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WHAT WE BELIEVE
MANY PATHS TO GOD?
About the Community Bible Church
The Community Bible Church began in May of 1995. After many months in prayer, a group of believers made the commitment to start an independent Bible Church in Tunkhannock. Our goal was to combine the best aspects of traditional and contemporary worship and at the same time not compromise the fundamentals of the faith. God has blessed us from the very beginning and we are very grateful to Him.
Our purpose is to glorify God and to do so by maintaining regular public worship, building up one another in the faith, promoting systematic study and teaching of the Bible, and participating in the evangelization of the lost, both locally and throughout the world.
We welcome all who subscribe to our doctrinal statement and invite them to join with us. We also invite anyone seeking to know more about God or has questions about Christianity to visit and allow us to help in that understanding.
What is an Independent Church?
An independent church is simply a church with no affiliation with a greater organization. The concept of an “independent church” actually began in the first century as the Apostles began spreading the gospel and planting churches. While it is true that the Apostles had very real authority over those first-century churches, it is also true that the Elders in local churches had no authority over the affairs of other local churches; their authority being limited to their own churches. With the passing of the Apostles, no central governmental structure replaced the Apostles’ authority nor were there any Biblical instructions to form such a centralized governmental structure. The local churches in most of the cities that had been evangelized operated independently – using the guidelines passed on to them by the Apostles and recorded in the books of the New Testament.
As time passed, groups of local churches in particular geographical areas began to develop bonds with each other, but it was not until the 4th and 5th centuries that a strong central authority, that controlled all Christian churches, began to show itself. This strong central authority continued to develop throughout the Middle Ages – with some ruptures along the way – and was not seriously and effectively challenged until the Reformation in the 16th century.
The Protestant Reformation created a number of new authoritative Protestant bodies or “denominations.” They arose because of doctrinal or geographical distinctives and in an effort to maintain control over individual churches.
Why start an Independent Bible Church?
The movement toward independent churches that had been so much a part of the early church, re-emerged around the turn of the 19th century. This came about because many of the mainline Protestant denominations were beginning to move away from some of the traditional doctrines of the church. The independent church enables Christians who are like-minded to build a church that is founded on the traditional doctrines of the faith and then gives them the autonomy to see that this foundation is not disrupted.
Our purpose at CBC is to maintain regular public worship, build one another in the faith, promote systematic study and teaching of the Bible, and participate in the evangelization of the lost both locally and throughout the world. Our worship combines aspects of both the traditional and the contemporary with a sincere desire to keep worship fresh and to focus on the living God. We welcome all who subscribe to our doctrinal statement to join us in membership. We also invite anyone who is seeking or has questions about Christianity to visit. We want to be of help.
The movement toward independent churches, which had been so much a part of the early church, re-emerged around the turn of the 19th century. This came about because many of the mainline Protestant denominations were beginning to reject critical doctrinal truths such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, the deity and virgin birth of Christ, even the need for faith in the atoning death of Christ for salvation. These – and other doctrines that soon fell out of favor – had been the very foundation of the church for nearly 2000 years. As a result, the essential message of the gospel was lost in many of these churches.
Because of the traditional hierarchy in mainline churches, true reform has become virtually impossible and can consume time and energy that would otherwise be spent in doing ministry.
What We Believe
- We believe that the Bible is the inspired word and revelation of God, and that the Scriptures are our final authority in faith and conduct.
- We believe there is only one true and living God, in whom are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet one in essence, co-equal and coexistent.
- We believe that God created all things from nothing, and it was good.
- We believe that man was created in the image of God, but sinned against God through willful disobedience. As a result, we are hopelessly separated from Him.
- We believe that our sins are atoned for only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and that faith in His sacrifice is the only foundation of salvation.
- We believe that all believers should continually be striving towards Christian maturity.
- We believe that the Church is the body of those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
- We believe in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- We believe in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- We believe in the eternal judgment for those who reject Christ, and eternal life for all those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
The Community Bible Church and Charismatic/Pentecostal Distinctives and Dealing With Other Differences Among Christians
Table of Contents
A …….. The Defining Character of a Church.
B …….. Why We Are Not Charismatic.
C …….. What About the Freedom of the Spirit?
D …….. What Role Do the Leaders/Elders Have In This Matter?
When, in the summer of 1994, a group of Christians met in Tunkhannock to explore the possibilities of starting a church it was the intent of this group to found a church that was evangelical/fundamental in doctrine and non-Charismatic in practice. It was not to be, however, an anti-Charismatic church. By this we meant that the church would:
a) not embrace an attitude of overt hostility toward Charismatics and
b) warmly welcome into the congregation Charismatic brothers and sisters who, we hoped, would participate fully in the work
God would give this congregation.
In the first draft of our constitution the issue was expressed this way:
Article VIII…Section 1
We recognize that the Church of Jesus Christ is large and diverse and that the only requirement for entrance into this “family of God” is through personal faith in the Atoning Death of Jesus Christ on the sinner’s behalf. We also recognize that aside from the essential doctrines of the faith there are many secondary issues that separate brothers and sisters in Christ. It is our desire to keep these secondary issues that separate genuine believers in Christ to a minimum in our congregation. But we also recognize that, by the very nature of some of these secondary issues, it is essential that we as a church set down certain guidelines for our worship services. We do so humbly and in the full recognition that our understanding of God and His Word is not, by any means, perfect.
The worship service of this Church shall not entertain the Charismatic /Pentecostal distinctives of “speaking in tongues”, “first person prophecies,” “Words of Faith”, “Words of Knowledge” and other Charismatic /Pentecostal activities that are distinctive from those worship services that characterize the evangelical Christian community of believers.
This church is not anti-Charismatic/anti-Pentecostal and does not in any way wish to separate itself from those congregations that consider themselves as such. Neither do we wish to separate ourselves or to exclude from membership and fellowship brothers and sisters in Christ who consider themselves Charismatic or Pentecostal. We must, however, insist that those activities that are distinctively Charismatic or Pentecostal not be exercised as part of our church worship. This does not mean, however, that we are demanding that these brothers and sisters not exercise these distinctives in their homes or in other congregations.
The purpose of this paper is to clarify this church’s position on the charismatic and Pentecostal distinctives, the place those distinctives have in its worship services, and to explain why this church insists on separating itself from some of those distinctives.
A. The Defining Character of a Church…
Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
1. The universal church…All of the men and women who have placed their faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation from God’s wrath against sin are born again into the Kingdom of God and as such are members of God’s Family and are part of the “church, which is His body…”
2. The local church…The local church is made up of men and women who are members of the “universal church” and who live in a particular geographical area in a particular time. But, because there are so many issues on which genuine Christians disagree, it is important that a local church define itself more particularly or it will find itself in a constant state of confusion and turmoil.
3. Isn’t being a Christian enough for membership?…No! While it is critical that a man or woman who becomes a member of our church be a Christian, being a Christian is not enough. And the reason is this: Many Christians have very different ideas about God and man, the Scriptures and the church, etc. If these differences are too great, problems can result. A clear and well-defined church character can help to resolve many of these problems.
4. What is meant by…”The Defining Character of a Church?”
The defining character of a church…A church is defined by what it believes to be true and how it wishes to conduct itself. Usually, those things a church believes to be true and the ways in which it chooses to conduct itself are expressed in its constitution. The constitution then, should express the defining character of a church.
