Some months ago a dear friend approached us with a question about core values. She began by noting that one leader she knew was only interested in giving time to leaders and groups that believed in signs and wonders. Another leader stated that he was only interested in giving time to those mentoring 24/7 prayer ministries. She asked Patty and I: “What is the core value that guides you?” We both answered quickly, “Signs and wonders and 24/7 prayer are very important to us, but our core value is covenant love.”
Building on Covenant Relationships
When we talk about our ministries being built on covenant relationships, some shrink back in fear. They allude to the movements of recent years (some even refer to the discipleship-shepherding movements of 35 years ago) that sought a life-time binding commitment to an organization or a mutual commitment that could not be transferred to any other group or ministry. I believe that we should only make one absolute covenant commitment beyond our commitment to God and Yeshua: That is to the covenant of marriage. People may hope that other covenants between people will last a lifetime, but in the leading of the Spirit and the development of life circumstances, this may not be possible, nor ultimately the will of God. The following are our guiding principles.
Our foundation is that God is a God of covenant love who makes covenant love commitments. 1 John tells us that God is love and love is the mark of a true disciple (1 John 4:7). A study of love in the Bible reveals that love is the compassionate identification with others that perceives their worth, and guided by the Law of God, seeks their good. Without the Law of God, love becomes sentimentality and leads to the indulging of sin.
God made a love covenant with Abraham and promised an everlasting national covenant to his descendants. God covenants with all followers of Yeshua, who enter this same covenant by faith in His name, as expressed in water immersion. This is a profession of faith that joins us to the community of believers and in submission to its government. In Yeshua, we have joined in covenant with all true believers. That commitment should be expressed by maintaining membership in a local congregation. However, that local membership may be transferred as God calls people according to His purposes.
Making Covenant Commitments
I am part of several leadership groups that have chosen to walk together for the purposes and calling of God. It was my hope and dream some 40 years ago that we would find a people who could walk out a commitment to one another that would last a lifetime, and would be a foundation for our work together in Kingdom ministry and vision. I was looking for a contrast to today’s world and its fleeting relationships. I was seeking people of character. Sadly, I had to move from my first ministry in Chicago to Washington to join such a community. However, by the grace of God, that dream continues to be fulfilled in connection with more than one organization.
We never formally made a commitment to be in one organization together for life. We committed to covenant love on a Scriptural basis with the hope that our walk together would last. There are some crucial principles we must adopt in order to prevent our covenant commitment to one another from becoming restrictive and controlling.
To protect all involved, the covenant commitment should be clearly defined. This prevents misunderstanding and manipulation by those who assume what was not intended. The locus of authority and decision-making should be defined as well. As long as I am part of a leadership team, a congregation or spiritual organization, I commit to accountability, openness, and seeking confirmation and prayer for major decisions. This is as true for a single congregation as for a network of leaders representing congregations and organizations together. The covenant should define commitments, responsibilities and rights.
Freedom of Conscience in Covenant Relationships
One of the most important rights is the freedom to ultimately follow the leading of the Spirit as long as our decision is not contrary to the Bible. In Tikkun, we have released people to other organizations and have maintained continuing friendships. Some of our readers are familiar with the transfer of Ron Cantor to Maoz Ministries, led by our friends Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram. This came about with our full support and blessing. We were certain that he was following God’s calling. Ron remains associated with us but more loosely.
There have been many other examples throughout the years. Even if we cannot confirm a shift in calling, we affirm the right of the person to follow the leading of the Spirit. We wish we could serve closely together for a lifetime with the ministry partners we have come to love and appreciate. However, we must always allow the primacy of God’s call and it may not always be His will that people stay together organizationally. This liberty is what prevents covenant from becoming cultic.
In addition, the covenant should not be a closed circle, but should be ever-expanding – adding new people as God calls them into relationship with us. Over time, some will come and some will go. We hope and believe that the covenant circle will expand and grow. Covenant love and explicit commitment has been a wonderful blessing to us. We believe it reflects the heart of God.