The day was planned. Invitations were distributed throughout the community. It all started when a couple of believing families moved to an area and didn’t find a church of their convictions. They started meeting to study the Bible and pray. After researching the area and churches, they came to the conclusion that they should start a church.
Not knowing exactly how to start a church, they contacted a former pastor. He led them to contact a Baptist church planting agency. They learned early on the importance of “the documents.” They learned that they needed to adopt a Statement of Faith and write a Constitution. These founding documents would define the church doctrinally and determine who would qualify to be members of the church. Understanding that not every person attending the church would necessarily believe the same, the church needed to define what they believed about the Bible and what baseline would be required to become a member. The group was not without assistance in writing this document. Most church planting agencies like BCP have a model Statement of Faith and Constitution which can be used when the church is in her infancy. The group formed a fellowship which then voted and adopted their original documents.
The big day was finally here….. It was the Charter Membership. All those who were believers in Jesus Christ, biblically baptized, and who without reservation held to “the documents” came forward and signed the charter membership. The church was formed!
Years later a pastor came along and read those important documents. He agreed to the documents, and the membership extended a call to be their pastor. But soon after, the pastor began to make changes that affected the documents–things like changing the Covenant to remove the prohibition on drinking alcohol. He suggested installing a board of elders. He recommended changing the statement on eschatology to allow for a more Reformed view. It wasn’t long before he proposed dropping the published name Baptist from the church. These are some of the changes taking place in Baptist churches throughout North America.
Here’s the question! Is it ethically right to change a church from the original intent and documents? Did the pastor accepting the call to the church deceive the church when he accepted the call, knowing he would lead the church away from their original documents? Did he tell them clearly that he didn’t agree with the church documents and why, and did the church know his intentions when they called him? Is it theft when a pastor knowingly leads a church away from her original documents and philosophy of ministry? Are some pastors stealing churches? These are serious questions that have moral implications.
Why change an established church? Why not plant another church? Is it because there was a body of believers with funds and a building that could be used to fulfill his position and preferences?
II Corinthians 10:5 says we will all stand before the Bema Seat of Christ and give account for what we have done. Dealing with the church of Jesus Christ is very serious business and should be handled with the highest integrity. May God help each of us to walk before Him with a clear conscience and respect for the “founding documents.”