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This set of notes has been scanned and OCR'd from a series of articles originally published in The Sword & Trowel Nos 1 to 4, 1997. Back issues may still be available from .The author is Dr Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church, London, England and Dean of the London Reformed Baptist Seminary. Errors due to scanning /character recognition may exist but should be obvious. I'd be happy to have any errors pointed out for correction.  This is Revision 7.


Article 1 Pg 1 Sword & Trowel 1997 No 1



Are God's Pioneers Hearing the Call?


In a number of towns and cities believers are striving to plant new churches of a 'traditional' evangelical, reformed and non charismatic character. The Lord has stirred the hearts of people here and there to fight back against the appalling spiritual darkness which has enveloped the land.

Concerned men and women have taken up the work of pioneering, fully aware of the immense personal sacrifice demanded. It is the Lord's doing, and they will surely be sustained and blessed.

The tragic side of the pioneering scene is the fact that in every place where people are struggling to establish a new cause, a strong witness once flourished. Even up to the 1950s, at least one Gospel preaching church, often very large, flourished in virtually every town. But the scene is quite different now because the Lord's people threw away their witness.

These paragraphs on pioneering must begin with a brief negative appeal, for no one wants to spend years of their life building up a witness that will collapse as previous fellowships have done. Why repeat catastrophe? Why replicate past mistakes?

Churches that disappeared (or were lost to liberalism) did so for a number of reasons. Sometimes they engaged pastors of unsound views, or who lacked Godly dynamic in the Lord's service. At other times the people were not watchful, and allowed in 'worldly Christianity' and other decadent trends. Many churches made the mistake of admitting new members too lightly. Eventually people of doubtful spiritual status began to reshape the character of the church. In many cases churches accepted members by transfer from other churches of the same denomination, not caring that these may not have been evangelical at all.

Countless churches lost their passion for souls and readiness to work, so that they simply ran down. Often this began with the closure of evangelistic Sunday School outreach.

Pioneers must begin with a profound view of what they want to avoid. They must have some inkling of the deficiencies which led to the desperate situation they now find themselves struggling to change.

They must also have a clear awareness of the rigours that lie ahead for them. They must firmly believe that the Lord uses instruments, and be ready to undertake long and patient labour.

Pioneering often feels like moving a mountain of shale. 'There are long periods without apparent fruit. Furthermore, the leaders must be jacks of all trades'. There is little scope for self aggrandisement.) Persistence will be the rule of life for years to come.

The question is often asked 'I am attracted to the work of setting up a new witness. How do I know if the Lord is calling me? Is it right for me to lead such a venture?'




Among several aspects of guidance, personal fittedness must be considered. Here is a number of 'qualifications' needed for this work, and we recommend that would be pioneers ask themselves if they fulfil these requirements, at least in some measure.

We do not want this formidable list to dash the hopes of sincere people, but if we fall well short in these ideals we should think again about taking the initiative in the planting of a new witness. Perhaps we should stay longer in our present church to be further prepared by the Lord. Or perhaps we should be willing to regard ourselves as helpers of pioneer leaders.

1. Do you really love souls, and thirst for conversions? (Some people are only interested in holding some form of teaching office, which is not the same.)

2. Have you been well proved in your existing or in a previous church, perhaps as an office bearer, or through some other form of Christian service? Have you been a Sunday School leader, or a successful teacher, or a youth class leader? Have you learned 'stickability' through such service?

3. Can you honestly say that you are not on the run from some disappointment in your present situation, such as not being accorded the recognition and leadership role that you think you should have?

4. Do husband and wife stand together in this objective, and do both possess the spiritual and nervous strength to be steadfast in all the trials and tribulations of pioneers?

5. Are you spiritually minded, loving the things of God more than all that is in the world and depending on Him in regular prayer?

6. Are you able to teach, and do others think so?

7. Do you have the readiness, self discipline and energy to study in your spare time? (because if not, you cannot succeed in long term adult ministry).

8. Are you balanced in your response to troubles? Do you, for example, react sensibly to the misbehaviour of others, or are you over sensitive, impatient and harsh?

9. Are you courteous, and do you have respect for other people?

10. Are you patient?

11. And yet can you at the same time be firm, holding out for what is scriptural and right, in the proper spirit?

(Article 1 Page 2)


12. Are you honest with yourself; conscientious in all duties and in self evaluation?

13. Can you subdue self interest, self projection and self glory in all its ugly forms?

14. Do you have an even, consistent bearing, zealous, but also safe and steady rather than mercurial?

15. Do you possess the application and energy of a hard worker, or do you expect things to happen by themselves?

16. Are you loyal? Can you be loyal, perhaps for years, to an emerging witness, no matter what happens? (Your loyalty will be evident from your faithfulness in previous Christian service activities.)

17. Can you organise?

18. Can you inspire, encourage and comfort other people?

19. Are you willing to support yourself into the distant future, without complaint, by secular work?

20. And lastly, when a congregation of believers is finally established, would you be willing for someone else to be called as pastor? Would you be glad to have been a pioneer founder to the glory of God, and then to support another as pastor, if God so directs?

(It goes without saying that the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 apply to would be pioneers.)


A pioneer will be called of God first by a strong inner desire to carry out this task, and to be wholly spent in it. This inner desire will be accompanied by an outer call, as the Lord moves the church, particularly through its officers, to recognise that he is equipped and suitable for this form of service.

The call will be further confirmed as circumstances clearly point to the place, and facilitate the beginning of a work. Guiding indications will include the availability of helpers.

How many people are needed to attempt a beginning? We should pray for two to three couples at least. The apostles generally worked with companions.)



What size of community should be chosen? In answering, we dare not discourage those who labour in villages and isolated estates. Many have been called and blessed, pioneering in remote or small communities.

Nevertheless, pioneers should first consider whether a town has an effective testimony; and perhaps the more densely populated part of the town. This should normally be given first consideration because it was the policy of Paul. He began with the cities and particularly with the large regional centres. Once churches grew in these places they reached out into the surrounding countryside. At a time when Gospel witness is so rare, we ought to first view the more populous districts. In the end, however, we recognise that pioneers may be called to serve their immediate group of villages, and we respect this.



