CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS OF 5 BRIDGES CHURCH
17495 PANAMA CITY BEACH PKWY, PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL 32413
Preface and Preamble Article 1 – Name Article 2 – Purpose Article 3 – Articles of Faith Article 4 – Amendments
Article 1 – Membership Article 2 – Covenant of Membership Article 3 – Conduct Article 4 – Meetings Article 5 – Affiliation Article 6 – Use of Church Facilities, Assets, and Resources Article 7 – Designated Funds Article 8 – Statements on Biblical Ethics Article 9 – Employment Article 10 – Officers Articles 11 – Election of Officers Article 12 – Dismissal of Officers Article 13 – Licensing and Ordaining Article 14 – Inspection of Records, Reports and Documentation Article 15 – Indemnification Article 16 – Dispute Resolution Article 17 – Amendments Article 18 – Dissolution
Appendix A (The Baptist Faith And Message, 2000)
For the more certain preservation and security of the principles of our faith, and to the end that this body may be governed in an orderly manner consistent with the accepted tenets of the Southern Baptist Convention, and for the purpose of preserving the liberties inherent in each individual member of the Church and the freedom of action of this body with respect to its relation to the churches of the same faith and order, we do declare and establish this constitution.
ARTICLE I. NAME
This body shall be known as and operate under the corporate name of “5 Bridges Church, Inc” and hereafter referred to in this document as either “5 Bridges Church” or “The Church.”
ARTICLE II. PURPOSE
The purpose of this local church is to glorify the God of the Bible by practicing our Christian faith.
By prioritizing His worship
Proclaiming the whole counsel of God in expository preaching, teaching, discipleship, and in all of life loving God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves
Being a Gospel-centered church that stands for the faith once delivered unto the saints; making disciples and investing in the next generation by evangelism and church planting; knowing our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
ARTICLE III. ARTICLES OF FAITH
We do hereby adopt as the fullest expression of our faith The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention (Appendix A). This document is a most excellent summary of things most surely believed among us. We accept the same as an assistance to us in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness as that which is taught in Holy Scripture. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention does not exhaust the extent of our beliefs. The Bible itself, as the inspired and infallible Word of God that speaks with final authority concerning truth, morality, and the proper conduct of mankind, is the sole and final source of all that we believe.
ARTICLE IV. AMENDMENTS
This Constitution or any of its provisions may be altered, amended, or repealed, and a new constitution may be adopted at any time with an affirmation of change, with the recommendation of the pasts and reflected by a 75 percent vote at any special or regular business meeting at which a quorum is present, the proposed amendment(s) being announced two weeks prior to the vote.
ARTICLE 1: MEMBERSHIP
Section 1 – Qualifications
For an individual to qualify for membership in this church, they must be a believer in Jesus Christ who demonstrates evidence of salvation, who has been baptized, in obedience to Christ, following his or her salvation, and who wholeheartedly believes in the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible. Each member must be at least 16 years old and agree to submit to the teaching of scripture as expressed in the Articles of Faith of this Church and must promise to keep the commitments expressed in the Church Covenant. The Elders shall be responsible for determining each person’s qualification for membership. In making this determination, they may rely on a person’s profession of faith, or such other evidence, as the Elders deem appropriate.
Any person may offer himself as a candidate for membership in this church. Persons offering themselves for membership shall be required to demonstrate either (1) Their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Scriptural baptism; (2) Their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and the promise of a letter of recommendation from another Baptist church of like faith and practice; or (3) Statement of prior conversion experience and Scriptural baptism.
Section 2 – Admission of Members For an individual to be admitted into church membership, applicants shall be recommended by the Elders for admission and accepted by vote of the members at any regular or special meeting of the members, and shall at that point relinquish their membership in other churches. The Articles of Faith (see Article 3 of the Church Constitution and Appendix A), Church Constitution, and Membership Covenant (see Article 2 of the Bylaws) are accepted by its present members and shall be subscribed to and accepted voluntarily by new members as they offer themselves for membership.
Section 3 – Duties and Privileges of Membership In accordance with the duties in the Church Covenant, each member shall be privileged and expected to participate in and contribute to the ministry and life of the church, consistent with God’s leading and with the gifts, time, and material resources each has received from God. Only those shall be entitled to serve in the ministries of the church who are members of this congregation; non-members may serve on an ad-hoc basis with the approval of the Elders. It is the privilege and responsibility of members to attend all members’ meetings and vote on the election of officers, on decisions regarding membership status, and on such other matters as may be submitted to a vote.
Section 4 – Membership Voting Requirements Only active members of the church, defined as those who have not missed regular attendance in the previous three months are entitled to vote on questions submitted to the church in members meetings. No more than three weeks absent prior to voting during this three month period is allowed. Members must be present to vote. Any questions of eligibility will be referred to the Church Clerk. See Article 4 – Section 2 of the Bylaws for members’ meetings.
