By God’s grace, we have repented of our sins and trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation. We believe it is His will for His children to gather in local churches, and therefore we join together under the following name, purpose, affirmation of commitment, declaration of faith, and bylaws to which we voluntarily submit.
SECTION I. NAME, PURPOSE, AND AFFIRMATION OF COMMITMENT
The name of this organization, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, shall be GOSPEL FELLOWSHIP CHURCH, hereafter referred to as GFC.
The purpose of GFC is to glorify God by being and making disciples of Jesus Christ. As a corporation, GFC is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. GFC will accomplish this purpose through providing worship services, Bible teaching, discipleship, administering baptism and communion, caring for its members, and sending out local and global missionaries. All of our programs and methodologies are to be governed by the patterns and commands for the local church revealed by God in the Bible.
C. Affirmation of Commitment (Membership)
We believe that all Christian believers are called to join with one another in committed fellowship within a local church. We joyfully commit to God and to one another, as we are enabled by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, to live according to the whole counsel of God’s Word, the Bible.
We affirm our commitment to the following:
Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to repent, believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and profess our complete allegiance to Him, having been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, the angels and this church, most solemnly and joyfully commit ourselves to one another as one body in Christ. Acts 2:38, Mark 9:23, John 11:26 Heb.11:6, John 1:12-13, I Pet. 2:6, Matt. 28:19-20, Romans 8:1.
May the Lord help us to and put our full confidence in everything God has revealed in the pages of Scripture. Until Christ returns, the Bible is our only final authority for all matters of faith and life. Deut. 12:32, Psalm 138:2, Prov. 30:5-6, 2 Tim 3:14-17
May the Lord help us to pray for the unity of the Spirit and for peace, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love, and if necessary lay down our lives for another. 1 Cor 13:1-13, Eph. 4:1-6, John 13:34, John 15:13
May the Lord help us to seek the salvation of our family members, friends and strangers who have not repented of their sins and trusted Christ; to be in prayer for the spiritual awakening of the lost in our community, and to be a faithful witness of the gospel both here and to the remotest part of the earth. Matt. 28:19, Luke 24:44-48, Acts 1:3-8, Gen 12:3
May the Lord help us to prioritize the call, given to us by God, to care for, bless, and minister to our family members. In our various family situations this will mean seeking to honor and bless our parents, love our siblings, prioritize our spouses, and serve as the primary spiritual shepherds of our children and grandchildren. Gen. 18:18-19, Ex. 20:12, Deut. 6:5-7, Psalm 78, Malachi 2:13-16, Malachi 4:6, Acts 2:38-39, Eph. 5:22-33, Eph. 6:1-4, Col. 3:18-21, Titus 1:6
May the Lord help us to use our gifts to serve and bless this church family and to submit to its leaders as they are faithful to Christ. Hebrews 10:24-25, Hebrews 13:17, I Thess.4:12-15
May the Lord help us to contribute our finances, cheerfully and regularly to support the church, to the relief of the poor, and to the spread of the Gospel through all nations. I Cor. 9:1-27, Prov. 15:15, Job 34:19, Matt. 5:3, Mark 10:21, Luke 4:18
May the Lord help us to not neglect meeting together for corporate worship or Christ-centered fellowship with one another in our homes. Hebrews 10:25, Hebrews 5:5, Acts 2:42-47
May the Lord help us to maintain family and private devotions; to educate our children in the Christian faith and demonstrate the love of Christ in all of our household relationships. Eph. 6:1-4, Psalm 78, Deut. 6:1-9
May the Lord help us to love one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. Matt 19:15-20, Col. 2:9-10, Eph.5:1-2, Eph. 6:18, James 2.
May the Lord help us to abstain from gluttony, drunkenness, illicit drugs, and entertainments which jeopardize our own or another's faith. Psalm 1:1-6, Eph. 5:3-12, Col: 3:1-17, II Cor. 12:20, Romans 1:30, Lev. 19:16, Eccl. 10:11, Galatians 5:21, Deuteronomy 21:20, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Proverbs 23:21, Psalm 101:1-2.
