First Baptist Church Durham By-Laws:
Since it pleased Almighty God, by His Holy Spirit, to call certain servants to unite here in 1845 under the name Rose of Sharon Church, for the worship of God and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ to sustain and prosper this work to the present day; and
Whereas we, the members of First Baptist Church of Durham (North Carolina), Inc., having searched the Scriptures under the guidance of His Spirit, have recognized the need to replace the Bylaws to conform more closely to His will for the Church and prepare ourselves for greater efforts in His name;
Now therefore we, the members of First Baptist Church of Durham (North Carolina), Inc., do hereby adopt these Bylaws as our articles of governance, to be interpreted at all times to reflect the character of and bring glory to Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Holy Bible and articulated in the standards set forth in the church’s Statement of Faith.
Article 1 – Name
This body shall be known as The First Baptist Church of Durham (North Carolina), Inc. (sometimes hereinafter referred to as the “church”).
Article 2 – Purpose
This church exists to delight in, display, and declare the glory of God, equipping His people to spread that delight to all nations through Jesus Christ.
This church seeks to accomplish this purpose by loving God and obeying His commands through:
Equipping the saints through Bible instruction and study for the work of the ministry and personal progressive sanctification;
Proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through preaching, personal evangelism, and any other means consistent with the teachings of Holy Scripture;
Encouraging, supporting, and participating in missions work locally, domestically, and internationally;
Administering the ordinances of believer’s baptism by immersion and communion;
Encouraging Biblical fellowship among believers;
Serving other individuals, families, and churches by providing for physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in the name of Jesus Christ;
Seeking fellowship with God through prayer and supplication
Article 3 – Statement of Faith
We affirm the Holy Bible as the inspired word of God and the basis for our beliefs and actions. This church subscribes to the doctrinal statement of The Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000.
Article 4 – Ordinances
The ordinances of the church are believer’s baptism by immersion and communion.
Article 5 – Church Covenant
Having been led as we believe by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and
on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
We do now in the presence of God and this assembly most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love;
To strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort;
To promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, doctrines, and discipline;
To give it sacred preeminence over all institutions of human origin;
To contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
We also engage to maintain family and personal devotions; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances;
To walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment;
To avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger;
To use our influence to combat the abuse of drugs and alcohol and the spread of pornography and other practices which lead to moral and spiritual decay;
And to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.
We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love;
To remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and Christian courtesy in speech;
To be slow to take offense, and always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.
We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will as soon as possible unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.
Article 6 – Church Relationships
This church is subject to the control of no other ecclesiastical body, but it recognizes and sustains the obligations of mutual counsel and cooperation which are common among Baptist churches.
Insofar as is practical, this church will cooperate with and support the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Article 7 – Membership
Section 1 – Qualifications
To qualify for membership in this church, a person must be a believer in Jesus Christ who gives evidence of regeneration, who has been baptized by immersion, in obedience to Christ, following his or her regeneration, and who wholeheartedly believes in the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible. Each member must agree to subscribe and submit to the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the Statement of Faith and must promise to keep the commitments expressed in the Church Covenant. The elders shall be responsible for determining each person’s qualification for membership. In making this determination, they may rely on a person’s profession of faith, or such other evidence, as the elders deem appropriate.
Section 2 – Admission of Members
To be admitted into church membership, applicants shall be recommended by the elders for admission and accepted by vote of the members at any regular or special meeting of the members, and shall at that point relinquish their membership in other churches.
Section 3 – Duties and Privileges of Membership
In accord with the duties enumerated in the Church Covenant, each member shall be privileged and expected to participate in and contribute to the ministry and life of the church, consistent with God’s leading and with the gifts, time, and material resources each has received from God. Only those shall be entitled to serve in the ministries of the church who are members of this congregation; non-members may serve on an ad-hoc basis with the approval of the elders. Notwithstanding, non-members may serve the church for purposes of administration and professional consultation.
Under Christ this congregation is governed by its members. Therefore, it is the privilege and responsibility of members to attend all members’ meetings and vote on
The election of officers;
Decisions regarding membership status, including church discipline;
Approval of the annual budget and expenditures outside of the budget;
Approval of any transactions regarding real property;
Matters submitted by the membership of the church, by the elders, or raised by a motion at a member’s meeting;
Changes to the Bylaws;
The call, job description, and initial salary and termination (if needed) of a pastor;
and on such other matters as may be submitted to a vote.
Section 4 – On Church Discipline
Any member consistently neglectful of his or her duties or guilty of conduct by which the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be dishonored, and so opposing the welfare of the church, shall be subject to the admonition of the elders and the discipline of the church, according to the instructions given in 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13, Matthew 18: 15–17 and the example of Scripture. Church discipline, then, should ordinarily be contemplated after individual private admonition has failed.
