Regarding my post on what future pastors should be asking a prospective church, a reader e-mailed me to ask what a church covenant is. I thought it a worthy question to answer via a post – as there inevitably are some who have the same question. This is my nuanced definition:
A church covenant is a bi-lateral agreement between members in a church that enumerates rules, exhorts to positive sanctification, warns of church admonitions if one fails to pursue the promises made, and is the result of God’s uni-lateral covenant with man.
This last point I think is particularly important as there are so many groups of people that form around a certain sports team, political bent, or hobby. A church comes into being, first because God has extended his grace to save people. They have been bought with Christ’s blood and they are not their own, but they belong to God. Essentially, then, a covenant is a human imperative based upon a divine indicative. God has saved us, and we are, then, meant “to be what we are.”
We are God’s people, called to be holy as our Father is holy. A covenant between members is a tool used to accomplish that conformation into the holy image.
Side Note: Since a church covenant is something affirmed by all the members of a congregation, it is helpful to have the covenant read in the first person plural (“we” and “us”). This helps remind us that we are not in this race alone. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both alive and dead. Therefore, even the covenant itself is a means to sanctification.
I’ve attached a copy of my church’s covenant below to give you an idea of what a covenant actually is:
As we trust we have been brought by divine grace to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the influence of His Spirit to give ourselves up to Him, so we do most solemnly covenant with each other, that God enabling us: (John 1:11-12; Matt. 28:19-20)
We will walk together in brotherly love (John 13:34-35);
That we will exercise a Christian care and watchfulness over each other, and faithfully warn, rebuke, and admonish one another as the case shall require (2Tim 2:15; 1Cor. 5:1-2; Heb. 3:12-14);
That we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor omit the great duty of prayer both for ourselves and for others; (Heb. 10:24-25; 1Cor. 11:23-26; James 5:16)
That we will participate in each other’s joys, and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows; (Gal. 6:2; James 2:14-17)
That we will earnestly endeavor to bring up such as are or may be under our care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; (Titus 2:1-6; Deut. 6:4-7)
That we will seek divine aid to enable us to walk circumspectly and watchfully in the world, denying ungodliness and every worldly lust; (Eph. 5:15-21; 1Pet. 2:11-12; 1John 2:15-17)
That we will strive together for the support of a faithful evangelical ministry among us;(Phil. 1:27; 1Cor. 15:58)
That we will endeavor by example and effort to win souls to Christ; (Acts 1:8; Matt. 4:19; 5:12-16)
And through life amidst evil report and good report seek to live to the glory of Him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. (Col. 1:11-14; Gal. 1:1-5)