Article One – Name, Mission, Purpose, and Officers
1.1Name and Founding
This body of Christ, originated March of 1997 in Norman, Oklahoma shall be formally known as Grace Fellowship Church, Inc. and shall represent herself in the community as Grace Fellowship.
Grace Fellowship shares with all local churches the purpose of the universal church which is to worship God, celebrate the person and work of Jesus Christ, establish and build up the Body of Christ, and communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost.
1.3Who We Are
We are a body of believers, standing on the truth of the Father, meeting the world with the embrace of the Son, and trusting the transformational work of the Spirit. (1.3 ammended 9/11/11)
1.4What We Do
Our purpose is to be an avenue of hope and healing to a fallen and falling world. (1.4 ammended 9/11/11)
Recognizing and appreciating her roots in and with the family of Christ known as the Southern Baptist Convention, Grace Fellowship shall always be an autonomous church body looking only to the Lord Jesus Christ for leadership. Grace Fellowship shall choose to align herself with other churches and organizations for the purpose of missions and/or ministry as God leads, as well as following any and only those confessions of faith of her choosing.
1.6.1Offices. Grace Fellowship shall be represented by a Corporation President, Vice President, and Secretary.
1.6.2 Appointment and Terms. Officers shall be full members in full covenant standing of Grace Fellowship and shall serve a term of three years or less as designated by the Lay Leadership Council.
1.6.3 Authority. Officers shall have no legal or other positional authority except as designated by the Lay Leadership Council. Such authority shall be boundaried and time defined.
Article Two – Church Ordinances
Grace Fellowship shall recognize Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the two church ordinances. These ordinances are recognized as being symbolic in nature but profound in their meaning. Both of these ordinances are considered pivotal in their impact on the Christian Walk and Journey of the Christ Follower. While one of these ordinances is contemplative in nature the other is an avenue of public proclamation.
- Baptism. Baptism is recognized as a symbolic proclamation of a Christ Believer/Follower of their faith. The example set in scripture, and by Jesus Christ, is to make this symbolic proclamation through the act of Believer’s Baptism. Believer’s Baptism takes place following a person’s decision to become a Christ follower. Grace Fellowship shall practice Believer’s Baptism through the mode of immersion unless it is physically inadvisable to do so. Believer’s Baptism shall always be recognized as being symbolic of a decision made rather than an avenue to salvation. Grace Fellowship shall consistently encourage all believers to make this public proclamation believing that it is truly a pivotal point in the Christ Follower’s life and walk with Christ.
- The Lord’s Supper. The taking of and participation in the Lord’s Supper is an opportunity to reflect upon the work of Christ on the cross and the subsequent grace offered to those who would receive. The Lord’s Supper shall be recognized as symbolic and offered in varied forms as the pastors should so choose. Grace Fellowship shall encourage all believers to take part in the observance of the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to meditate and contemplate the sacrificial work of Christ.
Article Three - Church Affiliation
Grace Fellowship shall offer two levels of Church Affiliation:
Full privileges and responsibilities.
Same privileges as Full Members with the exception of voting and serving on Lay Leadership Council and Pastoral Staff (restriction may apply to other teams and committees as such restrictions are deemed necessary by council). Responsibilities also limited as detailed in Associate Members Section.
Privileges of relationship and fellowship.
3.1 Full Membership Covenant
Grace Fellowship consists of Christ Believers/Followers who, in the freedom of Christ and through personal choice, relationally covenant together with a commitment to all of the following:
3.1.1 Regular worship attendance. Grace Fellowship shall not define what ‘regular’ is, only that, as scripture requires, each individual is to make it his or her habit to regularly attend corporate worship.
3.1.2 Regular financial contribution. The choice to be a member is to choose to support Grace Fellowship financially. The definition of ‘regular’ is as God prospers, which may mean weekly, monthly, etc. Grace Fellowship shall not define how much or how often one gives but will allow this to be determined by each individual member.
