For many years now BBC has had a church covenant, a document outlining the biblical principles of behaviour expected from members of the church. Each member of the church is required to sign a church covenant, thereby committing themselves before God and the local church to live according to the principles outlined in the covenant. Further, by signing the covenant each member asks the church to help hold them accountable to live in accordance with their commitment.
The issue of a church covenant can be contentious. Some have been quick to point out that formal covenants are nowhere to be found in Scripture. Jesus, for example, did not have each of the Twelve sign a piece of paper before calling them to follow Him.
Whilst it is true that the practice of signing a church covenant is not clearly shown in Scripture, the principle of submission to a particular local church and the God-ordained leaders of that church is quite plain. A church covenant simply crystallises in short the type of behaviour that the church (under Christ) expects from each of its members.
Matt Shmucker from the 9Marks ministry has offered a helpful summary of what a church covenant is. He argues that a church covenant can be described in at least five different ways:
- A church covenant is a promise made to God, to a local church, and to one’s self.
- A church covenant is a summary of how we agree to live. While our statement of faith is a good summary of what we believe, our church covenant is a summary of how we agree to live. More importantly, it is a summary of how God would have us live. It does not include every explicit command regarding obedience, but it does give a general summary of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.
- A church covenant is a sign of commitment to God, to His church, and to personal holiness.
- A church covenant is an ethical statement. Historian Charles W. DeWeese writes, “A church covenant is a series of written pledges based on the Bible which church members voluntarily make to God and to one another regarding their basic moral and spiritual commitments and the practice of their faith” (Baptist Church Covenants, p. viii). One theologian calls church covenants the “ethical counterpart to confessions of faith.” A church covenant can be an important part of applying a Christian worldview to every aspect of our lives. Inherent in the purpose of a church covenant is the understanding that church membership involves being held accountable to live in a manner consistent with a common understanding of Scripture.
- A church covenant is a biblical standard. A church covenant is helpful in a church that is practicing Biblical church discipline. As members of a church, we exhort one another to live holy lives, and we challenge brothers and sisters persisting in sin.
The church covenant at BBC has undergone several revisions since it was first instituted. In 2007 it was completely revamped as we adopted what we believe to be a better-worded covenant than our initial one. As it currently stands, the covenant of Brackenhurst Baptist Church reads as follows:
Having been brought, we trust, by the Spirit of God to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and to give up ourselves to Him; and having been baptised upon our profession of faith, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we now, relying on His gracious aid, in the presence of God, the angels and this assembly, do solemnly and joyfully renew our covenant with each other.
- We will work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- We will walk together in brotherly love, desiring to exercise an affectionate care and prayerful watchfulness over each other, faithfully admonishing and entreating one another as occasion may require; seeking to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportments; strive to avoid anything that could bring unwarranted harm to the Body or jeopardise our own or the faith of another.
- We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, eager to make productive use of the means of grace.
- We will endeavour to bring up such as may at any time be under our care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example to seek the salvation of our family and friends.
- We will rejoice at each other’s happiness and endeavour with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.
- We will seek, by Divine aid, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, remembering that, as we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave, so there is on us a special obligation now to lead a new and holy life.
- We will work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines. We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.
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.