Section 5 – Church Discipline Any member consistently neglectful of his or her duties or guilty of conduct by which the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be dishonored, and so opposing the welfare of the church, shall be subject to the admonition of the Elders and the discipline of the church, according to the instructions of our Lord in Matthew 18: 15–17 and the example of scripture. Church discipline, then, should ordinarily be contemplated after individual private admonition has failed.
Church discipline can include admonition by the Elders or congregation, suspension from the Lord’s Table (communion) for a definite period, removal from office, and removal of membership (see Matthew 18:15–17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14–15; 1 Timothy 5:19–20 20; 1 Corinthians 5:4–5).
The purpose of such discipline should be:
For the repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual growth of the individual disciplined (see Proverbs 15:5; 29:15; 1 Corinthians 4: 14; Ephesians 6:4; I Timothy 3: 4–5; Hebrews 12: 1-11; Psalm 119:115; 141:5; Proverbs 17:10; 25: 12; 27: 5; Ecclesiastes 7:5; Matthew 7:26–27; 18:15–17; Luke 17:3; Acts 2:40; I Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 6: 1–5; II Thessalonians 3: 6, 14–15; I Timothy 1: 20; Titus 1:13–14; James 1: 22);
For the instruction in righteousness and good of other Christians, as an example to them (see Proverbs 13: 20; Romans 15: 14; I Corinthians 5: 11; 15: 33; Colossians 3:16; I Thessalonians 5:14 [note this is written to the whole church, not just to leaders]; I Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:11; Hebrews 10:24–25);
For the good of our corporate witness to non–Christians (Proverbs 28:7; Matthew 5: 13–16; John 13: 35; Acts 5: 1–14; Ephesians 5: 11; I Timothy 3:7; II Peter 2:2; I John 3:10);
Supremely for the glory of God by reflecting His holy character (see Deuteronomy 5:11; I Kings 11:2; II Chronicles 19: 2; Ezra 6: 21; Nehemiah 9: 2; Isaiah 52: 11; Ezekiel 36: 20; Matthew 5: 16; John 15: 8; 18: 17, 25; Romans 2:24; 15: 5–6; II Corinthians 6: 14–7: 1; Ephesians 1: 4; 5: 27; I Peter 2: 12).
Section 6 – Termination of Membership The church shall recognize the termination of a person’s membership following his or her death, and may do so after he or she has voluntarily resigned or joined with another church. Membership may also be terminated as an act of church discipline (ordinarily, but not necessarily, at the recommendation of the Elder(s). Membership can also be terminated after one year of non-attendance unless providentially hindered because of health or because of a member’s temporary relocation to another city, as well as by personal request for name to be removed from church membership.
The church shall retain the right to refuse to issue a church letter. The membership roll shall be compiled and maintained by the Church Clerk and Elders.
ARTICLE 2: COVENANT OF MEMBERSHIP
The following is the Church Covenant of Membership and is read at each reception of new members and at such other times as may be deemed appropriate:
As a member of 5 BRIDGES Church, having been brought by divine grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and then scripturally baptized, we do covenant before God as enabled by His Holy Spirit to: Not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for worship and service, but honor the Word of God and will seek to follow those who have the spiritual responsibility for us.
We covenant together, God helping us, that we will live life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area; love one another, pray for one another, care for one another in sickness and distress, and seek to help one another grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will put away from us all bitterness, wrath, anger, and evil speaking; and we will be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us.
We will, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, live a biblical lifestyle, accepting the Word of God as our authority for faith and everyday living. We will be good stewards of all that God has given us, we will be just in our dealings, maintaining the unity of the body, and we will give as God has prospered us, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.
We will seek to win others to Christ by sharing the Gospel in word and deed. As we have the opportunity, we will do good to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith. We will strive to carry out His commission to spread the Gospel throughout the whole world.
We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.
We will, when we move from this place, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.
ARTICLE 3: CONDUCT
Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and staff are expected to maintain a good Christian testimony in their public and private life (Romans 12:1-2; 14:13, 21-23; I Corinthians 6:12, 19-20; 8:9-13; 10:23-31). All members should be taught and encouraged to strive to live by God’s Grace as Scripture states. Our conduct should be expressed this way:
By God’s grace, we will yield to the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within us to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:16–24)
By God’s grace, we will take advantage of public and private means of spiritual growth, such as: regular attendance at our Sunday services; fellowship with other believers; participation in the ordinances (baptism and communion); and the application of personal spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, fasting, prayer, etc.).
By God’s grace, we will contribute financially to the ministry of 5 Bridges Church, giving regularly, proportionally, and generously as God has prospered us.
By God’s grace, we will witness to the world seeking to lead others to faith in Christ, and will do so with integrity and graciousness, following the leading of the Spirit.
