For nearly a year, many in our community have been preparing for something that is truly counter-cultural: commitment… to a church.
We believe that in order to mature to a place of greater effectiveness, we need to invite one another to simply say, “This is my community. I’m here. I will grow here, embrace others here, and work as part of this team.”
Many are excited about becoming a “Covenant Member” and signing the “Emmaus Covenant.” For some, it’s been a real and difficult challenge.
Here’s a powerful reflection from someone in our community that is well-worth reading (published here with the author’s permission):
I think that is a word that has been attributed to me from time to time. Sadly, this acquired attitude of mine is especially associated with the church. My relationship with the church is complicated to say the least. So now as I begin to embrace the aspect of forming a covenant with my church community, it is not something I have entered into lightly or even without some hesitation.
I have grown up in the church and while I would never say I was a part of an abusive church, I would say it was certainly an unhealthy environment. I became frustrated and alienated from the church early on. I did not realize it back then, but I quickly became someone who just went through the motions. I simply did what was expected of me. The irony of this is that in many ways the church I grew up in reflected the family I grew up in. Much like my church, my family was not abusive, but very unhealthy. I grew up in an atmosphere where I felt disconnected and simply misunderstood. It was like my family unit had started with good intentions, but had somehow lost its focus or meaning. I craved something more, but after a while, I simply stopped trying to be understood. I became numb to my environment. I did what was expected of me on an external level, but internally I began to construct walls in order to protect my heart.
As I got older, I had the chance to redefine my own image of God. It was not an easy process and I was forced to tear down a lot of walls. While this clearer image of Christ and his love had a healing effect, it also made me angry. I was angry at the damage I had suffered in the church. I was frustrated in the years that I felt I had wasted in just religion rather than a relationship with Christ. I am still working through the damage that was done. I know I am not alone in the feeling of being robbed by legalism and its traditions. I have so many friends who swear they will never be trapped in these outdated institutions, some even to the point of not attending church at all. And I get it. I totally understand it. I almost did it.
And yet, it comes back to family. I had the same frustrations, the same hurt directed towards my upbringing, but instead of simply staying single or never having children, I wanted a family, but I also knew I wanted a different definition of family. I was not always sure what it would look like, but I knew what I did not want it to look like. I know I am not a perfect parent, but at the same time I try to be sensitive to the needs of my children through my own pain. It is not always easy, but I think about the love I would be missing if I did not embrace it.
For those same reasons I am going to embrace this new covenant. And while it may sound like it fits the same criteria of church membership, it is as completely different in definition as an unhealthy family versus a healthy family. I know that no church is perfect however; I do have hope for the health that our community offers. I have seen the sickness of the church and I am thankful for a community that is alive and well. I know I am going out on a limb here, but like most things in life that are worthwhile, I know I need to put myself out there and be vulnerable. To be honest, my heart is already with our community; the covenant will only acknowledge that truth.