Article I: MEMBERSHIP PROCEDURES
Section 1. Qualifications
Any person desiring to become a member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church may indicate that desire to any Elder at any time. At the earliest convenient time, two or more Elders will interview the prospective member(s) to determine their personal understanding and belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Romans 3:21-26) and to discuss the responsibilities of church membership. Upon credible profession of faith and agreement to membership responsibilities, the person interviewed will be considered a member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church.
Consistent with their walk of faith and commitment to this local body of Christ, all members are expected to exhibit the following:
- A willingness to submit to the authority of Scripture;
- A desire to share in the ministry of this local church family by using the spiritual gift(s) God has given (I Corinthians 12:4-7);
- A willingness to submit to the leadership and authority of the Elders of this local body as they submit to God and the authority of Scripture (Hebrews 13:17);
- Regular attendance at the Sunday worship services of Grace Bible Fellowship Church unless providentially hindered;
- Agreement with the contents of the Grace Bible Fellowship Church Statement of Faith, and familiarity with the Statement of Doctrinal Positions, the Constitution and By-Laws, and not to promote doctrine or practice contrary to them.
Section 2. Transfer of Membership
Recognizing the need for orderly transfer of membership, it may be necessary to determine whether a transfer from another church body is in order and based upon Biblical grounds. If any unresolved difficulties are uncovered, the Elders shall work with the prospective member for their resolution.
For those members of this local body who wish to transfer to another church, a letter of transfer shall be submitted to the accepting church should it be desired by those transferring. When such letter is granted, membership in this church shall be considered terminated.
Any person who is currently a member of another church, yet through a temporary relocation has routinely been in attendance at Grace Bible Fellowship Church, shall be encouraged to have dual membership status. This status shall facilitate proper watchcare and oversight while the person is under the care of Grace Bible Fellowship Church.
Members may be removed from membership at their own request by informing the Board of Elders of their intention to withdraw and the reasons for their withdrawal. If a member requests to withdraw because of specific problems or disappointments with the church, the Board of Elders shall attempt to resolve those matters so that the member may remain in the church and enjoy greater fruitfulness and personal spiritual growth. If the Board of Elders is unable to resolve those matters, it shall offer to assist the member in locating a church of like faith and practice that can respond more effectively to his gifts and needs. If it appears to the Board of Elders that a member has requested removal merely to avoid church discipline, that request shall not be granted until the disciplinary process has been properly concluded (see Matthew 18:12-20; By-Laws Article V).
Members may also be removed from membership by order of the Board of Elders when they persistently, over an extended period of time, and without adequate reason, absent themselves from the stated services of the church; unite with another church; or are removed by excommunication for persistent impenitence (see By-Laws Article V).
Each member shall have the privilege of pastoral oversight. Only members may be Elders, Deacons, teachers, or serve in any ministry leadership position. Pastoral involvement and church ministries including the Lord’s Supper, weddings, funerals, counseling, use of equipment and facilities, and financial aid are privileges reserved for members. Exceptions must be approved by the Board of Elders. Members have no voting privileges.
New members shall be announced at the earliest convenient time to the church body at one of its regularly scheduled meetings. Upon departure of a member from Grace Bible Fellowship Church, an appropriate announcement will be made to the congregation at a subsequent service. Since discretion must be used when giving the reason for leaving, general agreement among the Elders shall be reached before the reason is publicly announced.
Grace Bible Fellowship Church holds Sunday morning worship services. In addition, it offers other fellowship and training classes for all ages, and meetings at other times as deemed helpful by the Elders.
Throughout the week, there may be smaller group meetings for specific purposes, such as home fellowship, discipling, youth activities, etc.
There shall be at least one formal Elder Board meeting each quarter for the conduct of business associated with oversight of Grace Bible Fellowship Church. This meeting shall be open to the entire body to attend. However, only Elders may vote when a vote is required. Other meetings may be called by the Elders (with limited attendance) to address sensitive shepherding issues not appropriate for public exposure, extended times of prayer, and mutual shepherding.
There shall be at least one annual Grace Bible Fellowship Church meeting for conduct of business that affects the entire body. This meeting will be held in the December–January time period and will include presentation of the budget for the coming year.