Lord help us to strive to avoid all gossip and unrighteous anger. We desire to
be slow to take offense. We desire to think the best of one another and be
ready for biblical reconciliation. Psalm 19:14, Psalm 34:13-14, Eph. 4:29, I Peter 3:8-12, Matt 5:21-26, Titus
3:10, Prov 26:20-26
May the Lord help us, if necessary, submit to biblically defined and regulated church discipline for the purpose of reconciliation with God and one another. Matt. 18:15:20, Heb. 12:11, 1 Cor. 5:1-13, 1 John 2:19, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Cor. 2:1-11, Luke 17:4
We eagerly look forward to receiving and participating in the mission, encouragement, teaching, blessing, protection, and fellowship of this body.
SECTION 2: STATEMENT OF FAITH
All members shall affirm their belief and commitment to the doctrines of the Christian faith as summarized in the GFC Statement of Faith.
In subscribing to these articles of faith, we by no means set aside, or undervalue, any other doctrines or teachings of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. This statement reflects our best understanding of Scripture and the need for doctrinal clarity leading to harmony within this body of believers. Humble, good-natured deference, a wholesome respect for the opinions and conscience of others in doctrinal matters, and a commitment to the Scriptures being the final authority for faith and practice will characterize any dialogue pertaining to genuine differences.
SECTION 3: BYLAWS
A. Church Government
We believe that this local body is a visible manifestation of the one holy Church, governed by God. Therefore, the government of this body must be determined but by the commands and patterns for the local church given by God in the Bible. We believe the Scriptures teach that the local church must be governed by a plurality of elders, and the ministry of the elders is to be supported by the ministry of deacons. The specific roles for the offices of elder and deacon are described below. We believe the New Testament terms “pastor,” “elder,” and “overseer” are interchangeable and refer to the same office.
Authority for the establishment of doctrine and practices beyond those found in this Constitution and for the daily operation of the church is vested in the elders, who shall strive to maintain the harmony and collaboration with the congregation seen in the New Testament.
While we desire to build close spiritual relationships with other biblical churches, no other governing bodies may exercise authority over or within this church. Any association of this church with other individuals, churches, or groups of churches will be considered voluntary. Such relationships may be severed at any time if they are considered by the elders in any way harmful to this body.
B. Church Officers
A. Roles of elders
Elders are given the responsibility to serve together as shepherds in the local church (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2). Elders partner together, in accordance with their gifts, and share the following responsibilities.
1. Elders preach and teach the Bible
Elders must be committed to the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible, and be able to clearly, and persuasively teach sound doctrine. The task of the elders, over time, is to teach the whole counsel of God. Exegetical, expository Bible teaching is at the heart of the elder’s responsibility to disciple, nurture, equip, and feed the church. Acts 2:42, Acts 20:27, Titus 1:9, 1 Tim. 3:2, 1 Tim 4:13.
The responsibility to preach and teach God’s Word is hard work, and worthy of respect and honor from the congregation. 1 Tim. 5:17-18.
2. Elders pray
Elders are leaders in prayer. They set the example for prayer in their personal lives, in their marriages, and in their families. They follow Christ, lead their families, and lead the church in a spirit of prayer. Acts 6:4, 1 Tim. 3:4
3. Elders care for the congregation
As good shepherds, elders care for the church. They lovingly seek after those who are going astray, visit and pray for the sick and hurting, and biblically govern the church’s finances to care for the poor. James 5:14, Acts 20:35, 1 Tim. 5:9-16
4. Elders protect the church
Because false teachers can enter the church, elders are responsible to faithfully uphold the plain teaching of Scripture and refute those who contradict it. Acts 15:6-21, Acts 10:17-31, Titus 1:9.
Elders lead any process of church discipline for the dual purpose of leading people to repentance and protecting the church from sin and division. 1 Thess 5:12.
5. Elders lead
Elders are responsible to humbly lead and oversee the ministry of the local church. They are to function as God’s servant stewards and seek to lead with love and courage. Elders are ultimately responsible for the church’s decisions (doctrinal, ministry, financial, etc). Elders serve with and oversee the ministry of the deacons. In all decisions, elders must not be domineering and are responsible to seek vision, wisdom, and counsel from God’s Word. John 10:12, Acts 20:31, 1 Tim. 5:17a, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 5:1-2.
