For almost 10 years, since I was baptized Easter 1998 after confessing faith in Christ, I have been a member of an evangelical church that did not practice covenant church membership. Little did I know before about what it actually means to be a church member, let alone what it means to be “in covenant” with God and His bride. In my church experience growing up in this church, all that church membership entailed were “annual general meetings” where I would check my name off on an attendance sheet; and when I turned 16 years I old I had the ability to “vote”–otherwise known as affirming what the Board of Elders had already decided.
There was no unwritten accountability between church members for personal and spiritual growth, let a lone a written and regularly read statement of what we are to do as covenanted members in the Body of Christ. When there was care and prayer and accountability, it was in the spur of the moment–usually because somebody was going through a trying situation. As those who were betrothed to Christ as members in this one local body, we were clueless that such a marriage relationship entailed covenantal promises and stipulations for being part of this ekklesia.
This was until January 2008 when I became a member of a small Baptist church. This church practiced covenant church membership; and consequently but sadly, also church discipline. Regenerate church membership is something that the Elders, Deacons and members strive for, often meaning that our hearts break when a member continues in grievous, public sin even after being counseled by numerous other church members and Elders. When a member of the body is suffering illness, the whole body feels the pain, even as we pray for each other’s specific needs. We lift each other up in prayer, with words of encouragement, with Scripture that sanctifies, every time we meet together in our Care Groups. In genuiness, covenant church membership can mean much stress as well as happiness. It takes a lot of time and effort to run after those who seem to be falling or running away.
I am not touting one church over another, but I do mean to emphasize the tremendous good and joy that comes out of covenanted church members. It is the exercise of biblical care and accountability within the local church body.
The following is the covenant I made to my fellow brothers and sisters in my local body when I was voted in as a member. It is something I think about weekly if not daily–how I am accountable in my spiritual walk to my fellow church members, not just to God alone. Being a Christian means being a member of a local church; being a member of a local church is not just about “me and God”–it’s about us and God, and about us members of the Body and each other.
So when one part of the body suffers, the whole body really does suffer. And when one part is in joyful celebration over God’s grace in their lives, the whole body celebrates. We made a promise to love each other as Christ first loved us; and to fail to do so is to fail in our covenantal promises.
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, We will walk together in brotherly love:
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; and in all things we will seek and guard the honor and the true function of the church;
That we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor omit the great duty of prayer, both for ourselves together, and for others; and for the enterprises of the Kingdom of God;
That we will share in each other’s joys, and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy, to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows;
That we will seek divine aid to enable us to walk circumspectly and watchfully in the world, denying ungodliness and every worldly lust;
That we will endeavor by example and effort to win souls to Christ, 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.