The Church Covenant:Why do we make a covenant?
A covenant is generally defined as “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.”1 Within the Scriptures, we find a number of examples of covenants, some between God and man (Gen. 6, 9, 15; Ezek. 20; Hos. 2; Jer. 31; Matt. 26), while others are solely between men (1 Sam. 18; 2 Sam. 5). In some covenants, one party binds his or herself to fulfil the obligations of both sides of the agreement. In others, the parties are reciprocally bound to adhere to the obligations. While God’s covenant with the Church universal is an example of the former, the local church covenant represents the latter. If at any time one of the parties of this church covenant continues in a state of unfaithfulness to its provisions, the other is released from certain obligations.
The covenant of Ascend Church contains many conditions that are merely general Christian obligations. For example, all Christians, whether members at Ascend or elsewhere, are required to submit to the Scriptures, pursue holiness, steward resources, etc. Such requirements are universal obligations for the Christ-follower, regardless of any failure on the part of local church to live up to her covenant obligations. For a leader this covenant is even more essential because it means it becomes your responsibility to affirm this covenant. Your heart must be directed towards rallying people to this level of commitment so you can further develop other people to that level of commitment as well.
Benefits of a Church Covenant
We realise that the formalising a natural relationship may seem strange to many. But membership allows us to form a relationship with the people at Ascend that have genuine depth. It helps define those who are committed to the work that God is doing through Ascend. To be a member of a church is to make a public promise, or covenant, to use the Biblical term, to live according to the Word and to support the work of the congregation. Every believer is part of the church as organism (the Spiritual Body of Christ), but only via a public promise can you be part of the church as organisation. According to the Bible, a covenant is the basis for all societal relationships: marriage, employment, citizenship, church membership, friendship, etc…. These are all relationships of promise or covenant. So what are some of the tangible benefits of belonging to Ascend as covenant members?
Being a member at Ascend Church assures you that there is someone who cares enough to speak into your life. Many people may flow in and out of the doors of a church and not be known. Membership makes you known and gives the leadership at a glimpse into your values, beliefs, and actions. It expresses a commitment to know one another and encourage each other toward holiness. This may come in the form of instruction, exhortation, and even discipline when a member is not easily entreated.
At Ascend, we covenant to give priority to members of the church. This in no way means we do not serve those outside of the church! But an emphasis comes first on those who are part of this particular fellowship. Church members have made a commitment to the church body; a commitment to serve to contribute in various ways to the life of the church. The visitor, on the other hand, has made no such commitment. Biblically, the church family is compared to that of a biological family, and we see covenant membership kind of like a marriage. We care for all, but we care for family with special attention and priority.
At Ascend, we recognise that people who commit themselves to the work of the Kingdom through our local church body have a right to ask questions. Throughout the year we plan to bring financial reports that allow you to see how the resources are being used for God’s glory. People who attend and give will receive a year-end statement of what they have given. Members will receive additional information that will give a more full picture of the work of the church and use of God’s resources. We also commit to giving you reports that detail the results of initiatives that the church seeks to accomplish throughout the year whether favourable or not. In addition, members are invited to ask any questions you may have regarding profit and loss statements, financial accountability, and stewardship.
At the end of each year each member will be presented with a questionnaire to fill out. This survey will give members an opportunity to give input on the successes and failures of our church, the ways in which members are growing or struggling, and provide a feedback loop that lets us know how we can best serve each member better. In this way, the leadership of Ascend hopes that the Holy Spirit will give wisdom not just in the counsel of elders, but the multitude of counselors. The leadership commits to serving the body by implementation and the body commits to serving the leadership thru support and feedback that enables us to get better at leading.
We live in a culture of rugged individualism. When a Christian commits themselves to a local body of believers, they are choosing togetherness. At Ascend we believe that more is accomplished together than separate. In being a member of Ascend Church, you are becoming a part of a team. We labor together, strategise together, and together we celebrate the grace of God at work in our community. We are fellow partakers in all that the gospel is accomplishing through Ascend. Those who attend get to experience joy by observing God’s work. But those who are members of Ascend get to experience the delight that comes with knowing that God has done all that He desires through them as a vessel. Members own the work and experience the joy of the work of Ascend uniquely.
While we seek to provide pastoral care for anyone we can, particular attention is given to covenant members. Elders (you) are given responsibilities to pray for individuals and families within the church during the year. Members who seem to have disappeared from fellowship will be lovingly sought out and care offered. In general, covenant membership gives the leadership at Ascend Church the ability to ensure pastoral care to those who have covenanted with us.
WE DESIRE TO SEE NEW LIVES TRANSFORMED INTO PASSIONATELY ENGAGED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS.
