Constitution of New Life Community Church

Preamble

We, the members of New Life Community Church do ordain and establish the following articles, to which we voluntarily submit ourselves.

I. Name

The official name of this church is New Life Community Church of Greater Baltimore, Inc. Herein it shall be referred to as New Life Community Church.

II. Purpose

The purpose of this church is to glorify the God of the Scriptures (Eph. 3:21) in promoting His worship (1 Pet. 2:5), edifying saints (Eph. 4:11-16), evangelizing sinners (Acts 13:44-48), planting and strengthening churches (Acts 16:5), and showing benevolence to the needy (Gal. 2:10; 6:9-10). Therefore we are committed to the proclamation of God’s perfect Law and the glorious Gospel of His grace through all the world (Matt. 28:19) and to the defense of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

III. Beliefs

We hold the Bible as the final authority in all matters of faith and life above the laws, traditions, and confessions of men.  We accept the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 as a reliable written expression of what the Bible teaches. This historic document, although imperfect, is an excellent summary of the things we believe. It serves the church in her efforts to combat error, edify the saints, and testify to the world.

IV. Membership

Every believer joined to Christ by faith ought to be joined to a local assembly of God’s people (Acts 2:41-42, 47; 5:14). Any person shall be eligible for membership in this church who professes repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, manifests a life transformed by the power of Christ, has been baptized as a believer, expresses substantial agreement with the purpose and beliefs of this church, and who is willing to submit to its government and discipline.

A. Types of Membership

Each member of the church is acknowledged to form a vital part of the body and to have a particular function in the life of that body (1 Cor. 12:14-27). Practical considerations, however, require that certain distinctions be recognized in the membership of this church:

Regular Members. All who are received into the membership of the church according to the procedures set forth in Paragraph C below, who continue in the duties of membership as summarized in Paragraph D, and who do not come under the corrective discipline of the church as set forth in Section VI, shall be considered regular members in good standing entitled to all the rights and privileges of membership in the church. Children received into membership will be considered regular members without voting privileges until they are 18 years of age.

Associate Members. Regular members who move away from our area and who cannot find a local church with which to unite may retain an associate membership in this church, provided they maintain regular communication with the elders. Nevertheless, they are urged to diligently seek a church with which they can unite elsewhere. At the discretion of the elders, associate membership may also be granted to invalids, Christian workers, and others whose relation to the church involves unusual circumstances, or more substantial doctrinal differences. An associate member shall not be allowed to vote in any business meeting of the church.

B. Reception of members

A person who desires to become a member should contact one of the elders and request to be interviewed by them. During the interview the elders will seek to determine whether that person has a credible profession of faith in Christ, has been baptized as a believer, is in substantial agreement with the purpose and beliefs of the church, and intends to give wholehearted support to its ministry and submit to its government and discipline. If the applicant has been a member of another Bible-believing church, a letter of inquiry into his or her standing with that church may be sent before a final decision is made.

If the elders are satisfied that the applicant meets the requirements for membership, they shall announce the same to the congregation at a formal gathering of the church, and a public testimony of faith in Christ will be given. Time will be allowed for objections or questions to be raised by any member concerning the applicant’s manner of life or doctrine. The elders may postpone the reception of a person into the membership until proper investigation can be made concerning objections which in their judgment are sufficiently serious.

Barring any unresolved issues or particular disqualifications the person will be publicly received at a formal gathering of the church (Matt. 3:6-12; Acts 9:26, 27; 1John 4:1; Rev. 2:2). New or unbaptized believers will first be baptized by immersion. Reception of new members will include a congregational reading of the duties of members (Paragraph D).

C. Privileges of Membership

Membership in this church includes the following privileges:

1. Attending, participating in, and voting during church business meetings (Acts 6:1-6; 1Cor. 5:4-7; 13);

2. Continued enjoyment of the Lord’s Supper, church meals, and broader fellowship activities (Acts 2:42-48, 1 Cor. 11:18-26, 33);

3. Receiving the committed oversight and care of the pastors (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3);

4. Receiving the committed care of the members (John 13:34-35; Heb. 3:12-13; 1John 3:16-18; 4:7);

5. Laboring in and leading ministries of the church as one’s gifts, graces and calling make appropriate (1Cor. 12:4-27; Eph. 4:7, 11-12, 16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

D. Duties of Members

Each member of the church, and the membership collectively, should commit to the following duties of membership:  Having been brought by our sovereign God to repentant faith in Christ and into living union with Him and His church, we promise, relying on God’s grace, to diligently serve Him in the joyful duties of relating 1) personally to God, 2) to our own family, 3) to the church the body of Christ, local and universal and 4) to the unbelieving world:

