“Band of Brothers”: an Introduction to Church Covenants

Image: kickstartfarmington.org

Image: kickstartfarmington.org

Over the last four centuries, various church congregations have chosen to write down certain pledges of commitment in the manner of a legal covenant – and publish it. In today’s western society, however, ‘easy come, easy go’ is so often the keynote. Political parties, churches or local clubs all lament that they can’t get people to sign up. ‘Quickie’ divorces can end marriage vows in weeks. Life is impersonal and everything must be “now”.

But there is a curious phenomenon here. Men who baulk at demands and commitments, even in their own marriage and family, can also be inspired by movies like Shawshank Redemption or Braveheart, with their ‘band of brothers’ flavour and ‘loyalty to the death’ message. Maybe women do the same with Paradise Road?

The implication seems to be that intuitively we recognise the strength and desirability of loyalty, faithfulness and commitment, but life’s experience has taught us that we’re all too weak and it doesn’t work – so leave it enshrined in films, don’t try to live it.

But there is a reaction. Interest in covenants is growing. In churches in America, there is a mushrooming of interest in ‘fireproofing’ the marriage vows, born of the film Fireproof, which is popularising the term “covenant marriage” and offers specific rubrics for marriage re-dedications along this line.

Image: mudpreacher.org

Image: mudpreacher.org

A covenant is a statement of the basis for, and conditions of, a relationship, writes Julia Faire in “Covenant People“. Covenants have the purpose of both defining and strengthening commitment and setting forth a particular course and vision for those that participate in them to follow. They have a strong biblical basis and a history of heroic observance, notably the Covenanter martyrs of Scotland.

There is a battle to be fought and won, Faire concludes, a lost generation to be won for Christ, a solid church to be built within a fragmented and unstable society. There is a need for a drawing of the lines, consolidation and fresh vision if the church is not going to largely disappear amidst the fog of confusion and disarray that characterises our present [western] society.

For any of us open to exploring this subject, you can find various wordings of covenant pledges here and here.

Wayne Reynolds offers a detailed exposition of a church covenant drawn up by the New Hampshire Baptists in 1836. A more recent church covenant, that of the Jesus Fellowship (UK) is expounded here.

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About Trevor Saxby

I'm a mentor, friend to many, with a PhD in church history. I love learning from the 'movers and shakers' of the past, as I want to be one today!

5 responses to ““Band of Brothers”: an Introduction to Church Covenants”

  1. loz says :

    A really superb series of blog posts, with good links. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Trevor Saxby says :

    Well thank you, Loz! Good to hear. I believe in looking in history for what is culturally relevant for our day, and I had a strong sense that covenant loyalty was extremely relevant!

  3. gratefultothedead says :

    The “Fireproof” link appears broken. Would like to follow it–could you fix it please?

  4. Trevor Saxby says :

    Thanks for letting me know! It should be fixed now.

  5. Farhad says :

    Thank you for the blog and very useful links. I am using these materials as part of a teaching on Covenant.

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