Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Covenant Membership and Federal Vision [Covenant Theology]

What is Federal Vision? Sounds like a name of a bank or government agency but seems to be a new religious movement, this time one that is popular in Reformed and other circles. This one I am still studying, but I noticed this statement:

"While they believe personal conversion is important, in their eyes, the emphasis on personal conversion over covenant membership was a deviation from what the Bible, the Church Fathers, and the original Reformers taught, and they seek to return to pre-Great Awakening theology."

[there goes those false church fathers again! well I've only talked about them a little bit on here, but remember deceivers came in very early into the church]

"Covenant membership" is one thing promoted by Federal Vision churches, that come more from the Presbyterian, Reformed, Dutch Reformed side of things. Other evangelical churches are getting involved too as seen in the video. Remember here like baptists, and others, there can be a wide range even within one denominational descripter. One thing, Federal Vision and churches involved in "covenant theology" often are connected to dominion theology or [Dominionism]

Right there in that statement personal conversion is diminished! Something is very wrong with that, one is born again by individually coming to Jesus Christ and being born again. When I was Catholic, Catholicism taught a covenant membership of sorts [church membership and your standing with the 'church" [the man-made organization not the actual Body of Christ] was held as the highest good. It was not about having a personal relationship with God, but about receiving sacramentas from the church. It gives me a bad taste in my mouth when I see Protestants or evangelicals speaking of "submission" to a church body especially during days now where false teachers and falling away abounds. Signing "contracts" or church covenants where you have to take classes and are "interviewed" and the rest, seems to be a part of this process. Seems all very formalized with vows to men being on the top of the list.[I chose examples here at random googling "covenant membership"]. Some churches even have ceremonies for when people sign the church covenant while others require a renewing of this covenant. Overall something doesn't sound right where church members are forced to "sign a contract" to be part of a church. The focus should be on soul-winning and salvation and then discipleship not signing a list of 'rules' even ones that have a biblical basis. Christians are to operate in freedom and under the guidance of God.

The whole thing reads wrong...[here is another example]

Therefore our covenant membership vows are a reflection of and are carried out in obedience to his glory. As he keeps covenant with his church so his church keeps covenant with him in living in his church in an accountable manner through member vows. To deny covenant membership vows is to deny the very nature of God and his work in creation and redemption.

I am curious, what if the church goes wrong? Connecting obedience to a church as being the same as obedience to God also is dangerous. The churches are full of people blindly following leaders automatically thinking they all speak for God. Also when everything in life is a "contract" and run like a business deal? Isn't something lost? Watch out for any leader who asks you to make official your submission to him or a church organization!

One comes to Jesus Christ out of love, and while God has covenants [OT and new one in NT] having God and your church presumbly treat you like an employee, that has to make 'vows' [isnt there a Bible verse against the making of vows, where it says let your yes be yes and your no be no?] Ah found it:

Mat 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Here is a random example of a church that promotes Covenant Membership:

Also here is a sample church membership covenant, I looked up. One thing I found is most of them followed these general statements. Here are more examples [#1, #2, #3]

God, by His grace alone, has led me to repent of my sin and believe upon Jesus Christ, trusting Him alone as my Savior
and Lord. As one who has been baptized as a believer in Christ, I desire to unite with this church family. Therefore, I enter into a covenantal relationship with the members of this church. In humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit, I endeavor to do the following:

To faithfully attend the church’s worship
services. (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:25),
◦To diligently guard the truth, upholding
the standard of sound words recorded in Scripture (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Tim. 6:3-4,20; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; 2 Tim. 2:14-15, 2 Tim. 24-26; 2 Tim. 4:3-4)
◦To wholeheartedly support, love, and care for the church’s ministries and members, offering: my prayers (2 Cor. 13:9; Eph. 1:15-20; Eph 3:14-21; Eph 6:18; Phil. 1:3-6; Phil 9-11; Col. 1:3-12; Col. 4:2-6; 1 Thes. 1:2-4; 1 Thes. 5:17; 1
Pet. 1:22) my financial gifts (Lev. 27:30; Mal. 3:10; Mat. 23:23; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:6-7; 1 Tim. 5:17-18) my service (Eph. 4:11-16; Titus 2:11-14;Heb. 10:24; 1 Peter 2:5,9,12; 1 Peter 4:10; Jude 17-21; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 1 Cor. 12:4-11,25-26; Ezek. 36:23 b)
◦To boldly witness for the Lord Jesus Christ,
living a transformed life and sharing the gospel as God gives opportunity (Mat.4:19; Mat. 28:19; Acts 1:8; Acts 5:42; 1 Pet. 3:15)

