What Is a Covenant?
A covenant is generally defined as “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.” Within the Scriptures, we find a number of examples of covenants, some between God and man (Genesis 6; Genesis 9; Genesis 15; Ezekiel 20; Hosea 2; Jeremiah 31; Matthew 26), while others are solely between men (1 Samuel 18, 2 Samuel 5). In some covenants, one party binds his or herself to fulfill the obligations of both sides of the agreement. In others, the parties are reciprocally bound to adhere to the obligations. While God’s covenant with the Church universal is an example of the former, the local church covenant represents the latter. If at any time one of the parties of this church covenant continues in a state of unfaithfulness to its provisions, the other is released from certain obligations.
The covenant of The Compass Church contains many conditions that are merely general Christian obligations. For example, all Christians, whether partners of The Compass Church or elsewhere, are required to submit to the Scriptures, pursue holiness, steward resources, etc. Such requirements are universal obligations for the Christ-follower regardless of any failure on the part of local church to live up to her covenant obligations.
If at any time an individual member feels as though the corporate church body is not remaining faithful to the requirements of the covenant, it is the responsibility of the individual member to lovingly and humbly express concerns to the leadership of the church. If the church elders are unwilling to change and pursue covenant faithfulness, then the member is freed from his or her partnership obligations and encouraged to seek partnership elsewhere given the church’s disobedience. In addition, certain circumstances may provide sufficient and righteous grounds to transfer partnership / membership elsewhere.
While focusing primarily in language on the responsibilities between the individual parties, the corporate church body, her elders and her individual members, the covenant is first and foremost an acknowledgement of general Christian obligations and an agreement to enter into those duties for God’s glory and the good of the body and bride of His Son.
When the Bible speaks of these formal relationships, it uses the concept of a covenant. Some of these are between people (1 Sam.18:3, 20:16; 2 Sam. 5:3) while others are between God and man (Gen. 6:18, 9;16, 15:18; Luke 22:20; Heb. 8:6-7). In some covenants, one party binds him or herself to fulfill the obligations of both sides. In others, the parties are reciprocally bound to adhere to the obligations. Though types of covenants vary, the concept itself is saturated in biblical text. What better way to evidence the formal relationship into which we have been called than through covenantal promise?
Covenants also include some sort of visible representation. All cultures have symbols to signify comprehension and consent. At times those agreements include cutting animals in two and walking between the pieces (Gen. 15), placing a hand under a thigh (2 Sam. 24), removing and exchanging a sandal (Ruth 4) or instituting and enjoying a ceremonial dinner (Matt. 26:17-29). While the symbol may change, the abiding call to covenant is clear.
Christians commit themselves to each other in the context of the local church in countless cultural ways. At The Compass, the current process for partnership involves a partnership class, the reading of some resources and some paperwork (signing the partnership covenant). Far from mere formality, these expressions are important representations of the formal commitment.
The Compass Church Partnership Covenant is birthed out of our love for the church body and its individual members whom we hope will experience the fullness of joy which is found in the presence of the Lord. The primary purpose of this covenant is to serve as a teaching document with three functions:
- To clarify the biblical obligations and expectations for both the elders of The Compass Church and the individual partners of The Compass Church body.
- To establish teaching and doctrinal parameters for The Compass Church body.
- To serve as a tool for reflection and growth toward holiness.
Each of these functions is in accordance with the document’s overall vision to provide an accessible explanation of the Scriptures in hopes that The Compass Church would grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
The Compass Church Partnership Covenant is comprised of a section on the Church, the nature of covenants, a Statement on “Open and Closed Handed Beliefs,” the Statement of Theological Distinctives, the obligations of The Compass Church elders to The Compass Church body and the obligations of members to The Compass Church body.