The question should never be whether or not you attending a church. Attending does not ensure spiritual growth, involvement, or your desire to be there. The question needs to be, ‘are you living out your faith within a community of friends?’ It isn’t just about the location, style, or traditions of your particular church. It is about, ‘are we growing, moving, and becoming more like Jesus together?’
The Church is meant to be a ‘covenant community.‘ This is a group of people which has committed itself to the growth, provision, and care of all its members. If we begin to think of ourselves as a covenant community we can see the real meaning of scriptures which speak about the Church.
As an example the Bible tells us there are things Christians ‘must’ do for each other. The first one, which is the foundation for the rest, is love. Jesus said, ‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’ (John 13:35) Many faith communities are not known for being loving, but it has to be our goal to be known for that. If we’re known for something else, before this one, we are dead wrong and need to change. Loving others is not presented as an option for anyone who says they are a Christ follower. 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).
If we are going to enter into a covenant community, we need love because the truth is, it’s not easy to love everyone. It is something we need to ask God to increase in our lives, groups, and churches. We need it if we are going to work out of pure and Godly motives. 1 John 3:16 says, ‘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.‘
There is a story in the Old Testament that shows us what a covenant looks like. It is the story of two young friends, David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul. After the success David had fighting Goliath 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.’ (18:1-3)
Jonathan vowed to try and keep David from harm, even from his own father and he did just that on many occasions. The covenant they shared meant Jonathan lived out what it meant to lay down one’s life for another.
Consider this. Jonathan also heard what was being said about David. People all over were saying, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.’ By remaining in his covenant with David and protecting him, Jonathan had to have known he may never be king. Church is meant to be free of self serving, selfish ambition, and people seeking power. We should be a community of serving, love, and dedication to the success of those around us. This is Church.
In the New Testament we read ‘They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved’ Acts 2:46-47. It is impossible to be with people continually, to share with each other, and be generous without connecting with them. Just like Jesus spent time with His own disciples, the early believers continued this practice of being together in community. There would have been time listening, ministering, teaching, eating, laughing, crying, and living life.
A covenant community is expressed through living a life of faith with other people. Sadly, it is possible to attend a church and not be in this type of community at all. This is one reason young people leave their churches, looking for it in other places. So scripture teaches we are to be in it because people long for it. The Church should also be a place where you can be real. Just as the disciples could ask questions and have discussion, you should as well. It should also be a place where you can pour into people, and people will pour into you. It is a place that should be so safe you can ‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ James 5:16a (NLT)
If your generation misses out on the opportunity of being in this type of faith community they will have missed out on seeing the full picture of what the Church is. They are being robbed of the healing and growth that occurs when confession and forgiveness happen. Imagine instead of the judgment so many have found inside church walls, you discover 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. Covenant communities, just like families, accept the imperfection and uniqueness of its own members.
In covenant communities we surround the weak and the new. Every person is valued, important, and needed. Hebrews 10:24 says, ‘Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.’ Our church community should be a place where we are lifted up, encouraged, built up, pushed, and sent. It also teaches us our responsibility to do that for others.
The Church as a covenant community is something beautiful. I believe it’s what most of us really want in a Church community. It is what we need. If you don’t find it in your present community, it is highly unlikely you will be there in the future.
Our goal needs to be to connect with a community like this. To find a place where you are encouraged, prayed for, where you can be discipled, and where you can serve. A place where you can live out the scriptures we just read. It can simply begin with you and one person deciding to, ‘Be the Church.’