◦To actively pursue
personal holiness before God, loving others as Christ has loved us.(2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thes. 4:7; 1 Pet 1:15-16; 1 Jn. 3:3; Jn. 13:34-35)
To diligently promote the unity of the church, being a peacemaker with all in the body of Christ (Mat. 5:9; 23-26; Rom 12:18-21; Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 2:1-4; Col. 3:12-14; 2 Tim. 2:22; Heb 12:14)

◦To respectfully follow the leaders of this church, trusting and supporting their leadership (1 Thes. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17-20; Heb. 13:7,17)

◦To humbly submit to the church’s discipline, graciously repenting when approached about personal sin, and lovingly restoring others who become entangled in sin (Mat. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:6-13; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Gal. 6:1; 1
Thes. 5:14-15; 2 Thes. 3:5-6; Eph. 4:29; Phil. 2:14).

The "vow-taking" is awful enough, by biblical mandate but notice the above: required attendance? That smacks of when I was a Catholic and being told missing Mass was a "mortal sin" that would put me in hell. Diligently guard the truth? Well, I would tell anyone asking me to sign a paper like this, that it was against the Bible. Support, love and care for church members? Of course, but it is an insult to ask someone to have to even sign to make that happen, it's supposed to come via the love of God, not via legalism. Promote unity of the church? Well false unity can be a negative thing, false unity at the expense of truth is promoted in churches. That one is a perfect set up for having people indoctrinated into standing silently by as heresy, and false teachings take over a church. Some of the covenants add "refusing to gossip" thought the one I quote doesn't have it. Gossip is a sin, but I dare say that "rule" is used to silent all dissension, and questioning or criticizing any false teachings by the pastors or sin in the church.

Respectfully follow the church membership? Well you know that one had to be added. Watch out for any leader that makes you sign a paper promising to "follow him" this puts church leadership beyond accountability. Even signing this paper on that note is wrong, because what if a pastor starts teaching false doctrine? [well they already are following covenant membership] Having people sign they will "respectfully follow" opens the door to endless abuses of authority.

Sorry it is not man who determines you to be a member of the body of Christ or any of the above, loving and serving church members but God. All these 'contracts" are of legalism. Even at my good church, they asked me to sign their membership book [it had no vows or membership covenants in it], I said, "You all know I am a member here but the only book I am worried about being in, is the Book of Life". I wasn't trying to be difficult, had no problem being listed in the church phone directory, but felt convicted to say what I did.


Anonymous said...

Amen, BB. That vowing business certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth! I wouldn't go near that! Anon. #1

Bible Believer said...

Yes it really bothers me. So formalized, and don't forget they make them take classes and more in a lot of places before they "sign the paper". It's like Catholicism where you need RCIA for a year, then to make it "official". Some of the control-freak antics of these pastors is really disheartening.

Anonymous said...

Amen! I so agree and am now being gaced with this from a small church I have attended two years now. Great church, so don't know why they need a signature for some guidelines...I give, love, and pray and attend....I minister and serve...I will not sign it as church is not a business of legalities but of faith and hope....Right on Brother!....Thank you for this post!

Bible Believer said...

Thanks Anon, I am sorry the church you are attending has gotten into this. Do you think you will say something? I agree that ministering and serving, praying and attending, are not supposed to be pledged by a "vow" but via faith and hope. It is sad the churches have come to this.

Anonymous said...

I belong to a church in which members sign a covenant. All members know that they are saved by grace. Therefore, when we sign we do it because we feel it to be God-honoring to agree on how we should behave. We are fully aware that this has nothing whatsoever to do with our salvation. It is therefore not legalistic in the way that Paul wrote in Galatians.

Our covenant is simple, and founded on biblical verses. The covenant is designed to make us a better church.

Think about it.

When you read one of these simple covenants (such as Saddleback's). I would suggest you go through each point and ask this question.

What would your church be like if "no one prayed for it"

What would our church be like if "everyone gossipped."

The list goes on and on.

I ask you again....just think about it.

This is NOT legalism. It's about being the best that we can be.

Think about it.

Bible Believer said...

The "best you can be" by whose standards?

God's? The 'do not gossip' thing is meant to suppress church members from talking amongst themselves regarding error and more, it is tyranny via church pastor especially as more are bringing new definitions to "gossip".

Adults are not children where some man in the pulpit, has to have them sign a list of "rules".

If someone does not feel led by God naturally to pray for their own church, that is a problem, as well as being led away from real gossip. Those are not things mandated by rules. The Dominionists think they can 'force everyone to be good", this comes via conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Also the Bible tells Christians not to take vows, let your yes be your yes...Let God determine how you will be behave, not man.