This is of special importance, as evangelism and Christian teaching is inevitably a meeting based ministry. The work will probably begin in a home, but when a more public venue is sought (as it certainly will be for the Sunday School at least), it must be reachable, known, decent, and near to parking space.

The method of starting will be dealt with in a later article, but the following practical matters may be of help to pioneering Christians.

Halls or classrooms should never be far too big for the number of people. Secondary schools, if available, make better meeting places than primary schools. The former are more suitable for Adult meetings, and as far as children are concerned, primary children willingly go to secondary schools, whereas secondary children are reluctant to go to primary schools.

Grubby, dilapidated halls should be avoided like the plague. They surely discredit the testimony. Far better to use a home. (Years ago this would have been a serious disadvantage, but pioneers today do not usually encounter much prejudice by virtue of meeting in a home.)

Modern community halls are more numerous today than in the past and are often ell well appointed.

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A pioneer family buying and setting up a home suitable for meetings should bear in mind a number of ideal requirements. Many of the recommendations offered here will seem rather mundane and petty, but they may help workers to avoid pitfalls.

A home which transmits too much interference to neighbours is clearly not the ideal place.

Cumbersome furniture should be avoided. Huge armchairs and settees leave no room for formal seating. Minimal family furniture is a great help. Folding chairs are not expensive, and it is desirable to have a full set of matching chairs that will fold away for storage.

Adults should not be seated on benches and cushions without back support. In the acquisition of chairs etc, as much simplicity as possible is best. Worship will be offered in the lounge or living room, and we should avoid the casual atmosphere of a youth squash. In any meeting larger than eight to ten people, it is valuable to have the chairs set in rows so that all face the speaker. Nowadays we are urged to adopt an informal style of room arrangement and service format, but this is a great mistake for pioneers. In the Old Testament the Lord secured the reverence, seriousness and respect of the people by the awesome means of the Temple worship. That order has passed away, but we are taught that reverence is always required by God in worship. Informality is casual, shallow and man centred in essence. There is a time to enjoy fellowship, and there is a time to worship God and hear His voice. A right use of formality undergirds respect for God, and a worthy regard for His majesty and glory.

Good lighting is obviously important, and there should be enough hymnbooks to avoid sharing.

Heating is not usually a problem in room meetings, but cooling certainly is during summer heat. They say that every person generates 60 80 watts of heat, and a small room can become insufferable. It is advisable to provide one or two fans.

Room meetings often suffer from family interruptions. Pioneers must be able to train their children to honour and respect services, and not to disrupt them with noise or childish antics.

Cooking smells are an objectionable feature of some room meetings. Doors to kitchens should be kept closed before and during meetings, and 'noxious' dishes avoided on meeting days.

Pioneers will need to organise a room or place for coats, and to keep clutter and bicycles out of the hall. Obviously the place must be clean and tidy.

The meeting room will need a compact lectern of some kind. Pioneer preachers can feel acutely out of place giving forth in a lounge, especially if there is nowhere to place a Bible or notes. A lectern also helps people to respect that a service is in progress. In the absence of a lectern a heavy type of music stand may serve. (Bare tables never help the preacher, and may train them to be constantly looking down.)

Hosts of home meetings should avoid expensive, luxury possessions, and also excessive talking about domestic matters. They should politely deflect conversation away from flattery of their children, their garden, and similar matters. 'How are you?' is the stock (and sincere) rejoinder of the wise host.

Before every service there should be a quiet period, and chairs should be arranged so that people face away from any interesting view.

A sense of occasion, as we have noted, is of great importance, and this is helped by having a 'steward' for the meeting. Refreshments should be limited and simple, and it is a good idea to turn off the house doorbell, so that latecomers knock rather than ring.



Future articles will survey ways of getting started, together with the operation of a successful children's outreach, development and growth strategies, the ideal 'programme' for pioneer church life, fatal mistakes end distractions, how to write a constitution, rules for membership, and other significant issues.


Article 2 Sword & Trowel1997 No 2



In the last Sword & Trowel, this series began with treatment of the qualifications of would be pioneers, essential basic attitudes, the 'choice' of a community and arrangements for home meetings.

This article turns to ways of starting, methods of outreach, mistakes and distractions. (The next issue will look at a constitution, name and membership policy, and coping with troubles encountered from within.)



The previous article emphasised that a church pioneering venture is of necessity a meeting based work. Whether meetings are held initially in a home or in a hired hall, a suitable place must be determined, and most evangelistic activities will be formulated around that place.

Hired halls should be well situated, preferably not in the industrial part of a town, nor downtown if few people actually live there. There are many exceptions to this, but often in smaller towns the high street is the most desolate and forlorn place in the area. Certainly, young people may roam during the evenings, but for fairly obvious reasons that is not usually the best time and place to reach them successfully.

It is best, if possible, to locate a more densely populated area easily reached by the rest of the town. As young people's work will be a major aspect of the work, it is important to be in a spot where a good nucleus of children and teenagers may readily be gathered.

With hired halls, special attention must be given to making them a worthy venue. The writer well remembers having to pick his way round rolls of carpet and vinyl, not to mention dustbins, when visiting a pioneer cause years ago. The fellowship met in an upstairs room over a carpet shop. The poor access led to a dirty, dingy staircase which in turn led to a badly fitted out room. Great improvements would not have involved much effort. At least two of the pioneer families were fairly wealthy, possessing substantial homes, and businesses.

Are we careful to remember God's honour and glory and to project the best image possible so as not to cause the lost to stumble?

On more than one occasion I have been unable to find a meeting place without a long search, because no conspicuous sign had been positioned. If we pioneer, we must have an eye for such things, and arrange to have the best affordable quality in style and size. It is not a bad rule with hired halls to be always looking for something better. Many good community halls have been built by local authorities in the last 20 years. These frequently make excellent meeting places.

Every meeting needs a reception steward and, ideally, a seating steward. A measure of formal, friendly seating supervision achieves a well arranged hall, avoiding the pathetic situation of a back row congregation, or a U shaped assembly. A very small group should space the chairs a little generously, putting the back row into position only when needed.

The modern abandonment of stewarding leads to bad congregation configurations, giving a poor impression to the visitor. And to existing churches we say the longer you leave the restoration of stewarding, the less the congregation will appreciate and co operate with it.

