View Full Version : Church Covenant - Where was it first used and when?

10-26-2004, 12:50 PM
Church Covenant

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, 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 and to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; 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 religiously educate our children; 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 tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale of, and use of, intoxicating drinks as a beverage; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.

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 Christian courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.

We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.It seems I remember this coming from the Philadelphia Association, but I cannot recall. Any help out there?

10-26-2004, 01:01 PM
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California recently came out with an article in the Baptist Press recommending pastors and congregations adopt church membership covenants as a way of compelling their flock to become more involved in and committed to the ministry of their church. Although, on the surface such covenants might seem practical, hereís what Jesus Christ had to say about making covenants with men.

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, SWEAR NOT AT ALL; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: "- Matthew 5:33-34 (emphasis added).

In Matthew Henryís Concise Commentary, he makes the following point:

"The worse men are, the less they are bound by oaths; the better they are, the less there is need for them."

When a church becomes dependent upon carnal mechanisms for spiritual motivation rather than the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit, contracts become fashionable among frustrated pastors who find it necessary to coerce members into carrying out the churchís ministry. Those who are led by the Spirit of God donít need to sign on some dotted line guaranteeing their faithfulness. Those who arenít led by the Spirit have no business in a Christian ministry to begin with. We donít sign contracts guaranteeing our commitment to Christ for our salvation. So, why is it now necessary to sign a contract guaranteeing our commitment to serve in His church? Because faith isnít required, thatís why. Itís only when you set out to fill your church with the faith-LESS that guarantees become necessary.

Source: Paul Proctor (http://www.newswithviews.com/PaulProctor/proctor3.htm)

10-26-2004, 01:36 PM
MTA, the particular covenant above originated in the New Hampshire Association in the 1800s, and is believed to have been written by J. Newton Brown. This covenant, in several slight variations, has been the most popular among "missionary Baptists" in the United States.

10-26-2004, 01:53 PM
The covenant above is from the Baptist Church Manual, 1853. Brown also drew up the New Hampshire Confession.

In "Baptist Church Covenants," Charles Deweese reprints covenants as early as 1640. According to Deweese, the oldest remaining (1663) Baptist covenant in America was used by Swansea Baptist Church in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

10-27-2004, 03:07 PM
Thanks for your help. I appreciate it. I studied this years and years ago, but lost the information. This was a big help.

Squire Robertsson
10-27-2004, 04:46 PM
It's not that we are using a church covenant as a hammer. As folks organize a church or later come in as new members, it is only proper they know what they are getting into. It's called truth in advertising.

06-25-2005, 09:27 PM
What might you add to the church convenant?

Mark Osgatharp
06-25-2005, 10:20 PM
I would take away the requirement for teetotaling from the covenant. That element was introduced, not from the Scriptures, but from the temperance movement which was a 19th century American social movement.

Just this week I read in the biography of Jesse Mercer (an influential Georgia pastor in the 1800s) that he actually opposed the temperance movement when it first got started, then later flipped-flopped and joined the movement.

I think requiring members to totally abstain has placed an unecessary barrier to church membership which has hurt the Baptist cause.

Furthermore, those who try to defend the teetotaling position from the Scriptures must resort to intellectual dishonesty and deceit, because the Bible just does not teach it.

The Bible does teach against drunkeness and gives the church instructions on how to deal with drunkeness in the church. Ironically, while most Baptist churches are adament in their stance on teetotaling, most of them steadfastly refuse to practice church discipline against drunkards (or any other offenders for that matter).

Mark Osgatharp

07-26-2005, 06:49 PM
Good post.

Appreciate all the information on the Covenant. I am teaching the Scriptural foundation for it on Wed. evening and needed some of the history of it.

Came here to post the question, but found the answer.

Bro. Dallas

Bro. James
07-27-2005, 02:28 PM
I have no royalty from the selling of books--however, there is a book called: Christian Engagements, by Roy M. Reed, published by Bogard Press--it is a good primer for new members as well as a perhaps shocking refresher for others. It is also a good outline for teaching the doctrines of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints".

The book is available for about $3.50 + s&h from the ABA bookstore in Little Rock, Ark. They have a website.

In His Service,

Bro. James

04-05-2008, 10:40 AM
Would anybody object if I was to bump this up at our next Bap Board Business meeting?:laugh:

06-30-2012, 09:54 PM
I am several years late to this discussion, but it has become somewhat of a hot topic in the congregation I serve.

More recent revisions of this convenient (as published by Broadman) remove the direct reference to alcohol, and replace with "to abstain from habits and practices which harm us personally in body, mind or spirit, to be enthusiastic in efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior."

If I'm not mistaken, there was an intermediate change made that basically referred to drug abuse or "intoxicating substances".

I actually am pretty comfortable with the newest version as it seems to "cover the bases" in a more biblical context.

But that being said - the scriptures are FAR more condemning of consuming alcohol than it is supportive. Indeed, the whole idea of "medicinal" comes from the very small handful of instructions to actually USE alcohol. Alcohol was a fact of life in Biblical times (and beyond). Lack of refrigeration and preservatives leads to fermentation (a form of spoilage). But HOW alcohol was used is of utmost importance. If a prohibition in a church's covenant is a stumbling block, they have some real issues to deal with.

Bro. James
07-01-2012, 09:02 AM
I have extensive experience with the abuse of alcohol having been alcohol dependent-- a vice/disease which goes back to my childhood. I have lived with, worshipped with and socialized with many people who support those who make and sell intoxicating beverages.

This teaching has been watered down to the point that many do not have to be hypocritical about their closet alcoholism. We have watered down other sins as well. Whatsoever is not of faith---------------is sin.

Re: The Covenant--plainly says abstain from the sale or use of alcoholic beverage. It makes no distinction between Mr. K. Jackson, Mr.Smirnoff and Mr. Busch. This is not an endorsement of Mr. Welch. It is interesting/sad to read of the tragedies which came on those who make and market Bud Lite.

The real problem comes when we try to agree to a covenant which we do not keep behind closed doors. A lot of folk see no harm in having a little wine with a candlelight supper.

T-totalling is no longer a badge of holiness to the world. Do our children and grandchildren see the hypocricy? For sure--so does the world.

What is wrong with it? No, rather: What is right with it? This criteria applies to everything we do especially those who name the Name of Christ. The world is watching closely.

Nothing good has ever come out of a bottle of whiskey. Countless numbers of families have been torn assunder by spirits coming from a bottle.

Change the wording of the covenant--better still re-examine our perception of holiness.


Bro James

Squire Robertsson
07-16-2012, 04:44 PM
The total abstension clause:to abstain from the sale of, and use of, intoxicating drinks as a beverage;Came into being during the mid 1800s when total abstention became the default position of most Baptists in America. This position came about because in the mid 1800s alcoholic beverages became the crack cocaine of their day. Prior to c. 1850, beverage alcohol was not an issue. However, drunkenness was an issue.

08-01-2012, 03:18 PM
We are considering this change: To abstain from drunkenness and the the excessive use of alcoholic beverages of any kind. To further abstain from any habits or practices that are harmful to the body, mind and spirit and which may cause a weaker brother to stumble.

What do you think?

11-14-2013, 12:44 AM
We are considering this change: To abstain from drunkenness and the the excessive use of alcoholic beverages of any kind. To further abstain from any habits or practices that are harmful to the body, mind and spirit and which may cause a weaker brother to stumble.

What do you think?

1) Who determines what excessive drunkenness is?

2) Soda pop is harmful to teeth - Fried Chicken along with our great Baptist dinners on the ground- is not good for our health should we abstain from those - again who sets the standards?