Is “church covenant” still a thing?
For those people who are true followers of Christ, becoming a member of a church is biblical and imperative, not optional. Every Christian should be excited about becoming a member of a church asking just how can they use their time, talents, and treasure for the sake of reaching the lost… so that other people can also hear the life changing Gospel of Christ, because it is the power of salvation for all who believe. That’s what the story should look like, but instead we have one of “musical chairs” in which people shuffle from one church to another for a season, then on to another, under the assumption that so long as they’re in a church on Sunday, they’re good. That couldn’t be farther from the truth!
When the Apostle Paul wrote his epistles, he often referred to specific groups of people who formed churches. For instance, he wrote the following:
- To the church of God at Corinth… (1 Corinthians 1:2)
- To the churches of Galatia… (Galatians 1:2)
- To the church of the Thessalonians in God… (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
- To Philemon our dear friend… and the church that meets in your house… (Philemon 1:1-2)
The Apostle Paul was writing to a group of people committed to these churches, people that were sold out for the advancement of the Gospel. In the early church, there was much hard work to reconcile Jews and Gentiles, to set aside cultural differences for the sake of drawing folks to Christ and His Gospel message of salvation… but today? Today we have people leaving churches over their position on the use of masks, vaccinations, and political parties. Today we have people leaving churches over religious liberties being expressed, “I don’t want to be around people that drink alcohol…” Well, at our Reformed church we use wine for communion every Sunday, so I don’t know what to tell you.
The Church has become like Chipotle, where you create your church as you would a burrito bowl, that’s how folks want it, a custom ordered church… and if you put onions in it and they don’t like them, POOF, just like that, they’re gone. It makes no difference how much time the church has invested in them, it makes no difference how many people will be hurt with their departure. Something rubbed them the wrong way, someone looked at them the wrong way, didn’t let them do this or that, preached too long, preached too short, had too much doctrine or too little doctrine in the sermon, too many groups or not enough groups… the case in point being, people are not sticking around to fight for their church. They give up way too quickly and leave for insignificant, nonbiblical issues.
It is a sad thing as we compare the modern church to the early church. Folks would sell all their possessions for the sake of ministry as we see in Acts 2:45, but today we see people church hopping, not committing for long periods of time, or even at all. The modern church has gone from dying for Christ to not even being willing to be discomforted for His sake. This sad fact makes one think, do these folks even really know Jesus… how does one explain Galatians 6:2 and the instruction to bear one another’s burdens yet be willing to leave a church for minor issues, that are more subjects of personal choice than biblical or sinful matters.
Churches have different methods to become members, for us its an 8 week class, in which we hope will demonstrate a person’s commitment to understand our story, understand our theology/ doctrine, our mission/ values, as well as their commitments as a member coming into covenant. Because we’re a church that bears our theological position in our name “Reformed Church of Los Angeles”, it can draw certain kinds of persons. Some of these people are amazing Jesus loving folk who want to serve His church and our community. But sometimes it draws in problematic people… many problems… After the 8-week class, we publicly receive folks as members and ask them questions, including this one:
“Do you promise to accept the spiritual guidance of the church, to walk in a spirit of Christian love with this congregation, and to seek those things that make for unity, purity, and peace?”
This all sounds good in theory, but in many churches, it is good, at least until something happens that rubs someone the wrong way. Until something doesn’t go their way, until this, that or the other… everything starts coming under a magnifying glass in which pretexts are being sought out to use and justify an imminent departure. The Lord is no longer deemed worthy enough for differences to be put to the aside and instead the mission of the church reached by fighting for it. All Christians stand upon the Scripture where Christ calls us to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23) but there are many that won’t even be discomforted let alone deny self or carry their cross, it’s more of a hypothetical understanding.
My brother and partner in crime Rev. Chris Márquez posted an image about a year ago that clearly specifies what it is that all followers of Jesus must do. And I’m confident that every Christian will affirm those things, that is at least until something doesn’t go their way. The modern Church should look back to our history and see how the church has always fought for truth, fought for each other, and never divided on small issues that were personal preferences.
Pre-existing tertiary doctrinal issues or religious liberties shouldn’t be an issue (Romans 14). Things like tattoos, alcohol, smoking, dancing, and music are not reasons to divide over nor reasons to leave a church. Heresy being taught, orthodoxy being abandoned, getting kicked out, or the Gospel not being preached are legit reasons. The body needs people of all shapes, sizes, and colors to help it grow by giving of their time, talents, and treasures for the glory of God. To exalt the name of the risen Christ is what every believer should strive for… and as a church planting pastor, it’s always sad when you see or hear of people walking away from their church for minor issues.
So friend, if you’re reading this… don’t give up on your church, don’t give up on your pastor, but above all, don’t give up on the people that God has called you to help reach in the community He’s placed you, with the ministry He’s called you to, and with the gifts He’s given you to steward. Fight for your church, don’t give up on your brothers and sisters, don’t leave your team hanging, and above all… keep Christ where He needs to be, at the center of your decisions. Would Jesus smile at you in approval for leaving your church, or would He frown? He endured the passion… the burden of carrying the Cross after having been beaten almost to death, He suffered the pangs of hell on the Cross… for you… please give His sacrifice more attention than your personal discomfort.
Since God has called you to a local church, make sure you commit to it. Make sure you become a member there, support it and its mission, speak well of it, invite your friends to it, fight for it, encourage your brothers/ sisters, pray for it, give to it, and most importantly, honor the covenant you’ve made with it.
Another reason people leave churches often is that their sin catches up to them, and rather than deal with it, they’ll go somewhere else and start off fresh. No one knows, they play it off like they’re super spiritual, all holier than thou… and then when it comes up, and folks find out, they bounce… again. If that’s you, stop running, if you really love Jesus, let Him help you through your struggles, but He’s gonna use the local church for that, so stop running. It’s ok if you’re not perfect, none of us are… so there’s no need to fake the funk. Christ will still love you, and so will His bride!
Church covenant is still, very much a thing. Honor it, respect it, do your part, and give Christ your absolute best… He deserves nothing less than that. He gave His very best, for our very worst… never forget that… ever! God be with you!