August / September 2019 - Vol. 105

Christian together before the cross 
Restoring Covenant Life and Relationships:
The Lord’s Response

by Bob Tedesco

Each of our communities, as well as the whole of the Sword of the Spirit, could be described by a long list: we are a Christian community; a lay Christian community; an ecumenical Christian community; a covenant community; or perhaps a Pentecostal community. From the beginning, these types of communities were called covenant communities. In describing and identifying what we are, covenant is the best word to pull out of that long list. It is distinct from other types of communities such as a prayer community or a religious community. Covenant is the best descriptor.

There are many things that we as Christians hold to that are only mentioned a couple or a few times throughout all of Scripture. Covenant, however, is mentioned 298 times in the Scriptures. Clearly, God is a covenant-making God. It is part of his nature, and in covenant community one of our intentions is to reflect that part of his nature.

Societal Unraveling
The sexual revolution was one part of a larger cultural revolution that began in the 1960s. Major mores as defined by ways of acting or cultural norms were shed. Modesty of dress, modesty of speech and common sense seemed to disappear. People began to think that they could go bar-hopping at two o’clock in the morning and not get into any trouble!  There were many signs during that time to indicate that society was beginning to unravel: eliminating prayer in the schools, the acceptance and promoting of abortion, the rise in divorce and promiscuity to name a few. Also, during this period, legal agreements began to lose credence. We might say that a person’s word carried much less credibility and became much less reliable than in times past. People would say things or make statements that had little substance or of which they had little intention of holding to. Some of the Christian denominations had religious orders that had been in place for centuries. Even many of these also began to unravel as promises were taken less seriously. Many of them began to decline before the 60s, and religious orders did have promises as a part of their intended way of life.

Restoring Covenant Life and Relationships
One element of the Lord’s responses to these declines was to begin to restore covenant life and relationships especially among lay people. We see the Lord divinely responding to the situation by initiating and restoring covenant life. Today, everything is voluntary and you can walk out of just about everything. If your word is good, the promises that you make are serious and they can bring cohesion to intentional relationships.

A covenant is a tool to support any significant relationship. Marriage is one example. A religious order is another. If you get hired for a new job there is usually a written description of what that job entails; how the company will relate to the employee; how the company expects the company to relate to them. If you researched the applications of agreements, promises, and contracts you would discover that these are all tools which become relevant and weigh heavily in decisions handed down in a court of law. Contracts give evidence that a person or persons have adhered to or reneged on their given word or promise. There are many, many legal cases that are based on covenants, promises and agreements that were broken by one of the parties involved.

It is easy to look back at the last 50 years or so and see how people’s words just don’t mean as much as they used to. Part of our decline as a society is because we can no longer count on people to do what they said or to adhere to a given promise. We, in the Sword of the Spirit are part of a worldwide network of communities that the Lord has raised up to give a divine response to this societal unraveling. We are, to be sure, one network among many that God has called forth.

Covenants are not that unusual. Some ministers, for example, may have a particular goal they wish to accomplish and will establish a “covenant of understanding” with their associates. Some of the more well-known ministers have written covenants dealing with how they want to work together; how they want to protect one another from the onslaughts of the enemy in our culture as well as working together to protect Christianity.

Our Recent History
Although it might seem to our younger members that we’ve been around for a very long time, by all accounts, if we consider history in its totality, covenant community, and more specifically, the People of God community, is a very recent development.

Our history with the Sword of the Spirit began when we intentionally aligned with the Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in1974. We recognized the value in receiving teaching and wisdom from those who have gone before and to learn from them.

From 1973 to mid-1974 the People of God worked on writing our covenant. That was preceded by some covenant work done with the Pittsburgh Charismatic Renewal, particularly the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and a priest named Fr. Mike Salvagna. Fr. Mike was instrumental in gathering leaders from the Pittsburgh area together to study the idea of covenant that was coming to us from other places. We were sensing a call to covenant, but we really didn’t know much about what that meant. Several of our early leaders were part of that group.

