Compass Bearings: Four Loves

This Companion issue highlights the ministry of our Town and Country (T&C) churches, where some of the most consequential ministry in the Covenant takes place. If you were to do a longitudinal study throughout our history, you would find that a disproportionate number of our pastors, missionaries, and other leaders have been nurtured in T&C settings. Many of those congregations are among our most durable and persevering. The strength of the ECC is in no small part due to our T&C congregations, which comprise roughly 30 percent of our churches.

But make no mistake. There is pain and complexity in rural America and Canada. Don’t underestimate the pain. It is real.

And there is pain within ethnic communities, which extends to our brothers and sisters in our African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American associations. Don’t underestimate this pain either. It is real.

Women in our society and even in our churches still face barriers and other indignities. Again, real pain.

There is craziness to the point of pained dizziness across the partisanship of the entire political spectrum.

We could keep adding to the list. Does the Covenant have anything to offer a pained culture?

The answer is yes.

Four values have shaped us from our beginning, what I call the four loves of the Covenant. These arise from our spiritual lineage of Pietism.

First, we are a biblical people. We love God’s word. We ask where is it written and do our best to align with it, even when it is costly and countercultural. It is incumbent upon us to put discipleship above partisanship. We must be leery of ever thinking the values of the kingdom of God line up easily with any single political party. Our first priority must always be to become better ambassadors of the scriptural values of the kingdom of God.

Second, we are a devotional people. We love God and believe in a living faith. That means when confronted with the pain of our world, we come before God in lament and intercession, and moving to confession and repentance, search our own lives, seeking forgiveness where we have been complicit in what we have done, and not done, to contribute to the pain.

Third, we are a missional people. We love God’s purposes. We follow the heart of God into the pain to make a difference. Making a point and making a difference are not the same. People on social media shout louder to make a point but often escalate matters in the process.

When we instead face the world and serve, we show the real difference God’s values make in real people in real places.

This little band called the Covenant won’t ameliorate all the pain. But maybe through us people will see that Jesus can.

Finally, we are a connectional people. We love God’s people. And so we are called to better understand the pain. If we will not understand it, we cannot help. We begin by expanding our relational circles. We ask for eyes to see how we fail one another.

Biblical. Devotional. Missional. Connectional. Those four characteristics in combination create and nurture the character of the Covenant.

What is the result? David Nyvall, an early Covenant leader who served as first president of North Park, would say this: We become “a center from which radiates the light of Christ’s truth, warmth of Christ’s love, and beauty of Christ’s character.”

This little band called the Covenant won’t ameliorate all the pain. But maybe through us people will see that Jesus can.

So let us be our best selves as biblical, devotional, missional, and connectional people. From our smallest town and country communities to our largest cities, from around the corner to around the world, let us radiate the light of Christ’s truth, the warmth of Christ’s love, and the beauty of Christ’s character.

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