baptist, baptist encylopaedia, christian, christianity, church, church covenant, church covenants, church history, church membership, covenant, Hebrews, history, James, scripture, The Baptist Encyclopedia, theology, William Cathcart
Back before the ice storm hit, I was planning to blog a little about church covenants. I wrote the first post and opened it with some questions. I received a few responses, which I really appreciated. I would love for even more of you to go back to that post and answer the questions I asked.
But that was as far as I got. The next night, freezing rain began to fall; the night after that we lost our power and spent five chilly days and nights in the dark. I’ve spent a lot of my time since the power came back either cleaning up or helping others clean up the damage from the ice storm.
Now I’m thinking about church covenants again, partly because I’m on a committee assigned the task of reviewing and revising a portion of our church constitution. Included in that portion is our church covenant, which is currently a standard document used by many Baptist churches. I say “used by many Baptist churches” but in reality very few churches, including ours, actually use their covenant. That wasn’t always the case.
It would seem that at least a few Baptist churches 125 years ago placed a high value on their covenants, and used them profitably. Don Elbourne frequently posts excerpts from The Baptist Encyclopedia (published in 1883) on his blog. One of those excerpts describes the covenant meetings held by some Baptist churches during that time period:
Covenant Meetings. Before the monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, in many parts of our country, a meeting is held for the members of the church, where they relate briefly their religious experience and renew their covenant with God and with each other. After the devotional exercises at the commencement of the service are over, the pastor relates such of God’s dealings with his soul as in his judgment it is proper to communicate, then others follow, commonly in the order in which they are seated, beginning at the right or left of the pastor, and continuing until the end of the opposite side is reached. In these meetings the sisters speak as well as the brethren. No one is obliged to utter a word. In some sections of our country covenant meetings are unknown. Where they are held they are regarded as eminently profitable. They are generally observed on the Saturday before the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. (Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopedia. 2nd ed., 1883.)
That seems to me like a great way (although certainly not the only way) to obey several important but often neglected biblical commands:
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
I can’t help but wonder how different our Baptist churches might be today if they had all continued to take their covenant commitments to God and each other that seriously.
- The Baptist Encyclopedia – Vol. 1
- The Baptist Encyclopaedia – Vol. 2
- The Baptist Encyclopedia – Vol. 3