By God’s grace, we will separate ourselves from all sinful pleasures, practices, and associations, and will refrain from all immodesty and immoderate behavior. We will seek to live in such a way as to not bring reproach upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
By God’s grace, we will use our spiritual gifts as God enables us.
By God’s grace, we will abstain from indulging in any and all forms of obscene behavior.
By God’s grace, we will abstain from all sexual relationships outside of the marriage bond between one man and one woman as defined and taught in Scripture.
By God’s grace, we will be free from destructive habits that enslave us and compromise both our fellowship with God and our witness to the world.
By God’s grace, we will be free of all alliances with secret cultic organizations or occultist affiliations, and will avoid being unequally yoked with unbelievers. (Romans 1:18–32; 8:12; Galatians 5:16–25; Ephesians 4:22–24; Colossians 3:1–10; 1 Peter 1:14–16; 1 John 3:5–9).
ARTICLE 4: MEETINGS
Section 1 – Worship Meetings
Worship services shall be held each Lord’s Day, and may be held throughout the week as the church determines.
Section 2 – Members’ Meetings
In every meeting together, members shall act in that spirit of mutual trust, openness, and loving consideration which is appropriate within the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. There shall be a regular members’ meeting at least three times a year, at some time apart from a public worship service. The date, time, and purpose of any special meeting shall be announced at all public services of the church within two weeks preceding the meeting. A quorum consisting of 30% of church membership is necessary to carry on any membership meeting of the Church. Members’ Meetings shall be comprised solely of members qualified to vote. There shall be no proxy or absentee voting.
An Elder or Deacon designated by the Pastor shall preside as moderator at all members’ meetings of the church. The Elders shall see that the stated meetings of the church are regularly held and that required reports are submitted to the church by the responsible members.
All votes shall be tallied based on the number of votes cast by members present. A budget shall be approved by the membership at a members’ meeting not more than two months after the start of the fiscal year. Prior to this approval and subject to the Elders’ discretion, expenditures may continue at the prior year’s level.
At any regular or special members’ meeting, officers may be elected and positions filled as needed, so long as all relevant constitutional requirements have been met. Special members’ meetings may be called as required by the Deacons or Elders.
Section 3 – Special Members’ Meetings
The church will assemble for a special Member’s Meeting upon the request of the Pastor, Elders, or Deacons. Special Members’ Meetings will be announced two weeks prior to the date through the service announcements. On rare occasions, an emergency may arise making the two-week notice impractical.
Section 4 – Roberts’ Rules of Order
Roberts’ Rules of Order, Revised, is the authority for parliamentary rules of procedure for all church members’ meetings.
Section 5 – Fiscal Year in Relation to Members’ Meetings
The fiscal year of the church shall begin on January 1 and end on December 31 or the following calendar year.
ARTICLE 5: AFFILIATION
5 Bridges Church is autonomous and maintains the right to govern its own affairs, independent of any denominational control. However, the Bible teaches that local churches should seek voluntary fellowship with other doctrinally sound churches. This association is to provide help and encouragement while working together as the Lord directs. This is a voluntary association that in no way involves the surrender of the individual church’s freedom or dependence on God. Upon recommendation of the officers of the Church, such affiliations may be entered by a vote of the congregation. Withdrawal from associations may be affected by the same procedure.
5 Bridges Church has chosen to affiliate itself with the Southern Baptist Convention. We continue this relationship, believing that it is God’s will to do so. Fundamental to this affiliation is the understanding that the Southern Baptist Convention is a fellowship of autonomous, biblically sound churches that choose to work together to further God’s Kingdom. Voluntary contributions to local, state, national, and international mission projects maintain this affiliation. Support may also be provided by sending messengers to the associational, state, and annual conventions for voting on doctrinal, ethical, and procedural positions. (Acts 15:2; 21:17-18; III John 10; Philippians 4:15, 18; I John 1:3; Ephesians 4:3-6).
ARTICLE 6: USE OF CHURCH FACILITIES, ASSETS, AND RESOURCES
The church’s facilities are gifts of God, made available by the sacrificial gifts of His people over multiple generations, and are dedicated solely to doing ministry for Christ and His church. The Church shall not be involved in the business of making Church facilities available for rent to the general public. The Church desires that its facilities be used for the fellowship of the Body of Christ and to bring God glory. Facility use will not be permitted to persons or groups holding, advancing, or advocating beliefs or practices that conflict with the church’s faith or moral teachings, which are summarized in, among other places, the church’s constitution and bylaws. Nor may church facilities be used for activities that contradict, or are deemed inconsistent with, the church’s faith or moral teachings. The Elders and Deacons are the final decision-makers concerning the use of church facilities. The Church staff and other appropriate leadership shall oversee the implementation of a church policy regarding the use of church facilities, assets, and all other resources. Such policy will ensure that all facilities, assets, and resources of the Church are used in a manner that is consistent with the Holy Scriptures and the Baptist Faith & Message, 2000. The policy shall be drafted to ensure that any use of all or part of the church grounds or facilities will be done in a manner consistent with our beliefs as a Church. This policy applies to all church facilities, regardless of whether the facilities are connected to the church’s sanctuary because the church sees all of its property as holy and set apart to worship God. (Colossians3:17) The Pastor or his official designee must approve all uses of church facilities. Only church members and organized groups that are part of the ministry, organization, or sponsored activities of the church may use the facilities. Moreover, any and all use of church property shall be sufficiently documented and memorialized so as to protect the church from unnecessary exposure to liability.
