Covenant Church Membership

I’ve written that my wife and I and family have been at a new church since Easter. I’ve posted a sermon or two. Ive written that I ran smack into some male supplicants at a seminar called 33, and that we joined a small group where a woman badly disrespects her husband openly, while he is the supposed leader of the group, and a Vietnam Veteran and retired commercial pilot. Ive written about the expository preaching that I like so much, and how the church is smallish and not prone (yet) to churchianity, indeed openly using that term derisively from the pulpit.

Well, today we started the obligatory new member orientation. Its shocking how solid this church seems on things.

Without apology or equivocation they spoke of church discipline, of male headship, and of what I wanted to describe here as covenant membership. What this means is they will throw people out, and they have done so. They follow the redemptive model of church correction, they do not give up easily, but when push comes to shove, they will not have the body corrupted. So, they excommunicate so to speak.

The result I can see at this early date is that the class we took today was a vetting. I’d wager that half or more who attended will not be back. I can probably tell you which ones.

They asked us, “how did you end up here?”. Around he room it went. There were maybe 12 couples. I heard one woman say she had 2 kids, she was a college student (no ring) and she was looking for a good place for the kiddos. Another said she liked the location. yet another said they were running from what she called a “too conservative church”. yet another women said her husband died 6 years ago, and she had her two boys with her in the room. I bet she stays.

Invariably people answer that question with programs and promises. Later, as they heard about the commitment, it may have seemed like the church was going to ask a lot of them! Whoa…..

It seemed too harsh, expecting too much from people. hence, the church boasts a whopping 260 covenant members, and it is 7 years old. I’m not a creed maker or church worshiper. Far from it. But I am liking this way of doing church very much and am looking forward to my increased involvement. I have not felt this way about corporate gatherings in a long time. I am hopeful. I don’t get that a lot when it comes to things like the church.

I am a firm believer in being in a church as part of our Christian experience, I believe it is prescribed biblically, if not explicitly. Because it is actually more than explicitly prescribed. It is presumed. Whole chapters make no sense if we exclude the necessity of church. This puts The Personal Jesus in a new light. That is a good thing.


18 thoughts on “Covenant Church Membership

  1. Without having a clear boundary of what is acceptable behavior it is not a “church” at all, it’s a social club. Without order then anybody can do anything and still be a member in good standing, lassiez faire nonsense is the epitome of modern day “Churchianity”. That orientation should thin the herd, it sounds like a herd in need of thinning.

  2. We got kicked out of a church once because we didn’t speak in tongues. Mind you, we’d been there six months & already had a bible study in our home during the week. They hasn’t realized apparently that we had this deficiency and we hadn’t realized it was a deal breaker.

  3. We got kicked out of a church once because we didn’t speak in tongues.

    I have some friends who attended a church where they put all children in an intensive class the goal of which was to “get their tongues”. Unless and until they did, they were relegated to the kids group. If ultimately they didn’t get it, they were not considered members.
    This is a peeve.
    Do these people not realize the perverse incentive to pretend? Do they not see the crowds falling as Benny Hinn waves his white jacket and they are all, row by row, “slain in the spirit”?
    This obsession with experiential worship is not that many degrees from the experiential worship of the churchians whose goal may be The Personal Jesus and an empathy experience, but its just as emotionally driven.
    I always thought we had faith in the unseen, and if we were blessed enough to have a human manifested experience (experiential) with the living God how wonderful. I was always uncomfortable that God kept the same schedule as the 1st-assembly-pentecostal-fellowship-spirit filled-holy ghost-church of the charismata
    IAL I agree whole heartedly. I am so encouraged and not from the standpoint that I get to watch others get spanked, but that i have even more accountability to do what is right and glorifies The Lord. We all need that. Minus the church….where does it even come from unless we are lone rangers of perfection

  4. Ahem, I got my “tongues” after watching a Benny Hinn sermon (believe it or not). I have everything I need as far as education to get ordained into the Assembly of God where they teach that speaking in tongues is THE evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Honestly I always disagreed (and I ALWAYS thought that Hinn was atrocious). I’ve been over the range from being raised by hippies who converted to a pietist plain folk Church where they showed no display of emotion whatsoever in worship up to having a Todd Bentley proselyte “lay hands” on me and pray for “fire”. I always appreciated the pietists for their closed order, I appreciated my friends in the AG for the open Church format and their starting me down the path towards New Covenant theology.

    I know what you are saying E about “experiential worship” and the tingles down our spine so that we feel close to God but I do know that He does touch us through our emotion and He does speak in a still small voice. If we enter into His rest and get that peace that transcends understanding (that sounds pretty experiential) then I find that we can hear that voice and have communion with the Spirit. I know we need to seek him with our whole heart and keep asking our loving Father for more of Him. That is what prompted me to have the faith to ask after watching Hinn preach some 20 years ago, and I haven’t regretted it ever. Hey, if God can speak through one ass, why can’t He speak through another?