Church discipline can include admonition by the elders or congregation, deposition from office, and termination of membership or other disciplinary measures.
The purpose of such discipline should be for the repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual growth of the individual disciplined;
For the instruction in righteousness and good of other Christians, as an example to them;
For the purity of the church as a whole;
For the good of our corporate witness to non–Christians; and
Supremely for the glory of God by reflecting His holy character.
Section 5 – Termination of Membership
Termination of membership shall be recognized by the church following the death or voluntary resignation of any church member. Membership may be terminated as an act of church discipline at the recommendation of the elders and with a vote of the members at any regular or special meeting of the members.
Article 8 – Meetings
Section 1 – Worship Meetings
Worship services shall be held each Lord’s Day, and may be held throughout the week as the elders determine.
Section 2 – Members’ Meetings
In every meeting together, members shall act in a spirit of mutual trust, openness, and loving consideration which is appropriate within the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There shall be a regular members’ meeting at least every quarter, at a time set by the elders.
The moderator designated by the elders shall preside at all members’ meetings of the church. The elders shall see that the stated meetings of the church are regularly held and that required reports are submitted to the church by the responsible members.
A quorum shall be understood to be met by those members present. All votes shall be tallied based on the number of votes cast by members present.
A budget shall be approved by the membership at a members’ meeting no more than three months and no less than one month prior to the start of the fiscal year.
At any regular or special members’ meeting, officers may be elected and positions filled/approved as needed.
Special members’ meetings may be called as required by the elders, or at the written request, submitted to the elders, of five percent of the membership. The date, time, and purpose of any special meeting shall be announced at a worship service of the church at least two weeks prior to the meeting. In the event of a written request from the members, the elders shall call a special meeting to be held within one month of their receipt of the request. Discussion and business conducted at a special members’ meeting is restricted to the topic for which it was called.
Article 9 – Officers & Other Positions
Section 1 – Summary
The Biblical offices in the church are elders and deacons. In addition, our church, under these Bylaws, recognizes the administrative positions of clerk, treasurer, and trustees as the legal officers of the church. All officers must be members of this church prior to assuming their responsibilities.
Section 2 – Elders
The elders shall be comprised of not less than 5 men who satisfy the qualifications for the office of elder set forth in I Timothy 3: 1–7 and Titus 1: 6–9. A majority of the active eldership shall be composed of church members not in the regular pay of the church, and no elder shall hold the office of deacon during his tenure.
Subject to the will of the congregation, the elders shall oversee the ministry and resources of the church in accordance with the Word of God. In keeping with the principles set forth in Acts 6: 1–6 and 1 Peter 5: 1–4, the elders shall devote their time to prayer, the ministry of the Word (by teaching and encouraging sound doctrine), and shepherding God’s flock.
The church shall recognize men gifted and willing to serve in this calling, in accordance with provisions on election in the Bylaws. The term of office for an elder, other than the senior, associate and assistant pastor(s), is three years. An elder, other than the senior, associate and assistant pastor(s), may serve for two consecutive three-year terms, and cannot be re-elected to serve again as an elder without a one year absence from service. The members should receive these men as gifts of Christ to His church and set apart as elders (Number 8: 19, Ephesians 4: 7-13). Elders should see themselves as servants of the church not lording it over those entrusted to them, but being examples to the congregation (1 Peter 5: 3).
An elder’s term of office may be terminated by resignation or by dismissal. Any two members with reason to believe that an elder should be dismissed must express such concern to the elders and, if need be, to the congregation. Any such action shall be done in accordance with the instructions of our Lord in Matthew 18: 15–17 and 1 Timothy 5: 19–20. Any elder may be dismissed by a two-thirds vote of the members at any members’ meeting of the church after these actions are taken. Pending action of the membership on the dismissal of an elder, an elder may be suspended from his duties by the action of the elders.
The elders shall take particular responsibility to examine and instruct prospective members, examine and recommend all prospective candidates for offices and positions, oversee the work of the deacons and appointed church agents and committees, conduct worship services, administer the ordinances of believer’s baptism by immersion and communion, equip the membership for the work of the ministry, encourage sound doctrine and practice, promote growth in Christ-like maturity, admonish and correct error, oversee the process of church discipline, coordinate and promote the ministries of the church, mobilize the church for world missions, manage the budget, and care for/provide counseling to the members. The elders are further to ensure that all who minister the Word to the congregation, including outside speakers, share our fundamental convictions.
The elders may establish ministry positions or committees to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities. The elders may also propose funding for new paid staff positions. The elders may give authority to the pastors to define job descriptions, hire, manage and terminate additional staff positions.
The elders shall have primary responsibility for the employment, supervision, and evaluation of staff members. This responsibility may be delegated to another staff member. The elders shall elect a chairman of elders’ meetings and shall also elect one of their number or another member to serve as moderator of members’ meetings.
