It was the English Puritan, William Bridge, who drew up the church covenant at the Old Meeting House Congregational Church in Colegate, Norfolk, England in 1643. He had spiritual oversight over this congregation, but was not their pastor. On 28th June in that year Bridge and the fellowship of Christians in Colegate entered into the following covenant, here paraphrased in modern English.
‘We, being desirous in the fear of God, to worship and service Him according to His revealed will, do freely covenant with the Lord, in the presence of His saints and angels, that we will always endeavor, through the grace of God assisting us, to walk in all His ways, according to His written Word, which is the only sufficient rule of good life for every man. Neither will we allow ourselves to be polluted in any sinful ways, either public or private, but will abstain from the very appearance of evil, giving no offence to the Jew or Gentile, or churches of Christ.
‘That we will all love and improve our communion as brethren, by watching over one another, and as needed, will counsel, admonish, reprove, comfort, relieve, assist, and bear with one another, humbly submitting ourselves to the government of Christ in His church. ‘Lastly, we do not promise these things in our own, but in Christ’s strength, neither do we confine ourselves to the words of this Covenant, but shall at all times account it our duty to embrace any further light on truth, which shall be revealed to us out of Gods Word.’
This expresses relational church covenanting together, as a church body, and reflects the seriousness, as well as, the love shown in walking together with your brethren and being truly, wholeheartedly, committed to your church. How can any believer be in a church with one another without being joined together in relational commitment to the whole church, as well as to the individuals in the body? The questions are several that we should apply to our own church situation: 1) Do I have a real relationship to my pastor/elders that is loving and ongoing? 2) Am I as committed a member to our church as there is in the body–fully committed or half-hearted about it? 3) Do I maintain an ongoing relationship with others in the body? 4) Am I faithful and consistent at all the church meetings? 5) Am I numbered among those in the church that are considered the most faithful and most exemplary among the brethren? Showing up at a class once in a while or just on Sunday mornings to hear a sermon from a pastor I don’t really even know (and who doesn’t know me) is not New Testament Christianity. In reality and in practice, what kind of relationship do I really have with my church?
– Geoff Thomas and Mack Tomlinson