Model Relational Commitments
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. These Commitments cover important relational issues, such
as peacemaking and reconciliation, marriage and divorce, protecting
children from abuse, counseling, confidentiality, and mutual
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
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 relational
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 show us how to move quickly toward reconciliation.
- They establish guidelines for how our leaders will counsel others,
guard confidential information, and protect our children from abuse.
- They define and limit the spiritual authority of church 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 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 going through our membership class and
then signing the Church Covenant provided at the end of this document.
If you are not yet prepared to become a member, we hope you and your
family will continue to attend our church, worship with us, enjoy our
Sunday school, 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. (See "A Tale
of Two Families" to learn why.) As brothers and sisters in Christ, we will
do all we can to encourage you to grow in faith and godliness and to live
a disciplined life that honors our Lord Jesus Christ and adds to the
witness of our church.
The Leaders of [Our Church Name]
Adopted on [Date]
These Relational Commitments are adapted from The Peacemaker Church.
Used by permission of Peacemaker® Ministries
A TALE OF TWO FAMILIES
Two boys, John and Luke, lost their mother at a young age. When they
were in their teens, their father was reported to have died when his
plane crashed into the ocean. The boys had no other relatives, so two
neighboring families took them in.
The Friendly family did all they could to make John feel welcome in their
home. They gave him his own bedroom, provided his meals, and encouraged
him to join in family activities. Not wanting him to feel any
pressure, they did not explain to him about any of the family rules.
Instead they hoped that he would notice how their other children
behaved and decide on his own to act the same way.
Not knowing exactly what was expected of him, John frequently
disappointed the family by violating unspoken rules. Feeling judged and
unconnected to the family, he became increasingly independent. He
came and went at any hour, played loud music, and spent long hours in
his room with a variety of girls. When Mr. Friendly finally tried to talk
with him about his behavior, John said, "I'm not your son, so you have
no right to tell me how to live my life. I like having a bedroom and meals
whenever I decide to be here, but I'll still do whatever seems right to
Tensions continued to build, and finally Mr. Friendly asked John to
leave. Fortunately for John, there was another Friendly family in town,
and they were happy to take him in. But there the cycle started all over
John's brother had an entirely different experience. Luke was taken in by
the Loving family. They wanted him to feel welcome, so they gave him a
room, provided meals, and encouraged him to join in family activities.
But they also wanted to avoid misunderstandings and conflict. So
shortly after Luke arrived, Mr. Loving explained the family rules to
Luke, so he would know how to get along with the rest of the family. He
said, "Even though you are not my son, I will be glad to look out for you
the best I can. But as long as you are in my home, I also will expect you
to behave as my other children do."
Like any normal teenager, Luke sometimes broke the rules. When he did,
Mr. Loving sat down with him, pointed out what he'd done wrong, and
held him accountable to the same standards he had established for his
other children. Luke sometimes resented this discipline, but he eventually
realized it was always done in love, and it kept him out of a lot of
After a few months, Mr. Loving approached Luke and said, "Since you
are living here like part of the family, we would like to make it official. If
you feel this is where you'd like to stay, we'd like to adopt you and make
you our son."
Luke gladly accepted and formally committed himself to the family. In
doing so, he changed from being an orphan who merely resided in the
home to being a son who willingly accepted and enjoyed all of the same
responsibilities and privileges of his new brothers and sisters.
Suppose that John and Luke's father is rescued from an island two years
later. When he is reunited with his sons and hears what has happened to
them, which family will he thank the most? The Friendly family, who
were kind enough to give John a place to hang out, but could not bring
themselves to give him any boundaries? Or the Loving family, who
welcomed Luke in, held him accountable to the same rules as the rest of
the family, and invited him to be a son?
The answer is obvious. And there is a real Father who one day will
evaluate the way we care for the people who come into our church
family. Therefore, we the members of [our church name], are glad to
welcome people and give them a place to worship, grow and serve. But
being "friendly" is not good enough. We want to be loving, as God
defines loving (Heb. 12:5-6; 10:24). Therefore, we will encourage and
expect everyone who attends our church to live out the biblical
principles that are summarized in these Relational Commitments.