In addition, other meetings may be called or established for worship, fellowship, or business as required. These additional meetings are to be approved by the Elder board and may be requested by any member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church.
Grace Bible Fellowship Church recognizes that the Lord has established two ordinances to be faithfully observed in the church. These are baptism, which is to be undergone once at conversion; and the Lord’s Supper, which is celebrated regularly.
Water baptism is symbolic of the Christian’s spiritual union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). According to the Biblical pattern, a new Christian is to be baptized after conversion at the earliest convenient time as an expression of personal faith in Christ and membership in the church. Full immersion is the preferred method, consistent with the New Testament practice (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:10, Acts 8:36-40).
A person desiring to be baptized should contact one of the Elders, who will arrange a meeting with the candidate at the earliest convenient time. Two Elders are to interview the candidate to hear his profession of faith. The candidate for baptism should demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of sin, repentance, substitutionary atonement, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Particular care should be taken to ensure that the candidate understands the meaning of baptism as an important act of obedience and outward profession, but is not a condition of salvation. In addition, those conducting the interview should look for the fruit of faith and repentance as expected in the life of a believer. If the men conducting the interview determine that some of these issues remain unclear after the first meeting, further instruction and additional meetings may be required. Children who seek baptism must meet the same requirements as adults.
If the one desiring baptism gives a credible profession of faith, arrangements shall be made for a public baptism service at the earliest convenient time. Baptisms will ordinarily be by immersion. Baptisms shall be conducted under the supervision of the Elders. Before the candidate is baptized, he or she is to be given opportunity to give a public profession of faith in Christ either through a testimony or by answering questions asked by the one performing the baptism.
Because the Lord exhorted us to do this in remembrance of Him (I Corinthians 11:24), Grace Bible Fellowship Church normally observes the Lord’s Supper on a monthly basis. The ordinance shall be carried out under the supervision of the Elders. Participation in the Lord’s Supper is open to all believers. Those who partake should examine themselves as to whether they have unresolved sin against God or another believer (Matthew 5:23-24; I Corinthians 11:28-29).
All Christians struggle with sin and the effect it has on their lives and their relationships (Romans 3:23; 7:7-25). Whenever a Christian is unable to overcome sinful attitudes or behaviors through private efforts, God desires that he seek assistance from other members, and especially from the Elders, who have the responsibility of providing pastoral counseling and oversight (Romans 15:14; Galatians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:16; II Timothy 2:15-26; II Timothy 3:16-5:2; Hebrews 10:24-25; 13:17; James 5:16). Therefore, this church encourages and enjoins its members to make confession to and seek counsel from each other and especially from pastoral counselors.
Counseling at Grace Bible Fellowship Church is based on Scriptural principles rather than those of secular psychology or psychiatry. Counseling is done by or under the oversight of one or more Elders. Grace Bible Fellowship Church counselors are not required to hold a state license to counsel under the guidance of church leadership nor are they expected to follow the methods of secular mental health professionals.
The counselors of Grace Bible Fellowship Church seek to apply Biblical principles to all aspects of life. If a member or regular attendee of Grace Bible Fellowship Church seeks help in legal, financial, medical, or other technical questions, the counselor will apply Scripture to the matter to the best of his ability. The counselor may seek to cooperate with professional advisors and help members or regular attendees consider their advice in the light of relevant Scriptural principles.
Confidentiality is to be respected as much as possible; however, there are times when it is appropriate to reveal certain information to others. In particular, when the Elders of this church believe it is Biblically necessary, they may disclose confidential information to appropriate people. Typical circumstances include:
- When an Elder is uncertain about how to counsel a person about a particular problem and needs to seek advice from other Elders (Proverbs 11:14; 13:10; 15:22; 19:20; 20:18; Matthew 18:15-17);
- When the person who disclosed the information, or any other person, is in imminent danger of serious harm unless others intervene (Proverbs 24:11-12);
- When a person refuses to repent of sin and it becomes necessary to institute disciplinary proceedings (see Matthew 18:15-20 and By-Laws Article V) or seek the assistance of individuals or agencies outside this church (see, e.g., Romans 13:1-5); or
- When required by law to report suspected child abuse or other criminal activity, or when criminal activity has taken place and the counselee refuses to go to the secular authorities.