Contained within this phrase is an important “from – to” imperative. We want to see people who don’t know Jesus, transformed in such a way through the life of the Spirit in our church community that they are then sent back into the world to serve as God’s ambassadors on redemptive kingdom mission. We’ve identified five specific shifts that people often make as the Holy Spirit gives hearing and response to Jesus and his kingdom announcement.
A disciple of Jesus is a person who is moving:
1. FROM DEATH TO LIFE
The first shift is about a call to respond to God’s invitation to life. This gift of life, accessed by grace, through faith, enables us to be born again. It reorients the story of our lives as we learn to walk in intimacy and union with God.
2. FROM SHAME TO ACCEPTANCE
The good news of what God has done for us does a deep work internally, about how we see ourselves and where our identity is rooted. We are welcomed into God’s family, freed from guilt, shame and condemnation. We learn to walk in new covenant life, enjoying our freedom and walking in authority over our old wounds, lies, idols and addictions.
3. FROM SELF TO OTHERS
We are not just reconciled to God, but to each other. This shift calls us to learn to live in vulnerable love and to offer grace and forgiveness for the faults of others. It calls us to find our unique gifts and talents so we can use them on behalf of others, and to be present in each other’s lives in ways that reflect God’s tangible love for us in Christ.
4. FROM CONSUMERISM TO MISSION
We want to see people understand, live and communicate the gospel to the world. We want to break down the walls between the sacred and the secular and enable people to see their work as both worship and renewal. And we want to help people join God in a larger mission through church planting partnerships around the world.
5. FROM STRIVING TO ABIDING
The central invitation for Jesus is to do life with God; not simply for God. Jesus invites us to abide in his love. It is from this place of acceptance and ease that we are rooted in the true source, receive power for life and ministry and bear the kind of fruit that remains. Our world is discipling us into a culture of death, shame, selfishness, consumerism and striving. As a covenant community we to be disciples of Jesus who thrive in his life, acceptance, community, mission and love.
Prerequisites for Membership
For someone to become a member at Ascend Church, they must first meet the following criteria:
• A personal profession of Christ as Lord and Saviour
• Baptism by immersion as a public symbol of one’s faith.
• Must have read and agreed to this Ascend Church Membership Covenant and the Mission and Core Values statement.
• Must have attended ascend classes and plug meetings.
• In some situations, the leadership may request a personal meeting, either to meet new members, get more info, or clarification to questions.
Statement of Basic Beliefs
The good news of the gospel is the hope of the world. As we read the Scriptures, we see the predominant themes of God’s providence, power and provision to reconcile mankind and the created world to Himself through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In light of this, we are explicitly gospel- centred in all that we preach, teach and practice.
As such we believe…
- The Scriptures are true, authoritative and sufficient (Psalm 19:7-11; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
- There is only one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, who eternally exists in three distinct Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5-6, 46:9-10; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Genesis 1:26; Psalm 45:6-7, 110:1; Matthew 3:13-17, 28:17-20; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
- All things exist for the glory of God (Psalm 148; Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 61:3; Romans 11:33-36; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 1:3-14).
- I am, along with all humanity (Christ excluded), by birth and action a sinner. (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23, 5:8, 5:12-21, 7:18; Ephesians 2:1-3).
- The deserved penalty for sin is physical and spiritual death (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:19; Romans 5:12, 6:23; James 1:14-15).
- Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, was born of a virgin and is both fully God and fully human (Matthew 1:20; Luke 2:52; John 1:1-4, 14; Colossians 1:15- 20; Hebrews 1:1-3).
- Jesus Christ died as the sacrificial substitute to pay the penalty for our sin (John 1:29, 10:1-18; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18).
- Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and will one day physically return (Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-53; John 1:20-21:25, 14:3; 1 Corinthians 15:12-34; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Hebrews 9:28; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 1:7).
- There will be a future physical resurrection of the dead. Only those who turn from sin and to Jesus in faith and repentance will be raised to eternal reward. Those who do not turn from sin and to Jesus will be raised to eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).
- Only through faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ and repentance from sin can one be reconciled to God and experience eternal life (John 3:18, 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 3:21-26; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).4
THE PASTORS COVENANT
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we the pastors/elders of Ascend Church covenant to:
– We commit ourselves to lovingly caring for people and seeking their growth in Christ (Heb. 13:17: 1 Thess. 5:12).
– We covenant to provide teaching and counsel from the Scriptures (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18) and that this teaching will span the whole counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20: 27-28).
– We covenant to helping the saints in times of need as their needs are made known. (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35; James 2:14-17).
– We covenant to appoint elders and deacons (including staff members who serve in these offices) according to the criteria assigned to them in the Scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4)
– We covenant to pray for people regularly, particularly when they are sick (James 5:14).
– We covenant to seek God’s will for our church community to the best of our ability as we study the Scriptures and follow the Spirit (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-5).
