Assimilation and Church Membership

Part of serving the body of Christ is offering clear paths for people to develop healthy and growing relationships with others in the church body. We value an intentional plan to help every interested person enjoy godly relationships in the church, and we take membership seriously and with a lot of gravity. Committing yourself to a body of believers is weighty. But it’s also wonderful. When Covenant Members join, they commit to a spiritual family that provides encouragement and support. They are called to a biblical degree of responsibility, service and sacrifice to their brothers and sisters. Our elders and leaders also pledge to assist our Covenant Members with care, counsel, prayer and teaching.

Baptism and Communion

Baptism and communion are the two ordinances required in the church. We believe that Christian baptism by immersion in water is a public identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Although baptism is not required for salvation, it is commanded of all believers and is for believers only (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 41; Acts 18:8). Scripture shows that a person was baptized after personally receiving forgiveness of sin through accepting Jesus Christ. The waters of baptism are a symbol of our death, burial, and resurrection to newness of life that happens when we become new creations in Christ (Colossians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1-4). Communion is the commemoration by believers of Christ’s death, and a reminder—through the bread and the juice—of the Savior’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is to be a time of confession of our sin and should be preceded by careful self-examination according to Acts 4:13; Romans 6:3-6; 1 Corinthians 11:20-29.

Creation, Evolution, and God's Sovereignty

We believe God created the universe in six twenty-four hour days and that before He created the universe, nothing except God existed (Genesis 1; Exodus 31:17; Psalm 33:6-9; Acts 17:24; Hebrews 11:3; Colossians 1:16). God chose to create the universe and all that is in it to reveal His glory, divine nature, eternal power, infinite wisdom, and supreme authority (Isaiah 43:7; Psalm 19:1-2; Jeremiah 10:12; Romans 1:20; Revelation 4:11). We deny the theory of macro evolution, which states that nonliving substances gave rise to the first living material, which then reproduced and diversified to produce all living creatures. We believe that all people are descendants of Adam and Eve, whom God created personally and individually and as complete human beings (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The fall of Adam and Eve infected all people with sin and death, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives the opportunity to receive God’s gift of eternal life (Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). God rules over His creation, cares about it, and is involved in the lives of individual people (Job 12:10; Acts 17:25; Acts 25:28; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:13; Ephesians 4:6).

Eternal Security of the Believer

It is God’s divine decision to save a person and it is God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience that lead that person to repentance (Romans 2:4). All glory for the salvation and security of every believer belongs to God alone (Romans 3:21-31; Ephesians 1:7-9; Ephesians 2:8-9, Jude 1:24-25). We believe that everyone who is born again by the Spirit through Jesus Christ is eternally assured of salvation from the moment of conversion. This assurance relies on God’s decisive grace rather than on the works of the Christian. Obedience, good works, and fruit-bearing do not earn or retain the believer’s salvation but indicate the reality of the person’s love of Christ and profession of faith (Luke 6:46; John 14:21; James 2:17-18). Eternal security in salvation relies on the Lord’s guarantee of each believer’s adoption as His son or daughter (Galatians 4:4-7), His seal of the believer by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14), and the conviction that God gives the Holy Spirit to each believer as a down payment toward future bliss in heaven (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). A person who professes genuine faith in Christ immediately becomes His possession (Luke 23:42-43; Acts 2:40-41; Acts 16: 30-34), and nothing can snatch that person out of His hands (John 10:27-29). Having been bought with the price of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion as complete payment for sin, Christians are not their own. They are Christ’s possession (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This assurance is absolutely certain, reserved in heaven, protected by God’s unlimited power (1 Peter 1:4-5).

Marriage and Sexuality

God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church. Furthermore, God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage. Divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing. (Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 5:27-30; Matthew 19:4-6; I Corinthians 6:18-20; Ephesians 5:29-32).

