary, from offices held; professional counseling, if indicated; regular Bible study and prayer with a mentor assigned by the Board of Deacons. The purpose of such a plan would be to restore the individual to fellowship, godliness, and usefulness as soon as possible. Progress would be monitored by the Board every three months. d) A member declared under discipline shall be excluded from all acts of fellowship, individual and corporate (I Cor. 5:9-11, II Thess 3:14-15). Such a person may be restored to fellowship when true repentance is evidenced, forgiveness is requested in the presence of the largest group concerned with the offense, and he is


willing to accept a plan of restoration administered by the Board of Deacons. 4. General Controls: a) A person under discipline shall be encouraged to remain in the membership in order to allow the body to minister to and restore him. b) No non-member shall participate in any meeting called for the purpose of disciplinary action as a witness or observer, except by consent of a three-fourths majority of those present and voting. c) If a charge is brought against an absent member, no disciplinary action shall be taken at the same meeting during which charges are preferred against him.



INTRODUCTION The following manual will serve as a resource for the Board of Deacons in restoring members of the body who have come under formal or informal disciplinary action. It is organized into units of study which are intended to provide four sessions on each of the various topics. Units 1 through 4 are required units, basic to every Christian, and would apply to all restorative situations. Elective topics would relate to specific problem areas, and would be selected for a particular plan of restoration, based on their applicability to the particular needs of the individual. OVERSIGHT The Board of Deacons has been given responsibility and authority to oversee all plans for restoration of members of this body. It shall be their responsibility to appoint a mentor for each member under discipline. The Board shall review and approve the specific plan for restoration, including the timeline and selection of specific units of study, and shall review progress at least every three months. When the plan of restoration is successfully completed, the Board shall issue a statement releasing the member from restorative status and restoring him/her to good standing. REQUIRED UNITS Required units for everyone entering a restoration process, whether as a result of formal disciplinary action or not, shall include the following: 1. EVALUATION 2. DECISION-MAKING 3. RESPONSIBILITY 4. SPIRITUAL CHARACTER


UNIT I: EVALUATION AIM The aim of this unit is to assess, with the counsellee, strengths, weaknesses and areas of vulnerability, with a view to a return to spiritual health, fellowship and ministry. KEY PASSAGE "For you were once darkness, but now you are Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth> what pleases the Lord." 5:8-10 RESOURCES Resources for this unit will include Chapters 13 & 28 of How to Help a Friend, by Paul Welter.1 Much of the unit will utilize biographical data from the counsellee. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on developing a biographical profile of the counsellee. Particular emphasis will be placed on relationships and decision-making. 2. Session 2 will focus on developing a spiritual profile of the counsellee. 3. Session 3 will focus on the administration of the "Checklist for Discovering Strong and Weak Living Channels."2 This information will be discussed briefly at this point, but will be utilized more fully in Unit 2. 4. Session 4 will focus on the administration "Checklist for Discovering Learning Channels."3 PROJECTS Begin to keep a simple diary, noting decision-making process (strong and weak channels,) and learning channels. ____________


light in the of the light and find out -Ephesians




Welter, How to Help a Publishers, Inc., 1978).





2 3

Ibid., 94-95. Ibid., 191.


UNIT 2: DECISION-MAKING AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in understanding strengths and weaknesses in his decision-making processes, in order to develop a more constructive pattern. KEY PASSAGE "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." -Matthew 6:33 RESOURCES Resources for this unit will include chapters 14-26 of How to Help a Friend, by Paul Welter,4 and the diary information on decision-making from Unit 1. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the role of the "feeling channel"5 in decision-making, assisting the counsellee in evaluating the relative strength of this component of life. 2. Session 2 will focus on the role of the "thinking channel"6 in decision-making, assisting the counsellee in evaluating the relative strength of this component of life. 3. Session 3 will focus on the role of the "choosing channel"7 in decision-making, assisting the counsellee in evaluating the relative strength of this component of life. 4. Session 4 will focus on the role of the "doing channel"8 in decision-making, assisting the counsellee in evaluating the relative strength of this component of life. PROJECTS Continue to keep the diary of decision-making, evaluating more specifically strong and weak channels. ____________

4 5 6 7 8

Ibid. Ibid., 97-120. Ibid., 121-138. Ibid., pp. 139-164. Ibid., pp. 165-182.


