Coast Bylaws with Relational Commitments and Church Covenant
COAST COMMUNITY CHURCH
(Revised – January, 2017)
ARTICLE I – NAME
Section 1.01 Coast Community Church
The name of this California non-profit religious corporation shall be Coast Community Church, herein after referred to as “church.”
ARTICLE II – LOCATION
Section 2.01 Costa Mesa, California
The principle office for the transaction of business of the corporation is located at 3303 Harbor Blvd, Suite K-5/6, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.
ARTICLE III - AMENDMENTS TO THE BYLAWS
Section 3.01 New Bylaws
New bylaws may be adopted or these bylaws may be amended or repealed by the church acting in a business meeting. It is our intent that these bylaws be changed to meet current needs.
ARTICLE IV - PURPOSE
Section 4.01 Purpose of Coast Community Church
The purpose of this church is to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who rest in Jesus, hope in God, and pursue love, by God's grace and for His glory, through the proclamation of the gospel of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:15; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:3-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Acts 1:8; 2:42)
ARTICLE V - CHARACTER AND GOVERNMENT
Section 5.01 Church Government
The government of the church shall be a plural local elder (overseer) government. This kind of government sees Christ giving jurisdiction over His church to a group of men (the pastor being one of them) who are set apart by the congregation to oversee and care for the spiritual life of the body, being responsible to minister the Word to the body, to intercede for the body, and to lead the body in obedience to Christ and with sensitivity to the needs and concerns of the members. (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; Acts 6:4; 1 Timothy 5:17; James 5:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4)
Section 5.02 An Autonomous Church
This church is autonomous and maintains the right to govern its own affairs, independent of any denominational control. Recognizing, however, the benefits of cooperation with other churches (John 17: 20-23) in world missions, this church voluntarily affiliates with the Southern Baptist Convention in its national, state, and local expressions.
Section 5.03 Authority of Scripture
This church receives the Scriptures as its authority in all matters of faith and practice.
ARTICLE VI - MEMBERSHIP
Section 6.01 Membership by Spiritual Birth
Membership in the church of Jesus Christ is by new birth, not by the fulfillment of certain requirements. (John 3:3, 5)
Section 6.02 Commitment to the Local Church
Practically speaking, membership in the local expression of the church of Jesus Christ (Coast Community Church), shall be according to these Scriptural requirements:
1. Testifying of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21; Romans 10:9-10)
2. Having been baptized. (Matthew 28:18-20)
3. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper. (Luke 22:19)
4. Participating in the corporate worship services, unless physically hindered. (Hebrews 10:23-25; 1 John 2:19)
5. Exercising one’s spiritual gift(s) for the edification of the body. (1 Peter 4:10)
6. Caring for the needs of those in the body. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26; Galatians 5:13;6:10)
7. Following the leadership of those in authority. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17)
A further explanation of the kind of faith and practice we are calling one another to and have agreed to pursue is found in our Core Beliefs and Cores Values and Core Commitments (see Relational Commitments – ARTICLE XI).
Section 6.03 Formal Recognition of Local Membership
Those individuals and families that are interested in becoming members of Coast will be required (1) To read our Core Beliefs, Core Values and Core Commitments (Bylaws) and (2) to meet with the elders and discuss their faith and what is involved in membership. The elders will then recommend the presentation of the individual(s) to the church body or the scheduling of further discussions. Those believers who are willing to commit themselves to be an active part of the body of Christ at Coast according to the vision of Scripture as described above shall be introduced to the church body during a corporate worship service and will be given the opportunity to share their testimonies of God’s grace in their lives and express their desire to be a part of Coast and their willingness to commit themselves to this body, depending on the grace of God. Those who do so will be welcomed into the body as members of Coast.
Section 6.04 Termination of Local Membership
Members shall be removed from the church roll for the following reasons:
2. Transfer of membership to another church or permanent relocation that prohibits attendance at Coast and necessitates a membership change.
3. Personal request of the member in writing (without any pending or ongoing disciplinary matters).
4. Dismissal by the congregation according to the following conditions: The member either makes an open stand against Christ or begins to live stubbornly contrary to Scripture and brings shame on Christ's name.
Formal church discipline may be exercised for the following scriptural reasons: sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:9-13); financial dishonesty (1 Corinthians 5:9-13); financial irresponsibility (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 5:3-8); substance abuse (1 Corinthians 5:9-13); abusiveness (1 Corinthians 5:9-13); or divisiveness (Titus 3:10-11) and for any other serious sins as deemed appropriate by the elders in light of Scripture.
Procedures for dismissal of a member shall be according to Matthew 18:15-17. This may include:
Private appeals for repentance.
Written notification of pending, formal church discipline.
Public announcement of church discipline.
Formal vote to excommunicate.
Denial of the Lord’s Supper and normal Christian fellowship.
Notification of other churches and individuals who might be affected or harmed by the individual under church discipline.
See ARTICLE XI – Relational Commitments for further elaboration on this process.
