Church Membership Covenants and God’s Word to the Wise…

"But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all… All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

Matthew 5:34,37

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=130398&picture=writing-handHuman Hand Writing With a Pen

Are church leaders asking you to sign a membership covenant (aka church covenant) in order to join the congregation? If so, then you should ask why?

https://www.amazon.com/Fraudulent-Authority-Pastors-Seek-Others/dp/1520323441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484700379&sr=8-1&keywords=fraudulent+authorityWe are so grateful that Pastor Wade Burleson, who has led Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma for over 25 years, has included a chapter in his recently published book Fraudulent Authority entitled Five Reasons to Say No to a Church Covenant.

He begins Chapter 10 with the Bible verse at the top of this post   —   Do not swear an oath and let your yes be yes and your no be no.

How frightening that God's Word says that "anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

Wade Burleson lists five reasons why he would NEVER sign a church membership covenant to become a member.  Here they are:

(1). A church covenant makes the Holy Spirit irrelevant in my life.

Wade explains that we are called in Scripture to be led "by the Spirit." Even though there is counsel in the wisdom of many, when we sign a covenant we have abdicated our right to hear from the Spirit ourselves.

(2). A church covenant replaces my one true Mediator with inferior mediators.

There is only One High Priest who stands between us (as Christians) and God – Jesus, the Son of God – and anyone who comes between us and Jesus as we walk by His wisdom and counsel, is a detriment to our growth. A true servant in the Kingdom will only and always point us to Jesus Christ for our marching orders, and will never demand that we accept their orders as from God. When we sign a church covenant, we are in essence handing over the authority of Jesus Christ in our lives to mere men.

(3). A church covenant makes the institutional church equivalent to the Kingdom of God.

Wade explains that a 501(c)3 non-profit institutional church plays an important role in the Kingdom of God; however, he stresses that the local church is NOT the kingdom of God. Institutional churches that demand spiritual authority over individual believers have wrongly placed their earthly institutions on par with God's kingdom. Wade further explains that the 17th century Church of England as well as some 21st century churches believe their institution is equivalent to the Kingdom of God. Their leaders falsely believe that they hold the keys of life and death and of heaven and hell. It isn't so. Then Wade admonishes his readers:  "Don't sign a covenant and perpetuate this dangerous lie."

(4). A church covenant by its nature is designed to protect an authoritarian structure.

When a Christian signs a church covenant that demands submission to elders/pastors, (s)he is enabling that institutional church to maintain an authoritarian structure. Rather than the weak and wounded sheep being the focus of attention within the church, most modern covenants are written with phrases that seem intent on bringing church members into "submission to church authoritiies."

Wade recommends scanning any church covenant. (If you Google 'church covenant', there will be plenty of examples!) If "submission to church elders" is anywhere to be found, then you should know that the covenant is designed to keep control of the members and maintain the authority of the leaders. Further, Wade reminds his readers that Jesus said that the world uses titles, positions of honor, and seeks to "exercise authority over those they rule," but "this should never be the case among His followers" (Mark 10:35-45).

(5). A church covenant requires something more than a simple "Yes" or "No".

Wade writes:  "Jesus said that anything you have to do that goes beyond your simple words of "Yes" and "No" is from the "evil one" (Matthew 5:37). When I join a church, I will forever refuse to sign any document, whether it be a "tithing card", or "a membership covenant," or any other document that requires a vow from me regarding my future performance or activity. In fact, if I ever attend a church that requires such a thing, I will refuse to join on the basis of principle. I will live freely, speak with integrity, and rest in the simplicity of following Jesus and living by the Spirit. Written vows will not fetter me to a church that is seeking to protect their authority over me."

Then Wade Burleson concludes with these powerful words:

I need no covenant to guarantee that God will finish the work He's begun in me.

Did you know that church membership covenants are legal documents? They are always written to protect the "religious institution" and its leadership.

If you are ever faced with the demand that you sign a membership covenant, I hope you will review these five reasons why a pastor would NEVER sign it. If you review some of the testimonies we have shared about Karen Hinkley, Marie Notcheva, Todd Wilhelm, and others, you will quickly discover that it was the church's membership covenant that was used to attempt to control them.

Don't let anyone back you into a corner and force you to sign one of these covenants.


Comments

Church Membership Covenants and God’s Word to the Wise… — 337 Comments

  1. Church covenants perpetuate the old covenant. We are free from that one. We have taken flight into a new and better covenant. The Spirit has set us free and is the Wind under our wings!

    Tarheel by choice, not election.

  2. We are Sarah’s children – children of the promise. Church covenants make us children of Hagar and point us back to Mt. Sinai.

  3. Dale wrote:

    Tarheel by choice, not election.

    Wildcat here – first in fight! On a more serious note, I'm so thankful that I stumbled upon TWW, SSB, Wondering Eagle, Bro. Wade, etc. Before, I knew just enough to make me question and doubt certain churches (ex: the 9marx church my daughter was invited to), and certain practices. I know what to watch for, now. My Wildcat claws come out when a preacher starts quoting certain people (Dever, Piper, Platt …..).

    Thanks DEEBS, for getting the info out and so that all of us can avoid the traps that Maria and Karen H. were caught in.

  4. Thanks for this timely warning. Deb, just a suggestion, where you mention Karen Hinkley, Marie Notcheva & Todd Wilhelm, you may want to link to their stories here. I think that many who are in authoritarian churches never hear these stories and have no idea of the things that are happening to people just like them.

    I sure appreciate this site. Thanks for all the research you do and the support and validation you offer to the downtrodden.

  5. “Then Wade Burleson concludes with these powerful words: I need no covenant to guarantee that God will finish the work He’s begun in me.”

    Actually, yes you do, Wade. It’s called the New Covenant. 😉

  6. I’ve said it before, but I do not see much evidence in the Bible that covenants were ever intended to be man-made. I believe authoritarian groups like neo-Calvinists usurp God’s authority when they try to force people to sign covenants, just as they usurp God’s authority when they place themselves in God’s position in ESS and complementarian theology.

    Furthermore, covenants in the Bible were always about what God would do for people, not what man would do for God. Churches that harass members into covenants that are all about how their members should act are directly contradicting the Bible, and the spirit of covenants.

    In the New Testament, Jesus did not speak about covenants, and his disciples followed Him by their own choice. There was no mention of covenants regarding church membership in the rest of the New Testament.

    Church covenants are simply not biblical.

  7. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

    At Oakhurst Baptist Church in Charlotte NC the answer is “Yes, Paul, we are!”

    In promoting Membership, they write: “What does Membership look like? Locking arms together with other believers, helping them get to heaven…”

    And what does their church covenant promote as the means to do so? “By a pure and loving example [we] will seek the salvation of our family and friends.”

    So, we at Oakhurst are going to turn away from the New Covenant and the cleansing power of of the blood of Christ and replace it with a covenant of our own device and get people to heaven based on our pure and godly life and assistance. We will promote our covenant by reciting it during the New Covenant meal, replacing Christ.

  8. Oh, and we elders at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Charlotte NC will place a restraining order on you if you have the temerity to disagree, even privately, with our covenant. We cannot allow such an existential threat to our “purity.”

    So much for congregational authority.

  9. A church covenant is a contract between a person and a human organization (corporation). Like any contract, it should be examined to determine what it empowers each party to do, what it requires of each party, and what the provisions are that allow each party to end the contract. Generally, church covenants have a clause about leaving. That is one provision that must be carefully read and understood.

    When new leadership comes to a church, sometimes they want to modify the church covenant that was previously simply a voluntary statement of beliefs and a commitment to work together. That is the time when all members need to have a serious discussion of what the new leadership is attempting to do by modifying the covenant.

  10. Dale wrote:

    Church covenants perpetuate the old covenant… We have taken flight into a new and better covenant. The Spirit has set us free and … We are Sarah’s children – children of the promise. Church covenants make us children of Hagar and point us back to Mt. Sinai.

    Boom. Drop the mic.

  11. An attorney wrote:

    When new leadership comes to a church, sometimes they want to modify the church covenant that was previously simply a voluntary statement of beliefs and a commitment to work together. That is the time when all members need to have a serious discussion of what the new leadership is attempting to do by modifying the covenant.

    While I agree, these churches often don’t allow any membership input into the covenants. And many of these pastors have come in on false pretenses, then turned authoritarian once they were pastor. Their modus operandi is to take over churches, then put in an covenant that they consider retroactive for anyone on the membership roll.

    In the neo-Cal movement at least, I think a lot of people ended up under a covenant who never signed it or agreed to it. I think they would be easily dismissable in a court, but they threaten and harass members into thinking they can’t, and that using law enforcement in any way is disobeying God. They tell people that salvation only comes through church membership in their churches. They also threaten and harass people who leave for long periods of time, as we’ve seen with Marie Nocheva.

    I wish these types of covenants could be reduced to legal issues, because they would be much simpler. But they utilize cult psychology to keep people trapped emotionally, and covenants are just a tool in that toolbox.

  12. It is indeed a nefarious system. First, you mandate an improper oath. Second, you use the Law as a mirror to question one’s relationship with Christ. This removes access to Jesus and quenches the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Third, you set up sin-sniffing accountability structures to place the fear of authority in the core of one’s being. Fourth, you use these accountability structures to accuse the saints when they inevitably struggle with sin, as a consequence of the removal of Christ and the Spirit. Fifth, your repentance is questioned by the church authorities. Sixth, you either continue to repent or be sanctioned by the leadership who stand in the place of God. Seventh, you break and are excommunicated.

  13. Excellent post and points.. Christ did not command such a document, nor did Paul, neo -Cal’s equal to Christ (at least in practice), si why are churches going crazy over these terrible “covenants”?

  14. Eighth, you are shunned by your “friends.” After they have abused you by demanding that you submit to those who Matthew 18’ed you.

  15. Did you know that church membership covenants are legal documents? They are always written to protect the “religious institution” and its leadership.

    I have stated this before various places. Usually the person who writes the contract has the contract written to mostly or almost exclusively protect their interests and include little to cover the other person. If nothing else it mostly covers the other person.

    Just something to consider.

  16. Bob Weiner, the leader of Maranatha Ministries (a college campus group in the 80’s) would call people who left his group “covenant breakers” and be upset that members still in his group would fellowship with these “covenant breakers.”

    In one document I found online this is what one person shared about the group’s beliefs titled “What Makes Maranatha Powerful”:

    “Covenant means you give up the right to quit. If you can’t quit, then the only option is to work it out.” When problems occur in a relationship, there is a suggestion to terminate the relationship and quit; however, if you are in covenant and the relationship cannot be terminated, then you have to work it out.

    At least part of the time they taught how bad it was for people to leave their group.

    It was interesting to hear that they would “work it out.” Unfortunately with the leadership in Maranatha their “working it out” seemed to be more doing what leadership said. I doubt it ever occurred to Bob Weiner or their co-leader Joe Smith that it might be their own actions that caused people to leave.

  17. An attorney wrote:

    A church covenant is a contract between a person and a human organization (corporation). Like any contract, it should be examined to determine what it empowers each party to do, what it requires of each party, and what the provisions are that allow each party to end the contract.

    It seems most of them require the individual to do everything and the church and leadership have zero responsibilities except to ‘help’ by trying to run people’s lives. Hard Pass.

  18. Steve240 wrote:

    It was interesting to hear that they would “work it out.” Unfortunately with the leadership in Maranatha their “working it out” seemed to be more doing what leadership said.

    Imagine if you went to a car dealership and you had no option of walking away? What kind of crazy terrible deal would you get? It’s not much different in relationships.

  19. Lea wrote:

    Steve240 wrote:

    It was interesting to hear that they would “work it out.” Unfortunately with the leadership in Maranatha their “working it out” seemed to be more doing what leadership said.

    Imagine if you went to a car dealership and you had no option of walking away? What kind of crazy terrible deal would you get? It’s not much different in relationships.

    I would love to know who originally created this idea of a membership covenant?

  20. Dale wrote:

    Church covenants perpetuate the old covenant. We are free from that one. We have taken flight into a new and better covenant. The Spirit has set us free and is the Wind under our wings!

    Great segue to another book by Wade: “Radically New”.

  21. mot wrote:

    Are seminaries teaching the pastors to have membership covenants in “their” churches?

    According to the forward, 9 Marks is required reading in certain classes at SWBTS.

  22. Steve240 wrote:

    Unfortunately with the leadership in Maranatha their “working it out” seemed to be more doing what leadership said. I doubt it ever occurred to Bob Weiner or their co-leader Joe Smith that it might be their own actions that caused people to leave.

    The Party Can Do No Wrong, Comrades.

  23. FW Rez wrote:

    mot wrote:

    Are seminaries teaching the pastors to have membership coventants in “their” churches.

    According to the forward, 9 Marks is required reading in certain classes at SWBTS.

    Just like Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf were in their cults?

  24. If you review some of the testimonies we have shared about Karen Hinkley, Marie Notcheva, Todd Wilhelm, and others, you will quickly discover that it was the church’s membership covenant that was used to attempt to control them.

    More like “the church’s membership covenant is Pastor’s WEAPON to keep his boot on your face because ‘GAWD Saith!'”.

  25. mot wrote:

    I would love to know who originally created this idea of a membership covenant?

    It’s really no different than confessions, as in the Westminster, and others. You were expected to sign on, or agree publicly, otherwise you were quite often ostracized from your community and abused by those who signed on.

    Not sure what the equivalent might have been in the Catholic Church. There surely was retribution if you didn’t sign on to Catholicism as well, think Inquisition.

    Membership covenants have been with us in some form, since there has always been men, and women, who want to rule over others.

  26. Wade Burleson's "Five Reasons Not To Sign a Church Covenant" should be nailed on the New Calvinist door in Louisville! (and beyond) He provides clear logic, backed by Scripture, for church members to steer clear of them. Membership covenants attempt to substitute legitimate things in a believer's life: Holy Spirit leading, Christ as only mediator, and Kingdom living … with illegitimate things: leadership control, manipulation, and intimidation to conform members to "church" requirements, but not Kingdom principles. They are nothing more than a mechanism to beat you into submission. Don't sign the darn thing! If you already have, send a letter to church elders to rescind it as you walk out the door in search of the real Church, which provides freedom through Christ Jesus.

  27. @ Dale:
    I just looked up Oakhurst Baptist Church in Charlotte. Oh my!!! It’s a church re-plant (under the direction of Capitol Hill Baptist Church). 🙁

    Were you a member of this church?

    http://oakhurstrebirth.org/what-is-a-replant/

    WHAT IS A REPLANT?

    It’s estimated that around 1,000 churches are lost every year in the Southern Baptist Convention alone. “Replanting” a church happens when a church determines to restart the legacy of ministry and missions that once existed. While church planting efforts birth a brand new church, replanting is a sort of “two for one”: birthing a new church while also helping out an existing church that is in decline.

    Our work started out as a church plant sent by Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, DC), led by Dave Russell. As we sought to plant a church, a strategic opportunity arose: replant a 79 year old church, Oakhurst Baptist. In the spring of 2015, after months of discussion, the congregation of OBC voted overwhelmingly to partner with Dave Russell and the church planting core team. Together with the previous members, a new work was launched in September of 2015. Today, we long to see the Lord sustain a ministry that will continue a legacy of gospel ministry in the Oakhurst neighborhood and beyond!

    Been there, done that… A year before we started this blog, I was involved in the ‘replanting’ of a tiny Southern Baptist church. At first it was exciting. As we moved closer to the launch date some of us began to get an uneasy feeling. We were going to have two elders. They held a Q&A session, and one of the men in the fellowship asked the question: “What if I decide not to commit to a community group?” One of the elders responded: “Then you would be put under church discipline.”

    I am still angry about it. It was a work that began in the Spirit. The church re-plant eventually failed.

    Two months after that Q&A session, Dee and I launched The Wartburg Watch, and we have never looked back. In March 2009 Dee was terribly worried that if we didn’t start blogging we would be swallowed up by a BIG FISH. Little did we know at the time that in some regards the big fish was the Neo-Cal movement.

  28. Deb wrote:

    They held a Q&A session, and one of the men in the fellowship asked the question: “What if I decide not to commit to a community group?” One of the elders responded: “Then you would be put under church discipline.”

    I am still angry about it. It was a work that began in the Spirit. The church re-plant eventually failed.

    Two months after that Q&A session, Dee and I launched The Wartburg Watch, and we have never looked back.

    And so such things are born. And we have all benefited from their mistake. BTW, is there any way a ‘replant’ is different from a takeover? I object to the name entirely. IT’s creepy and Orwellian.

    Can you imagine being put under discipline for not joining a random group? I can’t even think how I would react if someone told me that or if someone told me to shun people. Stare in disbelief, probably.

  29. An attorney wrote:

    A church covenant is a contract between a person and a human organization (corporation). Like any contract, it should be examined to determine what it empowers each party to do, what it requires of each party, and what the provisions are that allow each party to end the contract.

    Don't sign it and walk away is my first suggestion. If you feel compelled to join yourself to a church requiring this (for example, your kids are forcing you to attend there because the band is cool), then at the very least take it to your lawyer to advise you before you sign it. Then sit back and enjoy being controlled by church leaders.

    As I've noted before, the only covenant a believer needs is the one signed by Jesus in His blood. No addendum of man needed!

  30. I’d be curious to know why the same logic except for #3 couldn’t be used to build an argument against entering into the covenant of marriage

  31. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’d be curious to know why the same logic except for #3 couldn’t be used to build an argument against entering into the covenant of marriage

    I think #5 would be the only one that applied, although ‘I do’ is pretty close to yes the vows and paperwork can get more complicated. Unless you view marriage as an authoritarian top down thing (which I do not).

    Without getting into whether marriage is a ‘covenant’ and how that’s any different from a contract anyways.

  32. If we want to understand ‘covenant’ as something ‘binding’, as in how WE are bound to GOD irrevocably;
    then, I think we must consider Christ Himself as the Incarnated Lord to be that very covenant:

    ‘and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’

    Now THAT’S a ‘covenant’, dear Christian people.

  33. Steve240 wrote:

    Bob Weiner, the leader of Maranatha Ministries (a college campus group in the 80’s) would call people who left his group “covenant breakers” and be upset that members still in his group would fellowship with these “covenant breakers.”

