Church Constitution and By-Laws
CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS OF
BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH
2424 Ridgecrest Dr.
The purpose of this church shall be to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus, God the Father through obedience to the Word of God and the worship of the triune Godhead. To that end the church will execute the Great Commission in the preaching of the gospel for the purpose of making disciples, baptizing the same in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things the Lord has commanded by proclaiming the whole counsel of God. By these means the church will endeavor to be used instrumentally to perpetuate the faith once delivered to the saints.
This preamble will also serve as the Mission Statement of Bethel Baptist Church.
ARTICLE I. THE DEFINITION OF THE CHURCH
Although there are a few passages in the New Testament in which the word church is used in a figurative and broader sense, church primarily refers to an assembly of believers who have been baptized on the profession of their faith by a duly authorized administrator and have agreed together to carry out the Great Commission under the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and in obedience to the Word of God. Bethel Baptist Church is such a church, and when the word church is hereafter used in this Constitution, it is understood that only a church as herein defined qualifies as a New Testament Church.
ARTICLE II. THE ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH
The church as an institution is of Divine origin. Founded by the Lord Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry, the first such assembly of believers who had been baptized came into existence when He walked by the Seashores of Galille and called-out His first disciples. This assembly was the first local church. From that church and its ministry have descended all local New Testament Churches in every age. Bethel Baptist Church has descended from the Church of Jerusalem through the ancient Novatian, Donatist, Paulican, Albigensianm, and Waldensian Churches to the Anabaptist and Baptist Churches of Europe, England, and Wales to the early American Baptist Churches. Bethel Baptist Church is thus a New Testament Church in origin, doctrine, and practice.
Bethel Landmark Missionary Baptist Church was organized June 8, 1952 in Choctaw, Oklahoma through the efforts of Elder H. G. Bacot, Missionary of the Macedonia-Plover Hill Association, and Elder James M. Poynor, Missionary of the Baptist General Assembly of Oklahoma. While the official name of the church is Bethel Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, the church has chosen to use the shorter Bethel Baptist Church in this Constitution and in all of its advertisements.
ARTICLE III. THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE CHURCH
For a local assembly to be a New Testament Church, it must be constituted with and composed of professedly born-again believers who have been baptized by immersion by a duly authorized administrator on the profession of their faith. Anything less than this criteria prevents a church from being after the order of the New Testament. In the absence of Scripturally baptized believers no church can exist. Bethel Baptist Church is constituted with and shall ever be composed of Scripturally baptized professed believers who have covenanted together under the Headship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Word of God to do the Lord's work.
Section One: Membership in Bethel Baptist Church shall be granted to professing believers in one of three ways: (1) To those who have professed faith in Christ and given credible evidence of their conversion and have been baptized by the authority of Bethel Baptist Church; (2) To those who seek to unite with Bethel Baptist Church on the promise of a letter of recommendation from a church of like faith and order and whose testimony gives evidence of a genuine conversion; and (3) To those who seek to unite on a statement of their faith and baptism by a church of like faith and order when a church letter can no longer be obtained, and whose testimony gives evidence of a genuine conversion.
Section Two: Membership in Bethel Baptist Church shall be granted to those seeking it only after the Pastor has examined their spiritual qualifications for membership and commends them to the men of the church who likewise examine their qualifications for membership and commend them to the church for membership, they shall be received by a unanimous vote of the church into the full rights and priviledges of church membership.
Section Three: Membership in Bethel Baptist Church shall be granted only to those who agree to uphold the doctrines, principles, and practices of the church as set forth in its Constitution and By-Laws. Accordingly, all who seek membership in the church shall be given a copy of this Constitution and By-Laws for their review before being received into the church.
ARTICLE IV. THE OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH
The ordained officers of Bethel Baptist Church shall be the pastor and deacons. In addition, the church shall recognize as leaders the elders who are within its membership. these elders are the spiritually mature men of the church who, whether ordained or not, have earned the respect of the church by virtue of their years of faithful service in the Lord's work.
Section One: The qualifications for all pastors and deacons of Bethel Baptist Church shall always be those of 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9
Section Two: The duties of pastors or elders shall be those assigned by our Lord and the inspired writers of the New Testament in the following passages: John 21:15-17; Acts 20:17-35; 1 Timothy 4:6,7, 13-16, 17-22;6:11-20; 2 Timothy 1:13, 14; 2:1-7; 14- 16, 22-26; 3:14-17; 4:1-5; Titus 2:1-1-, 15;3:1,2,8-11; and 1 Peter 5:1-4
Section Three: The duties of the deacons shall be to assist the pastor by overseeing the temporal affairs of the church according to the example of Acts 6:1-7. While certain men elected to the office of deacon may also be recognized as elders by virtue of the esteem the church has for them on account of their years of faithful service, their proper work as deacons are unable to fill these offices for various reasons, other members, whether men or women, may be elected to serve in these offices. Both the clerk and treasurer shall be considered servants of the church.
