I am thankful for the Family Integrated Church movement. Many FIC churches, and now some other churches, are no longer doing "church memberships." I applaud these churches, because according to the Scriptures, 'church memberships' are via being part of the body of Christ, and the Bible tells us that we become part of the Body of Christ upon salvation.
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." -1 Corinthians 12:13
We are baptized into Christ's Church, His Body, via the Holy Spirit. This happens when we become sealed by the Spirit. We become sealed upon salvation:
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" -Ephesians 1:13
Speaking to born again Christians, the Bible says over and over again:
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." -1 Corinthians 12:27
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." -Romans 12:5
The church isn't a local building. It is the Body of Christ on earth, made up of saved, born again Christians all around the world. If you are saved, then you are a member of the Body, which is the church, and Christ is the Head of the church:
"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." -Colossians 1:18
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." -Ephesians 5:23
"Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." -Ephesians 1:20-23
Church membership has puzzled me over the years, but when I take my questions to the Scriptures, I clearly see that church memberships are commandments and traditions of man, and not of God.
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." -Colossians 2:8
Church memberships and Church Covenant signings are traditions of man.
Do I believe the Word of God, or don't I? I do, and this means I will no longer become a member of any local church assembly. I will attend church, but I refuse to knowingly submit to any anti-Scriptural traditions of man, such as "church membership," or signing "Church Covenants." I am already a member of Christ's Church - His Body - because I am a saved, born again, Bible believing Christian. I don't need any membership to any local church assembly for this. I already have a Church Covenant. It is made with God. It is my faith in Christ, and God's grace over me. THAT is the Scriptural church covenant - not signing some paper.
Some churches no longer have church membership, which is fabulous, but a percentage of those churches are replacing one evil with another - 'Church Covenants.' Other churches require membership and the signing of a Church Covenant together. A Church Covenant is a piece of paper that lists the basic beliefs and tenants of that church, and from the various church covenants I've viewed online, they usually include some type of line about the church being in unity. Here's the problem: I've seen many churches sacrifice the truth of God's Word to the alter of 'Unity.'
Unity in Christ NEVER comes from a single, particular, local church gathering. Unity in Christ comes from believers reading, believing, and following the Word of God! True Christian Unity can never be attained merely from a church agreeing to follow everything taught in the pulpit, or from signing some paper called a "Church Covenant." If we aren't going to be like the Bereans, and check every teaching against the Scriptures, then we might as well throw our Bibles away right now, turn off our brains, and become mind-numbed imbeciles, being spoon-fed whatever the local assembly wants us to believe. This is serious. Wake up.
While I could pick apart many of the tenants of all of the online church covenants I have recently perused, I am instead going to be more efficient. I am going to go straight to the heart of the issue.
Church covenants are not only unScriptural, but they go against the very teachings of Jesus Christ. Signing a Church Covenant goes against the Christian's Covenant with God. I'll show you this in just a minute, but first, I want to make a few things clear, so there isn't any confusion.
The very first time the word 'covenant' is mentioned in the Bible, is in Genesis 6:18, and that is the covenant between God and Noah. In the Old Testament, we see covenants made between man and God, but also some covenants made between man and man. Does this carry over to the New Testament? No, it does not.
In the Old Testament (Old Covenant between God and man) swearing oaths and making promises was common day. In the New Testament (New Covenant between God and man) we are specifically told not to do this. Here's the question - is a covenant akin to promising, swearing, or taking an oath? Let's see...
The Hebrew word for 'covenant' is "bĕriyth," which literally means 'covenant, alliance, pledge.' Clearly, a covenant is more than just a yes or no. It is a pledge. What is a pledge? According to Dictionary.com, a pledge is "a solemn promise or agreement..." In the Greek, 'covenant' is "diathēkē," which literally means 'a compact, a testament.' According to Dictionary.com, a 'compact' is "a formal agreement..." Why do we need a formal agreement in any church?
In Googling information about Church Covenants, I see many papers written by churches or pastors, where they freely interchange the words 'covenant,' and 'promise.' This makes sense, because in the Bible, when you see a covenant made, it was one making a promise to another. We see God making covenants with His people throughout the Bible, contingent on certain conduct, or an action from His people. Covenants contain promises:
"And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." -Galatians 3:17
The Bible interchanges the words "testament and covenant." A testament is a covenant. A testament/covenant contains promises:
"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." -Hebrews 9:15
A covenant therefore is a container that contains conditions and promises. Is it okay for a Christian to promise? Signing a covenant means one is promising to abide by its conditions. The New Testament of the Bible says that Christians are not to swear, or take oaths. Is promising part of that? If you look up the definition of 'oath' on Dictionary.com, definition two says "a statement or promise strengthened by such an appeal." An oath is a promise, and therefore a promise is an oath.
If you look up 'sware' on Dictionary.com, we see in definition seven "to promise or undertake on oath or in a solemn manner; vow."
Why can't our yes be yes, and no be no? Why do some churches want their congregations to sign covenants? To have to sign something, to me, seems that my 'yes' isn't good enough.
There is no place in the New Testament, where man is making a covenant with man (other than marriage, which is a living lesson of Christ and the church - see Eph. 5). This is because man making a covenant with man is against the New Covenant (New Testament) between man and God. A covenant is a commitment by promise. It is more than just saying 'yes, I'll do it." It is a pledge - a promise - it's swearing to something, or taking an oath. Jesus says not to do this, as does James:
"But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." -Matthew 5:34-37
"But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." -James 5:12
Really, after reading the two above Scriptures, would you be comfortable signing a church covenant? I certainly would not be. I'd prefer not to go beyond my yes or no, which "cometh of evil," and can make me "fall into condemnation."
Church Covenants are anti-scriptural, and if your church wants you to sign one, point out the two above Scriptures to them, and politely refuse to sign. Signing a Church Covenant is against the New Testament Church's Covenant with God. Perhaps you think you just shouldn't sign, and keep quiet about it. Perhaps you feel that even if you did speak up, it would make no difference. It may not, but at least if you speak up, you know you tried.
Lastly, I want to quickly mention denominations. Is it Scriptural to have denominations? No. Many, if not most 'Christian' denominations require one to be baptized in that church to become a member. Some do not, but many do. The Bible says 'no' to denominations, and also 'no' to using baptism as a membership card to a local assembly:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" -1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Sit up and take notice. Most churches are introducing leaven into the lump, and have been, for centuries. What do we do, then? Do we stop going to any church, and perhaps go for home churches? For many people, that is a great idea, but I believe if you do so, you should be gathering with at least one of other family. We are called to gather with other believers in Christ.
For most of us, though, I think we need to attend churches, and we need to be a light. Who knows? Seeds could be planted. Revival could be around the corner.
As for denominations, memberships, and covenants - I refuse to sign the covenants, I refuse memberships, and even if I attend a church that has a denominational name, that does not mean I take on the denominational name. I am a Christian. I am not of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or Luther, or Wesley, or Menno, etc. I am a Christian, because I have been born again a new creature in Christ.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." -2 Corinthians 5:17
Are you a member of Christ's Body, the true church - the unity of true believers all around the world? If not, or you are not sure, click here.