Another key point for pioneer groups is to encourage silence for a period of time before the beginning of

Art2 Pg2

a service. New causes, because they are exceptionally close knit, are vulnerable to an unintended loss of reverence, with conversation continuing right up to the opening sentence of worship.

Hymn accompaniment is almost always difficult for pioneers. Sometimes the piano in the hired hall is appalling. (The writer was involved 35 years ago in a pioneer work meeting in a community hall. Before the service someone would have to remove drawing pins from the piano hammers, the 'honky tonk' sound being wanted by the users on the previous Saturday evening.)

If no competent pianist is available there is now first rate equipment to play hymn tunes automatically on a standard electronic synthesizer. These can be obtained with fine church

organ sound or piano option, and the automatic playing device can be adjusted for speed and pitch. (See the note on 'Electronic Automatic Organist' on the next page.)



Pioneers sometimes tumble into unproductive digressions and distractions which consume much time and effort, and exhaust everyone. The motive is no doubt good, but the schemes will injure, if not completely prevent, any progress. Here are some of the likely problems.

The young people's work is operated much too elaborately. Games, handicrafts, outings and food based events are of such a high standard that this department demands all the strength of the workers. If an end of term or Christmas tea is provided, the food and embellishments are too involved, not to mention costly.

Special trips or sports activities recur on the calendar. Outings visit not one but several places and end once again with virtual feasting. All this is unnecessary. Always it is well intended, but inappropriate. We honour those who are determined to rise higher than curling fish paste sandwiches, but overkill may stunt the entire work.

To spend early time on an elaborate constitution may also interfere with progress. We have seen pioneer causes lose many months re inventing the wheel in the forming of a constitution. (General advice on this topic will be included in the next issue of Sword & Trowel.)

A sure way of wrecking a fledgling church is for the leaders to try to


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produce a neighbourhood magazine. Regular publications are monsters. Equally they are despotic slave drivers. It may be that the idea is to reach the community. It is certainly the most exhausting way of doing it. Leave well alone anything which imposes deadlines at regular intervals, and involves such work. A prayer letter, however, would clearly be an exception.

Another diversion from the spiritual work may be the premature opening of a branch work. This invariably means that neither location makes progress, while great strain is placed on leaders. Concentrate on applying all resources on one, main outreach. A pioneer venture is hardly ever strong enough to diversify early.

These days, a young church is sometimes advised to put fellowship first, organising monthly rambles and many similar activities for members and young people. Fellowship events are certainly pleasant and profitable, but we believe monthly arrangements are bound to steal, and considerably, from the work.

The very best aim is to have fellowship in and through service for the Lord. Our first aim, surely, is to seek the growth of the cause, and to raise a new generation of believers who will put Christ's service first. A self indulgent fellowship cannot grow, and if it does, it will be a company of people who value companionship more than soul winning.

A final hint about distracting activities concerns having too many 'supplementary' meetings. We have heard about weekly elders' meetings in a pioneer church of less than twenty people. These dear friends did not realise how costly this was to them.

We have heard of church meetings held at monthly intervals. One can only speculate how the agenda was ever filled, with matters of an inappropriate or trivial nature being trawled through the meeting.

We have heard of additional prayer meetings, so that those who gathered for a prayer meeting on a weekday (separate from the Bible Study) were back again at 7.00am on Saturday to spend two further hours in petition. We dare not criticise a desire for prayer, but sometimes church planters create a timetable of commitments that would exhaust untaxed people, let alone committed members of a pioneering fellowship. Such friends often shoulder a number of tasks, including Sunday School teaching, visiting, weeknight children's meetings, transport of equipment to hired halls, and many other responsibilities besides. Much care is therefore necessary in the 'rationing' of church activities.

Next issue will include advice on a church constitution, membership matters, and troubles encountered in a new fellowship.



The following eight point list notes the main outreach methods generally usable by pioneers, depending on the number of workers available. (A rather fuller treatment of this basic list was included in the Sword & Trowel issue of 1993 No. 3.)

Gospel preaching is foundational to everything else.

1 Pioneers must be convinced about the necessity of a persuasive, pleading presentation of the Gospel. They must believe in the need for distinctive evangelistic services, by contrast with the teaching ministry. Preferably such a service needs to progress to being on a weekly basis.

2 Personal witness is always fruitful, bringing early encouragement to pioneers. If they work and bring up their families in the area, opportunities will be many. New members of the group must, of course, be encouraged to witness.

3 Sunday School is vital as soon as sufficient people are available to help. Large Sunday Schools may still be built up today. Child evangelism is required in the Bible,* and is today virtually the only source of moral and saving instruction for the young. Sunday School and youth meetings may also prove to be the springboard for acceptance in a community, and even the key to acquisition of permanent premises. It is still best, if possible, to hold Sunday School at an entirely different time from an adult service, so that all helpers are free to help, especially in transportation.*

4 Community visiting is another biblical ministry which often yields early encouragement, because it discovers lapsed believers, and others having some former connection with a Bible believing church. Included in community visiting is 'contact work' in which people are approached in parks or similar places by witnessing couples armed with suitable literature and service invitations.

Also included is the targeted visitation of student/nurses hostels. Small churches have sometimes filled a couple of pews from such work.

5 Transportation, mentioned above, is essential these days for the gathering of children, and also for many adults. Pioneers should consider the acquisition of mini buses as their private cars. The rule, whether we favour it or not, is: no transport no people.

6 Literature is always important, for handing out on Visitation, for putting through letter boxes, and for giving to visitors and contacts.

7 Advertisements can sometimes be inexpensively inserted in local newspapers. and also sited on railway stations and in buses. In larger conurbations the cost is prohibitive, but it is worth exploring in quieter towns. Occasionally, a smaller local newspaper will include a half column article from a regular church advertiser.

8 Special meetings are frequently used to attract visitors. These may be a series of coffee mornings for shoppers if there is a suitable venue where people can be introduced to the work of the church and to the Gospel.

It may equally be possible to attract people to a special topic meeting such as an anti evolution film event for younger people

As time goes on the number of youngsters grows who once came to Sunday School or teenage Bible Class. It is surprising how many will come, after a few years, to a reunion event.

