Our Church By-Laws (Last online edit: March 2013)
Article I – Name
The name of the church shall be Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Article II – Purpose
The purpose of Sovereign Grace Fellowship is to bring glory and honor to God through public worship and through proclaiming to all the world the Lord Jesus Christ: crucified, risen, and coming again. Sovereign Grace Fellowship shall join in the edification of God’s people continuing “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
Article III – Statement of Faith
We at Sovereign Grace Fellowship believe:
In one God who has revealed Himself to mankind as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the three persons of the Godhead, known as the Trinity, who are one in essence, are indivisible, bear equally and totally all of the marks, characteristics, and attributes of sovereign deity; forever reign supreme over all His creation that His name may be glorified.
In the deity, virgin birth, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and certain return of God the Son, Jesus Christ the Lord.
In God the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He indwells, regenerates, and sanctifies every believer, giving them the gift of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord, Jesus Christ for their salvation.
In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as being inspired by God, inerrant, and infallible in its original writings, and as the only source of supreme and final authority in matters of faith and practice. That before the foundation of the world, God chose for Himself a people to call His very own, that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love. All His chosen, who, being born again by the Holy Spirit, believe in the name of Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior, are thus given the right to become children of God.
That man, in Adam, being created in the image of God in every way holy, pure, and blameless, willingly rebelled against his Creator and sinned. Because of his disobedience toward God, man incurred not only physical death, but also spiritual death, being eternally separated from God and born with a sinful nature.
That the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the only pleasing representative and substitutionary sacrifice acceptable to God, did fully atone for the sins of His chosen people, through the shedding of His blood on Calvary, thus paying the ransom for their redemption.
That the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed a day when He will return to judge the living and the dead in righteousness “as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Co 5:10) The righteous will inherit everlasting life and receive fullness of joy, and glory in the presence of the Lord and enjoy Him forever. The wicked will be cast into the outer darkness of hell where there will be eternal wailing and gnashing of teeth, away from the presence and glory of God. His appointing a Day of Judgment is to make known the glory of His mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and the glory of His justice in the eternal damnation of the wicked.
That the Lord Jesus Christ is head of His church which has been entrusted to Him by the Father. Members of the body of Christ are saints by reason of the divine call, and visibly demonstrate this truth through active obedience to the call of Christ, both by their confession of Christ and their manner of life.
That the local church is a primary context for spiritual growth where believers join themselves in union with those who confess the Lordship of Christ, who assemble for worship, fellowship, preaching of the Word of God, faithful observance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, edification, discipline, and service to God. The local church is to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ and is responsible for the nurture of its members. All members are responsible to accept its Biblical guidance and discipline, and to consistently support it with their prayers, time, talents, spiritual gifts, and financial resources.
That Baptism by immersion, and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances which have been sovereignly instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be observed in His church until the end of the world.
Article IV – Membership
I. Anyone 16 years of age or older may become a member of Sovereign Grace Fellowship after having satisfied the following:
A. Having made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord.
B. Having been baptized as an act of obedience and union with Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection and as a testimony of your salvation.
C. Completing an “Application for Membership” form answering the following questions:
1. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ and trusted Him as your Lord and Savior? Please explain in detail why you believe you are a child of God.
2. Have you been baptized by immersion as an act of obedience and union with Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection and as a testimony of your salvation?
3. Are you in agreement with Sovereign Grace Fellowship’s Statement of Faith as described in Article III of the by-laws? If not, please describe your disagreements in detail.
4. Will you submit to Biblical leadership and Biblical discipline of Sovereign Grace Fellowship?
5. Will you support Sovereign Grace Fellowship with your prayers, time, talents, spiritual gifts, and financial resources as God enables you?
6. Will you support Sovereign Grace Fellowship with consistent, active involvement in its regularly scheduled worship and church activities as God enables you?
7. Will you take the responsibility of joining in fellowship with, and care of brothers and sisters in Christ, in faithful study of the Scriptures, and in spreading the Gospel in all contexts of your life?
D. Submitting a completed application form to any member of the Elder board for consideration, then joining with the Elders for further discussion.