UNIT 3: RESPONSIBILITY AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in assuming responsibility for his own decisions and their consequences. The issue will be examined positively and negatively. KEY PASSAGE "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin---because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." -Romans 6:6-7 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a number of biblical passages. These passages will include portions of the account of the life of King Saul, the Pauline Epistles, and James. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the fallacy of holding circumstances responsible for faulty decisions. Primary passage is I Samuel 13:1-14. 2. Session 2 will focus on the fallacy of holding other people responsible for faulty decisions. Primary passage is I Samuel 15:1-22. 3. Session 3 will focus on the fallacy of holding God responsible for faulty decisions. Primary passage is James 1:1315. 4. Session 4 will focus on the strong biblical teaching of personal responsibility for decisions and their consequences. Numerous imperatives from the Pauline Epistles will be examined, including Ephesians 4:17-32, Colossians 3:1-17. PROJECTS Develop a profile of King Saul (I Samuel 13-15) and Samson (Judges 13-16) as decision-makers. Contrast findings with Psalm 51.


UNIT 4: SPIRITUAL CHARACTER AIM The aim of this unit is to ensure that the counsellee has a basic understanding of the spiritual character that should be evident in his life. KEY PASSAGE "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." -Galatians 5:22-23 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from Matthew 5:312, and Galatians 5:22-23. Additional resource for the Galatians passage is the Fruit of the Spirit workbook by Larry Richards.9 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the correlation between "The Beatitudes" and the "Fruit of the Spirit," suggesting nine parallel characteristics as an outline for Christian character. 2. Session 2 will focus on the attributes of "love." "joy" and "peace." Particular attention will be given to distinguishing spiritual characteristics from emotional responses. 3. Session 3 will focus on the attributes of "patience," "kindness" and "goodness." Particular attention will be given to these attributes as "required," not "options." 4. Session 4 will focus on the attributes of "faithfulness," "gentleness and "self-control." Particular attention will be given to these attributes as the work of the Spirit, not man. PROJECTS The counsellee will choose one or more attributes that are deficient in his life and develop a biblical word study of them. ____________


Larry Richards and Norm Wakefield, Fruit of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).


UNIT 5: ACCOUNTABILITY AIM The aim of this unit is to consider, with the counsellee, the levels of accountability developed in Scripture, and assist him in building a new framework of accountability into his life. KEY PASSAGE "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." -I Corinthians 6:19-20 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical scriptural study of accountability, including an analysis of the limitations of personal freedom. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the broad biblical accountability to God, beginning with Genesis 3 - The Fall. The fallacies and tragedies of human autonomy will be considered. 2. Session 2 will focus on the biblical principle of accountability to family, examining Old Testament family patterns, and passages such as I Timothy 5:7-8, Proverbs 6:2023. 3. Session 3 will focus on the accountability that exists between the individual and the body of Christ. Passages include Matthew 18:15-20, I Corinthians 5-6, Galatians 6:1-10. 4. Session 4 will focus on the accountability every believer has to the world and its authorities. Passages include Romans 13 and I Peter 2:11-21; 3:8-18. PROJBCTS The counsellee will chart the strength and weakness of his accountability in the above four areas over the past year.


UNIT 6: CONSEQUENCES AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in understanding the distinction between forgiveness of wrongdoing, and the attendant consequences of wrong-doing. KEY PASSAGE "Then David said to Nathan. 'I have sinned against the Lord.' Nathan replied, 'The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die. `" -II Samuel 12:13-14 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from scriptural instances in which the consequences of sin are clearly seen. These will include experiences of Adam, David and the Apostle Paul. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on a topical study of scripture which defines guilt and forgiveness as opposed to natural consequences of sin in the life of the believer. 2. Session 2 will focus on the experience of Adam following the Fall, obviously forgiven (evidenced by the blood sacrifice) yet suffering the awesome consequences of sin. 3. Session 3 will focus on the forgiveness of David following his sin with Bathsheba, and on the enduring consequences of his sin. 4. Session 4 will focus on the sin of Paul in persecuting the church, and on the continuing consequences of that sin, emotionally and relationally. PROJECTS The counsellee will list the accomplishments of forgiveness in his own life, along with the consequences of sin that remain.


UNIT 7: SELF IMAGE AIM The aim of this unit is to examine biblical teaching concerning the believer's self image, to aid the counsellee in building a foundation for growth through an improved self image. KEY PASSAGE "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; . . . All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." -Psalm 139:13-16 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of scripture, supplemented with information from Be What You Are by Warren Wiersbe,10 and Self Esteem by Ray Burwick.11 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will deal with the distinction between positive self image and spiritual pride. The emphasis will be put on the possible peaceful coexistence of humility and self esteem. 2. Session 2 will deal with the biblical basis for evaluating self worth. Contrast will be drawn with the normal criteria for self worth promoted by our society. 3. Session 3 will deal with understanding physical and emotional characteristics that are beyond the individual's control in light of the sovereignty of God. 4. Session 4 will deal with positive steps that can be taken to improve self image. The problem of evaluating messages received from self and others will be examined. PROJECTS The counsellee will begin a scripture memorization project. using selected verses that answer the question, "Who am I?" ____________


Warren W. Wiersbe, Be What You Are (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988). Ray Burwick, Self Esteem (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1983).