Application of church discipline shall be consistent with the Biblical approach outlined in Matthew 18:17-18. As such, it is to be exercised against offenders who profess to be Christians (see Article I of By-Laws). The Elders oversee the disciplinary process described below.
General categories of offenses in Scripture that may result in church discipline include:
- Divisiveness (Titus 3:9-11; Romans 16:17-18; Hebrews 13:17)
- Scandalous immorality (I Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10; Exodus 20:12-17)
- Rejecting the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (I Timothy 1:19-20; 6:3-5; II John 9-11)
- Other sins not covered under “a” through “c” above; all unrepentant sin could result in church discipline.
Matthew 18:15-16 outlines the approach to bring about reconciliation between individuals when offenses occur. If this is unsuccessful, then those that sought the offender’s repentance may come to the Elders of the church. The Elders, in turn, are to follow the general procedures below to ensure that everything is pursued in an orderly and proper way. Each of the four following steps represent a separate phase of church discipline, with the time required for each dependent upon the particular circumstances. Each step in the process below will be documented in writing and will include all pertinent information (e.g., history, proven offenses, expectations, actions taken). The Elders will not entertain anonymous accusations. The person accused of sin has the right to face and answer his accusers. Any charges against an Elder must be supported by two or more witnesses (I Timothy 5:19) as well as provided in writing.
Investigation The Elders are to conduct an investigation to determine if the accused is guilty of the charges. If the charges are proven false, then appropriate exhortation will be given to the parties so that reconciliation can occur. If the charges are proven (by confession or by witnesses), admonition is to be initiated.
Admonition Admonition includes a description of the unacceptable behavior and what must replace it, a procedure for monitoring the behavior over a specified period of time, and a warning that public admonition (II Thessalonians 3:14-15) or excommunication could follow if the behavior is not corrected. If satisfactory changes occur, the Elders may discontinue any further monitoring. Other disciplinary measures, short of excommunication, may include limitation of ministry opportunities, suspension from the Lord’s Table, and public admonition.
Excommunication If admonition and monitoring fail in correcting the unacceptable behavior, excommunication will occur. This action excludes the offender from the privilege of participation in the public services of the church. He is also excluded from church social meals, gatherings, and recreational activities and is removed from the membership rolls. The church will be informed by the Elders of the reasons for this decision, and will explain the duty of all members relative to the offender. If the excommunicated person withdraws from any further involvement with the Elders and begins attending another church, the Elders are obliged to inform the new church of the offender’s status.
Restoration When the excommunicated person repents, restoration begins. Restoration is a process that restores an offender to the full privileges that were withdrawn during excommunication. This will only occur if the Elders are satisfied that full repentance is a reality. If restoration is appropriate, the Elders will inform the church of the reasons for this decision and will explain the duty of all members relative to the restored person (II Corinthians 2:5-11).
The methods described here also cover any and all disputes or claims arising from or related to church membership, doctrine, policy, practice, counseling, discipline, decisions, actions, or failures to act, including claims based on civil statute or for personal injury.
By joining this church, all members agree that these methods shall provide the sole remedy for any dispute arising against the church and its agents, and they waive their right to file any legal action against the church in a civil court or agency.
In order to be above reproach before God and one another as stewards of all the Lord has entrusted to Grace Bible Fellowship Church, it is important to establish proper financial accountability (I Timothy 6:9,10; I Corinthians 16:3,4). To ensure this, the Deacon Board will exercise oversight of all financial matters of the church, under Elder authority (see Article IX, Section 2c of By-Laws). To support this responsibility, a Treasurer shall be assigned by the Elders to account for all Grace Bible Fellowship Church finances. The duties of the Treasurer are to:
- Ensure that no expenditure exceeds its annual item allocation without Elder Board or Deacon Board approval;
- Minister closely with the Deacon Board to ensure timely dispensing of funds when required for various needs of the body;
- Oversee the counting and banking of all funds collected by the church;
- Oversee the maintaining of an accurate accounting of funds received and dispensed by the church;
- Report the financial position of the church quarterly and at the annual financial review in December–January;
- Submit a preliminary budget for the next year to the Deacon Board and Elder Board;
- Make available to the Elder Board and the Deacon Board a quarterly, written financial statement;
- Recommend to the Deacon Board policies and practices relating to financial management that are not explicitly covered by this Constitution and By-Laws.
