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 support my fellow members and the leadership of Restore and will refrain from gossip and slander.
One of the quickest ways to ensure that a community is destroyed is to talk poorly about other members or the leadership of the community when they are not around. Dissension breeds dissension. What begins as a mild complaint can quickly spiral into bitterness, and bitterness in turn can lead to factions. Soon, a culture that was built on trust is tightly controlled and manipulated by distrust. Nothing is further from what the community of God is supposed to look like than a distrustful, infighting group of people.
There is nothing more destructive to the body than a consistent chatter happening in the background about this persons performance or that persons choices. Instead of creating an environment of freedom and grace, it creates an environment of laws and regulations. Committing to do life together, and committing to organize under a particular leadership, also means that we are committing to live with one another's occasional missteps and flaws.
We expect that there will be disagreements within the body. There will be times where another covenant member, or the leadership of the church, makes a decision that we don't agree with. Our mandate to covenant members is that if those things occur, and they are "offended" by a brother or sister, they handle it in a biblically appropriate way. First, they go to them and talk to them about it. If the issue can't be resolved with a one on one conversation, it might be helpful to have a mediator present. If that doesn't work, the issue can be brought up with the Elders to have them resolve the issue as the ones in charge of the spiritual oversight of the church. The goal is always reconciliation.
The expectation that we would not gossip and slander–coupled with the belief that covenant membership is a commitment to one another as much as it's a commitment to a particular local church–means that we give authority to covenant members to stop gossip and slander right in it's tracks if they hear it. Not only should hey not be participating, but if they hear someone else engaging in it, they have the authority to ask them to refrain and to handle the situation appropriately by going to the person that they have been offended by.
In much the same way that we don't expect there to ever be disagreements within the body, we also don't expect that every Covenant Member is going to love every decision that is made by the leadership. For one, our leaders are human and they are going to make mistakes. But even if a particular decision isn't a mistake, we may not particularly like it. That's okay! A grace-filled community can handle mistakes or choices that seem difficult at the time. What's not okay is engaging in gossip and slander rather than addressing it head on. We believe that leadership is a gift to the church, and work hard to make sure that the leaders that are in place are the ones that God desires to be there.
Finally, there may come a time when we find that we no longer love the church, or we can no longer support the leadership. That's okay, too. One of the things that we emphasize from the first time a person visits the church is that we want Restore to be a community that they love, feel welcomed at, and are being spiritually nourished through. We genuinely desire that all believers should find a community where those things are true, and if that's not Restore, then we'll happily recommend other churches in the area that we partner with to help find a church home. We don't take offense if that place is not Restore! Our deeper motivation is that people would be in a place that they can throughoughly enjoy and that is life-giving to them.
The final act of Covenant Membership is signing the covenant membership agreement, that we agree, with our signature and with our lives, to fulfill the expectations of membership to the best of our ability. Right on that agreement it says that when we leave Restore Church, we will promptly find another church where we can commit in the same spirit that we have committed to Restore. There are many reasons that the local church exists, but doing life together in a community that we love is the one that encourages us in the Christian life. We want that for all believers, with a group of people and with a leadership that they can trust. To that end, we commit with one another that Restore won't be a place where gossip and slander would threaten to destroy that community that Jesus gave his life to build.