The life of our church will take a glorious turn this Sunday evening as we have an Organization Worship Service where our presbytery will officially declare our church a self-sustaining congregation. And this newly organized congregation will exercise its authority to vote for their Elders, a Congregational Chairman, and a Pastor (yours truly).
One aspect of this worship service is that the congregation, Elders, and Pastor will be making vows before God and in the presence of God’s people to fulfill our biblical duties.
Vows aren’t very sexy. They don’t draw big church crowds like billboards, fog machines, celebrity pastors, coffee bars can do. Vows don’t give us goosebumps like the latest worship album from the megachurch band. From an earthly standpoint, what good is it to emphasize the making of vows and calling such an act of worship?
The only reason we would do this is because Scripture calls vow-making a beautiful act of worship. The Bible’s own directory of worship, the Psalms, gives us many examples of vows being performed to the Lord as acts of corporate worship. (56:12; 65:1; 76:11; 116:14, 18) The seriousness of vow-making is outlined in Numbers 30.
If Christians in our culture took vows more seriously (e.g. “I promise to seek the peace, purity, and prosperity of this congregation so long as I am a member of it”) we would see a more fruit-bearing, Spirit-guided, Word-loving, Jesus-centered church.
Vows in a worship service, just like in a wedding ceremony, can be looked back upon and meditated on. They stay with us on the ‘gut level’ and may be recited in those moments when keeping a vow seems to go against our self-interests.
What sorts of vows will be made this Sunday?
For the Congregation:
Do you in reliance on God’s grace, solemnly promise and covenant that you will walk together as an organized congregation, according to the Constitution of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, working toward the purity and unity of the Church?
For the Elders:
(1) Do you believe in one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and do you confess anew the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and acknowledge Him Head over all things for the Church, which is His Body?
2) Do you reaffirm your belief in the Bible, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of the living God, the only perfect rule of faith and practice, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts, and to which nothing is to be added and from which nothing is to be taken at any time or upon any pretext?
(3) Do you accept the doctrines of this Church, contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, as founded on the Word of God and as the expression of your own faith and do you resolve to adhere thereto?
(4) Do you accept the government, discipline, and worship of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church?
(5) Do you accept the office of elder in this congregation; and do you promise to perform faithfully all the duties of the office; and do you promise to endeavor by the grace of God to live your life in Christian witness before the church and in the world?
(6) Do you promise to submit in the spirit of love to the authority of the Session and to the higher courts of the Church?
(7) Do you promise in all things to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the Church?
For the Pastor:
(1) Do you believe in one God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and do you confess anew the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, and acknowledge Him Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body?
(2) Do you affirm that the Bible alone, being God-breathed, is the Word of God Written, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts?
(3) Do you accept the doctrines of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, as founded on the Word of God and as the expression of your own faith, and do you resolve to adhere thereto?
(4) Do you accept the government, discipline, and worship of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as agreeable to and founded on the Word of God?
(5) Do you promise to submit in the spirit of love to the authority of the Presbytery in subordination to the General Synod, and to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the Church?
(6) Do you sincerely resolve to fulfill all your responsibilities in your home life and in all your relations with your fellowman, following after righteousness, faith, and love?
(7) Do you accept and enter upon your ministry with a desire to glorify God and to be instrumental in strengthening His Church?
(8) Do you promise to preach the gospel in its purity and simplicity, declaring the whole counsel of God, and to perform all your official duties with zeal and faithfulness, seeking the salvation of sinners?
Reading these last eight questions is convicting for me as I made those vows one year ago when I became an ordained Minister, and I will have to make those vows again as I become the installed Pastor of Hill City Church. I don’t need much else to fuel my discipleship except the gospel and Scripture which underly these vows.
The next time you are a witness or participant in a worship service where vows are being made, view the experience as an actual act of worship which means more than goosebumps during an emotional song or the shine and polish of a big church building. You are covenanting with God and his people, which is only because God initiated his covenant with us before the very foundations of the world. (Heb 13:20)