  5. Oh, yeah. As far as the Church goes, that is the body of Christ. Anybody that takes orders and is in right standing with the Head, Jesus Christ is in “the Church”. Anyone that isn’t is not, whether their name is still on the roll or not. We need to recognize His body wherever it is, that is the Church. I think distinguishing Churchianity from the Church is the trick, but it’s getting easier all the time.

  6. It’s great that you guys found a good church. We’re at a church where the teaching is solid, but the membership is large, so there is really any true accountability there.

    Relationships are fairly shallow as well. None of the couples we are in close relationship go to our church. I have always thought that a little strange.

  7. Really pleased for you, Empath.that you have found a church that takes Christianity seriously. This is far more difficult than one would expect.

    @Elspeth Have you and your husband considered approaching the pastor to ask about starting a house group with people from your neighbourhood. I have found that it has taken some time, but now everyone in the house group I attend sees it as a distinct sub-group within the church and we do look out for each other, to the extent that one Sunday I had a couple of calls when I was not very well and Gabriella was working because we had not forewarned members of the group that we would be absent. I have found that it helps because it also gives an informal pastoral network that is good for everyone, and often can escalate matters faster than the formal pastoral system in our congregation.

    The congregation congratulates itself because it has some 30% of its members participating in mid-week small groups, but i see this as 70% failure to participate in small groups, which are the only places to get to know people and to deepen relationships.

  8. Actually no, Fred. We’ve never considered that. I’ll mention it to the master of the house, though.

    Thanks for the suggestion. If he likes, the next trick is getting an appointment with the pastor, 😉 .

  9. Empath:
    Actually, it sounds like this church is taking the same approach Christ did in establishing the Church. Remember, that Christ gathered around him a set of apostles whom he groomed for future leadership, while explaining to the masses His doctrines in parables. This was the same format that the ancient Greeks also used, with great effectiveness.

  10. All this is a huge reversal for us. While always having concerns about airy sermons, we were so deeply involved that we failed to realize what that or was not happening at the large church in TX. And it was a bit intoxicating to have been part of a small group that grew to 20,000 over 15 years.
    Now its exciting to join with 260 people who are trying as best we can to be a church and have relationship with one another far more deeply, even to the point of discipline

  11. 20,000? Wow. I know how difficult it is to really see any kind of connection (and forget discipline) in a church of 2,000.

    We are heavily involved in the homeless ministry, as the county’s biggest shelter is walking distance from the house where husband grew up and he feels strongly about ministering to the forgotten people.

    But outside of what’s happening in that particular ministry, we rarely have a clue what’s going on with the people there.

  12. The downside I’ve seen with closed fellowships is the tendency to drift into exclusivity. The sense that everyone that is in fellowship is okay and being out is equated to “you’re going to hell”. It creates an immense social pressure to conform and create problems of it’s own. Sometimes the order becomes so strong that it is more about following and enforcing rules than it is about fellowship. When we meet together it needs to be so that we can fellowship with Christ, His person in His body, we lose sight of that so easily both in closed and open fellowship.

  13. The sense that everyone that is in fellowship is okay and being out is equated to “you’re going to hell”.

    I’ve witnessed that as well, but the groups are usually smaller than 200 when I’ve seen it. That, and there is usually always some special “revelation” or interpretation of Scripture passages that is outside the traditional understanding of the Christian faith.

    Whenever someone comes along to tell me that everything we’ve ever understood about the Bible is wrong or even that a major tenet of the faith is not what it has always been taught to be, red flags go up for me.

    I’ve run across that at least 3 times in the past three years. This tells me that people are getting disillusioned with churchianity. which is good. But they latch on to any legalistic thing that sounds good to separate themselves from it substituting one lie for an even more dangerous one which is very bad.

  14. I’ve witnessed that as well, but the groups are usually smaller than 200 when I’ve seen it. That, and there is usually always some special “revelation” or interpretation of Scripture passages that is outside the traditional understanding of the Christian faith.

    I was raised Old Order German Baptist but this happens in the other communities I am familiar with such as Dunkards, Mennonites, and Amish. I’ve seen it in “hard-shell” Baptists and in Pentecostal groups. I’m not trying to rain on E’s day and as I said I like to see a Biblical approach to Church discipline, it just is a very hard balance to strike. I think that getting it right is completely dependent on people being dedicated to seeking after God and being as obedient as God’s grace allows them to be. We can only do this walk through Christ that strengthens us, order in itself is as poor of a replacement as anything. Even if everyone does precisely as the Bible says they would still be wrong if they don’t do it out of a hearing ear relationship and obedience to Jesus Christ as a real contemporary head, not as a historical figure. Historical Jesus is nice, but He isn’t LORD.

  15. You have taken the assumptions too far. Its not a closed fellowship in the sense you are saying, nor is it sort of exclusive in that one is in or out, as in hell

  16. Exactly. What good is fellowship if you are not held accountable? I’m a little jealous…Don’t tell the Father, lol. 😉

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