Pilgrim Bible Church Online
Preaching the Doctrines of Grace
Tacoma, WA 253-693-8470
Pilgrim Bible Church Constitution
The members of Pilgrim Bible Church willingly subscribe to and submit themselves to the following:
Article I: Name
The name of this church shall be Pilgrim Bible Church of Tacoma, Washington.
Article II: Purpose
Our purpose is to glorify our sovereign Lord through evangelization of the lost by the faithful proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the pulpit as well as from our personal witness; through the edification of the saints by the systematic, expository preaching and teaching of the Scriptures and by the faithful observance of the gospel ordinances of communion and baptism, so as to make known the full counsel of our mighty God that we may grow up into a full knowledge of His will, to please Him in all respects, to exalt His honored and awesome Name in Spirit-empowered worship, and to encourage and exhort one another to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In order to fulfill this purpose, we hold to a Reformed Baptistic understanding of the Scriptures. Though the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments constitute the sole basis for our faith and practice, we acknowledge the two London Confessions of 1644 and 1689 as generally reliable summary statements of orthodox Christian belief.
Article III: Church Covenant
Having been led by God to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, and, having followed His command in the ordinance of believer’s baptism, we do now, in the presence of God and of our fellow believers, enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
We shall, in the power of the Holy Spirit, endeavor to walk together in love; to strive for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and gospel through this church; to pray for and submit to its leaders; to seek its growth in both knowledge of the Word and doctrine, in holiness and in ministry; to promote its prosperity and growth in grace; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines and to contribute faithfully and cheerfully to the financial support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor and the spread of the gospel throughout the world (1 Pet. 1:22; Matt. 16:18-19; 28:19-20; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:17; 2 Pet. 3:18; Titus 1:9; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; James 1:27; 2 Cor. 8:12-14).
We shall endeavor to be faithful in serving this church with our time, our gifts and our possessions; to maintain a sincere, exemplary and consistent walk of faith before our families, our church and the world; to train our children in the doctrines and duties of our faith; to maintain consistent family and private devotions; to walk before all men in such humility of character and holiness of heart that our proclamation of the gospel will become ever more credible, compelling and persuasive. Therefore, we shall refuse to indulge in habits or practices detrimental to our spiritual or physical well-being and which could compromise our gospel witness and bring reproach to the name of Christ and to His church. Thus, in order to maintain holiness in our walk and witness, we will refrain from casting any stumbling block in the paths of others by voluntary abstention from any questionable practice, or from the enjoyment of any lawful liberty which may prove offensive to the conscience of a “weaker” brother (1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Pet. 4:10; Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12; Phil. 2:15; Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:10; Eph. 4:17-32; Rom. 14:12-23; 1 Cor. 8:9).
We further pledge to prayerfully watch over one another in brotherly love; to aid one another in sickness and in physical or financial need; to edify the Body by speaking well of one another and by refusing to indulge in gossip or slander; to lovingly reprove a brother or sister walking in persistent disobedience to the Lord; to be slow to take offense when others have wronged us and to always maintain a readiness for reconciliation (1 Pet. 4:7-10; Gal. 6:10; Rom. 12:13; Eph. 4:29; Gal. 6:1; James 1:19-20; Col. 3:13).
We moreover covenant that, when we move from this area, we will, as soon as possible, identify with a church where Christ is honored and His Word faithfully proclaimed.
Article IV: Membership
I. The Privileges of Church Membership
A. Spiritual protection. The church is under the leadership of gifted men whose oversight responsibilities include the guarding of the flock against spiritual dangers from outside as well as from inside the congregation (Acts 20:28-31; Eph. 4:11-16). In addition, membership binds believers together into a mutually protective covenant where they pledge to pray for, edify, exhort and hold one another accountable to walk in holiness before God and men (Eph. 4:1-3; 5:3-17; 6:18).
B. Spiritual privilege. Only within the church can a believer properly express his spiritual giftedness in service to the Body (Eph. 4:12; 1 Cor. 12:1-7). Only through the church can the gospel mission given her by Christ be fulfilled (Acts 1:8; 8:1, 4) as believers are taught and equipped by the church and sent to the lost (Acts 13:1-3).