While the wheels of covenant were turning in Pittsburgh, my wife Bobbie and I made a trip to the Alleluia Community in Augusta, Georgia. We visited them in order to study community but also to study covenant because our own covenant was still a work in progress. I was given a copy of their covenant during that visit and consequently, our covenant in the People of God is structurally very similar to theirs.

There are different types of communities, one of which is referred to as common sharing, residential community. Alleluia Community was that type of community. Their neighborhood was called Faith Village. There are common sharing communities with folks who live in clusters. There are also communities where some folks live in clusters, while others do not, but all have separate incomes. Some communities are a mix of various types of community living experience. Both the Word of God and the Alleluia community were ecumenical. The Alleluia Community remains so to this day.

The People of God Covenant Structure

[Covenant Statement printed in italics]

Opening Scripture

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my Laws into their minds and I will write them on their ears, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.”  Hebrews 8:10

Opening Prayer

Father, we recognize and accept the covenant to which you have called us. Jesus, we accept your lordship in our lives. We accept your call to be disciples, your commission to teach and make disciples of all people. Holy Spirit, we dedicate ourselves to allowing you to sanctify us, to work the Father’s will in us, to form us as individuals into what we were meant to be and to form us into a people of God. You have destroyed our isolation and joined us together.

There is much to consider in that paragraph and it’s worth reading over and meditating upon from time to time.  It begins by saying, “We recognize and accept the covenant to which you have called us…” We were sensing a call from the Lord to be more serious and more stable about our relationships. We were sensing that our isolation was being destroyed or eliminated and that God was joining us together to become his people.

How We Want to Live the New Way of Life

Faithful to our churches and to our primary vows such as marriage, we commit ourselves as brothers and sisters in the Lord, entrusting our lives to him and to each other in him.

This statement acknowledges that we do indeed have other covenants, other serious relationships such as marriage or the relationship we have with our denominations. In light of those, however, we are entrusting our lives to one another together in this covenant agreement. Some specific ways we agree to do that are the following:

We promise to build up, exhort, admonish and to listen to one another…

We could do a little better at building each other up or encouraging one another, but also exhorting and admonishing each other. Someone once said, “You have two ears and only one mouth!” We should listen to one another a little more; to be slow to speak and quick to listen as it says in James 1:19.

…to communicate, or call for help when we have a need…

Now, that specifically put the onus on the individual to be speaking up and asking for help when there is a need. If you have a need and you just wait to see who might meet your need, that’s not what we agree to in our covenant. The responsibility is on each of us to call for help when it is needed.

…to be quick to forgive, and to ask forgiveness…

This is essential! At the risk of being too simplistic, you could almost say that the entire Bible, the entire work of God is the work of forgiveness. That little piece of a sentence really taps into the greatness of Christian revelation. For all time, God has been planning to build a family from flawed people and correspondingly needed a plan to help us fulfill his vision. We need to see that to be quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness is a fundamental, Christian bedrock foundation stone that we cannot get around, step over or ignore!

If you remember, the chosen people wandered around in the desert for 40 years. There is a saying about taking another trip around the mountain. In other words, if you’ve not formed this principle of forgiveness in your life well enough, it may require another trip around the mountain, perhaps another year in the desert in order for you to get it! We need to be quick to integrate this point into our lives, and we need to be determined to live this way!

…to be a mutual support to one another…

Here, it says ‘mutual’. Here the onus is not all on me, but we want to be a support to one another.
…We commit ourselves to loving one another…

If you want to understand how corporate our life in Christ really is, search the Bible for how many times the phrase ‘one another’ shows up in scripture. It’s quite amazing!

… as brothers and sisters in Christ, to faithfulness to our commitments…
One way of describing commitment is this: Commitment is doing what you said you would do after the feeling in which you said it has passed. For example, after a year of marriage one of the partners might discover they have a serious illness. Circumstances and perhaps your feelings about that other person may have changed. Will you still keep your commitment? You should, because that’s what it means to make a commitment; faithfulness to your decision even after the feelings have passed or the circumstances have changed. We are called to be faithful to our commitments.