– We covenant to set an example and join in fulfilling the duties of each church member (1 Co. 11; Philip. 3:17; 1 Tim. 4:12).
– We covenant to have pastors and elders that meet the qualifications described in the Scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
– To continually and prayerfully seek God’s guidance for Ascend Church and to steward the resources entrusted to the church to the best of our abilities (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
– To care for the church and seek her growth in grace, truth, and love (Matthew 28:16-20; Ephesians 4:15-16 Colossians 1:28; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
– To provide teaching and counsel from the entirety of Scripture (Acts 20:27-28; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 2:1).
– To equip the members of the church for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).
– To be on guard against false teachers and false teachings (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 1 John 4:1).
– To lovingly exercise church discipline when necessary, for the glory of God, for the good of the one disciplined, and for the health of the church as a whole (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).
– To set an example by joining the members in fulfilling the obligations of church membership stated below (Philippians 3:17; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7-8; 1 Peter 5:3).
Membership Responsibilities and Confession:
I have received Christ as my Lord and Saviour, have been baptised by immersion after my salvation, and am in agreement with Ascend Church’s covenant. I now feel led by the Holy Spirit to unite with the Ascend Church family. In doing so, I commit myself to God and to the other members of Ascend Church. In doing so, I commit myself to God and to the other members to do the following:
1. I will protect the unity of my church.
By acting in love toward other members
By refusing to gossip
By demonstrating submission to church leadership and diligence to preserve unity and peace
“So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up” (Romans 14:19 NLT).
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).
“Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (Hebrews 13:17).
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
“Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
“Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
I will share the responsibility of my church.
By praying for its growth
By inviting the unchurched to attend
By warmly welcoming those who visit
By seeking to make disciples of all nations
“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:2-6).
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you’ ” (John 20:21).
“Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
“Then Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ ” (Matthew 28:18-20).
“We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly” (1 Thessalonians 1:2 NLT).
“So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet” (Luke 14:23-24 NLT).
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT).
I will serve the ministry of my church.
By discovering my gifts and talents
By being trained and equipped to serve by my pastors for service
By developing a servant’s heart
By discovering where God wants me to serve
“Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial …” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
“But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).
“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:12-15).
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT).
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too…. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being . . .” (Philippians 2:3-4, 7).
I will support the testimony of my church
By attending faithfully
By living a godly life
By giving regularly
By giving my tithe in accordance with scripture
By not teaching doctrine contrary to God’s Word and Ascend Church’s beliefs
I also understand that if I relocate and am unable to attend Ascend Church, I should inform them of my move and find another Bible-believing church to unite with in faith, service, and life.
“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
“Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
“Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words” (Romans 16:17-18).
“Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
“The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, the worker is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News” (Philippians 1:27 NLT).
“On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT).
“One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy” (Leviticus 27:30 NLT).
I will glorify the Lord by seeking His face in my life through worship, fellowship, obedience to His Word, by acts of service inside and outside of the church, spiritual growth (such as regular Bible reading, pursuing the spiritual disciplines, sharing the gospel with others, and by living a life that brings honour to Christ. I understand that I’m called to honour Christ in every stage and season of my life whether it be in singleness, in dating, in friendship, in marriage, in parenting, in my job, in retirement, etc. (1 Corinthians 8:6), (Romans 12:1- 2), (Matthew 28:18-20).
(Psalm 119:97, 105; Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:23-25). Faithfully attend the regular church worship services (Hebrews 10:25, Acts 2:42), take communion (1 Corinthians 11 23-30), and conduct private and family devotions (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:14-16; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Matthew 6:6).
I commit myself to the Ascend Church church family and agree to aid in fulfilling its missional purpose to bring the gospel to Pretoria. I recognise that this will be accomplished by pursuing Ascend’s vision and core values. I also covenant to practice the humility and sacrificial attitude of Christ by considering the needs of others (Philippians 2:1-14; 1 Corinthians 13:4-5), not gossiping (Proverbs 16:28, Matthew 18: 15-17), and seeking spiritual friendships (Proverbs 17:17).
I covenant to follow the biblical procedures of church discipline and submit myself to informal discipline as I strive to live out the gospel in community and formal discipline if the need should ever arise (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1-5). If I withdraw from membership while the subject of pending disciplinary action according to Matthew 18:15-17, I expressly consent and submit to the elders’ continuing authority to complete the disciplinary process set forth in our church by-laws.”
I covenant to submit to the authority of the Scriptures as the final arbiter on all issues (Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). God enabling me, I will strive to consider my commitment to this Membership Covenant on a yearly basis. I understand that it is an evaluative tool, as well as an affirmation of my continuing conviction and purpose. My responsibility will be to notify the Ascend leadership if at any time I can no longer commit to this covenant, or if I have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding Ascend Church.