“Discovering First Baptist Angleton”: Session #4 The Nuts & Bolts”

My car’s Owner’s Manual is not my favorite book ever to read — in fact I can’t say I have ever read it all the way through. But I am also really glad that I have it when I need it — like when I had a flat tire and needed to know where the stuff was to change it — especially that special socket for the lock nut that you can’t get your tire off without — I was really glad I had the owner’s manual to help me with that when I needed it. Well, today’s session may be somewhat like my Owner’s Manual. This 4th session of Discovering FBCA has some technical details that may not be the most exciting, but they are important and necessary to the “nuts and bolts” of our operation as a church.  

This is the final session of our “Discovering FBC” class; if you have been in attendance for all 4 sessions, then you will be eligible to apply for church membership after today’s lesson. If you have NOT been at all of the previous class sessions, then you just need to make up the sessions you have missed — you don’t need to take them in order. (Get with me and we’ll set up a way to get that done.)

Tonight’s session will cover some of the “nuts and bolts” of the ministry at First Baptist, things like our Constitution & By-Laws, budget and finances, and our missions giving. And if the Lord leads you to, at the end you can fill out an application for church membership.   

Constitution & Bylaws 

First Baptist Angleton’s Constitution and By-Laws are important documents, for us to be able to incorporate as a church, which shields us from liability, AND our bylaws help protect our church in light of some of the ministry challenges we face in today’s world. NOW, let me assure you: We are NOT going to read this whole thing today, but let’s look at some quick highlights:


ARTICLE I Section 1:  “This body shall be known as the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Angleton, Texas, as chartered in 1896 under the laws of the state of Texas.” We looked at our church history in Session 1; we became a church in 1896, so we are now about 127 years old as a church!

ARTICLE II details our church’s Principles of Faith, including our belief in the Bible as God’s revelation to us without error, and our adherence as a church to the Baptist Faith & Message, 2000 edition.  We updated our church Constitution in 2019 to specify the 2000 edition of the BFM as our church statement of faith, because our convention made several important changes that year to address issues that had arisen in recent times, including:

— SALVATION: “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”

— MAN: “He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

— THE FAMILY: “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

— “Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.”

Because these amendments address some current issues, it was important that we purposefully declare that at First Baptist Angleton, we affirm these Biblical teachings. They are not popular in society today, but they are what God’s word teaches, and they are what WE teach here as well. So we adopted the 2000 amendments at business meeting in December 2019, with the unanimous recommendation of our Deacon body and Church Council. 

ARTICLE III is a typical Church Covenant, which indicates that we are committing to each other and to the Lord as church members.

ARTICLE IV addresses our Church Polity and Relationships

At the end of section 1 is an important statement:  “The church shall take no action nor enact any bylaw, rule, policy nor procedure that is in violation of any law, statute, code, (etc.)  except when such law, statute, code or regulation violates scripture; in such case we will obey God rather than men.” In other words, we will seek to obey the laws of the land — UNLESS they contradict God’s word, in which case we will do what GOD says! That comes right out of Acts 5:29, where the Apostles said “We must obey God rather than men.” There may come a time when we need to be ready to suffer for our faith, and disobey the laws of the land, if they contradict the laws of God. We love our country, but our country is not our Lord. GOD is! And we must obey Him. That is our commitment as a church. 

Section 2 opens: “This church is subject to the control of no other civil or ecclesiastical body.” That means that no state or national Baptist convention or any other group has authority over us as a church, but we minister as we as a local body are led by the Lord.  

Then there is another important statement there: “Insofar as practical, this body agrees to cooperate with and support the Gulf Coast Baptist Association, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention.” As we mentioned last week, we work together with these groups to start churches and minister here in Texas and around the world.

ARTICLE VII at the end details how changes can be made in the Constitution:  “This constitution may be amended, modified, or repealed under the following circumstances:  The proposal must be read at two consecutive business meetings, to be voted on at the conclusion of the second meeting.” We followed that process when we adopted the BFM 2000, and will follow it if we make any changes in the future as well.

The By-Laws

Article I on Church Membership.