Detailed descriptions of the procedures to be followed relative to the above responsibilities are contained in the following sections.
After each service in which collections are received, the Treasurer, or his designee, and one other person (preferably a Deacon or a designated Bookkeeper) shall count the receipts and sign a register recording the amount. The Treasurer is responsible to ensure the deposit of any collections and to keep accurate records of each individual’s or family’s giving, if known. The Treasurer and anyone who assists in counting and managing funds will maintain strict confidentiality in protecting the privacy of individuals’ giving.
All payments or reimbursements must be approved by either a Deacon or Elder who is not directly involved with the transaction. Benevolence payments over $100 must be approved by the Deacons and at least one Elder prior to actual distribution.
Designated gifts shall be permitted to be contributed only to the fund accounts established by the Elders or Deacons and identified in the Grace Bible Fellowship Church chart of accounts. Disbursement of funds from fund accounts shall be in accordance with the purpose of the fund account and under the supervision and full control of the Deacons.
A church expense and budget report will be prepared by the Treasurer to be presented to the Elders and Deacons at least quarterly. Independently, a Deacon will review the report and verify that proper procedures were followed. Each employed staff member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church who requires expense reimbursement will submit an expense reimbursement report for review by the Treasurer and a separate Deacon. The expense and budget report shall be available for review by any church member on request. However, confidentiality of individual or family giving and benevolence will be maintained.
The Treasurer shall compile a new calendar year budget, based upon input from the Elders, the Deacons, and other ministry leaders. It shall be presented first to the Deacon Board, then to the Elder Board, and then to the entire church during December or January. The annual budget is to be made available to the church for review for at least one month prior to formal adoption by the Elder Board.
The Elders or Deacons shall appoint an appropriate individual to review the year’s financial records and report findings back to the Deacon and Elder Boards.
Salaries to be paid to Grace Bible Fellowship Church staff shall be set by the Elders. Any person receiving compensation from the church shall not be in a position to approve the amount of the salary. In the event that there are less than two non-compensated Elders, that Elder will solicit input from Deacons in setting salaries.
Grace Bible Fellowship Church has consistently avoided the use of debt, believing that God will meet its needs as they arise, and noting the stern Biblical warnings about the use of debt. However, although Scripture warns about debt, the use of debt is not completely forbidden. Therefore, the goal of this church will be to avoid debt, but if the Elders agree that limited debt is needed, these procedures shall be followed:
- Debt will not be sought or used for general operational needs. The church will not borrow simply because expenses have been greater than income.
- The term of any debt shall not exceed four years. The term will have a fixed percentage interest rate and will have equal monthly payments. No balloon notes will be used.
- The amount of the loan shall not exceed 100% of the income received by the church in the previous calendar year.
The Elder Board shall earnestly strive to make all decisions by consensus. In the course of discussions between Elders and with others who may be participating, each Elder must:
- Earnestly strive to seek God’s will and counsel (Psalm 143:10);
- Ensure that Scriptural admonitions are not violated (2 Timothy 3:16,17);
- Show mutual regard for one another (Philippians 2:2-4);
- Submit himself one to another (Ephesians 5:21);
- Wait patiently upon one another (Ephesians 4:2);
- Genuinely consider one another’s interests and perspectives (Proverbs 15:22; Philippians 2:4);
- Prefer and defer to one another and other delegated decision groups on all minor issues (Proverbs 13:10);
- Maintain a teachable spirit (Proverbs 18:15).
If a consensus cannot be reached in a reasonable period of time, then a request may be made by any Elder to:
- Discuss the issue in further detail, or
- Delay the decision for prayerful consideration and obtain more information as required, or
- Consider delegating the discussion to another group for more thorough investigation and recommendations, or
- Call for a vote—in which case, a quorum of the Elders may vote with a two-thirds majority needed to decide the issue as follows:
Votes to Carry
A quorum is attained when two-thirds or more of the Elders are present. Also, when an Elder knows he will be absent, he may use his proxy vote on an issue scheduled to be decided upon. Every Elder must be made aware of every meeting and have opportunity for input and proxy vote.