ARTICLE 7: DESIGNATED FUNDS
All donations accepted by the church will be allocated to the general fund of the Church unless otherwise annotated in the giving statement for gifts to children, students, men, women, or other designated allocations.
ARTICLE 8: STATEMENTS ON BIBLICAL ETHICS
Sanctity of Human Life:
We believe that all human life is sacred and created by God in His image. Human life is of inestimable worth in all its dimensions, including pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged, and every other stage or condition from conception through natural death. We believe that the intentional, willful termination of a pregnancy (“abortion”) at any time after conception constitutes the taking of unborn human life. Accordingly, abortions, including for reasons of birth defects, gender selection, birth control, population control, or even in the tragic instances of rape or incest, and acts of encouraging, facilitating, or paying for abortions, are inconsistent with Scripture and the glory of God (Psalm 139:13-16). We are therefore called to defend, protect, and value all human life (Psalm 139.)
Statement on Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality:
We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.
We believe that the term “marriage” has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture (Gen. 2:18-25). We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other (1 Cor. 6:18; 7:2-5; Heb. 13:4). We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God (Matt. 15:18-20; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of 5 Bridges Church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the 5 Bridges Church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons employed by 5 Bridges Church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, agree to and abide by this Statement on Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality (Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:14-16; 1 Thess. 5:22). We believe that God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19-21; Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity (Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31). Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture nor the doctrines of 5 Bridges Church.
Because God has ordained marriage and defined it as the covenant relationship between a man, a woman, and Himself, 5 Bridges Church will only recognize marriages between a biological man and a biological woman. Further, the Pastors and staff of 5 Bridges Church shall only participate in weddings and solemnize marriages between one man and one woman. Finally, the facilities and property of 5 Bridges Church shall only host weddings between one man and one woman.
Statement on Family Relationships:
We believe that God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society and that a marriage that reflects biblical priorities and principles is the foundation of a healthy family. Children are a gift from God and are both a blessing and a reward to their parents, who are called to train them daily and diligently in God’s truth. Parents are responsible for teaching their children spiritual and moral values and leading them to God through a consistent lifestyle example, appropriate teaching, and discipline (Deuteronomy 6:7–9; Psalm 127:3–5; Ephesians 5:22–33; 6:1–4). We believe that men and women are spiritually equal in position before God, and both are made in God’s image. God has given each sex distinct and separate spiritual roles in the home and the church. The husband is to love and serve his wife as Christ loves the church, to recognize that she is his essential helper and companion, and to live with her in a nurturing and understanding way. The wife is to submit to the headship of her husband as the church submits to the headship of Christ, to be her husband’s loving friend, and to respect him as a matter of spiritual service. A husband’s responsibility includes prioritizing spiritually leading his family and providing for his family’s material needs. A wife’s responsibility includes prioritizing home management and the nurture of her children (Genesis 1:27; 2:15, 18; 3:19; 5:2; Proverbs 31:10–31; Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:3–5; 1 Peter 3:1–7).
We also honor those who remain single and are committed to a life of chastity and single-minded devotion to Christ. The Apostle Paul, who himself was single, taught that such a lifestyle was not only good but has the advantage of enabling the believer to serve the Lord without distraction (1 Corinthians 7:8, 32–34).
ARTICLE 9: EMPLOYMENT
All employees of 5 BRIDGES Church are required to sign a statement affirming that they agree with the articles of faith, and membership covenant, and affirming that they are willing to abide by our standards of conduct, as well as follow and keep their job descriptions. Each member will be an active member of the Church body under the leadership and supervision of the Lead Pastor.
ARTICLE 10: OFFICERS
Section 1 – Summary
Jesus Christ alone is the head of His Church (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 4:15-16; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; I Peter 5:4). However, as head, He has ordained that individual local churches should be blessed with spiritual leadership and ministry of special office bearers. The Lord’s appointment is recognized by not only the inward conviction of the individual involved, but also by the approval of the church observing the possession of those gifts and graces required, and by the Scriptural definition of the office.
It should be the desire of the congregation to come to one mind regarding those office bearers to whom they must submit in the Lord, but should such unanimity not be fully realized, no less 75% of the members present and voting shall be required for the election of an officer.
God has ordained that the leadership of local churches is to be by Pastors, Elders, and Deacons (Philip. 1:1; Acts 6:1-7; 14:23). In addition, our church recognizes the administrative positions under this constitution of Church Clerk and Church Treasurer. All officers must be members of this church prior to assuming their responsibilities.