Sure it may not be considered a salvation issue, but these rules [and Rick Warren helped influence them just bring people under more control of a pastor. In this case, control of your very speech. Whatever happened to freedom in Jesus Christ. I do not respect pastors who would make rules like this, instead of a church family that operates in love, and Christian charity, they make demands, and unyielding rules that speak of blind obedience. I had the Pope and priests in the Catholic church, why would I be interested in more elevated clergy?

Sure they word these covenants according to the bible, folks can misuse bible verses to make anything sound legitimate.

I often ask myself why are especially the Christian men submitting to clergy like this? Like they are babies and children, who let another man direct their prayers, speech, and even the freedom to have their own thoughts. If prayer is not spontaneous via God's leading, you can write all the rules that people pray for it, they are just window dressing.

It is just more of the falling away, where the evangelical and other churches are resembling Roman Catholic ones more and more step by step. None of the pastors have declared infallibility yet, but many of them within their churches do seem to think they are "above it all" and above the laity, going back to the Catholic mode again. No longer a servant to Jesus Christ, but a rule maker and "king' of their own church kingdom, issuing edicts from above.

Did you see this post? It addresses more points related to this.

I had my time under the Pope, I do not need another one.

Rick Warren is a deceiver leading the churches back to Rome. I will pray for you that you discern the truth about him.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to sign a covenant. As far as I can tell the only one able to keep them is God. we always fail, at some point. I would rather put m trust in what Christ did for me and fall down in worship of Him not some man's rules of conduct.

Bible Believer said...

I refuse too. Human beings sin and fail. We are accountable to God, not these pastors who seek total control. I have seen these covenants, one some months ago first hand, where you are told not to gossip or criticize the pastor, they are being used to squelch any dissent for false leadership. I too would rather trust in Jesus Christ, and not be under another "pope" or "priest" dictating what I do or not do. Our conduct is to be via conviction via the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the covenant. They are not all the same. A properly written covenant that focuses on the truth of what the Scriptures teach about the obedience that faith produces is not a bad thing. Churches that ask members to sign a document that proclaims belief in the Bible isn't a bad thing either.

It would behoove us to look closely at what the Bible says about taking vows and what it means. We take vows every day. We take vows in marriage. We take vows when we buy houses and cars. We take vows when we pay for things with a credit card or debit card or write checks. We take vows when we sign rental agreements for cars or hotels. By using the internet to write your blog, you most likely have agreed to the privacy policy of the company that provides you with internet service. Frankly, these vows/agreements/covenants are things we do on a regular basis without even thinking about them... until it comes to church. Then suddenly they are evil and ungodly. That doesn't make sense.

Even in the Bible you see covenants being made between man and man. David and Jonathan made a covenant together. Solomon made covenants with others. It's not an uncommon thing, nor was it strictly prohibited in Scripture. Paul claims to be under a vow in Acts 18.

I don't think we should be so quick to judge every church that has a covenant... since most churches have them even if they don't make members sign them. Simply by being a member of a church you've made a covenant or agreement with that body of believers and live under a covenant, signed statement or not.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate very much your comments on this matter. I had to leave a church last year after being a member for 37 years and a ruling elder for 15. The new pastor brought this in and used it to bully people. In order to leave the church one had to have his express permission to do so. He claimed that if you did so, you were declaring yourself to be a non-christian, that you were committing "self excommunication". He became very angry at me for pointing out that the Westminster Confession of Faith says (25:2),"The visible church...consists of the whole number of all those throughout the whole world who profess the true religion; and of their children..." He wanted to add his own FV influenced views into it. It was only one of the symptoms of a false teaching being used as a club by a "minister" who thought that godliness was blind obedience. So sad to see churches destroyed and families split apart by such evil errors. Thanks, again, brother for your clarity on this matter.
Your friend in Christ, Bill

Bible Believer said...

I am glad you obeyed God and left a church that brought this in. It is scary business and usually used for power-hungry pastors who sadly are following in the footsteps of Rome with the edicts. That is foolish that he would pair one's Christianity with "church membership" and that he had to give permission for anyone to leave, that is basically the Catholic system. Blind obedience to a clergy member, that is what he was requiring. Sorry you went through that but glad you came out of there. {I am a sister, just wanted to make that clear} God bless

Marion Wiley said...

I see this post is several years old, but so glad to find your information here. I experienced this kind of thing for 12 years in a church that proved to be abusive. Contracts were created and signed (I didn't), submission to authority was all-important, and there was a huge clergy/laity divide with complete unaccountablility. (Is that a word?) Thank you for your post; hope it helps others to see the truth.