*[For suggestions about how to begin a Sunday School we refer readers to The Necessity of Sunday Schools, Peter Masters and Malcolm Watts, Wakeman]


Article 3 Sword & Trowel 1997 No 3



Pioneers constantly seek help about the composition of a church constitution. The natural tendency is for this to be rather long and extremely legal in phrasing. This is a pity because it results in a document which is seldom used, and has no ongoing ministry to the members.

Certainly a new work needs basic articles of association, without which a charity registration cannot be made, nor (usually) a bank account opened.

Because the need is urgent, it may be thought better to establish simple rules of association with a statement of doctrine, to be followed by a further statement of constitution after longer thought.

Ideally, a church needs three basic elements in its constitution: the definite rules of the church, a binding statement of faith and a church covenant, or something similar. All should be framed to enlighten prospective members. This can easily be accomplished.

Most independent and baptistic churches of the past never had constitutions, because their constitutional rules were incorporated in the conveyance at the time of land or building purchase. It is this trust deed that one consults to discover the church rules.

Before moving to examples of sections of a constitution, we offer some general advice.

An ideal constitution should minimally include the following provisions.

(i) A definition of the church.

(ii) A clear but brief statement of doctrine. (A longer statement, such as; the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, may be referred to by name only, mentioning only the chapters, if any, not taken as binding by the church.)

(iii) Applications for membership, and procedures for the receiving and exclusion of members.

(iv) Rules of government and qualifications for pastors and other office bearers, including procedures for their election and removal.

(v) Rules for the resolution of disputes between church and office bearers.

(vi) A church or family covenant. An advantage of living toward the end of history is that our newest constitutions may include specific exclusions of modern predators on Truth. New churches have the opportunity to repudiate ecumenism, charismaticism (through a cessationist clause), mystical errors, worldly Christianity and new evangelical denials of the full authority and infallibility of the Word of God.

The following points should be carefully considered for specific mention in the light of problems which many pastors and churches have reported over recent years:

(a) The goals and duties of membership should be emphasised (usually in the church covenant).

(b) There should be no commitment to an unreasonable frequency of church meetings and officers' meetings. (For most churches today, three to four church meetings a year including the AGM should be ample.) Too many meetings deprives the officers of their scriptural role, so that all matters are resolved at the church meeting. A proper distribution of responsibilities should ideally be stated in the constitution. Generally speaking, the scriptural tasks of the gathered church are

(i) the accepting and exclusion of members

(ii) the election of all office bearers including missionaries and other 'spiritual' employees (though not necessarily their nomination)

(iii) the approving of annual accounts and budget

(iv) the approving of all unusually substantial expenses other than those which may be described as routine. It should be possible to anticipate most of the unusual expenses in the proposed budget presented at the church AGM. If approved in essence, the

Article 3 Pg 2

precise details may be effected by the officers.)

(v) the consideration of all innovations in the ministry of the church.

To the officers fall all other responsibilities including the 'day to day' responsibility for the work, the initiation of endeavours, the nomination of members and officers, the employment of non pastoral staff, the process of church discipline (except that a disciplinary resolution must finally be approved by the whole church), the oversight, with the pastor, of the flock, and of all church departments (including the appointment and retirement of those who labour in them such as Sunday School leaders and teachers) and, preferably, the fixing of the minister's stipend, which should be confidential. Obviously, officers must be careful to proceed with no new or significant undertaking without it having been fully shared with the church through the church meeting, and having received wholehearted identification.

(The distribution of responsibilities between church and officers is treated at length in the LRBS course of lectures at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.)

To elaborate further on the church meeting, the horrors of Roberts' Rules (of Parliamentary Procedure) should on no account be incorporated into the constitution. All business in church meetings should emanate from the officers' court through the chairman, and there should be no �any other business', for this overthrows the entire concept of ordered biblical government.

Church meetings are intended to be acts of worship and altogether beautiful and holy in God's sight. A clause in the constitution abominating clamour and unseemly behaviour as an offence would be a gain. Some reformed churches have unwittingly embraced the 'super democratic' notion of the church meeting made popular among Arminians from the 1850s.

The invariable result of this is disorder and unpleasantness, sometimes even tumult, and pioneers should be sensitive to the need to teach and define the purposes of the church meeting from the beginning. Times without number small fellowships have been ripped apart and the work stultified due to the ascendancy of opinionated democracy over godly application of the order and proper recognition of the roles of officers and church members.

Another important matter for the constitution is the issue of majorities. Should it be a two thirds or three quarters majority required for the appointment of an officer or a pastor?


Tyranny of the minority

Some teachers of the past spoke of 'the tyranny of the minority', and this is a real danger. A shade over one quarter of the church can rule and impose their will against the overwhelming view of the membership if the required majority is too large. A large margin may sound admirable, but it may prove to be a stumbling block.

To appoint officers and pastors, a large majority certainly ensures trust, but in the case of a troubled church it may hinder the appointment of a pastor. If a large majority is required, it may be helpful to stipulate a smaller or even a simple majority for (say) the third attempt at calling a leader.

To dismiss a pastor or officer should always be a matter of a simple majority. Simple majorities are the best rule for most business, although one would hope that Christian churches would normally proceed in near unanimity, assuming the leadership is godly and trusted.

(c) On the subject of officers, we offer some comments on the number of elders in a church, and their relationship to the deacons. It is fashionable nowadays to see the elders as senior to deacons, rather than to see them as undertaking different responsibilities. (It is interesting that C H Spurgeon's congregation regarded the deacons' court as superior to the elders' court.)

During Spurgeon's ministry the Metropolitan Tabernacle had around 20 elders, equal to one for every 250 members. Today a church of 100 members may have four or five. We offer no criticism of churches at this point, but would urge a very modest number of elders to help the preaching elder or pastor teacher to care for the church spiritually. We know of some recent constitutions where the church has been bound to elect a set number such as six or even twelve, which seems excessive. The number is best left to the discretion of the church, and not included in the constitution.

(d) The following comments assume that a church is baptistic in conviction. The church should be defined as consisting of Christians maintaining an experience of conversion to God, believing the doctrines of the statement of faith, baptised by immersion as believers, assenting to the roles of government and embracing the church covenant. In other words, every church should maintain a 'closed' membership according to its doctrinal distinctives (honouring the rule 'that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly

Article 3 Pg 3

joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement� See Romans 15.6, 1 Corinthians 1.10; 2 Corinthians 13.11; Philippians 1.27, 3.16; 1 Peter 3.8.)

