What is a church covenanting service?
A covenanting service marks the transition from "plant" to established church.
Why Does It Matter?
In the life of a church plant, the covenanting service is a defining moment. It’s not just a celebration; it’s a formal agreement between the congregation before God. The service is a transition moment in the life of the plant where we are promising to live the Christian life together.
If you’re part of a new church community, you already know this isn’t just a formality—it’s the establishment of a local body of Christ, based on shared beliefs and commitments.
The Bible is framed by covenants. We see God making covenants with individuals like Noah and Abraham, and even with entire nations, as in the case of Israel. In the New Testament, we see a New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. Our understanding of a church covenant stems from these biblical examples—it’s a serious, mutual commitment, both to God and to each other.
Elements of Our Covenanting Service
- Invocation. The invocation is a specific type of opening prayer which asks for God’s help and confesses our total dependence upon him. It sets the tone for the entire afternoon, acknowledging that the act of organizing a church is sacred and requires His help. It will align our focus and sets apart the time and space as holy.
- Singing. Songs really matter in the life of the church because they shape the affections of the congregation. The hymns and songs which have been chosen for this service reflect our confession of faith and our desire—as we have said since March—to have “the glory of God rest consequentially upon us.” Singing has the added benefit of clarifying the commitment and commissioning we are about to take upon ourselves.
- Commissioning Sermon. The senior pastor of our sponsor church and my friend, Rev. Dr. Blair Waddell will preach the commissioning sermon. This will “send forth” Redeemer into its mission and ministry. It will also underscore the significance of entering into a covenant and detail the responsibilities that come with it, offering to us both a charge and a challenge.
- Recitation of the Church Covenant. This is the second most important moment in the service. It’s a verbal and public affirmation of the commitments and beliefs we are making to one another. This recitation is both an individual and corporate act, cementing each member’s commitment to the community and its mission. It marks the transformation of a gathering of individuals into a covenanted body of believers. Our visitors will not participate in this moment but be joyful witness of it.
- Lord’s Supper. This is the most important moment in the service where the gospel is dramatized. The Lord’s Supper is the culmination because it is how “the many become one” (Cf., 1 Cor 10: 14-17). We have a very high, traditional view of the Supper. So, Redeemer’s launch team has not taken the Lord’s Supper here to date because there has not been a covenant of membership in place. So in this moment, the Supper will ratify in deed what we have covenanted in word. This meal will be the moment when Redeemer Church is created. We will also invite all Christians who have been baptized and are in good standing with their local church to join us in this moment as well. This signifies the connection of our local assembly to the catholic (universal) church. For more information on this theology of the Supper, see Bobby Jamieson, Understanding the Lord’s Supper (B&H Books, 2016, 80 pgs).
- Ordination of the Elders. Similarly, Redeemer has not yet had proper elders but only the leadership of a steering committee. It is the congregation which ordains elders, so we cannot have elders before we have a congregation. Following the covenanting of the membership of Redeemer, we will ordain our elders who have been vetted with assistance from Providence Baptist Church. The elders will take vows to guard the teaching of the church and flock of God. Hands will be laid upon them, and a representative of the congregation will pray for them. This will install the elders of Redeemer Church.
This moment will be a remarkable testimony of how God builds a church on the proclamation of the preached Word who gather regularly to participate in his ordinances. This moment is also a commission to be faithful to take the gospel to our city and to the ends of the earth. Every element of this service highlights the order by which a church is organized and commissioned.
Glory to God alone!