UNIT 8: RENEWING THE MIND AIM The aim of this unit is to examine biblical teaching about the mind: its pollution, cleansing and development, in order to assist the counsellee in developing a renewed mind. KEY PASSAGE "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12:1-2 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of scripture, especially developing Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8, II Corinthians 10:5. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the mind as Satan's workshop, considering the relationship found in several passages from II Corinthians between the works of Satan and the mind of the believer. 2. Session 2 will focus on the implications of the command to renew the mind in Romans 12:2 as a prerequisite of the transformed life which makes the will of God a reality. 3. Session 3 will focus on the mind: master or servant, from the study of II Corinthians 10:5. The process involved in submitting every thought to Christ will be developed. 4. Session 4 will focus on the criteria in Philippians 4:8 for thoughts worthy of admittance to the Christian mind. Ways for dealing with thoughts that miss those standards will be given. PROJECTS The counsellee will be asked to keep a private "thought evaluation," estimating the proportion of "renewed" thoughttime.


UNIT 9: A CLEAR CONSCIENCE AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in assessing the condition of his own conscience relative to vertical and horizontal relationships, in order to work toward a clear conscience. KEY PASSAGE "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. . . . You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." -Hebrews 5:11-14 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from the "Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts,"12 and from topical studies of related scripture portions. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the imperative of a clear conscience, establishing a working definition and considering the prominent place given to a clear conscience in scripture. 2. Session 2 will focus on rationalizations which hinder a clear conscience, considering numerous "natural" responses that stand in the way of spiritual progress. 3. Session 3 will focus on steps toward gaining a clear conscience, dealing with the process outlined in scripture. Consideration will be given to some cautions to be observed. 4. Session 4 will focus on an illustration of this process as seen in David's response to his sin. Psalm 51 will be examined in detail. PROJECTS The counsellee will concentrate on formulating a list of individuals and specific offenses to be dealt with to clear his conscience. ____________


Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, A Clear Conscience (Oak Brook, IL: Campus Teams, Inc., 1969), 1-31.


UNIT 10: THE TONGUE AIM The aim of this unit is to examine the biblical teaching concerning the tongue in order to assist the counsellee in developing personal control of his tongue. KEY PASSAGE "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -Colossians 3:17 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of scripture with the focus on James 3, I Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 4:17- 32, II Timothy 3:1-5, Titus 3:9-11. SESSIONS I. Session I will focus on the great power of the tonguefor good and evil, examining in detail the strong statement of James 3:1-12. 2. Session 2 will focus on the passages that establish gossip, divisive speech, etc., as basis for disciplinary action, and explore the reasons such sins are viewed so strongly. 3. Session 3 will examine some of the disciplines necessarily involved in bringing the tongue under control, making it an instrument of praise. 4. Session 4 will examine case studies of the damage done in contemporary churches by the misuse of the tongue, in contrast to the often lesser damage from what are considered "major" sins. PROJECTS The counsellee will develop a "tally sheet" listing the credits and debits created by his tongue over the past six months.


UNIT 11: FINANCIAL FREEDOM AIM The aim of this unit is to consider biblical principles relating to personal finances, endeavoring to develop a personal philosophy and practice in finances that will bring financial freedom. KEY PASSAGE "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of Scripture, from Money Matters by R. C. Sproul, Jr.,13 and from Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn.14 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the issues of ownership and stewardship - in its broader sense. The counsellee will be challenged to transfer all "title" to Christ. 2. Session 2 will focus on the issue of debt growing out of Romans 13:8. Several definitions of the meaning of a "debtfree" lifestyle will be explored. 3. Session 3 will focus on the issue of giving - in the broad sense of general generosity. The attitude will be considered as well as attendant conduct. 4. Session 4 will focus on the issues of biblical promises of provision, and contemporary lifestyle expectations (with perceived financial rights). Contradictions will be explored. PROJECTS The counsellee will be asked to evaluate his personal finances for the past three months by the above principles. ____________



C. Sproul, Jr., Money Publishers, Inc., 1985}.






Randy C. Alcorn, Money, Possessions and Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989}.