Process of Sanctification and Maturity

Mature disciples walk with Christ, worship Christ, and work for Christ in a pattern of progressive sanctification. That person will experience significant growth in personal sanctification and, therefore, will experience a closer personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and will become “complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). We are committed to multiplying the godly characteristics of leaders’ lives into others (2 Timothy 2:2). This multiplication of ministry is key to the healthy growth of the church. We believe the disciples of Jesus Christ should minister to one another in the local church, rather than one or a small number of professional pastors bearing total responsibility to care for the entire congregation. God has given spiritual gifts to all of His people to provide mutual ministry in the context of the healthy and strong local church (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Spiritual Warfare

Satan and his demonic servants viciously oppose the work God performs in and through His people (1 Peter 5:8; Genesis 3:1-7; Ephesians 6:12). God, who by His nature is infinitely more powerful than Satan, in due time will have complete and total victory over Satan (1 John 4:4; Revelation 20:1-10). Although it is appropriate to pray in Jesus’ name for protection against demonic activity, the Scriptures do not instruct the Christian to “bind Satan in Jesus’ name.” Rather, the Scriptures instruct the Christian to combat Satan by:

Humbly drawing near to God, knowing that He will give grace, mercy, and strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Hebrews 4:15-16; James 4:8; 1 Peter 5:6-10).

Resisting Satan’s temptations (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Rightly applying the truth of the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:24-27).

Forgiving offenses (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Putting on the armor of God’s truth, righteousness, readiness to share the Gospel, faith, salvation, and prayer (Ephesians 6:11-20).

Demonstrating faithfulness to the Lord by enduring trials (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:9-10).

Sufficiency of Scripture

We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures and that they contain all the words of God that we need in order to completely trust and obey Him. The Scriptures are inerrant in their original writings (Psalm 119:97-104; Psalm 119:160; Matthew 5:18; John 5:46-47; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:15-16), and are infallible in their instruction (Proverbs 6:32; 2 Peter 1:19), eternal in duration (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25); the final authority and the standard for faith and practice (Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119); and sufficient for counsel in every issue of life (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16). We believe that the very words of Scripture in the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic are inspired by God. Therefore, we believe that the Bible versions which translate God’s Word most literally into modern English should be preferred.

Things to Come

We believe in and expectantly await the glorious, visible, personal, premillennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The blessed hope of His return has vital bearing on the personal life, service, and mission of the believer (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the saved and the lost. The lost will be raised to judgment and experience eternal wrath in hell. The saved will be raised to eternal joy in the new heaven and new earth in the manifested presence of God (Acts 1:3, 9; Hebrews 7:25-26).

Women in Ministry

We affirm the God-ordained and significant role that women play in establishing and leading the local church. Every leadership opportunity is open to women except those that are excluded by Scripture. The Scriptures state that men are to serve in the office of Elder and that women are not to serve in church positions in which they exercise authority over men or in which they teach doctrine to men (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:6-9). We do not see this as an issue of equality, for men and women are equal under God, rather the uniqueness of different God given roles.

Worship

The chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God by loving Him with the entire heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5; Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 22:37). All believing men, women, and children are to glorify God and thus fulfill the purpose of their existence. Worship glorifies God through adoration (Psalm 95:6), praise (Psalm 99:5), prayer (Daniel 6:10-11), thanksgiving (Nehemiah 12:46), and a complete yielding to Him (Romans 12:1). Worship declares His worth, pays Him homage, and celebrates Him in a life of devotion. We seek to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (Exodus 15:1-21; 2 Samuel 6:14-16; Psalm 5:7; John 4:23-24; Revelation 4:11; 5:12). Several tenets guide our worship. We seek to: Lift high the name of Jesus Christ (John 4:22-26; John 12:32; John 14:6). Lead God’s people to lift their hearts and voices to Him, giving Him praise and thanks in music and lyrics (Nehemiah 12:45-46; Psalm 66:1-4; Psalm 95:1-2). Prepare hearts to hear the Lord speak through the proclamation of Scripture (Psalm 95:6-9; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42). Emphasize fresh and contemporary expressions while retaining traditional elements that recognize the richness of our heritage in the faith (Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalm 33:3; Isaiah 46:8-9; Matthew 13:32, Ephesians 5:19; Revelation 5:9). Pursue excellence in worship, knowing that God is worthy of our best (Exodus 12; Deuteronomy 17:1; Psalm 33:3; 1 Timothy 4:14-15; Hebrews 11:4).