Section 6.05 Restoration of Members
Any person may qualify for reinstatement in the event that the person makes a statement of his repentance which is acceptable to the church. The church shall take a vote for reinstatement according to the spirit of II Cor. 2: 7-8. The overseers, in consultation with the body, shall determine the appropriate response to the disciplined member’s appeal.
See ARTICLE XI – Relational Commitments for further elaboration.
Section 6.06 Business Meeting Responsibilities
1. The pastor shall serve as moderator at all business meetings unless specified otherwise by the overseers.
2. The church clerk shall act as secretary of all meetings of members unless otherwise specified.
3. Each member of the body is encouraged to prayerfully respond to the issues brought before the body by the overseers.
Section 6.07 Calling of Business Meetings
Business meetings of the church may be called by the overseers at any time. Notification of members for a business meeting may be given by any of the following methods:
1. Distribution of written material to the congregation in attendance of a Sunday worship service.
2. Announcement of the meeting at a Sunday worship service.
3. Through the mail.
Members shall be notified no less than two weeks prior to a business meeting.
Section 6.08 Required Business Meeting Items
Recommendations concerning the following items must be brought before the church in a business meeting for discussion and a formal vote:
1. Calling of pastoral staff
2. Yearly budgets
3. Church property decisions
4. Major changes in schedule
5. Changes in the church's by laws and constitution
6. Appointment of new overseers or deacons
7. Other decisions that the overseers deem appropriate for such consideration
Section 6.09 Decision Making Procedures
1. The overseers are given jurisdiction over the body and are ultimately responsible for any and all decisions the church makes.
2. The overseers are given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the body that are consistent with the Scriptures and are sensitive to the needs, concerns, and opinions of the members of the body.
3. The overseers must be trusted to make some decisions without calling a business meeting. Yet, even these decisions are to be made in light of the prayerful assessment of the members’ perspectives through personal discussions and group meetings.
4. Some decisions are of such importance that they require a formal decision making process with the involvement of the whole body. (see Section 6.08) When this is the case, the overseers will present recommendations to the body in writing, prior to the business meeting.
5. At the business meeting, members will discuss the recommendations until all questions have been addressed. More than one meeting may need to be scheduled in order to address all questions and concerns.
6. Once the discussion process has been completed, a formal vote will be taken to assess whether or not there is a unity of the Spirit with regard to the particular recommendation.
7. The formal votes will consist of a printed ballot that contains a brief description of the matter under consideration and four choices for response:
I have prayed about the matter and support the recommendation.
I have prayed about the matter and do not support the recommendation.
I have prayed about the matter and will submit to the decision of the leadership.
I have not prayed about the matter and will submit to the decision of the leadership.
8. If it is clear by the formal vote that there is not a unity in the body in favor of the recommendation, then the matter will be set aside for further prayer and future discussion, as appropriate.
9. Even if there is a majority in favor of a recommendation, every member who opposes the recommendation will have an opportunity to meet with the overseers and to explain his or her perspective. It is the responsibility of the overseers to evaluate whether or not the opposition is an indication of the Lord’s will or not and whether to proceed with the recommendation or not. As a result, the formal vote is not a “rule by majority” process, but rather a way of listening for the Lord’s direction through each member of the body.
10. If the formal vote reveals that there is not unity in the body regarding a particular recommendation, but a decision must be made because of time constraints, the overseers have the responsibility to make the final decision.
ARTICLE VII - INCORPORATION
Section 7.01 Corporate Liability
No person who is now, or who later becomes, a member of this corporation shall solely, because of such membership, be personally liable to the corporation's creditors for any debt, obligation or liabilities of the corporation, and any and all creditors of this corpor-ation shall look only to the assets of this corporation for payment.
Section 7.02 Trustee Membership
The board of trustees shall consist of a minimum of three persons. The trustees shall consist of the overseers of the church and the members of the finance team.
Section 7.3 Trustee Term
The members of the overseer team and the finance team shall serve as trustees as long as they serve on these teams.
Section 7.04 Corporation Directors
The Trustees are hereby designated as the directors of the corporation as the term is defined and used in the California Non-profit Corporation Code.
Section 7.05 Trustee Officers
Three members shall serve as the officers of the church. The Pastor shall serve as president. There shall be a chief financial officer and a secretary.
Section 7.06 Responsibilities of Trustees
It shall be the duty of the Trustees to take such actions and execute any documents necessary to accomplish the purpose of any matter authorized by the members which concerns any real, personal, or intangible property of the church.
Section 7.07 Required Documents
The church will maintain the following records and reports:
1. Adequate and correct books and records of accounts (financial records).
2. Minutes of the proceedings of its members and Board of Directors.
3. A record of its members, giving their names and addresses.
4. Contribution statements for contributors.
Section 7.08 Church Officers for the Corporation
Officers of this church shall be president, secretary, chief financial officer, church clerk, and others as needed and as appointed by the overseers.
Section 7.09 Officer Selection
The overseers will appoint a secretary, chief financial officer, and church clerk.
