The Meaning of Covenant Church Membership an Introduction

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1 The Meaning of Covenant Church Membership an Introduction

2 INTRODUCTION To be a member of a Christian church is to live as a New Testament Christian. We live in a time when too many are saying that church membership is of little value since it is only joining the roster of a human organization. Such a view flatly contradicts the New Testament where, in every place, each believer is a covenanted part of a local Christian church. Further, that church is no human organization. In fact, it is the sacred body of Christ, which St. Paul even calls Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12. One who disdains covenanted membership in a local church shows disdain for Christ himself. But the Covenant Church has from the beginning called itself a believer s church. That is, its membership is open to all who know and trust Christ as Lord and Savior. If they are also willing to confess the Bible as God s Word, the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct, have been baptized according to Scripture, and desire to live a life of service, sacrifice, and fellowship then they may be part of a Covenant church. But to be a member of a Covenant church is to be more than a member of a local church. Covenant churches have formed a common covenant to obey Christ s mandate, Go and make disciples of all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19). The New Testament church organized itself to set doctrinal and moral standards, send missionaries, and plant churches (Acts 13,18). So the Covenant has also gathered churches in common faith and mission to do together in obedience to Christ what no single congregation could do separately. 2

3 CONTENTS To understand what it means to belong to the Church, we must first consider the question: What is the Church? The Church seems to be very much a part of our culture. How did the church come to be? Assuming a person would like to belong, how does one become a member of the Church? We should understand the responsibilities and privileges of Church membership. We shall now look specifically at the meaning of belonging to a Covenant church. 3

4 To understand what it means to belong to the Church, we must first consider the question What is the Church? 1. A CHURCH IS OFTEN THOUGHT OF AS A BUILDING When we speak of a church as a building, we mean that the building is merely the place where the church meets. A church is made up of people who gather in what has been called a local congregation. Romans 16:5; Philemon 2; Colossians 4: A CHURCH IS OFTEN THOUGHT OF AS A DENOMINATION By this we mean a body composed of many congregations who have banded together in a widespread organization based on their particular understanding of the Christian Faith or because of cultural or national ties. This still falls short of a true definition because all Christians belong to one body, which we call the Church, and a denomination is only a segment of this body. Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 3: THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY OF PEOPLE The whole Church is one family, and every local congregation is a family within the one family. Therefore, it is also proper to speak of a local congregation as a church. Matthew 12:46-50; 1 Corinthians 16: THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WITH A COMMON FAITH Those who belong to the Church believe in a God of love, who sent Jesus Christ to this world to invite people to trust in him for forgiveness and for a meaningful eternal life. Since they are not perfect, they may differ greatly in the details of their faith and practices; one of the disciplines of belonging to a congregation is to recognize their right to differ from one another in matters where there is incomplete understanding. 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Ephesians 4: THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WITH A COMMON HEAD In spite of differences and diversity, those who belong to the Church recognize Jesus Christ as the head of the entire Church and the rightful Lord of all creation. Therefore, they confess him as their Lord, and they seek to follow him. Colossians 1: THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY OF TRUSTING PEOPLE Those who belong to the Church recognize that they have not earned their right to be members because none of us can live as God expects 4