5. Some reasons for a local church to have a well-defined character:
a) Chaos and turmoil…If there are too many men and women with too many different ideas about God and man, the Scriptures and the church, there will be too many different directions in which these men and women will be going in. And, as is often the case, each will demand that the group go in its particular direction. It is impossible for a group to go simultaneously in a multitude of conflicting directions. If this situation exists, chaos and turmoil will rule the day. The only solution to this chaotic situation is for everyone to recognize that each church has a certain defining character or body of beliefs and practices and that it is unacceptable for anyone to try and move the congregation outside of this defining character.
b) Prospective members…It important for prospective members to understand clearly who we are and what we believe so that they are then able to determine whether or not they want to join with us.
c) Alleviate rehashing beliefs…A well-defined character will alleviate the need for a church to be constantly rehashing who it is and what it believes. If the local church is going to devote itself to building the Kingdom of God it cannot spend its time arguing over issues that need to be settled at its inception. It cannot spend 20 years arguing over whether or not it will be charismatic; it cannot spend 20 years arguing over infant baptism; it cannot spend 20 years arguing over whether the mission of the church is a) to build the Kingdom of God now (as in amillennialism and postmillennialism) or b) wait for Jesus Christ to come and set it up (as in premillennialism). Unless the local church settles a number of these primary and secondary issues at its beginning, it will end up wasting time. A church that clearly defines what it believes to be true and what it wants to be as a church will alleviate a lot of controversy and can then get on with building the Kingdom of God.
6. How do we define ourselves?…A more complete definition of who we are and what we believe will be found in our church constitution. Only a few of those defining characteristics will be cited here to help illustrate the need for a church to define itself clearly.
a) Primary defining characteristic: Evangelical/Fundamental. Our primary defining characteristic is that of being Evangelical or Fundamental. By this we mean that we — along with other Christians and churches who identify themselves by these names — believe in the great fundamentals of Christianity. They are:
> The Inerrancy and Authority of the Scriptures
> The Deity of Christ
> The Atoning Death of Christ
> The Doctrine of Justification by Faith apart from works
> The Return of Jesus Christ
b) Secondary defining characteristics….These are characteristics that are not as critical to the Faith as are the primary defining characteristics, but they are critical to the harmonious well-being and the fruitfulness of the congregation. Without substantial agreement on these issues the church will fall into quarreling and confusion.
> Let’s look at a few of these secondary characteristics and examine the problems that arise when there is disagreement on these positions.
1. Dispensational, Premillennial…We believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth following the Great Tribulation and that He will set up a Millennial Kingdom of righteousness and peace. We believe that this is the kingdom that the Old Testament Jewish prophets longed for. We believe that the church is not called to usher in this kingdom of peace, but rather, that we are to build the kingdom by winning the lost to Christ and nurturing them to maturity.
Disagreement…Now suppose a man comes into our congregation who does not believe in dispensational premillennialism but believes in postmillennialism. While there are a variety of views within the postmillennial camp, the general belief is that the church will usher in the kingdom of peace and righteousness (not Jesus Christ) and that Christ will come to earth after the church ushers in peace and righteousness on earth. Many postmillennialists believe that in order for the church to accomplish this mission from God it must involve itself heavily in the social and political structures of our society so as to bring about the necessary changes. As a result, this man will be constantly urging our congregation to involve itself more and more vigorously in our social and political institutions.
Now we have a problem…The premillennialists in the congregation will, for the most part, not want to make much of an effort to change a society they believe will only get worse until Jesus Christ comes and makes it better. On the other hand, the postmillennialist, will want the church to do all it can do to change society. How can we satisfy both?… We can’t!
Resolution: Because we have defined ourselves as premillennialists we will tell our postmillennialist brother that he is welcome to attend, but he must do so recognizing that we are premillennialist congregation and he is not welcome to try and:
a) change us or
b) work within the ranks to get his agenda adopted.
Are we stifling differences of opinion? Yes and No…
No…We are not telling him that he must believe exactly the way that we believe in order to attend our church. And no, we are not telling him that he must keep his opinions secret. And no, we are not telling him that he is not free to express his opinion.
No…We are not suppressing truth. It is our intent that on all legitimate Biblical issues, there be a full airing of opinions. But, this does not mean that we as a church will have no opinions on these issues, being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Eph. 4:14). We have come to some settled persuasions on a number of issues and we are building a church based on them.
No…We are not close minded, and unwilling to change. Most of us have examined these issues thoroughly and have not heard a new argument in years. Based on the arguments we have already heard, we have developed some very strong opinions. If, however, some new and persuasive argument came along, we will always be open to it…
Yes…We are stifling this difference of opinion in that he is not free to teach it in our congregation, nor is he free to go about in the congregation urging members to adopt his position and then join him in working to change society according to his particular doctrinal belief.
This would be divisive and cannot be allowed!
Rom. 16:17 “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way…”
Tit. 3:10 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”
Why are we “stifling” him?…We are doing so, because those of us who started this church studied this question very carefully and came to a settled persuasion that the premillennial position is the correct Biblical position. And based on this persuasion, we want to build a church that acts accordingly. We do not want to devote large amounts of time re-examining a position we have already examined and have come to a settled persuasion on. If we devote ourselves to constantly re-examining every position that we have ever taken we will have neither the time nor the direction to accomplish anything for the kingdom of God. Also, if we allow every divergent opinion to have full sway in our congregation, we will not be united, we will not satisfy Amos’s admonition (Amos 3:3) “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” and we will have chaos and turmoil.
It is critical that:
a) A church…embrace very real opinions on major issues
b) A church…act on those opinions
2. The Role of Women in the Church…We believe that women may speak and sing in our church and that they may teach women and children. We do not, however, believe that women should be allowed to preach or teach the adult men.
Disagreement…Suppose a man comes into our congregation who has a Plymouth Brethren background. The Brethren are a remarkably fine group of Christians to whom we Evangelicals owe a great debt (pretribulationalism and premillennialism sprang from the Brethren). And suppose that after he has been worshiping with us for a while we allow him to lead the “prayer and share” time. After a few weeks we notice a real problem; he calls only on men to share with the congregation and allows only men to pray. Lots of women are upset…and a lot of men as well. We talk to him about it and he tells us that based on 1 Cor. 14:34 women should not be allowed to speak in the assembly and so, he will not call on women to speak nor will he allow them to pray. What do we do? Do we allow him to have his way? And if we do not allow him to lead the “prayer and share” time, do we still allow him to promote this teaching in the congregation?
The answer is this:
> We do not allow him to lead the “Prayer and Share” if he refuses to call on women.
> We do not allow him to promote his Plymouth Brethren teaching in the congregation where it would undoubtedly cause divisions.
Why would we not allow this? We would not allow him to exercise this particular Brethren belief in our congregation nor would we allow him to promote it because:
> We are not a Plymouth Brethren church
> We do not embrace this particular teaching. We recognize that a case can be made for his position, but we also recognize that a case can be made for allowing women to speak and pray.
> His teaching is opposed to the Defining Character of our Church. We are a church that will allow women to speak (based on other Scriptures that seem to support allowing them to speak)
What if he protests…”I’m a member of this church and as such I should have the right to express my opinions and shape the direction of this church.”
Our answer would be this…We would say: It is true that you are a member of this church and as a member you have a right to express your opinion and to help shape the direction of this church. But, you do not have the right to change the defining character of this church. When you came here you knew that this was not a Brethren church and that we allow women to speak. Now that you are a member/attendee you do not have a right to change the very character of who we are. We are not a Brethren church, we do not wish to become a Brethren church and if you insist on us worshiping in a Brethren manner then you are not welcome here…we suggest that you find a Brethren church.
3. Infant baptism…What has been said about a Christian who believes in postmillennialism and the Christian who comes from a Plymouth Brethren background is true for the man who believes in infant baptism. We do not believe in infant baptism and would not allow this doctrine to be taught or promoted.
4. Charismatic distinctives…What has been said about Christians who are postmillennialists or who have a Plymouth Brethren background or who believe in infant baptism is true for those Christians who are Charismatic or Pentecostal. Our church is not Charismatic or Pentecostal and while these brothers and sisters are welcome to attend they are not welcome to teach or promote or practice these distinctives in our church. The reasons should be obvious. It is impossible to have both a Charismatic and non-Charismatic service.
