The Fire Commitment

Every January, we revisit the core values of the church by considering the four basic aspects of life in relationship with God. To do this, we have developed four metaphors that express these basic biblical principles, and we have integrated them into a document we call the Membership Covenant. Then, on the first Sunday of February each year, we celebrate the renewal of this commitment to God and to each other as a church family.I want to help you be ready for that commitment by taking the time to share some thoughts on the covenant we make together.

The Fire Commitment

GOD’S FAMILY FUELS MY FIRE:

The Spirit dwells in me but his power is revealed in community. I intentionally prioritize Christian relationships because I have something to give and something to receive. Matt 22:39-40 (Acts 2:1-4 :: Gal 6:10 :: 1 Th 5:19 :: Eph 4)
Specifically, I affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and heed the guidance he gives through the counsel of others in this church. I will view this community as my spiritual family and offer my time, talent, and treasure here before serving or giving elsewhere. I will prioritize the weekly gatherings for worship and join a Core Group. I will pray for and support my leaders, love my fellow believers, and vigorously defend the unity of this church.


The Fire Commitment is sometimes the hardest to talk about for me simply because it is the one commitment that has the fewest biblical passages supporting the “fire” metaphor, and every time I teach on it, I feel the need to justify all over again why we use fire as the metaphor for life in community.
Really there are two main reasons: (1) The metaphor comes from a foundational moment in the life of the early church. It comes from the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when the believers were “all together in one place” and the Holy Spirit descended on those first believers and they saw what looked to them like tongues of fire above everyone’s head. It is an amazing moment that displays both the unity of the believers and the power of the Holy Spirit. (2) The metaphor reminds me of grilling a steak. To get the grill hot enough, I have to put a bunch of charcoal together and light it all. The more charcoal I have, the hotter the fire is. If I take one coal away, it will quickly die out, but together, they have enough heat to do miracles to my steak!
Nevertheless, the Fire Commitment is really less about the metaphor than it is about the meaning. The New Testament is abundantly clear that what God is up to in the world is the establishment of a new family. Family language shows up all over the place. We are “adopted” as God’s children. Fellow believers are called “brothers” and “sisters.” God himself is called our “Father.” The language of family is all over the place.
It’s obvious from even a light reading of the New Testament that God wants his people to be in community with other believers.
I don’t think anyone doubts that.
However, there are many people in our world to day who accept the need for “community” with believers but reject the need for the church, and I thought I should share just a little bit about that.
In the days of the early church, there was no such distinction between the “community” and the “church.” The believers were simply all together in that one room, praying and singing, and talking and perhaps eating when the Holy Spirit showed up. It sounds like a living room gathering, doesn’t it? Well, you have to remember that there were about 120 of them that day! Furthermore, by the end of the day, we are told in Acts 2 that over 3000 new people joined them! By reading just a few more chapters, you can quickly see that the 3000 blossomed to even larger numbers and the apostles quickly had to organize themselves into a leadership structure that was clearly hierarchical and also collaborative.
The modern day ideal of a small community of believers eschewing the organizational overhead of the “church” completely disregards the way the earliest followers of Jesus functioned.
I’m not saying that modern day church organizations are always good, but I’m definitely saying that being organized as a church is clearly biblical, and the responsibility of believers to be part of such a church is simply assumed throughout the New Testament.
In the New Testament, a believer who doesn’t have a church isn’t considered a believer.
That’s why our Fire Commitment is more than just a commitment to an ideal of relationships. It’s a commitment to a specific church family.

Specifically…

I affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life…

We expect that everyone who is a member of our church has repented of sin, expressed faith in Christ, and has been baptized the way Jesus was. The promise of God for all who have so repented and been baptized is that they would be given the Holy Spirit. Therefore, this affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s presence is an affirmation of prior repentance and baptism and current faith in the promises of God.

and heed the guidance he gives through the counsel of others in this church…

The New Testament clearly says that the Spirit is the one to provide counsel and training for the people in his church, but it also clearly says that such counsel and training comes from the community around us and the leaders over us. As people who have the Spirit of God, we must also believe that we are surrounded by others who have the Spirit of God, and therefore, we don’t have the right to conclude that our individual perspectives are any better than anyone else’s. In humility, we are eager to see the Holy Spirit in the lives of others.

I will view this community as my spiritual family and offer my time, talent, and treasure here before serving or giving elsewhere…

Practically speaking, family takes work, and family takes time, and family takes money. Emotionally speaking, family takes priority. We don’t intend that anyone would give up on their earthly family to be part of God’s spiritual family, even though Jesus teaches that sometimes that very thing might be necessary. What we do intend is that when it comes to spiritual family, when it comes to your relationship to fellow believers, you would see the community of this church as your primary spiritual family and you would prioritize it above other spiritual relationships.

I will prioritize the weekly gatherings for worship and join a Core Group

The two most obvious expressions of community in our church fellowship are the weekly worship gatherings and our midweek “Core Groups.” We view these as essential components of our family life together. Now, I know that sometimes you will have conflicts come up. Sometimes, you will be scheduled to work on Sunday. Sometimes, you will have an event with your kids on the night of a Core Group meeting. We know that conflicts arise, but most conflicts are resolved by setting good priorities. We simply want you to prioritize weekly worship and Core Group attendance highly.
Although we don’t make it a hard and fast rule, it’s my expectation that members of our church would be present for worship 3-4 times each month unless there is a real threat of you losing your job by maintaining that frequency. Similarly, I would expect that if you are a member of our church, you would join a Core Group and make a point of being with those people whenever they are meeting. There are all kinds of reasons why that might not be convenient for you to do so, but I can probably give you just as many reasons why you need to do it anyway!

I will pray for and support my leaders, love my fellow believers, and vigorously defend the unity of this church.

Finally, if we are to be a Christian community, we need to do the things that Christian communities are supposed to do! We are supposed to pray for each other and especially the leaders God has placed over us. We are to love each other with a true self-sacrificial love that includes both affection and practical acts of blessing. Finally, if we are to be a family like all of this, we must be people who don’t fight each other. We must be people who fight the forces of disunity. We must be people who vigorously oppose things like gossip, speculation, bitterness, and cruelty. We must be people who embrace forgiveness and patience in a spirit of true humility.

Making this Commitment

This Sunday is your chance to make this commitment. Let me encourage you to take it seriously, and to embrace it joyfully!
 

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