    In one document I found online this is what one person shared about the group’s beliefs titled “What Makes Maranatha Powerful”:

    “Covenant means you give up the right to quit. If you can’t quit, then the only option is to work it out.” When problems occur in a relationship, there is a suggestion to terminate the relationship and quit; however, if you are in covenant and the relationship cannot be terminated, then you have to work it out.

    At least part of the time they taught how bad it was for people to leave their group.

    It was interesting to hear that they would “work it out.” Unfortunately with the leadership in Maranatha their “working it out” seemed to be more doing what leadership said. I doubt it ever occurred to Bob Weiner or their co-leader Joe Smith that it might be their own actions that caused people to leave.

    As you know, the Wikipedia article for Sovereign Grace Churches states:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_Grace_Churches

    “They [Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney] were also friendly with Maranatha Campus Ministries for a period.”

    Mark Dever befriended C.J. Mahaney not long after becoming senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the mid-1990s. No doubt Dever was mesmerized by Covenant Life Church and Mahaney’s rule over that congregation. Can there be any doubt that Mahaney had much influence on Dever and his 9Marks?

  34. Knowing that people are now being actively discouraged from signing membership covenants, 9 Marks strikes back by planting doubts about our salvation if we refuse:
    Just as they were beginning to post all their “authority” articles a few months back, they slipped in this little gem.
    https://www.facebook.com/9Marks/posts/10154433266031203
    So I wrote an English Slandered Version (permanent edition).
    My use of pronouns:
    We/us/our= 9 Marxist key-holders and turf-owners
    You= Christian who loves Jesus and His church but won’t “join” our club
    He/him= Unbelieving person, male or female
    For example “We highly value both You and Him! You’re both prospective giving units!”
    7 Ways You’re Just Like the Heathen If You Don’t Sign Our Membership Covenant”)
    1: We can’t trust either you or him to rightly represent the “church” by serving in ways like playing church music or working in the nursery.
    2: You’re both likely to persecute us, the representatives of Christ.
    3: You’re both unrepentant, no matter how long you’ve attended a church.
    4: We have our reputation to uphold! If we allow false professors and hypocrites like you and him to publicly identify with or go representing us, onlookers will be wrongly informed about what Christ is like. Then how can sinners learn that Christ is gracious and loving?
    5: How can we convince him to sign up and join if we can’t convince you?
    6: He won’t decide to repent if he’s not confronted with the inside and outside of God’s love, which won’t happen if we let you “serve”.
    7: You’re just a nominal Christian (as he may also be) if you stubbornly refuse to be accountable to us. We hope you’ll get frustrated and go elsewhere– to some unhealthy church, perhaps.
    Bottom line (real quote):
    “Yes, other churches might accept them on those terms, but each of us are to be faithful to God for our own turf, not someone else’s.”

  35. Dave A A wrote:

    Knowing that people are now being actively discouraged from signing membership covenants, 9 Marks strikes back by planting doubts about our salvation if we refuse:

    Wow. I bet the 9 Marks folks don’t sing the ancient hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’ …. those lyrics would appeal to neo-Cals only in one way: they don’t mention Jesus Christ by Name;
    but those lyrics make shipwreck of the 9 Marks claim that ‘salvation’ is tied to some man-made contract; the lyrics of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ point not to men but to Christ as mankind’s Savior

  36. @ Christiane:
    Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
    Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
    Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
    Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

    Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
    I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
    Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
    Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

    Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
    Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
    Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
    Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

    Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
    Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
    Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
    High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

    High King of Heaven, my victory won,
    May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
    Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
    Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

  37. Dave A A wrote:

    our own turf

    That’s what 9Marks actually called their localchurch? Not the Lord’s turf? If so, WOW. Vatican level WOW.

  38. Gram3 wrote:

    @ Christiane:
    Beat me to the Wow.

    I am trying to imagine the scope of arrogance of those Nine Marks folks,
    but I cannot.

    Have they no shame?

  39. Dave A A wrote:

    Just as they were beginning to post all their “authority” articles a few months back, they slipped in this little gem.
    https://www.facebook.com/9Marks/posts/10154433266031203

    this they call ‘Christian nominalism’?
    “Christians who stubbornly want to serve and yet not be held accountable by the church body will get frustrated and go elsewhere. Yes, other churches might accept them on those terms, but each of us are to be faithful to God for our own turf, not someone else’s”

    ‘stubbornly want to serve’????? good grief

    the ‘our own turf’ says it all

    answerable to whom? only a cult behaves this way

  40. @ Christiane:
    That’s a great hymn… But umbilical leaders couldn’t trust you or me to stand in front of their turf to sing it, since we didn’t “sign it”.

  41. Christiane wrote:

    Dave A A wrote:

    Just as they were beginning to post all their “authority” articles a few months back, they slipped in this little gem.
    https://www.facebook.com/9Marks/posts/10154433266031203

    this they call ‘Christian nominalism’?
    “Christians who stubbornly want to serve and yet not be held accountable by the church body will get frustrated and go elsewhere. Yes, other churches might accept them on those terms, but each of us are to be faithful to God for our own turf, not someone else’s”

    ‘stubbornly want to serve’????? good grief

    the ‘our own turf’ says it all

    answerable to whom? only a cult behaves this way

    These guys are full of h e l l and wish to make others lives full of this 4 letter word. People better start waking up instead of passively being lead places that are not biblical at all.

  42. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’d be curious to know why the same logic except for #3 couldn’t be used to build an argument against entering into the covenant of marriage

    “Covenant marriage” itself has become something of a buzzword in neo-cal and fundamentalist circles lately. Maybe there should be a TWW article on that phenomenon, too.

  43. my concern is this:

    those neo-Cal folk and the Nine Marks folks think of ‘covenant’ as a kind of quid-pro-quo exchange contract, where you, the member, do something for us and we do something for you as ‘church’

    but how does this ever square with ‘grace’?
    or God’s mercy?

    no wonder they are filled with pride, hubris, and arrogance, and contempt:
    they don’t NEED to be humble because they don’t value the grace of God that humility makes room for in their souls

  44. roebuck wrote:

    mot wrote:
    I would love to know who originally created this idea of a membership covenant?
    Satan.

    Some say lawyers but they may be related….sorry an attorney and Oracle at Delphi. I couldn’t not resist. I stand prepared for nurse jokes now.

  45. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’d be curious to know why the same logic except for #3 couldn’t be used to build an argument against entering into the covenant of marriage

    I think marriage is something that has been talked about all through Scripture. I have yet to see anything in the Bible that discusses church membership covenants.

  46. Christiane wrote:

    ‘stubbornly want to serve’?????

    I thought that and the idea that serving was a privilege not a right or whatever that said was funny, especially in reference to nursery work! As if people are beating down the door for that.

  47. Gram3 wrote:

    Dave A A wrote:
    our own turf
    That’s what 9Marks actually called their localchurch? Not the Lord’s turf?

    This is the first time I’ve noticed that phrase from them. Probably a bit of a tactical blunder on their part.

  48. When covenants were first being proposed in the 90s, churches were under the impression that this would stop them from getting sued over church disciple. If you think it has some deeper meaning than that, you have been sold a bill of goods.

    However, that rationale has been thrown to the wind since anyone can resign from a church at anytime and the church cannot legally stop them from doing so in the United States. However, most covenants at Calvinist churches still state that one cannot resign while under discipline. This is pure codswallop and they know it. They hope it intimidates a person into putting up with what is often abusive discipline (not always but lots of times.)

    Do not sign these covenants. Or, if you have done so, state, in writing and with proof of that writing, that you no longer adhere to that covenant. If you don’t, the minute you see read flags, resign immediately and do not, under any circumstances, go to a meeting with the pastors/elders after you have resigned. They will use that time to abuse you.

  49. Christiane wrote:

    my concern is this:

    those neo-Cal folk and the Nine Marks folks think of ‘covenant’ as a kind of quid-pro-quo exchange contract, where you, the member, do something for us and we do something for you as ‘church’

    but how does this ever square with ‘grace’?
    or God’s mercy?

    no wonder they are filled with pride, hubris, and arrogance, and contempt:
    they don’t NEED to be humble because they don’t value the grace of God that humility makes room for in their souls

    There is zero grace with this group of men.

  50. Christiane wrote:

    but how does this ever square with ‘grace’?
    or God’s mercy?

    I must have missed the connection, because I do not see where they ever claimed that their covenants were a means of grace or had anything to do with mercy. Nor do I see that they say it is necessary for salvation, only for church membership. Protestants do not tend to think that church membership is necessary for salvation.

  51. Dave A A wrote:

    Gram3 wrote:

    Dave A A wrote:
    our own turf
    That’s what 9Marks actually called their localchurch? Not the Lord’s turf?

    This is the first time I’ve noticed that phrase from them. Probably a bit of a tactical blunder on their part.

    Surely, they did not mean to be so truthful about this perverted view of church.

  52. dee wrote:

    When covenants were first being proposed in the 90s, churches were under the impression that this would stop them from getting sued over church disciple. If you think it has some deeper meaning than that, you have been sold a bill of goods.

    However, that rationale has been thrown to the wind since anyone can resign from a church at anytime and the church cannot legally stop them from doing so in the United States. However, most covenants at Calvinist churches still state that one cannot resign while under discipline. This is pure codswallop and they know it. They hope it intimidates a person into putting up with what is often abusive discipline (not always but lots of times.)

    Do not sign these covenants. Or, if you have done so, state, in writing and with proof of that writing, that you no longer adhere to that covenant. If you don’t, the minute you see read flags, resign immediately and do not, under any circumstances, go to a meeting with the pastors/elders after you have resigned. They will use that time to abuse you.

    Dee: I know that this blog had dealt with abuses many times. But I think some people have never experienced any of this type of abuse. It is devastating to one’s soul and can take a lifetime to learn how to live with it. These men are beyond evil.

  53. MidwesternEasterner wrote:

    “Covenant marriage” itself has become something of a buzzword in neo-cal and fundamentalist circles lately. Maybe there should be a TWW article on that phenomenon, too.

    That’s been the thing for a while in Gothard/Phillips/Wilson/Duggar/quiverfull marriages – where the wife (body) submits to and obeys the husband (head). Looks like these contract – uh, covenant – churches are following suit with the church body submitting to and obeying church leaders.
    Church discipline = wife spanking?

  54. @ okrapod:
    I’m saying that there appears to BE no connection:

    an economic ‘exchange’ contract calling itself a ‘membership contract’ doesn’t appear to allow for the idea of God’s grace at all

    so how can they imply that ‘salvation’ is connected up to signing a ‘membership contract’????

    Salvation is all about grace.

  55. dee wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    I’d be curious to know why the same logic except for #3 couldn’t be used to build an argument against entering into the covenant of marriage

    I think marriage is something that has been talked about all through Scripture. I have yet t see anything in the Bible that discusses church membership covenants.

    Even so, the reasoning of Pastor Wade is leaning against the validity of any sort of covenant with another human being, as somehow intruding upon ones personal relationship with God. If that’s the case, then where does marriage belong?

    Or, if there’s some legitimacy to two people making commitment to each other in the God-given institution of marriage, is there no place for at least some form commitment to each other in the Jesus-built church? My marriage vows are really founded upon my faith in God, and my promised commitments to my wife in no way impede my commitment to God. That doesn’t translate one to one to church, but I see some possibility of correlation anyway.

  56. mot wrote:

    Surely, they did not mean to be so truthful about this perverted view of church.

    Right! Like one set of church bylaws which state they can discipline Anyone who regularly fellowships with them, even if they haven’t joined. Don’t want that sort of thing written down!

  57. Bridget wrote:

    Not sure what the equivalent might have been in the Catholic Church. There surely was retribution if you didn’t sign on to Catholicism as well, think Inquisition.

    Over time, Catholicism has come to grips with the Enlightenment and has for the most part learned from its mistakes in the past. The same cannot be said of Evangelical Protestantism, which in some ways, remains stuck in the 16th century.

  58. @ Joe Reed:

    And I’d add that there’s a major distinction between commitment to a church body as a whole and pledging allegiance to elders who think they are the whole church.

  59. dee wrote:

    Some say lawyers but they may be related….sorry an attorney and Oracle at Delphi. I couldn’t not resist. I stand prepared for nurse jokes now.

    Nurse shark …… or Jessica Rabbit, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”

  60. Dave A A wrote:

    Dave A A wrote:
    our own turf
    That’s what 9Marks actually called their localchurch? Not the Lord’s turf?
    This is the first time I’ve noticed that phrase from them. Probably a bit of a tactical blunder on their part.

    Street gang gospel?

  61. Joe Reed wrote:

    is there no place for at least some form commitment to each other in the Jesus-built church?

    This is it: Jesus’ church, where we follow Jesus …….. not some man-constructed contract demanding that people obey and follow a certain small group of fallible men who have scheduled meetings in a man-made structure.

  62. @ Nancy2:

    I think what you’re describing is not the church of Jesus but rather some counterfeit masquerading as such. Unity to Jesus necessarily means unity to other followers of Jesus, and on that point He was unmistakably clear. What that unity looks like in a visible way may be up for debate, the fact that it exists I don’t think can be.

  63. Joe Reed wrote:

    the reasoning of Pastor Wade is leaning against the validity of any sort of covenant with another human being,

    When I sign a contract with another person the expectations for both sides are clearly spelled out and both parties sign. Also there is legal recourse in the event of a contract dispute. A marriage contract falls under both of the above requirements, a church contract does not.

  64. Nancy2 wrote:

    Street gang gospel?

    Here’s another side to this “own turf” thing. In the city where I grew up are two churches, literally back to back some 20 feet apart. They got a divorce back in the day and split the property. Let’s say First Pres, trying to be user friendly, hires an unrepentant gang leader as youth pastor. If Bible Pres (20 feet away) is 9marxist, they can say, “Not our turf–not our problem!”

  65. Methinks there are two different trails in the church covenant mess. Neither is exclusively the domain of Calvinists. In our town there are Arminian and Word of Faith groups doing them also.

    Group one is made of “true believers” terrified at seeing “Christianity” lose the culture war. Personally I think it is a good thing when there is not a thin veneer of Christendom layed over being unsaved, but hey, that’s me. But these are folks that are terrified and instead of being out trying to see souls saved have given up and are now all about making people behave. They stink, but not as bad as group two.

    Group two tend to be baptistic and know how all important it is to report baptisms in large numbers to climb in whatever convention the church is a part of. But they are too lazy to do the hard work of actually evangelizing. Much easier to convince a ready made audience they must not be saved after all and need reconverting and rebaptizing. These guys keep spiraling inward, demanding ever more ludicrous beliefs like YEC and patriarchy and gospel bowling so they can convince yet another round of saints that they are pagans.

    The first group do harm to the cause of Christ with their silly fears and entirely lose sight of the true gospel. But the second group are the really dangerous shysters for whom at heart it is all about power and money.

    Run, run hard, run fast from the second group. As to the first group, unless you are very skilled in debate run from them also. But if you sense the leading of the Spirit, you might actually reach them with the truth as their motive is good even as their actions are evil.

    But that second group is straight from the pit of hell, IMHO.

  66. @ Bill M:

    Really? I’ve never been a member of a church where the responsibilities of each side are not clearly spelled out. Dee has made the point a zillion times that church covenants are legal documents, which means that they clearly (if unbiblically, abusively, or whatever other descriptor you prefer) spell out consequences and expectations. In fact, the tightness some of them have are what makes many squeamish about them.

  67. Dave A A wrote:

    umbilical leaders

    Auto-correct makes a salient point here. These umbilical leaders are connected to their gurus in a very umbilical way.

  68. In my church we do take vows concerning the baptismal covenant and it’s renewal at confirmation or reaffirmation when indicated. This is done publicly but there are no papers to sign, and there is nothing in the vows to which I object. It seems to me that living within the understanding of that sort of covenant is well within the limits of acceptability for Christians, and it seems to me that church membership does come with expectations and responsibilities to which people certainly may be expected to attest and abide by.

    What the 9marks people are doing with these contracts looks quite different from what we do. I am just saying that this idea of covenants is complicated and I don’t want us thrown in with them in people’s thinking.

  69. mot wrote:

    Surely, they did not mean to be so truthful about this perverted view of church.

    I think they do not expect people to closely read what they write but only to agree.

  70. dee wrote:

    Do not sign these covenants.

    IIRC several years back you or Deb suggested that if we really like a church otherwise with a 9marx style covenant, we could attend and participate, so long as we don’t sign. But they’re on to us now and actively seeking to close that loophole. Probably best now to go elsewhere initially, since if we “stubbornly want to serve” that’s just what they’ll want.

  71. Joe Reed wrote:

    @ Joe Reed:

    And I’d add that there’s a major distinction between commitment to a church body as a whole and pledging allegiance to elders who think they are the whole church.

    And also there is a big difference between a covenant based on mutual love and respect and accountability and one based on power differentials and coercion.

  72. Gram3 wrote:

    Dave A A wrote:
    umbilical leaders
    Auto-correct makes a salient point here. These umbilical leaders are connected to their gurus in a very umbilical way.

    Thanks to Bridget’s autocorrect for this, BTW!
    The umbilical leaders might also wrap a couple loops around around the baby member’s neck, so as to require a c-section to get out!

  73. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’ve never been a member of a church where the responsibilities of each side are not clearly spelled out.

    Right. It’s the leaders’ responsibility to make the rules and enforce them, and the members responsibility to do as they’re told or face “discipline.” I have yet to see one that spells out requirements for the leaders or any “discipline” they will face under any circumstances. And, as we’ve seen with one disgraced leader after another, they usually don’t face any consequences, even for blatant sin. They just move to another church or take a short vacation, supported by their fellow leaders in the movement.

  74. Nancy2 wrote:

    Street gang gospel?

    “When you’re a (neo) Cal you’re a Cal all the way,
    from your first covenant, to your last dying day…”

    (apologies to ‘West Side Story’)

  75. @ siteseer:

    The consequences for misbehaving leadership are clearly spelled out in any church’s constitution, just like a behavioral clause exists in any corporate leadership position. The sad truth is, as you say, many churches do fail to hold their own leaders to those standards because they’re occupied by spineless people playing big shot, who are more afraid of losing their fellow buddies on the elder board than faithfully doing really hard stuff. I know what you’re talking about, I’ve seen it and it stinks. Nevertheless, the mechanism to deal with that stuff exists, it just doesn’t get used.