Separate group…Some might suggest that we allow the Charismatic brothers and sisters to have a separate service, but this would create two bodies (each convinced that it “had seen the light”) and the unity that is required for a church to function as it should would be lost. This would also create confusion in the minds of new and immature believers who would not really know what to believe because they would be hearing two voices. There will be only one voice on this issue in this church, and that is this: This church is non-Charismatic and it is non-Charismatic because we do not agree with many of the Charismatic distinctives. We think they are wrong.
Charismatics are welcome to join but they are not welcome to try and change the defining character of this church. Just as others whose theology on some of these secondary issues is at odds with the defining character of this church are welcome to attend but not act to change who we are, so it must be for our Charismatic brothers and sisters.
B. Why We Are Not Charismatic – There are many reasons why the men and women who started this church are not Charismatic. It is not the purpose of this paper to go into all of the reasons; many of those reasons are covered each time we teach on the subject of spiritual gifts.
1. A partial list of problems we have with the charismatic movement…
> The emphasis on “speaking in tongues”
> First person prophecies…in which an individual stands up and acts as though God is speaking through him
> Healing services
> “Naming it and claiming it”
> An emphasis on health and wealth…as opposed to sacrifice
2. We have not failed to see the light…Before going into some of the reasons why we are not a Charismatic congregation, we must deal with a bit of fiction that Charismatics often hold to and that is this: Many Charismatics believe that non-Charismatics are not Charismatics because they have failed to see the light.
This is a delusion…It has been my experience over the years that many of my well-meaning, but mistaken, Charismatic brothers are under the delusion that non-Charismatic Christians are non-Charismatic because they have “failed to see the light” or that they have not “progressed sufficiently” in their Christian lives to embrace the Charismatic distinctives. This sort of thinking is based upon the assumption that to have failed to embrace the Charismatic distinctives is to have failed to be all that God wants a Christian to be. Let me state as clearly and as emphatically as possible that this is a delusion in the mind of the Charismatics.
We have seen the light…While it may be true that many non-Charismatic Christians have not examined the Charismatic distinctives with any thoroughness, many of us have. A great many non-Charismatic Christians have examined the Charismatic distinctives very closely and have found many of them to be wrong (that is, contrary to the Scriptures). Not only have we found many of them to be wrong, we have also found many of these distinctive to be without sufficient Biblical support to justify embracing them. We have also found that some of the Charismatic distinctives to be closely associated with false and occult religious practices. To suggest that non-Charismatics are such because they have “failed to see the light” is silly. Many of us have “seen the light” and that light has shown us the errors in the Charismatic movement. The truth is that we have looked at the Charismatic movement and found in it a lot of darkness…so much darkness that we have deliberately chosen to separate ourselves from it.
3. The elevation of the subjective…The major problem with the Charismatic movement – in our opinion – is not “speaking in tongues” and healing services, etc., but with the elevation of the subjective over the objective in determining truth.
Emphasis on the subjective…The Charismatic movement has placed an enormous emphasis on the subjective (perceived experiences) as opposed to the objective Word of God. (I called these experiences “perceived” experiences because they may not be real, but only “perceived” to be real). There is in the Charismatic movement a trend toward developing a body of beliefs that are based on perceived experiences. And these experiences – which may or may not agree with the Scriptures – become the doctrine that drives the movement.
John MacArthur wrote, “As experience after experience is reported in the press and religious radio and television, a subtle but sinister pattern is developing. Instead of responding to proper interpretation of God’s Word, Christianity is collecting fantastic and preposterous experiences. The Bible is either mangled to fit those experiences or simply ignored altogether. The result is pseudo-Christianity.
“Mysticism is a system of belief that attempts to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable facts. It seeks truth through feelings, intuition, and other internal senses. Objective data is usually discounted, so mysticism derives its authority from within. Spontaneous feeling becomes more significant than objective fact. Intuition outweighs reason. An internal awareness supersedes external reality…mysticism is at the heart of modern existentialism, humanism, and even many forms of paganism – most notably Hinduism and its close ally, New Age philosophy.
“Irrational mysticism is at the heart of the Charismatic experience. It has subverted biblical authority within the movement and replaced it with a new standard: personal experience. And make no mistake – the practical effect of Charismatic teaching is to set one’s experience on a higher plane than a proper understanding of Scripture. That is precisely why [one Charismatic leader went so far as to tell a woman], ‘put away your Bible and your books and stop studying.” Her private ‘revelations’ and personal feelings mean more to her than the eternal truth of God’s inspired Word.”
“There are only two basic approaches to biblical truth. One is the historical, objective approach, which emphasizes God’s action toward men and women as taught in Scripture. The other is the personal, subjective approach, which emphasizes the human experience of God. How should we build our theology? Should we go to the Bible – or to the experiences of thousands of people? If we go to the people, we will have as many views as there are individuals. And that is exactly what is happening throughout the Charismatic movement today.”
This is what some major Charismatic leaders have said about the mind…
Kenneth Hagin “…the mind is something that will trip you up and cause you to fall”
Kenneth Copland “…the problem area is not in your spirit; it lies in your mind and your body”
4. Self-induced ecstasy…There is much in Charismatic worship services that is good and godly and well-worth imitating. There is, however, much that is not good. The mysticism (seeking spiritual reality through feelings, intuition and internal senses, apart from objective, verifiable fact) that so permeates the preaching and teaching in Charismatic churches also permeates their “worship services.” The Charismatic practice of repeating phrases of songs over and over and over again in such a way as to induce ecstasy experiences in which the worshipers feel as if they are becoming one with God is dangerous because this is exactly what takes place in Eastern religions and in the Occult.
Eastern and Occult religions…Eastern and Occult religions have recognized for thousands of years that there is something in the human mind that enables it to move into a euphoric or ecstatic or even hypnotic trance when phrases are repeated over and over again. The repetition of words and phrases (and even the repetition of musical sounds and rhythms) create hypnotic trances and ecstatic frenzies. Scholars call this phenomenon the ecstasy experience. This ecstatic experience is self-induced. It is created by turning the mind off by engaging in mindless repetitions.
While it would be wrong to assume that all of the ecstasy experiences in those Charismatic services where phrases of songs are repeated over and over again are self-induced, it is, at the same time, difficult to sort out what is the genuine the work of the Holy Spirit and what is self-induced. One thing we do know, the roots of this practice of repeating phrases to produce ecstasy experiences are found in Eastern religions and in the Occult and this should raise red flags.
· Eastern religions…Eastern religious practices – especially Hinduism and its many offspring – encourage the practitioner to become “one with god” by turning off the mind and allowing the “spirit” to achieve oneness with god. Meditation with mindless repetitions of mantras is one of several ways in which this can be achieved.
Walter Martin wrote, “…one’s goal is to lose his own personality in the oneness of God…This realization comes through practicing the meditations of TM” [TM or Transcendental Meditation is one of many Hindu offspring]
Eastern religious meditation…The whole point of Eastern religious meditation is to turn off the mind so that the soul or spirit can become one with God. Since it is often hard to turn off the mind, many practitioners of meditation recite mantras – a hymn or portion of text, especially from the Veda, chanted or intoned as an incantation or prayer. These mantras are memorized and repeated over and over again – thousands of times. Mantras aid the one meditating by tying up the mind in endless, repetitive chants – a mindless activity – and yet the mind is not really engaged in thinking; it has been, for all practical purposes, turned off. This then frees the soul or spirit to become “one with God.”
Douglas R. Groothuis wrote, “The basic problem to be overcome in the Eastern systems is the illusion of separation and individuality…In Hinduism the experience of oneness with the One may be called Moksha, Satchidananda or Samadhi; in Buddhism it is Nirvana or Satori. According to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a popular and controversial Indian guru with a large Western following, ‘moksha is not freedom of the self, but freedom from the self.’ Through meditation, he says, ‘you will be tuned to the infinite, then you will be tuned to the cosmic – then you will be one with the whole’…The One is found and experienced through a process of self-discovery, whether it be meditation, yoga or some other spiritual discipline… Eastern meditative practices emphasize emptying the mind of the illusion of separation…A holy word (mantra) may be repeated in order to change one’s consciousness…When the Bible speaks of meditation it means rumination on God and His Word; a filling of the mind with God’s truth. Vain, irrational repetitions are excluded (Mt. 6:7)…God, in many of the religions of the East, is…beyond rationality….Rajneesh himself teaches people to distrust reason and to pass into an experience beyond it…”
Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
Ecstasy experience…The results of prolonged meditative states lead to a sense of euphoria, ecstasy, hypnotic trances, etc.