It is not ideal to make the Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 a qualifying basis for membership. To do so would strictly mean that no spiritual babes or young could be admitted. It is better to adopt a brief statement as essential to membership, while the longer Confession should determine the ministry of the church, and the doctrinal position to which all strive.

Thus the constitution is 'confessional' in character, and no other doctrine may be advanced either publicly or privately among the members.

e) It is extremely valuable to insert a provision for the termination of membership after six months' non attendance, at the discretion of the officers' meeting. Clearly in the case of members who have moved, and not yet resettled, this need not be applied. Nor in the case of the sick. There may well be compassionate exceptions for those studying or away for other purposes for a long time, but walking with the Lord and intending to return. However, an automatic basis for lapse of membership will enable the church to maintain a truthful and God honouring membership roll.

It is also valuable to have a forfeiture of membership rule for those who no longer subscribe to the articles of faith, and for those who may wish to advocate doctrines in conflict with the longer Confession, or for those who refuse to co operate with a proper disciplinary enquiry.

By this rule, the officers may regard as having left the church any member who clearly infringes in any of these ways without proceeding to an extended 'process', although the action will clearly be reported to the church meeting.

This does not mean that the officers assume the right of expulsion, which belongs only to the church meeting. It enables them to resolve a clear cut and self declared change of belief, or to resolve a refusal to answer to misdemeanours which could lead to expulsion. (We hope that such cases would never or seldom have to be invoked, but in these troubled times particularly, churches report such heartaches.)



1. The full inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; their authority and sufficiency as not only containing but as being in themselves the Word of God. The reliability of the Scripture's witness to itself as the only, the complete and the infallible Word of God, the New Testament witnessing to the reliability and divine character of the Old Testament; the necessity also for a reverent faith in the Word, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, for a true understanding of the whole.

2. The unity of the Godhead and the divine co equality of the Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit eternall; the sovereignty of God in creation, providence and redemption.

3. The true and proper deity of our Lord Jesus Christ; His virgin birth; His real and perfect manhood; the authority of His teaching and the infallibility of all His utterances; His substitutionary death on the cross as being the full and sufficient and only atonement for sins; His bodily resurrection and His ascension into Heaven; His present priestly intercession for His people; His personal return in glory.

4. The justification of the sinner solely by faith, through the atoning merits of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

5. The total depravity of human nature in consequence of the Fall of man from the original state of perfection in which he was created, by which Fall all mankind is in a state of condemnation and separation from a holy God, and can only be delivered by the divine work of regeneration and redemption.

6. The sovereign grace of God, by which we mean His free and unmerited favour; and that by His sole choice the elect have been predestinated to salvation.

7. The work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification and faith as being not an act of man's free will and power, but of the mighty efficacious and irresistible grace of God, through the Holy Spirit.

8. All those who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally persevere, so that not one of them shall ever perish but shall have everlasting life.

9. The resurrection of the dead, the judgement of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, with the eternal blessedness of the redeemed, and the eternal punishment of those who finally reject Christ as Saviour.

10. The observance of the divine institution of the baptism of believers by immersion, in loving obedience and as an act of witness, but not as conveying any regenerating grace. The observance of the Lord's Supper as a commemoration of our Lord's death, but not as being a sacrifice for sin nor involving any change in the substance of the bread and wine.

11. The sole authority and prerogative of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, speaking in His Word, for the government of the church.

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In connection with membership, it should be stated that every prospective member should provide a clear testimony of salvation, and be satisfactorily interviewed by the pastor and by at least two other officers before the name is put to the gathered church.

No one should be able to automatically transfer their membership from another church, although the commendation of the previous church should be available. It will protect the church if an 'acquaintance interval' is set, say of at least six months from the time the applicant began to worship at the church, before a membership motion is brought to the church. (This writer would also recommend a minimum age of sixteen, with a right to vote at eighteen.)

(f) It would also be of immense value to include in the constitution a requirement that the minister must believe in the necessity of specific and direct evangelistic preaching, at least once every week, and also that he should actively encourage and support evangelistic Sunday School and other outreach. In times past, these formed part of the unspoken definition of a minister's task, but now need to be clearly articulated.

(g) Negatively, a modem constitution should preclude affiliation to any society of churches not consisting exclusively of those committed to the defence of evangelical doctrine, or to any society in which the autonomy of the church would be compromised in any way whatsoever. Clauses should also repudiate those current problems referred to earlier, such as ecumenical activity.

(h) A provision will be needed to facilitate the resolution of any dire problems which may arise leading to the dissatisfaction of the members with the conduct or work of the pastor or elders or deacons. If the leaders will not address complaints raised by the members, or if they have abused their authority, or if for any reason an impasse has come about, then an extraordinary meeting of the church would need to be called. The method by which members may initiate this, and determine the matters to be raised, will be set out in a future issue of Sword & Trowel.



A church covenant is a statement of promises entered into by the members of a church. Its purpose is to encourage godliness and to define unacceptable conduct. It deals with the spiritual attitudes of members toward God, the church, and fellow members.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries churches would often read their covenants publicly (not the entire constitution) every time they observed the Lord's Supper, or at least at annual church meetings.

Today, covenants, where churches have them, are seldom read out before the church, but they are certainly included in the process for joining the church. They have often been called Family Covenants.

Such covenants have been traced back to 1567 in London. By the close of the 1600s almost all Baptist churches used them. They represented the Puritan concept of the church, by contrast with the sacramental concept. In effect, they defined a church, not as people who have been baptised (generally as babies) into a sacral society, but as converts who have freely committed themselves to God and also to one another.

Covenants were used in the course of church discipline, when a member was reproved (or even removed) for perpetual and grievous gossip, or for disorderly behaviour.

A typical covenant appears on the following page.