UNIT 12: BUSINESS ETHICS AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in developing a biblical framework for business ethics, in order to bring personal practice in line with Scripture. KEY PASSAGE "A good name is more desirable than great riches: to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn primarily from the book of Proverbs, with passages from several Old Testament prophets, demonstrating how strongly God feels about business practice. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on biblical teaching concerning "just weights" and "just measures," making application to contemporary business practice. 2. Session 2 will focus on biblical teaching concerning giving and using credit, with consideration of such issues as co-signing, usury and collection practices. 3. Session 3 will focus on biblical teaching concerning "get-rich-quick" schemes, with particular consideration of the basic motive that makes them attractive - greed. 4. Session 4 will focus on miscellaneous issues related to business ethics, including the "work ethic," the tendency in our society to resolve all disputes with litigation, etc. PROJECTS The counsellee will be asked to formulate and write out his philosophy of business, including purpose, goals and methods.


UNIT 13: MORAL PURITY AIM The aim of this unit is to consider the biblical mandate of moral purity, considering underlying causes and processes leading to impurity with a view to a commitment to purity. KEY PASSAGE "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." -Philippians 4:8-9 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of scripture, as well as Sensuality, a booklet by Charles Swindoll15 and Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution by Alcorn.16 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the biblical scope of moral purity, examining the implications for thoughts, imaginations, habits, conduct, recreation and amusements. 2. Session 2 will focus on the issue of lust: its germination, growth and fruit from James 1:14-15. The relation of lust to action will be examined from Matthew 5:21-30. 3. Session 3 will focus on the demands of moral purity in relationships, using the counsel of I Thessalonians 4:3-10, I Timothy 5:1-2, and Titus 2:1-15. 4. Session 4 will focus on temptation: how to minimize it, recognize it, confront it and conquer it. Case studies will be the temptations of Joseph and Jesus. PROJECTS The counsellee will compile a brief personal examining the factors that made him vulnerable to lust. ____________



Charles L. Swindoll, Sensuality (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1981). Randy C. Alcorn, Christians in the Wake of the Revolution (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985). Sexual



UNIT 14: MARITAL FIDELITY AIM The aim of this unit is to study the biblical view of marital fidelity, to the end that the counsellee commits to conformity with that standard and deals with past failures to do so. KEY PASSAGE "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." -Genesis 2:24 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of scripture, as well as contemporary literature, including: True Sexuality by Ken Unger;17 The Marriage Affair, edited by J. Allan Peterson.18 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on a biblical view of marriage from Genesis 1-2, accentuating the demand for total fidelity stated as the norm throughout scripture. 2. Session 2 will focus on biblical teaching on adultery, high-lighting the seriousness with which it is viewed in scripture (especially the Mosaic Law and Proverbs). 3. Session 3 will focus on the consequences of marital infidelity, spiritually and emotionally, for the unfaithful partner and those around him. 4. Session 4 will focus on techniques for building an inviolate fidelity into a marriage, and for truly putting the failures of the past behind one. PROJECTS The Counsellee is to read The Myth of the Greener Grass,19 and list the factors that made him vulnerable to infidelity. ____________


Ken Unger, True Sexuality (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1987). J. Allan Peterson, ed., The Marriage Affair (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1971). J. Allan Peterson, The Myth of the Greener Grass (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1983).




UNIT 15: REBUILDING RELATIONSHIPS AIM The aim of this unit is to teach the counsellee biblical patterns for dealing with offenses (given and received) and rebuilding relationships, with a view to implementing those principles. KEY PASSAGE "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of scripture. as well as A Resource Manual for Rebuilders from the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.20 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the necessity of rebuilding ones relationship with Christ as a prerequisite for rebuilding any human relationship. 2. Session 2 will focus on the consequences of failure to rebuild a relationship for the counsellee, others involved in the relationship and others who observe the relationship. 3. Session 3 will focus on the goals of a rebuilder, seeing the task of a rebuilder from a broader perspective than the single issue of that relationship. 4. Session 4 will focus on the process of rebuilding a relationship, examining the roles of repentance, reconciliation, restitution and forgiveness. PROJECTS The counsellee will develop a profile of God's ideal plan for relationships in his life with the main hindrances to its realization. ____________


Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, A Resource Manual Rebuilders (Oak Brook, IL: Campus Teams, Inc., 1975).



