By Don Koenig
While attending a previous church they hired a new young pastor and in his first service in a mid sized Southern Baptist Church I was a little shocked to be told to pull out an insert in the weekly bulletin and then recite the church covenant. (I later researched where the covenant came from, it came out of the Baptist hymnal and is a standard covenant of which there are many modifications).
I have a big problem with making covenants in the first place, because I do not believe it is biblical for Christians to make covenants or oaths. God takes covenants very seriously and I think before we enter into one we should be certain that we will keep it. What also bothered me was that we did not even have the time to read the document before we were to recite it.
Mt 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
Jas 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
After briefly starting on the document, I could not honestly make this commitment and I stopped reading it, because in my opinion, the covenant as written was not biblical nor was it sensible.
The Covenant starts “having been led, as we believe by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now in the presence of God, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ”.
I guess that doesn't sound so bad, but I guarantee that everyone in this local assembly, even if they claim to profess Jesus, and were baptized, are not in the one body of Christ. I also guarantee that I was not joyful about reading this covenant. So now let's see what agreement they solemnly and joyfully enter into. It also excludes those that might have been baptized in the name of Jesus, as they do in some denominations (I am not saying that doing so is correct).
“We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love, to strive the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality;”
Let's stop there for a minute. I will always strive for the advancement of the universal Church but I will only strive for the advancement of this local assembly if it is furthering the cause of Christ. I also do not know what they are talking about when they say to advance it in knowledge, holiness and comfort? Did a lawyer or a politician write this? As for its prosperity, I will help but churches that get too much prosperity often turn into Laodicea. Does a local assembly have spirituality that can be advanced by my promotion?
“to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines;”
What if their worship, ordinance, discipline, or doctrines do not line up with scripture and are made up by men. Do I swear to follow that? I think not! That is what members of cults blindly do. There are many local churches that have questionable practices and doctrine. I think I will be like the Berean's and will check out all of the above in the light of scripture.
“to 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.”
God loves a cheerful giver - but I have my days, especially when there are two or three collections. I never could understand why the church cannot just have one collection and put the money to the best use. Must we have additional collections in every Bible study class or collections for everyone who speaks at the church? Even giving to missions should normally be done under careful consideration by the church, therefore how much the church gives to a specific cause should be part of the agreed upon corporate church budget. If we give to all these extra collections, is it because people are giving so cheerfully or because they are under a bully pulpit to give? Besides, giving to the ministry, expenses of the church, relief of the poor, and the great commission if done through the local church are redundant statements.
“we also engage to maintain family and secret devotions”
Where is family devotions in the Bible? What about those who have no family or their family wants nothing to do with devotions? Have they broken the church covenant or are there exceptions? What are secret devotions? Does one hide in the closet and keep their devotions hidden? What are devotions supposed to contain anyway? Whoever wrote this is not being clear about we are being asked to commit to.
“To religiously educate our children:”
Does Hinduism qualify? I always thought true Christianity was anything but religious.
“to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances’
Exactly what fulfills this seeking when our kindred have made it quite clear that they do not want to hear about it, and some acquaintances might get us fired if we talk about salvation at work. I would think prayer might be the key here but it is not mentioned.
“to walk circumspectly in the world”
My dictionary says that circumspectly means to walk in a cagey manner. I doubt if a dozen people in my church knew it meant that, yet they recited it. I am not so sure that I want to walk in a cagey manner.
“to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment”
Remember folks, you are agreeing to do this and next time you take that extra buck as a deduction you broke the covenant, next time you tell someone you will do something and you don't, or you fail to show up for something, you broke the covenan.The next time you tell someone something you should not have, you broke the covenant you made to God and the church.
“to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger”
They want me to avoid things that will stop in local churches about as soon as hell freezes over? If I avoided all of these things, I would have to stop attending.
‘to abstain from the sale of, and use of, destructive drugs or intoxicating drinks as a beverage: to shun pornography; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the Kingdom of our Savior.”
Find in the Bible were I cannot sell or use alcohol as a beverage? This is a man made doctrine made up by control freaks. Almost all of the Church allowed use of alcohol in the past and most in the Church still allow it in the present. Even in this denomination many say one thing and do another in their homes and clubs.
The communion service actually used fermented wine in the past and some churches still do. Jews also used and use fermented wine in their religious customs. However, control freaks like to turn all passages in the Bible into grape juice and in doing so they make a mockery of these scriptures and ostracize honest people and put the dishonest ones on guilt trips. The scriptures do tell us not to get intoxicated but Jesus drank fermented wine and so did many of the early saints without sinning (remember Timothy?). Even modern medicine has proven that moderate use of alcohol as a beverage is beneficial to most people. Smokers can not honestly be part of this church and be true to the covenant. Also, all business owners who sell any alcohol or tobacco cannot be part of this church.
Christians should shun pornography but it has been reported by hotel owners that when pastors have a convention and book the hotels they use the pornographic channels more than any other group. Why is that? (Perhaps they have to know what it looks like so they can preach against it). Today pornography is everywhere and unless you are blind you can only totally shun it by avoiding the world. That means no movies, no TV, no Internet, no peeking and no kidding. You did make an oath. So to keep this covenant you might join with the Amish.
“We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love, to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and Christian courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.
This is noble but saying it is one thing and of course doing it is another. So take the Oath if you know you will always do this but expect to suffer the consequences if you break this Covenant.
We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's word."
Church is in lower case so what institutional church qualifies as a church? How about the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church or even the Church of Scientology? Can I join Calvary Chapel or EFree or must I stay a Baptist forever to keep this covenant? If I agree to this covenant apparently I have to keep this covenant for life.
The Spirit of this covenant seems to put one under bondage and to make vows or oaths few can keep. I never agreed to carry out this covenant at all. So throw me out of the church. If you had asked me to sign such a covenant or a worse covenant like they do in some of the purpose driven churches I would already have been an ex-member.
O.K., I had a little fun with this document that is suppose to be serious and was written to foster accountability and commitment. But do we really need church covenants that few can keep, or oaths to God that we will break and lead us into self condemnation. After all, we already have the Ten Commandments to live by and last I heard only one man actually kept them all. So why do churches think that having people recite or sign covenants actually make people keep them? After all, agreeing to covenants like this already makes most of them hypocrites.
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