5. Occult religious practices and self-induced ecstasy. Many occult religious practices employ the mindlessness, the unbridled emotionalism and the repetition of words and phrases (and even repetition of musical sounds and rhythms) that are seen in Eastern religions to create hypnotic trances and ecstatic frenzies.
MacArthur writes, “…nothing was more characteristic of the mystery religions than what they called ecstasy. Believers in the mystery religions sought to cultivate a magical, sensuous communion with the divine. They would do almost anything to get themselves into a semiconscious, hallucinatory, hypnotic, or orgiastic spell in which they believed they were sensually in contact with deity. Some used wine to assist in the euphoric experience, as Paul implied in Ephesians 5:18. Whether from literal intoxication or emotional exhilaration, when worshippers fell into a state of euphoria, it was as if they had been drugged. They assumed they were in union with God.”
According to S. Angus, once professor of New Testament and historical theology at St. Andrews College, Sydney, the ecstasy experienced by the mystery religion worshiper brought him into a “mystic ineffable condition in which the normal functions of personality were in abeyance and the moral strivings which form character virtually ceased or were relaxed, while the emotional and the intuitive were accentuated.” In other words, the worshiper would get into a state where his mind would go into neutral and his emotions would take over. The intellect and conscience would give way to passion, sentiment, and emotion. This was ecstasy; an intoxicating condition of euphoria. Angus further reported:
“[Ecstasy] might be induced by vigil and fasting, tense religious expectancy, whirling dances, physical stimuli, the contemplation of the sacred objects, the effect of stirring music, inhalation of fumes, revivalistic contagion (such as happened in the Church at Corinth), hallucination, suggestion, and all the other means belonging to the apparatus of the Mysteries…[One ancient writer] speaks of men ‘going out of themselves to be wholly established in the Divine and to be enraptured.”
“As the mystery worshiper experienced such ecstasy, he was lifted above the level of his ordinary experience into an abnormal sense of consciousness. He experienced an exhilarating condition in which he believed his body ceased being a hindrance to his soul.”
“According to Angus, ecstasy could ‘range anywhere from non-moral delirium to that consciousness of oneness with the Invisible and the dissolution of painful individuality which marks the mystics of all ages.” In other words, ecstasy could emancipate the soul from the confinement of the body and enable a person to commune with the spirit world. It created an extraordinarily buoyant sensation. In that state a person supposedly had the capacity to see and understand things that only the eyes of the spirit can behold.
Testimonies by Pentecostal-charismatic believers describe exactly the same kinds of experiences. Charismatics who experience various states of euphoria attribute their experiences to certain gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly tongues. The common testimony is, “It feels so good., I never felt this way before! It must be of God.” Not necessarily, as we are about to see from the Corinthian experience….
1 Cor. 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
…As pagans, [the Corinthians] used to get carried away in mindless, ecstatic, orgiastic kinds of activities, but that was not supposed to be true now. The truly spiritual person is not someone who is swept away into trances, ecstasies, and emotional frenzies. When a person is out of control, it is never because of the Spirit. Those who claim to have been slain in the Spirit may indeed have been ‘slain,’ but it is not by the Holy Spirit.
Nowhere in Scripture do we see real gifts of the Spirit operating when someone is out of control or under some sort of supernatural seizure. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that the Spirit of God causes Christians to fall into a trance, faint, or lapse into frenzied behavior. On the contrary:
Gal. 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is…Self-control”
1 Pet. 1:13 “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Some final thoughts on self-induced ecstasy…
There is something in the human makeup that allows men and women to move into an ecstatic state when their minds are turned off through mindless repetition of words, phrases, choruses, musical rhythms, etc. These ecstatic states are euphoric, even hypnotic, and on occasion may even be influenced by the demonic.
Whatever the case, it is definitely not a part of Biblically-approved worship. It is more akin to the occult. It springs from man and is self-induced, not Spirit induced. It is earthly, not heavenly. It is fleshy, not spiritual. It has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.
C. What About the Freedom of the Spirit?
Whenever there is a discussion of worship, the question of the “freedom of the Spirit” to move and act and direct the proceedings is raised. The idea being that we, the people of God, come together in the name of Jesus Christ and in the presence of the Holy Spirit to worship our God. And because we are human and fallen and flawed it is preferable if we allow God’s Spirit to direct the proceedings. On this, we all agree! But there is a problem, and the problem is this: There are essentially two ways in which we can “allow the Spirit to move.” Which do we choose?
1. Very little planning…Many charismatic churches choose to allow the “Spirit to move” and direct the proceedings by limiting the planning of the worship service. The amount of planning that precedes the service will vary from church to church, but the key element is this: as the worship service proceeds, the worship leader adds songs, removes songs, repeats songs, repeats verses, prays, reads scripture, etc…..”as the spirit leads”
Problems and advantages with this approach:
But how do we know that the Holy Spirit is leading…Those who promote the idea of very little planning for the service claim that they are giving the Holy Spirit room to lead. But how do we know that it is the Holy Spirit and not the leaders of the service who directing?
Why limit the Holy Spirit to the service time?…Why are we limiting the “moving of the Spirit” to only the 15-20 minutes of the worship service?
Why not allow the Holy Spirit a full week?…Why not allow the Holy Spirit to have all week to “move” and direct the service. Why not allow the Holy Spirit to start working on the worship service on Monday morning, when the worship leader starts planning the service. Which is better?…the 15-20 minutes the Holy Spirit has during the worship service or the 168 hours there are in a week?
Confusion among musicians…Impromptu direction from the worship leader makes it difficult for musicians to play well. They can’t plan for his changes; they often don’t know what is going on; they are often confused…etc. The results are often less than what is hoped for in a worship service.
Confusion in the congregation…The confusion among the musicians is often reflected in the congregation. When confusion exists, men and women take their eyes off the Lord and begin to focus on trying to figure out what’s happening.
Confusion and disorder are earthly, Satanic and evil…Confusion and disorder are associated with that which is earthy and Satanic and evil. Confusion and disorder are not associated with that which is heavenly and godly and righteous.
1. 1 Cor. 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
2. Galatians 5:9-10 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10. I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.
3. James 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
4. Revelation 4…You will notice in Revelation chapter four that the worship before God’s throne has the appearance of being ordered and sequential.
> The only real advantage in limited planning is that it allows for genuine spontaneity. But is spontaneity necessarily spiritual? If so, where are we told this?
2. A lot of planning…There is a second approach to allowing the Holy Spirit to direct the worship service and that is the approach used by most non- Charismatic churches. The Holy Spirit is consulted (or at least, should be) for the entire week preceding the worship service. As the week progresses changes are made – as “the Spirit leads” – and then, prior to the service the order of events is finalized.
Problems and advantages with this approach:
> How do we know that the “order of events” is Spirit directed? We don’t know this to be the case any more than we know that the impromptu and spontaneous direction of the leader in his 15-20 minute worship service is Spirit directed.
> But we have this advantage: The Holy Spirit has had 168 hours to work out “His program” through fallen men and not just 15-20 minutes during the service.
> What if the Holy Spirit wants a particular piece of music to be played during the worship service. If that is revealed during the 15-20 minute worship service, there is no way that this can be accomplished. But, if the worship leader has worked this out with the Spirit of God during the week, there is ample time to get the music and include it in the worship service.
