Bylaws Update | From the Elders

February 16, 2023 Update

Why did we update our bylaws?

A little history will likely help…

  • In February 2009, we were planted as Harvest Bible Chapel Granger out of the Harvest Bible Fellowship church planting network. Like most churches within Harvest Bible Fellowship, we were fully autonomous, governed by a plurality of elders, and adopted Harvest’s bylaws, meaning our distinctives were Harvest distinctives.
  • In the summer of 2017, our affiliation with Harvest Bible Fellowship ended, and our elders were left to consider how we were to move forward.
  • In February 2019, we renamed ourselves as Gospel City Church. The name change presented an opportunity to examine our DNA, distinctives, ecclesiology, theological convictions, policies, and procedures. This process took time, especially considering all that took place between 2019 and 2020 (building campaign + Covid + normal church life).
  • In February 2021, the elders formed a Governance Task Force to spend focused time and effort on updating our bylaws to reflect Gospel City Church distinctives that stand on our biblical principles and convictions.

In short, Gospel City Church has grown quickly from a small church plant. Routinely updating our bylaws is simply part of becoming a mature, larger church.

What are bylaws, why are they needed, and what makes a set of bylaws good?

What are bylaws in the context of a church? Bylaws are a theologically-informed, legal document that define how a church body is to order and govern itself under the headship of Christ.

Why are they needed? Four main reasons. First, Scripture instructs elders and pastors to “rule well” (1 Tim 5:17). Bylaws are a good tool for accomplishing this. Second, Scripture instructs the church to obey our government (Rom 13:1-7). Bylaws are a legal requirement of operating a nonprofit organization in our country. Third, Scripture instructs the church Body to do all things “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Bylaws help us achieve that end. Fourth, Scripture reminds us that the church is Christ’s Bride, “which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Good church governance (which includes bylaws) is a gift from God to love, care for, and protect His local church Body.

What makes a set of bylaws good? Good bylaws must be theologically-informed, up-to-date, and put into practice with Spirit-empowered character. If bylaws are not theologically-informed, then we will inevitably govern ourselves according to man’s wisdom rather than God’s. If bylaws are not kept up-to-date, then they can become irrelevant, disregarded, and ultimately unhelpful. But theologically-informed, up-to-date bylaws alone do not make a set of bylaws good. God doesn’t just gift His Bride with order in the church; He also gifts His bride with Himself, His Spirit. You can have the finest bylaws ever written, but they will ultimately be unloving and uncaring if the church Body walks by the flesh instead of the Spirit.

How did we go about updating our bylaws?

The elders formed a Governance Task Force composed of Justin Butler, Regan Jones, Jon Seger, and Mitch Helmkamp to meet weekly over the span of 1.5 years to complete the bylaws rewrite. We prayed a lot. We read our Bibles a lot. We read a lot of different books on church governance. We reviewed a lot of different churches’ bylaws. And we had a lot of conversations as pastors and elders on governance topics. We also pulled in other church members – elders, pastors, directors, an editor, a lawyer – to review our bylaws drafts to offer input and feedback. And then after numerous conversations, many drafts, and lots of prayer, it was put before the elders for final consensus and approval.

What didn’t we change?

While a comparison of the two documents side-by-side might look as if much has changed — a closer reading shows that the content is largely the same. They were simply rewritten with updated language and reorganized for clarity. Below is a list of some of the high level principles and distinctives that are not changing.

  • We still exist to glorify God by making disciples. 
  • Our foundation is still Jesus Christ alone.
  • We are not changing our discipleship pathway – glorify, gather, grow, go!
  • We are not changing our Doctrinal Statement
  • We will still abide by our Four Pillars (which we will refer to as our distinctives going forward)
  • We are still governed by a plurality of elders and pastors.
  • We still have high expectations for church members.

What did we change?

Below is a list of the high level changes that we made to our bylaws. 

  • Published the bylaws on our website to make them visible and improve transparency and clarity.
  • Updated the church’s name to Gospel City Church (Article 2.1).
  • Added voting requirements for a potential merger or dissolution (Article 2.5).
  • Updated our Membership Covenant to better communicate the expectations of being a member at Gospel City. In addition, we have since aligned our Membership Application and Interview forms (Article 3.4).
  • Changed the Senior Pastor title to Lead Pastor to better communicate the “first among equals” principle amongst the plurality of elders and pastors (Article 4.5).
  • Updated language to ensure it is clear that Gospel City Church is led by a plurality of pastors and elders, not just elders (Article IV).
  • Re-evaluated the structure of term limits for lay elders to better reflect the biblical position of an elder as not just temporary, but as a calling with continued affirmation (Article 4.5).
  • Added a fully-defined process for removing an elder or pastor for disciplinary or non-disciplinary reasons (even though we hope to never have to exercise this portion of the bylaws) (Articles 4.7 and 4.8).
  • Added an additional church officer position of Vice Chairman (Article 5.4.2).
  • Added a Moral Accountability clause for deacons and deaconesses (Article 6.7).
  • Updated language on the selection, hiring, and organization of the church staff (Article VII).
  • Updated Church Discipline and Restoration verbiage and included a link to a more detailed guidelines document (Article VIII).
  • Created a Process for Resolving Grievances and Disagreements in the Church to provide clarity on how to work through issues as the church Body (Article 9.1).
  • Created a Process for Resolving Grievances with Elders and Pastors to provide clarity on how to address and work through grievances with an elder or a pastor (Article 9.2).

If there are any questions, please feel free to reach out to any of our elders or contact the church office.

You are loved!

—The Elders of Gospel City Church