Section 3 – The Senior Pastor
The senior pastor shall be an elder. He shall perform the duties of an elder described in Section 2, above, and shall be recognized by the church as particularly gifted and called to the full-time ministry of preaching and teaching.
He shall not be subject to the triennial reaffirmation or to the term limitation set out in Article 9, Section 2, for elders. His call shall be defined as per Article 10, Section 3.
He shall have charge of the preaching and teaching ministry of the church, administer the ordinances of believer’s baptism by immersion and communion, and perform such other duties as usually pertain to that office, or as set forth in the Bylaws.
In the absence or incapacity of the senior pastor for either a permanent or defined period of time (such as sabbatical or illness), the elders shall assume the ultimate responsibility for his duties any of which may be delegated to an associate pastor.
Section 4 – Associate Pastors
The church may call additional pastors whose relationship to the senior pastor is that of associate.
An associate pastor shall be an elder. He shall perform the duties of an elder described in Section 2, above, and shall be recognized by the church as particularly gifted and called to the full-time ministry of preaching and teaching.
His call shall not be subject to the triennial reaffirmation or to the term limitation set out in Article 9, Section 2, for elders. His call shall be defined as per Article 10, Section 3.
He shall assist the senior pastor in the performance of his regular duties and shall perform any other duties as usually pertain to the office of pastor, or as set forth in the Bylaws, or which may be specifically assigned to him by the elders.
In the absence or incapacity of the senior pastor for either a permanent or defined period of time (such as sabbatical or illness), the elders shall assume the ultimate responsibility for his duties any of which may be delegated to an associate pastor.
Section 5 – Assistant Pastors
The church may call additional pastors, whose relationship to the senior pastor is that of assistant.
An assistant pastor shall be an elder. He shall perform the duties of an elder described in Section 2, above, and shall be recognized by the church as particularly gifted and called to full-time ministry. His call shall be defined as per Article 10, Section 4.
He shall assist the senior pastor and associate pastor(s) in the performance of their regular duties, and shall perform any other duties as usually pertain to the office of pastor. The elders shall define the responsibilities of the assistant pastor(s).
Section 6 – Additional Staff
The elders may hire additional staff to assist with pastoral ministry or administration. The elders shall define the responsibilities for additional staff positions. On a case-by-case basis, the hiring of additional staff may be delegated after the elders have defined the responsibilities for the additional staff position. The funding for paid staff positions must be approved by the membership.
Section 7 – Deacons
The qualification for the office of deacon is described in 1Timothy 3: 8-13. The church shall recognize, in accordance with the provisions of elections, members (men or women) who are giving of themselves in service to the church, and who possess particular gifts of service. These members shall be received as gifts of Christ to His church and set apart as deacons. The term of office for a deacon is three years. A deacon may serve for two consecutive three-year terms, and cannot be re-elected to serve again as a deacon without a one year absence from service. The deacons shall perform duties assigned by the elders.
Section 8 – Trustees
The church shall elect six trustees to serve as legal officers of the church. Trustees shall serve three calendar year terms, with two new trustees being elected every year upon the recommendation of the elders. They shall hold in trust the church property. Upon specific vote of the membership authorizing each action, they shall have the power to buy, sell, mortgage, lease, or transfer any church property. When the signatures of trustees are required, at least four shall sign legal documents involving the sale, mortgage, purchase, or rental of property, or other legal documents related to church approved matters.
Section 9 – Clerk
It shall be the duty of the clerk to record the minutes of all regular and special members’ meetings of the church, to preserve an accurate roll of the membership, and to render reports as requested by the pastor, the elders, the deacons, or the church. The clerk shall be nominated by the elders and elected by the congregation to serve a term of one calendar year. In the absence or incapacity of the clerk the elders shall appoint a member to perform the duties of the church clerk. The clerk shall ensure that dated copies of the most recent revision of these Bylaws shall be available for all church members.
Section 10 – Treasurer
The treasurer, who shall not be an active elder, deacon/deaconess, or paid church staff member, shall ensure that all funds and securities of the church are properly secured in such banks, financial institutions, or depositories as appropriate. The treasurer shall also be responsible for presenting regular reports of the account balances, revenues and expenses of the church at each members’ meeting. This responsibility may be delegated with the approval of the elders. The treasurer shall also ensure that full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements are kept in books belonging to the church, and that adequate controls are implemented to guarantee that all funds belonging to the church are appropriately handled by any officer, employee, or agent of the church. The treasurer shall render to the elders annually, or whenever they may require it, an account of all transactions and of the financial condition of the church.
The treasurer shall be nominated by the elders and elected by the congregation to serve a term of one calendar year.