  76. Nancy2 wrote:

    Looks like these contract – uh, covenant – churches are following suit with the church body submitting to and obeying church leaders.

    Mary Kassian, a co-inventor of complementarianism, had 4 puzzle-piece people with blue heads and pink bodies. First an ESS style God/Christ, next Christ/Church and Husband/Wife, and last but not least Church Elders disciplining er sorry leading believers.

  77. Joe Reed wrote:

    Really? I’ve never been a member of a church where the responsibilities of each side are not clearly spelled out. Dee has made the point a zillion times that church covenants are legal documents, which means that they clearly (if unbiblically, abusively, or whatever other descriptor you prefer) spell out consequences and expectations. In fact, the tightness some of them have are what makes many squeamish about them.

    Have you ever been to a church where there is selective enforcement of the covenant or contract? That is, some get a pass while others are disciplined.

  78. Joe Reed wrote:

    @ Bill M:
    Really? I’ve never been a member of a church where the responsibilities of each side are not clearly spelled out.

    A lot of people are being tricked into covenants they didn’t agree to purely by previous membership. They get the members first, then drop the covenant on them without them agreeing to those terms. There’s a good bit of bait and switch going on in neo-Cal circles.

    But I believe there’s a difference between a vow and a covenant. I don’t see evidence in Scripture that man can make covenants. It’s an action purely reserved for God. But Christians are called to keep their word.

    Let me ask–does everyone always keep every word of their marriage vows at every second? Do you love, honor, cherish, and protect your spouse at every moment of every day? Have you never felt bored, gotten angry, or forgotten to cherish your spouse, even just for one moment?

    I don’t think humans are capable of keeping a covenant.

  79. Dave A A wrote:

    Mary Kassian, a co-inventor of complementarianism, had 4 puzzle-piece people with blue heads and pink bodies. First an ESS style God/Christ, next Christ/Church and Husband/Wife, and last but not least Church Elders disciplining er sorry leading believers.

    Please support this with a reference.

  80. @ Ken G:

    I don’t think I have, but selective enforcement isn’t what’s being discussed. What’s being discussed is whether or not the mechanism for enforcement exists. And I say it does. Whether it’s employed or not is a different matter yes?

  81. @ ishy:

    My marriage vows didn’t include “not being bored for one moment.” I do love my wife, only her, better than I used to, but less than someday I will, only because over time my ability to love is expanded. I love her as much as I’m capable of, which is more than me 5 years ago and less than Jesus loves her now. Same goes for my love for Jesus and my love for his church. My ability to perfectly perform my duties doesn’t mean I’m in the wrong to promise that I will perform them as best I can by Gods grace, or accept consequences for major failure to do so.

  82. Ken G wrote:

    Have you ever been to a church where there is selective enforcement of the covenant or contract? That is, some get a pass while others are disciplined.

    Great point. CJ Mahaney hiding behind Mark Dever’s skirt at Capitol Hill Baptist while how many were disciplined at SGM and 9Marks churches.

  83. Ken G wrote:

    Have you ever been to a church where there is selective enforcement of the covenant or contract? That is, some get a pass while others are disciplined.

    Rank Hath Its Privileges.

    And from his attitude, Joe is obviously one of the Highborn.

  84. Joe Reed wrote:

    My ability to perfectly perform my duties doesn’t mean I’m in the wrong to promise that I will perform them as best I can by Gods grace, or accept consequences for major failure to do so.

    This isn’t what a covenant is. God has never broken one aspect of any covenant He has made. He doesn’t just “do His best”, He fulfills every “jot and tittle”.

    If you have not performed perfectly in what you consider a covenant, you have broken the covenant. This is why man can’t make covenants; only God can.

    These contracts are called covenants, but they are really just contracts.

  85. Joe Reed wrote:

    @ ishy:
    My marriage vows didn’t include “not being bored for one moment.”

    “There are those more sick of Pleasure
    Than you are sick of pain”
    — G.K.Chesterton

  86. Muff Potter wrote:

    Over time, Catholicism has come to grips with the Enlightenment and has for the most part learned from its mistakes in the past. The same cannot be said of Evangelical Protestantism, which in some ways, remains stuck in the 16th century.

    And Doubling Down and SCREAMING LOUDER.

  87. Nancy2 wrote:

    That’s been the thing for a while in Gothard/Phillips/Wilson/Duggar/quiverfull marriages – where the wife (body) submits to and obeys the husband (head). Looks like these contract – uh, covenant – churches are following suit with the church body submitting to and obeying church leaders.

    Church discipline = wife spanking?

    Or “The Pastor Penetrates, Colonizes, Conquers, Plants. The congregation Lies Back and Accepts.”

  88. mot wrote:

    Christiane wrote:
    my concern is this:

    those neo-Cal folk and the Nine Marks folks think of ‘covenant’ as a kind of quid-pro-quo exchange contract, where you, the member, do something for us and we do something for you as ‘church’

    but how does this ever square with ‘grace’?
    or God’s mercy?
    no wonder they are filled with pride, hubris, and arrogance, and contempt:
    they don’t NEED to be humble because they don’t value the grace of God that humility makes room for in their souls

    There is zero grace with this group of men.

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
    — Lord Voldemort

  89. Christiane wrote:

    my concern is this:

    those neo-Cal folk and the Nine Marks folks think of ‘covenant’ as a kind of quid-pro-quo exchange contract, where you, the member, do something for us and we do something for you as ‘church’

    AKA Tit for Tat.

    but how does this ever square with ‘grace’?
    or God’s mercy?

    no wonder they are filled with pride, hubris, and arrogance, and contempt:

    They are the Predestined Elect, God’s Speshul Pets.

  90. okrapod wrote:

    concerning the baptismal covenant

    I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of a baptismal covenant. Is this Episcopalian(/catholic?) specific? Or broadly used?

    We actually just did a thing on baptism a couple weeks ago, where we do this sort of baptism booster shot (my words not theirs) but I don’t remember that terminology being used.

  91. Joe Reed wrote:

    What’s being discussed is whether or not the mechanism for enforcement exists

    Well, that is the aspect of the topic that you brought up, but that is not the only thing we are discussing. The notion of Church Covenants and Covenant Church Membership and Church Discipline and Elder Leadership/Elder Rule encompasses lots of issues that need to be discussed, ISTM.

  92. Gram3 wrote:

    Ken G wrote:

    Have you ever been to a church where there is selective enforcement of the covenant or contract? That is, some get a pass while others are disciplined.

    Great point. CJ Mahaney hiding behind Mark Dever’s skirt at Capitol Hill Baptist while how many were disciplined at SGM and 9Marks churches.

    I haven’t forgotten that Mahaney came with $$$ in hand when he attended Dever’s church. Apparently, money talks. 😉

  93. Joe Reed wrote:

    I don’t think I have, but selective enforcement isn’t what’s being discussed.

    I’m pretty sure selective enforcement happens in almost all such systems. If you’re not aware of it, you are probably out of the loop.

  94. ishy wrote:

    These contracts are called covenants, but they are really just contracts.

    Yes. That’s where I fall out too.

    Marriage was such a covenant in the old testament it could be broken by men for pretty much any reason, right? How is that better than a contract? Because it sounds more spiritual?

  95. @ Lea:

    In some sense of course it happens. I’m a parent and know that I can’t treat my children perfectly equal because of who I am and who they are. But I think the comment was meant to indicate some egregious stuff gets selectively overlooked, man’s I haven’t been a pet of that. I’ve seen many pastors fired over the years for moral failure. And thank God I’ve never been in a church that refused to do that when needed.

  96. Lea wrote:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of a baptismal covenant. Is this Episcopalian(/catholic?) specific? Or broadly used?

    I am an episcopalian, and I checked it out in the Book of Common Prayer before my comment. I can’t speak for anybody else.

  97. @ ishy:

    You may be thinking about divine covenants while we may be thinking about covenants between people. When I googled definition of covenant I found both kinds of covenants.

  98. Joe Reed wrote:

    But I think the comment was meant to indicate some egregious stuff gets selectively overlooked, man’s I haven’t been a pet of that.

    I’m guessing you mean you haven’t been a ‘part’ of that. That’s good if so, but it clearly happens. This website is pretty much a living document of a hundred times when it happened. Whenever you set up an authoritative system, someone is going to be boss and someone is going to be an elders son, and someone is going to be just a woman and someone is going to contribute a lot of money to the church and ‘church discipline’ and consequences are going to look very different for these people.

    Joe Reed wrote:

    I’ve seen many pastors fired over the years for moral failure.

    I have too (well, not many but a few). Meanwhile others have been coddled or fast tracked back into ministry. Are we talking now only with pastors? Or congregants.

  99. Deb wrote:

    I haven’t forgotten that Mahaney came with $$$ in hand when he attended Dever’s church.

    One of these days someone will solve the mystery of what or who brought Dever, the REFORMED PhD/Ph.D., together with Mahaney, the decidedly UNREFORMED non-degreed charismatic. If ever there was an enigmatic theological Odd Couple, this is it. Whatever that bond with Mahaney was or is, it caused Mark Dever to abandon the practice of his life’s project: Covenant Church Membership and Church Discipline.

  100. ishy wrote:

    These contracts are called covenants, but they are really just contracts.

    yes …. man-made contracts, for benefit of them who runs the business

  101. Gram3 wrote:

    One of these days someone will solve the mystery of what or who brought Dever, the REFORMED PhD/Ph.D., together with Mahaney, the decidedly UNREFORMED non-degreed charismatic.

    The only thing I can see is proximity. It is very strange. Maybe there was something behind the scenes or Dever liked the looks of that giant church/network Mahaney had. But Dever’s style is very intellectual and his church is a lovely old capital hill townhouse. They are very different.

  102. okrapod wrote:

    You may be thinking about divine covenants while we may be thinking about covenants between people. When I googled definition of covenant I found both kinds of covenants.

    I don’t believe covenants between people are different than contracts, as I already said. Using the word doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as it’s used in the Bible. The neo-Calvinists claim a spiritual and biblical context to their church membership covenants, just as Joe asserted for marriage. To this I object.

    I realize some churches have covenants of marriage, baptism, and other things, but I see no evidence they are represented as covenants in Scripture. I think doing so minimizes the meaning of God’s keeping His covenants with men.

  103. @ ishy:

    ishy you’re probably a good person to ask, I was looking for some listing of marriage as a covenant specifically in the bible…the only thing I saw offhand was Malachi and that was ESV (so I don’t trust it). Do you know anything about that/original language/etc?

  104. ishy wrote:

    To this I object.

    Yes, I gather that you object to it, but if we are going to discuss it then we will each have to use the other person’s vocabulary or else we are just doing tis too and tis not.

    The same thing goes for the idea of sacraments; we have to understand what the other people mean when they say that whether we agree or not. Only then can we agree or disagree. There is no point in disagreeing with what somebody said if that is not what they meant in the first place.

    And the idea of what is or is not ‘biblica’l also varies as to what somebody means by biblical. Is everything forbidden unless it is prescribed in scripture or is everything permitted unless it is prohibited in scripture. In the one case ‘biblical’ means I see it written right there in scripture as a requirement, and in the other case ‘biblical’ means I do not see it or its basic principle prohibited in scripture.

    And the idea of priest, as in on the one hand priesthood of the believer(s) and on the other hand some designated specific function or person in the church and on the third hand Jesus as high priest and what exactly priestly behaviors or functions are we talking about. What does a priest do and what do individuals as priests do that is priestly.

    For sure we do not mean all the same thing in the meanings of the words justification or salvation or sanctification or heresy or apostasy or especially grace. And nobody much agrees about heaven or hell and what that may even mean.

    Anyhow, I am with Gram3 on the idea that the whole covenant thing is complicated and we need to talk about it. The reason we need to discuss it is because the idea has been around for a while in one form or another, is not agreed upon apparently, and is spreading in influence and application for better or worse and in many forms. And has many ramifications.

  105. Lea wrote:

    I was looking for some listing of marriage as a covenant specifically in the bible…the only thing I saw offhand was Malachi and that was ESV (so I don’t trust it). Do you know anything about that/original language/etc?

    I’ve seen people argue for it as a “divine institution”, but just because God instituted something doesn’t make it a covenant.

    Most of it hangs on Matthew 19:6: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

    I think the point of Malachi 2 was that man couldn’t keep covenants. Honestly, that whole passage to me seems figurative in man’s relationship to God, and not really about marriage and divorce.

    Malachi 2:11: “Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord [p]which He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god.”

    And most interestingly, just after, in Malachi 2:15, “But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit.” Is God really saying that anyone with the Spirit is incapable of divorce? Or is He talking about Himself?

    The literal phrase for “divorce” is “sending away”. beriyeth is used throughout for covenant, but it also can mean an agreement or confederation.

  106. A lot of the “covenant” stuff goes all the way back to the Swiss Reformers who were trying to find an alternative to Catholic ideas about sacraments. Presto, change-o, now baptism and marriage are “covenants” instead.

  107. okrapod wrote:

    Yes, I gather that you object to it, but if we are going to discuss it then we will each have to use the other person’s vocabulary or else we are just doing tis too and tis not.

    We can’t use the same vocabulary without clarifying it, or this discussion has no meaning.

    This is important because the neo-Cals hang their entire authoritarian structure on the word “covenant”. They say people cannot break covenants because God didn’t break covenants. Their “covenants” are all about what members should do, and nothing about what the church should do, which is directly against the concept of covenant in the Bible. That makes them believe they can harass people, chase them down, and emotionally abuse them because they believe those people signed their lives away to them and God will send them to hell for breaking it. I think how you define the word covenant makes a big difference in how you might respond to this whole issue.

  108. One thing I learned from the Calvinistas was to always make sure you defined your terminology, because people often are talking about different things using the same words. And Calvinistas have taken changing the meanings of Christian terms to an art form. We cannot just agree to use the same terms without understanding the meaning of how people are using them.

  109. @ ishy:

    I’m looking up those baptism covenants now (the first thing coming up is LDS, followed by the Episcopalian one, which seems to be turning the apostles creed into a q&a mostly: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/baptismal-covenant)

    But then there are some little quote pictures and one says “We make contracts, covenants make us”. Which I don’t find particularly helpful.

    And then of course there is a desiring god article about this called “Infant Baptism and the New Covenant Community” by Piper, which I don’t have the heart to read yet.

  110. The use of the word “covenant” in the churches is a frustration for me. A daily reminder that critical thinking is all but non-existent in the House of God.

    Covenant is a contractual obligation – something I am forced to do – stuck with – cant get out of – am punished if I fail to perform – must meet certain specified requirements as delineated in the terms and conditions – the opposite of faith – constitutes walking by sight because it is has demonstrable and quantifiable progress based of my human activities – an earned reward from God for an offering of what came from the Earth.

  111. ishy wrote:

    I think how you define the word covenant makes a big difference in how you might respond to this whole issue.

    Indeed so. Precisely. But the neo-cals are not the only ones using the concept of covenant. If one were to say that the neo-cals do such and thus and use the word covenant in doing this, and then to conclude that they own the word or the concept and therefore because of neo-cal abuses the word and concept itself are null and void or worse would just break all kind of rules of reasoning.

    I do not grant them any exclusive rights to the concept or the terminology, nor do they get to define anything for anybody but themselves. Anyhow, it would all make for good conversation as time goes on.

  112. okrapod wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    I think how you define the word covenant makes a big difference in how you might respond to this whole issue.
    //
    Indeed so. Precisely. But the neo-cals are not the only ones using the concept of covenant. If one were to say that the neo-cals do such and thus and use the word covenant in doing this, and then to conclude that they own the word or the concept and therefore because of neo-cal abuses the word and concept itself are null and void or worse would just break all kind of rules of reasoning.

    I initially started discussing this here from the point of view of non-neo-Cals. We were discussing marriage as a covenant, as someone claimed earlier that marriage had to be a biblical covenant. I don’t think it’s consistent to use the Bible to support some covenants of men and not others, because I don’t think men are capable of keeping covenants in the biblical sense. I think you missed the point of what we were actually discussing.

  113. ishy wrote:

    Most of it hangs on Matthew 19:6: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

    So… Who, what, when and where decides whether or not the Almighty has indeed joined them together? And if so, what are the criteria for this joining?
    Good avenue for discussion, probably over on the OD thread.

  114. Muff Potter wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    Most of it hangs on Matthew 19:6: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
    //
    So… Who, what, when and where decides whether or not the Almighty has indeed joined them together? And if so, what are the criteria for this joining?

    I’m not arguing for it not being instituted by God, just that verse isn’t a support for it being a covenant.

    This is why definitions are important–I believe, in the Bible, that a covenant is a promise that cannot be broken in any way. Whenever men made covenants, they broke them. Even in marriage vows, I don’t think there’s any human on earth that has kept them perfectly without flaw. (Since Jesus didn’t get married!)

    I believe this has importance because it means that while men break covenants, God does not. God did everything He ever promised to do. Everything in the Bible is about God doing what He promised, and sending a Savior, which was God willingly laying Himself down for our sins because we could not perfectly atone for them.

  115. My larger point wasn’t really to quibble about the definition of covenant, but many of the points of the main article hinge on the illegitimacy of a formal commitment to other people within a defined institution, which both marriage and the church are. So my question is, does marriage nullify the Holy Spirit by virtue of being a commitment? Does marriage equal authoritative abuse? The answer could be yes in some cases, no in others. So I question if the problem is the covenant or those involved in it.

  116. Joe Reed wrote:

    So my question is, does marriage nullify the Holy Spirit by virtue of being a commitment?

    I think maybe the conflict comes in that these churches ask people in their covenants to give up their right to be led by the Holy Spirit, and turn over being led to them. I don’t think marriage vows do that.

    Most of these churches have dropped Jesus to a sacrificial lamb sub-God in their theology, and they have removed the concept of the Holy Spirit altogether. They don’t want people to be led by the Spirit. They want to own them.

