We the family members of First Baptist Church Lewistown MT, being placed here of the Lord, assemble ourselves into a local Body of Christ. We recognize that our family is a reflection of the harmonious union between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons yet one in essence, equal in position yet differing in function. Therefore, we organize ourselves under the headship of Christ the Son and commit to joining Him in the mutual glorification of God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, we adopt this constitution as our articles of governance, interpreted by the Divine plan of the local church that is set forth in the Word of God for the purpose of worshiping God from sincere hearts in full submission to Scripture truth (John 17; 1 Cor. 12:18).
Article II. Purpose
As Jesus the Son of God glorified the Father so we, the adopted children through the blood of Christ, were chosen “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:3-6, 12, 14). Subsequently, we exist for the privileged purpose of glorifying God.
Section 1. The Fundamentals of our Ministry of Glorification
We adopt as our own the four fundamentals of the early Jerusalem Church found in Acts 2:41-42.
A. “The apostles’ doctrine” - God guides His Church and causes it to grow through the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
B. “Fellowship” - enjoying and call to covenant love among believers, which is first modeled by obedience to the ordinance of baptism wherein the fellowship of a believer in union with Christ is memorialized (Acts 2:41).
C. “The breaking of bread” - the faithful administering of the Lord’s table in remembrance of Him.
D. “Prayer” - accepting with delight the privilege of, and necessity for, God’s invitation to commune with Him intimately and regularly.
All these we do for His glory.
Section 2. The Priorities of our Ministry of Glorification
The outward expression of our ministry is motivated our good desires to have the worship of God and His ongoing glorification as our life blood.
A. We desire to be - Gospel Centered:
Where every Christian truly knows and boldly shares the gospel (Acts 8:25; Eph. 3:6, 8-9).
B. We desire to be - Discipleship Dedicated:
Where the Word of God is preached and practiced in daily living (Titus 2:1-8).
C. We desire to be - Worship Motivated:
Where our every thought and work may be to the praise of God (John 4:23; Eph. 1:12, 2:10).
D. We desire to be - Local Church Oriented:
Where we are identified as an important part of the local body / family that serves Christ and works together (1 Cor. 12:12-14; Col. 4:9, 12).
Article III. Statement of Faith
Section 1. Statement of Faith
The following comprise the Scriptural beliefs of this church, based upon our belief that the Bible should be taught and understood using literal, historical-grammatical principles of interpretation. The elders are solely responsible for the authoritative interpretation of Scripture, determining the basis for First Baptist Church’s (hereafter FBC) doctrinal beliefs and practices.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
We teach that the Bible is God’s written revelation to man and thus the sixty-six books of the Bible given to us by the Holy Spirit constitute the plenary (complete in all aspects) and inspired Word of God (1 Cor. 2:7-14; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
We teach that the Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation (1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 2:13), absolutely inerrant in the original documents, infallible, and inspired (God-breathed) (2 Tim. 3:16).
We teach the literal, historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture.
We teach that the Bible constitutes the only infallible rule for faith and practice (sufficient for all living and every aspect of life) (Matt. 5:18, 24:35; John 10:35, 16:12-13, 17:17; 1 Cor. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
We teach that God spoke in His written Word by a process of dual authorship. The Holy Spirit so superintended the human authors that, through their individual personalities and different styles of writing, they composed and recorded God’s Word to man (2 Pet. 1:20-21) without error in the whole or in part (Matt. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:16). We teach that, whereas there may be several applications of any given passage of Scripture, there is but one true interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The meaning of Scripture is to be found as one diligently applies the literal, historical-grammatical principles of interpretation under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 7:17, 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:7-15; 1 John 2:20). It is the responsibility of believers to ascertain carefully the true intent and meaning of Scripture, recognizing that proper application is binding on all generations. Yet the truth of Scripture stands in judgment of men; never do men stand in judgment of it.
We teach that there is but one living and true God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:5-7; 1 Cor. 8:4), an infinite, transcendent, immanent Spirit (Deut. 4:7, 39; 1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 57:15; Matt. 6:25-30, 10:29; John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14), each equally deserving worship and obedience.
God the Father
We teach that God the Father orders and disposes all things according to His own purpose and grace (Ps. 145:8-9; 1 Cor. 8:6). He is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1:1-31; Eph. 3:9). As the only absolute and omnipotent Ruler in the universe, He is sovereign in creation, providence, and redemption (Ps. 103:19; Rom. 11:36). His Fatherhood is both His designation within the Trinity and His relationship with mankind. As Creator He is Father to all men (Eph. 4:6), but He is spiritual Father only to believers (Rom. 8:14; 2 Cor. 6:18). He saves from sin all who come to Him through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone; He adopts as His own all those who come to Him and He becomes, upon adoption, Father to His own (John 1:12; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Heb. 12:5-9). He has decreed for His own glory all things that come to pass (Eph. 1:11). He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events (1 Chr. 29:11). In His sovereignty He is neither the author nor approver of sin (Hab. 1:13; John 8:38-47), nor does He abridge the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1 Pet. 1:17). He has graciously chosen from eternity past those whom He would have as His own (Eph. 1:4-6).
God the Son
We teach that the Lord Jesus Christ possesses all the Divine attributes, and in these He is coequal, consubstantial, and coeternal with the Father (John 10:30, 14:9).
We teach that God the Father created all things according to His own will through His Son, Jesus Christ, by whom all things continue in existence and in operation (John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2).
We teach that in the incarnation (God becoming man), Christ set aside only the prerogatives of deity but nothing of the Divine essence, either in degree or kind. In His incarnation, the eternally existing Son was joined eternally to a real human body and nature and so became the God-man (Col. 2:9). Being found in appearance as a man, He then humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross as a substitute for sinners (Phil. 2:5-8).
We teach that the Lord Jesus Christ represents humanity and deity in indivisible oneness (Mic. 5:2; John 5:23, 14:9-10; Col. 2:9).
We teach that the Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23, 25; Luke 1:26-35), that He was God incarnate, sent by God the Father (John 1:1, 14, 6:44, 12:44, 17:25), and that the purpose of the incarnation was to reveal God, redeem men, and rule over God’s kingdom (Ps. 2:7-9; Isa. 9:6; John 1:29; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 7:25-26; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
We teach that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished the redemption of His own through the shedding of His blood and sacrificial death on the cross, and that His death was voluntary, vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory, and redemptive (John 10:3, 14-15; Rom. 3:24-25, 5:8; 1 Pet. 2:24).
We teach that on the basis of the efficacy of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the believing sinner is freed from the penalty, the power, and one day the very presence of sin, and that he is declared righteous, given eternal life, and adopted into the family of God (Rom. 3:25, 5:8-9, 12-21, 8:30; 2 Cor. 5:14-15, 21; 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18; Jude 24).
We teach that the believer’s justification is made sure by the Lord Jesus Christ’s literal, physical resurrection from the dead and that He is now ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He now mediates as our Advocate and High Priest (Matt. 28:6; Luke 24:38-39; Acts 2:30-33; Rom. 4:25, 8:34; Heb. 7:25-26, 9:24; 1 John 2:1).
We teach that by resurrecting the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave, God confirmed the deity of His Son and gave proof that God accepted the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Jesus’ bodily resurrection is also the guarantee of a future resurrection life for all believers (John 5:26-29, 14:19; Rom. 1:4, 4:25, 6:5-10; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23).
We teach that Jesus Christ will return bodily to receive the Church unto Himself at the rapture (the resurrection of the dead in Christ, the glorification of living saints, and removal of the Church from the world to meet Christ in the air), and then returning with His Church in glory, will establish His millennial kingdom on earth (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev 20).
We teach that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One through whom God will judge all mankind (John 5:22-23):
- Believers (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10)
- Living inhabitants of the earth at His glorious return (Matt. 25:31-46)
- Unbelieving dead at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15)
As the Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), the Head of His body the Church (Eph. 1:22, 5:23; Col. 1:18), and the coming universal King who will reign on the throne of David (Isa. 9:6; Luke 1:31-33; Phil. 2:9-11), He is the final Judge of all who fail to place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior (Matt. 25:14-46; Acts 17:30-31).
God the Holy Spirit
We teach that the Holy Spirit is a Divine person, eternal, underived, possessing all the attributes of personality and deity including intellect (1 Cor. 2:10-13), emotions (Eph. 4:30), will (1 Cor. 12:11), eternality (Heb. 9:14), omnipresence (Ps. 139:7-10), omniscience (Isa. 40:13-14), omnipotence (Rom. 15:13), and truthfulness (John 16:13). In all the Divine attributes He is coequal, consubstantial with the Father and the Son (Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 28:25-26; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14 and Jer. 31:31-34 with Heb. 10:15-17).
We teach that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to execute the Divine will with relation to all mankind. We recognize His sovereign activity in creation (Gen. 1:2), the incarnation (Matt. 1:18), the written revelation (2 Pet. 1:20-21), and the work of salvation (John 3:5-8).
We teach that the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church age began at Pentecost (John 7:39; Acts 1:5, 2:4) when He was sent from the Father and the Son as promised by Christ (John 14:16-17, 15:26) to initiate and complete the building of the Body of Christ, which is His Church (1 Cor. 12:13). The broad scope of His Divine activity includes convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:7-9), glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:14), and transforming believers into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 2:22).
We teach that the Holy Spirit is the supernatural and sovereign agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13, Titus 3:5-6). Every believer possesses the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit from the moment of salvation, and it is the duty of all those born of the Spirit to be filled with (controlled by) the Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 5:18; 1 John 2:20, 27). The Holy Spirit also indwells, sanctifies, instructs, intercedes for, and empowers believers for service, and seals them unto the day of redemption (Rom. 8:9, 26-27, 15:16; 1 Cor. 2:13; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 1:13).
We teach that the Holy Spirit is the Divine Teacher who guided the apostles and prophets into all truth as they committed to writing God’s revelation, the Bible (John 14:26, 16:13; Eph. 2:20-22; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
We teach that God the Holy Spirit gave gifts to the Church and that speaking in tongues and the working of signs and miracles in the beginning days of the Church were primarily for the purpose of pointing to, and authenticating, the apostles as revealers of Divine truth (2 Cor. 12:12), and were never intended to be characteristic of the lives of believers today (1 Cor. 12:4-11, 13:8-10; Heb. 2:1-4).
We teach that man was directly and immediately created by God in His image and likeness. Man was created free of sin with a rational-relational nature, intelligence, volition, and moral responsibility to God (Gen. 2:7, 15-25; Gen. 3; James 3:9).
We teach that God’s design is that man should glorify God, enjoy God’s fellowship, live his life in the will of God, and by this, accomplish God’s purpose for man (Isa. 43:7; Ps. 8:4-6; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11).
We teach that in Adam’s sin of disobedience to the revealed will and word of God, man lost his innocence, incurred the penalty of spiritual and physical death, became subject to the wrath of God, and became inherently corrupt and utterly incapable of choosing or doing that which is acceptable to God apart from Divine grace. With no recuperative powers to enable him to recover himself, man is hopelessly lost. Man’s salvation is thereby wholly of God’s grace through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Gen. 2:16-17, 3:1-24; John 3:36; Rom. 3:23, 6:23; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1-3; 1 John 1:8).
We teach that because all men were in Adam, therefore, a nature corrupted by Adam’s sin has been transmitted to all men of all ages, Jesus Christ being the only exception. All men are thus sinners by nature, by choice, and by Divine declaration (Ps. 14:1-3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:9-18, 23, 5:10-12).
We teach that legitimate sexual relations are exercised solely within marriage (Heb. 13:4). Hence, sexual immorality or impurity, such as, but not limited to, adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, pedophilia and bestiality amount to idolatry, are condemned by God, and are not even to be named among believers (Eph. 5:3-5; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Such condemnation explicitly extends to deviant and lascivious behavior such as the creation and/or distribution and/or viewing of pornography, and efforts to alter one’s gender (Matt. 5:28; Rom. 13:13; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Rev. 21:8, 22:15).
We teach that marriage has been established by God and that He designed it to be an exclusive covenant and lifetime commitment between one man and one woman as they are creatively and genetically defined (Gen. 2:18-25; Prov. 2:17; Matt. 19:3-6; Mark 10:2-9). As image bearers, both husband and wife honor God through procreation and by obediently ruling the earth - filling the earth with His image (Gen. 1:28, 5:1-5). Further, through marriage a man and his wife cleave, become one flesh, and are woven into a harmonious union. Accordingly, the husband-wife relationship is viewed as complimentary in its distinct roles, a blessing given from God and a delight to be cherished, all in thankfulness to God (Gen. 2:18-25; Prov. 5:15-19, 18:22; Eccl. 9:9, Eph. 5:28-29). God designed marriage to be analogous to His relationship with Israel (Isa. 54:5-6; Hos. 2:14-20), and with Christ and His Church (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:21-33). Finally, a marriage can glorify God and function properly only when both man and woman are believers in Jesus Christ and filled by the Holy Spirit. They then become a reflection of the wonderful, relational intimacy and equality shared among the triune persons of the Godhead (Gen. 2:24; John 5:18-23, 17:20-23; Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 5:18-21, 25; 1 John 5:7).
Applicants for marriage ceremonies will first be reviewed by the elders, and all Biblically approved marriage candidates must then submit to a counseling program and final approval as determined by the officiating pastor.
We teach that salvation is wholly of God by grace on the basis of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, by the merit of His shed blood, and not on the basis of human merit or works (John 1:12; Eph. 1:7, 2:8-10; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
We teach that regeneration is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5). It is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word of God (John 5:24). Genuine regeneration is manifested by faith and the simultaneous fruit of repentance as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct (Gal. 5:22-23). Good works will be its proper evidence and fruit (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 2:10), and will be experienced to the extent that the believer submits to the control of the Holy Spirit in his life through faithful obedience to the Word of God (Eph. 5:17-21; Phil. 2:12b; Col. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:4-10). This obedience causes the believer to be increasingly conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). Such conformity is climaxed in the believer’s glorification at Christ’s coming (Rom. 8:17, 30; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2-3).
We teach that election is the act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:4-11; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:1-2).
We teach that sovereign election does not contradict or negate the responsibility of man to repent and believe in Christ as Savior and Lord (John 3:18-19, 36, 5:40; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rev. 22:17). Nevertheless, since sovereign grace includes the means of receiving the gift of salvation as well as the gift itself (Eph. 2:8), sovereign election will result in what God determines. All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith, and all who come in faith the Father will receive (John 6:35-47, 10:29; Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:22-23).
We teach that the unmerited favor that God grants to totally depraved sinners is neither related to any initiative on their own part, nor to God’s anticipation of what they might do by their own will, but is solely of His sovereign grace and mercy (Eph. 1:4-7; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Pet. 1:1-2).
We teach that election should not be looked upon as based merely on abstract sovereignty. God is truly sovereign and He exercises this sovereignty in harmony with His other attributes, namely His omniscience, justice, holiness, wisdom, grace, and love (Rom. 9:11-16). This sovereignty will always exalt the will of God in a manner totally consistent with His character as revealed in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:25-28; 2 Tim. 1:9).
We teach that justification before God is an act of God (Rom. 8:33) by which He declares righteous those who, through faith alone in Christ alone, repent of their sins (Isa. 55:6-7; Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 11:18; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10) and confess Him as sovereign Lord (Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 2:11; James 2:22-24). This righteousness is apart from any virtue or work of man (Rom. 3:20, 4:6) and involves the imputation of our sins to Christ (Col. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:24) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). By this means God is enabled to “be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
We teach that every believer is sanctified (set apart) unto God by justification and is therefore declared to be holy and is thus identified as a saint. This sanctification is positional and instantaneous and should not be confused with progressive sanctification. This sanctification is that act of being set apart forever as God’s own possession, without this immediate holiness requiring any improvement (Acts 20:32, 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2, 30, 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 2:11, 3:1, 10:10, 14, 13:12; 1 Pet. 1:2).
We teach that there is also, by the work of the Holy Spirit, a progressive sanctification by which the state of the believer is brought closer to the standing the believer positionally enjoys through justification. Through obedience to the Word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the believer is able to live a life of increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:17, 19; Rom. 6:1-22; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:3-4).
In this respect, we teach that every saved person is involved in a daily conflict; the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh. The struggle nevertheless stays with the believer all through this earthly life and is never completely ended. All claims to the eradication of sin in this life are unscriptural. Eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin (Gal. 5:16-25; Eph. 4:22-24; Phil. 3:12; Col. 3:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 John 1:8-21, 3:5-9).
Glorification / Future Sanctification
We teach that glorification is a work accomplished by God wherein He wholly finishes the process of being set apart so that the saint is finally perfect like Him, sanctified wholly and blameless in holiness in the presence of God (1 Thess. 3:13, 5:23; 1 John 3:1-3). Glorification will occur at the return of Christ (Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4), yet Scripture proclaims it a completed reality in the mind of God (Rom. 8:30). Therefore, we eagerly await Christ’s soon return (Heb. 9:28).
We teach that all the redeemed once saved are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever (John 5:24, 6:37-50, 10:27-30; Rom. 5:9-10, 8:1, 31-39; 1 Cor. 1:4-8; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 7:25, 13:5; 1 Pet. 1:5; Jude 24).
We teach that it is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which, however, clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an occasion for sinful living and carnality (Luke 10:20; Rom. 6:15-22, 13:13-14; Gal. 5:13, 25-26; Titus 2:11-14).
We teach that preservation is God’s side of security and perseverance is the believer’s side of security wherein the believer responds positively to the truth even as God preserves (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 John 3:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; Jude 21, 24).
We teach that separation from sin is clearly called for throughout the Old and New Testaments, and that the Scriptures clearly indicate that in the last days apostasy and worldliness shall increase (Lev. 20:7; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
We teach that out of deep gratitude for the undeserved grace of God granted to us, and because our glorious God is so worthy of our total consecration, all the saved should live in such a manner as to demonstrate our adoring love to God and so as not to bring reproach upon the Lord and Savior. We also teach that separation from all religious apostasy and worldly and sinful practices is commanded of us by God (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 John 2:15-17; 2 John 9-11).
We teach that believers should be separated unto the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:11-12; Heb. 12:1-2) and affirm that the Christian life is a life of obedient righteousness that reflects the teaching of the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:2-12) and a continual pursuit of holiness (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:1-10).
We teach that God purposely determined that the disciples of His Son Jesus Christ be sent into the world to function as lights bearing witness of the word of truth, glorifying their Father in heaven, and being sanctified by the word of truth (Matt. 5:14-16; John 15:27, 17:15-18). In this pursuit, disciples are confident knowing that Jesus prayed to the Father “that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
We teach that all who place their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the Church (1 Cor. 12:12-13), the Bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:7-8), of which Christ is the Head (Eph. 1:22, 4:15; Col. 1:18).
We teach that the formation of the Church, the Body of Christ, began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21, 38-47; Rom. 11:25) and will be completed at the coming of Christ for His own at the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
We teach that the Church is thus a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ, made up of all born-again believers in this present age (Eph. 2:11-3:6). The Church is distinct from Israel (1 Cor. 10:32), a mystery not revealed until this age (Eph. 3:1-6, 5:32).
We teach that the establishment and continuity of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament Scriptures (Acts 14:23, 27, 20:17, 28; Gal. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1) and that the members of the one spiritual body are directed to associate themselves together in local assemblies (1 Cor. 11:18-20; Heb. 10:25).
We teach that the one supreme authority for the Church is Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18) and that church leadership, order, discipline, and worship are all appointed through His sovereignty as found in the Scriptures. The biblically designated officers serving under Christ and over the assembly are elders (who are also called pastors and overseers) (Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11) and deacons; both of whom must meet biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-5).
We teach that elders lead and rule as servants of Christ (1 Tim. 5:17-22; Titus 1:5-9) and have His authority in directing the Church. The congregation is to submit to their leadership (Heb. 13:7, 17). Deacons serve under the direction of the elders helping to meet the needs of the local church body (1 Tim. 3:10).
We teach the importance of discipleship (Matt. 28:19-20; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:3-5), mutual accountability of all believers to each other (Matt. 18:5-14), as well as the need for discipline of sinning members of the congregation in accord with the standards of Scripture (Matt. 18:15-22; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; Titus 1:10-16).
We teach the autonomy of the local church, free from any external authority or control, with the authority of self-government and freedom from interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations (Titus 1:5). We teach that it is scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other for the presentation and propagation of the gospel. Each local church, however, through its elders and their interpretation and application of Scripture, should be the sole judge of the measure and method of its cooperation. The elders should determine all other matters of membership, policy, discipline, benevolence, and government as well (Acts 15:19-31, 20:28; 1 Cor. 5:4-7, 13; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
We teach that the Church is to glorify God (Eph. 3:21) by building itself up in the faith (Eph. 4:13-16), by instruction of the Word (2 Tim. 2:2, 15, 3:16-17), by loving fellowship (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3), by keeping the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42), by advancing and communicating the gospel to the entire world (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8), and by engaging in good works (Titus 2:14).
We teach the exhortation of all saints to the work of service (1 Cor. 15:58; Eph. 4:12; Rev. 22:12).
We teach the responsibility of the Church to cooperate with God as He accomplishes His purpose in the world (Heb. 13:20-21). To that end He gives men, chosen for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:7-12).
We teach that two ordinances have been committed to the local church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:38-42). Christian baptism by immersion (Acts 8:36-39) is the testimony of a believer showing forth his or her faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, and his or her union with Him in death to sin and resurrection to a new life (Rom. 6:1-11). It is also a sign of fellowship and identification with the visible Body of Christ (Acts 2:41-42) and should be a voluntary act of obedience and faith. Believers are exhorted to give this testimony soon after their conversion as an initial step of discipleship (Acts 8:26-39, 16:25-33).
We teach that the Lord’s Supper is the commemoration and proclamation of His death until He comes, and should always be preceded by reverent self-examination to ensure that one is walking in fellowship with Christ and other believers (1 Cor. 11:17-34). We also teach that whereas the elements of communion are only representative of the flesh and blood of Christ, participation in the Lord’s Supper is nevertheless an actual communion with the risen Christ who indwells every believer, and so is present fellowshipping with His people (1 Cor. 10:16).
We teach that angels were originally created and pronounced good (Gen. 1:31, 2:3; Col. 11:15-16). The holy angels (or elect angels) are those which did not participate in Satan’s rebellion against God. Since angels are created beings, they are not to be worshipped. They are a higher order of creation than man and were created to serve God and to worship Him (Luke 2:9-14; Heb. 1:6-7, 14; Rev. 5:11-14, 22:8-9).
We teach that Satan is also a created angel and the author of sin. He incurred the judgment of God by rebelling against his Creator (Isa. 14:12-17; Ezek. 28:11-19), by taking numerous angels with him in his fall (Matt. 25:41; John 8:44; Rev. 12:1-14), and by introducing sin into the human race by his role in the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:1-15).
We teach that Satan is the open and declared enemy of God and man (Isa. 14:13-14; Matt. 4:1-11; Rev. 12:9-10), that he is the prince of this world (Eph. 2:2) who has been defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 2:15), and that he shall be eternally punished in the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).
We teach that Satan’s rebellion against God established a second moral class of angels known as fallen angels. Such angels are identified in Scripture as demons or evil spirits (James 2:19; Rev. 9:20) and serve Satan in his opposition to God and man. In the same way that demons opposed Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 5:1-13) and His apostles (Matt. 10:1), they also at times stand in opposition to believers (Eph. 6:10-20), yet their eternal doom is certain (Matt. 25:41).
We teach that though non-believers are vulnerable to possession, demons may not possess believers who are protected by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 11:20-26; 1 John 4:4).
LAST THINGS (Eschatology)
We teach that physical death involves no loss of our immaterial consciousness (Rev. 6:9-11), that the soul of the redeemed passes immediately into the presence of Christ (Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8), that there is a separation of soul and this earthly body (Phil. 1:21-24), and that, for the redeemed, such separation will continue until the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-17). The rapture initiates the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6) when soul and body will be reunited to be glorified forever with the Lord (Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:35-44, 50-54). Until that time, the souls of the redeemed in Christ remain in joyful fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:8).
We teach the bodily resurrection of all men, the saved to eternal life (John 6:39; Rom. 8:10-11, 19-23; 2 Cor. 4:14) and the unsaved to judgment and everlasting punishment (Dan. 12:2; John 5:29; Rev. 20:13-15).
We teach that the souls of the unsaved at death are kept under punishment until the second resurrection (Luke 16:19-26; Rev. 20:13-15) when the soul and the resurrection body will be united (John 5:28-29). They shall then appear at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15), shall be cast into hell (the lake of fire) (Matt. 25:41-46), and cut off from the life of God forever (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:41-46; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
The Rapture of the Church
We teach the personal, bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ before the seven-year Tribulation (1 Thess. 4:16, 5:9; Titus 2:13) to remove His Church from this earth (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:15-18) and, between this event and His glorious return with His saints, to reward believers according to their works (Luke 19:11-27; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
The Tribulation Period
We teach that immediately following the removal of the Church from the earth (John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) the righteous judgments of God will be poured out upon an unbelieving world with increasing intensity (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 9:27, 12:1; 2 Thess. 2:7-12; Rev. 16), and that these judgments will be climaxed by the return of Christ in glory to the earth (Matt. 24:27-31, 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 2:7-12). At that time the Old Testament and Tribulation saints will be raised and the living will be judged (Dan. 12:2-3; Rev. 20:4-6). This period includes the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 24:15-31, 25:31-46).
The Second Coming and the Millennial Reign
We teach that after the Tribulation period, Christ will come to earth to occupy the throne of David (Matt. 25:31; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 1:10-11, 2:29-30) and establish His Messianic kingdom for a thousand years on the earth (Rev. 20:1-7). During this time the resurrected saints will reign with Him over all the nations of the earth (Ezek. 37:21-28; Dan. 7:17-22; Rev. 19:11-16). This reign will be preceded by the overthrow of the Antichrist and the False Prophet, and by the removal of Satan from the world (Dan. 7:17-27; Rev. 20:1-7).
We teach that the kingdom itself will be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel (Isa. 65:17-25; Ezek. 37:21-28; Zech. 8:1-17) to restore them to the land, which they forfeited through their disobedience (Deut. 28:15-68). The result of their disobedience was that Israel was temporarily set aside (Matt. 21:43; Rom. 11:1-26) but will again be awakened through repentance to enter into the land of blessing (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-32; Rom. 11:25-29).
We teach that this time of our Lord’s reign will be characterized by harmony, justice, peace, righteousness, and long life (Isa. 11, 65:17-25; Ezek. 36:33-38), and will be brought to an end with the release of Satan (Rev. 20:7).
The Judgment of the Lost
We teach that following the release of Satan after the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:7), Satan will deceive the nations of the earth and gather them to battle against the saints and the beloved city, at which time Satan’s army will be devoured by fire from heaven (Rev. 20:9). Following this, Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10) whereupon Christ, who is the Judge of all men (John 5:22), will resurrect and judge the great and small at the Great White Throne Judgment. This resurrection of the unsaved dead to judgment will be a physical resurrection, whereupon receiving their judgment (John 5:28-29), they will be committed to an eternal, conscious punishment in the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15).
We teach that after the closing of the millennium, the temporary release of Satan, and the judgment of unbelievers (2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 20:7-15), the saved will enter the eternal state of glory with God, where they will enjoy unhindered fellowship with God in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21-22). The Lord Jesus Christ, having fulfilled His redemptive mission, will then deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, that in all spheres the triune God may reign forever and ever (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
Section 2. Authority of Statement of Faith
The Statement of Faith does not exhaust the extent of our faith. The Bible itself is the sole and final source of all that we believe. We do believe, however, that the foregoing Statement of Faith accurately represents the teaching of the Bible and, therefore, is binding upon all members (John 17:17-19; 1 Tim. 3:16).
Article IV. Membership
We acknowledge that churches do not make members but that God makes members and places each into a local body according to His will and purpose (1 Cor. 12:13-31). Church membership has the idea of family, and perhaps no greater privilege has been bestowed upon believers in Christ than son-ship. Through adoption God gives to as many as receive Jesus the right to become children of God (John 1:12), thereby making us part of His spiritual family. This means God has granted us the legal standing of true sons and made us heirs together of the grand inheritance of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Knowing this privilege is undeserved, we shall remain humble in the family of God, joyous in the work of God, and thankful for our relationships in our local family of God (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5, 11, 14; Col. 1:12; Heb. 9:15).
Section 1. The Privileges of Membership (Sons): our Relationship with God as sons
A. As sons we are privileged to enjoy intimate communication with our Father through prayer. Therefore, we will pray confidently, continually and openly knowing that He hears us and is near to us (Matt. 6:9; Gal. 4:7; Rom. 8:15-16; 1 John 5:14-15).
B. As sons we are privileged with the unwavering love of our Father who understands us, has compassion on us, and cares for all our needs. Therefore, we will not expect the church to meet our “felt needs” but trust our Father to supply our true needs through the church (1 John 3:1; Ps. 103:13-14; Matt. 6:32-33).
C. As sons we are privileged with a Father who gives good gifts to His children and has bestowed on us the great gift of the Holy Spirit to comfort us and empower us for ministry and Christian living. Therefore, we will practice being satisfied with His gifts and gladly offer our gifts back to Him in service (Matt. 7:11; Luke 11:13; Eph. 4:7-8).
D. As sons we are privileged to pray “forgive us our sins”, not asking for justification (a one-time event coinciding with our belief in Him) again and again, but for restoration of our daily fellowship and fatherly relationship with Him broken by our sin. Therefore, we will seek close fellowship with our Father begging forgiveness and pursue close fellowship with our brothers and sisters by granting forgiveness of their sins against us (Matt. 6:9-12, 18:1-35; 1 John 1:9, 3:19-22).
E. As sons we are privileged with a majestic promise of inheritance in heaven as joint heirs with Christ who will one day reign with Christ in His kingdom. We enjoy all the rights, privileges and blessings associated with being children of the King. Therefore, with great expectancy we shall look forward to the realization of our future Hope, conducting ourselves in a worthy manner here on earth (Gal. 4:7; Rom. 8:17; 1 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 2:26-27, 3:21).
F. As sons we are privileged to be disciplined by God as members of His family so that we may grow up to be mature sons and daughters. By this we know we are part of His family and that we are loved by Him. Therefore, we will embrace God’s hand of discipline and consider it a blessing to our fellow family members for the glory of our Father (Heb. 12:5-11; Prov. 3:11-12).
G. As sons we are privileged to share in the sufferings of Christ and in His glories. Therefore, we will not be surprised at persecutions and trials, but glory in them as the disciples once did, seeing them as necessary to fulfill the plan of God for Christ and for us (Luke 24:26; Rom. 8:17-18; 2 Cor. 1:5-7; Phil. 3:10; James 1:1-4; 1 John 3:13).
H. As sons we are privileged to have and develop intimate family relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ and share in the “family work” of our local church. Therefore, we will love one another as Christ gave us command and share our lives and ministry as a true family made by our Father (Rom. 1:13, 8:12; 1 Cor. 1:10, 6:8; James 1:2; Matt. 12:50; John 13:34-35).
I. As sons we are privileged to imitate our Father in heaven. It is our desire as children of God to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1). Therefore, we make it our aim to turn from our former passions and be conformed to Him who is holy in all our conduct (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
J. As sons we are privileged to honor our heavenly Father and therefore bring Him glory when we walk in paths of righteous conduct (Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 3:10).
Section 2. The Responsibilities of Membership (Slaves): our Identity in Christ as slaves
We shall gladly wear the honorable title of “slave”, taking our identity and status not from self or self-achievement but from the household of the Lord and Master Jesus Christ. As slaves, we obey our Master and serve only His wishes and His commands. Therefore, we will identify ourselves through labors of service as a privileged duty unto the Lord (Luke 17:5-10).
A. As slaves we will advance the name and status of Jesus Christ and not our own (Col. 1:18).
B. As slaves we will obey the Scriptures as the written message of our Master (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
C. As slaves we will submit to the Lord through the leadership and teaching of the elders whom He has given us (Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Pet. 2:25).
D. As slaves we will work for the preservation of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
E. As slaves we will walk together in brotherly love. We will exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other and faithfully warn, rebuke, and admonish one another as occasion may require, and receive such care ourselves in the spirit of humility (Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:24-25).
F. As slaves we will endeavor to live holy lives that bring honor to our Master, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts (Col. 3:1-15).
G. As slaves we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor neglect to pray for ourselves and others (Heb. 10:25; James 5:16).
H. As slaves we will endeavor to be known as a people zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).
I. As slaves we will bring up our children and such as may, at any time, be under our care in the fear and admonition of Lord (Eph. 6:4).
J. As slaves we will work together diligently and contribute our resources willingly for the support of the ministry and expenses of this church (2 Cor. 9).
Section 3. Qualifications for Membership
The elders shall be responsible for determining each person’s qualifications for membership. In making this determination, elders may rely on a person’s profession of faith, evidence of a redeemed lifestyle, completion of a membership class and/or any other such evidence as the elders deem appropriate.
Specifically, to qualify for membership a person must:
A. Give satisfactory evidence of a regenerate life (John 13:34-35; Gal. 5:22-23; 1 John 3:10).
B. Obey the Lord in believer’s baptism by immersion as a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ following regeneration / salvation (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-41).
C. Wholeheartedly believe in the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible.
D. Accept the Constitution of First Baptist Church with its Statement of Faith.
- If one disagrees with a point of doctrine you may still become a member if the following is understood:
- The member candidate must agree not to teach contrary to the Constitution and cause division, nor lobby others to get it changed but accept that this is what the elders will teach.
- The Elders will have discretion to determine if the area of disagreement is significant enough to disqualify a person from membership Article IV., Section 3. First paragraph.
- Important Note: the elders make the commitment to study with anyone with a differing view that all may be taught by the Scripture.
E. Commit to following the Privileges and Responsibilities of Membership stated in Article IV. Section 1 and 2.
Section 4. Admission of Members
An applicant shall be received as a member of the church by unanimous approval of the elders. An announcement shall be made to the church and a call shall be made for commitment of fellowship / discipleship responsibility to the congregation.
Members identify themselves as one of Christ’s sheep to be a vital part of FBC in submission to its leadership. Equally, the FBC elders will gladly accept each member as one of Christ’s sheep and willingly shepherd them.
Section 5. Church Restoration / Discipline of a Sinning Member
A. The Bible teaches us that one evidence of our son-ship in the family of God is shown through God’s discipline of sin. Moreover, we know we are loved because our longsuffering God trains us to maturity through discipline (Heb. 12:4-11). So, also, love and family are displayed in the local church through loving discipline of unrepentant sin. Added to this, Matthew tells us that a first priority of worship is the reconciling of relationships between brothers and sisters (Matt. 5:20-26). Therefore, as a local family of Christ, we will obey God in practicing church restoration for the glory of God, the purity of the Bride of Christ, the protection of the sheep of Christ, the edification of all by deterring sin, and to rescue the offending believer(s) by calling him or her to return to a biblical standard of conduct (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 6:1-2; 1 Tim. 5:20).
B. Members of FBC, and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with FBC, who engage in speech or conduct that violates Scripture as determined by the Statement of Faith and the elders, shall be subject to church discipline, including dismissal according to Matthew 18:15-18. Before such dismissal, however:
- It shall be the duty of any member of FBC who has knowledge of the erring individual's heresy or misconduct to warn and correct such erring individual in private, seeking his or her repentance and restoration. If the erring individual does not heed this warning, then
- The warning member shall again go to the erring individual, seeking his or her repentance, but accompanied by one or two individuals who shall confirm that the sin has occurred, or is continuing to occur, and/or that the erring individual has been appropriately confronted and has refused to repent. The first and second warnings may occur with no specified time interval but in a timely manner allowing time to repent yet not neglecting the responsibility. If the erring individual still refuses to heed this warning, then
- It shall be brought to the attention of the elders. If it is determined after thorough investigation in accord with the procedures prescribed by pertinent Scriptures, including Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Timothy 5:19 that there is corroborating evidence that the erring individual has sinned or is continuing to sin, that he or she has been appropriately confronted, and that he or she has refused to repent, then the elders shall inform the congregation thereof at a regularly scheduled worship service in order that the church may call the erring individual to repentance. If the erring individual demonstrates repentance, then notice to that effect may be given at a regularly scheduled worship service. If, however, the erring individual does not repent in response to FBC in its collective call to repentance, then
- He or she shall be publicly dismissed from the fellowship and/or membership of FBC and the congregation thereof at a regularly scheduled worship service. If the erring individual, after such dismissal, heeds the warning, demonstrates repentance, and requests reinstatement before the elders (or a duly appointed committee thereof), then he or she shall be publicly restored to fellowship.
C. The elders, in the exercise of their discretion, may proceed directly to the third stage of church discipline (the informing of FBC and the congregation thereof at a regularly scheduled worship service in order that FBC may call the erring individual to repentance) or to the fourth stage of church discipline (the dismissal from the fellowship and/or membership of FBC) when one or more of the following have occurred:
- Where the transgression and the refusal to repent have been public, i.e., openly and to the offense of the whole congregation (1 Cor. 5:1-5).
- Where the disciplined party has taught or otherwise disseminated doctrine deemed false or erroneous, then chosen to disregard the direction and reproof of the elders (Rom. 16:17).
- Where the disciplined party has been warned twice to cease from factious and divisive conduct and has chosen to disregard that warning (Titus 3:10).
D. The members of FBC, and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with FBC, agree that there shall be no appeal to any court of law because of the dismissal or because of public statements to the congregation at the third or fourth stages of church discipline. Members who are under discipline by FBC, as defined in the previous paragraphs, forfeit and waive the right to resign from FBC. Resignations from membership are possible only by members who are in good standing and who are not under any disciplinary action (1 Cor. 6:1-11).
E. Separate and apart from the process of church discipline, but subject to the discretion of the elders (or a duly constituted committee thereof), a member, non-member regular attender, or other individual may be notified that he or she is not to be present upon church premises for such a period of time as is deemed necessary for the safety and well-being of others on church premises. Such required absence may, but need not, be concurrent with the church discipline of that person.
F. By joining FBC, all members agree that these methods shall provide the sole remedy for any dispute arising against the church or its agents, and they waive their right to file any legal action against the church in a civil court or agency, except to enforce an arbitration decision (1 Cor. 6:1-11).
Section 6. Termination of Membership
Membership may be terminated by:
A. Transfer: Members in good standing may be granted a letter of standing to another church of like faith and practice (Acts 18:27).
B. Discipline: Exclusion in accordance with the provisions of Section 5.
C. Resignation: Based on approval of the elders and provided it is not an attempt to avoid disciplinary action within the church.
Section 7. Restoration of Disciplined Members
Any dismissed person may request to be restored to fellowship and/or membership by expressing their desire to a member of the church leadership privately or at one of the regular elders meetings.
Anyone under discipline of FBC shall, after recommendation by the elders, make a public expression of their repentance and desire for restoration to the church body.
Article V. Children
First Baptist Church recognizes that children are a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3-5) and that He calls the Church to support parents in their responsibility to train their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ex. 20; Deut. 6:6-7; Eph. 6:4). FBC intends to exert every possible effort to maintain a safe and blessed physical and spiritual environment in which children can grow, play, form friendships, and learn to experience and share the love of Christ.
A. FBC is committed to taking every possible precaution to protect children from foreseeable harm. This commitment includes, but is not limited to, the following steps:
- No one may work regularly with the youth (children and teenagers) who is not a member.
- Each youth worker is required to complete a written application form and interview by the elders or a committee appointed by them.
- Whenever possible, youth workers will serve in teams of two or more and be visible to other workers.
- Those who work with youth shall participate in training sessions prior to working in the youth ministry programs of FBC and any continuing training the elders require.
B. In the event of harm to a child or allegations thereof, FBC will take immediate steps to inform the parents, accept responsibility for its role in the situation, and hold offenders fully responsible for their actions.
C. FBC will also regularly evaluate practices and procedures and make changes that will reduce the likelihood of harm to children.
Article VI. Meetings
Section 1. Worship Meetings
Worship Services shall be held each Lord’s Day (Sunday). Other services may be held throughout the week as needed and approved by the elders.
Section 2. Annual Meetings
The annual meeting of the church shall be held in the first quarter of the year.
A. Notice of the annual meeting shall be given in the bulletin or from the pulpit for two consecutive Sundays preceding the meeting.
B. The annual meeting shall be for the purpose of explaining the budget for the year, affirming new elders or other officers of the church, and providing a forum for communication and information.
Section 3. Special Meetings
Special meetings of the church may be called by a majority of the elders. Notice of a special meeting shall be given in the bulletin or from the pulpit two Sundays prior to the meeting date. All elders must be informed of, and be included in, the process of calling a special meeting.
Article VII. Organization and Government
All things ordained by God have purposeful design and an orderly function working in harmony for His glory. The heavens are glorious in their grand design yet precise in order, each body in the heavens fulfilling a God glorifying function. Genesis 1:16 says “then God made two great lights: the greater to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night . . .”. Their order and individual functions are important and necessary for distinguishing time and the seasons. The human body has a graceful design and biological order, each cell and organ fulfilling its design for a specific function essential to sustaining physical life. The Church is an institution ordained by God. It is analogous in design, having many members, each fulfilling their design unto specific function, making a unified whole like the human body. Each individual member is important and has a role which functions together with others for the glory of God. Paul said “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:12-27). Added to this, God has established leadership over the Body (the Church) for order and function: First, “Jesus Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). Second, God has determined to use men in the Church as part of His body design, gifting them to the Church to serve it in fulfilling a three role function: as pastors who care and build the body; as overseers who rule the Church; and as elders who provide mature leadership in the body (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-5) “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In submitting to His purposeful design and orderly function we glorify our Creator God and Savior Christ.
Section 1. Spiritual Leadership
FBC acknowledges only the Lord Jesus Christ as its head; the Holy Scriptures as the only infallible guide in matters of faith, church order, and godly living practice; the Holy Spirit as its teacher; and is neither accountable to nor under the jurisdiction or supervision of any other ecclesiastical body.
Section 2. Authority
The government of FBC, under the authority of Jesus Christ and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, is vested in the Word of God and mediated by called, qualified, equipped and examined men known as pastors, elders or overseers (1 Pet. 5:1-5). We discern Christ’s rule through the proper interpretation and right division of the Scriptures using literal, historical-grammatical, contextual hermeneutics.
Under the headship of Christ, the elders shall comprise the ruling body of the Church and shall have the authority to act on behalf of the Church. Further, the elders represent the sole authoritative interpreter of Scripture (1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:14-16, 4:1-5; Titus 2:15). They shall do this in direct adherence to biblical standards with vigilance as those “who watch out for your souls” and with the fear of God as “those who must give an account” (Heb. 13:17).
The elders shall consist of those men whom God has called, qualified, and equipped for service (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). They shall have the responsibility to lead and govern the FBC body. A majority vote at any called meeting of the elders shall be required for rendering final decisions in any matter under consideration. All committees, organizations, societies and fellowships within the church shall be under the authority of the elders.
Section 3. Church Officers
- Teaching elder (1 Tim. 5:17)
- Fellow elders
The elders shall elect a Chairman, Vice chairman and Secretary of the Board who will also serve as President, Vice-president and Secretary of the non-profit corporation.
Section 4. Administrative offices
The following shall be elected by the deacons from their number annually, subject to approval by the elders:
A. Church Treasurer
B. Financial Secretary
C. Church Clerk
D. Head Usher
Section 5. Assistants
The elders may establish ministry positions or committees to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities.
Section 6. Employees
A. All employee positions are considered as necessary for furthering the religious mission of FBC as outlined in this constitution.
B. All employees shall be in agreement with the FBC Constitution and must submit to the elders.
C. Based on our biblical religious beliefs, outlined in but not limited to this constitution, we reserve the right to hire only those individuals who are following lifestyles consistent with our beliefs.
D. Employee positions may be created by the elders or the deacons (by assignment from the elders) as they may determine a need.
E. Hiring and dismissal authority will be determined by the elders for each position as it is created. (for example, the hiring and dismissal authority may be given to the deacons for a custodial employee position).
Section 7. Church Year
FBC’s fiscal church year shall be from January 1 through December 31.
Article VIII. Qualifications and Responsibilities of Officers
Section 1. Elders
28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. NKJV
With a humble dependency on the Lord’s sufficiency to provide for His Church, and with an eager desire to receive from the Lord what He gives to His Church, we shall faithfully and continually look for those who evidence a call and qualification for the work of an elder.
- We believe that God makes elders and the church is responsible to recognize them. Therefore, the elders will be continually looking for those God is calling to serve as elders from within our local body and give them particular attention, training, and testing. Further, opportunities to observe, serve and intern in various aspects of elder ministry will be provided as part of the recognition process.
- Candidates for elder may be accepted and examined at any time during the year.
a. A man may present himself to the elders (1 Tim. 3:1 “if a man desires the position”).
b. A member may suggest a man to the elders in whom they have observed the biblical qualifications.
c. The elders may ask a man in whom they have observed the biblical qualifications to enter the examination process.
Elders shall be members of FBC in good standing, who qualify according to the New Testament standards for spiritual leadership (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1-2; 1 Pet. 5). They shall be in wholehearted agreement with the Statement of Faith and the FBC Constitution. The position of elder may only be held by a man, this is based on our religious beliefs found in the Bible, specifically 1 Timothy 2:9-15.
C. Testing, Ordination and Installation
- The elders shall act as the examining and installation body for all new elders.
a. Internships may be granted to elder candidates as a way to provide mentoring toward elder ministry.
b. Candidates shall be interviewed and examined by the elders for recommendation.
c. Upon recommendation he shall be presented to the congregation for a two-week period for comments. If anyone has a biblical reservation concerning any nominee, that individual shall make that information known to the elders.
d. If satisfactory qualifications have been exhibited and confirmed by those who know him, the candidate may be recommended for ordination.
We believe that ordination is a public recognition and affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s call to Christian ministry (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 3:1).
When a male member of this church believes that God has called him to elder ministry, he may request for ordination by the elders. If the elders believe the applicant should be ordained (according to Article VIII, Section 1, A & B), they shall call an ordination council. The council shall be composed of the elders of FBC and any other elders from churches of like faith and practice as determined by the elders of FBC. The council shall thoroughly examine the candidate as to his experience, practice, and doctrinal beliefs. This exam shall be open to all the FBC membership. The candidate shall be publically ordained to elder ministry upon the recommendation of this council.
Installation into the office of elder requires a unanimous vote of the elders.
The elders shall call for a business meeting to inform the congregation and call for a vote of affirmation of their selected candidate by announcing the meeting in at least two public services of FBC. An affirmation vote by the FBC membership shall be exercised as a means of helping the elders determine their success in communication and the congregation’s readiness to accept the addition of another elder. Added to this, a vote of affirmation is a means for the members of FBC to show their appreciation for the work done by their elders through the elder selection process and as a way to bring the elders joy through affirmation (1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:17).
- The call of an elder from outside the FBC membership
a. When it is judged necessary by the elders of FBC that a teaching elder or fellow elder should be called to serve at FBC, the elders shall search for and examine suitable candidates.
b. The FBC elders will rely on the testimony from the “home” church or “sending” church for all outside elder candidates. They will be asked to submit evidence and documents of prior testing, ordination and installation. Lacking such testimony, outside candidates will be required to submit to the procedures outlined in Article VIII. Section 1. Elders.
c. Candidates shall be examined, interviewed and selected according to their spiritual and practical qualifications. He shall be evaluated as to his preaching, teaching ability and pastoral care. He shall agree with the FBC doctrinal statement and constitution. He shall be required to submit in writing answers to all questions doctrinal, ethical, and practical as the elders see fit. He shall submit to an examination of his background and previous ministries, to include his sending church of origin.
d. When a qualified candidate (one meeting the Scriptural standards set forth in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5) is found, he shall be invited to FBC in at least two previously announced public meetings. The elders shall be sensitive to hear all congregational suggestions, input and critique of the process and candidates as vital counsel toward a wise decision. The elders shall call for a business meeting to inform the congregation and call for a vote of affirmation of their selected candidate by announcing the meeting in at least two public services of FBC. An affirmation vote by the FBC membership shall be exercised as a means of helping the elders determine their success in communication and the congregation’s readiness to accept the addition of another elder. Added to this, a vote of affirmation is a means for the members of FBC to show their appreciation for the work done by their elders through the elder selection process and as a way to bring the elders joy through affirmation (1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:17).
1.The Responsibilities toward the flock
a. Preach and teach the Word of God (Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 4:2).
b. Care for the spiritual needs of the FBC family (1 Pet. 5:1-5).
c. Guard the purity of doctrine and life of FBC (1 Tim. 1:3-6, 4:11-16, 6:20-21).
d. Direct the administration of the Church ordinances; baptism and the Lord’s Table (Acts 2, 3, 9).
e. Administer discipline in accordance with the Word of God (1 & 2 Tim.; Titus; Matt. 5, 18).
f. Share the ministry of pastoral care (Acts 20:28-36).
g. Approve all leadership positions (2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 1:5).
h. Train, evaluate and approve all elders and teachers (2 Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:11-12).
- Responsibilities toward themselves
Prayer and Purity: It is the privileged obligation of the elders to commune with God in prayer individually and corporately, interceding on behalf of the flock, and beseeching God for wisdom (Acts 6:4; James 1:5). Further, it shall be the solemn duty of all elders to pursue personal purity in a right relationship with God (Acts 20:28).
- Responsibilities of general oversight
The elders shall perform all duties incumbent upon the office. The elders shall be ex-officio members of all departments and committees. They shall have the general oversight of the entire work of FBC.
E. Term of Service
Each elder shall serve in perpetuity to shepherd the members in regular attendance at FBC. The term of service for a teaching elder or fellow elder may be terminated by resignation or disqualification as set forth in F. Removal below. The term and all responsibilities, authorities, or privileges granted to the teaching elder or fellow elder shall cease on the date of resignation or upon disqualification. Any elder who has resigned must re-submit to the application / qualification process outlined in Article VIII, Section 1. Elders, to resume said office.
- Resignation from office by any elder may be accepted upon a 30-day notification in writing. The elders may accept a resignation sooner by mutual consent with the resigning elder.
- Any elder or fellow elder may be removed from office at any regular or special meeting of the elders if he is found to be physically or mentally incapacitated or spiritually unqualified (according to pertinent Scripture, including 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-8), after a thorough corroborating investigation by the other elders, in accord with the procedures prescribed by pertinent Scripture, including Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Timothy 5:19. When an elder is removed because of sin that is deemed sufficient to disqualify him from his office, and if he refuses to repent from that sin, the removal shall be accompanied by a public rebuke, and notice shall be made before the congregation of FBC at a regularly scheduled worship service as prescribed in 1 Timothy 5:20.
Section 2. Deacons
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." NKJV
- We believe God designed the church to function as a body of servants. Among those servants, God has called for the appointment of particular servants, namely deacons, who are assigned with distinct responsibilities for the facilitation of the function of, and ministry to, the larger church membership.
- The most important characteristic of deacons is that they be spiritual men. The biblical qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 are all spiritual qualities. Therefore, we shall seek spiritual men who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to appoint unto ongoing and special service in our local body knowing that “those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:13).
Deacons shall be men, members of FBC in good standing, who qualify according to the New Testament standards for spiritual leadership (1 Tim. 3:8-13). They shall be in wholehearted agreement with the Statement of Faith and the FBC Constitution.
C. Testing and Appointment
- The elders and deacons shall be responsible for the testing and appointment of deacons from the membership. Each FBC member in good standing shall have the privilege of nominating any qualified person by submitting the name to one of the elders or deacons. Potential nominees shall be contacted verbally or by letter to ascertain their personal willingness to be examined for the office of deacon (Acts 6:2).
- Each deacon nominee shall be examined according to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:8-14 and submit to an interview.
- Upon recommendation he shall be presented to the congregation for a two-week period for comments. If anyone has a biblical reservation concerning any nominee, that individual shall make that information known to the elders.
- Qualified candidates shall be appointed on the basis of a unanimous vote of the elders.
- FBC may appoint as many deacons as are deemed necessary to serve the needs of FBC.
- The presentation of new FBC deacons shall be held at the annual business meeting. Also, a deacon may be examined and appointed at any time as a need is determined by the elders.
Deacons shall perform all responsibilities under the oversight of the elders with the dual goals of serving the church’s need and allowing the elders to focus on the word and prayer as exampled by Acts 6:1-7.
- The deacons shall be active in caring for the needs of the poor, sick, widows and orphans in the membership, and shall be concerned with the spiritual or physical needs of all members.
- The deacons shall be faithful in visitation and witnessing. They shall be in charge of the Benevolent Fund.
- They shall assist in, or in the absence of the elders, administrate all public services, administer the ordinances, and restore the erring. They shall perform such duties as the elders may delegate to them.
- The deacons shall care for the church properties, both real and personal, including its repair and maintenance. They shall appoint and direct the responsibilities of any janitors.
- Under the oversight of the elders, the deacons shall have responsibility for the financial program, and shall have responsibility for all records and official papers of FBC. They shall prepare an annual budget to be presented to the elders for approval and successively to FBC for affirmation at the annual meeting. They shall provide for the official audit of the treasurer’s books annually.
- Deacons elected to the administrative offices listed below shall be responsible for, or perform, the following duties:
a. Church Treasurer
The church treasurer shall keep accurate record of all disbursements. Disbursements must be items covered by the church budget and are subject to approval by the elders and/or deacons.
b. Financial Secretary
The financial secretary shall keep a record of all money received and shall keep an itemized account of money contributed. He shall issue offering envelopes for all members who desire them and shall provide, upon request, a calendar year statement of recorded contributions.
c. Church Clerk
The church clerk shall keep record of the transactions of all business meetings and keep a correct roll of the membership of FBC.
d. Head Usher
The head usher is responsible to organize those under him for the greeting of arrivals and for the collection of all offerings. Further, he shall see that they extend a friendly welcome to all who attend the services and care for all details that would be conducive to the comfort of the congregation and general welfare of the service.
E. Term of Service
- Deacons shall serve without term.
- Deacons shall continuously carry out their appointed tasks until such time as they decide to step aside for a time (sabbatical), they complete a temporary tasking, or they are asked to step aside by the elders (1 Tim. 3:10, 13).
- All previously appointed deacons shall be considered perpetually qualified and available to function unless otherwise disqualified by the elders.
Resignation from office by any deacon may be accepted in writing or by mutual consent from the elders at any time. Any deacon may be removed from office at any regular or special meeting of the elders if he is found to be physically or mentally incapacitated or spiritually unqualified (according to pertinent Scripture, including 1 Timothy 3:8-14), after a thorough, corroborating investigation by the elders and other deacons, in accord with the procedures prescribed by pertinent Scripture, including Matthew 18. When a deacon is removed because of sin that is deemed sufficient to disqualify him from his office, and if he refuses to repent from that sin, the removal shall be accompanied by a public rebuke, and notice shall be made before the congregation of FBC at a regularly scheduled worship service as prescribed in Matthew 18:17-20.
Section 3. Vacancies
Any vacancy of an appointed position shall be filled by appointment of the elders.
Article IX. Indemnification
The elders may choose to indemnify any church-related expenses of any elder, deacon, employee, or agent of FBC.
FBC shall indemnify any elder or deacon, or former elder or deacon, of the church against expenses actually and reasonably incurred by him in connection with the defense of any action, suit or proceeding, civil or criminal, in which he is made a party by reason of being, or having been, such elder or deacon, except in relation to matters as to which he shall be adjudged in such action, suit or proceeding to be liable for negligence or misconduct in the performance of his duty.
Article X. Contributions
All contributions to FBC shall be disbursed according to the outline of the annual budget or the unanimous decision of the elders.
Contributions made with the intent of influencing doctrine or policy will be returned. A good faith effort shall be made to return any disqualified contributions. If it is not possible to return such contributions, the elders shall have the right to determine the use of any such contribution.
Article XI. Amendments
A. In accordance with our Philosophy of Writing document, this constitution may be amended if the elders have become convinced that it fails to accurately represent the truth, requirements or commands given in the Word of God. A unanimous vote (100%) of the elders is required for any change to be made. Moreover, we desire to be humble before the Word of God acknowledging a need to be progressing in our understanding of His Word and in our application of those understandings in this constitution.
B. The congregation will be notified of any changes, and the biblical reasoning behind said changes will be explained at any congregational meeting.
Article XII. Addenda
Addendum A. It shall be understood that all references to “the elders or elders” in this document, their spiritual leadership, authority, duties and function, shall be carried by the teaching elder until a plurality of elders is achieved. The deacons will be responsible to faithfully advise the teaching elder prior to decisions When a plurality of elders is achieved, this addendum will be void.
Article XIII. Dissolution
If, for any reason, the corporation of FBC should be dissolved, its assets shall be, by vote of the church and by approval of the leaders, assigned only to a fundamental, Bible-believing church, not-for-profit organization, or educational institution, the faith and practice of which is in keeping with the Statement of Faith, Article III of this constitution.
Article XIV. Affiliations
FBC is independent in its affiliations. It may affiliate with organizations that remain in accordance with the policies and convictions of FBC. This church shall always retain the right to change its affiliations.
This document of The Constitution of First Baptist Church, Lewistown, Montana was reviewed and approved by the church leadership, constituted of the elders and deacons. It was presented to the church membership and approved on ____________, 20___. This constitution supersedes any and all previous constitutions of First Baptist Church, Lewistown, Montana.