Section 2 – Elders
The words Elder, Overseer, Bishop, Presbyter, and Pastor (Acts 20:17,28; Ephesians 4:11) are all used interchangeably to describe this ministry in the New Testament. The Pastoral oversight of the churches of the New Testament was a team effort. The Pastor and Elders shall nominate, train, examine, and appoint new Elders to serve in this ministry.
Section 3 – Qualifications of Elders
Each member of the Elder Ministry must be an active member of this church and possess the qualifications described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. He shall be:
(a) Blameless as a steward of God; above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6-7) (b) Husband of one wife; a one-woman man (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)
(c) Temperate, sober, vigilant (1 Timothy 3:2)
(d) Sober-minded, prudent (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
(e) Of good behavior; orderly, respectable (1 Timothy 3:2)
(f) Given to hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
(g) Apt to teach; able to teach; he can exhort believers and refute false teaching
(1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9)
(h) Not given to wine (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
(i) Not violent; not pugnacious (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
(j) Patient, moderate, forbearing, gentle (1 Timothy 3:3)
(k) Not a brawler; uncontentious; not soon angry or quick-tempered (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
(l) Not covetous; not a lover of money; not greedy of base gain (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7) (m) Rules well his own house; his children are faithful, not accused of rebellion to God (1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:7)
(n) Not a novice; not a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6)
(o) Has a good report or reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7)
(p) Not self-willed (Titus 1:7)
(q) A lover of good men and things (Titus 1:8)
(r) Just, fair (Titus 1:8)
(s) Holy, devout (Titus 1:8)
(t) Self-controlled (Titus 1:8)
Section 4 – Elder Ministry
The Elders shall be comprised of no less than three men who satisfy and meet the requirements for the office of Elder set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. A majority of the active Eldership shall be composed of church members, not in the regular pay of the church, and no Elder shall hold the office of Deacon during his tenure.
Subject to the will of the congregation, the Elders shall oversee the ministry and resources of the church. In keeping with the principles set forth in Acts 6:1–6 and I Peter 5:1–4, the Elders shall devote their time to prayer, the ministry of the Word (by teaching and encouraging sound doctrine), and shepherding God’s flock. These men shall be received as gifts of Christ to His church and set apart as Elders.
An Elder’s term of office may be terminated by resignation or by dismissal. After an Elder, other than the Senior/Lead or Associate Pastor(s), has served two consecutive three-year terms, he may only be elected to the office of Elder after at least one year. The Elders shall take particular responsibility to examine and instruct prospective members, examine and recommend all prospective candidates for offices and positions, oversee the work of the Deacons and appointed church agents and committees, conduct worship services, administer the ordinances of baptism and communion, equip the membership for the work of the ministry, encourage sound doctrine and practice, admonish and correct error, oversee the process of church discipline, coordinate and promote the ministries of the church, and mobilize the church for world missions. The Elders are further to ensure that all who minister the Word to the congregation, including outside speakers, share our fundamental convictions.
The Elders may establish ministry positions or committees to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities. The Elders may also propose funding for new paid staff positions. The membership shall approve all candidates to fill the positions of Pastor and Associate Pastor. The scope and approval of job descriptions for any staff position shall reside in the hands of the Elders. The Pastor shall serve as chairman of the Elders; a vice-chairman and secretary shall be elected from among the Elders to serve for one year or until their successors are elected.
Section 5- Nomination, Selection, and Tenure of Office
Recommendations to fill the office of Elder shall be requested once a year from all church members. A nominating committee consisting of not less than three members of the Pastoral staff shall be appointed by the Board of Elders, who will also designate a chairman of the committee. This committee shall review all nominations and determine each nominee’s qualifications. A proposed slate of nominees prepared by the nominating committee shall then be submitted to the Board of Elders, along with any relevant comments. The Board may then add to the list of nominees and shall then approve or disapprove each nominee at its sole discretion. The newly elected Elders shall assume office immediately. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an Elder may be selected by the Board at any time and begin to serve immediately. Provided the Elder meets all biblical requirements for service in that capacity, there are no required, or defined, limits on an Elder’s term of office.
Section 6 – The Lead Pastor
The Lead Pastor shall be an Elder. He shall perform the duties of an Elder described in Article 10: Section 3, above, and shall be recognized by the church as particularly gifted and called to the full-time ministry of preaching and teaching. He shall be the primary preacher-teacher for all public and regular services of the church and shall be responsible for general oversight of the spiritual welfare of the church. Additionally, the Lead Pastor will administer the ordinances of baptism and communion, and perform such other duties as usually pertain to that office, or as set forth in the constitution. The Lead Pastor shall serve as chairman of Elders’ meetings and shall also appoint one of the Elders to serve as moderator of members’ meetings or appoint a Deacon to fill this role. He shall be nominated by the Elders to fill this ministry position before being voted on by secret ballot. The Lead Pastor leads during the week all staff, employment, and evaluations necessary for day-to-day operations within the church. He shall remain in office an indefinite period of time subject to the following reservations: the Elders reserve the right to dismiss the Lead Pastor upon giving him one month’s written notice of its intention to dismiss. The Lead Pastor must give one month’s notice if he intends to resign. The time limit of a Lead Pastor’s resignation or dismissal is subject to a lesser time if both the Lead Pastor and the church by mutual agreement provide otherwise.