Section Four: Other offices in Bethel Baptist Church shall be that of a Church Clerk and a Church Treasurer. When possible, these offices should be filled by deacons since the very office of a deacon is to serve the church in temporal affairs. However, when deacons are unable to fill these offices for various reasons, other members, whether men or women, may be elected to serve in these offices. Both the clerk and treasurer shall be considered servants of the church.
Section Five: All the officers of Bethel Baptist Church (Pastor, deacons, clerk, and treasurer) shall be elected by a unanimous vote of the church.
Section Six: no one should ever be elected to the office of Pastor or Elder and Deacon who does not agree to uphold the principles and practices set forth in the Constitution and By-Laws of Bethel Baptist Church.
Section Seven: The Pastor shall never be considered an employee of Bethel Baptist Church. While he is answerable to the church for his moral conduct and subject to its discipline as any other member is, the pastor is answerable to the Lord Jesus Christ for his leadership of and ministry to the church. He does not answer to the deacons or any other group of leaders in the church. The man who answers's God's call to be pastor of Bethel Baptist Church shall remain in that office indefinitely. The termination of his pastorate shall occur when he beleives the Lord is leading him elsewhere, when his health prevents his continuing in that office, or when he forfeits his right to the office and to membership in Bethel Baptist Church by immoral and unbecoming conduct for a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. The pastor of Bethel Baptist Church shall be given contributions toward his living expences by the church form the tithes and offerings of its members.
ARTICLE V. THE ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH
The Church Ordinances recognized and practiced by Bethel Baptist Church are two in number: baptism and the Lord's Supper
Section One: Baptism is the immersion in water of a professed believer on the profession of his faith by a duly authorized administrator to identify himself with Christ in His death, burial, and ressurection. A duly authorized administrator shall be the pastor or any other ordained minister chosen by the church. In cases where the pastor is physically incapable of baptizing and no other ordained minister is available, one of the elders or deacons may be chosen by the church to administer baptism.
Section Two: The Lord's Supper, a memorial Ceremony of the Lord's death, is to be observed by the church perpetually until the Lord comes. Unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine are to be used as symbols of His body and blood. Only members of Bethel Baptist Church shall
ARTICLE VI. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH
Bethel Baptist Church shall be governed by the Lord Jesus Christ, its Head, through the teachings of the New Testament under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The church will follow its pastor and elders who will make recommendations to the church in all matters of policy as they are led by the Holy Spirit and the teachings of the New Testament. In all issues, the decision of the congregation shall be final, and there is no appeal to a higher authority, the authority of the church being the court of final appeal and the New Testament being the rule of church law.
Thus, Bethel Baptist Church recognizes Congregational Church Government as the standard Biblical form of government for the church while acknowleging the oversight of the pastor and the role of elders (the spiritually mature men of the church). Ideally, the pastor will provide the leadership for the church, presenting policy issues to the elders and/or men for wisdom and unanimously pass the policy issues as recommended by the pastor and the elders and/or men when those issues accord with the standard of the New Testament.
Before passing any matter of business, the church shall seek unanimity on the issue. If unanimity cannot be attained, the particular business under consideration will be deferred until the desire unanimity can be attained through further counsel and discussion. If division should exist in the church and unanimity cannot be attained, the church can pass routine matters of business with a simple majority. To prevent a small majority of members from voting to change the long established doctrines and polity of Bethel Baptist Church when others members are not present, any proposed major change in either doctrine or polity as expressed in this Constitution can only be passed by a majority of 90% in a regular quarterly business meeting after such proposed changes have been announced publicly in three consecutive meetings of the church.
All business matters of the church shall be considered in a regular quarterly business meeting except such issues as demand an immediate vote to maintain the worship services and the work of the church. When such issues arise, they shall be decided by a unanimous vote in one of the regular worship services of the church or deferred until a regular business meeting.
ARTICLE VII. THE DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH
Membership in Bethel Baptist Church is a privilege, not a right, since it is granted by the church to those who meet the criteria of the New Testament as set forth in Article III. When any member ceases to meet this criteria in any way, that member will be subject to the discipline of the church which can withdraw the member's membership in Bethel Baptist Church. Church Discipline shall be exercised as prescribed in the following sections:
Section One: When a member of the church becomes guilty of a moral offense against the Lord and the church, and that offense is generally known in the church, the church must discipline that member according to 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. Prior to exercising Church Discipline, the pastor and elders of the church shall seek to restore the offending member through his repentance and confession of sin in harmony with the spirit of Galatians 6:1. If the offending member refuses to acknowledge his sin to the church and seek the church's forgiveness, the church will then discipline him by withdrawing fellowship from him and terminating his church membership.
