Covenant Membership at Trinity Life Church: What is it, and why is it relevant?

Adam Truax   -  

How many different individuals do you think you’ve met in your life? I’d never be able to count them, but along my own journey I have come across all kinds of characters.

Some people come and go at various times and seasons, and for often indiscernible reasons. Each of them leaves a distinctive mark on my life. Each of them leaves an impression. Some of my more long-standing relationships are the most meaningful to me. It’s that progressive faithfulness over time that has made interesting impacts on my own character.

A question that perplexes me, however, is this: why do they stick around? Why do some relationships last and others fade? Each relationship has its own story, but what I realized after I became a Christian is that there is an explicit call for Christian faithfulness and commitment to bring about a certain kind of relationship.

So, you found yourself in a church-type community and you’re having a good time hanging out, praying, singing songs, and carrying one another’s burdens. What happens next for you and those people? What keeps you bonded and unified as a group? Who determines who’s in and who’s out? What are the boundaries and benefits of this community? These things can often be very intangible and hard to define.

At Trinity Life we have chosen something called covenant membership as the means of making formal commitments towards one another. I want to address what covenant membership is at Trinity Life Church and share what the steps are to become a member.

What is membership?

Trinity Life Church was birthed out of a love for God and the Church. As Christians, we’re called to be members of God’s household to discover who we are in Christ in the context of community and family. Like any healthy family, each member is called to belong, grow, and participate in a particular place within the body of Christ. A healthy body requires that each member do their part well (Eph 2:10; 4:12). Trinity Life Church holds the discipleship and ministry of its members in high regard. We believe that if we individually and corporately discover our identity and destiny in Christ, we will fulfill our call in bringing the Kingdom of God to our city and to the world.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” ( Rom 12:3-8).

The Bible uses many motifs to describe the local church. Trinity Life Church is a body, a family, a temple, and a called people. We are disciples of Jesus, unified by our identity in Christ. This unity is expressed in the way we collaborate in loving God, loving fellow Christians, and loving the world. Members who enter into a covenant with their local churches are called to a higher degree of responsibility and service. At the same time, the elders are covenanted to assist members first and foremost to love and lead, provide counsel and aid, pray for, teach, and guide them.

Why is membership important?

It is tempting to say that we can have all of the beauty of being a part of the body of Christ without official church membership. Many will make this case in thinly veiled reasons for non-commitment and by way of weak definitions of what a church actually is, but we hold the bar higher and here are a few reasons why.

1. You make known the bride and the groom.

The visible and identifiable members of the local church are the counterpart to Jesus Christ. When you accept the wedding proposal of the groom (Jesus) you become a part of the bride (the church). All the men and women who comprise the church are those who truly commit to a love relationship and who eagerly await the wedding day which is coming to them in the end of all things. This kingdom reality is made known to a watching world through the preparation of those who are waiting for their consummation.

As the bride, or the church, waits, it calls out for those who are separated from their groom. The church gathers the full bride. It proclaims an invitation to the greatest wedding ceremony to ever take place in all of created history. This invitation must be accepted. Acceptance takes place first in salvation through Jesus Christ, and then is rightly and publicly acknowledged within the ecclesial structure of the local church by the traditional sacrament of baptism. Baptism is a public declaration of faith that the individual has died to an old way of life and is taking on their eternal purpose.

There are those who attend religious gatherings for whom this reality is not the case. In fact, many churches are filled with people still exploring what it might mean to accept this invitation. For some, it’s a newer, more naive and innocent search, while for others it may be more of an un-examined cultural habit. Nonetheless, all are invited to the great wedding for which all of creation waits.

2. You make the world wonder.

In a cultural moment where people are used to ghosting, changing plans, divorce, and shifting career paths at higher rates than ever before experienced in history we can make a statement to a culture that is flighty with its commitments.

You are no longer independent but instead dependent on one another. You are dependent on the community with whom you have mutually agreed to carry one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). You are dependent on their love and encouragement. They rely on your presence, personality, and faithfulness.

This is all in the face of our own glaring hypocrisies. None of us is perfect but we agree that we will love (1 Cor 13) through all of that adversity. Where can the world find a place like that? The world will know we are his disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35).

3. You are better at offering and keeping your word.

I have found that as various people come through my life there are all sorts of offerings of commitment and action made towards one another. These offerings have almost infinite variability, and can sound like: “I love this church, how can I help?” or “we should hang out sometime!”

The strange thing to me is when offerings like this are made, yet not followed up with action. Why do we do this as humans? What role do we play in each other’s lives to keep each other accountable without inciting one another to offence? You might think the offence lies with the person who broke a commitment, but we also have a tendency to find offence with those who hold us to our word.

In either case, the church community is a place where we hold each other accountable to our commitments while also not taking offence, and where we give full permission for others to play a role of accountability in our lives. This helps the community thrive and move towards action and truth.

4. Leaders can more honestly trust and serve you.

As a leader in the church, I am part of a very unique spiritual and relational dynamic. Hebrews 13:7 says, as a Biblical imperative, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” How is it possible for this dynamic to play out in a healthy way?

Only in the context of covenant membership is it clear who is a leader, and who they are accountable for and to. It would be very easy for me to get into trouble if I walked into a store and tried to show leadership to the employees as if I was their manager. Since I am just a random guy coming in off the street, that’s simply not our relationship. They weren’t hired by me, nor I by the company. There is no official or agreed upon authority dynamic at play between me and those employees. Likewise, I also am not accountable for the employees performance.

In a church, however, these lines get very blurred as we look to serve and love everyone within our neighbourhoods. Thankfully, the Biblical dynamic addresses this with a primary emphasis on those inside the body of Christ. The leader gives an account for those they lead. But who are they? Without something like covenant membership, the answer to that question is very hard to define.

Within covenant membership, a leader who knows the members to whom they are responsible will be able to serve and love more freely and joyfully, especially when they know the members are committed to them, and all are committed to Jesus together.

What do I need to do to be a member at Trinity Life church?

Covenant membership is an important thing to pray about, as a first step. If, after asking God about committing to a community in this way, you feel peace and are convicted to act by the Holy Spirit, then you can take some practical steps forward.

  1. Fill out this google form and notify your R3 leader you are ready for Covenant Membership:
  2. Meet with your R3 leader and go over the Covenant Membership Form and review your survey answers
  3. Review the Covenant on your own and/or with your spouse or friends at the church
  4. Review the statement of faith of the church
  5. Consider what it means to enter into covenant with the community and align in vision, mission, and strategy
  6. Listen to the Spirit of God in all of the above process to make a decision to enter into Covenant Membership

After all of these steps you should have an indication and agreement from those around you that it’s time to commit to your church community. If this is the case at Trinity Life Church, we will gather, initiate, and celebrate this reality together. Usually this will happen at a Collective Rally where many of our groups will come together to worship.

I hope this has been both informative and encouraging, whether you are considering deeper community commitment at Trinity Life Church, or elsewhere.