Yesterday I was at All Saints [Hataitai] Church to witness and participate in a covenant signing ceremony. But before you get all excited about that word "covenant", I should tell you that:
1. Yes, I know all about last week's contract/covenant controversy at Mars Hill Seattle and agree that covenants can be abused to control people and I am glad people are sharing exactly what their covenants and commitments entailed. Nothing wrong with a second opinion and the wider-church crowd wisdom.
2. Yes, I am aware of the personality-driven "Covenant" of Destiny Church in which some church members actually wear a covenant ring with Bishop Tamaki's name on it! Apparently the rings cost $300 and were only offered to male members. This practice is weird, creepy and cult-like, it has been suggested, and a good reason to look elsewhere for a church that is focused on Jesus, not the pastor.
I am NOT repeat NOT talking about either case OR about the hundreds of egomaniac preachers who manipulate people's desire for God towards building up the their own ecclesiastic capital [numbers] or financial empire [dollars]. This post has nothing to do with the Shepherding Movement, Gestapo glove-slapping, Kool-aid parties, David Koresh retro-sunglasses or setting up VIDEO TEMPLES for hand-clapping tithing zombies! It should be obvious but that Bible verse "Every eye shall see him" [Rev 1:7] is NOT talking about a YouTube strategy for your pastor's videoed sermons.
It's about Jesus. [Someone say 'Amen!']
Covenant making can be a healthy thing when done right. Yesterday was a good example. Yesterday was the day Urban Vision had its yearly covenant making. The usual suspects where present and there were also some new teams formed and sent into Auckland, Dunedin, Waikato and the Philippines. The teams and communities came up to the front one by one and signed the Covenant. Some were not able to commit to the same level this year and chose the "Companion" option. No pressure for the Companions to upgrade their commitment and those leaving were blessed and prayed for. Reminds me of the phrase "Leaver Sensitive Churches" from Alan Jamieson
This is the Covenant they signed for 2012:
"I freely choose to covenant to fully participate in God's building of the Kingdom as part of the Order of Urban Vision. As part of this Covenant, I choose to uphold and outwork Urban Vision's three commitments:
Deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour
Journey further with my Urban Vision community in increasing wholeness, integrity and friendships
Play my part in sharing God's loving justice in this world, especially amongst the poor and marginalized in our neighbourhood"
Bishop Thomas Brown [middle] led the communion. Urban Vision Founder Justin Duckworth [right, with the dreadlocks] was waffling on about something . . can't quite remember what :-] but he did note that Bishop Tom, who is retiring as Bishop of Wellington in March, did "everything right" in his dealings with Urban Vision and will be sorely missed. Archbishop David Moxon [left] flew down from Auckland to witness the event and to deliver a great message. He finished off by illustrating the words of Jesus with chapter headings from Justin and Jenny's book [Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom]:
Going Deep: Throwing out the "Next" and the "New"
Staying Faithful: Throwing out Experience seeking
Living the Dream: Throwing out Entertainment
Finding our Vocation: Throwing out Career
Trusting God: Throwing out Financial Security
Nurturing Healthy Relationships: Throwing out the Hollywood Romance
Opening our Homes: Throwing Out the Picket Fence
Peddling against the Current: Throwing out Respectability
Sidenote: Nice to see Rev. Simon Winn who is Vicar at All Saints. We met in Oxford at CMS some years ago.
So, do you have a good example of covenant making?