C. Spiritual power and authority. To the church, Christ has entrusted the “keys of the kingdom,” and to the church belongs the authority to “bind and loose” on earth what has already been “bound and loosed” in heaven (Matt. 16:19). This puts the decisions of the church on a vastly higher plane than those of any other institution on earth! This is in keeping with the church’s higher calling to make known “the manifold wisdom of God” to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
II. The Prerequisites of Church Membership
The membership of Pilgrim Bible Church is open to anyone who possesses a living and vital faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Acts 20:21; 26:20), whose life displays the faith-corroborating fruit of good works (Titus 3:4-8; James 2:14-17), who has been water baptized by immersion since coming to faith in Christ, who subscribes to the purpose and beliefs of Pilgrim Bible Church, and who desires to willingly submit himself to the God-appointed leadership of the church (Heb. 13:17).
III. The Process of Church Membership
A. Any person who, after sitting under the teaching of the church for a sufficient period of time, and, after serious and prayerful study of the Statement of Faith, desires to become a member of the church, must submit a personal testimony in writing to the elders, explaining his understanding of the gospel and of its impact upon his life.
B. If the applicant is, or has been, a member of another church, special effort will be made to determine his standing in that church and his reason(s) for leaving.
C. After the elders have prayerfully considered the written testimony, they shall meet with the applicant to assess his or her qualifications for membership. If the elders are satisfied that the applicant meets all of the scriptural criteria, the church shall be notified of the applicant’s desire and called to prayer. Any questions or concerns about the fitness of the applicant for membership should be directed to the elders. If there are no valid objections, the applicant shall be welcomed into full membership during any worship service designated by the elders for that purpose.
D. If, upon review of an applicant’s testimony, or after the interview by the elders, it is determined the applicant has not confessed Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, or that the applicant’s life is deficient in terms of the fruit of repentance, membership shall be delayed until such time as the concern(s) are no longer valid. A delay in the recognition of membership shall be considered by the applicant as an exhortation to more serious self-assessment and to sober reflection concerning his or her spiritual state, as well as an appeal to a deeper repentance and holier walk of faith. Nevertheless, the criteria upon which membership shall be determined will be charitably applied by the elders in every case in recognition of the fact that the faith of even the weakest saint is still effective unto salvation (Mark 9:24; Rom. 7:15-25; 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 4:7ff.).
Article V: Church Officers
I. Elders and Deacons
Scripture describes two kinds of church officers: elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).
A. Elders: Elders are to be men chosen for their biblical fitness for the office based upon the scriptural qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The multiple interchangeable titles for this office (Acts 20:17, 28; Eph. 4:11-12; Titus 1:5, 7) indicate the varied responsibilities of the elder. They include:
1. Elder (presbuteros): literally, “aged” or “elderly”; a term indicating possession of wisdom (normally associated with the elderly), and the ability to render sage biblical counsel, so crucial in the leading of the church. This term does not automatically exclude younger men from this office, as the example of Timothy would indicate (1 Tim. 4:12). But younger men who are under consideration must show good judgment in their own private business and family related concerns. Though every elder possesses equal authority, not all will function in exactly the same way (1 Tim. 5:17). Some will minister in the preaching and teaching capacity based on their observable giftedness, while others will “rule” in an administrative and spiritual oversight capacity. But those possessing a more public ministry are in no way greater than other elders, as all the elders are to be mutually under submission to one another and are subject to the same discipline as all the members of the church.
2. Shepherd (poimaine): This word indicates the responsibility of leading the flock into the rich pasture of God’s Word, feeding the sheep of God’s flock the truth of the gospel and of God’s great grace (John 21:15-17). The shepherd must demonstrate skill in handling the Word of God accurately and a spiritual giftedness in teaching others.