Article 10 – Elections
Section 1 – Principles
The process for church elections shall be interpreted and carried out to fulfill the following principles:
Substantial prayer, both individually and corporately, should be an integral part of the election process;
Nominations should proceed with the support of the elders;
All candidates for church office should be treated with the grace, kindness, and honesty appropriate in evaluating fellow members;
The election process shall express a spirit of mutual trust, openness, and loving consideration that is appropriate within the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Section 2 – Election of Officers
The election of officers shall be held at a members’ meeting of the church. Names of nominees to serve as elders, deacons, trustees, clerk, or treasurer shall be presented by the elders at a members’ meeting at least four weeks prior to the election. The election shall proceed as directed by the moderator.
The elders should seek recommendations and involvement from the general membership in the nomination process. Any member with reason to believe that a nominated candidate is unqualified for an office should express such concern to the elders. Members intending to speak in opposition to a candidate should express their objection to the elders as far in advance as possible before the relevant church members’ meeting.
The moderator shall declare elected as elders all men receiving a three-quarters vote of the members present and voting at a members’ meeting. Voting for elders shall be conducted by ballot. For all other offices, the moderator shall declare elected all persons receiving a simple majority of all votes cast; abstentions will not be considered as votes cast.
The persons elected shall assume their respective offices at the beginning of the calendar year. If a need or vacancy arises, the elders may hold a special election upon which the person elected will assume office immediately following the election. Officers elected during a special election will serve the office’s normal term. If service starts with six months or less in the calendar year, the time in service will not count towards the first year of the office’s term.
Section 3 – Calling of the Senior Pastor & Associate Pastor
In the calling of any man to the position of senior pastor or associate pastor, the same basic process of calling an elder must be followed. Before being asked to express judgment, the church must be given adequate opportunity to assess the preaching gifts of any potential senior pastor or associate pastor, and must receive assurance from the elders that, having interviewed the man concerned, they are in no doubt as to his wholehearted assent to the Statement of Faith and Church Covenant. Notice of the nomination of a man to be called as senior pastor or associate pastor (which shall include, if necessary, election to membership of him and his wife if he is married) must be given at two Sunday morning services following the nomination, prior to the vote at a members’ meeting.
Section 4 – Calling of Assistant Pastor
In the calling of any man to the position of assistant pastor, the same basic process of calling an elder must be followed. Before being asked to express judgment, the church must be given adequate opportunity to assess the gifts of the individual for the position to which he is called, and must receive assurance from the elders that, having interviewed the man concerned, they are in no doubt as to his wholehearted assent to the Statement of Faith and Church Covenant. Notice of the nomination of a man to be called as assistant pastor (which shall include, if necessary, election to membership of him and his wife if he is married) must be given at two Sunday morning services following the nomination, prior to the vote at a members’ meeting.
Article 11 – Indemnification
Section 1 – Mandatory Indemnification
If a legal claim or criminal allegation is made against a person because he or she is or was an officer, employee, or agent of the church, the church shall provide indemnification against liability and costs incurred in defending against the claim if the elders determine that the person acted (a) in good faith, (b) with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a similar position would exercise under similar circumstances, and (c) in a manner the person reasonably believed to be in the best interest of the church, and the person had no reasonable cause to believe his or her conduct was unlawful.
Section 2 – Permissive Indemnification
At the discretion of the elders, the church also may indemnify any person who acted in good faith and reasonably believed that his or her conduct was in the church’s best interest and not unlawful.
Section 3 – Procedure
If a quorum of the elders is not available for an indemnification determination because of the number of elders seeking indemnification, the requisite determination may be made by the membership or by special legal counsel appointed by the membership.
Article 12 – Dispute Resolution
Believing that the Bible commands Christians to make every effort to live at peace and to resolve disputes with each other in private or within the Christian Church (Matthew 18: 15–20, 1 Corinthians 6: 1–8), the church shall require its members to resolve conflict among themselves according to biblically based principles, without reliance on the secular courts. Consistent with its call to peacemaking, the church shall encourage the use of biblically based principles and the avoidance of suits of law or equity to resolve disputes between itself and those outside the church, whether Christian or secular and whether individuals or corporate entities. The elders shall adopt policies and procedures to effect these requirements and aspirations.
Article 13 – Amendments
The Statement of Faith and Church Covenant may be amended by a three-quarters vote of the members present and voting at a members’ meeting, provided the amendment shall have been offered in writing at the previous members’ meeting, and shall have been announced at church services two successive Sundays prior to such vote.
These Bylaws may be amended by two-thirds of the votes cast at the members’ meeting, provided the amendment shall have been offered in writing at the previous members’ meeting, and shall have been announced at church services two successive Sundays prior to such vote.
The revised version of these Bylaws shall be made available to all church members by the church clerk.