In the absence or incapacity of the Lead Pastor, the Elders shall assume responsibility for his duties, any of which can be delegated.
Section 7 – Deacons
The Deacons shall consist of church members possessing the qualifications described in 1 Timothy 3:8–13 and shall be nominated annually by members of the church. The Board of Elders will compile, review and, at its sole discretion, confirm or disapprove each of the nominations. The Elders shall post written notice in January of each year of the Deacons serving that year. The Deacons shall serve for a three-year term revisited once a year to create staggered terms. After a term of service, the Deacon will rotate off for one year before becoming eligible for renomination. The Deacons shall assist the Elders in the shepherding of the saints, assist the Lead Pastor at Communion and baptismal services, aid in the general spiritual care of the church, and perform other duties as assigned by the Board of Elders. A Deacon shall be a man of dignity, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not fond of sordid gain, holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, first tested and found above reproach.
Section 8 – Deacon Qualifications
The qualifications of a Deacon are set forth in the Bible as:
(a) Of good reputation
(b) Full of the Holy Spirit
(c) Full of wisdom I Timothy 3:8-13
(d) Reverent (worthy of respect)
(e) Not double-tongued (sincere and honest)
(f) Not addicted to much wine (abuse of alcohol and drunkenness forbidden)
(g) Not greedy for money (pursuing dishonest gain)
(h) Holding to the mystery of the faith with a pure (clear) conscience
(i) Wives reverent (worthy of respect)
(j) Wives not slanderers (malicious talkers)
(k) Wives temperate
(l) Wives faithful (trustworthy)
(m) One woman man
(n) Manage their children and household well
Section 9 – Deacon Ministry
Deacons are servants of mercy and practical needs of the congregation who support the work of the church and the Elders. The office of Deacon is described in I Timothy 3:8–13 and Acts 6:1–7. It is a ministry to relieve the Elders, so they can “devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Deacons are responsible for the business and secular affairs of the church, which are to be administered with spiritual grace and in cooperation with and subjection to the Elders.
Deacons will have financial oversight and careful stewardship of the contributions of the congregation and encouragement of stewardship, in conjunction with the leadership of the Elders.
Deacons will have the general executive powers to administer the business affairs the church, working with the finance committee in preparing the church budget and submitting it to the Elders before presenting it for adoption each year to the congregation. They will oversee the counting, recording, banking, budgeting, and distribution of all monies with integrity and faithfulness. The Deacons will keep a benevolence fund to be used specifically for the ministry to the needy.
Deacons will serve in caring ministry assistance and visitation to people in need in the church body. This includes the wise distribution of gifts from the Deacon benevolence fund, and the discerning selection of candidates to receive gifts. Deacons will express compassion towards widowed, poor, orphaned, and foreigner through practical expressions of care, and leadership over property care and maintenance, repairing and expanding the building and grounds of the church.
A Chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary shall be elected from among the Deacons to serve for one year or until their successors are elected. The Pastor or an Elder of His appointment should always be represented in all Deacon Meetings.
Section 10 – Church Clerk
It shall be the duty of the Church Clerk to record the minutes of all regular and special members’ meetings of the church, to preserve an accurate roll of the membership, and to render reports as requested by the Lead Pastor, the Elders, the Deacons, or the church.
The Church Clerk shall be nominated by the Elders and elected by the congregation to serve in terms of three years. In the absence or incapacity of the Church Clerk, the Elders shall appoint a member to perform the duties of the Church Clerk. The Church Clerk shall ensure that dated copies of the most recent copy of this constitution shall be available for all church members.
Section 11 – Church Treasurer
The Church Treasurer, who shall not be an active Elder, nor collect money as a Deacon, shall ensure that all funds and securities of the church are properly secured in such banks, financial institutions, or depositories as appropriate. The Church Treasurer shall also be responsible for presenting regular reports of the account balances, revenues, and expenses of the church at each members’ meeting. This responsibility may be delegated with the approval of the Elders and Deacons. The Church Treasurer shall also ensure that full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements are kept in books belonging to the church, and that adequate controls are implemented to guarantee that all funds belonging to the church are appropriately handled by any officer, employee, or agent of the church. The Church Treasurer shall render to the Elders and Deacons annually, or whenever they may require it, an account of all transactions as Church Treasurer and of the financial condition of the church. The Church Treasurer shall be nominated by the Elders and elected by the congregation to serve in terms of three years.
