April 13, 2010 — The deadness of Winter has given way to the greening of new life, and the fields and forests of Arkansas are now lavishly adorned in a living palette of jonquils, firepinks and wisteria, complemented by redbuds, dogwoods and flowering trees of all kinds. Contributing the audio to this visual splendor, a host of robins, bluebirds and martins cheerfully announce the arrival of Spring. Meanwhile, the Grand Artist is also moving among the community of rescued humans, in whose lives he is working a rebirth and transformation fully as awesome as his work in nature. Sara Faye and I were privileged to enjoy God’s work in both arenas this past weekend, as we shared in the body-life of the nondenominational Covenant Fellowship in Searcy, Arkansas.
The common experience of God’s salvation created and now defines this faith community called Covenant Fellowship, and that shared blessing echoes back in righteousness and praise. These people “greatly rejoice in the Lord,” who “has clothed” them “with the garments of salvation” and has “covered” them “with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10-11). They know the difference between being “members of the body” (a New Testament metaphor) and “members of the church” (an institutional substitute for the real thing). Covenant Fellowship began about a dozen years ago when “the Lord anointed” several households from a large established church “to bring good news to the poor” and “to bind up the brokenhearted.” They are still at it today — “priests of the Lord” and “ministers of our God,” serving the world in the name of the Savior (Isa. 61:1,6).
From the beginning, the group has chosen to gather in a rented community building, dedicating its financial resources to helping the poor and spreading God’s good news. Their mission is clear: to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and to repair the devastations of many generations (Isa. 61:2, 4). They have an everlasting covenant with God (Isa. 61:8); when they come together, their intimacy with God in worship leads to intimacy in covenant fellowship with each other.
Our Sunday meeting began with my 50-minute teaching titled “Fire in the Fireplace,” which discussed the identity, timing, necessity, privilege, gifts and stewardship of the Holy Spirit. (To hear “Fire in the Fireplace,” click here.) We then were blessed with 60-90 minutes of uninhibited praise and sharing the Lord’s Supper, testimonies of personal needs and God’s present activity, as body-members rejoiced and wept together while supporting each other in outpourings of serious prayer. Indeed, it is Springtime in Searcy, and “as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God” is causing “righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations” (Isa. 61:11).