And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Covenant Membership Process
If the Bible is the cornerstone of our church, then membership is the cement that holds us all together. Both Christ and Paul pointed us toward membership for our encouragement, our protection, and our instruction. We seek to carry out this vision through our four-step process by which to join Restoration Church of Sanford.
Discipleship with RCS Members- All who seek covenant membership at RCS will meet with one of our covenant members for a minimum of 12 weeks. We believe this is a time to get to know those who are seeking membership. Our goal in this time is to get to know one's family dynamic, what one believes, and anything that will help us understand those seeking covenant with RCS. Whether or not one seeks to ultimately covenant with RCS, we will seek to use this time to disciple, encourage, and exhort those at our Church. We will use our Covenant Convictions Worksheet to navigate our conversations during these 12 weeks of discipleship.
Membership – Once all prospective members have completed 12 weeks, and our
Covenant Convictions Worksheet with one of our covenant members, one must meet with one of our elders. The following will be covered in the meeting:
Statement of Faith
Why Join a Church?
Outreach & Missions
Life as a Church
Elder Recommendation – At a regularly scheduled elders’ meeting, the elder will review the applicant’s testimony with the other elders. Upon receiving their collective approval, the candidate’s application proceeds to the next step: congregational affirmation.
Congregational Affirmation - During a Lord's Day service, we will present prospective members to the congregation two weeks in advance, to get to know and ask questions about prospective members. After two weeks, during a Lord's day service, each elder who conducted an interview briefly describes how the applicants, who are desiring to be admitted to membership, have come to know the Lord. Questions are fielded, a vote is taken, and with a majority secured, candidates are admitted into membership.
What Is A "Church Covenant"?
A church covenant can be described in five different ways.
A church covenant is a promise – a promise made to God, to a local church, and to one’s self.
A church covenant is a summary of how we agree to live. While our statement of faith is a good summary of what we believe, our church covenant is a summary of how we agree to live – more importantly, it is a summary of how God would have us live. It does not include every explicit command regarding obedience, but it does give a general summary of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.
A church covenant is a sign of commitment – a commitment to God, to His church, and to personal holiness.
A church covenant is an ethical statement. Historian Charles W. DeWeese writes, “A church covenant is a series of written pledges based on the Bible which church members voluntarily make to God and to one another regarding their basic moral and spiritual commitments and the practice of their faith” (Baptist Church Covenants, p. viii). One theologian calls church covenants the “ethical counterpart to confessions of faith.” A church covenant can be an important part of applying a Christian worldview to every aspect of our lives. Inherent in the purpose of a church covenant is the understanding that church membership involves being held accountable to live in a manner consistent with a common understanding of Scripture.
A church covenant is a biblical standard. A church covenant is helpful in a church that is practicing Biblical church discipline. As members of a church, we exhort one another to live holy lives, and we challenge brothers and sisters persisting in sin.
Where Do Church Covenants Come From?
Now that we know what church covenants are, where do they come from? Well, not from the Bible–not, at least, in the sense of being able to turn to the Book of Covenants chapter 3. But we do see examples of covenants both in the Old and the New Testament–covenants between God and man, and between man and man. Moses gives a covenant from God to the people of Israel. Ezra and Nehemiah do so as well. And in the NT we find that “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, which is the new covenant in Christ’s blood”. Primarily, church covenants come from the understanding that churches are to be composed of people who are truly born again. This is what we call regenerate church membership.
In the 16th century, men and women of deep conviction broke away from the Roman Catholic Church to form congregations who understood the importance of the doctrine known as justification by faith alone in Christ alone. No longer did baptism or membership bring supposed new life. Joining and being part of a church was no longer a civic duty or just part of growing up. It was becoming what it was always intended to be – a response of faith to the truth of the gospel. And in this response of faith we gain the most amazing callings: children of the living God, ambassadors of Christ, a royal priesthood; we become the bearers of God’s name in the world. Listen to God’s word on this issue. “I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” (Ezek 36:23). We are called to be living witnesses of God’s holiness!
In contrast, listen to two examples of how modern churches have failed to protect the regeneracy of their membership. One church youth group commonly encouraged young people to be baptized by allowing them to observe the rite in a Jacuzzi that was built into the top of a fire truck! You might say, “So what? What’s the problem here?” The problem is that most kids would bow down and worship a hot dog for the opportunity to climb up into a fire truck and hop into a Jacuzzi! These kinds of gimmicks introduce the likelihood of inappropriate motivations for seemingly spiritual decisions on the part of young respondents. Did they get baptized because they genuinely repented and believed in Jesus Christ? Or did they do it so they could get their picture taken in a Fire Truck Jacuzzi? We often unwittingly do the same thing with adults, don’t we? We promise them changed lifestyles, increased self-fulfillment and self-esteem, increased success at work, and better marriages, if only they’ll decide to accept Jesus into their hearts. Who wouldn’t make a quick and painless decision for that kind of payoff? But if people’s motivations are wrong, then in congratulating them on their baptism or conversion and welcoming them into local church membership without ever observing the fruit of godly living as evidence of the genuineness of their verbal commitment, then we’re actually encouraging them to deceive themselves into thinking that they have genuinely repented and believed – we’re encouraging them to feel assured in their salvation when in fact they have probably never repented or believed at all. Far from doing them spiritual good, we’re doing them the greatest kind of spiritual disservice possible – and exactly the kind of disservice Satan hopes for us to provide.
Another church agonized over the decision of whether or not to allow a Porn Shop owner to lead music for worship on Sundays. What does this say about what it means to be a mature, model Christian? It says that a person can verbally profess to be a Christian – even a model Christian by whom others can be led – and simultaneously live in a way that many pagans would even consider unethical. It says that Jesus doesn’t care about whether we live holy lives – just whether we say the right words, or pray the right prayer, or participate in the right church program. But Christianity is about living a different kind of life, not just talking about different kinds of concepts.
The church is called to live and act differently. In agreeing to a church covenant, one is agreeing to be held accountable by a body of believers. Likewise, one is agreeing to hold a body of believers accountable. To hold accountable simply means “to take responsibility for.” A church covenant, void of this responsibility, is a worthless document.