In God’s kindness we formally “constituted” as a church this past Sunday (02 November 2014). What, on earth, does it mean to “constitute” as a church? If you grab your concordance or your electronic, searchable Bible you will search in vain to find the term “constitute” in your New Testament!
To constitute as a church is not a Biblical mandate. However, there is wisdom in the process as we follow a long line of faithful churches through history who have benefited from this process. In addition there are a number of modern, legal requirements which having a formal church constitution fulfils.
On one hand, I am happy to argue (as I have in other forums) that a Biblical church is not simply any gathering of two or three Christians. Two or three Christian brothers having coffee and a Bible Study are not a church. Yet, I would also argue that, Biblically a church can be a church without a constitution. Perhaps in our modern day that would not necessarily be wise, but it is not required to be a church in the biblical sense.
Derived form the New Testament and passed down to use through Church history we can find the following criteria suggested for defining a church: 1) Biblically qualified leadership; 2) Sound, Biblical preaching; 3) Administration of the sacraments/ordinances; 4) Practice of Church Discipline. Within various Protestant traditions the actual practice of these four points will vary slightly, but you will find them there in some way.
We are a Baptist Church. Therefore we are a congregation of believers to be led by elders and served by deacons who are appointed and affirmed by the congregation. It isn’t that only deacons serve or even only elders teach, but that these two offices are recognised based upon Biblical qualifications (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1) and formally appointed for these roles.
Therefore our constitution not only meets legal requirement for the New Zealand charities commission (as a charitable entity, we must have a formal “rules document”), but more importantly it spells out, from Scripture, how we will be structured and how we will appoint members and leaders for our congregation.
We don’t yet have formally appointed elders and deacons, but in the kindness of the Lord we have men who are qualified and gifted for these roles. Now with a congregational adopted constitution we have an agreed process whereby we can proceed with the formal appointment of men to these offices in the near future.
You can see our formally approved “Governing Documents” including our Statement of Faith, Membership Covenant, and Constitution on our website.
We look forward to seeing the Lord’s continued work in us as a gathered church as we seek to honour Him, not only in what we do as a church, but how we do it.