Sojourn – A High Stakes Christian Covenant Community

(Disclaimer: What is stated below is my impression of what Sojourn Church Community stands for. My impressions may or may not reflect the Church’s official stand on things)

‘Covenant’ is a very heavy word that has in recent times has lost the depth of its meaning. Before the modern idea of ‘contract’, became the norm for any transaction whether marriage or business, it was ‘covenant’ that bound people together. Covenant has a deep relationship aspect which the ‘matter-of-fact’ contract lacks. Where contract tries to define the boundaries of the liabilities, the covenant went ALL in. Where contract is signed in ink, covenant was signed in Blood.

When I realized that Sojourn had a ‘Covenant Membership Class’ to induct new members, my understanding of the weight of the word caused pause. I needed to really consider the stakes involved. Generally speaking, a Covenant answers three questions, what do I need to give? what do I get in return? who is the covenant enforcer? To me, the key question to which I wanted to find the answer to was the first one, ‘what do I need to give?’. I wanted to know what was at stake before I could commit to be a member of this Church.

Because I was apprehensive, I made sure that I could decide not to become a member if I didn’t want to, after attending the class. I was assured that I could. So I attended the class last week. The covenant class was taken by the passionate Pastor Joseph and facilitated by the able administrator, Drew.

Three points stood out to me from the class.
1. The need to create a Christian presence in urban enclaves.
2. The need to allow the Gospel to permeate everyday aspects/rythmns of ones life.
3. The need to commune, submit and be strengthened by each other.

In every culture, there is a part of the society that is fragmented and is in dire need of the gospel. The Christian has two options to deal with this. Either jump headlong into the decadent culture, open it up to the Good News by building a Shining City in the midst. Or retire to the Christian ghetto, assured that one has the ‘ticket’ to heaven and that one will ‘make it’ even if all hell breaks loose around them. It seemed to me that the Sojourn Christians are encouraged to be of the first kind of Christians. To be the Christian of the first kind, one has to venture outside of one’s comfort zone. For example, Joe said that if you decide to live in urban enclaves (as against the suburbs), you may not be able to own a house until you are in your mid-thirties or early forties. Besides, you have to open your homes for neighbours to come and fellowship at. That is a sacrifice one has to consider making to be a high stakes Christian of the first kind. 
This a not a low bar. But how could I not covenant with that?  Check!

A big problem with the urban progressives is a sense of entitlement. The urbanite believes he/she has a RIGHT to happiness, no matter what is at stake. In fact, I think, one could draw an almost straight line from the belief in right to happiness to the breakdown of marriages in the Western civilization. The only thing that can effectively work against this obsessive ‘pursuit of happiness’ is the Gospel permeating every aspect of our life. Gospel kills the discontentment that arises out of the sense of entitlement, by helping us SEE the crucified Lord. This Gospel-focus SHOULD fill us with the GREATEST sense of GRATITUDE that nothing else would matter so much so as to rob us of our ‘joy’ in the Lord.

Joe recounted how one of the Elders in the Church had to recite the Gospel to him when he was feeling discontentment over something. It is a great example to see pastors use a self-deprecating examples to glorify the Gospel. To make much of Christ and less of self is the fruit of the workings of the Gospel. It seemed to me that the Sojourn Christians are encouraged to be Gospel-focused to make much of Christ and less of self in their everyday aspects/rythmns of life. 
This a not a low bar. But how could I not covenant with that? Check!

If  the urban progressives had real, healthy and cherished communities, the Starbucks business model would have bombed right at the start. After all, a good number of people that go to Starbucks for the pseudo-community experience than for the ‘real’ coffee. In contrast to the pseudo-communities around us, Christians are supposed to be the ‘real’ community builders. We are to find our identity in the community of those who love the Lord. While most pagan communities that look real are built upon principle of ‘networking’ driven by self-interest of some form, the Christian community is built upon virtues of mutual love, mutual submission and mutual exhortation. Unlike Communism (Marxism), the Christian community is not classless, there is a definite hierarchy. But the Christian community is a lot more radical than Communism in that Communism mandates that everyone be treated equally, whereas in the Christian community, one is expected to treat the other better than one self. This is where rubber meets the road. This a high bar. I’ll need to covenant with that! Check!

It takes a lot of gospel-focus, prayer and mission mindedness to be able to fulfil my part of covenant deal. Truth be said, it will not be easy. But I have the ‘Helper’ (John 14:16), the Lord the Holy Spirit to help me through. Even if I fail, the covenant Enforcer is gracious (Romans 3:23 – 26: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood). The covenant is cut from His blood, not mine, which is why I can confidently go ALL-in into this high stakes Christian covenant community.

Author: Emmanuel R Paulpeter

I am a writer, spiritual director, life coach and a Church Planter who love all things pop culture, theology and spirituality.

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