Church LeadershipGo back
Tranforming the Church Constitution to Release Vision and Ministry
by Joel Comiskey
As I consulted with the board of a church with cells that was seriously considering a cell church transition, they wanted to know how to change their constitution to reflect a future cell church philosophy. One successful banker piped up, “I think we should radically change our existing constitution. Let’s declare we’re a cell church, rewrite the constitution, and move on.” The banker referred to his approach as the big bang theory to changing the current constitution.
At first my heart united with his zeal, and I inwardly rejoiced in such a radical commitment. Yet, as I spent the entire week with this church, I soon realized that the board members weren’t willing to live the values they wanted to write on paper. They were willing to change the constitution, but they weren’t willing to do what they wanted others to do.
At the end of the week I said to the board members, “If you wanted to make a radical commitment to transition your church to a cell church, it would mean far more than changing a piece of paper. A “Big Bang” change would be for each of you to prepare to lead your own cell group. Such an action would shout loudly to the rest of the congregation that you’re serious about your intentions.” My banker friend didn’t comment. He wasn’t really willing to commit himself, nor were most of the other ones. Changing a constitution can’t change people’s values.
Do you need to change the constitution?
Many constitutions are very generic and specifically avoid naming any one philosophy of ministry. Jim Clark, Executive Senior Apostle of the International Network of Local Churches—of which Bethany World Prayer Center is a part of, says,
The church constitution deals with governmental polity, doctrine, purpose and legal entities of church life, not with strategies, programs or methods, (if this were the case most churches would be changing their constitution on a regular basis) . . . I.N.L.C. has a generic constitution for all of our participating churches. Not one of them that I am aware of mentions “cell strategy” or “cell program” or even the church practicing “cells” in their constitution. . . . We have never found a need to name or define a “strategy” into a church constitution.
My advice, in fact, is to resist trying to change the constitution too early. I suggest three stages:
Stage 1: Develop a covenant of cell church values that all key leaders should have, read, and embrace. The lead pastor would then push those values on every occasion.
Stage 2: Tweak the actual constitution to reflect leader and member cell involvement.
Stage 3: Change the constitution/bylaws to reflect cell church realities.
The exception to the above order is when a pastor is strapped with a constitution that hinders cell ministry. In this case, he must deal with the situation right away. One church had to “remove mandatory committees and other operational structures not compatible with a cell-based church” before they could even begin their transition. Some churches have all the committees and programs stipulated within the constitution, and thus, a pastor must deal with the issue right away or the church members might not follow.
If the constitution/bylaws hinder cell-based ministry, the pastor should talk to the key leaders (e.g, elders, board members, etc.) on a conceptual level about how the cell church will eventually affect the status quo. He must lead the power people in the church to a clear understanding of what the church will look like if it transitions into the Cell model. Experts in the field of change recommend a retreat setting to sort through the issues.
During such a retreat the pastor should talk about the current constitutional roadblocks and get approval to remove those stipulations and proceed in a different direction. This doesn’t mean that the entire constitution needs to be rewritten. Dennis Wadley transitioned a small, traditional church with outdated bylaws into a large, dynamic cell church in Santa Barbara, CA. He suggests that pastors resist constitutional change until the cell church has been established:
Most pastors have constitutions, bylaws, and forms of church government that grant enough wiggle room to begin cell ministry with the hope of transforming structures as people’s lives are changed.
Step One: Make a Covenant of Cell Values
On a micro-level, many cell groups make a covenant or agreement about what they want to see take place. Such cell group covenants often include the commitment to attend the cell group each week., evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of the group. In a similar way, but on a macro level, I think it’s wise for a pastor to begin by making a cell church covenant that he floats around to the key leaders.
Dave Scott, pastor of New Hope Church in Chino, CA gently, slowly worked with his church staff and congregation to transition to the cell model. He modeled cell ministry by leading a cell and multiplying it. As the vision caught among leadership, Dave wrote a new covenant (didn’t touch the formal constitution!) that captured the key values of his church. This document, in a sense, was like giving his key core a new set of directions. I include it here:
New Hope Christian Fellowship: A Brief Statement of Ministry Values
Focus brings power. This brief Statement of Ministry Values is intended to bring focus for the New Hope ministry efforts. As a church family, when we bring direction and focus to our intentions and involvements, we have greater potential to experience the power and unity which God brings upon his people when they have one heart and mind. (Acts 4: )
What We are Pursuing
First and foremost we are seeking to be obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ’s mandate to be lovers of God and lovers of people (Mark 12:30-31). In our expression of this kind of love for God and people we will also prove ourselves to be obedient to our call to be disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
We believe that the best strategy to accomplish what our Lord calls us to is through a very intentional ministry that has two primary aspects to it: LifeGroups and Sunday morning worship celebration. These work together and flow back and forth in their influence on us. In these two contexts we are pursuing the following values:
Advancement of the Kingdom
The Scriptures teach us that God desires “all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). With conviction and boldness we will give witness of God’s grace: how he has worked in our lives and how he can work in others. We believe that the citizens of the Kingdom are not only mandated to be actively witnessing to others of God’s saving grace in Jesus, but our citizenship is evidenced in our cooperation with the Holy Spirit in this endeavor.
Our priority is transformed lives. We believe that character is forged in purposeful relationships. The emphasis of the leadership team is to provide for adequate relationship contexts which will focus on being transformed as a result of interacting with God, his people, and his world. Thus, the prime directive of the pastoral staff is to equip each willing member of the New Hope family to thrive in his or her relationships in their godly influence upon others.
