The Dirty Little Secret About Church Membership Covenants

By | December 20, 2017

Today I will once again highlight what, in my opinion, is abuse of church members by heavy-handed authoritarian members of the professional clergy class. Specifically, I am referring to a segment of the professional clergy  who consider themselves to be evangelicals and endorse, support and spread the 9 Marks “gospel.”

9Marx is apparently a highly successful parachurch organization which is sustained by syphoning money from local churches via frequent fundraising emails to individual evangelical Christians. This appears just a bit ironic considering 9Marx supposedly exists to strengthen local churches!  Their stated goal is “to equip leaders in implementing and reproducing biblical truths in their local churches,”which is carried out principally through establishing formal church membership in a local church, typically characterized by requiring individual members to sign a church “covenant.”




Numerous articles have highlighted how these church covenants are primarily used to manipulate members into conforming to a pastor’s vision for “his” church and effectively protect the over-zealous, heavy-handed pastors from lawsuits. (See for example an article published by the Warrtburg Watch titled “Church Membership Covenants – Legal Contracts That Are Not Biblical!”



There is a very good blog called The Sapulpa Messenger (Watching Them and Warning You) which has numerous articles warning people of an attempted take-over of a local  Baptist church by a typical pastor who holds to the 9Marx “gospel.”  I have reproduced  a section of the latest blog below. I encourage you to click on the link above and read the entire article.



Sovereign Grace Churches, a denomination I was formerly a member of, recently held a conference for their pastors. C.J. Mahaney, the de-facto leader of the denomination, is close friends with Mark Dever, the leader of the 9Marx organization. Mahaney has been successful in implementing the 9Marx “gospel” in his denomination.


Mickey Connolly held a panel discussion at the recent Pastors Conference where he let slip that the dirty little secret of signed church membership covenants is to protect the professional clergyman who runs the church/corporation.  (Perhaps Connolly didn’t think the unwashed masses in the pews would bother to listen to his discussion; he is most likely correct. Unfortunately for him and his corrupt denomination there are people such as me who make a habit of exposing these wolves.)



Listen to this short audio clip, which I have also transcribed below.



“If you don’t have a church discipline statement that people sign off on at membership time you’re in big trouble; and get one if you don’t have it because it will help you (the pastor), it will serve you (the pastor), and it will protect you (the pastor).”
-Mickey Connolly


Listen to this gem by Connolly. Funny, but I have searched the Bible and have yet to find any passages dealing with conversion to the church, conversion to giving, conversion of my wallet, etc. It sounds like Connolly is quoting another speaker; this simply points out the fact that there are at least two “quacks” in positions of leadership in Sovereign Grace Churches. Seriously folks, is this the type of individual you want in a leadership position?



“There’s many conversions in the Christian life. There’s conversion to Christ but then there’s conversion to the church, there’s conversion to giving, conversion of your wallet, there’s a conversion of serving, so how do you all keep those things before people, and particularly maybe that person in the church that yeah, they’re showing up faithfully on Sundays, but they don’t give, they’re not serving, how do you deal with that?”
-Mickey Connolly


Next we get to hear from Dave York. He was part of the three man panel discussion which was facilitated by Mickey Connolly. Of course they all advocate having members sign a church covenant/contract. Another unbiblical concept! Sola scriptura is not one of the solas these supposedly Reformed men hold to. York tells the story of a potential member who had an issue with signing a contract. I call him an intelligent man. York implies that anyone who objects to signing a membership contract is a troublemaker. Such was the case with this individual because they had to excommunicate him later.


I was offended by the way York handled this man’s objection, but all the pastors in attendance got a good laugh from his response. Apparently they all agree with York. In my opinion this is just another sign of a sick denomination.



“We only ask for one signature and that’s just for the Membership Covenant; has all those things stated in the Membership Covenant. We have had people say “I’m not signing this.” I remember one particular individual saying: “Why do I gotta sign – this is a legal document,” kind of got wigged out about it.


We just said “you don’t need to sign, you don’t need to sign, but you won’t be a member.” (Laughter)


So he said “well that’s a challenge,” so then he signed it and we had to remove him later. The statement you (Mickey Connolly) made about making sure you have church discipline statements for a guys protection…”


”You’re sunk if you don’t.” (Mickey Conolly)


Dave York, Senior pastor, Covenant LIfe Fellowship, Roseburg, OR


Unfortunately, Mickey Connolly personifies the type of individual who is promoted in the Sovereign Grace corporation. He has successfully  ingratiated himself to C.J. Mahaney by repeatedly demonstrating his willingness to be C.J. Mahaney’s lackey. Brent Detwiler wrote an article which does a good job of revealing Connolly’s character titled  “Ten Common Cult-Like Characteristics Evident in Mickey Connolly’s Leadership.”


