COVENANT COMMITMENT IN THE CHURCH
Most Baptist Churches have a similar covenant that is agreed to by all that express a desire for membership. It is a document that identifies the common interests and goals of all who make up the individual church. This covenant is an expression of what one confesses to understand concerning church relationship. This covenant involves a commitment that expresses a desire to belong and become a vital joint in the body of Christ expressed in a given locale (Eph. 4:16).
If you hold a regular job, are part of a family unit, or are depended upon in any other organization, I’m sure you understand commitment. When you hired on at your job you committed yourself to the terms agreed upon at your hiring. The company and your fellow employees depend upon your presence and upon a certain amount of production from you. You understand this and therefore show up and produce, knowing that others depend upon you. You see yourself as a significant part of the operation of the business. If you do not show up, or if you do not produce, the company would be negatively affected; and so would you!
When you married, you committed yourself to your spouse to involve yourself in her/his life in such a way that you became dependent upon one another. There are legitimate expectations that if not kept will do harm to both parties. If your spouse is accustomed to having you home from work at a certain time you will respectfully call if you are going to be significantly late. If your husband is accustomed to having supper served at a certain time, you will respectfully alert him if there are problems that will delay it for a significant time. A husband and wife live together with a certain level of dependence upon one another. The relationship crumbles when neither gives regard to each one’s significance in keeping a good relationship. Both are necessary. Neither are dispensable.
Take any institution that has organization as an example and you will determine that without a sense of commitment there will be a crumbling of the organization. A sense of commitment produces a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging produces an awareness of each part’s significance in relation to the whole. When there is a loss of this awareness of the significance of the individual parts, then the whole structure is impacted in a negative way.
Now brethren, can you see that this is true in relation to the church? Most Baptist covenants properly state, I do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with you, as one body in Christ. We have agreed to something that we may have not fully understood, or have to some degree forgotten. Joining a New Testament Church is a physical expression of the covenant union all believers have in Christ. We have tangibly expressed that spiritual union by committing ourselves to the function of a body, representing the Lord Jesus Christ in a community.
A relationship with an employer and employees is important. God addresses it in His Word. We have marching orders from our Lord and are to engage in business in a way that reflects our union with Christ. We are to labor as unto Him, not with eye service, as men-pleasers. Our covenants address this when they state that we are to walk circumspectly in the world: to be just in my dealings, faithful in my engagements, exemplary in my deportment, abstaining from all appearance of evil.
But our relationship with our employer cannot usurp our relationship with our brother and sister in Christ. Our employer must know that our obligation before God calls us to a higher calling than our employment. Our relationship with the church of Jesus Christ must supersede our relationship with our employer. When there is a conflict between employment and our church, to which should we yield?
A relationship with family is important. God clearly addresses the matter leaving us with no debate as to the significance of family relationships. We are to honor our parents and love our children. Husbands and wives are specifically spoken to in God’s Word. Our covenants address this as well: I also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to biblically educate my children; to seek the salvation of my kindred and acquaintances; to be zealous in my efforts to advance the kingdom of my Saviour.
But our relationship with our families cannot usurp our relationship with our brother and sister in Christ. Our first obligation must be to Christ and all that are visibly His. Those who are visibly His have been baptized and added to the church. These are those who love one another uniquely because they share a common love for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with these that we have committed ourselves to walk with in Christian love. We have committed ourselves to labor together to advance the name of Christ in the context of His church seen in this place.
We have a greater obligation to sustain a relationship with the church than we do our own families. Christ said Himself, He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37). If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26). Did He ever warn us against loving one another more than Him? In fact, there is a direct relationship between our love for God and our love for those who are begotten of Him (I John 5:1,2). Jesus said that it was by our love for one another that we would be known as His disciples. True believers have a unique attraction for one another that is greater than the attraction of our blood relatives.
If family or business or any other thing comes before Christ it will be evidenced in our attitudes and decision-making in relation to the church. When the saints with whom we have joined ourselves to serve the Lord together are meeting, we will have no problem ignoring them for the sake of satisfying family or business. We all know those who are so committed to their business that family and everything else comes second and beyond. Others are so committed to family that business and everything else takes a back seat. Do you know anyone who is so committed to the body of Christ that all else takes back seat to that commitment? Such a person will be known by the attitude he projects in the choices that he makes. His absence from participation in the church will be noticeably rare and his spirit will be missed as much as his physical presence when he is gone. His presence brings a breath of freshness and stability to the church.
What do we love most? If we say we love God whom we cannot see and yet do not love our brother whom we can see, we are liars (I John 4:20). Is it a great leap to also say that if we say we love a church which in our minds is invisible, yet do not demonstrate love for the local, visible church, we are liars? That may sting a bit, but think about it. Our hearts and delights are in that which we love. Such heart and delight is seen by what we treasure, what we hold dear. Is the church dear to us? What is our attitude toward the church?
Do we relate to the church with the same level of commitment that we relate to other significant relationships in our lives? If we are a committed employee, does it bother us if we have to miss work? Do we realize our important part in the work place so that we let someone know if we are not going to make it in, or even if we are going to be late? If we are married and care about our marriage, do we communicate with our spouse when something is out of order or we are not going to be able to fulfill our obligation? The sense of the relationship that we have in each case motivates us to communicate.
If we really understand our part in the church, that we are a member of the body, that our presence and participation matters, then shouldn’t we demonstrate that with a bit more care and concern? Shouldn’t it matter to us that we are going to be absent from a regularly scheduled service? Shouldn’t we reason that our absence is going to be noticed and may have a negative affect upon the rest of the body meeting? Shouldn’t we think that the Elders will be concerned if we are absent? Or, is our absence so regular that it is nothing out of the ordinary? Do we figure that being a part of the assembly is a matter of convenience, so that if we aren’t gathered it really is no big deal? Do we suppose that maybe it only affects ourselves and not the rest of the assembly?
How you answer the above questions speaks volumes about your attitude toward the church. It would be good for all of us to revisit our church covenant in private to seriously evaluate our present standing in relation to the church. Are you still as committed today as you were when you first joined? Are you still seeking to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain true biblical worship in it; observing its ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s table, its discipline, and its doctrines revealed in the Word of God. To contribute cheerfully and regularly by tithes and offerings to the support of this church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations?
If the function of the church depended upon you, where would your church be today? If everyone at your church possessed your attitude toward the church, how significant would the church be?
Jesus Christ gave His life so that we might have such a gathering of saints in this world. He ordained its structure and gave, through the apostles and prophets, the doctrine that would form the foundation and perpetuity of the church. The church is precious to Him. He walks in our midst, dwells with us in a special way when we meet, and has promised that we would continue to the end of the world.
Is there any other institution that should be elevated above the church of the living God? Brethren, let us repent where needful, and restore to our minds a proper attitude toward the church. Other relationships will vie for attention and supremacy. It is our responsibility to resist and maintain a proper order in our lives till Christ comes again. One day we will be joined together as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle. The whole family of God in heaven and earth will be united in the eternal Sabbath. There will be no marriage, no secular business, and no human governments. Only the church, in a spotless and glorious form, will enjoy an eternal existence. Let us demonstrate a commitment now to that which will be forever: saints gathering, worshiping and serving the Lamb of glory!
Written from a Shepherd’s heart,
Kyle T. White, Pastor