B. Qualifications for elders:
See Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7
C. Appointment of elders:
1. As the office of elder in the New Testament was for men, the same is true at GFC. GFC will seek to create an active, dynamic, and passionate culture of discipling men toward maturity in Christ. As men are discipled, we believe they will actively seek spiritual leadership both at church and at home.
2. The elder appointment process begins when a man expresses his desire to serve as an elder. Lord willing, this desire comes from a humble, genuine desire to use the gifts God has given him to lead and bless the church. 1 Tim 3:1.
3. Existing elders will meet with the prospective elder and, if possible his family. The goal is to get to know him, and consider his moral and spiritual fitness for serving, based on the qualifications noted above. Elders may provide opportunities to help prospective elders explore and evaluate their gifts. More than one meeting may be needed. 1 Timothy 3:10 (this text speaks of deacons, but applies in principle to elders in the larger context of the passage).
4. If the elders prayerfully decide to continue the process, the congregation will be informed of the prospective elder’s desire to serve. This is not a popularity contest, but rather a serious process by which members of the church affirm those who desire to serve as elders, or identify clear reasons why the candidate does not meet one or more of the biblical requirements. Members will be given a period of time, not less than two weeks, to provide feedback and input to the elders regarding the elder nominee.
5. With prayer and fasting, a prospective elder will be appointed with the 2/3 vote of the existing elders and a 2/3 vote of the members. (Acts 6:2, Acts 14:23, 1 Tim 5:22). In case of their only being two existing elders, both elders must vote to approve the appointment of one or more new elders.
6. New elders are to be appointed in the midst of the congregation with prayer and with the laying on of hands. This appointment does not elevate an elder to a priestly or clerical class, but simply affirms and appoints him into his role as elder within the church. (1 Timothy 4:14, 5:22)
D. Practical elder ministry
1. Elders are encouraged and welcome to serve for any length of time according to the Lord's calling and the congregation's ongoing affirmation of their ministry.
2. Elders share in shepherding all members of the church. A number of families/individuals will be assigned to each elder, and in partnership with one or more deacons, that elder will seek to build discipleship relationships with those families/individuals. Some elders may shepherd more individuals and families than other elders, and the elders may assist one another in their shepherding responsibilities.
3. Elders work together to share in the preaching and teaching of the Bible (on Sundays and other discipleship gatherings). Elders may appoint others to preach and teach.
4. Elders work together, serving with the deacons, to provide oversight for the various ministries and functions of the church – ie men’s ministry, women’s ministry, financial, and logistical. Different elders may have greater or lesser roles in these additional areas based upon their gifts, passions, and availability.
5. Elders are responsible for the development of the church’s annual budget. Elders are free to utilize the gifts and skills of others in this process. The fiscal year shall run from January 1 through December 31. The proposed budget shall be presented to the church members no later than Dec. 1 of each calendar year. The members are encouraged to provide input and feedback to the proposed budget. The budget is to be approved by a majority vote of the members and majority vote of the elders prior to January 1. During an active budget year, increasing a budgeted expense line by more than 25% requires a majority vote of the elders. If proposed changes increase the overall expense budget by 15%, the proposed changes must be approved by a majority vote of the membership.
6. Some elders may be paid on a part or full-time basis. Information regarding the amount of financial compensation given to elders (along with any other paid or compensated members or staff of the church) will be available to church members. Financial compensation for elders or staff should be included in the regular budgeting process, or formal amendment process. Elders who may be paid do not have greater authority or position among the elders. Elders shall be equal in ruling status, authority, and title, though they may fulfill different roles.
A. Roles of deacons
Deacons are given the responsibility to provide care and support for members of the church who are in need. Deacons function as a team of equals, provide care within a biblical framework, are “ministers of mercy”, and serve under the oversight of the elders.
1. Deacons coordinate the church’s support of the church members in financial need. Deacons participate in the collection, organization, and just distribution of money and resources specifically allocated to help the poor within the church. Acts 4:34-35.
2. Deacons coordinate the church’s support of widows. According to the principles in 1 Timothy 5, deacons manage the church’s corporate response in response to the needs of widows.