E. If the Elder board accepts the applicant for membership, they shall present that person for membership before the congregation. The congregation will be given seven days to bring any Biblically supported objection to the acceptance of the applicant into membership. If after seven days, no objection is raised, the applicant will immediately become a member of Sovereign Grace Fellowship. If objections are raised, the Elder board will investigate all objections and determine membership status based upon the investigation.
F. Non-members of Sovereign Grace Fellowship are welcomed to share in fellowship and worship and enjoy the same privileges as members except for voting, holding office, teaching, and participating in decision making.
G. Due to a change of residence, or for reasons beyond the control of a Voting Member, a Voting Member of the church may apply for a change of membership status to Non-Voting Member. The written application must be submitted to the board of elders for their approval. Upon written approval by the board of elders, the board of elders will notify the church secretary of the applicant’s new membership status effective immediately.
H. With the unanimous decision of the elders voting members who are in the process of church discipline will be removed from voting membership and assigned non-voting membership status. The board of elders will notify the church secretary of the said member’s status effective immediately.
I. With the unanimous decision of the elders, or upon written request and the approval of the majority of the board of elders, Non-Voting Members may have their Voting Membership restored. The board of elders will notify the church secretary of the member’s new status.
II. Removal from Membership may occur under the following circumstances:
A. When requested in writing by a member in good standing to transfer membership to another Bible believing church. A letter of transfer from the board of Elders will be issued upon request.
B. When requested in writing by a member to terminate membership.
C. When a member (except when their circumstances make it impossible to participate), after having been faithfully counseled, has not participated in the life of the church for a period of three consecutive months.
D. When a member knowingly is in unrepentant sin and has been faithfully counseled according to the Biblical pattern of Matthew 18:15-17.
E. Upon the death of a member.
III. In all situations, it will be the desire of Sovereign Grace Fellowship to restore to full fellowship all members who repent and seek forgiveness and restoration with God and His church. (2Co 2:5-11)
Article V – Government
Sovereign Grace Fellowship recognizes the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme Head over His church. Before Him, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:10-11). Under Christ and in accordance with the Scriptures, this body shall be self-governing and independent of any other ecclesiastical bodies or denominations. The government of Sovereign Grace Fellowship shall be committed to a Leadership consisting of an Elder board and a Deacon board.
A. Elder / Pastor / Shepherd / Overseer / Bishop – The Elder board shall be a body of men devoted to the teaching and shepherding of God’s flock for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry and for the edification of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12). They shall equally share the leadership responsibilities of Sovereign Grace Fellowship while exercising their particular spiritual gifts. These men must demonstrate in their lives and to the church the qualifications set forth in 1Ti 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The Overseers are called by God to shepherd His flock in a faithful manner as described in Acts 20:27-35 and 1Ti 4:11-16.
B. Deacon – The Deacon board shall be a body of men serving God’s flock by caring for the daily personal, material, and spiritual needs that may arise in the lives of God’s people. These men must demonstrate in their lives and to the church the qualifications set forth in 1Ti 3:8-13.
C. Deaconess – The Deaconess board shall be a body of women serving Gods flock by caring for the daily, personal, material and spiritual needs that may arise in the lives of God’s people. These women will serve under the direction and guidance of the Deacon board to ensure that the material needs of the church body are being met. These women must display the character traits expressed in 1 Ti 3:8-10 in their daily walk, and further be measured by the qualifications communicated in 1 Ti 3:11.
D. Appointment of Elders, Deacons, and Deaconess
1. Members of Sovereign Grace Fellowship are welcomed to recommend candidates for Elder or Deacon to the board of Elders at any time. The board of Elders will take into consideration all recommendations by observing the qualifications set forth in Article V, Section II, Paragraphs A & B of these by-laws and by evaluating the current needs of the church.
2. Upon prayerful consideration and unanimous consent by the board of Elders, qualified candidates will be presented to the congregation. The congregation will have seven days to bring forward to the candidate and /or an Elder any questions, concerns, or Biblical objections to the candidate’s appointment. If there are no objections, then the candidate will immediately begin to function in his appointed role as Elder or Deacon.
3. If objections are brought forward regarding the candidate’s qualifications, an investigation will be conducted by the board of Elders. Upon investigation, and in the event the board of Elders do not feel the objections are Biblically warranted, an explanation will be given to the member who raised the objection. If the member continues to object to the recommendation, the candidate will be brought before the congregation for a binding 2/3 majority vote. If affirmed by the congregation, the candidate will immediately begin to function in his appointed role as Elder or Deacon.
