An often overlooked part of most local churches is their church covenant. Every church should have a covenant and most churches do. However, having one and living by it is way too often polar opposites in the hearts of some of God’s people. Some members have no idea what a church covenant is or if their local church even has one. A simple definition would be that it’s an agreement between fellow members of a local church as to how each member is committing to live their lives both inside and outside the church.
Perhaps a better way to describe it would be to say that a church covenant is a promise. Some would even liken it to a vow much like marital vows at a wedding. The vow or promise is that you will live according to the guidelines laid out in the covenant of the church you are joining. This promise is made to God, the fellow members of the church, and to yourself. You can remember this by thinking of a church covenant as a summary of how we agree to live. Better still it is a summary of how God would have us live. While a local church’s covenant could not be expected to include every explicit command regarding obedience as found in Scripture, it does give a general summary of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.
A church covenant is also a sign of commitment; a commitment to God, to His church, and to personal holiness. You would be hard pressed to convince me of your commitment to Christ if you are not committed to His church for whom He shed His own blood. One writer (Matt Schmucker) stated, “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.” Holding each other accountable to live according to our church covenant would eliminate much of the lack of commitment we too often see among local church members. By seeking to live out your church covenant you are exhorting one another to live holy lives, and challenging brothers and sisters who are living in persistent sin.
Much more could be said but the point here is that living by the covenant of your local church is vital to the health of your church as well as your own spiritual health as a Christian. While possessing and living according to a church covenant is a lost practice in most churches today it is not some sort of new fangled idea. Historically all churches have had some type of covenant somewhere in their documents all the way back to time of the early church’s statement of faith known as the Apostle’s Creed. (In fact, some have pointed out that the earliest statement of faith is what’s known as the Shema as found in Deuteronomy 6).
Regardless of what any other church is doing (or not doing) with their church covenant, I challenge all members of every local church—what are you doing to live out the promise you made to your church family when you united with their membership? Is it just a document on the wall of your church building? Is it taped in the back of your hymn books never to be read privately or corporately? Do you even know if one exists in your church? Until all local church members begin living out how they’ve covenanted to live none of us should expect God’s blessings upon our respective churches. Living according to our covenant is one step of many that we must take in order to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
By His Grace,