How should you deal with a bad statement of faith, church covenant, or church constitution that you inherit in a new pastorate?

It depends on your circumstances. But here are four different tactics that you might find helpful.

  1. Ignore it…for a time. Let sleeping dogs lie. If no one has used the statement of faith in twenty years, teach your congregation God’s Word until they understand the need to change the statement of faith. Then change it. In the meantime, let it sit in the back of the file cabinet.
  2. Interpret it. If you have to use a flawed document for a while, put the best possible spin on it. If the statement of faith, covenant, or constitution contains ambiguous phrases, clarify what you understand the statement to mean.
  3. Augment it. If your statement of faith simply says, “We believe in justification,” make sure that prospective members understand that you as a church believe that justification is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
  4. Change it. If you can, ultimately you want to change your bad documents into good ones. Often this is a long, laborious process. Yet reforming a church’s documents so that they are biblically faithful, pastorally wise, and practically sound is one of the most important steps in leading a church to reflect God’s glorious character in its life together.

(This material has been adapted from Greg Gilbert’s article, “Dealing With Bad Documents”)

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