3. Deacons coordinate the church’s support of those with special needs. God’s people are given special instructions to care for orphans (James 1:27) and those with special needs within the local church (1 Corinthians 12:22-26). Special needs may include, but are not limited to, providing appropriate care and support for those within the church who are: single parents, struggling with sickness or disability, grieving, lonely, etc.
B. Qualifications for deacons:
See 1 Timothy 3:8-13
C. Appointment of deacons:
Gospel Fellowship Church will seek to create an active, dynamic, and passionate culture of discipling men toward maturity in Christ. As men are discipled, we believe they will actively seek spiritual leadership both at church and at home.
1. The deacon appointment process begins when a man expresses his desire to serve as a deacon. Lord willing, this desire comes from a humble, genuine desire to use the gifts God has given him to lead and bless the church. 1 Tim 3:1
2. The elders meet with the prospective deacon and his family, to get to know him, and consider his moral and spiritual fitness for serving, based on the qualifications noted above. More than one meeting may be needed. 1 Timothy 3:10, Acts 6:2-3.
3. If the elders prayerfully decide to continue the process, the church members should be informed of the prospective deacon’s desire to serve. This is not a popularity contest, but rather a serious process by which members of the church affirm those who desire to serve as deacons, or identify clear reasons why the candidate does not meet one or more of the biblical requirements. Acts 6:5
4. With prayer and fasting, the elders make a final determination on whether or not the prospective deacon should be appointed. Deacons will be appointed with a majority vote from the elders. In case of their only being two existing elders, both elders must vote to approve the appointment of one or more new deacons. (Acts 6:3, Acts 14:23, 1 Tim 5:22).
5. New deacons are to be appointed in the midst of the congregation with prayer and with the laying on of hands (Acts 6:6). This appointment does not elevate a deacon to a priestly or clerical class, but simply affirms and appoints him into his role as deacon within the church.
D. Practical Deacon Ministry
All members of the church share the calling and burden of caring for one another, but the deacons serve in an official capacity to coordinate, organize, and ensure that those in need are being served and supported.
1. An elder may request the help from one or more deacons to provide care for someone within the church.
2. Deacons are responsible to keep the elders informed of care situations, and approval for financial distribution must be given by the primary elder partnering with that deacon. Individual distributions over $1000 require a majority vote of all the elders.
3. Deacons are encouraged and welcome to serve for any length of time according to the Lord's calling and the congregation's affirmation of their ministry.
4. While a deacon may choose to volunteer in one of these areas, deacons are not facility managers, website developers, accountants, tech coordinators, etc. These are important, and sometimes necessary roles within the church, and as needed these roles should be filled by volunteers, committee teams, or paid staff. The New Testament office of deacon was focused on personal ministry of care and compassion to those in need within the church.
2. Removal of Elders and Deacons
If anyone believes an elder or deacon may be morally or doctrinally unfit for his office he is to first approach that elder/deacon individually (Matt. 18:15), and then, if necessary, with one or two others (Matt. 18:16). The goal of these meetings would be the healing of relationships and, if appropriate, repentance and confession. If the concern is not resolved, the individual, with the two or three witnesses, should come to the other elder(s) and present the matter (1 Tim. 5:19).
If the charges, through careful investigation, are sustained by a majority vote of the other elder(s), then the offending elder, depending on the gravity of the charges and the response to the correction, will be rebuked in the presence of the congregation (1 Tim. 5:20), or will be removed from the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9), or both.
C. Church Membership
Any individual, professing faith in Christ and having been baptized, may be considered a candidate for membership. While we do not find the phrase “church membership” in the New Testament, the early Christians identified themselves with particular local churches. We affirm the biblical principles and patterns as we see the early Christians:
· Growing in their faith, in fellowship with one another, under the shepherding of particular elders. (Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:28)
· Worshipping each Sunday with a particular group of believers (Romans 16:5).
· Resolving conflict with the help and support of fellow believers and particular elders from their local church (Matthew 18:15-17).
· Removing members of their local church in cases of unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
· Supporting specific elders who are teaching the Bible their local church (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
· Loving one another as a witness to the world that we are disciples of Jesus (John 17:21-23, Acts 5:12-13).