3.1.3 Agreement on the historic, orthodox confession of faith.
Basic Truths (majors):
a.)The inspiration of Scripture
c.)The person (virgin birth), work (sacrificial death), and bodily return of Christ
d.)Salvation by grace alone through faith alone
e.)The depravity of man
f.)The reality of Satan
g.)The purpose of the church (1.2)
As a fellowship, we hold to these basic truths (majors) that make us distinctively biblical. But, as a fellowship we are made up of people who hold differing views or interpretations on certain Bible truths (minors) and certain habits of life (actions) and are free to do so. However, in our major agreements or minor differences we are to maintain an attitude of love for each other. In the majors there must be agreement — In the minors there must be freedom — In all things there must be love.
3.1.4 Commitment to the moral and ethical standard of scripture. Members of Grace Fellowship choose to be accountable to all other members in the commitment to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you (we) have been called.”
3.1.5 Embracing, supporting, and advancing the mission and philosophy of Grace Fellowship. Members choose to identify themselves with the corporate identity of Grace Fellowship being like minded and not divisive.
Other than these five covenantal points, each member is free to determine the extent of his or her specific responsibilities within the body life of Grace Fellowship. Determination for such service may be based on giftedness, talents, desire, health (spiritual, emotional, and physical), or any number of other factors.
3.2 Attaining Full Membership Status
3.2.1 Membership Enrollment. Grace Fellowship will accept individuals into full membership at anytime during the year. Membership is finalized following New Member Orientation which will provide the opportunity for the new members to testify to and of their salvation experience. Grace Fellowship shall accept letters of transfer from candidates when possible in addition to the Orientation and salvation testimony.
3.2.2 Membership Affirmation. Every fifth year each member will have the opportunity to reevaluate, refocus, and reaffirm their covenant agreement to all other members of Grace Fellowship. If members choose to reaffirm their membership, it will be an affirmation that they want to continue in the responsibilities, privileges, and accountabilities of being “members one of another” as provided by Grace Fellowship. If a member does not reaffirm his or her membership, it will be an affirmation that he or she does not want to continue in the responsibilities, privileges, and accountabilities that Grace Fellowship provides. Although this individual will be removed from full membership status Grace Fellowship shall continue to display love toward him or her, engage in fellowship, provide acceptance, and consider him or her as a brother or sister in Christ. Their decision will only be a recognition that they have chosen not to covenant with others in the responsibilities, privileges, and accountabilities that Grace Fellowship provides. They are still welcome to be involved to the degree that they choose (within membership boundaries in regard to privileges). If someone desires to reaffirm but has a personal problem that might keep them from reaffirming their membership, they are encouraged to speak with a member of the Lay Leadership Council for a possible resolution.
3.2.3 Membership Registry. The purpose of the membership registry will be to identify those who have chosen to enter into an intimate relationship with one another thus covenanting together to be corporately identified as Grace Fellowship. The membership registry will be used to identify those who have chosen to involve themselves in the responsibilities, avail themselves to the privileges, and hold themselves accountable as members of Grace Fellowship.
3.3 Associate Membership
An associate member is someone who desires to have a relationship with the people of Grace Fellowship. An associate member is someone who makes a commitment to regularly attend the corporate worship times of Grace Fellowship and who is taking a step towards full membership but for one reason or another is not yet ready to make that covenant with Grace Fellowship. He/She is free to be involved in activities and ministries but cannot vote on congregational matters nor serve on the Lay Leadership Council or Pastoral Staff (or other teams and committee restricted by Council or Pastoral Staff). Associate members have all the options and opportunities provided by Grace Fellowship but are not bound by the covenant of responsibilities, privileges, and accountabilities of membership. An associate member may be removed from the Membership Registry at the discretion of the Pastors and/or Lay Leadership Council. An Associate Member may be any one of the following:
3.3.1 Someone in Need of Healing. This is anyone who has experienced past hurts due to unhealthy church relationships who may need time to hear about and experience the grace of God and to allow God to bring spiritual, emotional, and relational healing and health. While the need for healing does not exclude someone from membership at Grace Fellowship, an associate member status may allow for a time of healing and recovery.
- Someone Inquiring into Grace Fellowship. This is someone who is a Christ Believer/Follower and is determining his/her compatibility with Grace Fellowship and is investigating the theology, philosophy, covenant and everything else that makes up the “in workings” of Grace Fellowship.
