If you’re like me you cringe when things feel overly or pointlessly formal. But, over the years, I’ve learned to see that things can be formal AND joyful at the same time (the most obvious example would be a wedding). I never expected it, but one of my favorite things about an annual church meeting is reading the church covenant together out-loud, in unison. Why? What’s so great about a church covenant, much less reading it in unison with other church members?
The simple answer is that a church covenant summarizes what the Bible tells us about how we’re meant to live and worship with one another. Statements of faith tell people what we believe. Church Covenants tell people how we want to live. And the Bible does make a pretty big deal about how we live.
James 1:26-27, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
1 John 2:3-6, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
So, the purpose of a church covenant isn’t to “hold something over our heads”. It’s not a contract where one party stops abiding by the terms just because the other party failed in some way. Rather, it summarizes what the Bible says about Christian life within the church, tells the world how we want to live, and reminds us to patiently persevere with each other, seek forgiveness when we fall short, and enjoy the holiness that God has granted us by faith.
If you’re still interested, here’s a sample from our membership class on the church covenant, followed by a “Read-Aloud” Version of the Discovery Church Membership Covenant.
Defining a Covenant:
A covenant is an attempt to summarize how the Bible wants us to live and worship with each other.
It is a sign of commitment to God, and the church and to pursue biblical holiness for your self.
A guard against creating our own personal standards for life together as we seek to submit to the biblical standard for life together.
Summary of Content:
This covenant is for born-again believers who have been baptized after their decision to follow Jesus (pts 1-3)
This covenant expresses:
A commitment to submit to the authority of Jesus as revealed in His Word, the Scriptures (pts 1-3)
The necessity of depending on the power of God to be fulfilled and kept (pt. 4, 8, Galatians 5:19-26)
The necessity to actively pursue personal holiness, purity and growth in Christian maturity (pts. 5, 10, 12, 1 Peter 1:13-16, 4:1-3)
A receptivity to Biblically appointed spiritual oversight, and receptivity to correction from other believers
A commitment to minister to others with the power, gifts, and resources that God supplies, not neglecting regular fellowship and worship
DISCOVERY CHURCH COVENANT: READ-ALOUD VERSION
Our God has mercifully and sovereignly given us salvation and provided all the grace for us to repent from our sins, believe in Him and follow Him, through the Lord Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for all our sin by His death on the cross.
Having been baptized as believers in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that we might publicly identify with our Lord Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection, and having been led by the Spirit of God we do joyfully and willingly renew our covenant with each other.
We will worship God together regularly, share in the remembrance and proclamation of the Lord’s Supper, strive for spiritual growth, use our gifts to serve the Lord Jesus, share our faith with others and walk by the Spirit for fruitfulness in all our activities and relationships.
We accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the final authority in all matters of faith and practice and will submit to the Scriptures in all things.
By God’s grace we will walk in holiness, strive to show love, do good to others, put our sin to death, pursue purity, honor marriage, be faithful in all our relationships, honor authorities, be good citizens, refrain from drunkenness, gossip and other sinful behaviors that harm our fellowship with the Lord and each other.
We will honor and submit to our pastors as the Lord’s under-shepherds and diligently strive for unity and peace with each other.
We will receive correction from the Lord and his people as a sign of love. When we sin we will confess it to God and others, seeking repentance and help from God that we might put our sin to death.
When we must confront sin we will obey the Lord’s standards and work for reconciliation. We will give our tithes and offerings to the Lord and His work with a thankful heart as good stewards of God’s many gifts.
We will read God’s word, pray, gather for worship, fellowship with believers, and serve others regularly as a happy participant in the life of Discovery Church.
All these blessings are God’s grace. In Christ and in Christ alone we stand. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.