September 8 was my second meeting with the elders/pastors of my church to work on the process of creating a membership statement. They met without me last time to work out among themselves some of the issues I brought up in first session.
Two weeks ago the pastor emailed me requesting my attendance, stating that they had pretty much decided on the more readily defined matters; doctrine and mission. This week they wanted me to focus on researching and helping them with the specifics of personal holiness and church life.
We have four primary areas, plus a preamble at the beginning:
- Salvation (preamble that defines faith and belief that brings us into Christ)
- Doctrine (affirmation of the our church’s Statement of Faith)
- Mission (relationship to the world, outside the Body of Christ)
- Community/Church Life (relationships within our congregation)
- Lifestyle/Fruit (walk with Christ)
With the first three defined, I was challenged with the researching how other like-minded churches put to words the bounds and expectations of personal holiness and community/church life.
I started with the membership statements of the four churches that were the subject of the first materials packet (below) with the last one as an addition to last night’s research packet:
- Saddleback Church
- Capitol Hill Baptist Church
- Bethlehem Baptist Church
- Mars Hill Church
- The Village Church (new for 9/8 discussion)
These were arranged in order of percentage of membership covenant used to define personal holiness. Saddleback dedicated a mere four words (“By living a godly life”), whereas Mars Hill was the longest.
Since the beginning of the discussions, several of us were drawn to the Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) statement on living a holy life, which reads:
We will seek, by Divine aid, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and remembering that, as we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave, so there is on us a special obligation now to lead a new and holy life.
I, personally, contend strongly for wording very close to this, as I feel it is quite possibly the most finely crafted. While most holiness statements are wrapped up in do’s and don’ts, the CHBC statement highlights the need for “Divine Aid” (ministry of the Holy Spirit) and the Christ-centered identity by which we are now called.
Another issue I raised, though textually minor, had to do with whether to word the statement in first person singular or plural; “I” vs. “We” respectively. I brought up that a family could sign a “We” statement as family, whereas the “I” renders the document much more individualistic. There is an argument either way. They talked around it a bit and then the conversation veered to other things.
The meeting concluded with the biggie: I have been challenged to begin drafting the church membership covenant, with language and goals that have emerged from our discussions and the sample material.
Oh, before they prayed I asked if they would like “we” or “I” statements. They quickly and unanimously decided for “we.” I like that.
They closed in prayer, especially over me. When the pastor prayed that “tonight I pray that You would be his portion” it had special meaning for the struggles in my life as a divorce man, no kids, living alone. I was also touched when he thanked God that I overcame hurdles to come there (a single man in a church of 95%-98% married couples, most with kids). Me going to my church is like a starving man attending culinary school, only all the food is off-limits because it already belongs to others.
Now, I exalt the LORD my God, who chose me to receive Mercy and Grace through the shed blood of His Son, that by the Righteousness of Christ, now accounted to me by faith alone, that in I would be raised to new life in the priesthood of believers, under Christ the cornerstone, in the ministry of the new and superior covenant.
May I decrease that He may increase!