3.4 Church Discipline
This process is not meant to take punitive action but rather to win a brother or sister and to restore the relationship. Church Discipline only applies to full members. All discipline steps must be as outlined in Matthew 18; Luke 17; I Corinthians 5; I Timothy 5; II Thessalonians 3.
Article Four – Church Leadership
4.1.1Head of Church
Grace Fellowship shall operate, administrate, and minister under the leadership of Jesus Christ. All earthly leadership structure shall be under this overall umbrella of Jesus Christ and all decisions made and ministries conducted will be done with and in reference to Him.
Under the leadership of Jesus Christ, Grace Fellowship shall be led by the Senior Pastor, Pastors, and the Lay Leadership Council. These groups shall serve as the governing bodies of the Church under the leadership of the called Senior Pastor.
- The Pastors shall be responsible for leading the Church to function as a New Testament Church. They shall lead the congregation, the Church organizations and programs, and Staff /Volunteers to perform their appointed tasks. Pastors shall accept the advisory role of the Lay Leadership Council and place themselves under accountability to the Council in matters of personal and corporate integrity, Biblical Leadership Standards (see 4.3.1 and 4.3.2), Ethical and Moral Integrity, and adherence to the bylaws of Grace Fellowship including but not limited to Purpose, Vision, and Mission. Non-Pastoral Ministerial Staff shall work and lead under the supervision of the Pastors.
- Lay Leadership Council shall work to support ministry conducted and led by Pastors. Council shall work with Pastors in an advisory role. Council shall be available for prayer and counsel to staff and church body. The Council will bring matters of budget approval, extraordinary (over or out of budget) expenditures, Church indebtedness, changes in bylaws, legal matters, and/or the calling and/or dismissal of Senior Pastor to the Church Body for approval.
The Senior Pastor, Pastors, Lay Leadership Council as well as other leadership deemed necessary by the Senior Pastor, will meet at least once a year to determine the twelve month strategy for striving to achieve the mission and vision of Grace Fellowship. (4.1.3 added to bylaws 6/8/09)
4.2Administrative Guidelines/Division of Responsibility of Governing Bodies
Terminology Note: Decisions are divided into two categories:
a.)Regular Decisions-These are decisions that fall within the said responsibilities and budget of person or group making this decision. These decisions usually just require a process of informing accountability leadership and do not require approval.
b.)Crunch Decisions-These are decisions that fall outside (or not completely within) established boundaries and budgets of individual or group making decision. These decisions require approval from accountability leadership.
4.2.1Senior Pastor will provide leadership, direction, and oversight of all church ministries and operations. Senior Pastor will designate oversight authority of non-pastoral ministerial staff to appropriate Pastor. Pastors will be vested with the responsibility and corresponding authority to make regular decisions on behalf of the church in areas where congregational approval is not required. Pastors are accountable to the Lay Leadership Council and the Church Body and will report on matters as needed in order to keep the church informed.
4.2.2Special teams may be appointed for specific tasks/issues by the Pastors and/or the Lay Leadership Council and will serve for a designated time and will carry the responsibility as well as the corresponding authority to accomplish that particular task/issue within established boundaries. The team will be accountable to the Pastors and/or the Lay Leadership Council (determined by establishing body) while being given authority to complete said task(s).
4.2.3 Expenses that fall outside or over the approved church budget will have to come before the church body for approval through the Pastors and/or Lay Leadership Council.
- Expenses that fall within budget may be approved by Pastors and/or Lay Leadership Council.
- Approval for budgetary spending shall be dependent upon funds available.
4.2.6The use of general funds, designated funds, and any special offerings shall be done with respect of and toward the letter and spirit of the law established by the United States Government in accordance 501C non-profit corporations.
4.3Leadership Qualifications and Appointment
Pastors, Non-Pastoral Ministerial Staff, and the Lay Leadership Council will be accountable to each other as well as to the whole of the Church Body. The three aforementioned groups must be full members of Grace Fellowship, who have made the public proclamation of their choice to be Christ Followers through the symbolic act of Baptism, and have exhibited the following scriptural standards in their present and current living:
- A calling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).
- A life lived above reproach, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and teachable (I Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:7-8).
- An ability to exhort and refute with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).