  117. ishy wrote:

    So my question is, does marriage nullify the Holy Spirit by virtue of being a commitment?
    I think maybe the conflict comes in that these churches ask people in their covenants to give up their right to be led by the Holy Spirit, and turn over being led to them. I don’t think marriage vows do that.

    I take that back. Many marriage vows ask women to do that. So in that sense, yes, it’s the same thing. And I wouldn’t sign that contract, either.

  118. Joe Reed wrote:

    So my question is, does marriage nullify the Holy Spirit by virtue of being a commitment? Does marriage equal authoritative abuse? The answer could be yes in some cases, no in others. So I question if the problem is the covenant or those involved in it.

    It seems to me there are a few things in play: the necessity of the contract, the contents of the contract, and who the contract is with.

  119. ishy wrote:

    I take that back. Many marriage vows ask women to do that. So in that sense, yes, it’s the same thing. And I wouldn’t sign that contract, either.

    Many couples write their own vows, deciding what they are agreeing on between the two of them.

  120. okrapod wrote:

    Indeed so. Precisely. But the neo-cals are not the only ones using the concept of covenant. If one were to say that the neo-cals do such and thus and use the word covenant in doing this, and then to conclude that they own the word or the concept and therefore because of neo-cal abuses the word and concept itself are null and void or worse would just break all kind of rules of reasoning.

    It’s interesting, I was looking up some info on this subject and I found there are groups of Christians (not sure if they are neocal or not) that teach there is a difference between contracts and covenants, the difference being that contracts can be renegotiated/withdrawn from, but covenants cannot be broken ever, under any circumstances (this is their definition). If a covenant cannot ever be broken, for any reason, then my feeling is it would be most unwise to agree to one.

  121. siteseer wrote:

    Many couples write their own vows, deciding what they are agreeing on between the two of them.

    I realize that, which is why I said “many”. But many couples, especially in Christian circles, still do the “love and obey” vow. I just did a random search, and a church right near me came up that said they won’t perform a ceremony if that doesn’t have it in it in the woman’s vow. That’s likely not just neo-Cals, but fundamentalists and a lot of Pentacostal and charismatics.

  122. @ Joe Reed:

    “Or, if there’s some legitimacy to two people making commitment to each other in the God-given institution of marriage, is there no place for at least some form commitment to each other in the Jesus-built church?”
    ++++++++++++++++

    there have probably a number of responses already, but i’ll add mine to the mix.

    the potential for crazy dysfunction is high in religious institutions (no matter who or what is god/God). since my experience is only in christian institutions, i can report that the emphasis on unity, fear of disunity, and an influential person of authority invoking the name of God erodes objectivity in the members ‘like the dickens’. (too tired to come up with anything better!)

    christian church is a heady environment.

    ultimately, a church exists to perpetuate itself.

    too unsafe an environment for anything other than a loose idea of commitment.

    also, seems to me ‘commitment’ to a group is typically for short period of time. 4 weeks, 8 weeks…. church wants you for the rest of your born days. that’s a crazy level of commitment!

    (but nickels & noses are the way to viability, salaries, and interesting jobs for the professionals)

  123. Joe Reed wrote:

    So I question if the problem is the covenant or those involved in it.

    It doesn’t matter. Why should we be required to sign a contract, written by men, to be considered a part of the body of Christ?

  124. ishy wrote:

    I take that back. Many marriage vows ask women to do that. So in that sense, yes, it’s the same thing. And I wouldn’t sign that contract, either.

    Former SBC president Bailey Smith (1980-ish?) said that a wife should be submissive to her husband as if he were God. And, if a wife isn’t meeting the husband’s needs, she is to blame if he is unfaithful.

  125. ishy wrote:

    I realize that, which is why I said “many”. But many couples, especially in Christian circles, still do the “love and obey” vow. I just did a random search, and a church right near me came up that said they won’t perform a ceremony if that doesn’t have it in it in the woman’s vow. That’s likely not just neo-Cals, but fundamentalists and a lot of Pentacostal and charismatics.

    It doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think those vows have anything to do with the Bible. Probably more from pagan culture?

  126. Nancy2 wrote:

    Former SBC president Bailey Smith (1980-ish?) said that a wife should be submissive to her husband as if he were God. And, if a wife isn’t meeting the husband’s needs, she is to blame if he is unfaithful.

    Wonder how many Southern Baptist Seminary graduates have been taught this unbilical putrid garbage?

  127. Joe Reed wrote:

    So I question if the problem is the covenant or those involved in it.

    I did not see a smiley face after this comment. Are you serious?

  128. mot wrote:

    Nancy2 wrote:

    Former SBC president Bailey Smith (1980-ish?) said that a wife should be submissive to her husband as if he were God. And, if a wife isn’t meeting the husband’s needs, she is to blame if he is unfaithful.

    Wonder how many Southern Baptist Seminary graduates have been taught this unbilical putrid garbage?

    It’s not just America, unfortunately. Russia just legalized domestic violence.

  129. Nancy2 wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    So I question if the problem is the covenant or those involved in it.

    It doesn’t matter. Why should we be required to sign a contract, written by men, to be considered a part of the body of Christ?

    Excellent question. Here is another one. What are the obligations, if any, which the Leaders covenant to take on with respect to the pewpeons? Or are these covenant obligations really only one-way covenants? What are the consequences if a leader violates any terms of the covenant he makes with the pewpeons (if indeed he makes any at all?)

    I suspect that 9Marksy Leaders would protest that the Keys are held by the congregation. However, I ask this: Do we, in fact, have the congregation acting as the collective agent of the elders who, in fact, act as the collective agent of the Lead/Senior Pastor who acts, in fact, as the agent of his umbilical Guru?

  130. @ Gram3:

    Good question. The responsibility of church leadership has always been the spiritual health, instruction, and care of the congregation. Failure to do these, as all too often happens, has both temporal consequences (like getting fired) and eternal ones, the likes of which make getting a millstone tied around ones neck and pitched into the sea seem like a picnic.
    Sometimes doing these things requires a certain authority, which God has given for proper use, not abuse. I’m thankful for the authority god gave me to teach my kids not to run in the street with some expectation that they need to listen to me. I’m thankful for a pastor that helps me not stick my spiritual fingers in spiritual electrical outlets. Leaders in the church are responsible to the congregation and ultimately to God himself.

  131. Joe Reed wrote:

    Good question. The responsibility of church leadership has always been the spiritual health, instruction, and care of the congregation. Failure to do these, as all too often happens, has both temporal consequences (like getting fired) and eternal ones, the likes of which make getting a millstone tied around ones neck and pitched into the sea seem like a picnic.
    Sometimes doing these things requires a certain authority, which God has given for proper use, not abuse. I’m thankful for the authority god gave me to teach my kids not to run in the street with some expectation that they need to listen to me. I’m thankful for a pastor that helps me not stick my spiritual fingers in spiritual electrical outlets. Leaders in the church are responsible to the congregation and ultimately to God himself.

    But, not by using these non biblical membership covenants. These leaders are not not gods.

  132. Nancy2 wrote:

    It doesn’t matter. Why should we be required to sign a contract, written by men, to be considered a part of the body of Christ?

    What a fantastic question!

  133. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m thankful for the authority god gave me to teach my kids not to run in the street with some expectation that they need to listen to me.

    Well, yes, but I am an adult indwelt by the Holy Spirit. What does one particular human being indwelt by the Holy Spirit add to the teaching authority and ministry of the Holy Spirit that exceeds that of any other human being who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? I do not find a Teaching Office in the actual text, just as I do not find binding authority, much less Keys, in the actual text unless it is carefully placed there first. This view is hurtful to a great many important people, and I appreciate that. I really do, just as Jesus’ words to the leaders of the Temple cult were very hurtful to them.

    I’ve been keyed out. Let me assure you, the ones who keyed me out have faced no consequences whatsoever. On the contrary, I think they are quite sure they have pleased the Lord by upholding the peace and purity of his Bride from the defilement of impertinent questioners.

  134. Gram3 wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m thankful for the authority god gave me to teach my kids not to run in the street with some expectation that they need to listen to me.

    Well, yes, but I am an adult indwelt by the Holy Spirit. What does one particular human being indwelt by the Holy Spirit add to the teaching authority and ministry of the Holy Spirit that exceeds that of any other human being who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? I do not find a Teaching Office in the actual text, just as I do not find binding authority, much less Keys, in the actual text unless it is carefully placed there first. This view is hurtful to a great many important people, and I appreciate that. I really do, just as Jesus’ words to the leaders of the Temple cult were very hurtful to them.

    I’ve been keyed out. Let me assure you, the ones who keyed me out have faced no consequences whatsoever. On the contrary, I think they are quite sure they have pleased the Lord by upholding the peace and purity of his Bride from the defilement of impertinent questioners.

    Gram3-the ones that made it necessary for me to leave my last pastorate keyed me out also and they also think God is well pleased by removing the impurity–me.

  135. @ Nancy2:

    It doesn’t matter. Why should we be required to sign a contract, written by men, to be considered a part of the body of Christ?

    It is a good question. Would you then say that we ought to consider anyone a part of the body who claims to be? If so, we have to recognize various cults as part of the body on their own profession, and allow them to enter our churches and vote on the next pastor.
    Those man-written “contracts” that are indisputably abused at times are also clarifications of what a church believes a member of the body of Christ looks like, including a set of defined beliefs and as understood by a congregation. Not having some sort of definition here is risky, because there’s no way to handle aberrant behavior. At least if someone is harming the church, be it a pastor or a congregant, we can point to our “man-written contract” and say “we can’t allow you to continue doing harm to us, and here’s why…”
    Surely we can understand the need for some sort of safety net to both define and protect ourselves.

  136. Joe Reed wrote:

    Surely we can understand the need for some sort of safety net to both define and protect ourselves.

    Joe these contracts do not work and hurt too many believers. As has been pointed out here, one should never sign one of these contracts.

  137. Joe Reed wrote:

    clarifications of what a church believes a member of the body of Christ looks like, including a set of defined beliefs and as understood by a congregation.

    That can be covered in a church’s statement of faith and the church ordinances. No need for each individual member to sign a contract allowing church pastors and elders to control every aspect of their lives.

  138. Joe Reed wrote:

    Would you then say that we ought to consider anyone a part of the body who claims to be? If so, we have to recognize various cults as part of the body on their own profession, and allow them to enter our churches and vote on the next pastor.

    Nonsense. And surely you know this sounds like you are impersonating Jonathan Leeman (or impersonating Dave AA impersonating Jonathan.) Did any of the NT churches have membership covenants? Did Jesus say anything about identifying who is part of his Bride by who has signed on the dotted line in the presence of two ordained Elders who have Keys? Of course not!

  139. Joe Reed wrote:

    Surely we can understand the need for some sort of safety net to both define and protect ourselves.

    Yes, I was a clear and present danger to my church. No doubt about it. 🙂

  140. @ Joe Reed:

    Funny thing Joe, the Southern Baptist church to which I belong has existed for 111 years, and the ordinance of baptism is how one becomes a member, along with their testimony.

    Membership covenants have NEVER been necessary.

  141. Some churches have taken the covenant underground. I thought my wife’s church had removed their covenant but according to the church bulletin, they have membership classes where you make the choice to be a member. The way it’s presented, sounds like they are using the classes to hard sell the membership.
    They removed the covenant from their website. I have no intention of investigating this further but it sounds like a bait and switch.
    So folks should be aware the membership covenant may not be obvious at first. They may want you to get invested before pressuring you to sign up.

  142. Joe Reed wrote:

    Surely we can understand the need for some sort of safety net to both define and protect ourselves.

    And let me say you’re doing a fine job! Reading your comments keeps me from ever attending a “covenant Church”. Consider yourself fully protected.

  143. Joe Reed wrote:

    Those man-written “contracts” that are indisputably abused at times are also clarifications of what a church believes a member of the body of Christ looks like, including a set of defined beliefs and as understood by a congregation.

    That should be set forth in a “What We Believe” statement of faith for the church, not in contracts which must be signed by each church member. Such statement should be examined by every prospective member before they join themselves to a fellowship; no written contract needed.

    Another word about church membership covenants. They are a lot like employee contracts. Neither can be legally enforced. They both are designed to control by intimidation. Just as an employee is free to leave a company and take his training elsewhere, a Christian is free to go and come within the Body of Christ as the Lord leads.

  144. Joe Reed wrote:

    “we can’t allow you to continue doing harm to us, and here’s why…”

    See, this is exactly what Mark Dever *should* have said to his dear friend C.J. Mahaney when Mahaney wanted to flee from accountability to his elders. That would have been the really biblical thing to do because Mahaney had brought disrepute upon the church by his actions. Dever’s response instead has FOREVER discredited the 9Marks program. The Rules only apply to the Pewpeons. The Rules do not apply to the Keyholders. It is a sham and a scam, and Dever proved by his very own actions that it is a sham and a scam. For some reason, Mahaney was too big to fail, and that reason is big enough to sacrifice the credibility of the 9Marks system.

    So, no, I don’t believe this is the reason for a membership covenant or for church discipline as envisioned by 9Marks and 9Marksy churches.

  145. Deb wrote:

    I just looked up Oakhurst Baptist Church in Charlotte. Oh my!!! It’s a church re-plant (under the direction of Capitol Hill Baptist Church).
    Were you a member of this church?

    Deb, I began attending the first week they started. At the time, I was excited about it, as I had several friends who would also be attending. The first thing I hated was the fencing of the table from “non-members of an evangelical church.” But I still decided to attend the three hours membership class. At the class I discovered a lack of integrity regarding the teaching of the Statement of Faith and the church covenant. Mark Dever came down to “install” David Russell as “lead pastor” (Russell was an intern at CHBC). That evening we had an opportunity to ask Dever questions. Except David Russell limited the questions to members only.

    After this, I shared my concerns with the way they were handling some aspects of the “replant” and their treatment of visitors. I told him it was unwise to require submission to a statement of faith after only one hour of class time. I showed them inconsistencies between their adjusted N.H. Confession and the BFM 2000, both of which we were to submit to. I shared my thoughts on fencing the table and the error and danger of having a church covenant and taking oaths. I mentioned Karen Hinkley. I asked David Russell if his view of the Sabbath had changed, since he was an elder at Capitol Hill and they required adherence to the 1689 London and the replant was not going to be Sabbatarian. I also questioned how one could possibly be expected to agree to submit to leadership of whom the congregation had such limited knowledge. For some reason, these issues didn’t “resonate” with them.

    We had a private meeting at which David Russell and another elder teamed up on me. I was accused of marital infidelity because someone had seen me praying with two single women in the fellowship hall after service. I shared with these saints that my sister was dying of a brain tumor, and they said that they had a good friend who was dying of the same disease. So they asked if we could pray. I asked David Russell who had revealed this “inappropriate prayer meeting” to them, and he refused to answer.

    The following Sunday one of the elders tried to restrain me from entering the church. After meeting with another elder, I left. I received a call from David Russell that week telling me that the police would be contacted if I tried to set foot on the property! I still had friends who were attending, so I tried for nine months to come to a peaceful resolution. They ignored me. I finally showed up one Sunday on the sidewalk and asked if they would contact me later. Instead, they filed a restraining order with the police. Mind you, I had never done anything in public related to my concerns or made a scene, etc.

  146. Nancy2 wrote:

    if a wife isn’t meeting the husband’s needs, she is to blame if he is unfaithful (Bailey Smith)

    And what Scripture would that be, Mr. Smith?! Unfaithfulness in marriage is an individual sin, not a corporate transgression. “My wife made me do it” will not sell well on Judgment Day.

    If a husband truly loved his wife as Christ loves the Church, he would be meeting ‘her’ most basic need.

  147. @ Nancy2:

    “Former SBC president Bailey Smith (1980-ish?) said that a wife should be submissive to her husband as if he were God. And, if a wife isn’t meeting the husband’s needs, she is to blame if he is unfaithful.”
    ++++++++++++

    then crickets of all kinds to him and his bedroom.

  148. Joe Reed wrote:

    Failure to do these, as all too often happens, has both temporal consequences (like getting fired)

    Do you realize how many thousands of congregations are out there that do not have any recourse to get rid of a poor leaders. The congregants’ only choices are to leave ther church where they, more than likely, have been longer than the leader(s).

  149. @ Jack:
    Thanks for bringing this up. We may put together some information soon about churches that use alternatives to the signed membership covenant (since it has come under scrutiny).

  150. Joe Reed wrote:

    Surely we can understand the need for some sort of safety net to both define and protect ourselves.

    Nothing needs to be a written contract.

  151. Deb wrote:

    It’s a church re-plant

    I heard an SBC-YRR pastor refer to his church following a deceptive takeover and subsequent splitting of an SBC traditional church as a “Re-plant.” Sounds better than takeover I guess.

  152. @ Dale:
    I truly wish I could say that there was no way I could believe this. But, this RESONATES with me. Thank you for telling your story.

  153. Max wrote:

    I heard an SBC-YRR pastor refer to his church following a deceptive takeover and subsequent splitting of an SBC traditional church as a “Re-plant.” Sounds better than takeover I guess.

    It might be worth exploring whether and to what extent NAMB funds these “re-plants.” I remember some years back there was a lot of talk about this. Yet another way to shift resources toward Calvinista graduates and interns under the banner of what we used to call Home Missions.

  154. Dale wrote:

    I was accused of marital infidelity because someone had seen me praying with two single women in the fellowship hall after service. I shared with these saints that my sister was dying of a brain tumor, and they said that they had a good friend who was dying of the same disease. So they asked if we could pray. I asked David Russell who had revealed this “inappropriate prayer meeting” to them, and he refused to answer.

    Is this the same group that legitimizes pastors that cheat on their wives, or the serial philanderer leaders that go from one trophy to the next?

  155. Gram3 wrote:

    It might be worth exploring whether and to what extent NAMB funds these “re-plants.”

    I suspect it would be near impossible to determine from NAMB records what the theological leaning is of church planters / re-planters funded by NAMB. Although, it is increasingly apparent that the preponderance of these folks are New Calvinists (at least in my neck of the woods). NAMB has a $60 million annual budget in its church planting program, with an aggressive goal to plant 1,000 new churches per year (or replant, I suppose). Great employment opportunities for YRRs graduating from SBC seminaries, particularly the ones that lean reformed (SBTS, SEBTS, MWBTS). I still believe that the goal is to plant theology, rather than churches.

