For the last 3 years, I have been working with our leadership to revise our membership covenant. The one we were operating under was ambiguous at best and was a worthless document when it came to teaching what God has asked of us as His people. The goal was to revise the covenant to be a teaching document and a tool for self evaluation in regards to progressive sanctification. After dozens of conversations and some intense study, we drew up our initial draft. We started rolling it out to our members in series of small gatherings with those who lead small groups and ministries. At those meetings we explained why we wanted to change the covenant and let them push back on the document itself. After those 6 meetings we went back and made the necessary edits and changes and the new membership covenant was born. You can see the revised covenant on our Web site.
The roll out to the membership at-large began in January and has gone unbelievably well. We have been more than encouraged by The Village's response and have had half of our members already sign the revised covenant. I wanted to respond to a few e-mails I have received over the last few weeks concerning what some perceive to be legalism in the document. I have e-mailed these men directly but wanted to post on it just in case others are thinking the same thing but are not as zealous as their brothers.
Biblically speaking, legalism is one of two things. First, legalism is using morality or a command of God as a means of expressing independence, self-sufficiency and self-determination. It's moral behavior that's not from faith. This is the kind of legalism the Pharisees were most often caught up in. Their obedience to God's commands didn't flow from a love and worship of God but rather as a means to exalt themselves over others and celebrate their own discipline and strength. The problem wasn't the command; it was their hearts. Man is legalistic. Commands aren't unless " and that brings me to the second definition of legalism " those commands are extra biblical and a church makes adherence to those commands the means by which someone is allowed into fellowship. This happens when a church erects a certain requirement of conduct that goes beyond the teaching of scripture. This isn't as common anymore or at least I haven't seen much of it in my lifetime, but I have read of it and heard other people's horror stories from it.
I hope this helps some. Holiness is something we should all be striving for. God, by His grace, has set us free to pursue Him in joy and walk in obedience to His commands not begrudgingly but with gladness. The commands of God in scripture shouldn't be a burden that we rail against but a disciplined hope-filled act of daily worship.