Section 2 deals with the 4 steps to church membership which we have referred to previously:

A. Profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior

B. Believers baptism by immersion

C. Attendance and completion of the church membership class and the commitment to church membership form, and 

D. Presentation to the church for approval.  

And Section 1 indicates that the church “reserves the right to refuse membership to anyone in order to protect the doctrinal and moral standards of the church and the unity of the fellowship.”

SO if we have reason to believe that a person or persons do not genuinely hold to our beliefs, or if they have a lifestyle that is not consistent with scripture — we have the right to refuse membership. It’s not just “take the classes and you’re in.” We can use discernment in receiving new members.  

Section 5 deals with Rights of Church Members: that MEMBERS can vote, hold office (committees and so on) — but you need to be a church member to be able to do that.   

Section 7: deals with the Discipline of Church Members. There’s a lot in this section, but the bottom line is: if a church member continues to live an unrepentant, un-Biblical lifestyle, they can be disciplined scripturally, and eventually have their membership withdrawn from the church. It’s important to know that up front. You can’t live any way you want to, in unrepentant sin, and think you can just continue forever as a member of this church. Now it’s also important to say, we are not “on the hunt” to kick people out of the church, and in Matthew 18, Jesus gives us the Biblical process for this. And let me make it clear: The goal of church discipline should NEVER be to REMOVE people; the goal of church discipline should always be to RESTORE people to fellowship with God and His church. And that is what we pray will always happen. But this section deals with this process.

Article II deals with Church Committees, which we talked about last time: a 5-member Committee on Committees will recommend committee members to the church; that there will be several “Standing Committees” — or committees we will always have: The Committee on Committees, Finance, Personnel, Sunday School Worker Nominating, Church Activities, Building/Grounds Maintenance, Bereavement, Benevolence and Missions — as well as any other special committees the church feels that we need at any given time.  

Article III deals with how we call a pastor and other staff members.

Basically the Committee on Committees selects a committee that is approved by a vote of the church; (5 members and 2 alternates)

And it contains steps for the dismissal of staff members. 

ARTICLE IV deals with other church officers:

Sec. 1: Church clerk (who takes minutes at business meetings); 

Sec. 2: Church treasurer (who deals with our finances)

Sec. 3: The Moderator (in the absence of the pastor, the moderator at business meetings will be the chairman of the deacons)

Sec. 4: The Church Trustees (whose signatures are required for church legal documents, to buy & sell property)

Sec. 5: Deacons: their duties and scriptural qualifications 

Letter A deals with Deacon Nomination — which we just amended in December, to streamline and simplify the process. 

Letter B deals with men who have been deacons at other churches; they can be voted in as deacons here after a year of church membership, and examination by our Deacon Qualifying Committee.

ARTICLE VI is on the Church Council, an important group in our church, that consists of our church staff, and the chairmen of several committees. They represent our congregation, and are sounding board for me as pastor as we move forward with plans and activities and ministries.

Article VII Church Ordinances: Baptism & the Lord’s Supper as we discussed in our Baptist Faith & Message session.

Article VIII deals with church meetings: that we will have worship services on Sundays, and business meetings each QUARTER and as needed. 

Article IX is on Church Finance; that we’ll have a yearly budget (more on that in just a minute)

And Article XI on Amending these bylaws; like the Constitution, the bylaws can be amended after being read in two consecutive business meetings, and then voted on in the 2nd one. 

So that’s a brief summary of our Constitution & Bylaws; if you have any questions, feel free to ask me about them. But let’s move on now to the next major section, our FINANCES: 


FBCA is supported by the freewill tithes and offerings of its members. We don’t “bill” our members (I actually heard of a church that sends out “bills” to their members listing what they are supposed to give! We don’t do that!) Giving is entirely voluntary, but It is vital that each member realize our responsibility to give to support the work of the church. We do believe the minimum Biblical starting place for giving is 10% (called the “tithe”) giving God back the first 10% of everything He gives us, as a recognition that it all comes from Him. We also receive a number of special offerings above & beyond our regular tithes: for missions, building, benevolence needs of members, and so on.