ARTICLE 11: ELECTIONS OF OFFICERS
Section 1 – Principles
The process for church elections shall be carried out to fulfill the following principles:
Substantial prayer, both individually and corporately, should be an integral part of the election process
Nominations should proceed with the support of the Elders
All candidates for church office should be treated with the grace, kindness, and honesty appropriate in evaluating fellow members
The election process shall express that spirit of mutual trust, openness, and loving consideration that is appropriate within the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Section 2 – Selection of Officers
The election of officers shall be held at a members’ meeting of the church. Names of nominees to serve as Pastors, staff, Elders, Deacons, Church Clerks, or Church Treasurers shall be announced at least two weeks prior, and the election shall proceed as directed by the moderator. Members intending to speak in opposition to a candidate should express their objection to the Elders as far in advance as possible before the relevant church members’ meeting. The moderator shall declare elected all men receiving a simple majority of all votes cast for the office of Elder or Deacon. Pastor or Associate Pastor shall be declared elected by the moderator by receiving a 75 percent vote. Abstention or proxy voting will not be allowed. The persons elected shall assume their respective offices upon election, unless another date has been specifically designated.
Section 3 – Calling of the Pastor
In the calling of any man to this position, the same basic process of calling an Elder must be followed. In addition, however, the church must be given adequate opportunity to assess the preaching gifts of any potential Pastor and, before being asked to express its judgment, must receive assurance from the Elders that, having interviewed the man concerned, they are in no doubt as to his wholehearted assent to the Articles of Faith and Church Covenant. Notice of the nomination of a man to be elected to membership and called as Pastor must be given at two Sunday morning services following the nomination, prior to the vote at a members’ meeting. He should be voted on by secret ballot, with a minimum 75 percent vote of affirmation from all members voting. In the event of a search for a new Pastor is necessary a pulpit committee will be formed comprising of the church Elders to begin the search for a new Pastor. The committee must have a 100% unanimous vote affirming the Pastoral candidate prior to presenting the man to the church body for a vote.
ARTICLE 12: DISMISSAL OF OFFICERS
The Elders of the Church have the right to recommend the dismissal of the Pastor, Associate Pastor, or to recall the Elders or Deacons by bringing a motion to the members’ meeting and having a vote by secret ballot. 75% majority of all votes of qualified members present and voting is required for dismissal.
ARTICLE 13: LICENSING AND ORDAINING
Section 1. Ordination
Ordination refers to the unanimous recognition by the Board of Elders of a man’s call to the ministry, preparation as a shepherd, and qualification to serve. Ordination shall be conferred for life, so long as the man continues to manifest the qualifications of the office.
Section 2. Licensing
The license is issued by the Board of Elders and is given in recognition of a man’s service in a ministry. Its aim is to allow a man to perform the ecclesiastical duties and functions of the church. Licenses will be evaluated—and issued or renewed—each year at the sole discretion of the Elders. Licenses are to be issued only to church members of 5 Bridges Church.
Section 3. Commissioning
When local-church certification is required for ministry or where ordination would other- wise be unnecessary or inappropriate, a person may be commissioned by the Board of Elders to minister. This commissioning continues as long as the opportunity to minister remains in effect and as long as the person maintains the qualifications for ministry, or until the Board of Elders in its sole discretion revokes the commissioning.
Section 4. Marriages and Weddings
All who are ordained, licensed, commissioned or otherwise authorized by this church to solemnize marriages may do so, in the exercise of religious freedom, only where the participants are one man and one woman (Gen. 2:21–24; Matt. 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9). Church facilities may be used for weddings only where both prospective spouses are church members in good standing; church facilities are not available to the general public for that purpose.
ARTICLE 14: INSPECTION OF RECORDS, REPORTS, AND DOCUMENTS
Every member of the Church shall have the right to inspect certain records, reports, documents and the physical properties of the Church. Such inspection shall be accomplished in accordance with applicable Florida Statutes. In accordance with existing law, the Church may restrict and limit the number of inspections or establish an orderly manner for such to be conducted.
ARTICLE 15: INDEMNIFICATION
Should any member(s) of the Senior Church Staff or Church Ministry Staff be faced with actual or threatened litigation as a result of the performance of their proper and normal duties, the Church will provide a sufficient and appropriate legal defense and/or indemnify such staff member(s) for costs and expenses relating to such actual or threatened litigation. This obligation to indemnify and/or provide a defense shall cease if at any time it is discovered that the staff member(s) in question acted contrary to Holy Scripture, in violation of law or otherwise acted in any way that was dishonest or lacking complete candor.