3. Bishop, Overseer (episkopos): This responsibility has to do with the spiritual protection of the flock in the midst of the world’s increasing deceptions and spiritual dangers (Acts 20:29-31; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). Thus, elders need to be like the men of Issachar of old who “understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32). They should be men of great courage who will not shrink back due to faintheartedness or fear of man in the need to exhort the church to “examine everything carefully” and to “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
B. Deacons: The Greek term translated “deacon” simply means “servant.” Deacons’ service may include responsibility for the ministry to the poor inside and outside the church, physical maintenance of church properties, and oversight of church finances. Their duties shall be discharged at the direction of as well as in subjection to the elders. The qualifications for deacons are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Like elders, deacons are to be of high spiritual standing and unimpeachable integrity. While only men may serve as elders, both spiritually qualified men and women may serve as deacons.
II. Their Number and Term of Office
The New Testament does not designate a set number of elders or deacons, nor does it specify a length of time for the performance of their duties. One truly called to the office of elder or deacon is usually called to it for life. As these men are clearly called God’s gifts to the flock (Eph. 4:11), the church should seek such men patiently and prayerfully from God, maintaining great caution not to “lay hands … too hastily” (1 Tim. 5:22) on a man who in reality may not have the proper qualifications. Only when an elder or deacon excuses himself for reasons he feels might temporarily hinder or even disqualify him for the office, or when conduct unbecoming his high calling is discovered, may an elder or deacon legitimately withdraw from office. Elders or deacons who have temporarily vacated their post for providential reasons, not because of a disqualifying sin, may be reinstated at the discretion of the elders, without being reexamined by the congregation.
III. Their Appointment to Office
The elders shall post a mutually-agreed upon list of candidates for elder and/or deacon four Sundays before the meeting called for the purpose of the selection of church officers. If this does not coincide with the time of the annual business meeting, a special meeting will be called by the elders for this purpose. The congregation shall confirm the fitness of the candidates chosen by the elders, or object to the slate in a timely fashion by making their reservations known in writing to the elders prior to the meeting. After a candidate has been selected, the elders shall lay hands upon him in keeping with the biblical pattern for designation and committal to office (1 Tim. 5:22).
IV. Their Conduct of Office
Elders and deacons shall strive for the unity of the Spirit in all matters of church ministry as well as in the conduct of Pilgrim Bible Church’s business affairs. The unanimous consent of the elders or deacons shall be required for the passage or adoption of any item on their respective agendas.
V. Review of Officers
There shall be a periodic review of each elder’s and deacon’s performance of his duties as long as he holds office. This review shall be conducted in the same fashion as the officeholder’s selection, involving both peer review and congregational input.
VI. Duties of Congregation to their Leadership
The congregation should submit joyfully and without reservations to the leadership of the local church (Heb. 13:7, 17). Should such respectful submission become difficult or impossible for any member of the church, he should seek a redress of his grievances through a private interview with the leader(s) in question, taking special care not to become the source of an unjustifiable accusation against an elder (or deacon). The rule of conduct for such cases shall be Matthew 18:15-20.
Article VI: Church Business Meetings
I. The Calling of Meetings
A. Annual Business Meeting
The elders will summon the congregation for the annual business meeting in January or February to consider the church budget and other financial matters.
B. Other Meetings
In addition to the annual business meeting, the elders may call the church to order to consider other matters of mutual concern throughout the year at their discretion. These may include the recognition of officers, the admission of new members or the administration of church discipline.
II. The Conduct of Meetings
A. The congregation must be notified of pending meetings one week in advance. This time can be extended at the discretion of the elders in cases requiring more careful congregational deliberation.
B. The meetings of the church shall be confidential; members shall not communicate church-related matters to non-members. However, non-members may be permitted to attend church business meetings by permission of the elders.
C. The agenda for each meeting shall be determined beforehand by the elders, and under normal circumstances no other business shall be conducted at that particular time. Members may approach the elders to suggest matters for formal discussion at a future meeting.
III. The Character of Meetings
The church’s business is to be conducted in a gracious spirit characterized by harmony and unity and by much prayer.
