A Covenant Membership

At Bedford Road, we welcome everyone to worship with us. We believe that seeing God’s people worshiping him is the greatest possible testament of the Gospel.

That being said, we do invite people to take a step of unity and community in becoming voting members of the congregation. Personally, I wish there was a better term for this, but there isn’t, so we use it. This is NOT a “join our club” membership. It is a covenant we take together, renewed twice a year, to make extraordinary sacrifices that should be the norm. (Sadly, they are not.)

The covenant includes a statement:

“to commit our hearts, work and resources to making this vision a reality.”

This is the essence of true membership in a congregation. It is the commitment to get off the chairs and into work.It is the commitment to GIVE – not because we want to but because we step up as followers of Christ and OWN the vision he has given us. 

In the coming weeks, we will be entering a teaching series from Romans 12 entitled “PART_S”. It is one of those series that is sure to offend people who are not putting Christ and His Church in their proper place in their lives. It will irritate people who think of church as just something they tack on when it is convenient. It is guaranteed to flumox and stir-up those who casually commit to the church and then expect to control it through their influence.

Below is the covenant we make together as members of the congregation. We take it very seriously, and it will be mentioned a lot during this series.:

FELLOWSHIP COVENANT

Having accepted Christ as our Savior, we unite together as a congregation – committed to the beliefs of our Statement of Faith and submitted to the leadership of our elders, as guided by the teachings of Jesus.

Taking Christ as our Master, we embrace without reservation Jesus’ vision for this congregation – creating environments where people encounter Jesus and journey together – and covenant with both Christ and with our fellow believers to commit our hearts, work and resources to making this vision a reality.

We covenant together to follow Jesus Christ as our model:

  • Resolving conflicts with others in this congregation peacefully, in a way that demonstrates our love to those inside and outside our fellowship.
  • Honoring others by honoring Christ above all else in our lives.
  • Serving both those inside and outside of the church with a humble spirit.
  • Living and speaking the Gospel, as the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so.
  • Seeking God’s glory in all things.

God enabling me, I will strive to consider my covenant of membership, renewing my covenant annually. 

My responsibility will be to notify the Senior Pastor and Elders of Bedford Road Baptist Church if at any time I can no longer commit to this covenant, or if I have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding Bedford Road Baptist Church. 

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Leadership by Community, post 4

Why should we have one pastor (or more) who is paid while the rest of the elders are volunteers?

That’s a question I have contemplated a lot; and it is one I had to wrestle with since – well – I’m a paid pastor.

Ultimately, it boils down to the New Testament. The Apostle Paul makes it pretty plain:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. [1 Timothy 5:17]

In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. [1 Corinthians 9:14]

There is a pretty clear indication here that some elders are paid while others are not. But it does not work the way most American churches work, where we hire a guy and then expect him to rule well. This is what has produced this professional clergy that is often the plague of the church.

We, as a church, must seek out those who already rule well, already proclaim the gospel, already labor in preaching and teaching and recognize the calling of the Lord on their lives. These men (and they were only men in the New Testament) are worthy of receiving their living from the preaching of the gospel.

Thus, we see that there is a distinction between lay elders and pastors. As we draft the constitution of “The New Church” (we don’t know the name yet), we are keeping this distinction in mind and building in some structure we have not seen in many places, balancing the role of the elder who rules (we call him the Senior Pastor) and the other elders.

Leadership by Community, post 3

A lot of times, people will come to me or to one of the elders and ask about something. Our natural reaction is to make a decision on the spot, but in reality, we do not have that authority. Unless the leadership community has made a decision and/or invested further decisions for a specific area in a specific elder, you will often hear us say, “Let me talk to the elders and we’ll get back to you.”

This is not a cop-out. As ministry moves forward, the elders have the responsibility of steering the church and keeping it within the vision of Jesus Christ. It is a shared responsibility and not one invested into us individually.

That’s important, so let me unpack it. The leadership responsibility is shared by the elder community. Individually, we have no authority. Anytime any of the elders act outside of the elder community, it is because the elders have discerned God’s direction in an area, and we are now moving about in our greater church community encouraging people to move forward in that direction.

When we encounter something new to the vision, we bring it to the other elders and we discuss it, meditate on it and pray over it. We ask hard questions of the Scriptures, of each other, and of the community. This is what we are striving for.

Leadership by Community, post 2

Elder leadership is not a committee-run church. It is also not a board, like the boards in large corporations. It is leadership by community.

com·mu·ni·ty (kə-myōō’nĭ-tē)
n. pl. com·mu·ni·ties
a.  A group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society: the gay community; the community of color.

b.  Similarity or identity: a community of interests.

c.  Sharing, participation, and fellowship.

The elders who should lead a church are a community within a community. They are a group of men, called by God and confirmed by God’s people to work together in leadership.

It is not common to think of laymen are being called into a specific ministry in the church, but biblically there is no distinction between the calling of a vocational pastor and a lay pastor. At Grace, we want everyone to understand that the distinction is one of role and not one of authority.

Neither the senior pastor or the lay elders have any inherent authority over the others. We are a community that has authority as a community within the church community.

Leadership by Community, post 1

Someone once asked me if the way we do church leadership is ‘by committee’ because we have five elders who lead our church instead of having a single pastor. It struck me as an odd question, but it is a good one. Often, when you get a group of human beings together and give them all leadership, you get to choose how your organization will die – death by committee or death by chaos.

How is elder rule different?

For one thing, the elders are not a committee.

com·mit·tee (kə-mĭt’ē)
n.
A group of people officially delegated to perform a function, such as investigating, considering, reporting, or acting on a matter.

A committee is given a specific task. They do not rule anything. Committees DO things, they don’t decide things.

The elders are not given a specific task. They are granted oversight of the local assembly, and that requires more than just a committee and a task list. It requires spiritual gifts and insight; it requires a diversity of gifts and talents.