Section 7.10 Officer Replacement
A vacancy in any office because of death, resignation, removal, disqualification, or otherwise shall filled by the overseers.
Section 7.11 Responsibilities of the Secretary
The secretary shall keep a full and complete record of the proceedings of the Board of Trustees, shall keep the seal of the corporation and affix it to such papers and instruments as may be required in the regular course of business, shall make service of such notice as may be necessary or proper, shall supervise the keeping of the records of the corporation, and shall discharge such other duties of the office or prescribed by the Board of Trustees.
Section 7.12 Responsibilities of the Chief Financial Officer
The chief financial officer shall be responsible for the receiving and safe keeping of all funds of the corporation and deposit them in the bank or banks that may be designated by the Board of Trustees. Those funds shall be paid out only on checks of the corporation signed by the secretary, chief financial officer, or by such officers as may be designated by the Board of Trustees as authorized to sign them. Each check must have two authorized signatures. The chief financial officer shall see that records of all receipts, both of individual gifts of members and others, as well as gifts from other sources, are kept. Each gift shall be recorded as soon as possible and financial records kept at the church office. He or she shall, if possible, send out the record of gifts to each individual member, quarterly and as soon after January 1 as possible, send out an annual report to each person.
Section 7.13 Responsibilities of the Clerk
The clerk shall keep a careful and correct record of all the official acts of the church, perform all duties pertaining to the office.
ARTICLE VIII - CHURCH ORGANIZATION AND PROGRAMS
Section 8.01 Church Leadership
The formal leadership of the church shall consist of overseers/elders and deacons. (1 Timothy 3)
Section 8.02 Church Ordinances
The ordinances of the church shall be baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:19)
Section 8.3 Flexible Church Structure
The organization of the church shall be revised on a periodic basis to meet current needs. The program of the church shall include weekly worship, participation in missions, Christian education, evangelism, and service ministry, as the church deems necessary to meet current needs.
Section 8.4 Finance Team
The church shall maintain a finance team (consisting of at least two men) for the purpose of overseeing the financial affairs of the church and to protect the pastor and overseers from accusation regarding the administration of the church’s finances. The finance team members shall be appointed by the overseers.
Section 8.5 Ministry Teams
Other ministry teams may be established by the overseers for the purpose of carrying out needed tasks on behalf of the overseers and the body as a whole.
ARTICLE IX - PASTOR AND STAFF
Section 9.01 Calling a Pastor
The pastor shall be called for an indefinite period of time, unless otherwise agreed upon at the time of the call. The pulpit committee, chaired by one of the overseers, shall seek out and make recommendations for the candidate of Pastor. The approval to call the candidate shall be carried out by the normal decision making process of the church.
Section 9.02 Termination of the Pastoral Relationship
The pastoral relationship may be dissolved at any time that it is desired by either the Pastor or the church. Either way, there shall be a thirty day written notice given prior to the dissolution. The time element may be abbreviated if agreeable to both parties.
Section 9.03 Calling Additional Pastoral Staff
Upon the recommendation of the overseers, additional staff members can be called to assist in equipping the members of Coast Community Church for ministry. Approval shall be carried out by the normal decision making process of the church.
Section 9.04 Support Personnel
The overseers shall have the authority for the employment and dismissal of support personnel (clerical, custodial, interns).
Section 9.05 Employee Policies and Benefits
Policies and benefits for all those employed by the church will be worked out with each employee by the overseers in consultation with the finance team, then brought to the church for confirmation in a business meeting. See Relational Commitments for additional requirements.
ARTICLE X - OVERSEERS
Section 10.01 Responsibilities of Overseers (or Elders)
Overseers shall be appointed to evaluate church life and provide pastoral care over the church. They shall seek to discern God's will as they evaluate what we have done, where we are, where we need to grow, and what changes may be recommended for the good of our church family.
1. Overseers shall give watchful and protective care over the flock. (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28-30; James 5:14-16)
2. Overseers shall teach and equip the saints for ministry and maturity. (Acts 6:4; Acts 20:20-27; Colossians 1:28-29; Titus 1:9)
3. Overseers shall deal with doctrinal issues. (Acts 15:1-6; Titus 1:9)
4. Overseers shall be living demonstrations of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 5:3; Hebrews 13:7)
5. Overseers shall not be dictatorial. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Section 10.02 Appointment of Overseers (or Elders)
Overseers shall be appointed as the need arises and as the Holy Spirit leads. The present overseers shall recommend the appointment of men to serve as overseers to the church body.
1. They shall be men qualified according to I Tim. 3 and Titus 1.
The process for determining qualified men to serve as overseers should follow this general pattern:
A. Assessment: Scripture is reviewed to remind the body of the qualifications and responsibilities of overseers. Members of the body are encouraged to prayerfully nominate men to be considered for the service of overseer.
