On Covenant Partnership…

Gary Campbell Jr.
6 min readSep 18, 2023

Fall is underway at GBC with the start of our series: “Stay Out!” yesterday, and the incremental launch of groups and ministries starting this very week!

Simultaneously, as the months roll on, Welcome Aboard class after Welcome Aboard class, sees a handful of people each month sign on to be Covenant Partners here at GBC; committing themselves to Worship, Serve, Give, and Grow in a mutual, biblical, commitment to one another, and along with church leadership. It’s been an amazing thing to see this really begin to grow after our launch of Covenant Partnership in the spring of 2022.

However, there is still a relatively substantial number of folks, established “GBCers” even, who have yet to make this level of commitment. I suspect there are a variety of reasons for this, including: some have completely forgotten about it; others never had that one or two questions adequately answered; still others are grappling (or completely resigned to) their own pride; others aren’t comfortable with the practice of signing a formal commitment to a church.

On a certain level, I get it.

But, as your pastor, I want to address those of you who’ve withheld making this commitment, because this includes leaders in most areas of ministry, and it is something that simply needs to be spoken to. I’ll anchor us to two verses in Scripture, that despite all of the documentation we’ve produced (and is available for you to read), along with the six-week sermon series in the spring of ‘22 that was the launch-point for Covenant Partnership, are the two verses that spell out the key biblical impetus for asking leaders to commit to the Body, and the Body to commit (and yes, submit) to church leadership, as well as committing and submitting to one another. They are:

1 Peter 5:2- Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly

And…

Acts 20:28- Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.

There is a load of teaching in each of these verses that we won’t unpack here, but what is immediately apparent — what became all too clear during COVID that we’ve shared in the past, what is the irreducible minimum of the elder’s call to lead is this — We need to know who the flock is.

Paul says to shepherd the flock and Luke says to guard the flock. Paul adds “as God would have you,” and Luke adds “which [Jesus] purchased with His own blood.” This is God’s business — the care of God’s people, purchased by the blood of Christ’s Cross!

This is THE thing (but far from the ONLY thing) that moved us toward asking the entire church family to make a mutual commitment to one another, beginning back in 2022.

We (the elder’s and pastors) are responsible for how we lead, guard, shepherd, and care for the flock — the church family — that the Lord Jesus Himself has entrusted to us. By definition, this means we need to know who that is — who is committed to that. In a church as large as GBC, particularly in a military community, also with several small colleges, there is a lot of coming and going. There are also a host of folks who frankly come and go for all kinds of other reasons. Then there are visitors — always, there are visitors.

And finally, there are also wolves who sneak in among the sheep, those who come intending to cause harm or teach false doctrine, or prey on others for selfish and sinful reasons, and this isn’t hypothetical, this is very real and something we’ve seen and had to respond to very recently.

Paul makes it clear that there is a unique expectation of relationship for the local church when he says in…

1 Corinthians 5:12–13- For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you.

And so we determined, again we’ve shared this all in the past, that the best way for us to fulfill this mandate — to be able to manage and care for those most committed to this Family — that we would come up with the irreducible minimums of what would indicate commitment to Groton Bible Chapel.

First and foremost, they need to be people who have received Christ as Savior and professed that through baptism at some point in their personal journey.

Then, that they (along with Church leadership) are committed to:

Worship- together regularly

Serve- one another within the Body

Give- to the ministry of the church

Grow- in the context of community

(And should we move on from GBC for any reason, find another faithful body of believers in which to engage in this kind of biblical commitment at that church as well).

So I want to appeal to you brothers and sisters, if you are someone who to this point has chosen not to commit to the GBC family, despite considering GBC your church home, on behalf of God’s call that we “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” three things to take into your quiet time; into your private prayer with the Lord. Here they are:

1. Have I been unwilling to make this commitment because I don’t fully I understand, and need some time with an elder or two to be able to process my questions or concerns?

2. Have I been unwilling to make this commitment because I have been hurt by the church, either GBC specifically, or another church or group of Christians in my past?

3. Have I been unwilling to make this commitment because I simply don’t want to? Being really honest before God, is this an issue of my pride? Am I simply digging in my heels, frankly, with a rebellious heart?

4. Have I been unwilling to make this commitment because of some practical matter that hinders my ability to honor the- worship, serve, give, grow minimums?

As you wrestle with this before the Lord, I want to encourage you toward one of the following responses to where ever you land in the above four points:

First, if either the first or fourth points define your reason for not committing to. Covenant Partnership, please reach out to me. I’ll set you up with an elder or two and you can process, ask questions and work through those things together. This is what the Lord wants — communication, deepening relationship, and seeking to know one another more.

Second, if you resonated with number two, please shoot me an email personally. I would be honored to meet with you and hear your story, pray with you, and seek to help you find a safe path forward to healing.

Third, and finally, if you resonated with and affirm number three, the biblical response is repentance. There is a very real sense in which the elders, while certainly imperfect, have been appointed by the Lord as the spiritual authority in this church, and the Body is called by scripture to submit to their leadership and direction. To rebel willingly against that is wrong.

Hebrews 13:17- Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

(Just as the Elders are to serve the Body, not Lord it over the flock, and lead lovingly, tenderly, and sacrificially as we noted in the Scriptures at the beginning of this post)

That said, even if this defines you, please reach out. I would love to help you work through this, to shepherd you, and pray with you.

Let’s be a Church that is committed to one another, as those mutually submitted to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, and the lives of our collective church family!

Love you church!

Pastor Gary

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Gary Campbell Jr.

Writing for Groton Bible Chapel & the larger Body of Christ on cultural issues, parenting, marriage, theology & other light-weight topics.