  156. @ Dale:
    Whoa!!!!!!! I am talking with a man right now who was served with a no trespass order from a PCA church. We would love to write your story. The man with whom I am talking is interested in having us write his story as well. You two might want to talk. Would you be interested? I can ask him as well.

  157. Joe Reed wrote:

    Would you then say that we ought to consider anyone a part of the body who claims to be?

    I know this may come as a surprise, but I have been a Christian for many decades. I was only asked to sign a covenant one time. The other churches had new members classes in which they actually got to know the prospective members (imagine that) and would find out if they were cult like. A covenant is not needed.

  158. Joe Reed wrote:

    Those man-written “contracts” that are indisputably abused at times are also clarifications of what a church believes a member of the body of Christ looks like, including a set of defined beliefs and as understood by a congregation. Not having some sort of definition here is risky, because there’s no way to handle aberrant behavior

    There is this thing that has been around as long as I have been a Christian called a “statement of beliefs.” Then if Joe Aberrant runs around saying that Jesus was really Mohammed, then the church points to the statement and says bye bye. A covenant is not needed.

    You do understand that covenants were invented not to protect the church from aberrant behaviors, right? They were put out there to prevent churches from getting sued when they beat up on members. Unfortunately, the lawyers involved didn’t realize that US law prevents beating up on people who have voluntarily left the church.

    You need to do some reading on the history of this. Here are two posts on the background of covenants.

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2014/10/29/proof-that-its-not-a-membership-covenant-but-a-legally-binding-document/

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2015/04/09/further-proof-you-are-signing-a-legal-contract-not-a-membership-covenant-courtesy-of-the-gospel-coalition/

    TWW is known for its extensive research and writing on membership contracts. There are not many who have written on the issues surrounding them.

    It is vital that you understand that this is precious little to do with the beliefs of the church or weeding out aberrant members.

  159. Joe Reed wrote:

    “we can’t allow you to continue doing harm to us, and here’s why…”
    Surely we can understand the need for some sort of safety net to both define and protect ourselves.

    Covenants do not do this. Your statement of beliefs that are presented in a membership class do that.And, if you pursue someone after they have resigned from the church because they were *under church discipline*, you will find yourself on the losing end of a civil lawsuit.

    You protect yourself by acting like a church and getting to know newcomers and long time members. You protect yourself by teaching on what you believe. A contract is absolutely useless in this regard and merely lead to arrogant men thinking they have some sort of ownership of a church attendee.

  160. Gram3 wrote:

    See, this is exactly what Mark Dever *should* have said to his dear friend C.J. Mahaney when Mahaney wanted to flee from accountability to his elders. That would have been the really biblical thing to do because Mahaney had brought disrepute upon the church by his actions.

    Yes. I completely agree

  161. Joe Reed wrote:

    Sometimes doing these things requires a certain authority, which God has given for proper use, not abuse.

    Why don’t you outline for me what sort of practical authority that a pastor has over the average church member. He can teach what he likes but a member can disagree with his interpretation since average people have access to study Christian theologians who disagre.e-Lets say his is a Calvinist and I am not. I can disagree with what he says and he has no authority to make me believe *his way.*

    I used to belong to a church which taught young earth creation only. I disagreed with them and said I believed in an old earth.He tried to make me believe his way but his arguments were simplistic and outmoded. I couldn’t believe in what he said and he couldn’t make me.

    One time a pastor asked me to lead a building campaign for the church. I hate asking people for money and I said I knew that I wasn’t right for the position although I was honored I had been asked. So, I didn’t do it.

    So, what authority does a pastor actually have? Does he get to say where the coffee pots are placed on Sundays? Does he get to choose the color of the church carpet? Perhaps he can choose his sermon series?

    What exactly can he tell me to do or believe beyond the simple statement of beliefs of the church? That is hardly rocket science. And why would I join a church that I didn’t agree with?

    Now, Marie Notcheva’s church told her she was in sin for divorcing her abusive husband. She left the church and went to a church who agreed with her decision. It’s rather amusing. Two churches with two pastors who have *authority* and they disagree with one another. Who has the real authority?

    This authority thing has me flummoxed. I have yet to have a pastor exert authority over me so I would do something (except for the guy who screwed up a pedophile thing badly-boy was he stupid) for a supposed pastor *in authority.* I have yet to have a pastor tell me what I had to believe since I am a thoughtful Christian. I have never had to be corrected for wacko beliefs.

    So, what in the world is this authority thing that seems to be so gosh darn important that you would invent a legal contract for it? And, if you study the history of membership covenants, you will see that authority and statements of beliefs were not the impetus for them.. I am confused. Please help me to understand what you are a saying in a practical way without resorting to Christianese. I mean get practical. I am a simple woman.

  162. Jack wrote:

    And let me say you’re doing a fine job! Reading your comments keeps me from ever attending a “covenant Church”. Consider yourself fully protected.

    LOLOL.

  163. dee wrote:

    if you pursue someone after they have resigned from the church because they were *under church discipline*, you will find yourself on the losing end of a civil lawsuit.

    Yes I agree here too. No argument. I had a missionary friend put under “discipline” after resigning from his church. It was ridiculous.
    But it’s also possible that if there are crooked pastors abusing the legality of said covenants, there are congregants who are also sinful and would abuse the legal system in a likewise vindictive way. That happens, and churches do have vulnerabilities when troublemakers (and they exist, if rarely) use the legal system.
    Anyway, I maintain my original point which is that so long as marriage is a viable covenant, Pastor Burleson’s reasoning against church covenants as flawed because all covenants between people are ungodly either needs nuance or rethinking.

  164. dee wrote:

    You protect yourself by acting like a church and getting to know newcomers and long time members. You protect yourself by teaching on what you believe.

    Oh, you mean like Southern Baptist pastors were expected to do before the New Calvinist wave hit? What you describe is pastoring, not controlling, the flock. That has been the only SBC I’ve known for over 60 years, until the new reformers came along with their authoritarian church governance. While there have always been rogue knucklehead SBC pastors here and there who led by the strong arm of the law, congregational polity has kept them in check or out of the pulpit. Unfortunately, the modus operandi is shifting to a patriarchal sign-my-covenant leadership style as SBC Calvinization continues.

  165. Jack wrote:

    And let me say you’re doing a fine job! Reading your comments keeps me from ever attending a “covenant Church”. Consider yourself fully protected.

    This comment made my day! Yes, consider yourself protected from me as well. Our family has experienced our own church nightmare (unbiblical excommunication / being made an example of in order to tighten their grip on their authority) and there is no danger that we’ll inflict our presence on any other “covenant signing” church. Thankfully, we found a small fellowship of believers who accept us based on our trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross. They even let us serve, and allow my husband to teach. A refreshingly stress-free environment.

  166. Joe Reed wrote:

    all covenants between people are ungodly either needs nuance or rethinking.

    But the membership covenant is not a covenant. It is an attempt at al legal contract concealed to Mae it sound more spiritual. Here is my deal. Unless a church fully discloses to the person signing the so called covenant that they are really signing a legal contract then the church is being deceptive, and that is not becoming of a Christian community.

    And do not go down the path that most churches really believe it is covenant and do not realize it is a legal contract. To which I say *codswallop.* Ignorance on the part of church leadership merely illuminates ignorant leaders. And when the time comes, and it will in abusive and authoritarian leadership, that it is a legal contract, they will gladly attempt to use the benefits of such a contract.

    It is my educated opinion that no one should sign such a contract without consulting a lawyer. As for me, I will never join a church which requires one. I am now a member of a conservative church which does not require such manmade legal nonsense.

  167. Mary27 wrote:

    Our family has experienced our own church nightmare (unbiblical excommunication / being made an example of in order to tighten their grip on their authority) and there is no danger that we’ll inflict our presence on any other “covenant signing” church. Thankfully, we found a small fellowship of believers who accept us based on our trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross. They even let us serve, and allow my husband to teach. A refreshingly stress-free environment.

    If you would ever like to tell us your story, let us know. Such stories are very important to TWW.

  168. ishy wrote:

    I’m not arguing for it not being instituted by God, just that verse isn’t a support for it being a covenant.

    Agreed, nor am I arguing that marriage was not instituted by God. When you (generic you) read the Scripture (Matthew 19) in context, that is, who it was written to, and what the surrounding circumstances were, it becomes a negotiable item rather than a hard and fast rule which must apply today with no exceptions save for infidelity.

  169. Joe Reed wrote:

    Anyway, I maintain my original point which is that so long as marriage is a viable covenant, Pastor Burleson’s reasoning against church covenants as flawed because all covenants between people are ungodly either needs nuance or rethinking.

    Two people deciding to marry and promise each other certain things is not the same as having to sign a membership covenant at a church. Marriage and being part of a local church are not similar relationship structures. Marriage also does not require a signed covenant. It requires a license, but the license does not state the promises made.

    Believe it or not I have heard the phrase “be married to your church” by pastors and I think it is all kinds of wrong.

  170. @ Joe Reed:
    When it is deemed necessary for individuals to sign covenants/contracts, placing themselves under the authority of leaders/pastors/elders, in order to voluntarily gather together in the name of God – as brothers and sisters in Christ – to simply worship, sing, pray, study, give, and share, I have no desire to be a part of that gathering.

  171. Dave A A wrote:

    Sorry for that. Thought I had it handy, then couldn’t find the article.

    I can see the illustrative analogy of Christ and his Church as one of self-sacrifice and putting others before one’s self, but Kassian carries it way beyond that, into realms that it was never meant to tread.
    My creepometer started chirping like a geiger-counter in the Chernobyl deadlands.

  172. dee wrote:

    what in the world is this authority thing that seems to be so gosh darn important that you would invent a legal contract for it?

    I didn’t invent them. I’ve never signed one. Never been asked, never went looking for one. I’m also a simple man, a cabinetmaker who was asked by my church to serve as an associate pastor on a voluntary basis.

    Are covenants so gosh-darn important? Probably not. I never thought anything about them till the last couple of years, and I’ve been a part of the church in the northern Midwest all my
    Life.

    I entered this conversation simply suggesting that the rationale of Pastor Burleson was flawed, I wasn’t trying to defend the use/abuse of covenants, or define pastoral authority. So I’ll just go back once again – if I’m supposed to take the arguments against membership covenants seriously, I need better rationale than the kind that makes me think I should renege on my marriage vows lest the Holy Spirit leave me or I boss my wife around.

  173. Bridget wrote:

    Marriage also does not require a signed covenant.

    Marriage typically uses the phrase “before God and these witnesses,” which actually is a legal type of phrase.

  174. @ dee:

    By the way, on fundraising, I’m totally with you. I hate nothing more than trying to get Christians to part with their money. I always feel like if it’s something the people want, you shouldn’t have to sell spaghetti to get them to contribute! Why do Christians, of all people, need to have their car washed or some donuts to get them to give money for the furtherance of the gospel? I just won’t be a part of that, and maybe that makes me, like you, an outcast!

  175. Joe Reed wrote:

    if I’m supposed to take the arguments against membership covenants seriously, I need better rationale

    Before hustling off to work this morning I took a moment to make one attempt which you swatted away without fully countering it. Contrary to your claim, the requirements and responsibilities are not clearly spelled out. For example they usually include the provision “I will not gossip” but there is no definition of what constitutes gossip. This is only one example but who gets to interpret the meaning? Leadership again, but only after the fact, so you never know if you have broken the “covenant”.

    I’ve read quite a few of these now and they are not between equals. I would never sign a contract with a group of believers just to meet for the purpose of being the church, why would it necessary? But these contracts are not between believers, they are interpreted and enforced by leaders and the document does not specify the rights of the member nor limits on the leadership. Actually I have yet to read one that includes limitations on the leadership.

    If the purpose of contracts is to protect an institutional church then I think they should come clean and state their purpose and not try to dress it up to distract from the real intention. Churches have existed in this country for hundreds of years without requiring contracts so the rationale for them is shaky at best. Couple this with the fact they have been used to abuse a good many honorable people and I seriously question why more than “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.'” is necessary.

  176. Joe Reed wrote:

    I entered this conversation simply suggesting that the rationale of Pastor Burleson was flawed, I wasn’t trying to defend the use/abuse of covenants, or define pastoral authority. So I’ll just go back once again – if I’m supposed to take the arguments against membership covenants seriously, I need better rationale than the kind that makes me think I should renege on my marriage vows lest the Holy Spirit leave me or I boss my wife around.

    Joe why will you not just be honest with us here at TWW, no amount of persuasion is going to convince you that membership covenants are not ok.

  177. Bill M wrote:

    Couple this with the fact they have been used to abuse a good many honorable people

    Sorry about “swatting!”

    My grandparents generation and prior thought divorce so scandalous they would rather suffer a lifetime of abuse than end a marriage. Was that the fault of the institution of marriage? I’ve spoken to several dear white-haired saints who have told me of lives of misery in marriage, but there was no thought of bailing out, not because a church said they couldn’t, it was just something you didn’t do. I’m certainly not defending it, only saying the bonds of marriage have been abused.

    Just for fun, I googled membership covenant, and one of TWW’s all-time favorites came up – The Village Church. Here’s an excerpt:

    “If at any time one of the parties of this church covenant continues in a state of unfaithfulness to its provisions, the other is released from certain obligations.”

    I suppose if one presupposes membership covenants are designed to enslave, entangle, and abuse, they would never be sufficiently clear or protective.

    As to being “between equals,” that’s a good point. Marriage is between equals, but that doesn’t make both people in a marriage mothers. My doctor is my equal, yet I take medicine from him and not vice versa. My neighborhood policeman is my equal, but he doesn’t check his mirror every time I drive by to see if I’m going to turn around and give him a ticket like I do when I go by him! My pastor is my equal in that we’re both human and stand at the level ground of the cross, but at the end of the day he’s my pastor and I’m not his. Equal, yes. Identical, not exactly.

    The article suggests that the act of entering into covenant with another human being is improper on its face. I’m not necessarily defending membership covenants, but rather the basic idea of covenanting with a person. Use the sort of reasoning presented above, and I say you lose marriage too.

  178. mot wrote:

    Joe why will you not just be honest with us here at TWW, no amount of persuasion is going to convince you that membership covenants are not ok.

    I’m sorry if you think I’m being dishonest. Some of them are clearly out of whack. I don’t look at the church with rose-colored glasses, I’ve seen many of the things discussed here first hand, and they stink.

    But I don’t like poor reasoning used to flog a favorite whipping boy, in this case membership covenants. If we’re going to flog covenants because they eliminate the Holy Spirit or automatically create authoritative abuse, then ditch marriage, which is also a covenant. We have to think better and more persuasively or it’s just an echo chamber.

  179. Joe Reed wrote:

    Use the sort of reasoning presented above, and I say you lose marriage too.

    Joe: You are just stirring the pot and being silly IMO.

  180. mot wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    Use the sort of reasoning presented above, and I say you lose marriage too.

    Joe: You are just stirring the pot and being silly IMO.

    Perhaps 😉

    I love having my motives judged, don’t you? 🙂

  181. Dear TWW,

    Thank-you for acknowledging this valuable resource to many of us via the internet. I ordered my copy yesterday, looking forward to learning from the author. I pray the author provides healing Scriptures to those who are hurting from abusive church leadership.

    In our churches, there are those who desire to be worshiped in place of Christ, seeking followers after themselves. Our family sat under a domineering women youth group leader who conducted a slave auction, with the youth being the slaves, and the congregation doing the bidding as a fundraiser. Each of the youth were auctioned and the money they received from working for the buyer, were to go into a fund for that individual to participate in conferences, activities, etc. Each youth group participant had their own individual fund, which was recorded by the leader.

    Following the auction, the adults who bought a youth slave, were required to sign a covenant contract; between the buyer, the slave, and the woman leader. I purchased two young ladies as work slaves for a few hours of work at my bid amount, and as fate would have it, the youth group leader purchased one of our children a slave, all signing binding contracts.

    As time passed, the work I was having my youth do, was postponed due to rescheduling on part of another business who was hired to do some work on our place. My goal was to have these youth assist me in the cleaning up process for I needed more hands to get this type of work done efficiently. A few months passed and I received a phone call from the youth group leader woman wondering why I hadn’t fulfilled my commitment as these youth were wondering if they would ever collect. So I explained my situation reassuring her that I was good for my word as I signed her covenant contract.

    However, when I asked if she was going to fulfill her part of the bargain with regards to her purchase of one of our children, she became very angry and shared that the work they were going to have our children do, fell through and that it wouldn’t ever be possible to complete. She was extremely angry that I dared to bring up the topic concerning my child, yet she was pleased to call and correct my error.

    She abruptly hung up her phone and within a few minutes her husband called me back, stating they would donate $300 to the youth group so that all could share in the funding needs. My child didn’t receive their individual account money as did the others who fulfilled their covenants. And this woman church leader led me to believe that I was the one at fault because as she stated, “Well, you should have called me a long time ago, then we could have done something!” She turned her sin back onto me and blamed me for her wickedness.

    This is the fruit of covenants and contracts as experienced by many. I, personally, find them to be wicked, evil, and full to overflowing with hypocrisy and double mindedness.

    “A double minded man (and woman for that matter) IS unstable in all of their ways.” Not my words, but the words of our LORD.

    And sadly, this family who loves to lord it over people, is still in leadership, crushing anyone who gets in their way. LORD, have mercy on the poor victims.

  182. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m thankful for the authority god gave me to teach my kids not to run in the street with some expectation that they need to listen to me.

    I think it’s interesting that you are constantly defaulting to your kids as examples, considering we’re talking about adults, but do you really need ‘authority’ to teach them not to run in the street?

    Maybe what you need is to love them, explain to them why running in the street is a bad idea, and set a good example by not doing it yourself.

  183. The scripture as quoted at the beginning of the comment leaves out all the specifics of the verses in between about what it means to ‘swear’ and some have taken that statement of Jesus to mean an extreme idea of, basically don’t commit yourself to that extent.

