Everyone has an idea or definition of what a church is. There are many who don’t want any part of any church because of the experiences they had in one. It seems the actions of many have tainted the true definition of what the Church is.
First, the Church is not just a group of people who attend together. The Church is foremost to be a ‘covenant community.‘ This is a community that has committed to the growth, provision, and care of all its members. When we realize that we are actually called to do more than just meet with each other that we can begin to understand why some people leave in search of something more meaningful. If we begin to think of ourselves as a covenant community we can see how how so many scriptures begin to take on their full meaning.
Scripture tells us that there are things we must do for each other. The first one, which us the foundation, is love. Jesus even said, ‘ ‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’ John 13:35 (NLT) Sadly this is not what many faith communities are known for. However, It must to be the goal of the Church. If we are known for something else, before this one, we are wrong and in error. We are commanded to love. ‘Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.’ 2 John 1:6 (NLT)
Love is completely necessary if we are going to enter into a covenant community because the truth is, it is not easy to love everyone. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. We need to ask God to increase it in our lives. We need it if we are going to work out of pure and Godly motives. In 1 John 3:16 we read, ‘We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.‘ (NLT) If we just got this one part right the Church would be the place where covenant community would work
In the Scripture we are told a story of what a covenant looks like. It is the story of two young men, David and Jonathan. One who was to be king, and one who was the son of the present king, Saul. After the success David had fighting giants and many other foes, Saul became jealous to the point he tried to kill David. However, David and Jonathan became friends. In I Samuel we read, ‘After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself.’ (NLT)
True covenants, and covenant communities, work because they are birthed in love. Jonathan vowed to try and keep David from harm and he did just that on many occasions. The covenant they made meant Jonathan actually lived out what it means to lay down one’s live for another. Consider though that Jonathan knew the stories that his own father had heard about David. Yes Saul had killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands. By remaining in this covenant and protecting David, Jonathan would have had to have known that it may cause himself never be king. Church is meant to be free of self serving, selfish ambition, and people seeking power. We are a community of serving, love, and dedicated to the success of those around us.
A covenant community is one that is expressed through relationship with other people. It is possible to attend church services and never be in this type of community. If any generation missed out on the opportunity of being in this type of faith community then they have missed out on seeing the full picture of what the Church is. They are actually being robbed of the healing and growth that occurs when confession and then forgiveness takes place.
Imagine instead of the judgement so may have found inside church walls they discovered people who would, ‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.’ Colossians 3:13 (NLT) In covenant communities there is a true understanding of what it means to be the family of God. These communities, just like families, accept the imperfections and uniqueness of its own members, while helping them to grow.
In covenant we even surround the weak and the new. All members are valued, important, and needed. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, ‘So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.’ (NLT) The Church is a place of growth. This happens through the work of the Spirit, the teaching we receive, and through the prayer and encouragement of others. Hebrews 10:24 says, ‘Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.’ (NLT) The Church is a place to be lifted up, encouraged, built up, pushed, and sent.
The Church and the covenant community it is, is in fact, beautiful. It is what so many are longing for. They have heard about it. They have read about. They have dreamed about it. For many it has been elusive and they are unsure if it even exists. Our goal needs to be to help connect this generation to a place where the Church is living as a covenant community. Start by being the Church.
—————————————————————————————————————————————- David Sawler is the lead pastor of Lighthouse Community Church in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and the author of numerous books such as Goodbye Generation and The Disciple. His latest project called Before You Say Goodbye is a fully web-interactive book for youth and young adults.