5 us to live. They believe in a God who forgives their wrongdoing, and they have responded by putting their trust in Jesus Christ as the one who has made forgiveness available. What this means will be considered in a later chapter. Among those who have done this, however, there is a great diversity of experiences as well as of gifts, abilities, and maturity. John 1:12; 2 Peter 1:1; Romans 12:3-6; 1 Corinthians 3:1,2; Titus 3:5. 7. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WITH A COMMON SPIRIT The Church is united in a common spirit by a sense of gratefulness to God and by humility and acceptance of one another. Although the Church has never fully maintained this ideal of unity, God has provided his Holy Spirit to serve as a unifying influence. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:3. 8. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY OF COMMITTED PEOPLE The Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Jesus, and as such he is the Spirit of self-giving. As Jesus Christ gave himself for his people, so his people are called to give themselves to him and to others. Their responsibilities include caring for and nurturing one another, being a force for righteousness and justice in the world, and introducing other people to Jesus Christ and assimilating them into the Church. Mark 8:34,35; Galatians 5:13; 1 John 4: THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WHICH IS GUIDED BY THE BIBLE Those who belong to the Church recognize that the source of their knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ is the Bible. Therefore, the Bible is their final authority. Since the Bible is subject to translation and interpretation, there may be in the Church many differences in understanding of the Bible. One of the responsibilities of the people of the Church is to study and seek to understand and interpret the unchanging message of the Bible more clearly as it relates to the changing conditions of the world. 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16; Acts 18:11; 2 Peter 1:20, THE CHURCH IS A UNIQUE FAMILY OF PEOPLE The word from which the word church is translated means an assembly of people who have been called out. The Church, therefore, is a unique family, in which every local congregation is a unique family, composed of diverse people who never claim superiority over other people, whose only claim to righteousness is that they have been forgiven and accepted by God just as they are, who confess Jesus Christ to be their Lord, even though they recognize that 5

6 they do not follow him perfectly, who seek to know and understand his will better, especially as it is revealed in the Bible. This family of diverse people see themselves as being called out from among the different peoples of the world to be God s unique people. Acts 2:42; 1 Peter 2:9,10. 6

7 The Church seems to be very much a part of our culture. How did the Church come to be? 1. GOD BEGAN WITH A PEOPLE HE CALLED HIS OWN Long before Jesus came, God had a people he called his own, through whom he promised to bless the whole world. Through his prophets he instructed and guided his people and foretold that eventually a Person would come through whom his promises would be fulfilled. Genesis 12:1,2; Exodus 6:7; Isaiah 43:1. 2. THEN JESUS CAME Jesus was born and lived in humble circumstances. He gathered a group a group of followers, called disciples, who observed him as he went about teaching and ministering to people and who later became the earliest leaders of his Church. He was rejected and crucified, but it was revealed later what the Scriptures really taught that in his unique death he suffered for the sins of all people. Death could not keep him captive, however, and he arose and ascended into heaven to become the head of a kingdom that is not of this world. Meanwhile, he is also present with his people. All of this was in fulfillment of God s promises, which were recorded in the Old Testament long before Jesus was born. Acts 10:34-44; Acts 2:23,24; Luke 24: THIS WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH Jesus instructed his disciples to make disciples of all peoples. He commanded them, however, not to go forth until they had received special power. They continued to gather in Jerusalem while they awaited the fulfillment of that promise. They might be thought of as the Church in embryo form, which had not yet become a unified body. Matthew 28:18,19; Acts 1:4,8. 4. SOON THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME A few days after Jesus had ascended into heaven, God s Holy Spirit came upon the gathered disciples in a dramatic experience that knit them into one body. Since the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Jesus, he has continued to be present with his Church, seeking to maintain its unity as a body and directing and empowering its members in their ministry to one another and to the world. Acts 2:1-4; John 16:

8 5. THE CHURCH IS BOTH UNCHANGEABLE AND ADAPTABLE Since Christ is the head of the Church, it is essentially one body, which represents his unchanging character. Since Christ is also continually present through his Holy Spirit, the Church is alive and able to adapt its unchanging principles and message so that they apply in all the changing cultures in the whole word. Though it is adaptable, the Church continues to be the unique body of Christ. Matthew 28:20; Romans 7:6; 1 Corinthians 3:6. 6. THE CHURCH IMMEDIATELY BEGAN TO EXPAND In obedience to Christ s command, his disciples immediately began to tell about him, and great numbers of people were continually being added to the Church. Soon it included both Jews and Gentiles, and it spread throughout the whole area around Palestine. Christian merchants, soldiers, and other travelers spread the message until there were groups of believers far up into Europe. This process of expansion continues today as career missionaries and lay Christians spread the message far and near. Acts 2:41; Acts 2:47; Acts 9:31; Romans 15: SOON THE CHURCH BECAME INVOLVED WITH THE WORLD As the Church began to have more influence, the leaders of the world began to feel threatened by it, and it suffered great persecution, which it survived triumphantly. In the fourth century, however, the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion, and the church became an ally of the government. Ever since then it has been threatened by the danger of being used by selfish worldly powers, and it has constantly struggled to maintain its uniqueness as the body of Christ. John 15:20, 21; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12; Revelation 18:4. 8. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY REFORM MOVEMENTS From time to time the Holy Spirit has broken through to revitalize and reform the Church. The best known of these movements was the Great Reformation in the sixteenth century, which emphasized the authority of the Bible, salvation as a free gift, and greater involvement of the lay people. This is, however, only representative of a continual succession of renewals. Many of these were rejected by the established church, and those who participated in them had no choice but to form new bodies. This is one reason for the many divisions or denominations that exist within the Church today. Another reason is that national loyalties, human weaknesses, and sinfulness have made it impossible to sense the Spirit s direction clearly, and 8