As image bearers of God, restored to fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ, we seek to faithfully worship Him both publicly and privately. We endeavor to abide in Christ, making regular use of all the private means of grace available to us: secret prayer; reading and meditating on God’s Word, continual maintenance of a good conscience, periodic and wholesome self-examination, and enjoyment of the Lord’s Day. In loving submission to Him, we seek to hear His commandments in His Word and to obey them, pursuing holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Having been blessed by the Lord with our particular family, we seek to live out our service to Christ in our homes. Recognizing our family members as our closest neighbors, we seek to love our wives, husbands, children, and parents. As husbands, we seek to love our wives as Christ loves the church, by leading, understanding, honoring,  providing, and protecting. As wives we seek to respect, submit to, and help our husbands as well as to serve the welfare of the family and home. As parents we welcome children as a blessing and are committed to bring them up in the ways of the Lord. As children, we purpose to obey and honor our parents in the Lord.

As those adopted and placed into the spiritual family of God, the universal church, and having been directed in the Lord’s wisdom to this particular local church, we promise to uphold the public worship of God in accordance with His Holy Word; not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together; to faithfully attend and give obedient attention to the Word of God preached; to submit to Christ’s ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and to give ourselves faithfully to corporate prayer.  In reliance upon the grace of the living God, we hereby determine to exercise a mutual care and watchfulness for one another, striving for the good of the whole church. To this end we commit to use the gifts God has given us for the building up of the body. We will strive to carry out our mutual scriptural responsibilities such as prayer for one another, hospitality, encouragement, exhortation, comfort, confession, forgiveness, and restoration. In submission to our Chief Shepherd, we will honor and submit to the authority of the pastors of the church within biblically defined bounds.  We agree to contribute freely and cheerfully of our energy, time, and income, as God has graciously prospered us, for the maintenance of a faithful and evangelical ministry among us, for the support of the needy among us, and for the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

As the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we will, by divine enablement, seek to contribute to the church’s distinctive identity as “a city set on a hill”.  .To that end, we will deny ungodliness and every worldly lust, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. We will be zealous for good deeds and strive to maintain a clear conscience before God and men so that we do not bring reproach upon the name of our King but rather adorn His gospel. To attract sinners to our compassionate and willing Savior, we will take opportunities to make the gospel known by life and words, to our unbelieving family, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances. As dual citizens of heaven and this land we will pray for, honor, and be subject to the governing authorities in so far as they do not contradict God’s laws. Having known the mercy of God we will seek to defend the poor and the fatherless and do justice to the afflicted and needy.

In reliance upon the grace of God to enable us, we joyfully commit to these solemn duties.

E. Termination

The church shall recognize the termination of a person’s membership by:

Voluntary Resignation. A member may request to terminate membership in this church. This request will be communicated to the elders and should give the specific reason(s) why resignation is desired. Under healthy circumstances, such a request will be granted, or may be granted after due admonition, by the elders.  The church may refuse a member’s voluntary resignation for the purpose of proceeding with a process of church discipline. The resignation of a member will be announced to the church by the elders.

Church Exclusion. If a member habitually forsakes the assembling of the saints without showing just cause, or has made significant changes in doctrinal belief or practice that undermine the unity or testimony of the church, he may be excluded from the membership at the recommendation of the elders and as confirmed by a majority of the members present and voting.

Excommunication. Membership may also be terminated as a result of church discipline (Section VI).

V. Leadership

Jesus Christ alone is the Head of His church (Col. 1:18) and has ordained that individual churches should be governed by Himself through office bearers. These men are endowed by His Spirit with the gifts and graces needed to accomplish their work. Therefore, it is the duty of the whole congregation to discover those to whom Christ the Lord has imparted the necessary graces and gifts for office bearing. Christ has ordained that local churches are to be administered by elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). Church leaders lead as directed and limited by Scripture. They guide the church by the teaching and application of Scripture to the hearts and lives of each member.

General Prerequisites. All officers of this church must be regular members. Each man set apart to either of these offices should have an inward conviction that the Lord is calling him to the particular office. The church should provide the external confirmation of that call as it observes evidence of the gifts and graces which Scripture requires for the particular office. Any individual set apart to either of these offices must be able to conscientiously affirm his agreement with the church’s Confession of Faith and this constitution. If he at any time moves from this position, he is under spiritual and moral obligation to immediately make that fact known to the elders.