 

Church Government

The qualifications and responsibilities of the leaders of our church:

We are committed to the Bible’s teaching that men who hold the offices of Elder and Deacon are to oversee various functions of the local church. The Bible’s teaching on the subject of two church offices is found in 1 Timothy 3:1-16 and Titus 1:5-9. Although there are three terms used for the offices of the church: bishop, elder, and deacon, analysis of these terms indicates that bishop and elder are used interchangeably.

Elder Qualifications (Titus 1:6-9)

  1. Above reproach

  2. Able to teach

  3. Husband to one wife

  4. Not addicted to wine

  5. Temperate

  6. Not antagonistic

  7. Prudent

  8. Uncontentious

  9. Respectable

  10. Free from the love of money

  11. Hospitable

  12. Manage own household

  13. Not a new convert

Elder Duties

The Scriptures show that the elders serve by leading and that their responsibility involves the spiritual oversight of the congregation. All elders are equal in authority but not necessarily equal in influence. The elders’ primary responsibilities include:
Doctrine - Ensuring that the doctrine of the church is biblical; all doctrinal issues in the church will be settled by the Board of Elders.
Direction - Ensuring that the direction of the church is consistent with the Harvest Bible Chapel statement of purpose and the Four Pillars.
Discipline - Administering in love and humility the process of church discipline as outlined in Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-4; Titus 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:17-25; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, and Romans 16:17.

Plurality of Elders

The Scriptures teach that a plurality of elders governed individual New Testament churches (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5; Philippians 1:1). The Scripture does not mention any congregations featuring a stand-alone pastor and leader. A plurality of godly elders, exercising their individual giftedness, squares with the Scripture’s teaching that wisdom is found in a multitude of godly counselors (Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 19:20; Proverbs 24:6). This truth does not eliminate the possibility and likelihood that one or more elders will stand out from the others as more public in their ministries or more influential in their workings on the Elder Board.

Lead Pastor

The Vertical Church Lead Pastor automatically serves as an elder and, because of his public presence and responsibility before the congregation, may be considered first among equals as a member of the Elder Board. The Lead Pastor should be gifted primarily as a preacher/teacher and as a leader.

Deacons

The Bible teaches that deacons lead by serving (Acts 6). The qualifications for elders and deacons are the same regarding an individual’s character, but they differ in aptitude. The elders are to be able to lead and teach while the deacons are to be able and proved as servants.
Deacon Qualifications:

  1. Individual of dignity

  2. Above reproach

  3. Not double tongued

  4. First tested as servants

  5. Not addicted to wine

  6. Spouses must be faithful

  7. Temperate

  8. Not fond of sordid gain

  9. Holding to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience

  10. Husband of one wife

  11. Manages household well

What It Looks Like

The following principles, as presented in the New Testament, guide our polity:

  • Scripture drives us to understand that the church is to be ruled by Christ, led by elders, served by deacons, and held responsible by the congregation.
    • Jesus Ruled
      • Jesus is the head of the church. Any other role or office is derived from and flows out of Jesus’ role, and our responsibility is to follow him. No one can take the role of Jesus as head of the church. He is the Chief Shepherd and Senior Pastor; Jesus alone has the authority and preeminence to rule the church.
    • Elder Led
      • The apostle Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in the church in every city, men who were to lead, pastor, and guard the flock as “under-shepherds” under the authority of Jesus (1 Tim, Tit. 1:7, 1 Pet. 5:1-4). The list of qualifications for such men is given in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1. The biblical model of local church leadership envisions a plurality of pastor-elders, with a lead pastor serving as first among equals. These men have the responsibility to lead, teach, shepherd, and equip the congregation, directing and serving the church in a way that models the leadership of Christ.
    • Congregational Accountability
      • The entire congregation is responsible for what takes place within an autonomous local body, having a role in the major decision making of the church.
      • This responsibility includes holding accountable those in authority over the church, as well as prayer for these leaders.
      • The congregation’s role is to carry out the work of ministry as described in Ephesians 4:12.
      • Members are encouraged to participate in Elder-called congregational meetings for purposes of transparent communication. Such meetings may include, as needed, a gathering of congregational input on major decisions facing the Church to assist the Elder Board in action or decision. Any member of the Church may request a private meeting with two or more Elder Board Members to understand better the ministry and governance of this Church.