B. Evaluation: Nominated men are approached by the present overseers and asked if they have a desire (as well as the freedom) to serve the body as an overseer. Those men who express an interest in serving must be evaluated according to the Scriptural qualifications. This would include a private evaluation through a personal interview with the present overseers, a family interview with the present overseers, and an “outsider” interview with the present overseers (ie, with those outside his family or the church body with whom he should have a good reputation). This also would include a public evaluation through a question and answer time with the body as a whole and an opportunity to teach the body from the Scriptures.
C. Appointment: The present overseers are responsible to present to the body the men they believe are qualified to serve as overseers. Once a formal presentation of the men to be appointed has been made, the body will have three weeks to share with the present overseers any concerns they have with the men presented for confirmation. If there are no Scriptural reasons for not confirming the men presented, then, at the conclusion of the three week period, the men presented by the overseers will be confirmed and installed into office through prayer with the laying on of hands by the present overseers in the presence of the gathered body of Coast.
2. The men must have faith that it is God's will that they serve in this capacity.
Section 10.03 Overseer Term of Service
The term of service for an overseer shall be indefinite unless:
1. He moves to another church.
2. He becomes unqualified according to scriptural guidelines.
3. He believes that he is no longer to serve in that capacity.
Section 10.04 Recommendation of Staff
The overseers shall have the authority to recommend persons for ministry staff positions in accordance with the normal decision making procedures of the church.
Section 10.05 Church Discipline
The overseers shall give leadership to all incidences of church discipline of members as outlined in ARTICLE VI, section 6.04 and the Relational Commitments described in ARTICLE XI.
ARTICLE XI – RELATIONAL COMMITMENTS
Section 11.01 Introduction
The following Commitments and Church Covenant are designed to help the people who attend our church relate to one another in a way that honors God and promotes authentic relationships. These Commitments cover important relational issues, such as peacemaking and reconciliation, marriage and divorce, protecting children from abuse, counseling, confidentiality, and mutual accountability. These Commitments are intended to help us build a strong community of faith. By community, we mean a group of people who have voluntarily joined together to encourage and support one another as we worship God, grow in our understanding of his love for us, and seek to tell others about the salvation and peace they, too, can find through faith in Jesus Christ.
We know that true community isn’t easy to achieve. Each of us brings our own expectations and agendas into the church. This diversity usually leads to rich discussions and creative ministries; but sometimes it can lead to conflict. As James 4:1-2 warns, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” That certainly describes us! At times, no matter how hard we try to build a close community of faith, our desires and expectations still clash. That’s where these Commitments come in. They pull together key principles from God’s Word and serve as our relational guidelines. These Commitments accomplish several important purposes:
• They remind us of our mutual commitment to work together to pursue unity, maintain friendships, preserve marriages, and build relationships that reflect the love of Christ.
• They help to prevent surprises, disappointed expectations, confusion and conflict by describing how we expect to relate to one another within the church.
• They provide a clear track for us to run on when conflict threatens to divide us, and they remind us how to move quickly toward reconciliation.
• They establish guidelines for how our elders and other leaders will counsel others, guard confidential information, and protect our children from abuse.
• They define and limit the spiritual authority of church elders and other leaders and thereby insure that all members are treated fairly.
• Finally, they reduce our church’s exposure to legal liability by clearly establishing our relational practices and by affirming our mutual commitment to resolve conflict biblically.
As you read our Relational Commitments, we encourage you to study the Bible passages that are cited next to particular provisions. We want you to be confident that these Commitments are based solidly on the Word of God. If your study does not answer all of your questions and concerns, please do not hesitate to approach our elders and other leaders, who will be happy to talk with you about these principles. We encourage you to expressly embrace these Commitments and formally join our church by reading our Core Beliefs, Core Values and Core Commitments (which include these bylaws and relational commitments), meeting with our elders, signing our Church Covenant as provided at the end of this document, and participating in a formal presentation to our body. If you are not yet prepared to become a member, we hope you and your family will continue to attend our worship services, find fellowship in a small group, and call on our leaders if you need counsel and support in difficult times. If you choose to continue relating to us in any of these ways without joining the church, we will assume that you have consented to these Commitments, which will guide our relationship with you. As followers of Christ, it is our desire to do all we can to encourage you to grow in faith and hope and love to the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the witness of our church.
Section 11.02 Commitment to Peacemaking and Reconciliation
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).
Our church is committed to building a “culture of peace” that reflects God’s peace and the power of the gospel of Christ in our lives. As we stand in the light of the cross, we realize that bitterness, unforgiveness and broken relationships are not appropriate for the people whom God has reconciled to himself through the sacrifice of his only Son (John 13:34-35; Eph. 4:29-32; Col. 3:12-14). Therefore, we look to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit for guidance on how we can respond to conflict in a way that will honor God, promote justice, reconcile relationships, and preserve our witness for Christ. As God gives us his wisdom and grace, we are committed to actively teaching and encouraging one another to live out the following principles of peace-making and reconciliation:
• Whenever we are faced with conflict, our primary goal will be to glorify God with our thoughts, words and actions (1 Cor. 10:31).
• We will try to get the “logs” out of our own eyes before focusing on what others may have done wrong (Matt. 7:3-5).
