What is a NEW COVENANT CONGREGATION?
Organisation vs. the Spirit
A New Covenant congregation is not an organisation to be filled up as one would fill up a glass of water, or build a house with bricks, but is a spiritual home, an open embrace, like fresh air on an open plain.
Before the Critical Mass is Reached
The organisation, when it is needed, will build itself up, as a Local Colony assumed a certain size (the first of a series of critical masses) and maturity. If it is being built from scratch, it will begin informally with souls meeting the living Messiah. It will be led by the same Spirit coming together to pray, share testimonies, read the Scriptures, and worship. A communal spirit will prevail, a harmony of mutual understanding brought about by the action of the Holy Spirit, which binds them together as a single family.
In time a gentle father-figure will emerge amongst them, one who is clearly set apart by the Holy Spirit to whom the rest of the group will naturally gravitate for counsel because they know he is trustworthy and in communion with the Lord. He will demonstrate by his deeds that he cares for the group by laying aside personal interests in order to sacrifice for them. He will not be seeking a power-base to dominate the group but will be led by the Holy Spirit. This is the group's emerging Pastor, one who will not covet his position of God-given authority but be willing to yield it to another at any time. At about the same time, or possibly a little later, a mother-figure will arise also, who will become the group's Pastress. Gradually an external, visible Priesthood Order will appear as the various needs arise, and be organised according to the pattern laid down. It will not be organised for itself, but for the people, so that they can function as a fully integrated, harmonious, coöperative Body.
Personalities and Problems
Problems and disagreements will arise between personalities only as the Christ-focus is lost and as the group matures. There is a honeymoon period in the formation of any congregation where all is bliss. Like any marriage, the honeymoon will end, but not the love affair with Christ, if Christ remains in sharp focus. As a marriage settles down the stark realities of the outside world begin to place pressures and burdens on the congregation. This is inevitable. Like the soul being refined by its earth-walk, so too must the Local Colony as an individual made of many individuals.
The End of the Honeymoon
When the honeymoon ends, the deficiencies of character soon become apparent and this may be the cause of friction if sufficient love is not present. "Love covers a multitude of sins"; but if love is not present, those sins will become the object of sniping by those who should be gently correcting instead of laying siege as though an enemy was in their midst. And though the Enemy, Satan, will always be there working through the fleshy Adam-nature, the soul itself is not an enemy, but a brother under attack by unseen powers, one who is to be helped rather than pushed out.
It is important to let the honeymoon run its course and not impose a post- honeymoon régime on a new congregation until it has clearly reached that stage. Do not quench the Spirit of the love affair with God's Spirit. It will be a memory to be cherished and will remind a congregation as it becomes more formally organised that the substance is more important than the structure. Therefore the substance must always come first and be allowed to establish itself. That new romance with God is infinitely precious, where the freedom of spiritual youth rules the day, must be allowed. When the time comes to move on to the freedom of spiritual maturity, then that must also take its course. That is for the Pastorate to decide under the guidance of a Bishopric (Metropolitan Pastorate) from a Mother Colony and/or the Local Apostle. The transition may be difficult but it must be made. And unfortunately there will always be those who do not want to grow up and remain in a spiritually childish state always:
Growing Up Spiritually: Organising
This may well be a crisis point for a congregation as the spiritual honeymoon is mistaken for spiritual maturity. Great care must be taken in this period if change as a "group" becomes a fully-fledged Local Colony, acting as an effective vehicle for redemption in the local community. Something of the honeymoon spirit will, however, be preserved in the local House Fellowships which meet during the week as these may well become the nucleus later for more congregations/Local Colonies. Thus the informality and formality of congregational life will, in practice, operate side by side.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Cor.13:11, AV).
As the honeymooners study the Word first in the Bible and then in the Olive Branch, they will, if they allow themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, soon see that the newly weds must settle down and build a home with four walls and a roof -- a Local Colony. What is important is that this desire stems from within and not be imposed from without, for there is a time and season for all things:
Let the group marriage to their Lord have its sweet beginnings and grow into maturity with that same sweetness but with greatly expanded spiritual horizons. And then, when a congregation has reached a complete number of 144 baptised souls, the children of that marriage must leave home and establish their own homes, as the saints start up new groups, bringing newly converted souls into a new honeymoon relationship with their Lord.
"And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding" (Dan.2:21, AV).
Organisation vs. Authoritarianism
This, brethren and sisters, is the New Covenant vision of a Local Colony in its spiritual essence. It is how the Church of God is made -- from the inside outwards. It stands in sharp contrast to many of the authoritarian denominations and sects who throw new-born children into an adult system without letting them grow in grace. Impose no heavy burdens on new members but give them a honeymoon period. How long should that be? If the Israelite army gave newly married men one year off from the military so that they could enjoy their new brides, then I suppose a year is a pretty good time for a newly born-again New Covenant Christian to bathe in the love of His Lord and enjoy the support of his Local Colony in his early growth period before responsibilities and calls come his way. But I give this not as a hard-and-fast rule but as a general guideline. Let the Pastors discern the Spirit and act according to wisdom. Amen.
This page was created on 7 April 1998
Last updated on 7 April 1998
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