Authentic Biblical Community
We desire to experience the presence and power of God in the trenches of life as our Lord brings healing and freedom into our lives. He most often brings this about as a result of our participating in authentic biblical community. A place where we express ourselves with vulnerability. The façade is removed and the real person is presented in all of our strengths and weaknesses. Along with vulnerability, the authentic biblical community brings accountability. Here the group helps its members accomplish one’s stated goals and objectives. Together we experience what God seeks for each of us, a place to be known and to know others.
Jesus desires an ever-increasing force of laborers to reap the harvest that is already ripe! (John 4:35) In order to best accomplish this we are pursuing purposeful multiplication of disciples, leaders, groups and churches.
It is important that we clearly define each of these elements we seek to multiply.
- Leaders: These are the men and women who are intentional about their influence on the lives of others as they seek to guide others toward maturity in Christ. Leaders resource and equip disciples to follow through on their good intentions of growing as lovers of God, lovers of people and laborers in the harvest.
- Groups: At New Hope we call these LifeGroups, a place where the mundane and the divine intersect to feel and look a great deal like our real lives in a real world with a real hope. LifeGroups can be defined as groups of 4-15 people which meet weekly, off campus for the purpose of evangelism, discipleship, with the goal of multiplication.
- Churches: Churches that are strategic and intentional about reaping the harvest through the multiplication of disciples, leaders, groups and churches. This cycle is to continue until the Lord comes again.
How We are Pursuing It
As these four key ministry values are owned and expressed by us at New Hope Christian Fellowship, we will be unhindered to accomplish our God-given calling/purpose to be lovers of God, lovers of people, and laborers in the harvest. The potential for kingdom work and growth will be incredible. Our ministry will be characterized by the same values and principles as we see in the Book of Acts in the New Testament!
Though there may be many ways to pursue the above values, the following principles will guide us:
Through Radical Dependence as We Pray
Prayer is our place of intimacy with God in which He tends to give guidance and provide power to accomplish His purposes through us. Our pursuit of these ministry values will only be accomplished as we radically depend on our Lord’s provision through prayer.
Through Clear Statements of Expectations
With a myriad of opportunities that are before our people, we will provide a clear statement of what involvements we believe will help each believer to accomplish our God-given purpose.
- Weekly worship celebration participation
- Weekly LifeGroup participation
- Participation in Training Track
- Intentional relational involvement in the community
Through Practical Training
Being properly equipped for the task before us is essential. Our Training Track provides hands-on learning that will give our people the necessary understanding and skills to fulfill God’s purpose in their life. It is our expectation that every person will participate in our Training Track and thus be equipped to be the person of influence (that is, a leader) that God has made them to be. This Training Track will teach our people to have lives that are characterized by being disciples who make disciples as well as equip them to facilitate a LifeGroup. Participating in this Training Track is required of all LifeGroup and Ministry Team leaders.
Through an Intentional Care Structure
We believe that God has created us for community as well as partnership as we strive to fulfill our given purpose. To provide the necessary elements of encouragement and accountability, we have developed an intentional care structure that all LifeGroup leaders will be a part of. This structure emphasizes relational coaching and is designed to be flexible and expandable as our leadership team grows.
Pastor Dave concentrated on establishing cell values and seeing genuine transformation before dealing with the formal constitution. He taught these values to the key leaders of his church, which included board, cell leaders, interns, and staff.
The ministry value statement set forth the future direction of the church. Since the constitution in Dave’s church didn’t promote a philosophy of ministry, Dave didn’t feel the need to change anything right away.
Step Two: Give the Existing Constitution a Cell Church Twist
Most church constitutions cover doctrinal belief, the role of leadership (e.g., pastor’s role, elder’s role, board’s role, and membership responsibilities), church discipline, and church government
Becoming a cell church probably won’t change doctrinal issues--although it will enhance your doctrine, and probably won’t change your form of government. Successful cell churches around the world function in all kinds of church governments (e.g., there is an explosion of cell church interest among the Anglican church of England. ) A Presbyterian type government is elder driven, whereas a Congregationalist government elects leaders through a democratic, congregational meeting. My own denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, asks the annual church assembly, made up of church members, to elect the church board and elders, who will make authoritative decisions throughout the year. Independent and interdenominational type churches take different approaches.
Larry Kreider, founder of the cell church movement called Dove Fellowship, holds to the plurality of elders. He and three elders wrote an excellent book called The Biblical Role of Elders for Today’s Church. This book spells out the Biblical requirements for elders. Beyond these basic requirements, Kreider writes,
We always recommend that anyone who desires to serve as an elder should first serve as a small group leader. This gives them an opportunity to lean how to lead in a smaller setting. It is best if they have been able to successfully train assistant leaders and have helped the group multiply into two or more groups.
The first place that you can give your constitution a cell church twist is to make sure that those serving in positions of leadership not only fulfill the Biblical qualifications (2 Timothy 3, Titus 1) but also are involved in the cell vision, thus showing their values by their actions. It’s my conviction, for example, that an elder or board member should be currently leading a cell group as a prerequisite to serving in a governing role in the congregation. Dennis Wadley said,
We set up a constitution that reflected our denominations congregational structure, but only put ministry leaders in place who have risen up from among the cell ministry ranks.. . . The key is that the only way to become an Overseer is to first serve as a cell leader and then to move in to a role of overseeing cells. With this restriction, the Overseers leadership is fully committed to the vision of the church.