UNIT 16: FAMILY VIOLENCE AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in breaking the cycle of violent responses in his family relationships. KEY PASSAGE "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." -Ephesians 6:4 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will included selected scripture passages relating to marriage and family relationships, emotions (especially anger), in addition to chapters in The Marriage Affair21 and The Christian Use of Emotional Power.22 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the inconsistency of family violence with the picture of husband/wife and parent/child relationships found in Ephesians 5:22-6:4. 2. Session 2 will focus on biblical discipline developed from a study of selected verses in Proverbs, Ephesians 6:4 and Hebrews 12:7-11. 3. Session 3 will focus on a biblical summary of marriage, emphasizing the words chosen to define that relationship, like 'love,' 'cherish' and 'honor.' 4. Session 4 will focus on positive use of emotions, using The Christian Use of Emotional Power as a primary guide. PROJECTS The counsellee will develop a strategy for the positive control and use of anger to break the cycle of violence. ____________

21 22

Peterson, The Marriage Affair. H. Norman Wright, The Christian Use of Emotional Power (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1974).


UNIT 17: INCEST AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counsellee in breaking incestuous patterns of relationship with members of his family. KEY PASSAGE "No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord. . . Everyone who does any of these detestable things--such persons must be cut off from their people." -Leviticus 18:6, 29 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will include biblical data, especially from the Old Testament Law, with selected passages from True Sexuality23 and Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution.24 SESSIONS 1. Session I will examine the Old Testament Law as it relates to incestuous relationships, listing those relationships that are prohibited. 2. Session 2 will examine biblical examples of incestuous relationships and their consequences, including Lot and his daughters, Amnon and Tamar and the man in I Corinthians 5. 3. Session 3 will pursue the factors in the counsellee's background that made him vulnerable to such a relationship. 4. Session 4 will develop spiritual resources that will enable the counsellee to avoid continuation of such relationships. PROJECTS The counsellee will develop a detailed case study of the relationship between Amnon and Tamar from II Samuel 13 with particular focus on the causes, consequences and possible steps for avoidance. ____________

23 24

Unger. Alcorn, Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution.


UNIT 18: HOMOSEXUALITY AIM The aim of this unit is to examine the biblical perspective on homosexuality to assist the counsellee in developing biblical character and conduct in the area of sexuality. KEY PASSAGE "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." -Romans 1:26-27 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from biblical passages dealing with human sexuality generally, and homosexuality specifically in addition to Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution25 and True Sexuality.26 SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will explore a biblical view of human sexuality, beginning with the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2. 2. Session 2 will closely examine biblical statements regarding homosexuality, especially in the Old Testament Law, in Romans 1 and in lists of prohibited conduct in the Epistles. 3. Session 3 will examine the contemporary view "alternative lifestyle" in the light of biblical teaching. of

4. Session 4 will explore spiritual resources available to the person committed to breaking free of the bondage of homosexuality. PROJECTS The counselee shall examine the factors which have led him to pursue homosexual conduct and prepare a plan of action to counteract them. ____________

25 26

Ibid. Unger.


UNIT 19: SPIRITUAL MINISTRY AIM The aim of this unit is to examine biblical teaching concerning spiritual ministry in order to acquaint the counselee with the impact of his decisions on ministry opportunities. KEY PASSAGE "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." -I Corinthians 9:24-27 RESOURCES The resources for this unit will be drawn from a topical study of relevant scripture, including portions of the pastoral epistles and Old Testament qualifications for the priesthood. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will focus on the general area of spiritual ministry, examining giftedness, the commission of all believers to ministry, and the privilege of ambassadorship. 2. Session 2 will focus on the Old Testament standards for spiritual ministry as they applied to the priesthood, developing ministry as the representation of the holiness of God. 3. Session 3 will focus on the New Testament qualifications for certain ministries, developing what they say - and what they do not say - about opportunities for ministry. 4. Session 4 will trace the failures and ministries of several biblical individuals, demonstrating the impact of failure on ministry, and the possibility of ministry beyond failure. PROJECTS The counselee will formulate his desires for ministry, and think through the impact of his choices on that ministry.


UNIT 20: DIVISIVENESS AIM The aim of this unit is to assist the counselee in perceiving divisive teaching and behavior as a major problem and to take steps to change patterns and reactions that create division. KEY PASSAGE "1 urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." -Romans 16:17-18 RESOURCES Resources for this unit will include passages relating to the unity of the body of Christ including John 17, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and Romans 16. Some attention will also be given to passages on Christian liberty, including Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8-10. SESSIONS 1. Session 1 will examine the nature of the unity of the church from John 17, with attention to the unity within the Trinity after which it is modeled. 2. Session 2 will examine the priority placed on the unity of the church from Ephesians 4:1-6. 3. Session 3 will examine the seriousness of causing division in the church from Romans 16, examining the reasons for the disciplinary response it demands. 4. Session 4 will examine ways to change from an agent of division into an agent of unity in the church. PROJECTS The counselee will trace the consequences of his divisive actions or teachings in the life of the church, in its reputation in the community, in its ministry and in the lives of individuals.



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