Recently, in the context of discussions about our own gathering, I have been thinking about commitment in the context of the community that is the church.
It seems to me there needs to be some degree of commitment by individuals who form the community - commitment to the community, commitment to one another, commitment to God. In our gathering, on the one hand there is some felt need for expressing some commitment, on the other hand no basis available or recognised on which to build it. Other house churches in our area seem to operate without explicit commitments - who ever turns up is welcome, and there is no expectation that any specific collection of people will turn up. I have the feeling that this is too amorphous and laissez faire to function effectively as church, the Body of Christ. But I am not at all sure how the commitment I am missing should be formulated and expressed. As soon as you start to write it down a whole ecclesiology and legal system springs into existence.
With these thoughts in mind I read with interest two essays on Pneumanaut Studio that try to make a distinction between 'covenant' and 'contract' - "Kontract Kills Kommunity" and "Covenant Creates Community". I feel for this distinction - 'contract' requires a legal system as its basis, wheres 'covenant' seems somehow softer, relationship oriented, based on honour and mutual understanding, healed by grace if one party fails.
However, so far, I have not found that the semantics clearly support this distinction. The explanation of 'covenant' in the dictionary on BibleGateway.com starts off "a contract or agreement between two parties".