Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together...Hebrews 10:24-25
Salt & Light Church
Although there is no verse in the Bible that states, “Thou shalt be a member of a specific local body of believers”, we can infer the practice of church membership from many passages. For our purposes here at Salt and Light Church, we want to focus on one passage before we dive into the individual commitments that members of Salt and Light church have agreed to.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NASB)
There are three things in this text: First, believers hold to a confession of faith. At Salt and Light Church, that confession of faith is the Gospel, as set forth by the Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians, as well as numerous passages in 1 Corinthians and elsewhere throughout the New Testament (for a more detailed explanation of our statement of faith, please see links in the menu above for Our Beliefs and What We Teach). Second, believers are called to love and care for one another. The items in our membership covenant are not random things that are unique to our church. Rather, they are biblical things that God expects of every believer, regardless of what church they attend. Jesus said that the world would know we belong to Him by our love for one another (cf. John 13:35). One helpful thing about church membership is that it narrows down who we are called to love. Scripture is clear that we are called to love all people, including our enemies (cf. Matthew 5:43-47). But Scripture is also clear that even more than that we are called to love believers more deeply (cf. Galatians 6:10). But believers are scattered all around the world. How do we rightly love believers more than non-believers? We commit to the believers in our local church by joining with them in membership. Finally, believers are called to persevere in Christ. We do this by encouraging one another to keep pursuing Christ. The day is drawing near. The last day. Judgment day. Vindication day. Christ will return, and we want to be found in Him. Joining hands in church membership is us declaring, “These are the people who I expect to check up on me if I become absent. These are the people I plan to check up on if they become absent.” But now for the specific commitments of Salt and Light Church members:
We will seek to magnify the cross of Christ in all that we do, knowing that it is by the grace of God alone that our sins have been forgiven, our old nature put to death, and we have been raised to new life in Christ.
The cross of Christ is the symbol of Christianity. There are some who say that a Gospel devoid of the empty tomb is no Gospel at all, but no Christian goes around wearing a necklace with a tomb on it. We wear necklaces with crosses. Paul says something similar in 1 Corinthians 2:2,
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Simply put, we at Salt and Light Church are committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is obviously more than simply the cross, but the cross is the prism through which all other aspects of the Gospel become radiant. The resurrection only makes sense because of the cross. Jesus’ perfect life was lived in anticipation of the cross. Our love for one another is possible only because we all recognize our need for washing and cleansing at the cross. We exist to promote the Gospel, as centered in the cross of Christ. We do not exist to promote ourselves. We do not exist to promote our leaders. We do not even exist to promote the name of Salt and Light Church. We exist to promote the Gospel (cf. Romans 1:16-17).
We will live our lives according to the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, having submitted ourselves to God’s Word and embraced this church’s Statement of Faith as a trustworthy summary of biblical teaching.
The Reformation was founded on the principle of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as our source of authority for faith and doctrine). Paul wrote the following in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Simply put, we at Salt and Light Church are committed to the entirety of the Scriptures. We must always seek to align our thinking and actions with the teaching of the full counsel of the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Scriptures. Everything we do and say and teach must be in accordance with (and not opposed to) the teaching of the Scriptures (this is why there are Scripture references throughout this discussion of our membership covenant).
We will seek to exemplify a true Christian community, caring for one another, admonishing one another, and bearing each other’s burdens.
Community has been the theme from the beginning of the Bible. God created Adam, said, “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), and then created Eve for community with Adam; together, they had community with God. Fast-forward to the New Testament--after sin has come in and not only wrecked our community with God, but also with each other (cf. Genesis 3-4)--and we see Jesus step onto the scene and immediately call a community into existence in the 12 apostles (cf. John 1:35-51; Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9-13; 10:1-4). Paul writes the following in Galatians 6:1-3 about our community:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
At Salt and Light Church, we strive to be a community like this. Our caring for one another is seen in gently helping those who find themselves stuck in sin. We aren’t out to judge others for their sin; we are here to help them overcome them. Bearing with each other takes it one step farther. Burdens are heavy. We shouldn’t have to carry them alone. When we carry another’s burdens, we are actively being Jesus to that person (cf. Matthew 11:28-30; Galatians 6:2). In 6:3, Paul admonishes the church by cautioning them against becoming proud because of their love for others. In a similar way, if the situation arises, we must be willing to do the hard task of speaking admonishment to those we fellowship with.
At Salt and Light Church, we are committed to bearing with, caring for, and admonishing our fellow believers. This shows love to a watching world (cf. John 13:35).
We will use our spiritual gifts in God-honoring ways to build up the body.
How are communities built and sustained? By the cooperation of the people within the community. Paul describes this cooperation in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 by using the term “spiritual gifts”:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
We need to know several things about this topic. First, the term itself: spiritual gifts. This implies two things: 1) these are not natural qualities a Christian possess, like a talent or a skill, and 2) these are gifts (graces) that are bestowed on Christians when they place their faith in Christ for salvation. Second, for this reason, every believer has at least one. According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, these gifts promote church unity (cf. John 17), so if they are being used for self-promotion and not kingdom-promotion, then they are probably not rightly recognized as “spiritual gifts.” In verse 11, Paul says that “the same Spirit” is the One who imparts these gifts, which shows us that our spiritual gifts won’t exist contrary to another believer’s spiritual gifts. As members of Salt and Light Church, we are committed to working for each other’s good in a united way.