Section Two: When a member of the church becomes guilty of a doctrinal offense against the Lord and the church, the church will give the offending member two admonitions or warnings to abandon his heretical views through its pastor and elders. If after the second admonition, the member refuses to repent of his erroneous and heretical views, the church will mark him as heretical by withdrawing his membership from him according to Romans 16:17 and Titus 3:10
Section Three: When a member of the church becomes guilty of a personal offense against another member of the church, the pastor and elders will not become involved in the settling of the issue between the members until the first step of Matthew 18:15-18 is followed. The offended member must first go alone to the offending member and tell what his offense against himself is. If the offending member sees his fault and seeks forgiveness, the offended member is to forgive him, and the matter closed. If the offending member refuses to admit his fault, then the offended member is to seek out two or three other memners of the church, who know nothing about the offense, to witness his attempt to convince the offending member of his fault and to encourage the offending member to repent of his wrong. If the offending member sees his fault and seeks forgiveness, then the offended member us to forgive him, and the matter ended. However, if the offending member refuses to admit his fault, then the offended member and the witnessing members are to bring the issue before the church that the entire church may hear the matter. If the church judges the offending member to be at fault and admonishes him to repent and the offending member repent, the offended member and all other members are to forgive him and the matter ended. If, however, the offending member refuse to admit his wrong and repent of it, the church is then to withdraw his membership from him and regard him as an heathen man and a publican.
Section Four: When a member stops attending the worship services of the church and stops supporting the church financially without having any providential cause (illness, job conflicts, military service, moving out of area, etc.), the pastor and elders of the church will seek to ascertain the reason for the member's withdrawal from the worship and support of the church. If no providential reason hinders his participation in the worship and support of the church, the pastor and elders will admonish him twice to repent and to reassume his responsibility as a member to attend worship services and support the church. If the member refuses to become active again, the pastor and elders will report to the church the member's refusal to become an active member of the church and will recommend the member be made an object of prayer and exhortation by the church. After three months, the inactive member will be dropped from the roll of the church in its regular business meeting if he has not become active in attending the worship services and/or supporting the church.
Section Five: In every case of Church Discipline, the member who is being charged with one of the above offenses will be notified of the time in which the church will judge his case and be given reasonable opportunity to defend himself against the charges being brought against him.
ARTICLE VIII. THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHURCH
Being a regular Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church shall forever hold to the historic "faith once delivered to the saints," (Jude 3). This faith is expressed in the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (Baptist) as recorded in the Baptist Church Manual by J. M. Pendleton, which was adopted by Bethel Baptist Church when it was organized on June 8, 1952. Bethel Baptist Church shall forever recognize and proclaim the Doctrines of Free and Sovereign Grace (sometimes called the Doctrines of Grace), the doctrine of the local, visible church, and the whole counsel of God.
ARTICLE IX. THE COVENANT OF THE CHURCH
Bethel Baptist Church exists because six Scripturally baptized believers entered into covenant with one another under the Headship of Christ and the teaching of the Word of God. The Church Covenant into which these members entered and was officially adopted by the new church is found in the Baptist Church Manual by J. M. Pendleton. Bethel Baptist Church has posted that covenant in the foyer of the meeting- house at 2424 Ridgecrest Drive in Choctaw, Oklahoma as the official covenant of the church.
ARTICLE X. ASSOCIATING WITH OTHER CHURCHES
Bethel Baptist Church is and shall always remain an independent and autonomous church, subject to no higher authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ and the sacred scriptures known as the Bible. While Bethel Baptist Church will not join any association or convention in which it surrenders any of its independence or autonomy, it will fellowship freely with other churches of like-faith and order who desire its fellowship. Said fellowship must impose no conditions upon Bethel Baptist Church other than those required by the Word of God. Bethel Baptist Church will not force or attempts to coerce another church to conform to all of its particular practices as a condition of fellowship, neither shall Bethel Baptist Church permit another church or churches seeking its fellowship to dictate its faith and practice.
ARTICLE XI. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
While Bethel Baptist Church recognizes the authority of the state over the members of the church in those areas in which God has specifically granted the state authority in His Word (the Bible), the church maintains it is not subject to the state or any of its officers in its doctrines, offices, government, discipline, and practices. The state has no business in the affairs of the church other than what pertains to property, buildings, and codes effecting the same. Bethel Baptist Church asserts its rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
Therefore, Bethel Baptist Church refuses to incorporate as a corporation under the laws of the State of Oklahoma, since such an incorporation subjects the Church of Jesus Christ to the laws of the state.
ARTICLE XII. AMENDING THIS CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS
The Constitution and By-Laws of Bethel Baptist Church shall be amended only when a 90% majority of its members in a regular and announced business meeting of the church votes to amend it. The church should always seek to have unanimity among the members in making any amendment, but when unanimity cannot be attained, a 90% majority vote of its members can amend this constitution when done according to the above stipulations.