    Others have argued that the statement in Matthew is more limited and more specific than that and means specifically don’t swear ‘by’ anything. One example of what not to do under this understanding would be the original Hippocratic oath which swore ‘by’ several named Greek divinities and also by ‘all the gods and goddesses’. Perhaps it would have included what we read in the OT when people apparently said ‘the Lord do so to me and more also if …’ But this understanding would not prevent taking a pledge on one’s own word.

    I am thinking that those churches which do in some manner use the ideas of covenant and contract and vows and promises may or may not be acting contrary to what Jesus said, depending on how one understands what Jesus said. This to me is the crucial issue.

    The second issue, if one thinks that Jesus was limiting his comments to mean that one’s word should be enough, would be then the consideration of what is it to which one promises to abide. Is it promises to people to whom promises should not be made? Is one promising to people what should only be promised to God? Should accommodation be made for people who think that promises in themselves are either wrong or else intrinsically abusive? Are there exceptions (adultery re marriage) or escape methods (apostasy for those who do not believe once saved always saved) or penalties ( due to unrepented mortal sin for example) depending on one’s beliefs in those areas?

    And what is one’s position as to whether some covenants are conditional while others are unconditional. That has been another whole area of discussion. People can get very heated on this, especially as it applies to supersessionism and whether people can unilaterally break from a divine covenant. Since this idea has current political and current religious consequences it is currently important in several ways.

    In the statistical majority of christianity the idea of covenants or vows or promises or commitments between God and man and man and God, and between people and the church, and between people and people (however understood, sacramental marriage in the RCC an example) are considered to be acceptable and even required practice-to some extent and in certain ways.

    So, it is important at this step to understand what people are actually saying, how far they are willing to go with what they are actually saying, and important for each person to review the ideas and determine in their own mind exactly where they stand on the larger issues. And, at this point in time, people need to be making informed decisions as to where their church membership needs to be. Seriously. Times are changing; people need to rethink even longstanding ideas and habits where necessary.

  184. Addition: I did fulfill my covenant contract by having those two young ladies assist me with the intended work. They did receive their pay for an honest day of work which was used towards camp, retreat, and conference attending expenses.

    And to this day, the woman youth group leader and her husband believe they did nothing wrong, throwing money at their problem instead of solving it according to the contract she required us to sign.

    So much for binding contracts and covenants within the church. What a farce!

  185. Joe Reed wrote:

    At least if someone is harming the church, be it a pastor or a congregant, we can point to our “man-written contract” and say “we can’t allow you to continue doing harm to us, and here’s why…”

    Churches were perfectly capable of kicking out dangerous congregants before.

    Mostly now they kick them out for the equivalent of your kids asking ‘why’ they don’t need to run in the street. Or why the pastor is running in the street when he said not to. Or lots of other ridiculous reasons.

  186. Gram3 wrote:

    @ Dale:
    I truly wish I could say that there was no way I could believe this. But, this RESONATES with me. Thank you for telling your story.

    I would find it hard to believe if I hadn’t been reading this site! I am actively mad at Dever for producing this nonsense now. The man has gifts and he could have been using them for good, but instead he’s destroying lives with this nonsense.

  187. mot wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:
    I entered this conversation simply suggesting that the rationale of Pastor Burleson was flawed, I wasn’t trying to defend the use/abuse of covenants, or define pastoral authority. So I’ll just go back once again – if I’m supposed to take the arguments against membership covenants seriously, I need better rationale than the kind that makes me think I should renege on my marriage vows lest the Holy Spirit leave me or I boss my wife around.

    I believe you are confusing your analogies. You keep emphasizing a parallel between a church covenant and a “marriage covenant.” In your confusion, you are making my point.

    Christians are wed to Christ, not the church.

    Christ is our groom, we are His bride.

    Christ’s Covenant with us (New Covenant) is unconditional, personal, and eternal. He pursues us – an unfaithful and selfish people (think Gomer) in love, and “We love Him because He first loved us.” Our entire lives are spent discovering how deep, and broad, and high and rich His unknowable (because its so unfathomable) love really is.

    When you enter into a church covenant, you are splitting the bride of Christ into “those who have authority, and those who don’t.” You are making the pastors/leaders/shepherds on equal ground with the real Groom, and you are placing all others “under their authority.”

    This sick view of church authority will allow the false grooms to accuse the weaker half (those without authority) in the church of immorality when one is seen praying with two single women in a hall (unbelievable illustration Dale). This sick view of weaker authority will allow the weaker half (those without authority) to be told what questions can/can’t be asked, what behaviors are/aren’t appropriate, and when repentance is/isn’t real. In other words, when you confuse analogies and say the Christian’s relationship with the church is LIKE a marriage covenant, you are splitting the Bride of Christ into those “who have authority” and “those who don’t.” Jesus said His people would never be placed “in positions of authority” like the Gentiles do it. The servant who loves others is who leads in the Kingdom, never the leader who rules over others.

    BTW, I would argue EVEN IN MARRIAGE two people (husband and wife) are married to Christ, and the only authority in the marriage is Christ. In a cursed marriage, the husband and the wife fight to see who can dominate the other to seize control. In a graced marriage where the curse is reversed, the husband and wife will compete to see who can serve each other the most through their giftedness.

    So, Joe, I really appreciate the comments, but I think our disagreement is far more fundamental than what you might think.

  188. dee wrote:

    The other churches had new members classes in which they actually got to know the prospective members (imagine that) and would find out if they were cult like.

    And here I was thinking new members classes were about new people learning about the church and deciding if they wanted to join!

  189. Lea wrote:

    Mostly now they kick them out for the equivalent of your kids asking ‘why’ they don’t need to run in the street. Or why the pastor is running in the street when he said not to. Or lots of other ridiculous reasons.

    And that’s unfortunately true, and tragic. Like I said, it happened to a friend of mine while he was on the foreign field serving as a missionary. It stinks. But is the covenant to blame? He wasn’t under one, and it still happened.

    Regarding using my kids as examples, understand that I love my kids very very much, so much so that I take my responsibility to train them seriously, and I do so with love, humility, and example. The fact that I can authoritatively tell them to avoid behavior that can kill them doesn’t rule out my love and affection.
    If I didn’t love them, I might tell my three year old, “daddy can’t tell you what to do, but I humbly suggest you don’t go jump off the dock. But if you choose to, I can’t and won’t stop you, because I have to right to tell you what to do.”

  190. Wade Burleson wrote:

    Christ’s Covenant with us (New Covenant) is unconditional, personal, and eternal. He pursues us – an unfaithful and selfish people (think Gomer) in love, and “We love Him because He first loved us.” Our entire lives are spent discovering how deep, and broad, and high and rich His unknowable (because its so unfathomable) love really is.

    First, thanks so much for taking time to write. I really appreciate it.

    My Dad gave me this advice when I got married: “Son, learn to know your wife. It is a lifelong process, but learn everything about her.” I’ve been doing that for 17years, and it’s made my marriage sweeter every year. My wife is a deep well of great treasures, and I hope she can say the same for me.

    I agree with you on abusive authority. But the fact that authority is abusive doesn’t negate the propriety of authority. Proper authority in the church comes, as you say, from Jesus, and all are under it. And any covenant that confuses Jesus and church leadership is of course ridiculous.

    I’m not sure I understand two people being married not to each other but to Jesus. That sounds RCC

  191. Wade Burleson wrote:

    I think our disagreement is far more fundamental than what you might think.

    Oh my yes. And one of the fundamental differences lies in the question of what is the church. Since I personally tend to see things on this or that continuum I keep trying to say can be come to some definitions somewhere in the middle, but I am increasingly thinking that no we cannot. The issues are too complex and too intertwined and too, like you say, fundamental.

  192. @ Joe Reed:

    Joe,

    I really love the way you dialogue. Respectful, articulate, and to-the-point. Appreciate the comments and am learning from you.

    I absolutely understand authority. I served as Police Chaplain in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the late 1980’s. I know rank. I now serve in a city where there is an Air Force Base. One of my best friends is a one-star general overseas, and I recognize that at the rank of colonel, everyone stands and salutes at the entrance into a room. I am surrounded by authority.

    My point is subtle. There is no such thing as “spiritual authority.” The only one with authority in the spiritual world is Jesus Christ. “ALL POWER is given to me,” He said. When Thomas touched the nail-scarred hands of Christ and believed in Him, he cried, “MY Lord and MY God.” He didn’t say “OUR Lord and OUR God.” My point is simple. The only spiritual authority any human being has is Jesus Christ. We look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith. We listen to Him – “This is My Beloved Son,” God told the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, “Acoute Auton (HEAR HIM).” We submit to HIS authority.

    When another human being seeks to take “spiritual authority” over you – or even worse – when we allow someone to take “spiritual authority” over us, we are substituting saved sinners for the Savior, lay-leaders for the LORD, and an unbiblical “church authority” for the eternal Christ’s authority.

    Sure, there’s wisdom “in the counsel of many.” Sure, there’s edification and encoruagement from the teaching, serving and administrative gifts of others. Sure, humility always leads us to consider other people before we consider ourselves.

    But nowhere in the New Covenant is anyone to hand spiritual authority in their lives to anyone else but Jesus Christ. Tell me what Jesus would have me do, and I’ll do it. Tell me what Jesus says, and I’ll listen. Tell who Jesus is and I’ll worship.

    You aren’t Jesus. (I’m speaking generically, Joe, not to you personally).

    And when you tell me what Jesus would do, or is saying, or desires from me – I will ponder it, consider it, and reflect on YOUR words – but I will not take them as from Jesus (yet).

    Because you aren’t Jesus.

    And some pastors need to realize they aren’t God, nor are they vicars of God on earth.

    Jesus lives in us, and is our “hope of glory.”

  193. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m not sure I understand two people being married not to each other but to Jesus. That sounds RCC

    I totally get what Wade is saying. Jesus is the bridegroom, and Christians collectively are the Bride of Christ.

    I don’t understand your interpretation.

  194. Joe Reed wrote:

    I agree with you on abusive authority. But the fact that authority is abusive doesn’t negate the propriety of authority. Proper authority in the church comes, as you say, from Jesus, and all are under it.

    I agree, but everyone with the Holy Spirit has that authority. We are led by God, not men (Acts 5:29).

    When Jesus “gives out” His authority in Matthew 28, he was speaking to all of his followers, not just the 12 disciples. That authority is given to all Christians, not to pastors and church leaders.

    I still see no Scripture in the things you say.

  195. Deb wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m not sure I understand two people being married not to each other but to Jesus. That sounds RCC

    I totally get what Wade is saying. Jesus is the bridegroom, and Christians collectively are the Bride of Christ.

    I don’t understand your interpretation.

    Deb: I hate to say it but I believe Joe is trolling!

  196. Joe Reed wrote:

    Use the sort of reasoning presented above, and I say you lose marriage too.

    False comparisons. I will not covenant with a church again. I have been married to one man for almost 30 years. Two different things.

    God does not ask us to covenant with a local church. For local churches to expect or demand this usurps Christ.

  197. Joe Reed wrote:

    My grandparents generation and prior thought divorce so scandalous they would rather suffer a lifetime of abuse than end a marriage. Was that the fault of the institution of marriage? I’ve spoken to several dear white-haired saints who have told me of lives of misery in marriage, but there was no thought of bailing out, not because a church said they couldn’t, it was just something you didn’t do. I’m certainly not defending it, only saying the bonds of marriage have been abused.

    I think we must consider that many women in that generation were totally dependent on their husbands. I know of some who didn’t even know how to write a check or drive a car when their husbands died. Different generation for sure!

  198. @ Wade Burleson:

    I’m with you brother, and I really appreciate the clarification of the term “spiritual authority” as opposed to the basic concept of authority, which as you know, exists and must exist not only in our relationship to God, but in other arenas as well, which you know from your days as chaplain, I from my mother telling me to clean my room or my boss telling me to do a certain task.

    The main point I’m making isn’t for or against authority, or for or against membership covenants for that matter. If you go back to my original statement, I’m making a point that covenants have a legitimate place in human relationships.

    Thanks for responding so kindly.

    As I’m now suspected by one of the Deebs of being a troll, I’ll drop out but thanks everyone for interacting.

  199. Deb wrote:

    Wade Burleson wrote:

    And some pastors need to realize they aren’t God, nor are they vicars of God on earth.

    Jesus lives in us, and is our “hope of glory.”

    A hearty AMEN!

    And another AMEN echos from my corner! Authoritarian pastors substitute control over others as their “hope of glory” in this life. While such shepherds bask in that glory, the sheep under their care wither. When a “pastor” diminishes Christ in their ministry, they put themselves on the throne and fail to disciple their congregation as they ought … they will be judged for that.

  200. Joe Reed wrote:

    As I’m now suspected by one of the Deebs of being a troll,

    One of our readers thought you were. Deb merely responded that he could be right. before you get your nose out of joint, think about it. You could be anyone which means you could be Joe of Common Slaves, the website he write for, or you might be a 20 something kid living in his mom’s basement.

    Learning to communicate in a blog environment is a difficult role. You have only joined in for this post. We do not have a history with you.

    May I offer a suggestion. Tell us that you are not a troll and figure out a way to get your points across as opposed to running away.

  201. @ dee:

    I’m not a troll, and I’m not running away, just leaving this conversation which has let me say what I wanted to say, and if my authenticity is in question, what’s the use of continuing? Nobody listens to someone they think is ingenuine, and ininclude myself in that. So my metaphorical nose isn’t out of joint, at least I hope not. I’ve interacted here before, and I really appreciate the way you allow dialogue and dissenting opinions. I really do.

    And I’m thankful for the chance to interact with Pastor Burleson.

    I realize I could be anybody, but it’s my ideas I want to present, not myself. Thanks again Dee and Deb, I may not agree with you all the time but I really respect what you do and how you do it and your open platform for discussion. You’re better than anyone at it!

    jr

  202. Joe Reed wrote:

    @ Joe Reed:

    Some of “them”… referring to membership covenants

    If someone can be excommunicated for raising questions, should the sin of raising questions be explicitly stated in the membership covenant? Because I don’t think the average pewpeon understands that being a Berean is a sin.

  203. Bridget wrote:

    False comparisons. I will not covenant with a church again. I have been married to one man for almost 30 years. Two different things.

    Interesting. I will never marry again. When I made that statement some 36 years ago nobody believed me. I assume that now they do. But I have become a member of a church/denom which has certain requirements and which does use some covenant and some sacrament thinking and vocabulary.

    I guess it depends on the circumstances and experiences in the individual person’s life where we draw some deep lines in the sand.

  204. @ Gram3:

    Interesting question. For this reason: when Jesus’ birth was announced, Mary and Zacharias asked the same question: how can this be? Zacharias was muted, Mary was not. Why one not the other? Apparently God saw something different behind the questions, though the verbiage was essentially similar.

  205. Marriage ‘contracts’ ….. good grief

    I didn’t know fully what marriage could be until after forty seven years, my husband became very ill, and I stayed by him in the hospital at night to ‘be there’.
    We were in a small end room of a ward, and there were no comfortable chairs, so I sat in a metal one and tried to rest my head against the wall at times. A young doctor came in and told me there was a lounge down the hall where I could rest and without thinking, I said ‘My place is here’

    A few minutes latter, I heard a bunch of banging and rattling in the hallway, and the young physician reappeared, carrying/dragging a recliner into the room.

    Before that night, I think I might have gone down the hall to the lounge for a while, but when the time came that night, something had happened to alter that, forty-seven years into the deal. I guess some realizations about what marriage is all about can take a long time to unfold.

  206. @ Christiane:

    That’s awesome. True marriage. You challenge me – may I be a husband to my wife like you were a wife to your husband. What an incredible journey. And yes – it isn’t the contract that makes those moments possible, it’s love! The love that tells a person, “when it’s poorer, sickness, and for worse, know I’ll be there!” And really, isn’t that what the body of Christ is all about too?

  207. MidwesternEasterner wrote:

    Sounds like these guys attended the Doug Coe school of leadership strategy.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fellowship_(Christian_organization)

    I believe there is a strong ‘connection’ of many to this extremist organization, which I don’t regard as being ‘Christian’. If anything, it is ‘dominionist’ and very patriarchal and disrespectful of women as human persons with dignity. The combination of money and political power and ‘religion’ is obscene in this group. And their credibility? well, Doug Coe managed to get respectability around the ‘Annual Prayer Breakfast’ in D.C.
    When I hear ‘The Family’ or ‘Doug Coe’, my blood runs cold.

  208. Stan wrote:

    This blasphemy made me physically ill.

    Me too. I could say more– but maybe some other time. Blasphemy is the exact term I was thinking of for it, as well.

  209. Gram3 wrote:

    If someone can be excommunicated for raising questions, should the sin of raising questions be explicitly stated in the membership covenant? Because I don’t think the average pewpeon understands that being a Berean is a sin.

    Great point! The Bereans were considered to be more noble-minded than other groups because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true! Paul!! Questioning what is coming from church leaders should be viewed as a healthy exercise not something to correct. The congregation needs to keep their leaders in check and in balance with the whole of Scripture by having the freedom to inquire about belief and practice without the threat of excommunication. Without Bereans-at-heart over the past 2,000 years, the organized church would be in a bigger mess than it is today – it’s already bad enough. If a controller-wannabe desires the office of pastor, he can find plenty of room to live out his dream within New Calvinism and other places that allow elder-rule, rather than congregational governance. At the foundation of plurality of elder church polity is the absence of Biblical doctrines of priesthood of the believer and soul competency (every believer is a priest; every believer is in ministry; every believer can hear God himself). When you silence other priests by gag-orders (membership covenants), the whole body suffers from the lack of their voices and gifts.

  210. okrapod wrote:

    In the statistical majority of christianity the idea of covenants or vows or promises or commitments between God and man and man and God, and between people and the church, and between people and people (however understood, sacramental marriage in the RCC an example) are considered to be acceptable and even required practice-to some extent and in certain ways.

    Personally, I don’t see vows to each other as ‘covenants’. I think that’s a very specific thing, for a very specific time and I’m not interested in a ‘covenant’ with church/man. It seems like churches are just slapping the word covenant onto a contract to make it sound more like an unbreakable vow. Between people, I don’t think that works. When we get to people/people, I see contracts. If someone breaks a contract, you can dissolve it.