Wadley’s last two sentences reflect the goal behind this step in the process. The goal is to make sure those in leadership are 100% committed to cell ministry, not only by their words but by their actions.
Damian Williams, guided Red Cedar Community Church (Weslyan denomination) in Rice Lake, Wisconsin from a few cells and 200 people to 30 cells and 600 people. Damian recently became a fulltime leadership coach with Courageous Leadership, but before leaving he established the rule that everyone on the board had to be leading a cell group. “This was one of the wisest decisions I made,” he told me on repeated occasions. “Everyone in key positions of leadership are leading cell groups and these same leaders want the new pastor to hold to those same cell church principles.”
Some take cell group involvement beyond cell leadership. Take one denominational pastor spelled it out this way:
- By the end of 2002, every board member should be a member of a cell.
- By the end of 2003, everyone board member must be leading a cell.
- By the end of 2004, everyone must have multiplied a cell to remain on the board.
I mentioned earlier that the Christian and Missionary Alliance holds an annual assembly once each year in which a governing board is elected to administrate the affairs of the church throughout the year. The way we transformed our own structure to reflect cell church values was by adding additional bylaws that declared:
- Only those attending a cell are considered members of the church and are eligible to vote. We wanted to make sure that every voting member was intimately involved in cell ministry by at least be an active participant in a cell group.
- Only those who are leading a cell group are eligible to be elected to serve on the board. That is, only those who were leading a cell could even be on the list of possible candidates during the annual assembly (along with the other leadership qualifications). This at least helped us as the pastoral team to feel assured that those serving on the board (and making many of the key financial decisions) were in accord with the cell vision. As we deepened in our cell church transition, the requirements by saying: “Only those who are leading a cell group and have multiplied a cell at least once are eligible to be elected to serve on the board.”
We wanted to assure that those serving on the board were in total agreement with the cell church structure. Requiring that all board members are leaders of cell groups--and have even multiplied their group--guards against individual board members from promoting their own agenda and leading the church away from the cell church philosophy.
These requirements would not be possible for someone just staring the cell church transition, but they can be future church goals.
Beyond leadership requirements, the constitution should also spell out membership responsibilities. Faithful cell attendance should be a prerequisite to church membership (of course, there are always exceptions to every rule). The bylaws at Dove Fellowship say, “The membership of the church shall consist of those persons who . . . shall be a member in good standing of a cell group.”
Step Three: Reform the Entire Constitution
Steve Mack writes, “It is unwise to allow an obsolete Constitution/bylaws sit un-amended. Cell church pastors should swallow hard and take the steps necessary to make the changes to the constitution/bylaws, so they reflect the way the church is currently operating.” Once the majority of the church’s elected leadership has embraced cell values and actively participates in cell life, it’s time to reshape the constitution to reflect what’s actually happening.
Revision of the Decision-making team
Many constitutions make pastors the employees of the church. Floyd Evers, pastor of Bear Valley Community Church, says, “While there are tragic examples of churches that have been blown up by autocratic, egotistical leadership, there are many thousands of churches that are small, plateau or diminishing, at least in part, because of governance issues.” Rick Warren said: “What do the words committees, elections, majority rule, boards, board members, parliamentary procedures, voting, and vote have in common? None of these words is found in the New Testament!”
If it’s possible, I recommend that pastors and key leaders try to change or rephrase the constitution so that it’s pastor/leader driven, rather controlled by boards and committees. I’m working with one denominational church, whose superintendent has given the pastor complete liberty to throw out old bylaws and create new ones. This pastor decided to convert his G12 group into his elder board and key decision making board (a G12 group is made up of cell leaders and mainly those two have multiplied cells). This pastor will continue to have a separate group of elected board members to deal with financial/salary questions.
Personally, I believe it’s best to maintain a separate board of leaders who can help make key financial decisions in the church. Pastor Lawrence Khong, pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore, wrote,
The church board has its place. Even the most anointed and God-appointed leaders will recognize their fallibility and need of others, so they will surround themselves with a team. Nevertheless, the board is not to rule, but to counsel. The board is not to dominate but to support. The board is not to restrain, but to release the pastor into God’s purposes. Otherwise, we violate God’s pattern of leadership.
What about the doctrinal statement in the cell church? Ralph Neighbour and Bill Beckham, working together to plant a church in Houston Texas, have transformed their doctrinal statement to reflect cell church values.
- The TOUCH FAMILY Church affirms the basic tenets of the evangelical faith:
- We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- We believe the Bible is the inspired and only infallible and authoritative Word of God.
- We believe in the Genesis account of creation.
- We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, His miracles, His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
- We believe that salvation is the free gift of God and is possessed by each individual who has, by faith, received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We believe salvation is a finished work because of Calvary and is received in three stages:
- At the cross, the blood of Christ sets us forever free from the penalty of sin.
- Through the living Christ working in his body members, He sets us free from the power of sin.
- At His return, He will set us free from the presence of sin.
- We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
- We believe “church” describes the “called-out people,” baptized by the Holy Spirit to form the Body of Christ on earth today.
- We want to make it plain that we believe the cell IS the church, the body of Christ! The church does not have a membership; it has body members. There is no membership in the TOUCH Family Church apart from active participation in a cell group.