- A sober, gentle, un-contentious, content character (I Tim.3:3 and Titus 1:7)
- A well managed family living with respect for each other and the world (I Tim. 3:4 and Titus 1:6).
- A genuine faith (I Tim. 3:6).
- A good reputation outside of church (Tim. 3:7).
- Faithful in marriage relationship (Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:6).
4.3.2 Leadership Principles
a. Positive Spirit: The ability, in the most negative situation, to step back and see what God is teaching through it.
b. Loyal Spirit: A commitment to you that “I will neither give to others nor receive from others a negative word about you until I have first talked with you, and then, only if another is needed to resolve the conflict between you and me will I share my grievance with him/her. Even then it will only be in a redemptive manner.”
c. Servant Spirit: Lifting up and encouraging others for their benefit and not for personal gain.
d. Coaching Spirit: Encouraging others to accept responsibility for and authority over ministry areas while maintaining accountability to the leadership and the rest of the church.
4.3.3 Senior Pastor Appointment/Dismissal
The Lay Leadership Council shall prayerfully research and interview candidates for Senior Pastor under advice and council from Pastors and Church Body. Once Council is convinced of God’s direction they shall present candidate to the Church Body for approval. Once Church has approved the candidate and the candidate has accepted the position of Senior Pastor the position will be considered filled. Lay Leadership Council shall be responsible for determining the need for dismissal, should the situation arise, of the Senior Pastor and must bring such a motion and needed evidence and documentation before the Church Body for approval and plans for financial provision of dismissed Pastor following dismissal.
4.3.4 Pastors Appointment/Dismissal
Senior Pastor shall work with Pastors to determine Pastoral needs. Senior Pastor will bring this need to the Lay Leadership Council for approval and budgetary approval (unless this was previously approved in the yearly budget this budget alteration will require the Council to go before the Church Body for approval). Once the position has been approved, the Pastor, under advice of Pastors, Lay Leadership Council, and the Church Body shall prayerfully research and interview candidates. Once Senior Pastor has become convinced of God’s direction then candidate will be brought to Lay Leadership Council for approval. Senior Pastor shall be responsible for determining the need for dismissal of non-senior pastor(s), should the situation arise, and must bring such a motion and needed evidence and documentation before the Lay Leadership Council for approval and plans for financial provision of dismissed Pastor following dismissal. Non-senior pastors may be dismissed by Lay Leadership Council upon recommendation of Senior Pastor and exit financial provision made upon approval of Lay Leadership Council. If exit financial provision requires out of budget spending then exit package must be approved by church body.
4.3.5 Non-Pastoral Staff
The Pastoral Staff, under supervision and approval of the Senior Pastor, shall be responsible for the hiring, supervision, and dismissal of all non-Pastoral Staff. Non-Pastoral Staff must be an approved budget item prior to employment.
4.3.6 Personnel Policy
All Staff, Pastoral and Non-Pastoral Staff will be subject to the approved Personnel Policy.
4.3.7 Lay Leadership Council Makeup/Appointment/Dismissal
Lay Leadership Council shall consist of 10-12 individuals (attempting to have a mix of gender, age, and life situations that is a fair representation of the Church Body). Candidates must have been a full member of Grace Fellowship for at least one full year and have exhibited a commitment to and respect for the membership covenant. Council members shall serve for a term of two years with at least a one year break required before serving another term. Half of the council rotates off each year. The Church Body is given the opportunity to nominate individuals to be candidates each year during the month of March. The Senior Pastor and Lay Leadership Council then evaluate these candidates in regard to their commitment to Christ and the Church Covenant. As the Pastor and Council decide on a candidate, that individual is interviewed by the Senior Pastor who then brings their nomination back to the Lay Leadership Council (Senior Pastor has the authority to refuse to bring any individual back to the Council for consideration without explanation due to confidentiality reasons unless revelation is agreed to by said candidate). On the first Sunday of May, the entire list of Lay Leadership Council (those who will remain for the upcoming year and those new candidates selected) are presented to the Church Body for Affirmation (secret ballot). Full membership present must affirm Lay Leadership Council by a 2/3 majority. If the church chooses to not affirm the list of Lay Leadership candidates then the following Sunday a vote is taken of each proposed council member. Should any individual not be affirmed by a 2/3 majority of full members present at this time the council may choose to offer an alternative in the next two months or to work with the council as has been affirmed. Lay Leadership Council, Pastor(s), and or Church Members may call for the dismissal of any council member which must be done in the appropriate and Biblical process (see 2.3.3). Lay Leadership council, under the direction of the Senior Pastor, shall determine the day and times, and format of meetings.