…to regular community prayer, daily prayers…

It’s corporate, personal and family, small groups, etc.

...fellowship, teaching, and to our financial responsibilities to the community…

The area of financial responsibility is one that we should review every so often because it’s not natural to give away your money. Just as your children are not yours but God's, neither is it your money! The agreement we have made to tithe can easily be compromised if we begin to use it to pay the babysitter, or tuition for school, or to put gas in our car so we can get to work. We need to protect the Lord’s money and use it for his work.

…We agree to recognize the authority of the coordinators and to support, to pray for and to submit to them…

Anytime you have a significant relationship or a significant network of relationships there will be a need for someone to be responsible for oversight. In a family the buck stops at the desk of the father. Working together in a covenant of serious relationships necessitates an authority to govern the covenant and those relationships. It will work much more smoothly when the authority is recognized, supported and covered in prayer.
…We will foster the growth of the community by supporting the programs of Christian initiation and formation in community life…

This is something we want to support from the very beginning, from the earliest stages of our members lives; from children’s ministry all the way across the youth bridge into adulthood. As community members who have agreed to live our covenant, should we really be saying we’d prefer not to serve in children’s ministry? It is stated in our covenant that we agree to foster and support every stage of growth in our members’ lives, including children’s ministry!

Sword of the Spirit ties

…We recognize by virtue of our membership in the People of God we are also members of the Sword of the Spirit, an international community of communities. We commit ourselves to love and support our brothers and sisters in the Sword of the Spirit throughout the world and to serve them in common mission…

There are many ways we serve together in common mission with our brothers and sisters in the Sword of the Spirit, among them are Summer Camp, University Christian Outreach, our men’s and women’s retreats, serving our mission communities as outside coordinators and Senior Women Leaders, visitation teams, hosting regional groups and events, and perhaps most importantly, by praying for one another. We are, in fact, by intent a living bulwark!

…We agree to be held to this covenant and to hold one another to it. We regard this as a serious commitment which we enter prayerfully. Once we were no people, but now we are God’s people.


Bob Tedesco is the founder of the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where he served as Senior Coordinator for 26 years. He has been involved in lay ministry for over forty-five years, serving in the Sword of the Spirit as the North American Regional President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the North American Executive Committee.

Bob is also the author of two books,  Essays on Christian Community and Choosing Discipleship. and forty-one Christian life articles published in the Sword of the Spirit international online magazine, Living Bulwark. He has a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a consulting engineer for twenty years. He and his wife, Bobbie, have been married for nearly sixty years. They currently have ten children, thirty-seven grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren. They reside in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, USA.

Choosing Discipleship book by Bob Tedesco
Choosing Discipleship

Embracing the Call in a Modern Culture
by Bob Tedesco

163 pages
Published in 2019 by Credo House Publishers,Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

The book is available in print at Amazon and Credo House Publishers.

Choosing Discipleship is an excellent book and very
helpful for keeping some key issues before us in a compact way. It is very useful, easy to ponder, and easy to teach from. It is a great resource... personally; I liked the style you used... it relates to the busyness of our culture.
Bill Durrant, Founder, People of God’s Love Community, Columbus, Ohio

Excellent pastoral material and also well written. It’s a tremendous contribution to the Sword of the Spirit worldwide and the wider church as well... Seasoned leaders, parents, pastoral workers, and community members need to be refreshed and learn again (and again) the vision and sound principles and wisdom you have taught over the past few decades... It will continue to be circulated to many communities and individuals for generations to come.
Don Schwager, Editor, The Living Bulwark, international online magazine of the Sword of the Spirit

Typing the manuscript for Choosing Discipleship over the course of a summer felt like being on an
extended retreat! My own life of discipleship and my understanding of what God is doing in the world today has been significantly influenced by Bob’s clear vision, insight, and wisdom... The impact he has had both as a community builder and author has stretched across continents, and I suspect his influence will be felt for many years to come.
Joanie Nath, Senior Women’s Leader, People of God Community,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Top illustration: Christians worshipping together (c) Paul Shuang at  
Stock Photo ID: 251603902
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