And when people have lived like part of our family for a while, we will
encourage them to "make it official." Living like an orphan, with its
illusion of independence and self-determination, may seem appealing to
some. But to all who have tasted the security, privileges and responsibilities
of being a son or daughter in a real family, becoming a member of a
biblical church is one of the greatest joys in life.
COMMITMENT TO PEACEMAKING AND RECONCILIATION
By the People of [Our Church Name]
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matt. 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 peacemaking 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). 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; instead, we will 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
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 leaders 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.
- 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, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for
Christian Conciliation of the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a
division of Peacemaker Ministries (www.Peacemaker.net).
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
COMMITMENT TO PRESERVING MARRIAGES
By the People of [Our Church Name]
So they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has joined together,
let man not separate (Matt. 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 life-long, 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. Toward this end, we will devote a
significant portion of our preaching and teaching ministry to strengthening
marriages and families. We require and provide thorough premarital
counseling to ensure that couples enter into marriage advisedly and are
well prepared for its many challenges.
We also encourage couples to nurture their marriages by participating in
weekly fellowship groups in which people can grow together in their
love for God and for one another (Heb. 10:24-25). As relationships
deepen within these groups, we expect husbands to spur each other on
in loving and cherishing their wives, and wives to encourage one
another in respecting and loving their husbands (Eph. 5:33).
Our leaders are committed to providing counsel and support to couples
who face marital difficulties. We will actively 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
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 (Matt. 5:31-32), or when an
unbelieving spouse abandons a marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16).
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
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 only when we
have determined that it is biblically valid and that every reasonable
effort has been made to seek and grant forgiveness of the sins that
contributed to a previous divorce.
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.
COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN
By the People of [Our Church Name]
The prudent see danger and take refuge (Prov. 27:12a).
Children are 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 has regularly attended our church for
at least six months and is a formal member.
- We screen all of our youth workers by requiring each of them to
complete a detailed application form, provide three personal
references, pass a personal interview, and consent to a background
check (personal, employment or criminal) that the church can
conduct at its option.
- We require that, whenever practicable, 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,
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.
COMMITMENT TO BIBLICAL COUNSELING
By the People of [Our Church Name]
I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness,
complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Rom. 15:14).
All Christians struggle with sin and the effect it has on our lives and our
relationships. Whenever a Christian is unable to overcome sinful
attitudes or behaviors through personal efforts, God calls him 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 psychotherapists 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).
There are occasions when our leaders do not have sufficient time to meet
with every person who asks for counseling. At such times we expect our
leaders to give first priority to people who have formally joined the
church (Gal. 6:10), and to serve those who only attend the church by
referring them to another source of godly counsel.
COMMITMENT TO CONFIDENTIALITY
By the People of [Our Church Name]
A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy man keeps a secret (Prov. 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
- 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.
- 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.
COMMITMENT TO ACCOUNTABILITY AND CHURCH DISCIPLINE
By the People of [Our Church Name]
And let us consider how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds (Heb. 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).
A. 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.
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 maintaining 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 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 "selfcontrolled,
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
B. 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 selfdiscipline"
(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
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
C. 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.
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 formally remove him or her from membership and
normal fellowship. They also may inform the church body of their
decision and instruct the congregation to 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 members6 (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 full 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 sacraments in our church, to become members, or to
participate in the 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
If an individual disagrees with the way discipline has been carried out,
he or she may appeal the church's decisions according to the established
disciplinary procedures of our denomination.
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.
WE INVITE YOU TO BECOME A MEMBER
OF [OUR CHURCH NAME]
We believe that God wants every Christian to become a member of a
local church. To learn why, please read Joshua Harris's book, Stop Dating
the Church, and the third chapter of Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual
Disciplines within the Church, both of which are available in our 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.
If you like what you see in our church, we invite you to attend our membership
class. During that class you can learn more about our church's
doctrines and vision for ministry, and about the privileges and
responsibilities of formal membership. Attending the class will not
obligate you to become a member.