> Musicians who know exactly what God’s Spirit has led them to play during a particular worship service have a tremendous advantage over those who do not. Music can be laid out and practiced and coordinated with the others participating in the
> Confusion (which is earthly) is minimized…for both musicians and the congregation
> Order (which is from God) is maximized…for both musicians and the congregation
Some final thoughts about the Freedom of the Spirit…To suggest, as many have, that an impromptu and spontaneous worship service is “more spiritual” because it allows for greater “freedom of the Spirit” is just not true. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Allowing the Holy Spirit a full week to work out His program almost guarantees that what we end up with will more clearly reflect His thinking than will the spontaneous and impromptu models that severely limit the time God’s Spirit has to work…on his program.
The need for planning is seen in teaching and preaching…This is clearly demonstrated in teaching and preaching. The preacher/teacher who walks into a service – without having spent many hours of preparation – and depends on the Holy Spirit to give him the words to say, will end up saying very little of value. On the other hand, the teacher or preacher who devotes 15-30 hours during the week to Bible study and to seeking God’s guidance, is a man – if God is directing – who has something worthwhile to say.
D.L. Moody, once encountered a young student studying for the ministry. The young student told Moody that he never involved himself in sermon preparation, but rather “allowed the Holy Spirit to give him the words to say when he got up to speak.” Moody suggested that, under these circumstances, the young man’s sermons would more closely resemble a “hot east wind” rather than the expository messages God expected.
A worship service without preparation all too often resembles a “hot east wind” rather than a service in which the mind of man reaches out to touch the mind of God in praise and adoration and worship.
1 Cor. 14:15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
D. The Role of Elders in Fulfilling the Church’s Mission
A church can lay down all sorts of Biblical guidelines for both faith and practice, but in the end, if it does not act on those guidelines they are of little value. How do churches insure that they become all that they have proposed to be?
The elders are responsible…The answer, in part, is that the elders of the church are given the responsibility – by God – to “oversee” the work of the church and see to it that everything that takes place within the church is done in a Biblically prescribed manner.
Acts 20:17,25-28 “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them…Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought
with his own blood.”
1 Tim. 5:17 “The elders and deacons who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
1 Pet. 5:1-4 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
- Article I ……… Church Covenant
- Article II …….. Organization
- Article III ……. Articles of Faith
- Article IV ……. Membership
- Article V …….. Assets
- Article VI ……. Government
- Article VII …… Committees
- Article VIII ….. Worship and Fellowship
- Article IX ……. Meetings
- Article X …….. Amending the Constitution
Having been led, as we believe by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, having made profession of our faith, and having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.
We promise, as God shall enable us, to walk together in Christian love and to exercise Christian care and watchfulness over one another. We will participate in one another’s joys, and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear one another’s sorrows. We will strive for the advancement of our church in spiritual knowledge and holiness, and to sustain its worship, ordinances, disciplines and doctrines. We will contribute cheerfully to the support of this ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel throughout the whole world. We will also avail ourselves of the great privilege of prayer both for ourselves and for others.
We further promise to maintain family and private devotions; to educate our children in the Christian faith; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; and to walk circumspectly in the world. We will strive to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment. We will abstain from every form of evil, be faithful in our relationship to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, and to live to His glory.
Section 1 – Name
This church shall be known as the Community Bible Church of Tunkhannock. Our current Mailing address is 2 Charles Brothers Plaza, Tunkhannock, PA 18657-1736.
Section 2 – Purpose
The purpose of CBC is glorify God, by introducing men and women to Jesus Christ, and by nurturing and building them into devoted disciples. We do this by:
1. Maintaining regular public worship of God
2. Building up the congregation in the faith
3. Promoting systematic study and teaching of the Bible
4. Strengthening the bond of Christian fellowship
5. Observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
6. Participating in the evangelization of the lost, both locally and throughout the world.
ARTICLES OF FAITH
PART I – Those beliefs that must be believed:
Section 1 – The Scriptures
We believe that the Bible is the inspired word and revelation of God. We believe this extends to the words used (verbal), and that all parts of the Bible are inspired. We believe the Scriptures are infallible in all matters (that is without error), and that they are the only and final authority in faith and conduct. (II Ti 3:16-17, II Pt 1:19-21)
Section 2 – God
We believe there is only one true and living God, in whom are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; yet one in essence, co-equal and coexistent. We believe that God is spirit; that He is holy, just, righteous, loving, unchanging, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. (Dt 6:4, Isa 44:6, Mt 28:19, II Cor 13:14, I Cor 8:6, John 4:24, Isa 6:3, Dt 32:4, Ac 3:14, Jn 3:16, Jas 1:17, Mal 3:6, Heb 4:13, Eph 1:19-21, Ps 139:7-10)
God the Father – We believe in God the Father, who is distinguished as such because of His particular relationship to Jesus Christ, His Son. We believe that God is the Father of regenerated man. We become heirs and joint heirs with Christ through adoption made possible by the shed blood of Jesus. (Jn 20:17,I Cor 15:24,28, Ro 8:14-17, 23, Eph. 4:6, I Jn 3:1).
God the Son – We believe that Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity and the eternal Son of God, was begotten of Mary, a virgin, by the Holy Spirit, and was born man. He was in every respect as we are, but without sin. He is the only mediator between God and men. (Jn 1:1-3, 1:14-18, 14:6, Lk 1:34-35, Phil 2:5-8, Heb 2:17, 4:15, I Ti 2:5)
God the Holy Spirit – We believe that the divine person of the Holy Spirit has been active in the world from the beginning. It is He Who shows men their sin and leads them to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. He initiates the new birth and is actively present in believers, guiding, correcting, and empowering their growth toward the stature of Christ. (II Pe 1:21, Jn 14:16-17, 16:7-8, 16:13, Ac 1:8, Eph 4:13)
Section 3 – Satan
We recognize the personality of Satan, who first tempted man to sin. Since the fall he has enjoyed power and allegiance in the created world and continues to entice men from God and to oppose the work of the Holy Spirit. He is destined to final judgment and condemnation by God. (Ge 3:1-13, Ac 26:18, Lk 8:12, Rev 20:10)
Section 4 – Creation
We believe that God created all things from nothing, and it was good, and free from the sin and evil that permeates the world today. Environmental conditions today are different from the original creation due to God’s judgment in the Garden of Eden, and the global flood. (Ge 1 & 2, Col 1:16-17, Jn 1:1-3, Cor 8:6, Rev 4:11)
Section 5 – Fall of Man
We believe that man was created in innocence, subject to God’s commands. By willful disobedience, he fell from his sinless and happy state. In consequence all men are now sinners, not only by nature, but also by choice. Therefore, all are under just condemnation without defense or excuse, and for this reason need a new birth. (Ge 3, Ro 3:10-19, Ro 2:1-3, Jn 3:3-7)
Section 6 – Atonement
We believe that salvation of sinners is wholly by grace. The Son of God, who was Himself completely without sin, voluntarily took upon Himself our sin – the just for the unjust. He made a full and complete atonement. In raising Christ from the dead on the third day, God bore witness to the completion of His atoning work. “Once an individual accepts Christ as Savior, he cannot lose his salvation. He may fall into a backslidden state, or he may have never truly accepted Christ – but we do not believe a person can lose his salvation.” (Eph 2:8-9, II Cor 5:21, Jn 10:17-18, I Pe 3:18, Heb 9:26-18, I Cor 15:3-4, 15:17, Ro 4:24-25, Rom 8:35-39, 11:29, Jn 10:27-30)
Section 7 – Salvation
We believe that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only foundation of salvation. This faith in Him involves realization of our sin and turning in repentance and trust to Him as the sole deliverer from sin. Salvation is therefore a new birth. The believer is a new creature whose life is bound to Jesus Christ as Savior, source and sustainer. “Once an individual accepts Christ as Savior, he cannot lose his salvation. He may fall into a backslidden state, or he may have never truly accepted Christ – but we do not believe a person can lose his salvation.” (Ro 3:21-26, 8:35-39, 11:29, Ac 2:37-38, 16:31, Jn 3:3-7, 5:24, 10:27-30, Eph 2:1, II Cor 5:17, Gal 2:20)