9 competing interests have resulted in other divisions. Unfortunate as these divisions have been, God has often overruled and used the different denominations to emphasize some aspects of Christianity that would otherwise be overlooked. The Apostle Paul s prison experience illustrates how God can turn both adverse circumstances and faulty motives to the advantage of the Christian cause. See Philippians 1: THE CHURCH HAS BEEN BOTH UNIFIED AND DIVERSE In spite of the many divisions in the Church, the true body of Christ continues to be one in spirit, and we should recognize all who confess Christ as Lord who trust him for the forgiveness of sins and who desire to follow him as brother and sister Christians. In the midst of this unity there is a legitimate diversity. The Church is likened to a human body, which is essentially one but which has many different organs with diverse functions. The Holy Spirit seeks both to unify the Church and to nurture this legitimate diversity by providing various individual gifts. John 17:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 12: THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH Christ has promised that the Church will never be defeated or destroyed. In recent years it has experienced the greatest expansion in all its history, mostly in areas where it has not previously been widely known. Christians who have died continue to be part of the Church, and, according to his promise, Christ will someday return to unite all his people in eternal blessedness. Christians differ in their understanding of the details of his return, but the promise that he will return is clearly recorded in the Bible and, regardless of differences, we should be ready at all times to meet him. Matthew 16:18; John 14:1-3; Matthew 24:44; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Revelation 22:1-5. 9

10 Assuming a person would like to belong, how does one become a member of the Church? 1. WE DO NOT BEGIN BY JOINING A CHURCH Church membership is not based on achieving certain Christian standards. The Church is composed of people who confess that they need God who are trusting Christ to accept them just as they are. They believe in a God who loved them enough to send Jesus and that he died and arose again so that they may share his rich and full eternal life. They believe they receive this life freely, as a gift. They confess that they desire to follow Jesus as their Lord and that they need his constant help to do so. John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 15: WE MUST FIRST ACCEPT CHRIST BY FAITH To accept Christ and to trust him means: a) To seek and accept God s forgiveness for trying to live without him and for failing to meet his standards. Acts 13:38 b) To believe that it is through Christ s death and resurrection that we received forgiveness and life. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 c) To express a sincere faith in the fact that Christ has risen from the dead and is willing and able to share his life with us and submit to his authority as Lord over our lives. Romans 10:9 3. THIS IS LIKE ACCEPTING AN INVITATION FROM CHRIST He said, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) It was also said of him, To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. (John 1:12) To become a child of God is what it means to be saved, and everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13) It is like opening the door to Jesus, who said, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20) To belong to Christ, therefore, is not something we achieve; all we can do is turn to him and accept his invitation. 10