If attending the membership class convinces you that joining our church
will help to you grow in your ability to love and serve God, we would be
delighted to have you become a member of 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
(after completing our standard screening process).
- 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,
please read the books mentioned above. Our leaders also would be
happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about
CHURCH COVENANT (SAMPLE A)
By the Members of [Our Church Name]
Our Commitments to One Another in the Sight of God
Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord
Jesus Christ as our Savior, and, on the profession of our faith, having
been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, angels and this assembly,
most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one
body in Christ.
- 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;
and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry,
the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor and the spread of the
Gospel through all nations.
- We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to educate
our children in the Christian faith; to seek the salvation of our kindred
and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our
dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment;
to avoid all gossiping, backbiting and excessive anger; and to seek God's
help in abstaining from all drugs, food, drink and practices that bring
unwarranted harm to the body or jeopardize our own or another's faith.
- We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to
remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and
distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in
speech; and to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without
- We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, if
possible, unite with a church where we can carry out the articles of this
confession and the spirit of this covenant.
- Finally, we acknowledge that we have received and read the Bylaws
and Relational Commitments of this church, and we hereby covenant
and agree to support and submit to them.
CHURCH COVENANT (SAMPLE B)
By the Members of [Our Church Name]
Our Commitments to One Another in the Sight of God
Having been chosen by God and drawn by the Spirit to receive the Lord
Jesus Christ as my Savior, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of
- I submit myself to the government and discipline of the church, and
promise to pursue its purity and peace.
- Finally, I acknowledge that I have received and read the Bylaws and
Relational Commitments of this church, and I hereby covenant and agree
to support and submit to them.
USE AND ADAPTATION OF DOCUMENTS
A Word to Church Leaders
These Commitments and Covenants are copyrighted by Peacemaker
Ministries, which reserves all rights to these documents. These
documents may not be used for resale or any commercial purposes.
Having said that, Peacemaker Ministries grants permission for these
documents to be adapted and used by any local church, providing all
reprints include the attribution, "These Relational Commitments are
adapted from The Peacemaker Church. Used by permission of
Peacemaker® Ministries (www.PeacemakerChurch.net
Since these Commitments may affect important spiritual, ecclesiastical
and legal issues (see www.PeacemkerChurch.net
), we encourage
churches to take the following steps as they move to adopt these
- conduct a Peacemaker Church Assessment™, which can help to
gauge your congregation's support for these concepts and show
whether they believe their leaders are setting a credible example
- conduct a congregation-wide Peacemaker Campaign™ to teach
your people the principles that underlie these Commitments;
- adopt the Peacemaker Church discipleship strategy, as set forth
in The Peacemaker Church Implementation Manual, which will
enable you to obtain proper "informed consent" to these
Commitments from your congregation;
- sign up to receive regular Peacemaker Church updates from
Peacemaker Ministries; and
- consult with an attorney to determine whether these
Commitments should be modified to accommodate local laws.
The Assessment and non-consumable training resources needed to carry
out these steps (Implementation Manual, Model Sermons, Peacemaker
Church Seminar DVDs, Group Study Guide and DVDs, etc.) are
contained in the Church PeacePack
™, which may be ordered through
Each Commitment may be adapted to fit the governing structure and
convictions of a particular church. Be careful, however! Many of the
provisions in each Commitment have been drafted to address specific church conflict and liability issues. If they are inappropriately modified
or deleted, you may lose important legal protection. General adaptation
may include the following changes:
- Search for and replace the expression "[Our Church Name]"
throughout these documents with the name of your church.
- Change the definition of "leader" in footnote #1 to fit your polity
(e.g., change to "pastor and deacons") or search for the term
throughout these documents and replace it with an appropriate
- Consider the changes suggested by footnotes marked with an
"*", and then delete these footnotes.
- Select and modify the Church Covenant you will use (using
provisions from both samples or from a more traditional
covenant if you wish), and delete the other Covenant. Whichever
covenant you use, be sure to retain the last provision about
receiving and submitting to the Relational Commitments.
- Delete this entire section on Use and Modification of Documents
from your final document.