Section 8 – Return of Christ
We believe in the personal and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this blessed hope should have a vital bearing on the personal life and service of believers. Jesus himself told the disciples that He was going away to prepare a place for His followers and that He would come again to gather them together for eternity. The Bible lists several characteristics of Christ’s Second Coming: He will come unexpectedly, personally, triumphantly, and with His angels to reward each person according to what he has done. (1 Th 4:14-16, Ac 1:11, Jn. 14:3; Mt. 24:32-51, Lk. 19:11-27)
Section 9 – Resurrection
We believe in a literal bodily resurrection of the dead, in the same way our Lord was resurrected. Jesus is the first resurrection. When the Lord calls the church to be with Him, all believers both dead and still living, will be caught up to be with Him. All unbelievers will also be resurrected at the Great White Throne judgment, where their lives will be examined. (Mt 22:29-32, 1 Cor. 15:12-28, Phil 3:10, Heb 6:2, Rev 20:5)
Section 10 – The Final State of Man
We believe that the final destiny of every man will be determined entirely by his relation to Jesus Christ. All who have truly accepted Christ will dwell with Him in a heaven perfect in every respect because of the presence of God. All who are not reconciled to God through Christ will be eternally separated from Him in the lake of fire. Christians should, therefore, labor to warn all men of the consequences of rejecting Christ. (1 Jn 5:11-12, Phil 1:6, Jn 14:2-3, Rev 21:22-23, Mt 7:21-23, 25:31-46, Ac 20:26-27, 31)
PART II – Those beliefs that must not be contested:
Section 11 – Church
We believe that the church is the body of those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Membership in the local church does not necessarily constitute membership in the body of Christ. Individuals must have had a life-changing experience whereby they have truly accepted Christ as their personal savior. The Church is intended for worship, to observe the ordinances, and to strengthen believers in the faith. It is entrusted with God’s message of salvation and is commissioned by Christ to proclaim the gospel everywhere. (Rev 2:18-20, Eph 1:22-23, Jn 4:23, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Heb 10:24-25, Ac 2:41-42, 2 Cor 5:19-20, Mt 28:18-20)
Section 12 – Christian Maturity
We believe that it is the will of God that all believers continue to mature toward the stature of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the believer willingly accepts the direction of the Spirit, his inner life is sanctified and brought into more perfect obedience to God’s will. Moreover, within the fellowship of Christians and in the world, the Spirit directs the believer toward the likeness of Christ. In this way, the believer’s active love bears witness to God’s presence and power within and glorifies God before men. The believer also seeks to discover and nurture the Spiritual Gifts God has given. Every believer should be actively using his gift in this fellowship and in the community. (Eph 4:13, Ro 8:14, I Th 4:1-3, Eph 4:22-24, Jn 13:34-35, I Jn 3:16-17, Mt 5:16; Gifts – 1 Cor 12, 1 Pe 4:10, Ro 11:29)
Section 13 – Ordinances
We believe that the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are symbols of God’s redeeming work and marks of our public profession as Christians. They are commanded for all believers, but are of no effect apart from the believer’s faith. This church shall administer Baptism by immersion signifying the believer’s union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.. The Lord’s Supper is to be received by believers only, in remembrance of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. (Matt 28:19, Acts 8:35-38, Acts 10:47-48, Rom 6:3-5, Col 2:12, Matt 26:26-28, 1 Cor 11: 23-29)
Section 14 – Civil Government
We believe that civil government is ordained of God for the interests and good order of society. Christians are commanded to honor and pray for those in authority and to obey their lawful commands except where these commandments oppose obedience to Christ. In exercising their responsibilities in a democracy, Christians should be guided by the awareness that a just and merciful society is pleasing and honoring to God. While some individual believers may be called into positions of leadership with the local, state or federal governments, we do not believe the Church has a Scriptural mandate to reform society. While we should state our positions respectfully and set the example by helping those in need, the church needs to focus on sharing the gospel and reforming itself. This is the clear pattern taught throughout the Old and New Testaments. (Ro 13:1-7, Mk 12:13-17, 1 Ti 2:1-2, Ac 4:19-20, Dt 16:18-20, Am 8:4-6, Jas 5:4, Lk 10:30-37, Ge 41-47, Da l-12)
Section 15 – Millennial Reign
We believe in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth following the seven year tribulation period. This earthly kingdom with the Messiah reigning as king will be the consummation of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants indicating God has separate plans for Israel and the Church. (Rev 20:2-3, 4, 6-7)
Section 1 – Membership Procedures
Any person who professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior, gives satisfactory evidence of a changed life, has been baptized, and declares himself substantially in accord with the principles and practices of this church, may become a candidate for church membership. Believers who have been baptized, although not by immersion, may likewise become candidates for church membership.
The steps toward membership are as follows:
1. Request for membership shall be made to one of the Elders. A candidate will be assigned a sponsoring Elder, whose duty it will be to help prepare the candidate for membership and make sure the individual is truly converted. The candidate must agree with the principles and practices of the church, and the key doctrinal issues that must be believed. The sponsoring Elder will determine if the candidate is ready to move on to the next step in the membership process. If it is determined that the individual is not ready, a training plan will be developed aimed at meeting the requirements.
2. Upon approval from the sponsoring Elder, the candidate will then meet with two or more of the Elders to give testimony to his Christian experience and declare agreement with the principles and practices of this church.
3. The candidate’s name will then be recommended by the Elders to the church. The candidate would then be received into this church upon receiving a two-thirds vote of those members present at the next scheduled Congregational meeting.
4. On the earliest convenient Sunday, the Elders shall extend the right hand of fellowship, signifying the new member’s acceptance into the membership of the church.
Section 2 – Members Under Age 18
Anyone under the age of 18 wishing to join the church according to the steps in Section 1 may do so. He will have all the privileges and responsibilities of membership except that he will be unable to vote until he reaches age 18.
Section 3 – Membership Review
At least once a year, the Elders shall review the membership roll and make appropriate changes according to Section 4.
Section 4 – Non-Attending Members
Supporting Members – Members with a legitimate reason for not attending the regular church program but expressing continued interest and support shall be placed in this category and listed on the Non-Voting Roll.
Inactive Members – Members who have habitually failed to attend the church program for a period of one year without a reason acceptable to the Elders shall be placed in this category and listed on the Non-Voting Roll. Any person so listed for a period of three years shall be dropped from the Membership Roll. The Elders shall contact each inactive member at least once a year during the above three-year period.
Section 5 – Restoration
Supporting or Inactive Members habitually attending for three months shall be returned to the Voting Roll.
Section 6 – Letters of Transfer
Letters of transfer may be granted to all members upon approval of the Elders. The secretary shall provide such a letter addressed to a specific church in accordance with customary procedure.
Section 7 – Discipline
When a member of the church enters into a sinful activity, and it is brought to the attention of an Elder, follow-up will occur in keeping with the principles of Matthew 18. If the member confesses to the sinful activity, and repents of his or her actions, the matter will be dropped (depending on the circumstances, the Elders may remove the individual from a position of authority or responsibility). If he refuses to confess or repent of the sinful activity in question, the Elders may place the individual on discipline and remove him from positions of responsibility until such time that he confesses, repents, and shows evidence of a repentant life.
Section 1 – Money
Every member shall be expected to contribute regularly to the church as God prospers him (1 Cor 16:2). While there is no New Testament command that the Christian give ten percent back to the church, we do believe this is a good principle which was laid out in the Old Testament (Abraham to Melchizedek, Mosaic Covenant), and that all Christians need to consider carefully the amount and manner in which they give to the Lord’s work. All money for the general fund shall be raised by voluntary offering and in no other way. The Youth Group shall be allowed to hold fund raising events to raise money for various activities with the consent of the Church Board. General fund raising and soliciting at the Church for outside causes (such as for school or sports) is not permitted.