• We will seek to overlook minor offenses (Prov. 19:11).
• We will refrain from all gossip, backbiting and slander (Eph. 4:29-32). If we have a problem with others, we will talk to them, not about them.
• We will make “charitable judgments” toward one another by believing the best about each other until we have facts that prove otherwise (1 Cor. 13:7).
• If an offense is too serious to overlook, or if we think someone may have something against us, we will go promptly to seek reconciliation (Matt. 5:23-24; 18:15).
• When we offer a word of correction to others, we will do so graciously and gently, with the goal of serving and restoring them, rather than beating them down (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 4:29; Gal. 6:1).
• When someone tries to correct us, we will ask God to help us resist prideful defensiveness and to welcome correction with humility (Ps. 141:5; Prov. 15:32).
• When others repent, we will ask God to give us grace to forgive them as he has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32). When we discuss or negotiate substantive issues, we will look out for others’ interests as well as our own (Phil. 2:3-4).
• When two of us cannot resolve a conflict privately, we will seek the mediation of wise people in our church and listen humbly to their counsel (Matt. 18:16; Phil. 4:2-3). If our dispute is with a church elder or leader, we will look to other leaders for assistance.
• When informal mediation does not resolve a dispute, we will seek formal assistance from our church elders or people they appoint, and we will submit to their counsel and correction (Matt. 18:17-20).
• When we have a business or legal dispute with another Christian, we will make every reasonable effort to resolve the conflict within the body of Christ through biblical mediation or arbitration, rather than going to civil court (1 Cor. 6:1-8). If the other party attends another church, our leaders will offer to cooperate with the leaders of that church to resolve the matter.
• If a person coming to our church has an unresolved conflict with someone in his former church, we will require and assist him to make every reasonable effort to be reconciled to the other person before joining our church (Matt. 5:23-24; Rom. 12:18).
• When a conflict involves matters of doctrine or church discipline, we will submit to the procedures set forth in our Commitment to Accountability and Church Discipline (see below).
• If we have a legal dispute with or within our church and cannot resolve it internally through the steps given above, we will obey God’s command not to go into the civil court (1 Cor. 6:1-8). Instead, we will submit the matter to mediation and, if necessary, legally binding arbitration. Above all, we pray that our ministry of peacemaking will bring praise to our Lord Jesus Christ and lead others to know his infinite love and peace.
Section 11.03 Commitment to Preserving Marriages
So they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate (Matthew 19:6).
God designed marriage to reflect the beauty and permanence of Christ’s loving relationship with his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7). Therefore, he established marriage to be a lifelong, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-6). God also designed it to provide mutual companionship through life’s joys and difficulties, to create stability for raising and nurturing children, and to give strength and cohesiveness to society in general. In our society, marriages fail under a wide range of circumstances. Many people have gone through a divorce before having a relationship with Christ, and others have experienced divorce through no desire or decision of their own. Still others may have divorced because of their own wrongful choices, but have since experienced the repentance and forgiveness offered through our Lord Jesus. We want all of you to know that you are welcome in our church. Because our church recognizes both the divine origin of marriage and the devastating effects of divorce, we are deeply committed to preserving marriages and preventing divorce. Our leaders are committed to providing counsel and support to couples who face marital difficulties. We will discourage couples from using divorce as a way to run away from issues that instead can be resolved through Spirit-guided counseling, repentance, forgiveness and ongoing discipleship. We recognize, however, that there are times when God permits a believer to seek a divorce without sinning against God or a spouse. We believe divorce is permissible when the other spouse has been sexually involved with a person outside the marriage (Matthew 5:31-32), or when an unbelieving spouse abandons a marriage (1 Corinthians 7:12-16) or if there is unrepentant physical abuse (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Even though divorce is permissible in these situations, it is not required. God patiently bears with our sins, repeatedly calls us to repentance, and freely forgives us when we turn back to him (Ps. 103:8-12; Isa. 55:7). When divorce becomes an option, an offended spouse can imitate God’s love by offering a straying spouse these same evidences of grace (Eph. 5:1-2). This may involve patiently bearing neglect or lovingly confronting serious sin (Col. 3:12-14; Gal. 6:1). In some situations, love may require asking the church to initiate formal discipline to rescue a spouse and a marriage from the devastating effects of unrepentant sin (Matt. 18:12-20). Just as church leaders are involved in beginning a marriage, they should be involved when it ends. Therefore, when someone is considering divorce, he or she is expected to bring the situation to our leaders and cooperate with them as they determine whether grounds exist, promote repentance and reconciliation, and exhaust redemptive discipline, if appropriate. Separated spouses who have filed for divorce should consider themselves married until the day a civil court issues a divorce decree. Thus they should refrain from dating or any other activity that is inconsistent with being married. We are always interested in helping divorced people restore their previous marriage if that is possible and appropriate. We will support a decision to pursue a second marriage to a different person when we have determined that it is biblically valid. We rejoice that divorce never diminishes God’s free offer of love, grace and forgiveness. He cherishes and loves every person who has been unwillingly divorced, as does our church. God graciously extends this same love to those who have wrongly left their marriages. That love moves him (and us) to call them to repentance, to encourage and aid reconciliation when possible, and to gladly restore those who have done all they can to rebuild broken relationships.
