I blogged earlier (see here) about the proposed covenant being considered by First Baptist Church of Farmersville.
Sunday evening, our church adopted the covenant with 91% of those voting supporting the adoption of the covenant. I'm proud of our congregation. We discussed the matter thoroughly. We probably spent a cumulative total of 4 hours in congregational discussion about the covenant over the past three months. That's not counting at least 2 hours of discussion by the deacons and an untracked and incalculable amount of time spent over the course of the past several years in development of this document.
At First Baptist Farmersville, we believe in allowing every member of our congregation his or her opportunity as a believer to pray about our congregational decisions and to share what they perceive to be the results of that prayer. I mentioned the above high percentage of consensus for adopting the covenant, but you would be wrong if you presumed that 91% of our congregation had no questions about the covenant or that 91% of our congregation started out in favor of this action when they first heard about it. The document has been improved along the way by the input of our congregation. Congregation members' understandings and opinions of the document and that nature of the church have grown through the unfolding dialogue that we as a congregation pursued. We had a robust discussion about this before our vote.
I thought that the 90 minutes spent Sunday evening discussion this covenant represented the absolute apex of biblical congregationalism. I felt like we were experiencing Acts 15 all over again in some sort of an updated framework. The leadership of elders was a part of the experience. The members of the congregation interacted with one another. The whole congregation had an opportunity to express its approval of our final outcome. And this business meeting was not centered around financial statements or paint colors or indemnity—we spent 90 minutes talking about people, their relationships with the Lord, how to aid new believers in their spiritual growth, how to have a biblical church of mutual accountability and encouragement without its devolving into legalism. We spent far more time conversing with one another about spiritual things than about temporal things. I was so proud of our congregation.
The highlight for me was the church member who told the story about having used the list of scriptures given in the church covenant to minister to couples having marital problems, young believers struggling to grow spiritually, and even to witness to some lost people. We discussed the use of the covenant catechetically (OK, so that particular word never actually entered the congregation) as a curriculum framework for an ongoing class for new believers, new members, and people who just think that the class would be helpful for their spiritual growth.
Our Constitution & Bylaws vote has been delayed. It turns out that changes in the Texas Business Organizations Code make it worthwhile for us to postpone that vote while we secure a legal review of our organizational documents (both those in force now and those proposed).
Monday I shared this thought with my pastoral staff: The job before this congregation now is to proceed with such careful grace, such heavenly wisdom, such mutual love within our congregation, that a decade from now our 91% who voted in favor of the covenant will be glad that they have done so, and that the 9% remaining will rejoice that their fears did not materialize. Perhaps even more importantly, we need to fall on our faces before the Lord and ask him to work through our growing emphasis upon the biblical nature of the church to see the large numbers of people who are members of our church but were not present for the vote—those who are never present for anything at the church—either saved if they are lost or reclaimed for Christ's service through our persistent gracious and restorative wooing of them in Christ's name.
Upon my return from London, I will share some of my reflections upon this process so far, as well as my hopes and fears for the work yet to do.