We will strive to be faithful in the Word of God and prayer, studying the Scriptures privately and corporately, and praying for ourselves and others.
The commitments espoused in this membership covenant are not solely for those in leadership positions at Salt and Light Church. As this specific commitment shows, it isn’t enough to merely read the Bible and pray at church. Every church member must strive to set aside time daily for these most important tasks. Paul describes prayer and Scripture reading in Ephesians 6:17-18 by using a clothing metaphor:
And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
At Salt and Light Church, we are committed to the Scriptures. More specifically, we are committed to the proper interpretation of the Scriptures. We want to be known as Bereans in this (cf. Acts 17:11), and as leaders, we want the people to hold us accountable in our teaching accuracy. For this to be possible, everyone must be committed to the Scriptures individually. The Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) was partially in response to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church had shut the common person out from understanding the Scripture. It was read in Latin, and the English or French or German-speaking peasants couldn’t understand Latin. So the Reformers fought to bring the Bible to the people in their own language. Many believers have died throughout time for this very struggle. We must not let their sacrifice be wasted by owning multiple Bibles but never cracking them open or seriously studying them. And when it comes to prayer, it must be based on what we know from Scripture. We are called to pray according to God’s will (cf. John 15:7), and since God’s will is laid out in Scripture, this means we must let the Word of God inform our prayer times.
We will show the joy of new life in Christ, by active participation in the life of the church, through hearing the Word of God and observing the Lord’s Supper, and by faithful attendance to worship, all to the glory of God.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul calls on all believers to do everything that they do “for the glory of God.” There is no arena of our existence that exists outside of the mandate to glorify God. For our existence as a church, we want to glorify God in our church meetings by modeling our services after the early church as described in Acts 2:42:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
At Salt and Light Church, we are committed to the apostle’s teaching, by eagerly listening to the Word of God preached. We are committed to the breaking of bread and prayer by commitment to practicing the Lord’s Supper bi-monthly. Both of these practices make much of Christ, as our sermons should ultimately be pointing to Him, and as the Lord’s Supper proclaims His death until He comes (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26). We are committed to fellowship by faithfully attending worship, which takes a small step toward fulfilling the Law of Christ (cf. Galatians 6:???) and loving one another (cf. John 13:35), though our fellowship should never just end when service concludes on a Sunday morning.
We will give 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.
Church is often, unfortunately, synonymous with people begging for your money. This is an unfortunate caricature, though too often it is exactly what churches do (especially the wolfish prosperity preachers). The Apostle Paul, however, had something different to say:
I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich . . . For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:8-9, 12 (NASB)
At Salt and Light Church, we are committed to generous, cheerful giving. Our primary focus is the needs of the people we are committed to at Salt and Light Church, but beyond that we are committed to believers around the world. And beyond that, we are committed to helping the poor and needy in our community. The New Testament does not mandate a specific amount for giving. There is no tithe in the New Testament. Rather, we see in 2 Corinthians 8:12 that there are two guidelines for our giving. Readiness means that we are to be eager and cheerful in our giving. What a person has means that we give regularly, whether once a month or once a week.
We will accept the spiritual guidance of the church, striving to obey its doctrines and teaching.
Nothing gives a worse name to Christians than hearing, “Oh, you go to church. I never would have guessed.” This is especially unfortunate if it is said of someone who has called themself a Christian for multiple years. The Apostle Paul says the following in Ephesians 4:11-13:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
At Salt and Light Church, we want to be known as Christians who submit to the teachings of Jesus. These teachings are found in the Bible, and are exposited by our pastors and teachers. However, as our pastors and teachers are human, and as we are all human and subject to fall, all we can expect is a desire to try to follow these teachings. We desire to obey our leaders, as long as the teaching is accurately presented from the Scripture. (This encourages everyone to be in the Scripture daily so that we can hold our leaders accountable). Our ultimate goal is to build the body of Christ. We do this together. We cannot do this alone.
We will walk in a spirit of Christian love in the congregation, seeking the things that make for unity, purity, and peace.
In John 17, Jesus prayed that His people would be unified. We don’t want to fight against the will of God. Will Jesus get what He prayed for. We certainly hope so at Salt and Light Church. The Apostle Paul wrote,
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NASB)
At Salt and Light Church we are committed to love and unity. But, when it comes to unity, we are not united in political views. We are not united in sports team preferences. We are not united in our hobbies. We are united around the cross of Christ. The Gospel--and no lesser thing--should be the object around which we unite. A byproduct of our unity is peace and love. And our love should always be pure (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
We will, upon moving from this place, unite, if possible, with a church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.
We do not believe that our church is the only biblical church in this world. As such, members are not forced to remain members here. If someone desires to leave, we hope that they are leaving to go to a different church. The author of Hebrews says,
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, Hebrews 3:12-14 (NASB)
If the church is where we hear from God, then to leave the church is to fall away from God. Our hearts are deceitful. We are too often tempted to fall away. “Oh, church is today. Big whoop. I’ve got too much to do.” It’s a first step to departing from God. And yes, we can hear from God on our own--from His Word in our quiet times--but church is important because the church provides accountability for what we think we are hearing from God. At Salt and Light Church, we are committed to encouragement and accountability. If someone disappears from our fellowship, then we are committed to checking in with them and finding out if they are still attending church somewhere. Our hope and prayer is that all who walk through our doors--even if they move on--end up joining a biblical, local church.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.