On September 28, 1970 in Ann Arbor, Michigan ninety-nine of us brothers and sisters made their very first public commitment to Christian community. Steve Clark had just turned 30, the other ninety-eight were all in our twenties, I was 22. At the time I had the distinct feeling that we both knew and didn’t know what we were doing. Sure, we were young, but we were quite serious and intentional — Steve Clark, Ralph Martin and others taught us on the Scriptural meaning of “covenant” as a serious transaction between us and the Lord. And we had this very tangible, overwhelming prophetic sense that the initiative was with God.
And then again we didn’t know. How could we? What lie ahead were many, many more brothers and sisters joining us, marriages, and children and the incredible growth of an entire Christian community movement. And some of us chose to “live single for the Lord,” including me. We experienced much prophetic direction (hard times ahead, a bulwark) and certainly some heart-wrenching disagreements and a falling out that nearly broke us. But through it all God was with us to this day.
The world has certainly changed in the past 50 years. The covenant community movement coincided with the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, and as western society and the Christian church as well has turned on its head there is something profoundly significant that at God’s initiative Christian covenant community has stood against it to this day — a bulwark indeed.
And the war goes on. I’m now 72 and have a very different perspective than I did at 22. My earthly life is for the most part behind me, not before me. And I look with great interest and concern for the younger generations: how will those who hear a similar call respond, and will they endure? I sense that the years ahead will be more tumultuous, more difficult than my generation experienced, and so I pray most earnestly that their “yes!” will be strong and bold and that God’s grace and help sustain them.
One last reflection. I continue to marvel at how profound our covenant commitment to one another has been over these past 50 years. So many of us oldsters who joined in the 1970’s and ‘80’s experienced the trauma and heartache of our own internal troubles in the 1990’s that resulted in many members leaving some of our communities in the Sword of the Spirit. But it’s been my experience years later whenever I encounter former community members at the grocery store or at a wedding or funeral, what wells up within me is a profound love and affection and sense of connectedness — they are still my brother or sister! It’s as though in our public commitment the Lord put a hook in our hearts that the breakup and departures couldn’t quite break. What God had put together man could not pull asunder.
Top photo credit: photo collage of community activities past and present, (c) 2020 Living Bulwark/The Sword of the Spirit