covenant vs membership

November 2, 2005

I’m recently become aware of two churches who are using the language of “covenant” rather than “membership” to define their church community.

In August, Dean and I had lunch with Caesar Kalinowski from Soma Church. They had just that week begun inviting their church community into a covenant relationship with each other. I can’t do a direct link to it, but the language of their covenant can be found through the navigation menu on their site.

Then, yesterday, I listened to the Members’ Meeting of Mars Hill in MIchigan. (SSSHHH, don’t tell them, because I’m not a member.) They too are beginning the process of moving away from the idea of membership to the language of covenant.

Since Pathways is brand new, we have nothing close to formal membership, and we haven’t even began to talk about it. I do like the idea of covenant over membership. “Membership” implies that someone is joining an organization. “Covenant”, however, emphasizes the fact that you are entering into a relational commitment with a community of people who are in mission together. Most churches are, in fact, a formal organization, but wouldn’t we be better off finding language to emphasize the relational perspectve rather than the institutional realities of a church?

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