Our church has a very “above board” financial process.  We have a budget that is presented to the church each year for approval in our Annual Church Business Conference, in December. You should have a copy of a recent financial report (last Sept just for EX).Let’s look at those together for a moment:  


— On the top left is some of the most important summary information: what we received that month in tithes, and what we spent in expenditures. You can see that in Sept. 2022 we took in $58,833 and spent $58,106, so our balance went up $776 in September.  Then just right of that you see the YTD # (year to date) that for the YEAR to date we were 23,629 to the good.  

— Under that, in the middle of the page, you can see the list of DESIGNATED ACCOUNTS: money members have given to special things like Acts 1:8, various missions, etc. At the bottom of the page you can see that at that time we had given $72,199 for the new fellowship hall. 

— Then if you turn the page, you can see the detailed monthly expenses. These 2 pages have our yearly budget on it, with the amount that has been spent that month, and for the year to date.  

FOR EXAMPLE: just take the first line under EXPENSES:

Baptist General Convention of Texas: you can see we gave $1500 this month (September), actual this year to date 13,500, with 18,000 budgeted for the year. In the same way you can see what has been budgeted, and spent, for each category line of our budget.  

If you’ll look on the back page, next to bottom line, you can see we spent 58,106.81 that month of Sept, the next line tells you we spent 506,853.37 for the YEAR so far; and the next line says the total budget for 2022 was 821,171.    (And FYI Our budget for 2023 is 887,363) 

I know there’s a lot of numbers there; if you need some help, ask me, or one of our Finance Committee members, or Kim Head, chairman.  

So how does this budget come together? Each year, all the different ministers and ministries of the church submit to the Finance Committee the amount they are requesting for their budget lines. Then the Finance Committee meets and considers each request, how it fits into the budget they feel like the Lord has for us as a whole, and they may approve the request, or trim it if necessary to fit into an overall budget picture. We need to pray for our Finance Committee each fall as they prepare the budget for the following year. We are grateful for the good work they do! 

Now let’s talk about where some of our money goes, to our mission partners:


We mentioned the SBC Cooperative Program last week, how it is basically the Baptist “United Way” that each church contributes to, and which supports missionaries starting new churches in Texas, North America, and 3700 missionaries in 185 countries all over the world. If you look on your budget sheet, you can see that FBCA currently gives $1500 each month to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, as well as $1500 to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and $1500 to the GCBA, to cooperate with other Southern Baptist churches to do ministry and start churches here in Brazoria County and throughout Texas. So we give $4500 a month to our Southern Baptist Convention mission partnerships.

As we shared last week, FBCA also supports several missions directly. If you look on the back page you can see those:  

— We send $2083 per month to ACS, our Christian school just across the parking lot that our church started in 2005.

— We give $200 a month to the Bulgaria mission, Texas Port Ministry, $500 to Back2Back (Dan Shuman); and we were giving $200 to India, but as they are training 80 new pastors this year to start new churches, we increased that for 2023 to $400 per month to India missions.

So you can see that we support a LOT of mission work; you can have the confidence that every time you give a dollar to First Baptist Church, a good chunk of that dollar goes to mission work all over the world!

In addition to our regular budget, we receive special offerings:

Among them is GOD’S VISION IN ACTION. I shared previously how Rodney Bowman presented the vision some years ago to move the church to this location and begin a Christian school, which has come to pass. The major way this was funded was through a program called “God’s Vision In Action”: voluntary contributions by our church members on a weekly/monthly basis, that helped us buy this property and put money down on this building, and those gifts are now helping us to make the monthly payments on this building. As you can see on the budget sheet, we have started putting a portion of the building payments in our church budget each month, but still the biggest part of the payments we are making on this building come from members like you and me who give something extra each week or month through “God’s Vision In Action.” If you are not already, I hope you will pray about giving whatever amount God lays on your heart, to GVIA. As a church family, GVIA is our “house payment,” and we need all our church family members to help us make our house payment! 