In addition, an Elder may choose to abstain from voting. In such a case, his opportunity to vote will not be counted in the number present.
Also, in decisions relating to the discipline or removal of an Elder, the Elder in question will not be counted as a voting Elder and will not vote.
In cases where significant divisions exist, and where a vote would be impossible or unwise, then the Elders should seriously consider Arbitration by a like-minded Arbiter who serves as an Elder at a like-minded church.
God is the one who calls a man to the task of Elder or Deacon, as He is the one who so equips the man both with the spiritual gifts and character needed for the office (Acts 20:28, Ephesians 4:11). It is, therefore, the responsibility of the church to discover and evaluate those whom God has called to the office of Elder and Deacon (Acts 6:3). This evaluation shall be based upon the Biblical qualifications found in I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, and I Peter 5:23.
Each Elder and Deacon will serve as long as he remains Biblically qualified, available, and desires to continue to serve. An Elder or Deacon may be granted an approved leave of absence from Elder or Deacon responsibilities.
A candidate for either office may be recommended to the Elders by any member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church. A man who believes that God is calling him may also seek the counsel of the Elders for possible candidacy (I Timothy 3:1). It is the responsibility of the Elders to examine the qualifications of a candidate for either office. In addition, the Deacons are to examine and approve a candidate for the office of Deacon.
If there is consensus among the Elders regarding the qualifications of a candidate, then the candidate will be presented to the membership for consideration, prayer, and a time of evaluation (I Thessalonians 5:12; Acts 6:3-5). If consensus cannot be reached by the Elders, then the candidacy will be suspended.
A period of at least three months will be given for the membership to pray and ask questions of the candidate (or the Elders) with regard to his qualifications. At the end of this time period, the Elders will evaluate both the responses from the membership and the status of the candidate. If there is still consensus among the Elders as to the qualifications of the candidate, he will then be brought before the membership in a worship service, in which he will be formally presented and acknowledged as one whom God has called to the task of Elder or Deacon.
Under authority of Scripture, the duty of Elders (pastors) is to oversee the spiritual life of the church by:
- Preaching/Teaching All Elders attend to the ministry of the Word through teaching and preaching (Acts 6:4; Ephesians 4:11-12; I Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 3:2; 5:17; II Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9). They shall oversee all matters concerning the conduct of public worship, and the spiritual growth and evangelistic witness of the congregation (Ephesians. 4:11-13; Matthew 28:19-20).
- Shepherding All Elders carry on watchcare and oversight responsibilities relating to the flock entrusted into its care. (I Peter 5:2-3; Acts 20:28; Matthew 18:15-29; I Corinthians 5:13; Galatians 6:1-2; Titus 3:9-11). Elders use the Word of God to instruct, edify, encourage, admonish, and exhort the body (I Thessalonians 2:11; II Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 13:17; Psalm 23:2-3).
- Ruling The Elders are responsible to exercise authority in all areas of doctrine and practice. The Elders have the final authority over the activities of the Board of Deacons and all other ministries of the church, and have final authority over the use of the church property. (Heb. 13:17; I Thessalonians 5:12-13; I Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17).
- Praying Elders minister to the body through persistent corporate and individual intercessory prayer (Acts 2:42; I Thessalonians 5:17; James 5:14; Acts 6:4).
Authority to carry out these responsibilities is shared equally by all the Elders (Romans 12:8; I Peter 5:3). No single elder, whether compensated or non-compensated, has any more or less authority than any other elder. No special titles that indicate rank will be granted to any elder, and all elders should attempt to reduce any perceived difference between vocational and non-vocational elders.
The duty of Deacons is to assist the Elders by:
- Benevolence Dispensing benevolence funds according to the physical and spiritual needs of the body and remaining aware of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the body (Acts 6:1-7; I Timothy 3:8-13).
- Property Exercising caretaker and stewardship responsibilities over all church properties and the acquiring or disposing of all church property of any kind.
- Finances Exercising oversight of financial matters of the church, including all expenses throughout the year, the annual review of the church budget, staff salaries, and financial needs of those whose ministries the church supports.
- Logistics Providing oversight of all items relating to logistical aspects of church services.
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