Note: Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Enid church in Enid, Oklahoma, a Baptist church. Wade has succinctly explained why Christians should say ‘no’ to signing Membership Covenants.
Five Reasons to Say “No” to a Church Covenantby Wade Burleson ©
simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
“…Karen filed for an immediate annulment of her marriage to Jordan apart from the counsel of the church… (by) signing the Membership Covenant, a member agrees … to receive our care…”
Karen had respectfully requested withdrawal of membership from Village Church, but the elders wouldn’t allow it because she had not sought their counsel. She refused to come “under their care,” so they put Karen under discipline. No Village Church member under discipline, wrote Village church authorities, can “withdraw” from membership. Therefore, Village pastors/elders “refused to accept” Karen’s request to withdraw from Village membership.
This is an ugly situation all the way around. Village Church leaders–regardless of the vocal criticism they receive–believe they are men of integrity. They are, in their minds, fulfilling their pastoral role and abiding by the church covenant they demanded everyone sign before they became members. Some who are not members of Village are blaming Karen for signing a church covenant. Nobody should blame Karen. She, like other evangelicals, probably had no idea of the ultimate consequences of signing church covenants. The guilt lies with church authorities who demanded signatures from prospective members that turned their spiritual formation and maturation over to mere men instead of the Holy Spirit.
Read Village’s Church Covenant. It’s chilling when it comes to the authority of elders and church leaders. Here are some of the phrases that the prospective member must read and then sign, vowing their allegiance to obey:
- I understand the importance of submission to church leadership
- I will submit to the elders and other appointed leaders of the church
- I will agree to walk through the steps of marriage reconciliation at The Village Church before pursuing divorce from my spouse
I’ve written several articles stating that the major problem in modern evangelical Christianity is theauthoritarianism of evangelical leaders. I have sought to explain how pastors/elders “twist the Scriptures” and demand “obedience and submission” to this alleged authority. Jesus tells us that that true ‘spiritual leaders’ are only servants, never masters. Yet, evangelical leaders seem not to be listening to Jesus.
With this in mind, I would like to give you five reasons why I would never sign a church membership covenant in order to become a member.
(1). A church covenant makes the Holy Spirit irrelevant in my life.
Wayne Grudem and CBMW seem to be uninterested in correcting the gaps and flaws in complementarianism which make it easy for abusive husbands to get away with abuse. Here are my experiences and observations about Wayne Grudem which make me say this. 1. Approximately three years ago, one of our guest posters informed us that […]
This helpful excerpt is by author Elizabeth Esther whose excellent book Girl at The End of the World I bought, read, and recommend. Elizabeth Esther’s list is important to keep in mind to avoid an abusive church. You can follow Elizabeth on social media. – Velour
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is: what are some signs of a spiritually abusive church? My book, “Girl at The End of the World,” tells my story of growing up in an abusive church. But I thought it might be helpful if I shared a list of “red-flag” warning signs here on my site as well. Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing. EE.
- Personality Centric: a pastor whose charming, charismatic, intense, persuasive and intelligent personality holds unquestioned sway over his/her congregation. He/she is treated like a celebrity. Not held accountable. Not held to same standard of morality as the rest of the congregation.
- Operates Independently: no oversight, doesn’t answer to an established denomination, there is no way for grievances to be filed or addressed, even in cases of outright abuse the police or civil authorities are not called.
- Engulfment: “true members” of the church devote their WHOLE lives to the church, center all their activities around church activities, discouraged to have friends outside the church, family members who express concern about the church are cut off, leaving the church is the same as leaving God.
- Busyness: a plethora of required/mandatory-without-saying-it’s-mandatory activities that fill up the weekly schedule, giving time and energy for free to various hard labor projects (cleaning and cooking for pastor’s family, for example).
- Stalking: Big Brother-type monitoring is called “just keeping each other accountable.” Calling to “just check in” if a member misses church meeting. Approving clothing, daily decisions, watching online activity for “problematic” opinions and posts–all under the guise of “spiritual care” for the person’s soul.
- Coded Language: an ingrown church has developed a special, insider language/lingo that only those who have been there for a long time understand. Sometimes common, everyday words are given different definitions particular to that church; ie. “keep sweet” is a phrase used in some polygamist circles that means women should behave in a church-approved way.
- Unrealistic Promises: members of an unhealthy church are often seduced by big talk about all the wealth, blessings and riches God will give them if they just devote their lives to this church. Delivery on these promises is rare. Those who do not experience God’s blessings are told they have “weak faith.”
- Courting Rituals: a man must seek leadership approval (above parental approval) before seeking “to court” (or date) a woman, courting couples must follow a prescribed set of rules according to arbitrary traditions established by the church; ie. no kissing until the wedding day.
- Shunning: if someone leaves the church, church leadership requires all other members to ignore this person until they “repent.” New church members are told to shun family members who don’t support the church. Parents are told to shun “rebellious” teenagers. Husbands are to shun “unsubmissive” wives. The church comes first in all relationships.
- “The Ends Justify the Means:” a spiritually abusive church justifies all kinds of oppressive behavior by saying they only desire to truly serve and love God. “We’re doing this for Jesus, so it’s OK!” ; ie. spanking children to “break the will” because the end result is a child who will love and serve God for his/her whole life. Be wary of a church that emphasizes “purity of doctrine” over the WAY it treats people. Methods and processes matter. The ends do NOT justify the means.
Used with permission.
A wonderful book that I bought and would recommend. – Velour
“Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a Christian leader, because of title or position, has moral authority over another Christian. Pagans will seek offices that grant them power and authority in order to exert their leadership (lordship) over others. Jesus said that His people were not to seek to rule over others, but to serve others selflessly and love others unconditionally. When a church or home gives in to Fraudulent Authority, the people of Christ become more pagan in practice than Christian. Fraudulent Authority teaches you how to recognize this dangerous practice of Christians seeking to exert power and authority over people in evangelical churches and homes and what you can do about it.”
From the Author