- We believe in the present and living ministry of the Holy Spirit, who indwells and empowers every Christian for service. He imparts spiritual gifts to all as needed, so all will become agents of Christ’s love and impart God’s grace to others.
- We believe the Great Commission is a calling upon all believers and that every member must be fully equipped and released to fulfill their callings in ministry. This will be done through the community of the cell group, the “Basic Christian Community.”
- We believe that every believer is accountable for the proper investment of time and income, and that we are to be responsible to and for each other as we live as a Christian family.
The Problem of Wineskins
God is moving in a new, powerful way through cell churches worldwide. The problem is that most church constitutions navigate waters that no longer exist. While some churches have the luxury of creating new, fresh constitutions to match their New Testament vision, most do not.
If you are in the latter category, I’d encourage you to start with a statement of vision and values as you begin the cell church transition. As you progress, tweak the existing constitution/bylaws to favor cell ministry and those involved in it. Later as a full-blown cell church, you’ll have little resistance and lots of help to reform your constitution to match your new wineskin.
Constitution of CYPRESS CREEK CHURCH
Wimberley , Texas
We, whose names appear on the church roster, do hereby recognize ourselves as a sovereign body, and adopt the following articles of church order and submit ourselves to be governed by them, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a Church as a community for worshiping God, prayer, teaching the Word of God, fellowship, healing (wholeness), outreach, and manifestation of His Glory, where God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are honored.
ARTICLE I. NAME
The name of this church shall be CYPRESS CREEK CHURCH of the City of Wimberley in the State of Texas.
ARTICLE II. PREROGATIVES
Section 1. This church shall have the right to govern itself according to the standards of the New Testament Scriptures, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, ...Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:3,13)
Section 2. In connection therewith, or incidental thereto, it shall have the right to purchase or acquire by gift, bequest, or otherwise, either directly or as trustee, and to own, hold in trust, use, sell, convey, mortgage, lease, or otherwise dispose of any real estate or chattels as may be necessary for the furtherance of its purposes; all in accordance with this constitution and bylaws or as the same may be hereafter modified or amended.
ARTICLE III. AFFILIATION AND PURPOSE
Cypress Creek Church is nondenominational in vision, recognizing the oneness of the Body of Christ.
Cypress Creek Church was established on January 10, 1993 as a Cell Church with the vision of being a Church Planting Church in Hays County and beyond.
We at Cypress Creek Church are being called by God to the following vision: Building a community, Changing a city, Reaching a country [and world.]
ARTICLE IV. TENETS OF FAITH
1. About God
God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal and are one God. (Gen 1:1, 26-27, II Cor. 13:14)
2. About Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is co-equal with the Father. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless human life, and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people by dying on a cross. He bodily arose from the dead after three days to demonstrate His power over sin, Satan and death. He ascended to Heaven’s glory and will return again some day to earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Matt. 1:22, 23; Isa. 9:6; John 1:1-5, 14; John 3:16-17; Heb. 4:14-15; I Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 1:3-4; Acts 1:9-11; I Tim. 6:14-15; Titus 2:13)
3. About the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son of God. He is present and alive in the world today making men aware of their need for a relationship with Jesus Christ. He also lives “in” every Christian from the moment of salvation. He provides Christians with power for living, understanding of spiritual truth, and guidance in doing what is right. He is the source of all spiritual gifts and apportions them to every believer to do His ministry. We believe that all spiritual gifts are operative and needed in God’s church today. As Christians, we are to seek intimate fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit and to live under His control daily. (II Cor. 13:14; II Cor. 3:17, John 14:12-31; John 16:7-15; Acts 1:8; I Cor. 2:12; I Cor. 3:16; I Cor. 12-14; Rom. 12; Eph. 1:13; Gal. 5:25; Eph. 5:18; Rom. 8:26-27, etc.)
4. About the Bible
The Bible is God’s Word (“Love Letter”) to us. It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian belief and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is the truth without any mixture of error. (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:20-21; II Tim. 1:13; Psalm 119:105, 160 & 12:6; Proverbs 30:5)
5. About Human Beings
People are made in the spiritual image of God, to be like Him in character. People are the supreme object of God’s creation. Although every person has tremendous potential for good, all of us are marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” Sin separates people from God and causes many problems in life. The only remedy to man’s “sin problem” is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (Gen. 1:26-27; Psa. 8:3-6; Isa. 53:6a; Rom. 3:23, 6:23; Isa. 59:1-2)
6. About Salvation
Salvation is God’s free gift to us - but we must accept it. We can never make up for our sin by self-improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can anyone be saved from sin’s penalty. When we truly turn from our pride and self-ruled life to Jesus in faith we are supernaturally saved by His Spirit. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith. (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 2:8-9; John 14:6, 1:12; Titus 3:5: Gal. 3:26; Rom. 5:1 John 3:1-17)
7. About Eternal Security
Because God gives us eternal life through Jesus, the true believer is secure in that salvation for eternity. If you have been genuinely “born again” by the Spirit of God, you cannot “lose” it. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian. (John 10:29-30; II Tim. 1:12; Heb. 7:25, 10:10, 14; I Pet. 1:3-5)
ARTICLE V. MEMBERSHIP
Membership in Cypress Creek Church shall be open to all who give evidence of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who believe it is the will of God that they should be committed to the church and its leadership, subscribing to its tenets of faith, vision, and values. One actually becomes a member of CCC by completing our DISCOVERY MEMBERSHIP CLASS.