Article 3 Page 5


The Solemn Covenant drawn up by Benjamin Keach in 1689 is still the covenant of the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

We who desire to walk together in the fear of the Lord, do, through the assistance of His Holy Spirit, profess our deep and serious humiliation for all our transgressions. And we do solemnly, in the presence of God, and of each other, in the sense of our own unworthiness, give up ourselves to the Lord, in a church state according to the apostolical constitution, that He may be our God, and we may be His people, through the everlasting covenant of His free grace, in which alone we hope to be accepted by Him, through His blessed Son Jesus Christ, Whom we take to be our High Priest, to justify and sanctify us, and our Prophet to teach us; and to be subject to Him as our Law giver, and the King of saints; and to conform to all His holy laws and ordinances, for our growth, establishment, and consolation; that we may be as a holy spouse unto Him, and serve Him in our generation, and wait for His second appearance, as our glorious Bridegroom.

Being fully satisfied in the way of church communion, and the truth of grace in some good measure upon one another's spirits, we do solemnly join ourselves together in a holy union and fellowship, humbly submitting to the discipline of the Gospel, and all holy duties required of a people in such a spiritual relation.

1. We do promise and engage to walk in all holiness, godliness, humility, and brotherly love, as much as in us lieth to render our communion delightful to God, comfortable to ourselves, and lovely to the rest of the Lord's people.

2. We do promise to watch over each other's conversations, and not to suffer sin upon one another, so far as God shall discover it to us, or any of us; and to stir up one another to love and good works; to warn, rebuke, and admonish one another with meekness, according to the rules left to us of Christ in that behalf.

3. We do promise in a special manner to pray for one another, and for the glory and increase of this church, and for the presence of God in it, and the pouring forth of His Spirit on it, and His protection over it to His glory.

4. We do promise to bear one another's burdens, to cleave to one another, and to have a fellow feeling with one another, in all conditions both outward and inward, as God in His providence shall cast any of us into.

5. We do promise to bear with one another's weaknesses, failings, and infirmities, with much tenderness, not discovering them to any without the church, nor any within, unless according to Christ's rule, and the order of the Gospel provided in that case.

6. We do promise to strive together for the truth of the Gospel and purity of God's ways and ordinances, to avoid causes, and causers, of division, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3).

7. We do promise to meet together on Lord's days, and at other times, as the Lord shall give us opportunities, to serve and glorify God in the way of His worship, to edify one another, and to contrive the good of His church.

8. We do promise according to our ability (or as God shall bless us with the good things of this world) to communicate to our pastor or minister, God having ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. (And how can anything lay a greater obligation upon the conscience than this covenant; what then is the sin of such who violate it?)

These and all other Gospel duties we humbly submit unto, promising and purposing to perform, not in our own strength, being conscious of our own weakness, but in the power and strength of the blessed God, Whose we are, and Whom we desire to serve. To Whom be glory now and for evermore. Amen.


Article 4 Pg 1 Sword & Trowel1997 No 4.

This example of a constitution is for the help of pioneers, who may want to omit and insert clauses. The traditional role of a Pastor is represented here.

Those who incline to a different nuance of ministry will need to re express relevant portions. This constitution embodies general principles commonly adopted by Baptists and Independents, and also takes account of modern errors.


Constitution of the Church known as the ABC Church,

worshipping for the time being at XYZ

1. Character of the Church

This Church is a society of Trinitarian, Protestant, Baptist Dissenters holding and maintaining Calvinistic doctrines as represented in the Church Statement of Faith and in the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 [with stated reservations],* maintaining that the moral law of God ought ever to be the rule of a believer's life and conduct, and that the Holy Scriptures are the infallible, sole and binding authority in all tiers of doctrine and conduct.

The Church shall remain an independent congregation holding that the Lord Jesus Christ is the exclusive Head and authority over individual congregations.

The Church shall not be affiliated to any society of churches unless it consists [and continues to consist] entirely of like minded churches, or if by such affiliation the autonomy of the Church would be compromised or inhibited in any way whatsoever.

The Church exists for

worship of Almighty God through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ;

the proclaiming of the Gospel of grace to adults and children;

the expounding of God's Word;

the nurture of believers in the faith;

the defence of the faith;

the promotion of fellowship between Christians within the congregation;

the organising of works of witness and service to be carried out by members of the congregation;

the ministry of discipline in the congregation; and the support of church planting and other missionary endeavours at home and overseas.


2 Membership

The Church shall be composed of those who have professed repentance towards God and faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ; have since been baptised by total immersion in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; give evidence of a renewed life; assent to the Church Statement of Faith; pledge themselves to the Family Covenant of the Church; acknowledge that the conduct of the Church must accord with its Constitution;

disavow all sympathy with Roman Catholicism, the ecumenical movement, theological liberalism, worldly Christianity, charismatic distinctives, and New Age and other mystical views;

hold that the revelatory miracle signs ceased with the apostles; and

are not members of any other church.

Prospective members shall present a testimony of salvation to the Church Prayer Meeting, or other Church meeting, satisfy the Pastor and Officers of their sincerity, and be approved by a majority of those present and entitled to vote at a Church Meeting Those approved shall be received into membership by right hand of fellowship at the Lord's Table.

Members shall be removed from the Roll at a combined meeting of the Elders and Deacons, without recourse to the Church Meeting, if due to death, resignation, or non attendance for more than six months unless infirm. At the discretion of the Pastor and Officers, non attending members may be retained on the Roll if their absence is temporary, or if they have removed and for a time are unable to find a like minded church, or for some compassionate reason.

Article 4 Pg2

Members shall be declared by the Pastor and Officers to have forfeited their membership without recourse to the Church Meeting if they plainly state that they renounce or oppose the beliefs and Constitution of the Church, or refuse to participate in any disciplinary enquiry into suspected disorderly or sinful conduct on their part.

Members who are suspected of disorderly conduct or sin shall be subject to enquiry by the Pastor and Officers, and if found guilty by them shall either be reproved with or without temporary suspension from participation in the Lord's Table, the Church Members' Meeting, and Christian service, or, in the case of grave disorder or sin, expelled from the Church by a resolution put to the Church Meeting by the Officers and approved by a majority of members present and entitled to vote. The offences for which a member shall be susceptible to expulsion shall be those stated in Romans 16.17; 1 Corinthians 5.9 13; 10.14,. Galatians 1.6 9; and 2 Thessalonians 3.6, 11, 14.


