Feed My Starving Children

Evangelical Covenant Church logoOne of these days I’m going to have to write a series trying to explain what the Evangelical Covenant Church is. My denomination is a small one (fewer than 200,000 members in the US), hard to understand if you didn’t grow up in it, and yet growing fast. (More than half the current denominational membership wasn’t in the Covenant ten years ago.) So I think it’s worth some further exploration. For for today, I just want to share two of my favorite things about the ECC, as a segue into introducing another organization with which our church has enjoyed a healthy partnership.

The first thing I love about Covenanters is that they often encounter either/or debates that have torn evangelicalism or Protestantism apart and shrug, “Why not both?”

Infant baptism or believer’s baptism? Commemoration or consubstantiation? Republican or Democrat? “Why not both?”, we ask, as we offer you some hot dish or Jello salad.

Or to take another dichotomy that Covenanters view as false: Matthew 25 (“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”) or Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples of all nations”)? Covenanters see no contradiction between these two emphases. Due in large part, I’m sure, to the continuing influence of Pietism, Covenanters are evangelicals whose biblicism, conversionism, and crucicentrism lead to activism oriented around both evangelism and discipleship and what we call ministries of compassion, mercy, and justice.

A second thing I cherish about the Covenant is that it was founded not as a denomination (though it’s developed that apparatus, mostly to the good), but as a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing churches together to do missions work that they couldn’t do by themselves. The early “Mission Friends” — rather poor Swedish immigrants, for the most part — managed both to sustain the intimate fellowship of the Pietist conventicles that gave rise to their movement, and to transcend the limitations of the lone congregation, pooling their resources to send missionaries to Alaska and China and to found hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes, and schools. (Hence the first name of the movement: the “Mission Covenant.”)

And going even beyond that, Covenanters have long partnered with those not of their movement. At the founding of the Covenant in 1885, one of the most important sermons preached worked from this text: “I am a companion of all those fear you” (Ps 119:63).

Feed My Starving Children logoFor both of these reasons — a commitment to what Covenanters call “the whole mission of the church” (Great Commission plus Great Commandment), and a historic eagerness to partner for mission with other “companions” in Christ — I’m thrilled that our church has such a strong relationship with Feed My Starving Children. When they read that Jesus told Peter to “feed his sheep” in John 21, both Covenanters and the people of FMSC tend to assume that the “feeding” is both spiritual and physical. And Feed My Starving Children enables members of our church to share the love of Christ with people far beyond the suburb where our building happens to sit.

For a quick introduction to Feed My Starving Children, check out this video, in which our executive pastor, Kay Sorvik, is among those interviewed about the relationship between churches and FMSC:

In the history of our partnership, groups from Salem Covenant have packed nearly 900,000 meals at Feed My Starving Children, working side by side with Christians (and non-Christians, I’m sure) of all races, classes, and denominations.

If your church is looking to send its members on what the video calls a “virtual” missions trip, I strongly encourage you to look into FMSC. It has packing facilities in the Twin Cities, suburban Chicago, and Tempe, AZ, plus its “MobilePack” program is at work around the country. MobilePack events are already scheduled to be held in coming months in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

4 thoughts on “Feed My Starving Children

  1. Just as someone from the “outside” of the ECC, the denomination strikes me as a place where, for instance, those who are Republicans or who had a strong commitment to infant baptism would not be welcome. I would not be surprised to find a thriving compassion ministry as you mention, but was not really aware of the ECC being very evangelistic. The ECC strikes me as “center left” on a spectrum of denominations where the Evangelical Free strikes me as more “center right”.

    Obviously you’re fully immersed in the ECC and so I am glad to hear your report. I’m just stating what I’ve observed as an outsider.

    I’m saying this to ask for insight and state my perceptions… I’ve always wanted to really like the ECC and perhaps find a home there, but it’s never quite worked out for a variety of reasons.

    Perhaps I’ve just misread things…

  2. Thanks very much for the comment, Ken! It’s helpful to read your perceptions: since most outsiders simply have no encounter with the Covenant, we rarely get Robert Burns’ gift, “to see ourselves as others see us.”

    I think I’d say a couple of things in response.

    1. It’s hard to pin down a “typical” Covenant experience or church precisely because of the denomination’s embrace of freedom in non-essentials (and self-limiting to six essential points of shared affirmation). I appreciate hearing your own experience, even as (especially since!) it diverges substantially from my own. Take your “for instance”… I daresay that a large number of people at my church vote Republican (possibly a majority, though ours is a largely apolitical congregational culture), and I know that most people at our church affirm infant baptism. (To be ordained as a Covenant pastor, you are required to affirm both modes, whatever your personal preference.) But I don’t doubt that things might look/feel very different at a Covenant church down or up the road.

    2. That said… in general, I think you’re probably correct to view the Covenant as being a bit to “the left” of our cousins in the Free Church, mostly because Covenanters weren’t as strongly influenced by the Moodyite or Fundamentalist movements as were the Free. So depending on how you understand evangelism, it might feel like Covenanters aren’t as “evangelistic.” (Here’s the Evangelism page at the Covenant website: http://www.covchurch.org/evangelism.) And a not-insignificant number of Covenanters have felt uncomfortable with the neo-evangelical movement. The ECC, unlike the E-Free, is not a member of the National Association of Evangelicals — though one of the first NAE presidents was Paul Rees, the pastor of 1st Covenant in Minneapolis.

    In my own experience, there’s an enormous concern among Covenanters for bringing people to Christ. It says something to me that a church that chooses to stress only six “affirmations” makes “the necessity of the new birth” and a commitment to the Great Commission (as part of “the whole mission of the church”) two of those points of emphasis.

  3. Thanks … I guess most of my experience is via the web… people I identify as ECC on the web… their political stances (personal I’m sure) and the early adoption of the TNIV and NRSV in contrast to the “ESV Zone” elsewhere in evangelicalism… some church plants that have gotten publicity that seemed “emergent”… probably not the daily “Swede on the street perspective!” 🙂

    But I’m glad to learn differently… I had at times wanted to “come aboard” and try to be part of things but was providentially hindered and had some of the above concerns. I’m probably center right but no “Moodyite” !

    I suppose I feared it might be going further left into liberalism.

    Thank you again for your help. May the Lord bless your work and the ECC’s…

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