Many, and probably it would be better to say "most," Baptist churches have a church covenant. What is it, and why is it important? I'll start off by saying that a church covenant is just a man-made document that does not supersede the Bible. The Bible is our rule for faith and practice. But a church covenant is an important. To start off with, let me copy our church covenant below, and then give three quick points as to what it provides for our church, Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wildwood, MO.
Cornerstone Baptist Church Covenant
1. Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and on profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of our Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, 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.
2. We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this Church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to give it a sacred preeminence over all institutions of human origin; and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the Church, the relief of the poor, and the spreading of the Gospel through all nations.
3. We also engage to maintain family and personal devotions; to bring up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord; to educate our children in the truth of God’s Word; to seek the salvation of our families, acquaintances, and all others; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful to our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to strive to live a separated life, holy and acceptable unto God; and to be zealous in our service for the Lord. As we are the light of the world, and salt of the earth, we will seek divine aid to enable us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, to avoid such sins of the tongue as backbiting, anger, and gossip, and to abstain from and oppose all conduct that undermines our upholding of the high, Biblical standards of Christian morality, such as those involving drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, sexual sins, worldly and sensual entertainment and activities, associations with oath-bound secret societies, and other such things that could compromise our Christian testimony, give an appearance of evil, or bring dishonor to our Lord.
4. We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy of speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready to secure reconciliation without delay.
5. We moreover engage, that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other New Testament Church of like faith and practice where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.
So, what is so special about a church covenant? It does provide three very practical things for our church...
It provides a GROUND for unity. Those who are members of the church must agree not only with her doctrinal statement, but also with the standards set for membership and service. The church covenant spells out those duties while leaving much flexibility in how they are carried out. People ought to be taught that they have responsibilities toward the church and their brothers and sisters in the church and so shown what is expected of them in church membership to accomplish those duties.
It provides a GUIDE for teaching and discipleship. The church has a responsibility to see each member grow to maturity in Jesus Christ. This responsibility is not the sole responsibility of the Pastor(s), as if one can pay another to complete one’s own spiritual obligations. The church covenant establishes a goal toward which the church may work with regard to each of her members while also providing guidance with regard to how these goals may be accomplished. In working toward these goals, we acknowledge the necessity of the Holy Spirit to effect change and growth in the lives of believers but also acknowledge our responsibilities in this regard.
It provides a GAUGE for discipline. Church discipline has fallen by the wayside in most churches today, but it is an important, though painful, part of the church’s responsibilities. However, people cannot be faulted for not doing what they do not realize they ought to do. The church covenant guides the members in encouraging each other toward spiritual growth and explains the basic elements of Christian growth. When someone is disciplined, it should not come as a shock to them because they have understood from the very beginning what they must do to contribute to the spiritual growth of the church and themselves.