E. At any time an Elder or Deacon may step down from their leadership responsibilities for sabbatical or personal reasons and may do so in good standing. In all other situations, an Elder or Deacon shall continue to serve as a leader unless unanimously voted out by the remainder of the Elder board on the basis of disagreement with the Statement of Faith of Sovereign Grace Fellowship, or on the basis of conduct which violates the Biblical qualifications set forth in Article V, Section II, Paragraphs A & B of these by-laws.
Offices and committees of Sovereign Grace Fellowship shall only be filled by members of Sovereign Grace Fellowship. (Refer to Article IV, Section I, Paragraph F)
A. A Treasurer will be appointed by the board of Elders and will continue to serve until he/she or the Elders (by majority vote) determine that he/she should no longer serve in that capacity for personal or other reasons.
B. A Secretary will be appointed by the board of Elders and will continue to serve until he/she or the Elders (by majority vote) determine that he/she should no longer serve in that capacity for personal or other reasons.
C. Committees may be formed and dissolved at the discretion of the Elders.
Article VI – Meetings
Fiscal Year – Sovereign Grace Fellowship’s fiscal year will run from February 1 to January 31.
A congregational meeting shall be held in the month of January no later than the last day of January. At this meeting the voting members will vote on the proposed annual budget for Sovereign Grace Fellowship. All voting members are expected to attend. (This budget will remain in effect until the following January meeting or until otherwise amended at a special congregational meeting.) A mid-year report on the financial health of the church will be submitted by the deacons to the elders between the months of June and August. Upon the approval of the majority of elders the submitted deacon’s report will be distributed to the church membership.
A. Leadership will report on the financial and ministry status of Sovereign Grace Fellowship at both regular congregational meetings.
Special meetings of Sovereign Grace Fellowship may be called by the board of Elders or by the written request of 50% of the voting membership, bearing their signatures and submitted to any Elder or Deacon.
Announcement of Meetings
A. Regularly scheduled congregational meetings – shall be announced from the pulpit at least two Sundays prior to the date of the meeting.
B. Special congregational meetings – shall be announced from the pulpit at least on the Sunday prior to the date of the meeting, with the statement of the business to be transacted. In the event that a congregational vote will be taken, they shall be announced from the pulpit at least two Sundays prior to the date of the meeting.
A. A quorum of 40% of church voting membership must be present or represented by proxy for any congregational vote.
B. Any member 18 years of age or older may participate in any congregational vote.
C. A 2/3 majority of all votes cast will be required to decide any congregational vote to make only the following decisions:
1. Accepting the church budget.
2. Amending the by-laws.
3. Selling church property in excess of $500.
4. Spending church money in excess of $500.
a. Spending church money in excess of $500 but less than $2000.01 by the deacon board requires the written approval of a majority of the elders.
In the event these by-laws are not upheld by the board of Elders, and after an honest attempt to follow Biblical procedures to rectify the situation has been made (Matt 18:15-17, 1Ti 5:19), a special congregational meeting may be called by a written request of 50% of the voting membership, bearing their signatures and submitted to any Elder or Deacon. At this meeting, a congregational vote of 2/3 majority may be taken to reverse any decision made by the board of Elders that is in clear opposition to the by-laws. Refer to Article VI, Section IV, Paragraph B.
Article VII – Missionary Support
In obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), Sovereign Grace Fellowship will consider it a priority to support missionaries around the world with both prayer and financial resources as God has provided. Missionary support will only be considered for those who fully support Sovereign Grace Fellowship’s statement of faith (Article III).
Article VIII – Dissolution
In the event of the dissolution of Sovereign Grace Fellowship, all assets of the church will be liquidated, and, after all debts have been satisfied, be donated equally to all missionaries for whom we budget support. In the event that Sovereign Grace Fellowship does not at that time support any missionary on a regular basis, then assets may be donated to a missionary or missionary organization who meet the criteria stated in Article VII – Missionary Support. This donation shall be given for use in their ministry and for care of the poor.
Article IX – Amendments
These by-laws may be amended by the unanimous recommendation of the Elder board and a 2/3 majority vote at a congregational meeting.