I grew up in a very large, “mega”church. By contrast I am now part of what would be considered by most standards a small church. In fact my current church’s average attendance is probably less than the number of attendees in my ninth grade Sunday school department!
I love my small church and while I certainly hope and pray for the Lord to grow us numerically even as He continues to grow us spiritually I love that we are small, that we know each other so well, that my kids are learning from a cross-generational body of believers, and that for all our individual weaknesses and idiosyncrasies we love each other and encourage one another and sharpen one another. We are family in the good, the bad and the ugly.
And, yes, sometimes there’s ugly. Because we are in community, a close community at that, not to mention a close community comprised of sinners, all of us, well, sometimes we misunderstand each other, sometimes feelings get hurt, sometimes one or the other of us will drive someone else crazy. It happens. We’re family.
But also like family we are bound together by something far stronger than mere miscommunication can break. The blood of Christ binds us and keeps us in covenant with Him and with each other. Covenant sounds like a strangely old fashioned term, and maybe it is, but the promises we make to each other–our covenant–hold us to each other.
We have a formal, written covenant in which the promises we make to each other as a body of believers before the Lord are clearly spelled out. We recite our covenant aloud at least once a month corporately in our worship service, just before we observe the Lord’s supper. Like a covenant itself this practice may seem strangely old fashioned and rather liturgical, and maybe it is, but again the promises we make to each other, and audibly recite alongside each other, hold us to each other.
In our covenant we make promises to the Lord and to our fellow church members about what we will do and how we will act and I am always humbled as I say these things aloud. I see the weight and the privilege of the promise and I am thankful for grace, the grace of the Lord and the grace of my church family, both having promised to love and care and encourage and confront and seek my good.
I love my church. I love my Lord. I love that He has granted me, us, my family, the privilege of serving Him alongside this group of redeemed sinners who love me and love Him.
To God be the glory in His church!
If you are interested, here is my church’s covenant in its entirety.
The Basis for our joining together as members is our relationship with God the Father through the work of his son Jesus Christ communicated to us by the Holy Spirit.
As a member, I joyfully agree to walk together with the members of this church by making the following commitments:
- I will rejoice in the grace of God, privately and corporately giving thanks to our heavenly Father for the sacrifice of his son Jesus, for the forgiveness of our sins, and for the gift of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to believe and live for the glory of God.
- I will live together with my brothers and sisters in love, just as God has loved us. I will seek their good through forming relationships that promote holiness, discipleship, worship, and sound doctrine.
- I will, as God enables me, care for my brothers and sisters in Christ in distress, sickness and poverty.
- I will not neglect to meet together in corporate worship and in small group fellowship in those settings that the church provides.
- I will devote myself to the study of Scripture and to prayer both privately and through group contexts.
- I will seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ through seeking progressive growth in holiness through the application of the means of grace as taught in Scripture.
- I will seek to advance the proclamation of the gospel through those relationships God has afforded me in my family, my workplace, and my community, and support those whom the church sends to proclaim the gospel beyond our locale.
- I will seek to serve the church’s ministries through regular giving of my time, effort, and money.
- I will pursue reconciliation when offense occurs between myself and another member, and I will reject all opportunities to speak or to hear gossip or slander.
- I will watch out for church members and admonish anyone whose practice of sin requires it. If one of our number requires corporate discipline, I will support the efforts and direction of the church, as led by its elders, to call that member to repent of his sins. I agree with the church’s doctrine and practice of church discipline.
- I will promote marriage as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with his church and bring up any children God gives me in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
- I will, if I move from this place, unite with some other church where I can carry on the spirit of this agreement and the teaching of God’s Word.