3 Pastor

The Church shall ordinarily be the care of the Pastor who shall be a man

qualified to be a Church member;

whose conscience is bound to the doctrines of the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 [with stated reservations];* *See top of page 23 (original page reference see Article 4 Page 4 of these notes for permitted reservations on the 1689)

who maintains the pressing and persuasive universal tender of salvation including a dedicated evangelistic address each week;

who aims to promote child evangelism through Sunday Schools;

who renounces mystical views of spiritual experience; and who is a total abstainer from alcohol.

The Pastor, who is the teaching Elder, will normally preside at meetings of Elders, Deacons or members and shall have oversight of all departments of ministry in the Church.


He shall be nominated by the Officers and appointed or dismissed by Church members gathered in a Special Church Meeting as defined in paragraph 5 of this Constitution.

The Church members assembled in a Special Church Meeting shall be bound to approve any resolution to dismiss the Pastor if it can be shown that he no longer maintains or preaches the doctrines or complies with the Constitution of the Church, or fails to preach regularly in a specifically evangelistic manner, or adopts mystical views, or ceases to be a total abstainer.

The members assembled in a Special Church Meeting may also consider and approve the dismissal of the Pastor for any reason whatsoever.

The Pastor may resign from office.

In addition to the Pastor, the Church may appoint other teaching Elders or Pastors to assist the Pastor. Such persons shall be nominated and elected and may resign or be removed in the same way as the Pastor.


4 Services and Activities

Church shall gather regularly for worship instruction, evangelism, prayer, the ordinance of the Lord's Supper and also from time to time for the ordinance of Believers' Baptism.

No other doctrine may be taught except that which is consistent with the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 [with stated reservations].*

The Church shall use other opportunities for evangelism and ministry towards both adults and children, including the printed page, so long as the spoken or written proclamation of the Bible shall be the principal objective, and theatrical or dramatical methods, music of profane style, and the pursuit of signs and wonders are eschewed.

Wholesome recreational activities shall be permitted for young people as part of evangelistic meetings on weekdays but not as part of children's ministry on the Lord's Day.

The Church may engage in benevolent and educational activities and also give support to other Christian organisations for evangelism or benevolence.


Women shall be permitted to pray audibly in Prayer Meetings, but not to contribute in worship meetings or to teach, excepting in children's ministry or the teaching of other women.


Worship shall be formal in character and led by the Pastor or other Officer. Reverent psalm versions and post biblical hymns shall be sung in worship accompanied by either piano or organ but not both, but so called choruses, except those forming part of traditional hymns, shall not be used in adult worship.


5 Members' Meetings

From time to time a meeting of members called the Church Meeting shall be convened by and under the chairmanship of the Pastor or, in his absence, a senior Officer for

the approving of applications for membership;

the dismissal of members other than those who are excluded by death, non attendance, resignation or forfeiture of membership;

the election or dismissal of a Pastor, Elders or Deacons;

the approval of annual statements of account and of an annual budget;

the approval of unusually substantial expenses not of a routine character;

the approval of all innovations in the ministry of the Church;

the hearing of reports or exhortation as deemed fitting by the Pastor or Officers; and

the proposed dissolution of the Church.


Notice of a Church Meeting shall be given by announcement at the morning worship service on the Lord's Day preceding the meeting.

A meeting convened to consider the election or dismissal of a Pastor or Officers, or to consider the annual accounts statement shall be known as a Special Church Meeting and shall be announced on two preceding Lord's Days.

Proposals to elect Officers must be considered in two consecutive Special Church Meetings, a vote by paper

Article 4 Pg 3

ballot being taken in the second of these. Charges of ill repute against nominated men shall not be mentioned by members at the first meeting, but reported to the Officers for their consideration between the two meetings.

Only those matters introduced by the Pastor and Officers and thus emanating from the chair may be considered at a Church Meeting.

Business not emanating from the chair such as 'any other business' shall not be put before a Church Meeting, except for a meeting convened in the event of a dispute between the Pastor or Officers and the Church, or if no Pastor or Officers remain in office.

No parliamentary rules

Parliamentary rules of order shall not be adopted in Church Meetings. Motions shall be presented from the chair as from the Pastor, Elders and Deacons, requiring no seconding by any other. A motion may be withdrawn at the discretion of the Chairman, except for a motion to dismiss an Officer. If any substantial amendment to a motion is desired, the motion shall be withdrawn for further consideration by the Elders and Deacons before being represented to the Church Meeting.

The quorum for a valid Church Meeting shall be one quarter of those entitled to attend and vote at Church Meetings.

A record of all resolutions passed by vote shall be recorded in a book, and signed as correct by the Chairman of the meeting. Such a record shall be binding and conclusive on all members.

Only members who have been present at worship services on a majority of Lord's Days during the preceding six months, who have attained the age of eighteen, and have not been suspended from the Lord's Table as the result of Church discipline, may vote in any Church Meeting.

Any resolution shall be approved by simple majority, by show of hands, except for the election of a Pastor or Officers when a three quarters majority must be in support, on a paper ballot.

In all Church Meetings women may ask questions or address matters of taste or of a practical nature, but not make directive statements and exhortations of a spiritual character.

A Church Meeting shall commence with worship, and the Chairman shall rule as disorderly any unseemly behaviour, clamour and vituperation


6 Ordinances

The ordinance of the Lord's Supper should be observed at least twice each month, the Pastor presiding, or. in his absence, an Officer; the wine being non alcoholic, and the bread of the most ordinary kind.

Only, those with an evangelical profession of faith in Christ shall be invited to participate, including visitors from other Trinitarian, Protestant, evangelical churches, including persons not baptised as believers by immersion. However, in the case of unbaptised worshippers settled in this congregation steps shall be taken by the Pastor and Officers to bring them to obey the ordinance of Believers' Baptism, and to seek admission to the membership of the Church.

The ordinance of Believers' Baptism by total immersion in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit shall be observed from time to time with the Pastor as baptiser or in the event of his absence or infirmity an Officer. Those desiring Baptism must submit a written testimony of salvation and be satisfactorily interviewed by the Pastor and two Officers.