Below is one paragraph from the article. I believe it’s safe to say Mahaney hates Detwiler for exposing Mahaney and his fellow Sovereign Grace leaders who conspired to cover up the sexual abuse of children. C.J. Mahaney had Detwiler removed from his church by deceitful chicanery. Connolly played a key role in this. Here is what Connolly said about Detwiler as he worked to excommunicate him:


Mickey Connolly
Excommunication Meeting
November 13, 2011

“So what I am asking you to do as a church is to avoid him [Brent Detwiler] as he engages in this behavior: gossip, slander, scoffing, mocking…. Having nothing more to do with him, or avoiding him, would include not discussing these things with him personally, reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook.  If that means you have to defriend him to avoid the temptation, do that, or following the story on anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs…. So I want to be clear!  Not discussing this with him personally.  Not reading any of his materials on blogs or Facebook or following the story on the anti-Sovereign Grace Ministries blogs…. If you can’t trust your pastors, you need to leave.  You need to go…. If you cannot trust your pastors, if you cannot obey your pastors and what we are asking you to do biblically then you need to find another church because we cannot function without your trust.  You can’t follow pastors you don’t trust.  You can’t honor pastors that you are willing to have slandered.  And that you’re willing to go and seek out slander about.  You can’t do that.”


Perhaps this sheds some light on why Connolly stresses the importance of having church members sign covenants to protect themselves.  Allow me to make my position clear – given the choice between signing a membership contract or not becoming a member, I choose the latter. Frankly, I would not even attend a church where the professional clergy require you to sign such a document.


To end this I leave you with some pertinent quotes from one of my favorite books on the subject of abusive churches:


“In abusive discipleships, sin is expanded to mean almost anything that the leaders don’t like (e.g., challenging leader’s actions, not obeying leaders’ advice, disagreeing with leaders, questioning leaders, or openly criticizing leaders). The most common non-Biblical idea that is planted in members’ minds by abusive groups is that they are rebellious, hard-hearted, or prideful when they decide not to follow the group’s rules.”


“If we are taught to trust totally and are discouraged from criticizing leaders openly, then we lose the ability to think critically. That is why it is unhealthy to stray from Scripture and teach trusting our leaders. If our leaders don’t want us to be critical of their actions when they are doing something wrong, then we shouldn’t follow these leaders. They are supposed to be servants, not dictators. Leaders need to have humility in order to be able to accept honest criticism.”


“In abusive discipleships, we repeatedly see two things considered extremely important: (1) control of criticism and negative feedback; and (2) teaching people to obey even when they don’t feel right about it because “the discipler knows best.”


…”Oh,” you may say, “but I don’t see that in my group.” Maybe that is because you and the others just go with the flow and therefore haven’t provoked your leaders into asserting their authority. Perhaps the people who might question the leadership have already been forced out or suppressed. For these reasons, you may not see this control. Test your program. Challenge your leaders when you don’t agree with something they are telling you to do. Observe how you are treated. Express some negative comments (not gossip, but something you know is true), and observe what happens. In a group that doesn’t reign in negative comments, good leaders will permit questioning and allow others to hear of the concerns. They will sit down and calmly discuss issues without making a big deal out of them. Leaders of groups that want power will label almost any challenge to their authority as questioning or causing dissension or division. They may say they have to “discern the motive or heart” of the individual before they will allow questioning to continue. They really believe they can judge your heart.”


…Abusive disciples often say, “I’m not telling anyone how they are to think. I don’t control anybody. They make up their own minds.” There is an element of truth in this statement, but ask yourself: “Who is defining what constitutes doubts or what kind of doubts are deemed sinful? Who is avoiding certain negative questions? Who sometimes refuses to meet with someone who has challenging questions? Who is labeling members as prideful, factious, or divisive, for voicing healthy criticisms of leaders? Who is asking people to leave when they don’t agree with the leaders? Who is judging the heart of the person who questions leadership?”


Who? The abusive disciples, of course.


-Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free from Churches that Abuse by Mary Alice Chrnalogar, page 12, 57-59, 61

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