The Worship and Work of Church Membership

This Sunday, February 26, we will begin a new Sunday School series entitled The Worship and Work of Church Membership.

In this series we will examine the responsibilities given to those in church membership throughout the Scriptures, and we will teach on the following duties of fellowship:
  1. The duties of assembly and identification with the saints
  2. The duties of members to elders, and members to one another
  3. The duties of guarding the unity, holiness, and doctrine of the church
  4. The duty of partnership in the work of the gospel

We will also consider the historic practice of church covenants in summarizing these responsibilities for the discipleship of local congregations.

Because of God’s mercies in Romans 1-11, the saints are to joyfully offer themselves to God as a living sacrifice, and this is done in fellowship with one another in the local church. All of these duties of membership are acts of worship that are to be gladly given in response to the mercies of God (Rom 12:1-3).

As we continue into this year, it is the elders’ intention, Lord willing, to lead our members toward the adoption of a church covenant. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a church covenant, this is a classic church document which used to be ubiquitous, but it has faded with the advent of constitutions and by-laws.

For a starting point in thinking about membership commitments and a church covenant, I invite you to listen to this podcast discussion between Brian Croft and Jim Savastio as they talk about defining membership commitment in the local church.

What is a Church Covenant?

A church covenant is a summary of church members’ responsibilities and commitment toward one another that is agreed upon by church membership and into which new members enter as they come into church membership. In the same way that a statement of faith summarizes the doctrine of the local church, a church covenant is a summary of ethical obligations toward one another within the local church.


Rooted in the Protestant Reformation, free and independent congregations who broke away from the parish model used by State churches would bind themselves together with a mutually agreed upon church covenant. Membership no longer being determined by geography according to parish, church covenants were a practical way for congregations to constitute themselves while articulating their commitments to one another.


In contemporary evangelicalism, church membership can often be non-existent or meaningless. Instead of using a church covenant to constitute a new local church, foundational documents have become constitutions and by-laws (as required for non-profits), with an accompanying statement of faith. Among churches who seek to practice meaningful membership, there has been a growing recovery of the historical practice of using church covenants as members commit to one another in the local church, and for the discipleship and strengthening of local church fellowship.

Strengthening Meaningful Membership at OBC

As we believe in and seek to practice meaningful membership at OBC, we believe that using a church covenant at OBC would be helpful for discipleship in how to share life together. Though our four-week membership class provides instruction on the meaning of membership, there is an ongoing need for discipling our church family toward a biblical vision and practice of what it means to share life together in the local church.

We live in an incredibly transitory community, and the Lord brings people into our church family and leads them out again. The majority of our congregation has been with us for five years or less. The transitory nature of the DC area heightens our need for clarity when it comes to the meaning of membership.

An important qualification: The New Covenant is established by Christ alone, and a church covenant does not create a new covenant with God. A church covenant between church members is fundamentally distinct, being a summation of principles from the Scriptures that define the responsibilities of those who are part of the New Covenant, and which are to be lived out in the local church. A membership covenant for OBC would distill the membership commitments entailed in Scripture that have already been held by Occoquan Bible Church, and have been presented in OBC’s Statement of Faith, Constitution, membership class, and teaching.

As a statement of faith assists in discipleship in doctrine, a church covenant would be helpful for discipleship as we share life together in the local church.

Projected Timeline
February—April     Sunday School Series
May                           Present draft covenant at the members’ meeting.  
June—August         Collaborative revision and discussion with church membership.
September              Ratify at the members’ meeting.

Benjamin Purves