For a complete Table of Contents for this Journal, click here.
“Scripture is the only document our church needs!” Have you ever thought that?
Okay, fine. But I have a few questions for you. First, who exactly would you say Jesus is, and can I get baptized in your church if I, like, totally disagree with you on his divinity?
Also, is it okay for me to call myself a member of your church and—you know—never, ever attend?
And—last question—who in your church, generally speaking, decides who the pastors are? I mean, does the church just kinda know? The Spirit tells them? Or, maybe, you personally speak for the Spirit!
Yes, Scripture should be a church’s sole authority. But the confessions, covenants, and constitutions of a church articulate what the members agree the Scripture teaches on what they should believe, how they should live, and how they should be governed.
Church documents are a prosaic topic, to be sure. But they facilitate unity. They protect a church from being governed by the passions of the moment. And they force a congregation and its leaders to be careful, deliberate, reflective, and, hopefully, biblical. Not bad, for a boring old administrator’s job.
To put it another way, church documents are kind. It is kind to tell people what you think up front. It is kind say what you will expect from them or how disagreements will be resolved.
Imagine a husband and wife, a year into marriage, realizing they have dramatically different views about commitment and faithfulness because they never bothered with vows. “Ah, that’s just paperwork!” Or, imagine your boss asking you to do one thing when you thought your job was something else because you never had a job description.
This is what church documents are for—letting everyone know what their job is, and what covenant faithfulness looks like.
Believe it or not, we at 9Marks get questions about church documents perhaps as much as any other topic. And my guess is that a lot of our pastor-readers are not surprised. They know how crucial good documents are.
For reasons like these, we offer this edition of the 9Marks Journal to help you think through different aspects of confessions, covenants, and constitutions, as well as a couple of other documents. If you have follow up questions, try the 9Marks Mailbag, or just ask an older, wiser pastor! We pray this is useful.