11 4. ALL WHO BELONG TO CHRIST ALSO BELONG TO THE CHURCH Rather than our joining the Church, we are added to it by God when we trust in Christ. All who trust in Christ share his life, they are bound together by his Spirit, and they form the body of which he is the head. Therefore, whenever anyone trusts in Christ, that person immediately becomes a member of the Church. Acts 2:47, last half; Ephesians 4:15, THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A PROCESS When we trust Christ, or receive him, we are said to be born again into a new life. Some people cannot remember a time when they did not trust Christ. Others can pinpoint a specific moment when they turned to him. Whether we can remember it or not, this new life has a specific beginning which is followed by a process of growth as we continue to learn more of Christ and to submit to him. Our belonging to Christ s body begins the moment this new life begins, not at some later stage of maturity. 1 Peter 1:1; John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 12:12,13; 2 Corinthians 5: CHRISTIAN TEACHING IS ALSO IMPORTANT Christian teachings are important because they define who Jesus is, what it means to follow him, and what God s purpose is for us. After we have trusted Christ, we should study the Bible in order to understand the teachings of the Christian Faith and how to follow Christ. We need know, however, only a few basic teachings in order to accept Christ s invitation. These teachings have been summarized in the previous paragraphs of this lesson. Those who are considering what it means to belong to Christ and to his Church should seek the help of someone who can explain these teachings more fully and tell them how they can respond to Christ. Acts 16:31, 32; 2 Timothy 3:14,15; Matthew 28: WHY, THEN JOIN A LOCAL CONGREGATION? Since we have already become members in the Church by virtue of the fact that we have trusted Christ, joining a local congregation is affirming what has already happened inwardly. For practical reasons, local congregations are organized in such a way that they can operate in the world, and they provide the opportunity for Christians to commit themselves to one another in a visible and public way for mutual growth and for sharing the responsibility to witness and minister to the world. Since those who belong to Christ also belong to his Church and since Christ expects his followers to confess publicly that they belong to him, it would be inconsistent for Christians not to affiliate 11

12 with a local congregation or to transfer to a local congregation when they move. Acts 14:23; Matthew 10:32; Ephesians 3: BAPTISM IS A REQUIREMENT FOR MEMBERSHIP Baptism, which was commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), is the means by which he identifies those who are united with him (Romans 6:3-5). As we have already seen, it is those who belong to Christ who have been incorporated into his Church. Covenant congregations, therefore, consider it a matter of obedience to Christ to make baptism a requirement for membership. Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35-38; Acts 16: A PROCESS OF ASSIMILATION SHOULD FOLLOW Our common faith in Christ can draw us into closer relationships with our fellow church members than is possible anywhere else. We should make the Church our spiritual home, immediately entering into its activities, both receiving and giving. No congregation is perfect, and we should not be disappointed if we find some things that do not please us. We should seek to be an influence for improvement, unity, and love. Romans 15:5,6; Ephesians 4: IN CHURCH WE ARE IN TOUCH WITH ETERNAL RESOURCES As we participate fully in the life of the Church, we continually benefit from the resources it gives us for living our daily lives, and when these lives come to an end, it becomes our resource for ministering Christ s eternal hope, for we shall continue to participate in the life of Christ s eternal hope, for we shall continue to participate in the life of Christ and to enjoy the life of the Church forever. Matthew 16:18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; Ephesians 3:20; Revelation 22:

13 We should understand the responsibilities and privileges of Church membership. 1. UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH The Church is a family, with all the warmth and affection of family life. Its organization and programs merely provide the structure for its true life. Some people have no other family but the Church. We should share in a commitment to our Christian brothers and sisters in which we give and receive both loving care and discipline. Philippians 1:8-11; Hebrews 8: ACCEPT EACH OTHER AS WE ARE Since the Church is composed of people who have been accepted just as they are and have received Christ s life freely as a gift, we should accept one another on the same basis. We should think of our church as a place where healing is being both given and received rather than as an exhibit of people in perfect health. We shall find people who disagree with us, and we shall find imperfections in our brothers and sisters, just as they will find in us. It is our responsibility to be patient and kind to one another as well as to help one another become more mature. This attitude will make our church experience more of a privilege than a responsibility. Romans 14:1-12; Romans 15:7; Philippians 2: KNOW THE TASK OF THE CHURCH Among the responsibilities of the Church are to: 1) nurture its members through its teaching ministry; 2) reach out to individuals in the world around, seeking to introduce them to Christ and win them to him; 3) be concerned about the injustice and evil in the world and bear witness to God s will for righteousness; 4) give special attention to the poor, the troubled, the sick, the young, and the aged; 5) provide public worship services for praise and adoration; 6) provide for preparation of those who are called to ministry. You should know about tasks such as these and share in them. 4. RECOGNIZE THE DIVERSITY OF GIFTS God does not expect all of us to be involved in all of these tasks. We should be alert to discover the gift or gifts he has given us, and we should be willing to listen to those who seem to recognize certain gifts in us. We have already pointed out how God gives diverse gifts for the 13