Section 2 – Property
The property of the Community Bible Church of Tunkhannock shall forever remain in the control of its members. In the unlikely event that the church should cease to operate, all property and assets would be given over to other non profit organizations who’s mission it is to further the work of Jesus Christ here on earth and preach the gospel. Under no circumstances would any funds or assets be used for private inurement to any person or persons in the event of a sale or dissolution of the church. The church board would present a recommendation to the membership concerning the disposition of property and assets. A two thirds vote of qualified members present and voting would be required to approve such action.
Section 1 – Governing Bodies
a. The Government of this church, under God, is vested in the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses. Members of these two governing boards shall be elected by the body of believers which forms the membership of this church.
b. All officers of this church shall be members of the Board of Elders or the Board of Deacons or under the direct supervision of one of these governing bodies.
c. The Church Board shall consist of the Elders, Deacons, & Deaconesses, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, and Secretary.
d. The Church Board shall have supervision over the business transactions and general work of the church. The Church Board shall legislate the affairs of the church in its dealings with the Pastor, employees, and outside organizations. The Church Board is authorized to make spending decisions up to $2,500. Decisions to spend greater that $2,500 must be brought to the Membership for approval.
e. For legal purposes, the Church will be represented by an Executive Board consisting of the Chairman of the Board of Elders, the Chairman of the Board of Deacons, the Secretary and Treasurer.
f. The elected positions are Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Secretary, Nominating Committee, and two Auditors. Each individual on the ballot will need to receive 70% of the votes cast to be confirmed.
g. The Church Board shall determine if additional “positions” (i.e. additional Deacon, Committee for some unique purpose, etc.) are needed and charge the Nominating Committee to propose candidates to fill these positions.
h. If during the course of his term, an individual decides to resign from his elected position, the Nominating Committee will recommend an individual to fill the vacancy, which the Church Board would then confirm by vote. The individual would then be confirmed by vote at the next congregational quarterly meeting.
Section 2 – Elders
- ELDERS (Overseers, Shepherds) – There shall be three or more in number as determined by the needs of the church. These individuals will be church members. They shall be elected by the church membership at the Annual Business Meeting for a term of three years with approximately one third of the terms expiring each year. Elders may serve for no more than two consecutive terms but will be eligible for reelection after a one year absence from the office. They shall minister to the spiritual needs of the congregation and shall have responsibility for the leadership of the church. The Elders are responsible for the key ministries of the church including Worship Service Planning, Christian Education, Bible Study, Discipleship, and Missions/Evangelism. They shall provide for the supply of the pulpit when the Pastor is unable to do so. They shall be the Selection Committee responsible for guiding the church in the choice of a new Pastor and other staff members. They shall assist with the ordinances, and shall have charge of all matters of discipline. They shall hold regular meetings as the needs of the church dictate and shall present a written report at the Annual Business Meeting. They shall elect a chairman to moderate their meetings as well as the Church Board meetings and Congregational meetings. The Elders shall be ex-officio members of all boards and committees connected with the Church or any of its organizations. At least one Elder shall be assigned to each committee to assist, as necessary, in its work.
- QUALIFICATIONS – All Elders shall comply with the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1:5-11, and 1 Peter 5:1-3. It is particularly important that the Elders meet not only the qualifications of character listed in these passages, but that they also possess the spiritual gifts listed and implied.
1) TEACHER – Each Elder must be “a capable and qualified teacher” (1 Timothy 3:2 Amplified). It is expected of each Elder that he be actively involved in teaching and nurturing and maturing the members of this body and that he view this as his primary calling.
2) LEADER – Among the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12 and promised to the church is the spiritual gift of LEADERSHIP…“if it is LEADERSHIP, let him govern diligently” (Rom. 12:8). God has promised to give men in His church the gift of leadership so that they might “govern diligently”. Therefore, it seems reasonable that the leaders in His church should have this gift. It is the position of this church that the Elders (“overseers” and “shepherds” from 1 Peter 5) who have been given the responsibility to “govern” God’s church possess the spiritual gift of leadership that their position as leaders would require.
- DIVORCE. It is the position of this church that the Biblical injunction that an Elder be “the husband of but one wife” is a prohibition against polygamy and not divorce as a qualification for being an Elder. Divorce, therefore, does not necessarily disqualify a man from becoming an Elder. However, this church stands with God in that it “HATES DIVORCE” (Mal. 2:16), considers it sinful (though each party in the divorce may not have sinned) and is strongly opposed to divorce. It does recognize that there are extreme circumstances in which God does allow an innocent party to seek divorce (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).
- PASTOR. We believe that God has ordained only two offices in the church; the office of ELDER (1 Ti 3, Tit 1:5-11, 1 Pe 5:1-3) and the office of DEACON (Acts 6:1-6, 1 Ti 3:8-11). All other offices in the church are either part of these two governing bodies or are under the direct supervision of these two bodies. Furthermore, we do not see any Scriptural support for the office of PASTOR as being an office specially ordained by God (the word “pastor” is used only one time in the New Testament and refers, in all probability, to a Spiritual Gift and not an office, Eph. 4:11).
However, we recognize that for nearly 2000 years the church of Jesus Christ has, to one extent or another, embraced the “office” of pastor both to its detriment and its blessing. Therefore, we accept the office of pastor, but only as one that is included in and is part of the Elder Board. The pastor is, therefore, an Elder with no more or with no less authority than any other member of the Elder Board, but to whom certain specific tasks and responsibilities are assigned. The “pastor” shall have one exemption to the rules laid down for Elders: he shall be exempted from serving for only three years on the Elder Board. There shall be no limit to the time he may serve.
Following the recommendation of the Pulpit Committee, appointment of the Pastor shall take place at a meeting duly called for that express purpose. His appointment shall be by a three-quarters vote of the qualified members present and he shall hold office for an indefinite term. The relationship of the Pastor and the church may be terminated by mutual consent, or by either upon sixty days’ notice. Any proposal to dismiss the Pastor shall be referred to the Elders for consideration and counsel with the Pastor. The church may dissolve the pastoral relationship upon recommendation of the Elders by a 40 percent vote of the qualified members present at a duly called meeting. He shall hold the office for an indefinite term but will require a “vote of confidence” every three years to retain (three-quarters vote of the qualified members present).
- If, at any time, the personal belief, preaching or teaching of an Elder or Pastor shall knowingly not be in full accord with the Covenant and the Articles of Faith of the church, his service shall be terminated, upon examination.
Section 3 – Deacons and Deaconesses
- DEACONS and DEACONESSES – There shall be three or more in number as determined by the needs of the church. These individuals will be church members. They shall be elected by the church membership at the Annual Business Meeting for a term of three years, with approximately one third of the terms expiring each year. Deacons and Deaconesses may serve for no more than two consecutive terms but will be eligible for reelection after a one-year absence from the office. Chairman of the Board of Deacons and Deaconesses shall be a Deacon and serve a one-year term. They shall assist and be directed by the Elders in ministering to the needs of the congregation with a primary emphasis on providing care to the church congregation (“serving the needs” from Acts 6) and maintenance of all church properties. They shall provide for ushering at all church services; the administration of the church Benevolent Fund (the Elder in charge of Pastoral Care may also administer the Benevolent Fund); the preparation of the elements of the communion service; the oversight of the work of the Church Secretary and the Church Treasurer. The board of Deacons shall hold regular meetings and shall present a written report at the Annual Business Meeting. The Deacons shall comply with the qualifications listed in Acts 6:1-6 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The Deaconesses shall likewise be women of godly character, mature, not given to gossip and competent to counsel the special needs of women in the congregation.
- TREASURER – The Treasurer shall be elected by the church at the Annual Business Meeting and shall be considered a member of the Board of Deacons and Deaconesses. This individual will be a church member and serve a term of one year. The Treasurer, assisted by the assistant Treasurer, shall count, deposit and record all donations and offerings given to the church. He/she shall record all disbursements, make disbursements as properly authorized, report the financial status of the church to the congregation at business meetings (but no more often than quarterly) and issue an annual statement of contributions to those contributors who identify themselves. Any additional offerings shall be handled by the Church Treasurer. The Treasurer shall make his/her books available to the auditors upon request. The Treasurer shall follow the guidance of the Church Board in determining the priority of expenditures.