Article VII: Church Discipline
I. The Biblical Basis for Discipline
The very clear instruction found in Matthew 18:15-20 outlines the procedure to be followed in dealing with sin in the Body. God is serious about the holiness and purity of the church, the Bride of His Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:25-27), and the calling of the individual believer in Christ is a calling unto holiness of heart and life (Eph. 1:4; 4:17ff.; Titus 2:11-14). Sin, the great enemy of holiness and purity, is the believer’s mortal enemy in his daily walk, and, if given a foothold in the church, it can have a magnified and devastating impact upon the entire congregation. Like a raging malignancy, sin can have far-reaching effects. This explains the biblical language: “a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9). Vigilant and sober self-government and discipline are demanded if the Body is to carry out her mission and mandate to a lost and dying world, whose temptations and treacheries have a deceptively subtle way of invading the flock of God (Acts 20:28-31; Jude 12-13).
II. The Forms of Discipline
A. Formative Discipline
This is the informal discipline of the church which is a function of biblical koinonia, or “a sharing in common,” which is the heart of Christian fellowship. Biblical fellowship involves watching over one another in love, advising, admonishing, exhorting and praying for one another. It means lovingly warning a fellow believer whose lifestyle may show signs of spiritual danger. It realizes that “open rebuke” is better than “love that is concealed” (Prov. 27:5). And if consistently applied in the life of the Body, formative discipline would render less necessary the need for discipline of a more formal kind.
B. Formal Discipline
When formative discipline fails and members become disorderly in their conduct, embrace destructive heresies, sin in a persistent though private manner, or sin in such a way as to bring reproach upon the church and defame the name of Christ, formal discipline is in order.
III. The Purpose of Discipline
First, the purpose of formal discipline is not to destroy but to “mend” and “repair” someone who has fallen on the battlefield of life. (“Restore” in Gal. 6:1 comes from a word meaning to mend torn fishing nets.)
Second, restoration involves spiritually equipping the fallen saint with biblical teaching and ongoing instruction so that further injury and damage may be avoided.
C. Reclamation for ministry and service
Third, restoration seeks to bring back a fallen saint to a condition of usefulness in the kingdom of God. When applied in the proper biblical fashion, formal discipline accomplishes several things:
1. It removes and heals offenses in the church (1 Cor. 5:13; 2 Cor. 2:6-8);
2. It reclaims a fallen saint to fellowship and service (Gal. 6:1);
3. It serves as a deterrent to similar offenses (1 Tim. 5:20);
4. It protects the entire church by purging the pollution of evil from her midst (1 Cor. 5:6);
5. It purifies the church and vindicates the cause and name of Christ (Ezek. 36:20-21; Rom. 2:24).
IV. The Proper Steps of Discipline
Members of Pilgrim Bible Church and all other professing Christians who regularly attend its services and who err in doctrine, or who engage in conduct that violates Scripture as determined by the elders, shall be subject to formal discipline. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus outlines four basic steps involved in the application of formal church discipline. These are general guidelines, not a detailed blueprint. While the basic guidelines must be followed, the church has the authority through the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit to apply the guidelines to individual cases and situations (cf. Matt. 18:18-20).
A. Step One: Private Reproof
Reproof is a Christian duty (Matt. 18:15). But it must be conducted in private, between the offender and the one aware of the sin. If the sin is only suspected, the confronting party need only explain what has been observed and ask for clarification. Caring confrontation need not require a “smoking gun” in order to be humbly and lovingly applied.
B. Step Two: Private Conference
When the private rebuke goes unheeded, the wisdom of God has provided a second positive step in the process of discipline: “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed” (Matt. 18:16). The involvement of several witnesses would ensure that their testimony was truthful and without prejudice. These witnesses need not have been actual observers of the alleged offense. The primary purpose of the additional witnesses is not to provide eyewitness testimony, but to widen the circle of accountability and to help the offender face the gravity of his sin.