Additional Note on Marriage and Sexual Relationships
We believe that term “marriage” has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, is sinful and offensive to God. We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of the church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons who are members of this church or are employed by the church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, should abide by and agree to this statement on marriage and sexuality and conduct themselves accordingly. We believe that God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture nor the doctrines of the church. (Used by permission of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Inc.)
Section 11.04 Commitment to Protecting Our Children
The prudent see danger and take refuge (Proverbs 27:12a).
Children are a blessing from God, and he calls the church to support parents in their responsibility to train children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Therefore, the church should be a safe and blessed place for children, where they can grow, play, form friendships, and learn to experience and share the love of Christ. Since sin affects every person and organization in the world, however, it is possible that children could be harmed even during church activities. We cannot guarantee that such things will never happen within our fellowship, but we are committed to taking every reasonable precaution to protect our children from foreseeable harm. This commitment includes, but is not limited to, the following steps:
• We do not allow anyone to work regularly with our youth (children or teenagers), unless he or she is a formal member.
• We require that, whenever practical, youth workers serve in teams of two or more and be visible to other workers. If a child is harmed in our church, we will take immediate steps to inform the parents, to accept responsibility for our role in the situation, and to hold offending youth workers fully responsible for their actions. We will also evaluate our practices and procedures, considering changes that might reduce the likelihood of such harm to children in the future.
Section 11.05 Commitment to Biblical Counseling
I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14).
All Christians struggle with sin and the effect it has on our lives and our relationships. Whenever believers are unable to overcome sinful attitudes or behaviors through personal efforts, God calls them to seek assistance from other believers, and especially from church leaders, who have the
responsibility of providing pastoral counseling and oversight (see Rom. 15:14; Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Heb. 13:17; James 5:16). Therefore, this church encourages and enjoins its people to seek counsel from and confess sins to each other, and especially to our leaders. We believe that the Bible provides thorough guidance and instruction for faith and life (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, our counseling is based on scriptural principles rather than those of secular psychology or psychiatry. Unless they specifically state otherwise, none of those who counsel in this church are trained or licensed as psycho-therapists or mental health professionals, nor should they be expected to follow the methods of such specialists. God calls our leaders to set an example for us “in speech, in life, in love, and in faith and purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Therefore, we expect them to treat counselees with every respect and courtesy, and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or impurity during counseling (Eph. 5:3). We also expect counselees to promptly report to the leadership team any conduct that fails to meet this standard. To prevent our leaders from being placed in situations that might compromise their pastoral commitments, we, the members and attenders of this church, agree that we will not try to compel them to testify in any legal proceeding or otherwise divulge any confidential information they receive through pastoral counseling or ministry (Prov. 11:13, 25:9).
Section 11.06 Commitment to Confidentiality
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret (Proverbs 11:13).
The Bible teaches that Christians should carefully guard any personal and private information that others reveal to them. Protecting confidences is a sign of Christian love and respect (Matt. 7:12). It also discourages harmful gossip (Prov. 26:20), invites confession (Prov. 11:13), and thus encourages people to seek needed counseling. Since these goals are essential to the ministry of the gospel and the work of the local church, all members and attenders are expected to refrain from gossip and to respect the confidences of others. In particular, our leaders will carefully protect all information that they receive through pastoral counseling, subject to the following guidelines. Although confidentiality is to be respected as much as possible, there are times when it is appropriate to reveal certain information to others. In particular, when our leaders believe it is biblically necessary, they may disclose confidential information to appropriate people in the following circumstances:
• when a leader is uncertain of how to counsel a person about a particular problem and needs to seek advice from other leaders in our church or, if the person attends another church, from the leaders of that church (Prov. 11:14);
• when the person who disclosed the information, or any other person, is in imminent danger of serious harm unless others intervene (Prov. 24:11-12);
• when a person refuses to repent of sin and it becomes necessary to promote repentance through accountability and redemptive church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20); or,
• when leaders are required by law to report suspected abuse (Rom. 13:1).
Section 11.07 Commitment to Accountability and Church Discipline
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Like all of our Relational Commitments, the principles and practices described below apply to all the people who attend our church (both members and attenders).
Accountability and Discipline Are Signs of God’s Love
God has established the church to reflect his character, wisdom and glory in the midst of a fallen world (Eph. 3:10-11). He loves his church so much that he sent his Son to die for her (Eph. 5:25). His ultimate purpose for his church is to present her as a gift to his Son; thus Scripture refers to the church as the “bride” of Christ (Rev. 19:7). For this reason the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are continually working to purify the church and bring her to maturity (Eph. 5:25-27).