7 Elders and Deacons

The Church may elect ruling Elders from among the men members of the Church to assist the Pastor in the spiritual care of the fellowship. Such Elders will meet from time to time under the chairmanship of the Pastor. They, or a number of them, will also convent to inquire into reports or allegations of disorderly or sinful behaviour by members. They shall also choose and retire leaders, teachers, visitors, and other workers in the different departments of the Church.

Together with Deacons, through their properly convened meetings, they shall determine the business to be put before a Church Meeting.

They will regard themselves as ordinarily under the lead of the Pastor, but he will defer to the judgement of the majority of them, subject to appeal to a combined meeting of the Elders and Deacons, whose united majority shall be binding. The Pastor as an Elder shall be entitled to vote at such a meeting.

Such ruling Elders will serve for five years, at the end of which term they shall submit to renomination by their fellow Officers and re election at a Special Church Meeting.

The Church shall appoint from among the men members Deacons who shall meet under the chairmanship of the Pastor or an Elder or Deacon deputed by him, to supervise the organisation, management and care of the properties, fabric and facilities of the Church, the compassionate and benevolent work, the practical arrangements of meetings, classes, meals, and other gatherings arranged, and the employment of non pastoral staff.

From among their number they will nominate a Treasurer to be appointed by vote in a Special Church Meeting. They will ensure the careful spending of stewarded and other funds, and with the Treasurer draw up a proposed budget for approval by the Church Meeting each year.

In the event of there being no Elders, the Deacons shall take up in addition to their duties the work of ruling Elders, assisting the Pastor in the spiritual oversight of the Church. Deacons shall relinquish such oversight as Elders are appointed.

The number of Deacons shall not be less than three or more than twelve. Deacons will serve for five years, at the end of which they must submit to renomination by their fellow Officers and re election at a Special Church Meeting.

The Elders and Deacons may meet as one, or separately as desired. An Elder or Deacon may resign from office.

Article 4 Pg 4

8 Financial Support

The Church shall maintain its ministries and facilities by free will offerings and not by recourse to pew rents, sale of goods, bazaars, entertainments, draws, lotteries, or any form of gambling, excepting that the Church may sell ministry in the form of literature, audio and video cassettes or another means of conveying the exposition of the Word of God.


9 Contention between Officers and Members

If one quarter or more of the members of the Church shall at any time desire to have a Church Meeting called they shall give notice in writing signed by them to the Officers specifying the particular business they desire to discuss or transact, and if the Officers cannot satisfy their concerns and fail to convene a Church Meeting within one month of the delivery of such a notice it shall be lawful for those who gave notice to convene a Church Meeting on their own authority.

Such a Church Meeting shall be advertised by letter sent to all members stating the purpose of the Meeting. Such a Meeting shall take place not less than three weeks after the sending of that letter.

At a Church Meeting called under this rule a man shall be elected to preside as Chairman by a majority of members present and entitled to vote, and equal time shall be accorded to the representatives of both sides of any dispute.


10 Dissolution


In the event of the dissolution of the Church all funds and possessions remaining after the payment of all due debts, and the disposal of which is not governed by any Trust Deed or Conveyance or otherwise by law, shall be donated to a like minded church or churches either in the United Kingdom or overseas. (A Statement of Faith and Church Family Covenant appeared in the previous issue)


*Permitted reservations in assent to the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.

Three reservations shall be permitted when a pastor, an Elder, or a Deacon is required to affirm his acceptance of the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, and these reservations apply also to the doctrines which are bound to be taught within the Church.

1. It shall not be necessary to affirm that the Pope of Rome is the literal Antichrist and man of sin, although it must be believed that he is the servant of a church so called, which is Antichrist in nature, and the enemy of the true Gospel (chapter 26:4).

2, It shall not be necessary to affirm that a 'bishop' or Elder or Deacon should be set aside by the laying on of hands of the Eldership, or with fasting, although it must be affirmed that they are to be chosen by common consent and vote of the Church, with prayer (chapter 26:9).

3. It shall not be necessary to affirm that churches should meet with each other through appointed messengers to seek and obtain advice about any matter in dispute either within a church or between churches, although it must be affirmed that should any such consultation take place, the gathered messengers cannot exercise any censure over any churches or persons or impose their determination on any churches or their Officers (chapter 26.15).





This brief 'policy statement is that followed at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

(It does not form part of the example constitution above.)


FIRST, we teach the doctrines of grace (often summarised as the 'five points of Calvinism'). Our doctrinal basis is the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 (The pastor of the congregation at that time, Benjamin Keach, was a compiler of this Confession.)

SECONDLY, we believe in the free offer of the Gospel, dedicating one service every Sunday to persuasive evangelistic preaching, and praying that God will use this for the salvation of precious souls. Evangelism is a foremost duty for us, embracing evangelistic Sunday Schools, youth outreach, and other outreach activities.

THIRDLY, we believe that traditional worship is in line with the clear teaching of the Bible. Worship is to be glorious and reverent, lifting up our minds in praise, thanksgiving, repentance, dedication, intercession, and the hearing of God's Word. It is not intended to entertain, as though the house of God were a theatre or dance hall, but to bring us to appreciate Almighty God.

FOURTHLY, we try to honour the concept of the working church, which means that all true believers serve the Lord, joining together in activities to bring glory to Him. With this emphasis it is possible for a church to carry out large outreach efforts, Sunday School Ministry, and so on. Christians are not just a 'Sunday audience', but a company of committed, dedicated workers for the Lord.

FIFTHLY, we believe that the Lord's people must keep themselves clear from worldliness and false teaching. The doctrine of biblical separation is imperative. False teaching denies the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, as well as fundamental doctrines of the faith. True churches must defend and preserve the Truth at all costs, and never compromise the only way of salvation.

SIXTHLY we believe in the great importance of prayer, and maintain the church prayer meeting as a distinctive weeknight meeting. Without the blessing of God in answer to prayer, all our witness would be in vain. Corporate prayer is paramount.

SEVENTHLY, we hold that the 'local church' (that is, every individual congregation) is God's intended agency for all ministry and witness. It is designed by Him to carry out many tasks. Therefore 'wider' ministries, such as missions, training of preachers, and the issuing of literature, should be undertaken by individual churches, if the Lord leads and enables them.


This list of policies does not, of course, cover all the duties of a church, but highlights the tradition in which the Metropolitan Tabernacle stands, and which was re emphasised in 1970.


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