  211. okrapod wrote:

    I guess it depends on the circumstances and experiences in the individual person’s life where we draw some deep lines in the sand.

    Yes. This is true.

    My contention with a covenant being required for local church membership is a bit more extensive though. First, it is not required by Jesus to be a member of his Church and it often keeps people from communion in their local. Second, it often requires men and women to be subject to other men and women in the body of Christ. Often times, these are men and women that the new members may not even know that well, and have no way to get to know in many church institution environments.

  212. Joe Reed wrote:

    The fact that I can authoritatively tell them to avoid behavior that can kill them doesn’t rule out my love and affection.

    Your authority in this example comes from knowledge and not position. I could also tell your children not to run in the street and explain why. Because I’m an adult and know that’s a bad thing.

  213. Lea wrote:

    I think it’s interesting that you are constantly defaulting to your kids as examples, considering we’re talking about adults, but do you really need ‘authority’ to teach them not to run in the street?

    How about when his kids are 30+ years old, living on their own, maybe married with kids of their own. I wonder if Joe will exercise his authority over them then?

  214. @ Victorious:

    I have an (older) family member who married a divorced lady in the idk 50s? He didn’t tell anyone he got married for years! Insanity!

  215. I think when marriage vows are exchanged in a Church, the Church stands as ‘witness’ to those vows. The Church is not a participating party to the vows, no. The vows are strictly involving the husband and the wife (either to other) and are made to each other in the Presence of God with the families and the Church standing witness.

  216. Nancy2 wrote:

    Lea wrote:

    I think it’s interesting that you are constantly defaulting to your kids as examples, considering we’re talking about adults, but do you really need ‘authority’ to teach them not to run in the street?

    How about when his kids are 30+ years old, living on their own, maybe married with kids of their own. I wonder if Joe will exercise his authority over them then?

    Nope. I’ll be their friend, like my Dad is with me. He’s my counselor, my friend, and I love him. He’s my Dad, and his opinion means a lot to me. I asked his advice this morning on a difficult issue and he had great wisdom to offer. But he doesn’t order me around, that’s silly.
    So I hope for that same relationship with my kids.

  217. @ Nancy2:

    Sorry, I said I was going to shut up. But I didn’t want to leave your query hanging, because I realize some dads actually would act toward their adult children like you thought I might. And that’s sick when they do.

  218. Joe Reed wrote:

    Zacharias was muted, Mary was not. Why one not the other? Apparently God saw something different behind the questions, though the verbiage was essentially similar.

    I have no idea what you mean. My husband was keyed out as well, if that makes any difference. And, it would seem to make a difference that God made the decision in the one case while not-Gods made the decision in our case. That seems to me to be a non-trivial distinction.

  219. @ Joe Reed:
    You also evaded the issue in question. You said that the terms of a covenant are clear. I said that in my case the terms were *not* clear and asked you if my sin should have been clearly stated to be a sin upfront. That is the way laws work, except in church covenants where sins are in the eye of the umbilical leaders who hold the Keys.

  220. Joe Reed wrote:

    Interesting question. For this reason: when Jesus’ birth was announced, Mary and Zacharias asked the same question: how can this be? Zacharias was muted, Mary was not. Why one not the other? Apparently God saw something different behind the questions, though the verbiage was essentially similar.

    Not the same. Mary questioned how she, being a virgin, could conceive a child – Jesus. Zechariah question how he could father a child with his wife – John the Baptist – because of their advanced ages.

  221. @ Gram3:

    You’re right that God made the decision. The role the angel plays might be an interesting study but that’s outside the point. Anyway, I wasn’t passing judgment in your case, merely suggesting a case study in which “asking a question” was seen by God in a negative light. Questioning can be good and helpful and necessary, and it can be a form of unbelief, as it was for Zacharias.

  222. Joe Reed wrote:

    Questioning can be good and helpful and necessary, and it can be a form of unbelief, as it was for Zacharias.

    How would a human church leader know the motive?

    You said no one has given good reason not to have church covenants, but I don’t think you’ve given any good reasons to have them. As Gram and others have pointed out, the terms of many church covenants are vague, which nullifies your only reasoning for them.

  223. @ Gram3:

    Sorry I don’t mean to be evasive. Yes – there is no grounds for exercising any sort of discipline for covenant-breaking unless there is a clear and demonstrable and proveable breach of said covenant. Foggy, unclear indictments for theoretic sins brought against the people of God are a scourge on the land. Does that make sense? I’m not arguing against you here.

  224. ishy wrote:

    How would a human church leader know the motive?

    I don’t think you can know the motive. In time, motives become behavior, which is something you can discern.

    I’d say this though… my daughter was recently cornered by a man 60 years her senior and made to feel very uncomfortable by his words and actions, which weren’t explicitly out of bounds, but close. I don’t know his motives. He has early onset Alzheimer’s. But I keep an eye open and don’t assume anything. Does that make sense?

  225. Lea wrote:

    When we get to people/people, I see contracts. If someone breaks a contract, you can dissolve it.

    Exactly.
    “When in the course of human events…”

  226. Joe Reed wrote:

    But the fact that authority is abusive doesn’t negate the propriety of authority. Proper authority in the church comes, as you say, from Jesus

    As Wade later pointed out the idea of someone in a church having authority over other other believers is highly problematic and controversial. My reading found Jesus taught just the opposite, it shall not be so with you. I do hope you stick around long enough to engage with more issues, the discussions here have proven a treasure trove for me.

  227. ishy wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    You said no one has given good reason not to have church covenants, but I don’t think you’ve given any good reasons to have them. As Gram and others have pointed out, the terms of many church covenants are vague, which nullifies your only reasoning for them.

    The only reasoning I’ve really tried to make is that covenants between people aren’t inherently evil. If there’s a place for them in one area of life, i.e. marriage, perhaps there’s a place for them in another area, i.e. the church. What they might look like, I’m not venturing to say.

    If I’ve learned one thing, and I have learned a lot here, it’s that many churches are really really screwed up in profoundly wicked ways. I’ve seen a lot of ugly things firsthand, but here I’ve read about ridiculously ugly things. If Jesus didn’t promise that his bride, which is the church, would one day be beautiful and spotless, I’d never believe it!

  228. Joe Reed wrote:

    Yes – there is no grounds for exercising any sort of discipline for covenant-breaking unless there is a clear and demonstrable and proveable breach of said covenant.

    What sins are worthy of being covenant breakers? Many churches would say divorce, but then they go after only the wife and not the husband. I would say things like physically or sexually abusing anyone, but Christians run away from that issue. Just once I’d like to see a church come down hard on issues like that with an even hand.

    I don’t think the church is equipped to make legal decisions, and that’s what pastors end up doing with covenants. And then we have what the neo-Calvinists are doing–going into churches and dropping in covenants without the memberships signing them or even agreeing to them. And they do go after people who try to leave, even though those people never agreed to the covenant.

    I still don’t see the point in signing an agreement to join the church that’s more than just “I want to be a member.” And I don’t think you can know how a church will use a covenant in the long-run, which is why I am completely against them.

  229. Gram3 wrote:

    I said that in my case the terms were *not* clear and asked you if my sin should have been clearly stated to be a sin upfront. That is the way laws work…

    Not “Hooliganism” under the Russian (National) Penal Code. “Hooliganism” is defined so vaguely that it can mean anything those in power (from “URRA STALINO!” to “URRA PUTIN!”) want it to mean.

  230. ishy wrote:

    What sins are worthy of being covenant breakers? Many churches would say divorce, but then they go after only the wife and not the husband. I would say things like physically or sexually abusing anyone, but Christians run away from that issue. Just once I’d like to see a church come down hard on issues like that with an even hand.

    The Karen Hinckley story, for example, is an egregious error on the part of a church. I hate abuse of all kinds, particularly within a family. Honestly, I’d be the first to punch any ding-dong in the nose who raised his hand against his wife. There’s no place for that and it irks me to no end.

    I’m not the guy to give a list of covenant breaking sins. It used to be smoking, drinking, and dancing. We’re mostly beyond those I think. Love covers a multitude of sins, which I take to mean some things we can overlook in love, but that’s not to say we overlook all things, say abuse, in love. We destroy abuse in love, yes?

  231. Nancy2 wrote:

    How about when his kids are 30+ years old, living on their own, maybe married with kids of their own. I wonder if Joe will exercise his authority over them then?

    If they’re sealed in a walled-off Family Compound…

  232. Stan wrote:

    @ Dave A A:
    The blue pieces portrusion and the link (pink?) pieces have an orifice. This blasphemy made me physically ill.

    Returning to the plug-in-socket Sacraments of the Baalim and Asherim….

  233. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m now suspected

    As someone reading here for several years I’ve seen a number of new people drop in and take contrary points of view. Because none of us know the identity or history of another it takes time to figure out if the new person is providing an honest portrayal or just throwing dust in the air to obscure. Either way it can still be a useful exercise to sharpen our thinking as long as it does not become insulting and partisan.

    Unfortunately appearing here without a chance to better understand your thinking and gain credibility, the choice to take on the role of the devil’s advocate leads to much suspicion. That suspicion also crossed my mind last night but I chose to set it aside till further evidence. I hope if you truly wish to engage, we don’t just talk past each other, that you will stick around for other topics.

  234. dee wrote:

    We would love to write your story. The man with whom I am talking is interested in having us write his story as well.

    Well, TWW IS a watchblog shining the light on church corrupton…

    “What you have tried to keep hidden shall be shouted from the rooftops!”
    — some Rabbi from Nazareth
    (and/or uploaded on the Blogosphere…)

  235. Bill M wrote:

    As someone reading here for several years I’ve seen a number of new people drop in and take contrary points of view.

    Including Truth Squads of Pastor’s Pets coming out of the woodwork every time Deb & Dee blow the whistle on a corrupt church. Some with multiple sock-puppet identities and accounts. Any legit contrary drop-in has to overcome that low signal-to-noise ratio and establish their own credibility. And that could take some time.

  236. Joe Reed wrote:

    The Karen Hinckley story, for example, is an egregious error on the part of a church.

    This begs the question, what was the error, was it of design or execution? I believe the error was not poor behavior of the leaders but their egregiously faulty idea they could rule over other believers, the very idea Jesus taught against on many occasions.

  237. Max wrote:

    At the foundation of plurality of elder church polity is the absence of Biblical doctrines of priesthood of the believer and soul competency (every believer is a priest; every believer is in ministry; every believer can hear God himself).

    I don’t agree that it has to be, though.

    It’s easy to blame elder led, because the neo cals are just invading Baptist churches and trying to use presby policy to take over. But places like ARC are just as bad. Places with one pastor running the church and no oversight are just as bad. Places that make up their own polity are just bad. Places with congregational policies on paper, but a congregation that in practice just rubber stamps everything. Etc.

    But then, I don’t believe their is one right way to run a church. I think there are a variety of things that can work fine, but ultimately nothing works right if the heart of the church is not right.

  238. Bill M wrote:

    That suspicion also crossed my mind last night but I chose to set it aside till further evidence. I hope if you truly wish to engage, we don’t just talk past each other, that you will stick around for other topics.

    Thanks. I’m too trusting perhaps for life in the larger blogosphere. I’m a simple cabinetmaker, recovering fundamentalist, non-Neo but still Calvinist, non-SBC but still baptist, dad, husband, and volunteer associate pastor. And I forget you don’t know that 🙂 so thanks for the grace.

  239. Bill M wrote:

    Joe Reed wrote:

    The Karen Hinckley story, for example, is an egregious error on the part of a church.

    This begs the question, what was the error, was it of design or execution?

    Good question. Probably both. Elders ought to feel free to echo what Jesus says with all authority, but stand in His place – good heavens I’d hate to be standing in His shoes barking orders from my own opinions when He comes to put them back on!

  240. Bill M wrote:

    This begs the question, what was the error, was it of design or execution?

    Both.

    Design, because it’s not the churches business to tell women or men when they are allowed to divorce/annul their spouse and

    Execution, because you have to be the stupidest people in the world to think that this was a marriage that should be saved, to come down on the wife and not the husband, and to send the letters that they did telling people to love on and invite into their homes a man like that, sans explanation!

  241. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Including Truth Squads of Pastor’s Pets coming out of the woodwork every time Deb & Dee blow the whistle on a corrupt church. Some with multiple sock-puppet identities and accounts. Any legit contrary drop-in has to overcome that low signal-to-noise ratio and establish their own credibility. And that could take some time.

    Dee & Deb are without a doubt whistle blowers.
    I see them as the Julian Assange and Edward Snowden of Protestant Evangelicalism. Hope that doesn’t rub too many of y’all’s fur the wrong way, it’s just sighting along an angle I see from my vantage point.

  242. Joe Reed wrote:

    @ Nancy2:

    I think the correlation is that both ask God how a seemingly impossible thing could happen. Virgins and seniors don’t get pregnant.

    Zacharias was a priest and that likely made the question/doubt different in God’s eyes. Mary, on the other hand, was not more than 14-16 or so and a virgin so the question was understandable.

  243. Lea wrote:

    It’s easy to blame elder led, because the neo cals are just invading Baptist churches

    Lea, that is certainly my perspective since I am a Southern Baptist and witnessing first hand how abusive New Calvinist church polity can be. But, I agree with you that authoritarian abuse via control, manipulation and intimidation from church leadership can occur wherever it is allowed to set up camp. The reformed movement doesn’t have a corner on it.

  244. Lea wrote:

    I don’t believe their is one right way to run a church. I think there are a variety of things that can work fine, but ultimately nothing works right if the heart of the church is not right.

    Amen! While there is only one true Church, there are various manifestations of it across planet earth. If the “heart of the church” is God’s heart to reach lost folks in Jesus’ name, equip all believers to do the work of the ministry, and then turn them loose to fulfill the Great Commission, then we can live with minor differences in belief and practice between us. But, if a ministry is allowed to set up shop in a community with wrong views of the Trinity, man, sin and salvation, it will be doing church without God. It may even look good, but it is a spiritually dead place to be.

  245. Max wrote:

    While there is only one true Church, there are various manifestations of it across planet earth. If the “heart of the church” is God’s heart to reach lost folks in Jesus’ name, equip all believers to do the work of the ministry, and then turn them loose to fulfill the Great Commission, then we can live with minor differences in belief and practice between us. But, if a ministry is allowed to set up shop in a community with wrong views of the Trinity, man, sin and salvation, it will be doing church without God. It may even look good, but it is a spiritually dead place to be.

    Indeed. Well said.

  246. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m not arguing against you here.

    I appreciate that. However, you are arguing in favor of a system which has thoroughly discredited itself and shown that it is incapable of practicing what it preaches so adamantly to everyone else. The reason that it is fundamentally unworkable is that it is based on Law rather than Love. We were keyed out not because of Love for us but because our questions were perceived as a threat to the power structure which is based on rigid adherence to the Laws of Men and intimidation of those who deviate from the prescribed orthodoxy which need have no relationship to the actual text.

  247. Joe Reed wrote:

    The only reasoning I’ve really tried to make is that covenants between people aren’t inherently evil. If there’s a place for them in one area of life, i.e. marriage, perhaps there’s a place for them in another area, i.e. the church. What they might look like, I’m not venturing to say.

    You ask a good question. I think that if “covenant” is to be defined as absolutely unbreakable for any reason, there’s no place for that. Even in marriage, there needs to be the possibility of setting the contract aside. Human beings are flawed and unpredictable and can’t be depended on 100%.

    If I’ve learned one thing, and I have learned a lot here, it’s that many churches are really really screwed up in profoundly wicked ways. I’ve seen a lot of ugly things firsthand, but here I’ve read about ridiculously ugly things. If Jesus didn’t promise that his bride, which is the church, would one day be beautiful and spotless, I’d never believe it!

    Boy, that is the truth. It seems like the pursuit of power/authority is a huge corrupting influence, both on the part of those who seek to wield it and on the part of the followers who want to grant it and follow mindlessly.

  248. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m not the guy to give a list of covenant breaking sins. It used to be smoking, drinking, and dancing.

    This illustrates the problem with legalism in many churches. Smoking and drinking in private do not harm anyone else and they are not condemned in Scripture. Being drunk is condemned on account of the problems it can cause to society. Dancing is nowhere condemned in the Bible and harms nobody!

  249. @ Gram3:

    Only arguing for the validity of covenants between people. Maybe that appears to make me ipso facto arguing for membership covenants as you have experienced them, but I’m not. Just saying formal commitment has some place in our lives, a la my pontification concerning marriage. What those commitments in a church look like may be up for debate, but not walking down that road here.

    And I’m really sorry for what happened to you. It doesn’t escape me that the pain of such mistreatment really doesn’t just go away. Let me say it this way – if having to walk through the process of meting out discipline doesn’t break and almost destroy the heart and soul of those doing the discipline, it surely will destroy the one being disciplined. Someone is going to get crushed. Far better that it be the one in leadership. I think Paul understood that as he wrote to the Corinthians, and it serves as a good test: “Whose heart is broken?”

  250. ZechZav wrote:

    Dancing is nowhere condemned in the Bible and harms nobody!

    You’ve never seen me dance! People with their hands over their eyes have run into doorways trying to escape the sight!

    Your point is well taken and correct.

  251. Bill M wrote:

    This begs the question, what was the error, was it of design or execution? I believe the error was not poor behavior of the leaders but their egregiously faulty idea they could rule over other believers, the very idea Jesus taught against on many occasions.

    I think it was both.

    First of all, it would be great if church leaders were aware of and cared about the lives of their members, like if they saw that a couple was having problems and came alongside of them to encourage and support them, in all humility, knowing they do not have all the info or answers. I can see a place for encouraging couples to give their marriage every chance and providing support. I cannot see a place for being in a gatekeeper position where they get to “allow” a divorce or not. No Christian has that kind of authority over another. I can see a place for 1Tim 5:1-2, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” In the case of abuse or criminal actions, or where the person being appealed to is unwilling to respond, they need to let it go and not try to control other people. And they ought to be there for the spouses who are victims, providing support and resources to help them through difficult times.

    Secondly, it was a failure of execution, obviously, because there was no love there. The fact that they saw themselves as gatekeepers in a position above other believers pretty much disallowed love or humility from the get-go, and they continued to display that as the case moved along.

