We view Covenant Membership as a commitment between Christians to care for one another, do life together, and unite under a particular church leadership. In our Covenant Membership course, we spend one whole session considering 8 expectations that we have for our members. This is part one in an eight part series that will look at each of these expectations individually. Click here for more information on what we believe about Covenant Membership.
I will study the Scripture and seek to live in alignment with how God calls me to live.
All communities must be built on a common understanding of what life in the community will look like. Even those people who would consider themselves cultural relativists believe that it is the agreed upon values of a particular culture or society that sets the social standard, and not individual belief systems or values. Part of being in a community is having a shared value system that dictates how members in the community behave.
At Restore, we believe that it is God who sets the standard for how we should live, a standard that he has revealed to us most clearly through the person of Jesus Christ. This standard has been revealed to us in the Bible. Not only does the Bible describe the standard for us, but all of the Bible, from first to last, is centered on Jesus as the complete fulfillment of God's standards and the one who enables us to live according to the standard as well. In other words, the Bible is the guide by which we can determine how we, individually and collectively, are called to live. Every Covenant Member agrees that if we want to know what God desires for us, we must turn to the Bible to find out.
Furthermore, every Covenant Member agrees that the goal of our fellowship is to help one another live in alignment with how God calls us to live. We use that word "alignment" very intentionally. Imagine that the tires on your car have come out of alignment. The car will still go relatively straight, but the tendency is to veer off the road in one direction or the other. That's sort of like the Christian life. Although we are empowered because of Jesus, and because of the Holy Spirit, to live according to the standards of God, we are still going to swerve off the proper path. The goal of Christian community is to redirect one another back to God's standards; it's to loving bring one another back into alignment with how God calls us to live.
This is key to our understanding of the good news of Jesus. We believe that the Christian person no longer lives under the condemnation of failure, or inability to meet the law. Instead, we live under the freedom of Jesus' perfect fulfillment, and his perfect grace towards us. The "law" of God is no longer "law" to us; instead it is the natural path that the free person walks when they understand the goodness of God. We believe that the Christian person is actually empowered to live according to this standard. When a believer does act contrary to that standard, we consider it more like coming out of alignment with how God has called us to live, rather than coming completely unhinged. To go back to the analogy I used earlier, it's more like your car's alignment than it is like a train coming off the tracks into disaster.
As a church, the common foundation of the Bible clarifies what we agree on, and what we can disagree on. What we can agree on, because we have already agreed to take the Bible seriously. What we can disagree on, because if we do take it seriously, we recognize that if the Bible is relatively silent on an issue, that typically means that we are free to choose what we think is in the best interest of the Kingdom or of our own spiritual growth. (This is described in more detail under "our beliefs". We call areas of agreement essentials and areas of disagreement non-essentials.)
This common understanding is also in part what gives the Elders any type of authority within the church. Covenant Membership is agreeing to unite under a particular church leadership; we ought to ask what that leadership believes about life and how God has called us to live. We agree that it is the Bible, and not our opinions, that set the standard for how we are called to live. Part of the elders calling is to take the Bible seriously and help us all apply it in the context of our daily lives. When we agree to unite under church leadership, we do so believing that the leadership is doing their best to accurately apply what the Bible actually says; they don't act on their own authority, but on the authority of what God has made clear.
The beauty of being a Christian in the 21st century is that God's revealed will in the Bible is available to nearly every person on the planet, and almost certainly available to everyone who is reading this. That means that even as we submit to local church leadership, we have access to the same word of God that they do; even though there is authority and submission, it is held in check by our common foundation of God's word, revealed to all.