ARTICLE 16: DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Believing that the Bible commands Christians to make every effort to live at peace and to resolve disputes with each other in private or within the Christian Church (Matthew 18: 15–20, I Corinthians 6: 1–8), the church shall require its members to resolve conflict among themselves according to biblically based principles, without reliance on the secular courts. Consistent with its call to peacemaking, the church shall encourage the use of biblically based principles to resolve disputes between itself and those outside the church, whether Christian or pagan and whether individuals or corporate entities. We do believe, however, that a Christian may seek compensation for injuries from another Christian’s insurance company as long as the claim is pursued without malice or slander (Ephesians 4:31-32)
ARTICLE 17: AMENDMENTS
This Constitution or any of its provisions may be altered, amended, or repealed, and a new constitution may be adopted at any time with an affirmation of change, with the recommendation of the Elders and reflected by 75 percent vote at any special or regular business meeting at which a quorum is present, the proposed amendment(s) being announced two weeks prior to the vote.
ARTICLE 18: DISSOLUTION
Upon the winding up and dissolution of this corporation, after paying or adequately providing for the debts and obligations of the corporation, the remaining assets shall become the Trust of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Updated: November 4, 2022.
THE 2000 BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE
I. The Scriptures: The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
II. God: There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all-powerful and all-knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him, we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
God the Father: God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and all-wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men. (Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9- 11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.)
God the Son: Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross, He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever-present Lord. (Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; 53; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44- 50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22- 24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23- 26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4- 5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5- 6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21- 25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.)
God the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination, He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration, He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service. (Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14- 16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6- 7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.)
III. Man: Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. In the beginning, man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love. Genesis 1:26-30; 2:5,7,18-22; 3; 9:6; Psalms 1; 8:3-6; 32:1-5; 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 17:5; Matthew 16:26; Acts 17:26-31; Romans 1:19-32; 3:10-18,23; 5:6,12,19; 6:6; 7:14-25; 8:14-18,29; 1 Corinthians 1:21-31; 15:19,21-22; Ephesians 2:1-22; Colossians 1:21-22; 3:9-11
IV. Salvation: Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.
Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerated person’s life.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed. (Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29- 39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11- 14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.)
V. God’s Purpose of Grace: Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.)
VI. The Church: A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of the pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all ages, believers from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. (Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3.)
VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.
(Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41- 42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.)
VIII. The Lord’s Day: The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
(Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19- 28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5- 10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.)
IX. The Kingdom: The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by a trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age. (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 3:2; 4:8-10,23; 12:25-28; 13:1-52; 25:31-46; 26:29; Mark 1:14-15; 9:1; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2; 12:31-32; 17:20-21; 23:42; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:6-7; 17:22-31; Romans 5:17; 8:19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 11:10,16; 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 4:13; Revelation 1:6,9; 5:10; 11:15; 21-22.)
X. Last Things: God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
(Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22- 37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.)
XI. Evangelism and Missions: It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ. (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 6:1-8; Matthew 9:37-38; 10:5-15; 13:18-30, 37-43; 16:19; 22:9-10; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 10:1-18; 24:46-53; John 14:11-12; 15:7-8,16; 17:15; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2; 8:26-40; 10:42- 48; 13:2-3; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 3:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 2:1-3; 11:39- 12:2; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 22:17.)
XII. Education: Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinated with the causes of missions and general benevolence and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary for a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people. In Christian education, there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists. (Deuteronomy 4:1,5,9,14; 6:1-10; 31:12-13; Nehemiah 8:1-8; Job 28:28; Psalms 19:7ff.; 119:11; Proverbs 3:13ff.; 4:1-10; 8:1-7,11; 15:14; Ecclesiastes 7:19; Matthew 5:2; 7:24ff.; 28:19-20; Luke 2:40; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 2:3,8-9; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17; Hebrews 5:12-6:3; James 1:5; 3:17.)
XIII. Stewardship: God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth. (Genesis 14:20; Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 8:18; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 6:1-4,19-21; 19:21; 23:23; 25:14-29; Luke 12:16-21,42; 16:1-13; Acts 2:44-47; 5:1-11; 17:24-25; 20:35; Romans 6:6-22; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 6:19-20; 12; 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 12:15; Philippians 4:10-19; 1 Peter 1:18-19.)
XIV. Cooperation: Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament. (Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1- 16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18.)
XV. The Christian and the Social Order: All Christians are under an obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of goodwill in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.
(Exodus 20:3-17; Leviticus 6:2-5; Deuteronomy 10:12; 27:17; Psalm 101:5; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 8:16; Matthew 5:13-16,43-48; 22:36- 40; 25:35; Mark 1:29-34; 2:3ff.; 10:21; Luke 4:18-21; 10:27-37; 20:25; John 15:12; 17:15; Romans 12–14; 1Corinthians 5:9-10; 6:1-7; 7:20- 24; 10:23-11:1; Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Philemon; James 1:27; 2:8.)
XVI. Peace and War: It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ, they should do all in their power to put an end to war. The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7; 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2.)
XVII. Religious Liberty: God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power. (Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.)
XVIII. The Family: God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation. Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.
(Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3- 9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.)