A. Office of Elder

Qualifications. The qualifications for a man chosen to fill the office of elder are clearly set forth in Scripture, particularly in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

Number. The New Testament does not stipulate the number of elders that should serve a church. All those qualified, and only those qualified, should be recognized as elders. They may remain in office for as long as they remain qualified, able, and willing to serve. From the New Testament we conclude that the healthy norm for a church is to have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 5:17; James 5:14).

Roles and Responsibilities. Elders are responsible to oversee the spiritual ministries of the church, the implementation of discipline, and the welfare of the members “as they that shall give an account” to God (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2,3). As shepherds they are to feed the flock of God, primarily with the Word of God (Acts 20:28, 31-32), both publicly and privately (2 Tim. 4:1-4, Acts 20:20, 31). As overseers they are to govern and care for the house of God (1 Tim. 3:4; Heb. 13:17, 24). As elders they are to demonstrate the maturity hopefully found in older men. While every elder should be “apt to teach,” some will be more engaged in formal and public teaching, while others will be more engaged in pastoring (that is, private teaching and admonishing) and governing. In view of the fact that the responsibilities of this office are numerous and weighty, it is highly desirable that at least one elder should devote his full time to the work of the ministry, laboring in the Word and in teaching and in the oversight of the church. The church is responsible to give adequate financial support to those that labor on its behalf (1 Cor. 9:9-11; 1 Tim. 5:17,18).

Authority. Elders have authority to manage the house of God (1 Tim. 3:4; 5:17), but this authority is delegated by God and is accountable to God (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17), is limited to the sphere of the local church (1 Tim. 3:15), and is confined to the declarations of Scripture. Where the Scriptures give explicit or implicit direction to the church on a topic, this direction is never to be contravened. When no regulative word from Christ is given, church officers are subject to the general principles of Scripture and to the light and order displayed in creation (1 Cor. 11:13-14; 14:40). The authority of an elder is to be exercised with the disposition of a servant and example and not a lord (1 Pet. 5:3; 2 Cor. 1:24). The elders should seek the counsel and support of the congregation when to do so would serve the interests of the church and would not compromise their God-given authority. They should be willing to yield to the congregation when appropriate to preserve the unity of the body (Acts 19:30; 21:11-14). Congregational approval or suffrage is mandatory in the recognition and confirmation of church officers (Acts 6:1-6; 14:21-23), in the exercise of the most serious acts of church discipline (1 Cor. 5:4-5, 13; 2 Cor. 2:6), for any major change in the practice of the church, and for any change to this constitution.

The authority of every elder is the same, so each elder has equal rule in the church. Their diversity in gifts and functions does not overrule their parity.

Oversight of Elders. While elders are overseers of the flock, they are themselves members of the flock. Therefore, each individual elder is entitled to the same privileges, is obligated by the same responsibilities, and is subject to the same discipline as are the other members of the church. Thus, each individual elder is both under the oversight of his fellow elders and accountable to the church as a whole (Matt. 18:17; 23:9; 26:31; 2 Cor. 11:19-20; Gal. 2:11; 3John 1, 9, 10).

B. Office of Deacon

Qualifications. The qualifications for a man chosen to fulfill the office of deacon are particularly set forth in Acts 6:3 and 1 Tim. 3:8-13.

Number of Deacons. The number of deacons shall not be fixed. The church shall choose as many as are needed for the work to be done from among the men who give evidence of having the Scriptural qualifications for that office (Acts 6:3).

Responsibilities. Deacons are responsible to administer the ordinary business, secular affairs, financial accounting, and benevolent concerns of the church so that the elders may devote themselves to spiritual oversight, prayer, and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:3,4). They must fulfill the duties of their office in cooperation with and in submission to the elders.

C. Recognition and Installation of Officers

Identification of Potential Candidates. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, each local church is responsible to select men for the offices of elder and deacon (Acts 6:3-6; 14:23; Titus 1:5). Christ gives gifts to his church, which gifting is recognized by the people.  Officers are chosen by the people, and appointed by the elders. At least once annually, or any time the need for additional leadership becomes evident, the elders will instruct the church concerning the qualifications for the office of elder and the office of deacon as given in the New Testament (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Acts 6: 3-6). The number of officers being sought will be noted and explained. The membership will recognize by advisory ballot those whom they believe to be gifted and qualified to serve as elder or deacon. These ballots will be collected by a specified date and tabulated by the elders.  Those thus recognized by one-fourth or more of the regular members of the church shall be considered by the elders. Normally officers will be selected from among the membership. In the Lord’s providence, however, a need may arise to call a man external to the church. The elders may put forward a man for the office that they recognize as gifted and qualified for such an external call.