Those interested in membership will complete the membership process specified by the elders, which will include meetings with one or more elders for group teaching and/or personal discipleship. Prospective members must affirm the biblical doctrines of the Christian faith as explained in the GFC Statement of Faith.
The elders will communicate to church members the names of all candidates for membership. If members have a serious moral concern about a candidate which would preclude Christian fellowship, they are urged to inform the elders of their opinion.
New members will be received upon a majority vote of the elders, and new members will publicly read the Affirmation of Commitment to the congregation as a part of a worship service.
The elders may maintain a membership list, including names, dates of birth, with yes/no entries for baptism, profession of faith, and statement of good standing. This membership list is not to be confused with a general church directory.
Continuation in willful sin, divisive behavior, and/or the teaching and promotion of deviant (unorthodox) doctrine will result in discipline with the goal of restoration, and if necessary the unrepentant will be removed from membership. Refer to the external document, "Church Discipline/Restoration at GFC."
GFC will not accept a transfer of membership into this body for one who is under an active process of biblical discipline in another biblical church.
Only members age 18 years and older are eligible to participate in congregational votes.
All members shall be required to sign a statement signifying that they have read and agree to submit to this constitution.
After an appropriate period of time, regular attenders will be encouraged to pursue formal membership so that they can fully share in the Gospel purpose of this church.
We welcome into membership those who can affirm our statement of faith on baptism but who also accept the covenantal view of infant baptism, understanding that 1) in no way does baptism impart grace, regeneration, forgiveness, or salvation to the one being baptized and 2) GFC only teaches and practices the baptism of believers.
1. Officers meetings
The officers of the church are to meet together at convenient and set times to provide competent leadership for the congregation.
2. Member meetings
Whenever a membership vote is required, a quorum shall consist of greater than fifty percent of voting households being represented. Notice of any vote will be given at least 7 days in advance, and will be made easily available to the voting members (church bulletin, letter sent to voting members, etc.). Emergency votes may be called if required by the elders. Proxy votes, which can potentially be submitted through phone, writing, or electronic means, will be received from absent members in good standing on the approval of the elders. If absentee voting is approved by the elders for a particular meeting or vote, those voting through the approved process will be counted for the purposes of quorum.
In view of the teaching of Scripture, GFC upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union (Genesis 2, Malachi 2), and believes that abstinence is God's will for those who are not married (Romans 13:13). We welcome the opportunity to perform wedding ceremonies for couples who believe in Christ. We reject homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture (Romans 1) and call on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals. We further cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions, nor the ordination of those involved in such unions.
Believing that homosexual acts are incompatible with Holy Scripture, we the elders and deacons of GFC refuse to perform or allow to be performed any ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions and further refuse to recognize the ordination or ministerial status of any practicing homosexual.
F. Property and Financial Policy
This church shall have the right to own, buy, or sell tangible properties both real (via trust or other legal means) and personal in its name and through properly elected and instructed officers.
Elders, deacons, and church members who make financial decisions on behalf of GFC shall follow the financial guidelines and policies as adopted by the elders (Separate document).
In the event of the dissolution of this church, all of its tangible assets and holdings shall be distributed to such other existing church(es) or Christian ministries, which would be in agreement with the principles of this constitution. All decisions in this event will be made by a majority of voting members of GFC.
H. Withdrawl/Transfer of Membership
Transfer of membership from GFC to another Bible-believing church may be requested by any member. The member should provide the elders of GFC with the reason for their request. The elders will then issue a letter to the leaders of the new church indicating that the member is in good standing at GFC.
I. Officers and employees
In order to meet requirements of incorporation within the state of Illinois, the elders shall
serve as directors and appoint officers at their discretion. Employees must first become members of GFC.
J. Revisions and Amendments
Revisions and/or amendments to this constitution or the GFC statement of faith may be made as the elders deem necessary. A 2/3 vote of the elders followed by a 2/3 vote of the members, is required to make any changes to this constitution or the statement of faith. In case of their only being two existing elders, both elders must vote to approve a change to the constitution. The congregation shall be informed at least two weeks prior to a member vote regarding proposed changes to the constitution or statement of faith.