14 building up of the Church, and we should not hesitate to use these gifts as well as our natural abilities. We should recognize the order established by the congregation so that these gifts will be used for the benefit of all. When we exercise our God-given resources, the work is more of a pleasure than a responsibility. Ephesians 4: PARTICIPATE IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH We should regularly attend the worship services as participants in the prayers, responses, and songs. We should make the sermon a dialogue by responding to its application for our lives. We should immediately become involved in one of the smaller study classes or fellowship groups, which will allow us to become acquainted in depth with some of our brothers and sisters. Particularly meaningful is the celebration of the Lord s Supper. Since this was instituted by Christ himself, our participation is our response to his personal invitation to be his guests. Participation in the life of the Church is a privilege rather than a responsibility. Romans 12:1,2; Hebrews 10:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 11: ACCEPT LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES From time to time the Church may call upon us to assume responsibilities in its outreach, teaching, fellowship, worship, or other activities. We should consider these seriously, accepting those which we can and fulfilling our obligations faithfully. Such responsibilities offer opportunities to establish close relationships in ministry with our brothers and sisters, and they become joyous and fulfilling experiences rather than mere duties. 1 John 1:3,4; Colossians 4:11-15; John 15: ESTABLISH PROPER PRIORITIES Serving God includes building warm relationships in our homes, taking our secular work seriously, and maintaining good relationships with our working companions and neighbors. These responsibilities need not conflict with our duties to the Church. Since we cannot do everything, we must establish priorities. All of us must accept some duties that seem tedious, but if we will maintain proper priorities and remember that Christ is not a hard taskmaster, we shall find our overall service to be a rich and fulfilling experience. Matthew 11: BE PURPOSEFUL IN THE GIVING OF MONEY All our possessions have been given us by God, and we have the privilege of using them for his glory. A traditional standard of giving, based on what was expected of God s people in the Old Testament, is 14

15 one-tenth of one s income. A good rule is to give so much that it involves some significant sacrifice. For some this will mean much more than a tenth, and for others it may mean less. We should know the financial needs of the Church, including plans for an expanding ministry. Then, considering our means, we should give our share sacrificially. It is always better to give purposefully than to be carried away by the mood of the moment. It is better to give in anticipation that God will continue to bless and care for us than to refrain because of fear of future reverses. The life of faith is always a generous life, and generosity is a source of great blessing. 2 Corinthians 9: LET YOUR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AFFECT YOUR WHOLE LIFE One purpose of the teaching ministry of the Church is to help us in living our daily lives. It is often difficult to know how to be honest and responsible in our work and social life. Christians must live in a world that is sometimes brutal and competitive, and yet they must be caring and concerned about others. We soon discover that we cannot live this life in our own strength, and we turn to Christ. With his help the burden seems to fall off, and Christian living becomes releasing and joyous. For this we need the instruction, fellowship, and advice of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Acts 5:41,42; Acts 17:11; Colossians 3: CONSIDER CHRISTIAN LIVING TO BE A PRIVILEGE Since it is not we who live this life but Christ who lives in us, we can relax and let him lead us. Christ can set us free both from worldly attractions and from the pride of having to prove our excellence by various status symbols. When we lose ourselves in the love of Christ for others, daily living, both in the Church and in the world, becomes an exhilarating experience. Galatians 2:20; John 10:10; Luke 9:

16 We shall now look specifically at the meaning of belonging to a Covenant Church The previous sessions have dealt with church membership in general, emphasizing those things which many churches or denominations have in common. In this session we shall seek to understand more specifically what it means to belong to one of the congregations of The Evangelical Covenant Church. The material which follows is a summary of Covenant Affirmations (Covenant Press, 1976), which should also be read as a resource to clarify in greater detail what it means to be a member of one of the congregations of this family of churches. 1. IT MEANS BELONGING TO A FAMILY WITHIN THE CHURCH The Evangelical Covenant Church considers itself to be one of the families within the whole family of God. It began as one of the renewal movements, which we have previously considered, which could not, in its beginning, be contained within the organized church. Nevertheless, it considers itself to be one with all who confess Christ as Lord and Savior in all denominations. It desires to cooperate with, to learn from, and to contribute to all groups of people who trust in Christ. Covenant Affirmations, p IT MEANS CONFESSING THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH The faith of the Church is in Christ, and this faith was affirmed by the early Christians. Two statements of faith which were formulated during the first centuries of the Church are the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. Since the Covenant Church is non-creedal, it has not adopted these or any other statements of faith as its creed, but it has always recognized them as guides to biblical faith and valued them as expressions of what Christians have always believed. Covenant Affirmations, pp. 5, IT MEANS ACCEPTING THE VALUES OF THE REFORMATION The Covenant Church places great value on the major emphases of the sixteenth-century Reformation, particularly on the emphasis that people are made righteous and acceptable to God only through faith in Jesus Christ. Covenant Affirmations, pp. 7, IT MEANS BEING AN EVANGELICAL The Covenant Church recognizes the value of continual renewal, and it sees itself as arising out of the religious awakenings of the past two centuries. It defines evangelicalism as a combined effect of these renewals, with the following emphases: 16

17 1) The acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct. 2) The absolute necessity of the new birth for entrance into eternal life. 3) Christ s mandate to evangelize the world. 4) The need for education and training in a Christian context. 5) Responsibility for the advancement of social justice. Covenant Affirmations, pp. 8, IT MEANS RECOGNIZING THE WORD OF GOD AS CENTRAL The only official confession of the Covenant Church is that it believes in the Holy Scriptures, the Old and the New Testament, as the Word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct. It sees belief in the Bible as more than a confession of faith; the Bible must become a resource for life and for power to live the Christian life. Faith must be in the Bible rather than in man-made statements about the Bible. Covenant Affirmations, pp IT MEANS RECOGNIZING THE NEED OF THE NEW BIRTH Although it recognizes the creeds of the early Church as valuable guides for life and faith, the Covenant Church is non-creedal. It places the priority on life in Christ above doctrine. New life in Christ comes through conversion, which may or may not be a dramatic experience and which may happen in childhood or in adult life. Covenant Affirmations, pp. 13, IT MEANS BEING IN A FELLOWSHIP OF BELIEVERS The Covenant Church sees the whole Church as being composed only of those who trust in Christ, not of all people in general, and it sees the Church as being composed of all who trust in Christ. Therefore, it believes its membership should be open to all who trust in Christ. Various forms of baptism and other matters on which Christians have not agreed must not be a source of division. We must learn to live with and learn from one another. Covenant Affirmations, pp IT MEANS DEPENDING ON THE HOLY SPIRIT The Covenant Church believes in the Holy Spirit as God in one of his three persons. He has inspired the Scriptures, and he makes Christ real to the believers. He lives within all believers, uniting, freeing, and binding them to Christ. He gives various gifts according to his will, and he produces the fruits of Christ-like living. Covenant Affirmations, pp

18 9. IT MEANS PARTICIPATING IN A MINISTRY TO THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD The Evangelical Covenant Church was organized in Chicago, Illinois, in 1885 with 48 member churches. It now has approximately 540 churches with a total membership of about 73,000. Its membership increasingly includes people of a wide variety of social, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. While grateful for its heritage and while seeking to be faithful to the values it has inherited from the past, its ministry must be to the needs of the contemporary world. It carries on missions in the United States and in a number of other countries, and it carries on other ministries, such as Christian education, publication, evangelism, and benevolences. Its institutions include higher education, homes for senior citizens, and Bible camps. Its activities are administered through its headquarters and through the regional conferences into which it is divided. The resources for all its ministries, however, must come from God through local congregations and individual members, for the Church is people. 10. IT MEANS MEMBERSHIP IN A LOCAL CONGREGATION Belonging to the Covenant Church, as is true in most denominations, is through membership in a local congregation. All persons who trust Christ and who therefore belong to his Church and who find a congenial church home in a Covenant congregation are invited to take steps to confirm their membership in Christ s Church by uniting with a local congregation. 18

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