A membership covenant is a set of promises members make, committing to one another. Christians are beneficiaries of God’s covenant (Gen. 3:15, 15:1-17; Ex. 19:5-6; Luke 22:19-20).
Our covenant is a tangible, loving commitment to one another in submission to God’s Word.
1) I promise to submit to the Bible, and the truths it contains, in all areas of my life (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Deuteronomy 6:5, 17-18).
2) I promise to participate regularly in the life and function of this local church (Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:23-25; Titus 3:14).
3) I promise to read the Bible, pray, and assemble with this household of faith (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Matthew 22:37-40).
4) I promise to serve others rather than expecting others to satisfy my preferences (Philippians 2:3-8).
5) I promise to lead my family in healthy membership practices (Genesis 2:24; Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 5:22-26, 32-33; Ephesians 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 7:14).
6) I promise to cheerfully and willingly give all that I am able to the work of God through this church (Matthew 25:14-30; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
7) I promise to strive towards a life of holiness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness (1 Peter 1:13-16, 4:1-3).
8) I promise to submit to and participate in biblical discipline and accountability (Psalm 141:5; Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Hebrews 12:5-11).
9) I promise to honor my covenant with the other members of FBC Diana (Titus 3:1-11; Joshua 1:6-9; Philippians 4:13).
At FBC Diana, we have something called the “membership covenant.” So far as records show, this church has never been without a membership covenant. There was one in the constitution when I arrived as pastor in 2014, and our earliest known membership and meeting records (from the 1940s) include one as well.
The content below will (1) provide an introductory definition of what a membership covenant is and (2) argue that having a formal membership covenant is both biblical and helpful.
1 Timothy 3:14–15 says, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
1. The Bible intends to instruct church members
These two verses above are part of a short letter from Paul (who was a missionary Apostle) to Timothy (who was a pastor of an unhealthy church in Ephesus). The whole letter is full of church rules and order, and Paul tells Timothy why he wrote all that stuff right here in the middle of these two verses.
Look at it closely: Paul said, “I am writing these things [i.e. this letter on church rules and structure] so that... you may know how one [i.e. each church member] ought to behave in the household of God [i.e. what they are to do and not do], which is the church of the living God [in other words, God owns this assembly of His saints, and He gets to make all the rules]...”
Simply put, Paul’s words here make plain what is implied in many other passages of the Bible. God intends to instruct church members on what they can and cannot do – what they should and should not do, what they must and must not do – and God has given us this instruction in His written word.
2. A Membership Covenant helps us by summarizing the Bible
Since the Bible intends to instruct church members on how to behave, our goal must be to “do church” in the way the Bible tells us to do it. But that means we’ve got a lot of homework to do!
The Bible has much to say about each of these questions, and we are responsible to do our homework, to find out what it says.
There are many subjects that will require diligent study and thoughtful application, but there are also quite a few readily accessible instructions in the Bible for how church members are to behave.
A membership covenant (if it’s a good one) seeks to summarize some of the most basic and plain instructions from the Bible. That’s what it effectually is – a summary of basic and plain biblical commands.
We can see a descent example of this in our own membership covenant.
We promise to submit to the Bible, and the truths it contains, in all areas of our lives because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [so] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
We promise to participate regularly in the life and function of this local church because we are commanded to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together... encouraging one another... as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).
We promise to submit to and participate in biblical discipline and accountability because Jesus clearly commands us to do so (Matt. 18:15-20), and we even have examples in the Bible about how to do it (1 Cor. 5:9-13).
A membership covenant is biblical, because it’s a summary of behavioral instructions we find in the Bible. And it’s also quite helpful because it summarizes the most basic aspects of how we are to behave as church members.
I’m so glad we have a membership covenant. I’m happier still that God gave us instructions on how to behave as a church. We don’t have to figure this thing out on our own. Instead, we simply follow God’s instructions in the Bible.
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