ARTICLE VI. LEADERSHIP - AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
Section 1. The leadership of this local body of believers shall be entrusted to the Overseers, as men recognized both scripturally and spiritually qualified for oversight of this church as God’s delegated authorities.
The Pastor shall be a man recognized to fulfill the pastoral ministry (Eph. 4:11-13) having received the call and anointing from God. Among the overseers he will be recognized as a “leader among leaders.”
Although in a position of leadership, he will be subject to the discipline of the overseers, in matters of sin or failure. (I Tim. 5:19-22) If in such matters the overseers deem it necessary to receive counsel or advice, they shall call in a recognized, godly, unbiased spiritual leader or leaders as God directs.
c. Length of Service
No time limitation is placed upon the pastor, and he will remain in leadership unless: He forfeits the position because of sin or failure to fulfill his ministry or He receives a clear call from God to some other sphere of service, with confirmation of the overseers.
Should the situation arise necessitating the replacement of the Pastor, the following will be the procedure:
1) The overseers will diligently seek the will of God, remembering, that replacement may come from existing overseers (i.e. an overseer) or from another source.
2) The church will be called upon also to seek God in prayer (and/or prayer and fasting) that God will give clear direction to the overseers.
2. The Overseers
Overseers shall, with the Pastor, constitute the oversight of the church. Overseers’ qualification of spiritual life and ministry are found in I Timothy 3, Titus 1, and I Peter 5.
a. An overseer is first called by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), then recognized and approved by existing overseers (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5), then after prayerful consideration (I Timothy 5:22), appointed and presented to the church for ministry (I Thess. 5:12, 13; Hebrews 13:17). The number of overseers is determined by the Holy Spirit’s choosing and the leadership’s recognition of them. Therefore, there is no minimum or maximum number, but the Spirit will raise up a number adequate and consistent with the need for ministry and leadership to the Body. Those recognized as overseers to serve this body of believers will have expressed their place in this fellowship by membership.
b. An overseer is then recognized as such indefinitely until he asks the overseers to relieve him of spiritual oversight in the congregation or forfeits his overseership by disqualifying himself spiritually or scripturally. Any person so recognized in ministry should be sensitive to their own spiritual life and, if unable to effectively and harmoniously serve to the glory of God, ask the overseers to release him from specific ministry (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:3) and then humbly receive counsel and strength from the overseers.
If an overseer refuses to submit to the Word of God and the counsel and discipline of his fellow-overseers, he will be disciplined by the plurality of overseers and the congregation informed of their action (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-17; I Timothy 5:19-20).
c. The overseers shall assist the Pastor in discerning and confirming the mind of the Lord for the spiritual life of the church, and its overall ministry. They shall serve in the church’s ministry to its members and shall, with the pastor, administer all matters of church discipline.
The Pastor and Overseers shall appoint trustees of property in accordance with legal requirements, and financial and other necessary task forces for the administration of church funds; determination of staff financial support and any other requirements for the efficient, God-glorifying administration of the church.
A majority of present at any meeting of the overseers shall constitute a quorum, provided all were notified in advance to be present.
d. Initial Procedure for Appointing Overseers
1) Senior Pastor will discuss openly with the congregation the need for overseers; teach the appropriate scriptures concerning overseers; encourage the congregation to begin praying for the persons that God would have serve as overseers at Cypress Creek Church.
2) After at least a two-week period of prayer, Senior Pastor will ask the members of Cypress Creek Church to submit names of possible overseers. Pastor will pray concerning these individuals and share these names with the shepherds. These individuals will then interview with Senior Pastor and Overseers.
3) After adequate prayer, when the Senior Pastor and Overseers reach consensus on the individuals, each qualified overseer candidate will be contacted again and asked if their name may be submitted to the congregation as an overseer of Cypress Creek Church.
4) The names will then be released to the congregation through our HEART groups for consensus, at which time a church member may meet with his shepherd or Pastor if he has any questions.
5) New overseers will be ordained in a Celebration Service before the entire congregation.
Shepherds give oversight and care to our cell groups (HEART groups). They serve as an important weekly liaison of communication between the congregation, senior pastor and overseers.
Shepherds facilitate weekly cell groups, give care to cell group members and assist the Senior pastor and overseers in implementing practical discipleship and outreach with in the Body.
a. Qualifications for a Shepherd:
1) A servant’s heart. This is demonstrated as a cell group member and intern before one is called to shepherd (Mark 10:45).
2) A clear testimony of salvation, baptism, and steps toward spiritual maturity (1 Timothy 1:12).
3) Full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5).
4) Support the vision of CCC through membership, tithing, and attitude (1 Corinthians 1:10).
b. Responsibilities of Shepherds:
1) Pray for members of his cell group. “Prayer is the work of any mission, and the activity is the result.” (Ezek. 22:30)
2) Encourage and facilitate, but not control cell meetings
3) Participate in all shepherd training functions.
4) Model our Base Path to Maturity process by mentoring others and encouraging discipleship relationships within their cell group.
5) Function as a liaison between his cell group and the Pastor and overseers.
c. Expectations of Shepherds
1) Shepherds are expected to follow the teachings of the Scriptures in their lifestyle and in their instruction of others.
2) Shepherds are expected to uphold the values and guiding principles of CCC.