We also have another major offering we receive each month, called the “ACTS 1:8 OFFERING.” Half of those offerings go to our Southern Baptist “Lottie Moon” offering that supports our 3700+ foreign missionaries; and much of the other half goes to help our own church members go on mission trips — like the trip Scott is leading this summer to Bulgaria. I know for me, for years it was hard to give as big a gift to Lottie Moon as I wanted to, in December, when you have so many other holiday expenses. But now, through giving monthly to our “Acts 1:8 Offering,” Cheryl & I give more to Lottie Moon than we were ever able to do just in December alone, by giving a little bit every month all year long. AND we’re helping our people go on mission trips as well!  So I hope you’ll consider giving whatever God lays on your heart to Acts 1:8, weekly or monthly. 

You can designate offerings to “God’s Vision In Action” or “Acts 1:8” on your check, or use one of the envelopes like you have with your handouts today, where you can write one check, but designate how much you want to go to each offering.

From time to time we have other special offerings: for example, many people are giving right now to help us finish our fellowship hall!  You may or may not know, that what you see of this building is only 2/3 completed — there is another 1/3 unfinished in back, that we can use to grow in the future — including a fellowship hall. We are working on moving forward with that, and many of our folks are giving towards that as well.  

OK, with those “nuts and bolts” financial details, we are nearing the conclusion of Session #4 of “Discovering FBCA”.  If you have completed all 4 sessions, you may be ready to make a commitment to church membership here. If you have missed a session or two, get with me and we’ll get you in a make-up session soon.  But if you have taken all 4 classes, and you feel like you are ready to do so, you can fill out the membership commitment form today. (There are some in the foyer) If you are not ready, and need to pray about it, or talk about it some more, you are very welcome to do that.  Let’s review the commitment form before we close:

FBCA Church Membership Commitment:  

I affirm that I have received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, that I have been baptized by immersion, and that I am in agreement with FBCA’s beliefs, purpose, mission, and policies.

To the best of my knowledge, I am being led by the Holy Spirit to unite with the First Baptist Angleton church family, to grow and to serve.  

I understand that my commitment as a member involves:

— assembling together regularly for worship (Hebrews 10:24-25)  

— participating in a small group for accountability, growth, and service (Heb. 10:24-25)

— using my gifts and abilities to minister and serve (I Peter 4:10)

— supporting the church financially (III John 8)  

— to the best of my ability, living a life worthy of a follower of Jesus and a member of the church (Eph. 4:1)

I understand that I may be removed from membership at FBCA if I am willingly inactive (not due to illness or circumstances beyond my control) in attendance and service, or if I blatantly disregard the doctrinal and moral standards of the church.

Signed: _____________________________________     Date: ________

Church membership is an important commitment; and it is not a commitment that should be taken lightly. But it is a commitment that you SHOULD make, once God makes His direction clear. We need to take God’s church, and God’s Kingdom work, seriously.

Max Barnett, who ministered to me while I was recuperating from my illness in Oklahoma, went on mission to Romania during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, meeting with Romanian young people in a camp in the mountains, not far from a Romanian army base, where no one would suspect they had the audacity to meet! 

Max said they had a great week with those young people sharing God’s Word, through an interpreter. The first day, I noticed a girl whose feet were wrapped, and I asked a leader what happened. I was told she got off a train 4 miles away and walked over the rocks. When she arrived, her feet were solid blisters. The parents didn’t want to know where the camp was in case the authorities tried to get them to reveal where we were.” (Max Barnett, The Possibilities of a Life,” p. 238)

There are Christians all over the world who are taking the Lord, and His church, a lot more seriously than we do. We have a lot to learn from them. 

We all need to be committed to a specific, local church family, where we are connected with other like-minded Christians, to worship and serve God and support His work in the world. If you believe like we do, and if God is leading you here, we would LOVE to have you join us here at First Baptist Angleton!  


— If the Lord is leading you to join FBC Angleton, and you have fulfilled the prerequisites we’ve talked about, we’d love to have you join. Take some time to fill out the membership commitment, and get that to me.

— But HAVE you fulfilled those requirements — especially, do you know Jesus is your Lord & Savior, and have you been baptized scripturally?  If not, you need to take those important steps today!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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