C. Step Three: Public Announcement
The third step in the process of discipline is revealed in Matthew 18:17: “And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” Up to this point in the discipline process everything has occurred in private. But an unresponsive offender requires stronger, public action. This third step actually contains two parts. First, the witnesses are to bring their findings to the elders. Then the elders are to convene the assembly of the saints to hear the charge(s), to pray for the offender’s repentance and to marshal as many within the congregation as the Spirit would lead in the next several days to approach the offender and urge his repentance, with the elders themselves taking the lead in this process.
D. Step Four: Public Exclusion
When the church leaders and members have made every effort to bring the sinner to repentance without results, the Bible calls for them to disassociate the offender from the church fellowship in accordance with the teaching of Matthew 18:17. The unrepentant are cut off from church membership, fellowship and communion. The congregation is to consider the offender as an unbeliever, refusing to have fellowship with him, while at the same time continuing to pray for him and to reach out to him with the gospel.
If the offender is brought to repentance and comes before the congregation to publicly convey his contrition and sorrow, he is to be restored as soon as possible. Any delay in the restoration process may tragically deny the genuinely repentant the forgiveness, comfort and reaffirmation of the congregation at a time when it is most needed and subject the individual to “excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). Such delay would also deny the congregation the celebration that a prodigal son has returned, as though from the very dead! Here the Corinthian error is to be avoided: hesitating to apply biblical discipline when needed and delaying restoration long after it is called for (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:7-8).
In progressing through the stages of discipline, ample time for repentance and change must be given at every step, the duration between the various stages contingent upon the responsiveness of the offender and the discretion of the elders. In addition, if the original offense is of such a nature as to warrant a more immediate and direct response by the elders, then discipline may proceed less gradually, commencing with the third step (the public announcement to the congregation of the sin(s)) or with the fourth step (public exclusion) when one or more of the following has happened:
(1) When the transgression has been of a decidedly public nature, bringing disgrace to the name and cause of Christ (1 Cor. 5:1-5);
(2) When a person has stubbornly refused to renounce any teaching deemed unbiblical or false by the elders and has persisted in the teaching in spite of reproof (Rom. 16:17);
(3) When the disciplined party persists in factious and divisive conduct after being warned twice to cease from such behavior (Titus 3:10-11).
V. The Proper Attitude in Discipline
All members of Pilgrim Bible Church and all other professing Christians who regularly attend the services of this church agree that in the event their own sins are deemed by the leadership to be of so serious a nature as to warrant the imposition of formal church discipline, they shall in no circumstances seek to pursue litigation against the church in a public law court (1 Cor. 6:1-6), nor shall they withdraw from the assembly before the process of discipline has run its course. Resignations from membership are possible only by members in good standing who are not under any disciplinary action.
Article VIII: Affiliation
We acknowledge no supreme ecclesiastical authority other than our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of His church (Eph. 5:23), and who directs the affairs of His church through His Word and Spirit.
We believe that local churches can best promote the cause of Jesus Christ by cooperating with other like-minded churches (Acts 15:27-34; 1 Cor. 16:3; Gal. 1:2; Phil. 2:25; Col. 4:7, 11, 16). We may seek the assistance and counsel of other churches in matters of special concern to us, but Pilgrim Bible Church shall in no way be subject to the authority, oversight or discipline of any other church, group of churches, fellowship or association.
Cooperation with other churches may be pursued through formal membership in a conference, fellowship or association at the direction of the elders.
Article IX: Missions
In light of our Great Commission mandate to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:18-20), Pilgrim Bible Church shall actively seek to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ by sending missionaries to all corners of the globe with the good news of the gospel.
We will seek like-minded believers who have a very clear sense of calling to the mission field, prayerfully present them to the congregation for approval and wholeheartedly see to their maintenance through prayer, financial support and an ongoing ministry of encouragement through regular communication.
In order to see that the physical needs of our missionaries are being met, as well as special needs which arise in the course of ministry in foreign lands, we may join with other churches and/or sending agencies in a team approach to meeting those needs.
Our missions vision will not only embrace the unreached of foreign lands, but it will likewise target domestic efforts to evangelize the lost for which we are burdened by the Lord of the harvest.