God Keeps Covenant with Us
This month I conclude a series of three brief articles on three key words in the name of our new denominational home: ECO – A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
We focused on the word “covenant.” In steadfast love and mercy shown most clearly in Jesus Christ, God keeps covenant with us, committing to be our God, determined to be in personal relationship with us. In a similar way, in ECO we commit to be God’s people – and we covenant to be in a serious, intentional relationship with one another, through which we hold ourselves accountable.
We focused on the word “order.” Those who live in an order commit to a shared way of life around a “rule,” or set of principles, that differentiates them from the world. All members of ECO commit to a shared way of life united around a shared theological core centered in Jesus Christ.
Now we focus on the word “evangelical,” a word that is probably more familiar. Evangelicalism traditionally has had three significant emphases:
Evangelicals believe that every person can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – a relationship that is vital, alive, comforting and challenging, daily experienced, daily renewed through devotional time centered in Bible reading and prayer. Evangelical Christians describe this personal relationship with Jesus as being born again, or born anew, or what happens when a heart is given to Jesus, or life is committed to Christ.
Evangelicals anchor this personal relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior in a deep commitment to the Bible. Evangelical Christians have a “high view” of Scripture. As the ECO Core Values state, “We believe the Bible is the unique and authoritative Word of God, which teaches all that is necessary for faith and life. The prominence of God’s Word over our lives shapes our priorities, and the unrivaled authority of the Bible directs our actions to be in concert with Christ’s very best for our lives.”
Evangelicals want every person to enjoy a personal, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Evangelical Christians are passionate about setting Jesus before others in dynamic, compelling ways that encourage them to make a commitment to Christ. The ECO Core Values declare “making disciples of Jesus at the core of our ministry.” The ECO mission statement has a similar emphasis, simple and to the point. Why does ECO exist? “To build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.”
In contemporary evangelicalism a fourth emphasis has emerged, a conviction that being true to the whole gospel includes both a deep commitment to a personal relationship with Christ and also a deep commitment to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed. Again from the ECO Core Values: “We believe in living out the whole of the Great Commission – including evangelism, spiritual formation, compassion, and redemptive justice – in our communities and around the world.”
This is an exciting time for Hope Church as we begin anew in ECO. In the mercy of God, may these three great words describe our life together: covenanted, ordered, evangelical.
David Paul Lenz, Lead Pastor