  252. Joe Reed wrote:

    Someone is going to get crushed. Far better that it be the one in leadership.

    I appreciate that, as well. I am not crushed, but I am definitely softened in ways I did not expect, and my eyes have been opened in ways I did not expect. I believe in deep commitments to one another, but I base them in love and/or respect as my long-standing marriage to one and only one man hopefully shows.

  253. Joe Reed wrote:

    Only arguing for the validity of covenants between people.

    What on earth does that mean to you, then? And how does it differ from a contract?

  254. Lea wrote:

    What on earth does that mean to you, then? And how does it differ from a contract?

    I wasn’t distinguishing covenants and contracts. In fact, I’ve used them rather interchangeably, throwing in the term “formal commitment” once or twice for good measure.

    I read the article above as suggesting that covenants were by their very nature improper because they institutionalized authoritarian power and eradicated the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I’m pushing back on that, suggesting that covenants between human beings are at least in one case appropriate, that being marriage. If a marriage covenant, or commitment, or whatever you want to call it, is legit, perhaps other forms are also.

    If being in a covenant with another person or in the case of a church, group of people, is so detrimental, then should I rethink my marriage commitment? That’s the logic anyway.

  255. Joe Reed wrote:

    The only reasoning I’ve really tried to make is that covenants between people aren’t inherently evil. If there’s a place for them in one area of life, i.e. marriage, perhaps there’s a place for them in another area, i.e. the church. What they might look like, I’m not venturing to say.

    If you read some of these “covenants” certain churches require individual members to sign, you might discover that they are not covenants. They are contracts, giving church leaders free reign in dictating personal lives of the pew peons.
    9marks churches will not accept members below the legal adult age of 18. It’s all about control.

  256. Nancy2 wrote:

    9marks churches will not accept members below the legal adult age of 18. It’s all about control.

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
    — Lord Voldemort

  257. Bill M wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Including Truth Squads of Pastor’s Pets coming out of the woodwork
    Sometimes it is the pastors themselves, in disguise of course.

    I DID mention Sock Puppets.

  258. I’ve only been able to skim through a few of the comments on this post, so I might be a bit behind on the discussion. But apparently this issue has been resolved by the gospel glitterati. TGC posted this IMB article today: https://www.imb.org/2017/01/25/why-every-healthy-church-practices-membership-part-1/

    If someone understands and confesses the gospel rightly, the church is given authority by King Jesus to say, “Yes, you’re a genuine believer in Christ,” and is, therefore, to be baptized and join in the life of the church. If not, the church also has the authority, granted by the King, to say, “No, you don’t understand the gospel, you’re not confessing it and living according to it, and therefore we will not continue to affirm that you’re a Christian.” That’s the power of the keys Jesus gave to the church, and that ability to affirm who is confessing the gospel rightly and who is not is the outline of what we mean by the term “church membership.”

    It reminded me of the days when there were multiple popes excommunicating each other. But we are no better now – just many more “popes” declaring who is in and who is out. Can’t wait for part 2 or the article.

  259. Ken F wrote:

    If someone understands and confesses the gospel rightly, the church is given authority by King Jesus to say, “Yes, you’re a genuine believer in Christ,” and is, therefore, to be baptized and join in the life of the church.

    Wow. All of that is wrong.

    I love how it’s about apparently ‘confessing’ the bible ‘rightly’ (whatever that means) and not actually having a life that reflects your beliefs. What a mess these people are.

  260. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Stan wrote:
    @ Dave A A:
    The blue pieces portrusion and the link (pink?) pieces have an orifice. This blasphemy made me physically ill.
    Returning to the plug-in-socket Sacraments of the Baalim and Asherim….

    And Tammuz. Kassian takes a Bible passage about marriage and turns it into 3 abominations, ala Ezekiel 8. First, like Israelite elders worshipping creepy crawlies, she has church elders sexually abusing believers, “Yet you will see still greater abominations than these.” Next, like the women weeping for Tammuz, the church is supposed to enjoy heavenly “fireworks” with “christ”, “Yet you will see still greater abominations than these.” Worst, like the folks with backs turned to the temple and worshipping the rising sun, they imagine a blasphemous sort of ESS.

  261. Lea wrote:

    I love how it’s about apparently ‘confessing’ the bible ‘rightly’ (whatever that means) and not actually having a life that reflects your beliefs.

    i.e. Purity of Ideology.

  262. Joe Reed wrote:

    ZechZav wrote:

    Your point is well taken and correct.

    Thanks Joe. The prophets in the Old Testament warned of judgment for idolatry, forgetting God, theft, violence, murder, bloodshed and sins which violate love for God and love for man. Compare that to the list of non-issues that churches make a lot of noise (and potentially discipline) over – playing cards, dancing, smoking, men having beards, women wearing hats, women preachers, enjoying pop music, going to the movies etc. On and on the petty list goes to the point of absurdity.

  263. siteseer wrote:

    I think it was both.

    I agree but will reserve that error is design will precipitate errors in execution. One of the primary reasons is the authoritarian design will attract abusive domineering leaders but even people of good will can be corrupted by the power they have over other people.

  264. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    I DID mention Sock Puppets.

    Yes you did unfortunately I interpreted your meaning as sock puppets of the groupies and not the dear leader himself. He is usually too busy doing pastor stuff, posting on his face book page and such.

  265. Joe Reed wrote:

    Anyway, I wasn’t passing judgment in your case, merely suggesting a case study in which “asking a question” was seen by God in a negative light. Questioning can be good and helpful and necessary, and it can be a form of unbelief, as it was for Zacharias.

    And what leader on earth would know the motive behind a question? They are not God.

  266. Joe Reed wrote:

    If being in a covenant with another person or in the case of a church, group of people, is so detrimental, then should I rethink my marriage commitment? That’s the logic anyway.

    Marriage does not include spiritual authority (in my book anyway) the way a church membership does. Now, I know some people believe that marriage does include spiritual authority of the husband over the wife and children, not I.

  267. Ken F wrote:

    I’ve only been able to skim through a few of the comments on this post, so I might be a bit behind on the discussion. But apparently this issue has been resolved by the gospel glitterati. TGC posted this IMB article today: https://www.imb.org/2017/01/25/why-every-healthy-church-practices-membership-part-1/

    If someone understands and confesses the gospel rightly, the church is given authority by King Jesus to say, “Yes, you’re a genuine believer in Christ,” and is, therefore, to be baptized and join in the life of the church. If not, the church also has the authority, granted by the King, to say, “No, you don’t understand the gospel, you’re not confessing it and living according to it, and therefore we will not continue to affirm that you’re a Christian.” That’s the power of the keys Jesus gave to the church, and that ability to affirm who is confessing the gospel rightly and who is not is the outline of what we mean by the term “church membership.”

    It reminded me of the days when there were multiple popes excommunicating each other. But we are no better now – just many more “popes” declaring who is in and who is out. Can’t wait for part 2 or the article.

    These are very sick people that right this nonbiblical goulash. They do not know Jesus IMO!

  268. Joe Reed wrote:

    I’m not sure I understand two people being married not to each other but to Jesus. That sounds RCC

    that sounds what? I think you have been given some wrong info.

  269. Ken F wrote:

    If someone understands and confesses the gospel rightly

    Well, now, there is a mighty big assertion embedded in that IF statement, isn’t there? Agree with what follows or you don’t understand or confess the gospel rightly!

    Do these people think that we are idiots?

  270. @ Ken F: To clarify my previous comment, you were quoting the IMB’s very distressing and disappointing post. It is news to this cradle roll Southern Baptist that Gramp3 and I have been apparently declared unbelievers, and I suppose our baptisms by immersion have been revoked since we were keyed out.

  271. Ken F wrote:

    TGC posted this IMB article today: https://www.imb.org/2017/01/25/why-every-healthy-church-practices-membership-part-1/

    If someone understands and confesses the gospel rightly, the church is given authority by King Jesus to say, “Yes, you’re a genuine believer in Christ,” and is, therefore, to be baptized and join in the life of the church. If not, the church also has the authority, granted by the King, to say, “No, you don’t understand the gospel, you’re not confessing it and living according to it, and therefore we will not continue to affirm that you’re a Christian.” That’s the power of the keys Jesus gave to the church, and that ability to affirm who is confessing the gospel rightly and who is not is the outline of what we mean by the term “church membership.”

    I’ve noticed I’m seeing more references to Jesus as “King” lately. Not that he isn’t king but there’s always a reason behind shifts in language like this. We used to call him Lord. It seems like the word king is more of a reference to power and position of authority, in a little more of a political sense. Lord seemed more about his primacy to me, as an individual.

    These guys really are pulling out the “keys of the kingdom” excuse to reign over the people, amazing. The great clergy/laity divide; the deeds of the Nicolaitans. As I understand it, the RCC already possesses the “keys of the kingdom” or at least has claimed to, through the succession of popes since Peter (being considered the first pope). So how can two different denominations hold these keys exclusively? How is the poor lay person to know who holds the real keys?

  272. Joe Reed wrote:

    I wasn’t distinguishing covenants and contracts. In fact, I’ve used them rather interchangeably, throwing in the term “formal commitment” once or twice for good measure.

    Perhaps you should define covenant. What does the word mean as you are using it?

  273. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
    — Lord Voldemort

    I think you summed up how many church leaders reason, behind the Christian facade.

    “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
    -Lord Jesus

    Can one seek power and meekness? No man can serve two masters. Seems like some don’t want to inherit the earth; they want it right now. Are they trading one for the other? Birthright for a mess of pottage? Gain the whole world and lose their own soul? I wonder.

  274. Joe Reed wrote:

    Thanks. I’m too trusting perhaps for life in the larger blogosphere. I’m a simple cabinetmaker, recovering fundamentalist, non-Neo but still Calvinist, non-SBC but still baptist, dad, husband, and volunteer associate pastor. And I forget you don’t know that so thanks for the grace.

    Welcome to the WW. I noticed your name links to this page, https://commonslaves.com/about/ Are you in the ministry? Are you a “common slave”? This is something new to me.

  275. @ siteseer:

    Common Slaves is a little group of small church pastors and elders in central Minnesota. It’s rather informal, but a good encouraging fellowship. We’re rather spread out in this area, so this gives us a reason to get together once in a while.
    I’m an associate pastor at a little church of about 70 people. They don’t need an associate but asked me if I would be anyway which was an honor. I tend the blog and write most of the articles, mostly because I can’t get anyone else to write 🙂

  276. Gram3 wrote:

    I suppose our baptisms by immersion have been revoked since we were keyed out.

    Is that a dehydrated baptist?

  277. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Lea wrote:

    I love how it’s about apparently ‘confessing’ the bible ‘rightly’ (whatever that means) and not actually having a life that reflects your beliefs.

    i.e. Purity of Ideology.

    That’s the exact phrase the neo-Nazi, Andrew Anglin, uses. He recently said that he considers personal character irrelevant and what matters is only “purity of ideology” to the Nazi cause.

    https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/01/17/beyond-pale-andrew-anglins-newest-case-purity-tests

  278. siteseer wrote:

    So how can two different denominations hold these keys exclusively?

    That’s the real question. All these different denominations running around deciding who is in and who is out, with most of the discussion dominated by disagreement. They cannot all be right, but they could all be wrong.

  279. Gram3 wrote:

    Do these people think that we are idiots?

    Yes, I think they do. But they are also taking precautions in case we are not by flooding the media (books, internet, conferences, news) with their many words as a means to dumb down everyone. The new-Calvinists are extremely prolific in the writing.

  280. Ken F wrote:

    That’s the power of the keys Jesus gave to the church, and that ability to affirm who is confessing the gospel rightly and who is not is the outline of what we mean by the term “church membership.”

    Oh, well, then churches need to start declaring anyone who believes complementarianism a gospel issue without the keys to the kingdom!

    These guys might have an argument if they got the gospel right. But we all know their definition of gospel is not in line with 2000 years of Christianity.

  281. Ken F wrote:

    The new-Calvinists are extremely prolific in the writing.

    Yes, the secret of their rapid proliferation. As Al Mohler says “Where else are young people going to go for truth?” Of course, New Calvinism is mis-truth, not real truth.

  282. Max wrote:

    Ken F wrote:

    The new-Calvinists are extremely prolific in the writing.

    Yes, the secret of their rapid proliferation. As Al Mohler says “Where else are young people going to go for truth?” Of course, New Calvinism is mis-truth, not real truth.

    Will anyone in the power circle ever call out Mohler for the major harm he has caused the SBC. What are these men afraid of?

  283. mot wrote:

    Will anyone in the power circle ever call out Mohler for the major harm he has caused the SBC. What are these men afraid of?

    Losing their retirement annuities, if Mohler goes and takes the SBC with him? Mohler’s lieutenants already control most entities, and their trustee boards don’t have a problem with it. Additionally, mainline Southern Baptists don’t appear to give a big whoop about what theology becomes the new default in SBC life. The average Southern Baptist in the pew ain’t got a clue what is going on – that’s why they continue to feed the reformed movement with SBC. There have been efforts to corral Mohler at annual SBC conventions by messengers questioning him from the floor, but the SBC big dog executives let him have his way. It’s the darnedest thing I’ve ever seen!

  284. siteseer wrote:

    So how can two different denominations hold these keys exclusively?

    Because each of the (not two but 10,000) denominations is the One True Church Founded by Christ in 33 AD and all the others are Heretic/Apostate False Churches.

    Now all these 10,000 denoms have to do is fission and schism until each One True Church has only ONE member and they will have achieved the ultimate theoretical End State of Protestantism.

  285. Max wrote:

    mot wrote:

    Will anyone in the power circle ever call out Mohler for the major harm he has caused the SBC. What are these men afraid of?

    Losing their retirement annuities,

    Someone on a long-ago thread commented about a National Security Agency statement that “The more people in a country get into the middle class (i.e. mortgage debt, student debt, credit card debt, required medical insurancs, and retirement annuities), the more we have Peace.” (As in nobody dares rock the boat.)

  286. MidwesternEasterner wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Lea wrote:

    I love how it’s about apparently ‘confessing’ the bible ‘rightly’ (whatever that means) and not actually having a life that reflects your beliefs.

    i.e. Purity of Ideology.

    That’s the exact phrase the neo-Nazi, Andrew Anglin, uses. He recently said that he considers personal character irrelevant and what matters is only “purity of ideology” to the Nazi cause.

    https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/01/17/beyond-pale-andrew-anglins-newest-case-purity-tests

    The exact phrase actually was an overused shtick of Fascism’s funhouse-mirror reflection, the Communists. Total opposites on the surface, identical underneath.

  287. MidwesternEasterner wrote:

    That’s the exact phrase the neo-Nazi, Andrew Anglin, uses. He recently said that he considers personal character irrelevant and what matters is only “purity of ideology” to the Nazi cause.

    Nazi Cause, Communist Cause, Objectivist Cause, Calvinist Cause, just different Party Lines and I-Have-a-Verses.

  288. siteseer wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
    — Lord Voldemort

    I think you summed up how many church leaders reason, behind the Christian facade.

    First time I used that Harry Potter quote in a comment thread, I got replies from Christians(TM): “Who is this ‘Voldemort’?”

    Must have been GUBAs deep in the Christianese Bubble. Guess because he’s not specifically in the Bible they never heard of him.

  289. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    First time I used that Harry Potter quote in a comment thread, I got replies from Christians(TM): “Who is this ‘Voldemort’?”

    HA! I had a pseudo family member who used to be Christian judgy about people reading Harry Potter. He turned out to be doing some pretty heinous stuff on the side.

    Also, it’s HWMNBN.

  290. siteseer wrote:

    I’ve noticed I’m seeing more references to Jesus as “King” lately. Not that he isn’t king but there’s always a reason behind shifts in language like this.

    “King unto King o’er the world is Brother”?

  291. siteseer wrote:

    Seems like some don’t want to inherit the earth; they want it right now. Are they trading one for the other? Birthright for a mess of pottage?

    And a Kingmaker’s night in the Lincoln Bedroom.

  292. siteseer wrote:

    okrapod wrote:

    Indeed so. Precisely. But the neo-cals are not the only ones using the concept of covenant. If one were to say that the neo-cals do such and thus and use the word covenant in doing this, and then to conclude that they own the word or the concept and therefore because of neo-cal abuses the word and concept itself are null and void or worse would just break all kind of rules of reasoning.

    It’s interesting, I was looking up some info on this subject and I found there are groups of Christians (not sure if they are neocal or not) that teach there is a difference between contracts and covenants, the difference being that contracts can be renegotiated/withdrawn from, but covenants cannot be broken ever, under any circumstances (this is their definition). If a covenant cannot ever be broken, for any reason, then my feeling is it would be most unwise to agree to one.

    The contract vs covenant in marriage is one that was taught at my former church. They were firmly in the marriage is a covenant camp. Two women in my church were counseled to remain in unsafe/absusive marriages because of this teaching. The church ignored the complaints of a several families about a man in the church, and that marriage held until their golden child preacher boy son took his father’s pervyness to a greater level and molested 12 year old girls. It’s a sick system.

  293. Ken F wrote:

    Can’t wait for part 2 or the article.

    Ask and you shall receive. Here is part 2: https://www.imb.org/2017/01/26/bible-teach-church-membership-2/. This is of special note:

    What’s more, that reality is a formal and recognized relationship. Both the church and the individual Christian recognize that such a relationship exists, and the church acts in a formal way both to create and dissolve it. To create it, it baptizes (or recognizes a prior baptism). To dissolve it, it votes to “hand someone over to Satan.”

    All those shadows in the New Testament—of making someone part of the number, of putting someone out of the number, of life lived together in mutual commitment—those shadows point to this biblical image of the local church being the Body of Christ.

    These statements about the power of the local church to determine whether or not a person is saved are stunning. Isn’t that one of the things the Reformation was against?

    For those not up to speed, this article was published by David Platt’s group.

  294. Ken F wrote:

    These statements about the power of the local church to determine whether or not a person is saved are stunning. Isn’t that one of the things the Reformation was against?

    More and more, it’s becoming “the Reformation was against” because it wasn’t THEM sitting in the Chair of Peter, shaking the Keys to the Kingdom with Ex Cathedra decrees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *