By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
In 7th grade I went through a confirmation class at my church. For a year, I attended this class, was then confirmed, and became a member of the church. I don’t remember much of this. I’m not sure if it just went over my head or if my bike accident in 9th grade erased my memory of whatever they confirmed. A few years later, I ended up in college believing I was a Christian, yet rejecting that God created the world, that the Bible was true, and that I was sinful. Yet, I confessed to be a Christian. So…
What must a true believer believe? It’s tempting to think all that matters is to believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior. After all, it’s right from Romans 10:9. But what does “believe” mean? Is it merely mental assent to a statement or is it more? Who is Jesus? What is a Lord? What is a Savior? What are we saved from and for?
Now, I don’t want to diminish a child saying, “I love Jesus.” In fact, if we properly understand the fullness of “believe,” that child may be more on track than a Doctor of Theology. The heart and soul are as fundamental as the mind. This "believing" is only by the work of the Spirit in one’s heart, soul, and mind. We can’t just rattle off a few simple truths and qualify as a true believer. The heart matters!
Assuming there is genuine faith, what should a believer understand and accept as true? That’s tougher than we tend to think. Fortunately, others have worked hard at answering this question. In light of their work, our elders have concluded that our Covenant Partners (members) need to affirm the following…
I believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and confess Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the supreme authority for faith and life. I accept the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed as essential truths of the Christian faith.
While we have explicitly called for understanding the trinity, salvation in Christ, and the authority of the Bible; we’ve also included three historic creeds for Covenant Partners to affirm.
But, can you get into heaven and not understand some of these truths? Certainly, children do not understand many of these things and it is this child-like faith that Jesus commends. We just can’t remain infants in our understanding of the gospel, but must move on to maturity, understanding the fullness of God’s work and character.
So, do you truly believe? Has your heart been powerfully and irrevocably stirred? Has your mind been fully convinced of the gospel? If so, then you are well on your way to being ready to be a Covenant Partner. In the coming months, I’ll share more about the commitments of Covenant Partners. For now I encourage you to reflect on these core beliefs and creeds.
Prayer… Holy Spirit, move in me to stir up faith that transforms my heart and mind. Bring forth spiritual fruit that will bear witness to the world and to me that you have chosen me and called me as your child. Amen.
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
It’s true. The consistory affirmed the recommendation of the elders to shift from “Confessing Members” to “Covenant Partners.” So, the action was not to end all membership, but to clarify what membership is with some new (yet) old language.
On the one hand this was a pretty quick decision, on the other hand we’ve discussed the issues and possible changes for years. I have had many discussions with the elders over the years about communicating what membership means to the congregation and trying to understand why some take the membership vows, but then do not make any real effort to live them out. We moved forward in March, largely because we have individuals wanting to join us now.
With leaving the RCA, we are no longer restricted to their terminology and needed to update our bylaws to fill in what we left to the RCA’s Book of Church Order. So we discussed the following terms…
In the end, the elders preferred “Covenant Partners” for several reasons. They are addressed more fully in the new “Covenant Partnership” packet.
The Covenant Partnership Packet Update
Elders have just received a copy along with our youth who are interested in joining at the youth service in May. We do plan to distribute this to all in the near future and are planning on a “Covenant Partnership Class” for guests and attendees on May 15 from 11am-1pm.
The primary reason for the change was to bring greater weight to the vows which we make in joining a church, as we believe the Bible clearly calls us to be devoted to one another (Acts 2:42-47), to love one another (John 13), and partner with one another (Phil. 1:4-5). There really is to be a linking of arms as we serve each other and witness to the world.
We covenant with one another to build trust in one another and faith in God. As we make commitments to believe and act in God-honoring ways and then urge each other along in living out those commitments, we build our faith, maturity, and unity. As well, the practice of covenanting is all throughout the Bible. So, we encourage you to join us in covenanting and partnering in ministry.
I join Paul in his prayer for Philemon that you may be greatly blessed in partnering with other believers.
“I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” (Philemon 1:6)
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