3) Shepherds are expected to allow the Holy Spirit to guide the life of another believer. Every believer must ultimately hear from God for himself
4) Shepherds are expected to use their role of leadership to encourage, build up and serve others.
ARTICLE VII. MEETINGS
- Meeting for public worship and teaching shall be held on each Lord’s Day and at other appropriate times as provided for by the Pastor.
- Cell groups (HEART groups) will meet throughout the week for the purpose of edification and equipping of Christians, evangelism of the lost, exaltation of Jesus, and expansion of the Kingdom of God.
- The Overseers’ meet at least once a month and will hold their annual meeting in the month of September each year.
ARTICLE VIII. FINANCES
Section 1. All funds for the maintenance of the church or its missions shall be provided by the voluntary contributions of the tithes and offerings of the members and friends of the church.
Section 2. All funds from any source whatsoever, except as hereinafter provided, shall be allocated to a General Fund and disbursed by the Pastor and Overseers according to the directives and leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Section 3. The church is authorized to accept from time to time individual gifts for specific purposes.
ARTICLE IX. PROPERTY
Section 1. All property, real or personal, shall be taken, held, sold, and transferred in the corporate name of the church.
Section 2. No personal property at the value of or above $10,000.00 of the church shall be purchased, sold, leased, mortgaged, or otherwise encumbered unless the same shall be authorized and approved by the Overseers.
Section 3. Upon the dissolution of this corporation, the Pastor and Overseers and active membership shall, after making provision for the payment of all liabilities, dispose of all the assets of the corporation exclusively for the purpose of the corporation in such manner, or to such organization(s) organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, or religious purposes, as shall at that time qualify as an exempt organization(s) under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law), as the Pastor and Overseers shall determine.
ARTICLE X. AMENDMENTS
At any regular or special meeting, the Constitution and any attendant By-laws may be amended by an unanimous vote of the Overseers.
CCC’s CORE VALUES
Core Values– A small set of guiding principles; the organism’s essential and enduring tenets; not to be confused with specific cultural or operating practices; not to be compromised for financial gain or short term expediency
Based on these statements of our faith rooted in the word of God, CCC adheres to the following three core values.
- We adhere to the eternal authority and relevance of the scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:105, 160; Psalm 12:6).
- We are Christ centered because Christ is Lord (John 1:1-5, 12, 14; John 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:14-15).
- All members are equipped and engaged for the work of service (2 Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4:11-13).
Purpose– Why do we exist? Why are we here? A set of fundamental reasons for existence not to be confused with specific goals/strategies; a perpetual guiding star on the horizon
Nothing is impossible with God; therefore, CCC is to become a loving, accepting, forgiving FAMILY, united in the purpose of actively:
- Celebrating God’s Presence È Equipping God’s People
- Communicating God’s Word È Demonstrating God’s Love
Empowered by the Spirit of God to exemplify the lifestyle of Jesus Christ and His mission to others.
Sample Cell-Based Church Bylaws
DOVE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
ARTICLE I: NAME
The name of the organization shall be ___________ (herein after spoken of as the church) a partner church of DOVE Christian Fellowship, International. Its duration is to be perpetual.
ARTICLE II : PURPOSE
The purpose of the church shall be to provide spiritual oversight for the membership and to meet spiritual, emotional and physical needs of people through faith in Jesus Christ and by resourcing and networking with the Body of Christ in fulfilling the Great Commission.
ARTICLE III : offices
The business office of the church shall be located at _________________________________
ARTICLE IV: government Privileges
The church shall have self-governing privileges in harmony with the authority and vision of the Apostolic Council of DOVE Christian Fellowship International (DCFI). Local authority in vision, direction and doctrine shall be vested in the Eldership Team. The Eldership Team may appoint others under them as required to assist in spiritual oversight of geographic areas or ministries. This church is a Partner Church with DCFI as evidenced by a Partnership Agreement entered into between the church and DCFI. Within the Partnership Agreement, the Eldership Team members acknowledge that they have read DCFI’s Constitution, Bylaws and Handbook and that they are in agreement with the statements therein and agreed to be bound by the statements contained in these documents.
4-2A. The governing documents of (the church) are the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The Articles of Incorporation take precedence over the Bylaws.
4-2B. No amendments or repeal shall be made to the Articles of Incorporation as adopted except by a 2/3 majority vote of the Eldership Team and affirmation by the Senior Elder. Amendments shall be within the guiding principles set forth in the DCFI handbook, Constitution and Bylaws.
4-2C. The Bylaws of (the church) or any portions thereof, may be amended or repealed by a 2/3 majority of the Eldership Team and affirmation by the Senior Elder. Amendments shall be within the guiding principles set forth in the DCFI handbook, Constitution and Bylaws.
