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John Piper explains why it’s good to have a church covenant even if church covenants aren’t in the Bible:

The Bible does not say explicitly, “Thou shalt have a written church covenant,” any more than it says, “Thou shalt have marriage licenses,” or, “Thou shalt have wedding rings.” . . .

One way to look at it is that a church without a covenant is like a marriage without vows. Marriage vows are not spelled out in the Bible just like church covenants aren’t. Both follow necessarily from the nature of the relationships.

Our church recently adopted a new church covenant, with significant borrowing from the church covenant by Redeemer Church of Dubai. Feel free to adopt it or adapt it for your own purposes if you are in need of a church covenant. I’ve reprinted it below, along with a few supporting texts.

Church Covenant

Having been brought by God's grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we now, depending upon the Holy Spirit, establish this covenant with one another.

In all we do, we will aim to glorify and enjoy the God of our salvation, from whom and through whom and to whom are all things: to Him be all glory forever! (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36)

We will eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by walking together in love and in the Spirit and by putting away all bitterness, anger, and injurious speech. (Eph. 4:3; Gal. 5:16, 25; Eph. 4:29, 31)

With humility and gentleness, patience and love, we will be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us. (Eph. 4:1-2; Luke 17:3; Col. 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Pet. 1:22)

We will carry each other's burdens, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:15)

We will train our children in the instruction of the Lord, seeking to walk in a way that adorns the gospel of Christ before our family, friends, and neighbors (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4; 1 Pet. 3:1).

We will strive to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, as we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Gal. 5:22-24; Titus 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:14)

We will not neglect to gather together, but will support and treasure the biblical preaching of the whole counsel of God, the faithful observance of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the loving exercise of church discipline. (Heb. 10:25; 2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 11:26; Matt 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:13)

We will contribute cheerfully and generously to the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the advancement of the gospel both to our neighbors and the nations. (Matt. 28:19; Luke 12:33; 2 Cor. 9:7)

We will, when we move from this place, unite as soon as possible with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.

In all these things, we rely on our God who has made a new and everlasting covenant with us, saying:

"They shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. . . . I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good . . . with all my heart and all my soul." (Jer. 32:38-41)

In and because of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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13 thoughts on “Why a Church Covenant?”

  1. Jesse Janis says:

    I have been enjoying your blog for several months, and today I am pleasantly surprised by your reference to Redeemer Dubai. A dear friend of mine is part of their leadership team, and it makes me curious as to how are you connected to the work in Dubai?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks, Jesse. I don’t have much of a personal connection with the church, but I think I discovered it through Mack Stiles’s new book on evangelism.


  2. Matt Capps says:

    Great post.

    By the way, I am thankful for your blog. It is an excellent resource.

  3. Bob McDowell says:

    Is it appropriate for a pastor and elder board of a church with congregational polity to pressure church members to sign a covenant which was never officially adopted by the congregation?

  4. Glenn says:

    How could anyone refuse to sign and agree to all that is contained within the document above; on what basis?

  5. David says:

    Where’s the part about not drinking alcohol? You know, like what’s in the one hanging in most churches in the south? What kind of a church covenant is this? ;-)

  6. I have an (unfinished) series on my blog on church covenants, and referred to that same Piper article in one of the key posts. We also recently revised the covenant at our church.

  7. David A says:

    I dont understand John Pipers logic here. He states that written church covenants are not mentioned in the Bible just like wedding rings and marriage licences and vows. But isnt this just clouding his own point that the marriage covenant is mentioned in the bible and church covenants are not? I seek to live by what is in the ‘church covenant’ above because of the new covenant. The overflow of the new covenant necessitates accountablitity to the church but to put this on the same level as a marriage covenant is a jump to far for me. I would be more comfortable if he called it a ‘church commitment’ without appealing to the covenantal language of the bible.

  8. DJ G. says:

    Better yet, churches could adopt historical confessions of faith and skip the several different links to ‘core values, statement of faith, church covenant, etc.’ A lot of churches that are against confessional documents end up constructing confessions of their own and I find it hard to believe that ‘leadership teams’ (is that who formulates these documents?) can get it better than our fathers coming out of the Reformation did. Give me the Westminster Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, or the Augsburg Confession any day over an individual church written covenant.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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