Examination and Confirmation by the Elders. The elders will consider the men identified to determine their fitness for the office according to their biblical qualifications, beliefs, and agreement with this constitution. Those considered gifted and qualified for the office of elder shall especially be examined in regards to their doctrinal beliefs and their ability to defend those beliefs from the Scriptures (Titus 1:9). Those who are confirmed by the elders shall be presented to the church for final consideration and vote.

Discussion of Qualifications and Voting. When a candidate for office is being considered during a business meeting of the church, he and any members of his immediate family shall leave the room while his qualifications are openly discussed by the congregation in the fear of God and the light of Scripture. At a subsequent business meeting no sooner than two weeks following, a written ballot shall be taken. It is hoped that the vote of the congregation will be unanimous, but if unanimity is not realized, no less than a three-fourths majority of the members present and voting shall be required for the recognition of an office-bearer.

Public Installation. Following the recognition of an office-bearer by vote of the congregation, he shall be publicly installed in his office at a regular worship service by the prayer of the whole church and the laying on of the hands of the elders (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

D. Continuation and Termination of Officers

Elders and deacons will hold office as long as they are faithful to their calling, have the confidence of the congregation, and desire to continue to serve. An elder’s or deacon’s service may be terminated by resignation, by loss of confidence, by dismissal, or in some cases of corrective discipline.

The church shall reconfirm (or express the withdrawal of) its confidence in each of its office-bearers at its annual meeting every four years following an officer’s installation. When the time comes to consider an officer for continued service, he and any members of his immediate family shall leave the room while his qualifications are openly discussed by the congregation in the fear of God and the light of Scripture. A written ballot shall be taken. In the event that an officer fails to receive an expression of confidence from the congregation (defined as a simple majority of members voting), he is removed from his office but will remain a member in the church.

If relations between an elder or deacon and the congregation become detrimental to the health and unity of the church, all scriptural efforts shall be sought to reconcile the officer with the members.  In such cases, all officers of the church should esteem the unity of the church above personal considerations and are therefore encouraged to consider resigning to avoid the detrimental effects of significant disharmony and discord between the leader and the members.   Whereas in Scripture we are commanded not to sow discord or be divisive in the body, in an effort to preserve the unity and health of the church the members are encouraged to maintain open and honest discussion with the officers and other members regarding concerns with the direction and conduct of the officers in the church. Any two members with reason to believe that an elder or deacon should be dismissed should express such concern to the elders. Any such action shall be taken in accordance with the scriptural instructions in Matt. 18:15-17 and 1 Tim. 5:17-21. A special meeting to consider the dismissal of any officer may be called by the elders or congregation as specified in Section VII. An elder or deacon may be dismissed by a  majority vote of the members present and voting at a duly convened meeting of the church.

In the event that the congregation removes a full time elder from office, arrangements for his financial settlement shall be the responsibility of the remaining elders.

Absence of Elders

If, in the Lord’s providence, the church finds itself without biblically qualified and appointed elders, the church shall form a steering committee of men to facilitate and guide the church until new leadership is established. The method of selection and number of men to serve on the steering committee shall be agreed upon by a majority vote of regular members present and voting. The steering committee shall serve the church by scheduling and organizing meetings, coordinating ongoing labors in the church, directing the use of the church’s finances, and leading a search for one or more new elders. The steering committee shall seek the involvement of like-minded churches that can provide counsel, help to maintain the work and worship of the church, and assist in the installation of biblically qualified elders.  The steering committee shall be dissolved when at least one elder is installed in accordance with this constitution.

VI. Discipline

A. Formative Discipline

Every disciple of Christ must be under His discipline (instruction and correction) which He administers to each believer directly and personally (1 Cor. 11:30-32; Heb. 12:5-11) as well as through the agency of the church (Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 3:12-14). Mutual submission to one another and to the elders whom the Lord has set over his church (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5) will result in the sanctification of each member individually and of the church collectively. There are occasions, however, when this formative discipline alone is insufficient and corrective discipline becomes necessary.