DOCTRINE Statement of Faith
WE BELIEVE the Bible to be the inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God. The Holy Spirit moved upon the writers of the Old and New Testament and inspired them as they wrote the Words of God. God’s revelation in Christ and in scripture is unchangeable. Through it the Holy Spirit still speaks today. (II Tim. 3:13-17; Heb. 4:12; Psalm 119:89, 105; I Pet. 1:23-25; Gal. 1:8, 9; Matt. 5:18; Isa. 40:8)
WE BELIEVE that there is One God, eternally existent in three personalities: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father—Creator of all things. By His Word all things were created and through the power of His Word all things are held together. He sent His Son Jesus to redeem mankind unto Himself. A relationship with God only comes through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ—is the only begotten Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. He lived a sin-less life, and performed many miracles. He redeemed us by His atoning death through His shed blood, He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and He will personally return in power and glory. There is no other name given under heaven by which man must be saved. Holy Spirit—inspired the writers of the Bible, convicts the world of sin, teaches us all things, and brings to our remembrance the Word of God. (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6-8; Isa. 43:10; Matt. 3:16, 17; Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 12:4-6; John 14:23, 25; I Tim. 6:15, 16; I John 5:7)
WE BELIEVE that mankind is perishing because of sin, which separates him from God. But God loves all mankind, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should repent. Mankind can only be saved through a complete commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. (Gen. 1:26, 31; Psalm 8:4-8; Gen. 3:1-7; Rom. 5:1, 12-21; Eph. 2:8, 9; Acts 3:19-21; I Cor. 15:21, 22; Gal. 6:14, 15; II Cor. 5:17)
WE BELIEVE in the present infilling of the Holy Spirit to all believers who desire it. The Holy Spirit’s ministry to the body of Jesus Christ gives power to live, witness, proclaim the gospel and to make disciples. The Holy Spirit gives us power to cultivate a Christ-like character through the Fruit of the Spirit and to build up and mature the church through the miraculous gifts and ministries in this present day. (John 15:8-10; I Cor. 12:13; John 3:5, 6; Acts 1:4-8; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:38, 39; Luke 11:9-13; Joel 2:28, 29; I Cor. 12-14; Heb. 2:4)
WE BELIEVE that the local church is a body of believers brought together by the Holy Spirit as a visible part of the body of Christ and His church universal. The church is responsible to faithfully proclaim the whole Word of God in fulfilling the Great Commission, properly administer the sacraments, and humbly submit themselves to discipline, all for the glory of God. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Rom. 12:4, 5; I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 2:22; I Pet. 2:5, 9, 10; Titus 2:14)
WE BELIEVE that all mankind shall give an account of their deeds in this earthly life before the judgment seat of Christ. Those with their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be eternally with God in His glory, those without their names written will be eternally separated from God and tormented. (I Thess. 5:13-17; Rev. 1:7; Acts 1:11; Rev. 20:10-15; II Cor. 5:10; II Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 21:1-4)
ARTICLE VI: Board of Directors
FUNCTIONS AND MEETINGS
6-1A. The Eldership Team shall serve as the board of directors. They shall be responsible for the overall vision, direction, focus and shall fully control, govern and operate the business affairs of the church. As a Partner Church of DCFI, we submit to the vision, mission, basic values, and guiding principles of DCFI’s Apostolic Council.
6-1B. The Eldership Team shall be given leadership to by the Senior Elder. The Senior Elder shall be the president of the board of directors.
6-1C. The Eldership Team shall meet annually for an official meeting in the month of January. The Eldership Team shall record the minutes of the annual meeting including the election of officers; vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer. The Eldership Team will meet regularly as determined by the Senior Elder.
6-2A. The Senior Elder shall be called by God, qualified (I Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9) and willing to fulfill this leadership responsibility. The Senior Elder shall be recognized and recommended by both the Eldership Team and DCFI’s Apostolic Council. The Senior Elder shall be appointed by a member of the Apostolic Council or an appointed designate. The Senior Elder shall not be appointed unless there is unanimous agreement with the Eldership Team, recommendation by DCFI’s Apostolic Council and general affirmation of the Partner Church’s cell group leaders.
6-2B. The Eldership Team members shall be called by God, qualified by scripture (I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9) and willing to fulfill this leadership responsibility.
6-2C. The Eldership Team members are discerned through fasting and prayer, then nominated by the Senior Elder and the existing Eldership Team. General affirmation of the cell group leaders of the Church and the recommendation of DCFI’s Apostolic Council is required for an individual to serve on the Eldership Team.
6-2D. An Apostolic Council member (or an appointed designate) and the Senior Elder shall install new members as set forth in 6-2B and 6-2C at the annual meeting or as deemed necessary by the Eldership Team.
6-2E. The Eldership Team shall consist of at least two members which includes the Senior Elder.
6-2F. The Senior Elder and each member of the Eldership Team shall be active members of a cell group and involved in the life of the church.
6-3A. Appoint and commission Deacons and cell leaders.
6-3B. Appoint persons to serve on an Administrative Committee if the Eldership deems an Administrative Committee is needed.
6-3C. Appoint and oversee specific committees or directors, e.g. Missions Council Representative, Worship, Children, Youth, Singles, as required to resource the spiritual needs of the Partner Church.
6-3D. Recognize, appoint, oversee, protect spiritually and provide accountability to the Fivefold Ministers who serve within the local Partner Church.
6-3E. Train and nurture leaders.
6-3F. Provide oversight and spiritual protection to members.
6-3G. Provide assistance during times of crisis for members in cell group or committees.
6-3H. Approve annual and all modified Partner Church Budgets.
6-3I. Recommend a representative to serve on the DCFI Stewardship Group to be appointed by the DCFI Apostolic Council.
TERMS - VACANCIES
6-4A. Eldership Team members, including the Senior Elder, shall be willing to serve long term with an annual evaluation.
6-4B. This annual evaluation will first have the Senior Elder and each Eldership Team member mutually discern the call of God on their own life to serve another year.
6-4C. Annual evaluations shall be conducted by the Senior Elder in cooperation with the Apostolic Council, an evaluation team or a combination of both. A written report shall be given to the Senior Elder and the person being evaluated.