This does not mean that God expects the church to be made up of perfectly pure people. He knows that the best of churches are still companies of sinners who wrestle daily with remaining sin (1 John 1:8; Phil. 3:12). Therefore, it would be unbiblical for us to expect church members to live perfectly. What we can do, however, is confess our common struggle with sin and our mutual need for God’s mercy and grace. We also can spur one another on toward maturity by encouraging and holding each other accountable to love, seek after, and obey God with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31; Heb. 10:24-25). The Bible sometimes refers to this process of mutual encouragement and accountability as “discipline.” The Bible never presents church discipline as being negative, legalistic or harsh, as modern society does. True discipline originates from God himself and is always presented as a sign of genuine love. “The Lord disciplines those he loves” (Heb. 12:6). “Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law” (Ps. 94:12). “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Rev. 3:19). God’s discipline in the church, like the discipline in a good family, is intended to be primarily positive, instructive and encouraging. This process, which is sometimes referred to as “formative discipline,” involves preaching, teaching, prayer, personal Bible study, small group fellowship and countless other enjoyable activities that challenge and encourage us to love and serve God more wholeheartedly. On rare occasions God’s discipline, like the discipline in a family with growing children, also may have a corrective purpose. When we forget or disobey what God has taught us, he corrects us. One way he does this is to call the church to seek after us and lead us back onto the right track. This process, which is sometimes called “corrective” or “restorative” discipline, is likened in Scripture to a shepherd seeking after a lost sheep. If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off (Matt. 18:12-13). Thus, restorative or corrective discipline is never to be done in a harsh, vengeful or self-righteous manner. It is always to be carried out in humility and love, with the goals of restoring someone to a close walk with Christ (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1), protecting others from harm (1 Cor. 5:6), and showing respect for the honor and glory of God’s name (1 Pet. 2:12). Biblical discipline is similar to the discipline we value in other aspects of life. We admire parents who consistently teach their children how to behave properly and lovingly discipline them when they disobey. We value music teachers who bring out the best in their students by teaching them proper technique and consistently pointing out their errors so they can play a piece properly. And we applaud athletic coaches who diligently teach their players to do what is right and correct them when they fumble, so that the team works well together and can compete for the championship. The same principles apply to the family of God. We, too, need to be taught what is right and to be lovingly corrected when we do something contrary to what God teaches us in his Word. Therefore, we as a church are committed to help one another obey God’s command to be “self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). The leaders of our church recognize that God has called them to an even higher level of accountability regarding their faith and conduct (James 3:1; 1 Tim. 5:19-20). Therefore, they are committed to listening humbly to loving correction from each other or from any member in our church, and, if necessary, to submitting themselves to the corrective discipline of our body.
Most Corrective Discipline Is Private, Personal and Informal
God gives every believer grace to be self-disciplined. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Thus discipline always begins as a personal matter and usually remains that way, as each of us studies God’s Word, seeks him in prayer, and draws on his grace to identify and change sinful habits and grow in godliness. But sometimes we are blind to our sins or so tangled in them that we cannot get free on our own. This is why the Bible says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Gal. 6:1). In obedience to this command, we are committed to giving and receiving loving correction within our church whenever a sin (whether in word, behavior or doctrine) seems too serious to overlook (Prov. 19:11). If repeated private conversations do not lead another person to repentance, Jesus commands that we ask other brothers or sisters to get involved. “If he will not listen, take one or two others along” (Matt. 18:16). If informal conversations with these people fail to resolve the matter, then we may seek the involvement of more influential people, such as a small group leader, Sunday school teacher or church leader. If even these efforts fail to bring a brother or sister to repentance, and if the issue is too serious to overlook, we will move into what may be called “formal discipline.”
Formal Discipline May Involve the Entire Church
If an individual persistently refuses to listen to personal and informal correction to turn from speech or behavior that the Bible defines as sin, Jesus commands us to “tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:17a). This first involves informing one or more church leaders about the situation. If the offense is not likely to cause imminent harm to others, our leaders may approach the individual privately to personally establish the facts and encourage repentance of any sin they discover. The individual will be given every reasonable opportunity to explain and defend his or her actions. If the individual recognizes his sin and repents, the matter usually ends there, unless a confession to additional people is needed.