B. Corrective Discipline

Corrective discipline becomes necessary when heretical doctrine or disorderly, immoral, or scandalous conduct appears among the members of the church or those identifying with the church. As a general rule and whenever feasible, an effort must be made to resolve difficulty, correct error, and remove offense through counsel and admonition before more drastic steps are taken (Gal. 6:1; James 5:19-20). The scriptural principles given to us in Matt. 18:15-16; Rom. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 5:19-20; and Titus 3:10 must be carefully considered and appropriately applied to each case of corrective discipline. Application of these Scriptures will result in varying measures of discipline, including but not limited to private admonition by the elders; public admonition (Matt. 18:17; 1 Tim. 5:20); public reproof to be accompanied by the suspension of some or all of the privileges of membership according to the nature and gravity of the offense (2 Thess. 3:6-15); and in the most extreme cases, excommunication from the membership of the church (Matt. 18:17; Rom. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 1:20; Titus 3:10) as in the case of serious immorality (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 6:9-10) or damning errors inconsistent with a credible profession of faith (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Thess. 2:11-12; 1 Tim. 4:1).

Since the church is a spiritual and religious institution, the punishments inflicted by the church in corrective discipline are also spiritual (2 Cor. 2:6-7). They are intended to effect repentance through a sense of sorrow and shame (2 Cor. 2:7; 2 Thess. 3:14). The church has no right, however, to confiscate goods, revoke conjugal rights or familial responsibilities, or inflict corporal punishment of any kind. Nevertheless, a member guilty of criminal actions may be delivered to the civil authorities according to the rule of Scripture (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-15; 4:15).

All acts of excommunication must be executed by the gathered church (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:4). To be valid, an act of excommunication must have the approval of at least two-thirds of the members present and voting at a duly convened meeting of the church. All the members of the church are obliged to submit to and enforce as appropriate the decision of the church in acts of corrective discipline.

The goals of corrective discipline are always the glory of God, the welfare and purity of the church (1 Cor. 5:6), the outward witness of the church (Rom. 2:24), and the restoration and spiritual growth of the offender (1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 2:5-8; 1 Tim. 1:20). Therefore it is the duty of the church to forgive, to comfort, and to restore to full membership and warm fellowship a disciplined member who gives satisfactory evidence of his repentance (2 Cor. 2:6-8; Matt. 18:18-20). In such cases, excommunication shall be rescinded at a duly convened meeting of the church by at least a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting.

VII. Business Meetings

A. Calling of Meetings

There shall be an annual business meeting of the church at which reports are given by the elders and deacons, including a presentation of the church’s finances and budget. Also, an advisory ballot shall be taken (Section V.C).

Additional business meetings may be called by the elders. They may also be called when at least one-fourth of the regular members make a written request to the elders and give reason for such a meeting. Every meeting at which business is to be transacted by vote shall be announced for at least two successive Sundays prior to the date of the meeting. Other meetings at which there is no business transacted by vote may be called at the discretion of the elders without previous notice.

B. Order of Meetings

One of the elders shall preside at all business meetings. The regular members present at any properly convened business meeting shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

C. Voting

All regular members who have reached the age of eighteen years and are in good standing in the church may vote on any question brought before the congregation. Unanimity of heart and mind under God shall at all times be sought and prayed for such that it can be said that “this thing pleased the whole multitude” (Acts 6:5), but when unanimity is not realized,  a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting shall be required to make a resolution valid, unless stated otherwise herein .

VIII. Legal Requirements

A. Trustees

In order to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” this church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Maryland. The office of trustee is not scriptural, but our Articles of Incorporation and the laws of the State of Maryland require that trustees be elected by the church to represent the church in its relations with the state. The board of trustees shall consist of at least three members who shall be elected by the corporation (the church). Trustees may be church officers or any of the regular members.  Vacancies will be filled by a majority of the vote of the members present and voting at a duly convened business meeting of the church. In the discharge of their legal and business duties to the State, trustees shall act only at the direction of the elders and with the consent of the congregation.

B. Bylaws

This constitution serves as the by-laws of New Life Community Church.

C. Dissolution

Should this church conclude its ministry and be dissolved, none of its assets remaining after meeting all responsibilities and payment of all just obligations shall inure to the benefit of an individual member of the church, its officers or other private individuals. Such assets, if any, shall in the event of its dissolution, be assigned by action of its members, at a duly called meeting, to such other charitable organization(s) which are generally in harmony with its purpose and beliefs as stated in this Constitution.

IX. Amendments

This constitution may be amended by a vote of the church. The elders shall present to the church any proposed amendment at least two weeks prior to the business meeting at which a vote is to be taken. A two-thirds majority of the regular members present and voting shall be required to adopt the amendment.