Article Five – Church Finances
Grace Fellowship shall strive to have complete integrity and transparency in all financial dealings. In an effort to achieve this, the following guidelines shall be in place:
5.1 Budget Preparation
The Pastors shall prayerfully prepare and submit a yearly budget to the Lay Leadership Council by the end of October each year for evaluation and approval. The Lay Leadership Council shall prayerfully not seek to evaluate the ministries or programming plans of the Pastoral Staff represented in the budget but to determine the reality of the projected giving and the commitment of the church to this budget. Council shall give input and advice and shall seek to determine ways to fund the needs of the budget. Once the Council has, in working with the Pastors, come to a finalized budget proposal the budget will be presented to the Church Body for approval by the end of the calendar year. If further time is needed to prepare the budget, Council need only to inform the Church Body of the projected presentation date. If the Church Body fails to approve said budget, recommendations will be received by the full membership and the process will return back to the Pastors who will then present a revised budget to the Council and then the budget is taken again to the Church Body.
5.2 Financial Responsibility and Transparency
- A financial secretary shall serve (this may be a volunteer or a staff position) to keep track of financial records, make payments, write checks (including payroll), and address other financial considerations. This secretary, or any volunteers working under secretary, may not sign checks.
- Lay Leadership Council shall appoint a bi-yearly internal audit team to perform an informal audit following closure of the financial records. This team will report back to the Lay Leadership Council any and all findings and recommendations. This report shall be made available to the Church Body.
- Financial Contributions shall be counted by 2-3 approved persons on Sunday morning. Deposit shall then be verified and banked by financial secretary or approved volunteer.
- Four to Five persons shall be designated as check signors. Pastors and financial secretary and financial volunteers may not serve as check signors.
- Financial reports shall be presented to the Pastors and Lay Leadership Council each month.
Article Six – Ordination
Grace Fellowship shall ordain persons who have expressed and demonstrated a calling to pastoral ministry. Candidates shall also have fulfilled requirements as seen in 4.3.1 and 4.3.2. Grace Fellowship shall not ordain to an office but only to ministry. Appointment to an office (ie. Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor, Children’s Pastor, etc.) shall be as detailed in 3.3.3 and 3.3.4. Ordination candidates shall be questioned by Senior Pastor as well as Lay Leadership Council. Candidates shall present evidence of their calling and fulfillment of requirements either by their own ministry seen at and with Grace Fellowship or through the testimony of credible witnesses. Once candidate has been approved by Senior Pastor and Lay Leadership Council they shall be presented to the church for approval and prayer. Ordination shall not serve as a guarantee of employment but shall be a covenant between the church and ordained candidate of support and accountability.
Article Seven-Bylaws Changes and Amendments
a.Acceptance of bylaws, as well as subsequent changes and/or amendments, shall require approval by the church membership (full members). Meetings involving discussion of and changes to bylaws must be announced and publicized to church membership (full members) at least two weeks prior to meeting. At the approved and announced meetings changes and adjustments to initial proposal by full membership may be made during the course of the meeting without an additional two week interval. While bylaws may be discussed at a meeting which was not previously announced as a Bylaws Discussion Meeting, no votes concerning bylaws may be made. Approval shall be defined as a majority of those voting, but Pastors and Lay Leadership Council shall also be expected to be sensitive to the Spirit and not allow a majority vote to be accepted if it is obvious vote is divisive and harmful to church.
b.Church members must take bylaws changes and additions to the Lay Leadership Council for approval. Council then shall take proposal to the Church. If Council does not approve changes or addition but originating church member still desires a presentation to the church, Council shall provide opportunity within a three month period. At the meeting, the council and the individual shall have an opportunity to present their view to the church. One exception would be if proposed changes or additions are in conflict with stated mission or vision of Grace Fellowship.