If an offense is likely to harm others or lead them into sin, or cause division or disruption, our leaders may accelerate the entire disciplinary process and move promptly to protect the church (Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; Titus 3:10-11). As the disciplinary process progresses, our leaders may impose a variety of sanctions to encourage repentance, including but not limited to private and public admonition, withholding of the Lord’s Supper, removal from office, withdrawal of normal fellowship, and, as a last resort, removal from membership (Matt. 5:23-24; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; Matt. 18:17). If the straying individual does not repent in response to private appeals from our leaders, they may inform others in the church who may be able to influence that individual or be willing to pray for him or her, or people who might be harmed or affected by that person’s behavior. This step may include close friends, a small group, a Sunday school class, or the entire congregation if our leaders deem it to be appropriate (Matt. 18:17, 1 Tim. 5:20). If, after a reasonable period of time, the individual still refuses to change, then our leaders may bring the situation before the congregation, with the recommendation that the individual be removed from membership and normal fellowship. If the congregation supports that recommendation, we will treat the individual as an unbeliever. This means that we will no longer treat him as a fellow Christian. Instead of having casual, relaxed fellowship with the individual, we will look for opportunities to lovingly bring the gospel to him, remind him of God’s holiness and mercy, and call him to repent and put his faith in Christ (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20). We realize that our natural human response to correction is often to hide or run away from accountability (Gen. 3:8-10). To avoid falling into this age-old trap and to strengthen our church’s ability to rescue us if we are caught in sin, we agree not to run away from this church to avoid corrective discipline. Therefore, we waive our right to withdraw from membership or accountability if discipline is pending against us. Although we are free to stop attending the church at any time, we agree that a withdrawal while discipline is pending will not be given effect until the church has fulfilled its God-given responsibilities to encourage our repentance and restoration, and to bring the disciplinary process to an orderly conclusion, as described in these Commitments (Matt. 18:12-14; Gal. 6:1; Heb. 13:17). If an individual leaves the church while discipline is in effect or is being considered, and our leaders learn that he or she is attending another church, they may inform that church of the situation and ask its leaders to encourage the individual to repent and be reconciled to the Lord and to any people he or she has offended. This action is intended both to help the individual find freedom from his sin and to warn the other church about the harm that he or she might do to their members (see Matt. 18:12-14; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 3 John 1:9-10). Loving restoration always stands at the heart of the disciplinary process. If an individual repents, and our leaders confirm his or her sincerity, we will rejoice together and gladly imitate God’s forgiveness by restoring the person to fellowship within the body (see Matt. 18:13; Luke 15:3-7, 11-32; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Col. 3:12-14). People who have been excluded from another church will not be allowed to partake of the ordinances in our church, to become members, or to participate in the regular fellowship of our church until they have repented of their sins and made a reasonable effort to be reconciled, or our leaders have determined that the discipline of the former church was not biblically appropriate. As we pursue the blessings of accountability and church discipline, we will hold fast to the promise of Scripture: “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:10-11).
Section 11.08 We Invite You to Become a Member of Our Church
We believe that God wants every Christian to become a member of a local church. Becoming a member of a church can be a life-changing decision. The preaching, teaching, fellowship, opportunities to use your gifts, and mutual accountability that you experience in a church can dramatically change your relationship with the Lord and with the people he places in your life. Therefore, we want you to take time to get to know our church, learn how we are fulfilling God’s command to build his kingdom, and see how we love and relate to one another in daily life. You can pursue formal membership in our church by reading our Core Beliefs, Core Values and Core Commitments (which include these bylaws and relational commitments), meeting with our elders, signing our Church Covenant as provided at the end of this document, and participating in a formal presentation to our body. By joining our church, you will demonstrate in a concrete way your desire to unite with us to advance Christ’s kingdom.
Membership also will allow you to enjoy ministry opportunities and privileges that are not available to people who only attend our church, including the following:
• You may participate and vote in congregational meetings, where we seek to discern and plan how to follow God’s vision for our church.
• You will be eligible to minister to the children and youth in our church.
• You can seek more opportunities to use your spiritual gifts, including those of teaching, serving and leading within the body.
• If you need counseling or support from our leaders when their time is limited, your request for assistance will take precedence over requests from people who have not joined the church.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of church membership, you may also meet with our leaders, who would be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about membership.
ARTICLE XII - CHURCH COVENANT
Having been chosen by God and drawn by the Spirit to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I now, with a view to my baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, do joyfully enter into this covenant with the members of this church as one body in Christ, according to the following affirmations and commitments.
1. I believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation. (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Matthew 4:4)
2. I acknowledge myself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving his wrath, and without hope except in God’s sovereign love and mercy to save me. (Romans 3:9-18, 23; 6:23; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-10; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:2-9; Romans 8:29-30)
3. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only Savior of sinners, and receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to me in the Gospel. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 1:16-17; 3:9-26; 10:9; Philippians 2:5-11; 3:5-9; Titus 3:3-5; 1 Timothy 1:15)
4. I resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that I will endeavor to put to death the misdeeds of my sinful nature and to live my life as is fitting a true follower of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 4:17-6:4; Colossians 3:1-4:6; 1 Peter 1:13-15; 2:18-5:11; 2 Peter 1:3-9; Romans 8:29; 12:1-15:14)
5. I promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of my ability. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:9-15; Ephesians 4:1-16; Hebrews 10:24-25; 12:24-25; 1 Peter 4:7-11)
6. I submit myself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to pursue its purity and peace. (Matthew 16:18; 18:15-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:15; 5:17-20; Hebrews 13:17; Colossians 3:15; Romans 12:18-21)
7. Finally, I acknowledge that I have received and read the Core Beliefs, Core Values, and Core Commitments of this church, and I hereby covenant and agree to support and submit to them.
These Relational Commitments are adapted from The Peacemaker Church. Used by permission of Peacemaker® Ministries (www.PeacemakerChurch.net).