upper room daily devotions

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What happened to "covenant"?

Not that long ago I talked with a potential new member of my local congregation. During our talk, it became evident that this person wants to attend worship, has a belief in God, wants to grow deeper in his/her spirituality, and is finding a spiritual home in this church. But there is no desire to enter into membership through covenant. In another conversation with someone else, that person indicated a desire to join the church because she/he likes the congregation, but there was little interest in spiritual formation or discipleship. What has happened to the idea of membership in the local church.

Covenant is such a strong biblical principle. It undergirds all that we are as descendants of Abraham and Sarah. God has covenanted to be our God and we are to be God's people. In baptism we covenant to nurture one another and hold one another in prayer. In Holy Communion we remember God's faithful covenant with us and we pledge to go into the world as Christ's body, sealed in sacrament sent in service. Somewhere along the way, however, "covenant" seems to have lost its power in our lives. Whether it's covenanting with a partner or covenanting with a congregation, we have grown "covenant-shy." What happened? And, is there anyway to address this growing condition?

Alternately, there are those who simply want to belong regardless of the "terms" of the covenant. Evidently, the specifics of the covenant don't really mean anything as long as the person gets the "card" and "belong." While I understand the pull to community and the power of friendship, there are other places to "belong." So the question remains: why would someone want to covenant with people around beliefs that are, if not meaningless, not compelling?

Or...am I the only one who notices that we appear to want to stay a bit on the fringes of relationships rather than deeply transformed by them?


RevErikaG said...

I've noticed the same trend...not only about membership (discipleship), but about other covenants like marriage. When you truly explain the depth and blessing and challenge of covenant, people seem to back away with their hands in the air.
There is a sense of wanting to belong without having to invest or be held accountable...as if the ego/esteem can't handle it....
Tough issue for those of us trying to encourage people to make a commitment to a God of love and grace that truly wants to deepen that relationship....

rev katie m ladd said...

Too right. Thanks for your comment. And yet churches that promote and expect accountability are the ones growing (statistically). Interesting seemingly contradictory information, isn't it?

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