What is a covenant, and why have one for church membership? These questions are commonly asked as many churches merely require adherence to a doctrinal statement. A Covenant is intended simply as a summary of the duties and responsibilities involved in being a member of a local church and thus focuses upon conduct and appeals to certain desires. Paul commended the believers in Macedonia for first giving themselves to the Lord, and then to their fellow believers, in accordance with the will of God and this order is reflected in this family covenant. It was the belief of the church that a covenant would add depth to the meaning of true Christian fellowship and this has been borne out in experience. In addition to being used when a person enters membership, it is also read at the annual church business meeting.
As an expression of our sincere desire to walk together in the fear of the Lord and the love of Christ, we pledge ourselves, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to keep this family covenant. In it are set forth the key elements of our duty towards one another in this local church.
In the presence of God and of each other, and aware of our complete unworthiness, we give ourselves to the Lord as a church according to the apostolic pattern, that he might be our God and we his people, through the covenant of grace in which alone we hope to be accepted by him, through his blessed Son Jesus Christ. We gladly take the Lord Jesus Christ to be our High Priest to justify and sanctify us, our Prophet to teach us, and our King to rule over us. As his holy bride we desire to serve him in our generation while we wait for his second appearance as our glorious Bridegroom.
We believe that he has called us to be united together as a local church, of which he is the head, thereby glorifying him by our love and unity together, while at the same time being an effective witness in the area (John 17:20-23). We acknowledge that, as our Chief Shepherd, he has given us laws and ordinances which he requires us to conform to for our growth, establishment and comfort. Therefore we promise, as the Lord enables us, to submit to all the disciplines of Scripture which are outlined as follows:
We know that holiness of life is vital and that it is something that we strive for together (Hebrews 12:14-15; 1 Peter 1:13-22). Therefore we promise to watch over each other especially in conversation and discourage tendencies which are not appropriate to the Gospel. Holiness is not only negative in putting to death evil but positive in fulfilling the law of love (Galatians 6:2). This means we pledge ourselves to love and good works and with humility encourage each other to this end (Hebrews 10:24).
We acknowledge the great importance of prayer and especially corporate prayer. Our concern is to pray for each other, for the welfare and increase of this church, for the presence of Christ in it, and for the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, both upon the ministry and work of the church locally, and upon efforts made to further missionary endeavour.
It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of heaven (John 16:22; Acts 14:22). Therefore, we recognise that it is important for us to support each other, bearing with one another's weaknesses, failings and temptations, exercising gentleness, compassion and patience with each other. In particular, we wish to support those who suffer and together pray for and assist them in their times of trial. In order to fulfil our mutual responsibility to encourage and edify one another, we see the need to gather together regularly, and promise to make every effort to support the regular meetings of the church (Hebrews 10:25).
The history of the Church from the beginning shows that it has always been the purpose of the adversary to promote division. In light of this we observe the paramount need to keep the unity that has been given to us in Christ (Ephesians 4:3-6). This means that we will endeavour to avoid all causes of division and such people that cause division (Romans 16:17-19). Unity can be broken when error enters to divide the flock, but unity is destroyed also when believers sin against each other. We resolve therefore to maintain that principle laid down by our Lord in Matthew 18:15-17.
The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth and thus responsible for upholding, defending and making known to a dying world the glorious Gospel of God's grace with which it is entrusted (1 Timothy 3:15; Jude 3,4). It is therefore our desire, corporately and individually, to be faithful and active in the spiritual warfare for which we are equipped by Christ, making the most of opportunities to bear witness to our Lord and Saviour (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Together we own the duty of obeying those in leadership and submitting to their authority as those who watch over our souls and must give an account for their charge (Hebrews 13:17). So long as they are faithful to the Gospel and to the doctrines of grace as outlined in our constitution we covenant to be loyal to them and not forsake them, praying for them that their lives be consistent with the Gospel and that they will be able to fulfil all the duties of their calling to the glory of our Saviour. In addition we recognise the responsibility of supporting financially the work of the church and especially those set aside by the church for the work of ministry.
These and all other Gospel duties we humbly submit to. We are conscious of our weakness, but are relying on the power and strength of our great God, whose we are, and whom we desire to serve. To Him be glory now and for evermore. Amen.