- ASSISTANT TREASURER – The Assistant Treasurer shall be elected by the church membership at the Annual Business Meeting and shall be considered a member of the Board of Deacons. This individual will be a church member and serve a term of one year. He/she shall assist the Treasurer in carrying out the responsibilities of the office of Treasurer. The Assistant Treasurer’s specific functions will be determined by the Treasurer.
- CHURCH SECRETARY – The Church Secretary shall be elected by the church at the Annual
Business Meeting and shall be considered a member of the Board of Deacons and Deaconesses. This individual will be a church member and serve a term of one year. He/she shall keep a complete record of the transactions of all business meetings of the Church and a register of the names of the members and the dates of their admission.
The following list of committees will be appointed based on the concurrence of the Church Board (with the exception of the Nominating Committee which is always used and elected at the Annual Business Meeting). While the intent is to always utilize the following committees, if people are unavailable to fill vacant roles, a committee may go under staffed or even un-staffed until such time that people are available and willing to fill the role.
Section 1 – Nominating Committee
The Nominating Committee shall consist of the Pastor, Chairman of the Church Board, one of the Deacons/Deaconesses, and five church members elected by the congregation at the Quarterly Business Meeting preceding the Annual Business Meeting. The Chairman of the Church Board shall lead the nominating process. Period of service will be for one year and duties include:
- Announce, provide forms for and solicit nominations from the membership at least two months prior to the annual meeting.
- Instruct members in the spiritual qualifications for those who are in various church offices and provide a listing of those qualifications with each nomination form.
- Review the list of congregational nominees, make additional in-committee nominations as necessary/appropriate, and interview and thoroughly investigate the qualifications and capabilities of each person considered for office. Accepting nominees must affirm, adhere to, and perpetuate the published standards and defining character of Community Bible Church as set forth in the Constitution and Statement of Ministry. In choosing candidates to fill the vacancies, several questions should be considered:
- Do the individuals on the slate have experience or gifts in the areas for which they are being recommended? (administration, teaching, worship service planning, etc.)
- Are the individuals recommended for the leadership positions, truly those in the trenches “leading” the work? (They need to be.)
- Prepare a finalized list with biographical sketches to be disseminated at least two weeks prior to Annual Business Meeting. If a nominee is not on the final list, the person who made that nomination will receive an explanation.
- Provide for filling vacancies in elected positions or add positions during the year as directed by the Church Board.
- Those on the Nominating Committee need to have a good understanding of CBC Government and have a measure of Spiritual discernment when considering individuals for the various positions. These individuals should also have friendly relationships with many members of the congregation so as to effectively carry out their responsibilities.
Section 2 – Audit Committee
Two auditors shall be appointed by the Church Board. They shall audit all financial records of the church and shall submit a written report at the Annual Business Meeting. They shall serve a term of one year.
Section 3 – Evangelism and Missions Committee
The Evangelism and Missions Committee shall be appointed by the Church Board and consist of a Chairman and at least two other members. Terms shall be for two years and shall be staggered. It shall be the duty of the Evangelism and Missions Committee, under the oversight of the Church Board, to initiate, budget, and direct all the missionary/evangelism activities of the Church in keeping with the Community Bible Church Statement of Ministry. It shall not be within the power of this committee to appoint or dismiss any missionary, but it shall function in an advisory capacity under the Church Board.
Section 4 – Christian Education Committee
The Christian Education Committee shall consist of the Sunday School Superintendent and at least two other members appointed by the Church Board for a term of one year. Its duties shall include planning, supervising and administering the church educational program under the oversight of the Church Board.
Section 5 – Worship Service Planning Committee
The Worship Service Planning Committee shall consist of the Elder responsible for this ministry, and at least two other members appointed by the Church Board for a term of one year. Its purpose shall be to plan the Sunday worship services, and other special services such as Easter, Christmas Eve, etc., and be under the oversight of the Elder Board. The worship services will include a variety of music, dramas, readings, etc., and when possible, these activities should harmonize with the message. If for any reason, the Elder responsible for this ministry cannot make a Church Board meeting, or need help in representing the needs of the Worship Service Planning Committee, another member of the Worship Service Planning Committee may fill in on the Church Board (with voting privileges) for matters pertaining to Worship Service Planning.
Section 6 – Advisory Council
The Advisory Council shall be made up of all willing, former CBC elders (excluding those who have been dismissed from the Board or who have had the hand of fellowship withdrawn) who are currently part of the fellowship of CBC, and who affirm the doctrinal statement and church covenant. The purpose of this council is to provide general guidance to the Elder Board in determining long term direction for the church, or if the Elder Board feels that Disciplinary action is required for anyone on the Church Board.
Section 7 – Other Committees
Additional committees which are deemed necessary shall be appointed by the Church Board.
WORSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP
We recognize that the Church of Jesus Christ is large and diverse and that the only requirement for entrance into this “family of God” is through personal faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the sinner’s behalf. We also recognize that aside from the essential doctrines of the faith there are many secondary issues that separate brothers and sisters in Christ. It is our desire to keep these secondary issues to a minimum in our congregation. But we also recognize that, by the very nature of some of these secondary issues, it is essential that we as a church set down certain guidelines for our worship services. We do so humbly and in the full recognition that our understanding of God and His Word is not, by any means, perfect.
The worship service of this church shall not entertain the Charismatic/Pentecostal distinctives of “speaking in tongues”, “first person prophecies”, “words of faith”, “word of knowledge”, “spiritual singing”, and other Charismatic/Pentecostal activities that are distinctive from those worship services that characterize the evangelical Christian community of believers.
This church IS NOT anti-Charismatic or anti-Pentecostal, and does not in any way wish to separate itself from those congregations that consider themselves as such. Neither do we wish to separate ourselves or to exclude from membership and fellowship brothers and sisters in Christ who consider themselves Charismatic or Pentecostal. We must, however, insist that those activities that are distinctively Charismatic or Pentecostal not be exercised as a part of our church, its worship services or its programs. This does not mean, however, that we are demanding that these brothers and sisters not exercise these distinctives in their homes or in other congregations. (NOTE: For a more complete discussion of this subject, please refer to our distinctives page on this web site)
Section 1 – For Worship and Fellowship
- Public services shall be held regularly on the Lord’s day and should be in line with the church’s doctrinal statement in content.
- Meetings for prayer and praise should take place at least once a week whenever possible.
- The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper shall be observed at least once a month, either on Sunday morning worship or at another meeting during the week.
- The Church Covenant shall be read aloud at a church business meeting at least once each quarter.
Section 2 – For Business
- The fiscal year of the church shall begin the first day of July.
- Quarterly business meetings shall be held once each quarter.
- The Board of Elders shall elect a moderator to conduct these meetings. Robert’s Rules of Order may be used at the discretion of the Elder board for any particular meeting.
- Special business meetings of the church may be called by the Elder, Deacon, or Deaconess Boards, or by written request of any ten voting members, providing the particular object (or objects) of the meeting is clearly stated in the notice. No other business shall be transacted in such special meetings. Such notice must be given in at least two regular services previous to the meeting or by written notice served upon each voting member.
- Full notice of all business meetings of the church shall be given at all regular services of the church on the two Sundays immediately preceding such meetings.
- A quorum shall consist of 25 percent of the voting members, and must be present to conduct business.
- All church officers shall be elected by ballot.
- All business shall be decided by a majority of votes cast except where otherwise provided in this instrument.
- No member may speak more than twice on any question at any business meeting, except by
consent of the chair.
AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION
This constitution may be amended at any business meeting by a two-thirds vote of the qualified members present and voting, provided notice of such an amendment shall have been made at a previous business meeting and announced for two Sundays prior to the proposed meeting.