6-4D. Evaluations are for the purpose of growth. In the event of a report that one’s service is unsatisfactory or that one is no longer suited for the position, the Eldership Team and Senior Elder shall review the specified deficiencies with the member. The Eldership Team and the Senior Elder shall determine whether it would be best for the member to relinquish their position or continue as a member and work to improve the specified deficiencies.
6-4E. In addition to the evaluations, at any time the Senior Elder and other Eldership Team members may vote to suspend or remove the member if deemed to be in the best interests of the organization. DCFI’s Apostolic Council shall be included in the process of suspension or removal. Discipline shall be invoked in accordance with the written Policy of Discipline and Restoration outlined in the DCFI Handbook.
6-4F. The Senior Elder shall be evaluated by members of the Apostolic Council or appointed designates, an evaluation team or a combination of both. A full report shall be given to the Senior Elder and the Apostolic Council and a summary report given to the Eldership Team.
6-4G. In the event of the necessity of termination of the responsibility of the Senior Elder due to failure morally, irreconcilable conflicts, disorderly conduct or apostasy, the Apostolic Council shall give leadership to this process along with the Eldership members. The Apostolic Council, with counsel from the Eldership Team, shall suspend the Senior Elder pending a thorough review and application of the written policy for discipline and restoration. The DCFI Apostolic Council, with counsel from the Eldership Team will appoint an Acting Elder immediately, who will serve until restoration or a replacement is discerned.
6-4H. In the event that the number of persons on the Eldership Team drops below the required two for ninety days, then the longest serving cell group leader of the Partner Church shall immediately begin serving. If more than one replacement is required, then the next longest serving cell leader shall be selected until all vacancies are filled. This is a temporary position with full authority until either the person is confirmed or another person is appointed.
6-5A. At the annual meeting, the Eldership Team shall appoint a vice-chairman, secretary and a treasurer as officers of the Eldership Team. The Senior Elder as the president of the Eldership Team shall oversee the appointment process. Members of the Eldership Team may hold up to two offices. The president shall not serve in the capacity of secretary or treasurer.
6-5B. The designation of officers, except president, shall be by unanimous decision of the Eldership Team. Such appointed officers shall serve in their capacities until such time as the Eldership Team should appoint otherwise.
6-5C. It shall be the duty of the Secretary to keep an accurate record of the proceedings of the meetings of the Board and of Congregational meetings of business, and all such other duties as pertain to this office as may be prescribed by the Board.
6-5D. The Treasurer shall have the care and custody of all funds and securities of the Church and shall deposit the same in the name of the Church in such Bank or Banks as the Board of Directors may select.
Article VII: Committees
The eldership team may appoint such additional committees to assist it in the discharge of its duties as it may deem advisable.
ARTICLE viii: Membership voting
The church has a no voting membership. Spiritual decisions affecting the life of the local body of the church are under the care of its Elders.
The membership of the church shall consist of those persons who meet the following qualifications:
1. They are in agreement with the statements as set forth in Article V.
2. They shall be a member in good standing of a cell group.
3. They shall be involved in the life of the church.
4. They shall recognize and submit to the elders leadership of the church.
5. They shall express commitment to the church with the understanding that biblical church discipline will be used if necessary.
Active Cell Group Listing
The Eldership Team will semiannually update the active cell group listing in accordance with its qualifications for members.
article ix: dissolution
section 1 - dissolution by eldership TEAM
9-1A. In the event that this organization shall be dissolved and liquidated, after paying or making provision for the payment of all liabilities of this organization, the Eldership Team shall distribute or dispose of any remaining property and assets to such organization or organizations established and operated exclusively for religious purposes as, in its judgement, have purposes which are most closely allied to those of this organization; it being provided, however, that each transferee organization, at the time of such transfer, shall:
1. be a tax-exempt, religious Christian organization within the meaning and intent of Section 501 (C) (3) and Section 170 (b) (1) (A) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 or the corresponding sections of any successor Internal Revenue Law of the United States of America;
2. have been in existence for a continuous period of at least sixty (60) months;
3. be an organization to which contributions are deductible under Section 170, Section 2055 and Section 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 or the corresponding sections of any successor Internal Revenue Law of the United States of America.
9-1B. DOVE Christian Fellowship International (DCFI) shall be given first consideration in this dissolution of assets.
Section 2 - dissolution by court
Any of this organization’s property and assets not disposed of in accordance with ARTICLE IX, Section 1, shall be disposed of by the court having jurisdiction of the dissolution and liquidation of a nonprofit corporation organized and existing under and in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and having jurisdiction in the county of this organization’s registered office exclusively to such religious organization or organizations, each of which is established and operated exclusively for such purposes as are most closely allied to those of this organization and each of which, at the time of such disposal, is a qualified, tax-exempt organization as aforesaid, as said court shall determine.
article x: liability
10-1A. No member of the Eldership Team and/or committee shall be personally liable, as such, for monetary damages for any action taken unless:
1. the member has breached or failed to perform the duties of office in good faith, in a manner reasonably believed to be in the best interest of the corporation, and with such care, including reasonable inquiry, skill and diligence, as a person of ordinary prudence would use under similar circumstances; and
2. the breach or failure to perform constitutes self-dealing, willful misconduct or recklessness.
10-1B. This provision cannot by law release a member from liability under criminal laws or for proper payment of taxes.