Frequently asked questions
Find answers to our most commonly received questions by clicking on each question below:
The New Testament describes the Christian life in ways that are clearly corporate and communal. Christians are called to relate to one another as “brothers and sisters.” They are to be knit together as “members of one body.” They are “members of the household and family of God.” In this sense, all Christians are called to live in community.
Communities in the Sword of the Spirit, by their existence, hope to be a witness to the communal dimension of the Christian faith, a dimension that is weak or missing in the lives of many believers. We hope that our life together encourages individuals and groups of Christians to examine the New Testament call to a corporate life and take tangible steps to grow in it.
Why don’t members of Sword of the Spirit communities form community within their local parish or congregation? Why form community alongside, but still separate from, church life?
Christian communities are formed with those people who hear the Lord’s call and are willing to embrace it freely. People who have a vision and desire for a deeper life together are often scattered among several different Christian traditions or churches. Members of our communities love the churches of which they are members. They want to serve their church and work for renewal within it. But they also see a need for tangible Christian community and are willing to build that life with members of other churches – a life that for various reasons is not possible just now within most individual parishes or congregations.
Each Sword of the Spirit community has a written document called a “covenant” – an agreement – which expresses what the members of that community hope to be, in relation to the Lord and to one another. Members make a solemn promise to live out this covenant to the best of their ability. The covenant, written with the input of community members and approved by formal consensus, is an expression of what God has called each community to be, and part of that is to also be members of the wider Sword of the Spirit. A community’s covenant can be changed, usually by a two-thirds vote of its members. Click here to see the core covenant for communities in the Sword of the Spirit.
Some Christian communities in the past and even today have chosen to live under the same roof, but Sword of the Spirit communities normally do not. What is essential for community is a family-like bond of love in Christ and a common way of life that expresses our love for God and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Living in close proximity to one another, however, does help to build a stronger community life. For this reason, community members in many of our communities decide to live near one another in neighbourhoods. Some members of our communities do live together in residential Christian households. A household can be a group of single men or a group of single women, or it could be a family who invite single people to live with them and share in family life.
Membership in communities of the Sword of the Spirit is open to all people who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ, have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and are serious about living the Gospel way of life.
People interested in joining a community usually begin by becoming “affiliate members.” During the affiliate stage, which normally lasts one or two years, people begin participating in community life and receive instruction in Christian living. The affiliate stage is followed by the “underway commitment,” which normally lasts two or three years.
Underway members participate fully in community life and receive instruction in community living. The affiliate and underway stages provide a time for personal growth in the Christian life and for discernment of a call to join that community.
Those who complete this time of learning and discernment are invited to make a full “public commitment” to live as a covenanted member of that community. The public commitment is open-ended in that members agree to remain part of the community unless the Lord clearly leads them elsewhere. People who do not wish to make a public commitment may become “associate members,” a more limited form of community membership.
A body of leaders called “coordinators” governs each community. A “senior coordinator” serves as chairman and leads the body of coordinators in their work.
New coordinators are proposed by the body of coordinators and are confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the membership, following a time of training and temporary service in the role. The senior coordinator is elected by secret ballot by the membership to serve a certain number of years, often a five-year or six-year term.
In addition to the coordinators, there are many other people involved in guiding community life such as leaders of men’s and women’s groups, and heads of service groups and outreaches.
Yes. There are thousands of Christian communities around the world. Some are very similar to Sword of the Spirit communities, and some are very different. The Sword of the Spirit is a “community of communities.” There are some 90 Sword of the Spirit communities around the world. They have a similar approach to community life, share the same body of practical teaching about how to live as Christians, have a number of regional activities, and work together in Christian outreach and community building.
Christian community is a wonderful environment for children. They experience a network of relationships with peers, older and younger children, and many, many adults. They grow up in a society of love and support that helps them develop personally and as Christians.
How children are integrated into normal community life varies from community to community. In many communities, children meet by age group, either during the community meetings or at other times, for instruction and games, served by teams of adult community members particularly gifted in being with young people and who have a heart and a listening ear for them.
Many of the member communities of the Sword started among university students. So quite naturally outreach to university students has remained a keen focus. University Christian Outreach (UCO) and similar outreaches of our communities have teams of dedicated young people working at universities around the world to bring people of student age to the Lord and, where workable, also into the life of the communities.
Each community is supported through the generous gifts of its members. Most members work in regular jobs outside the context of the community. They provide for themselves and their families with their income, but they are also committed to the financial support of their church and of the community, and to help with any particular needs of the other members of their communities. The amount of money given to the community is a personal decision made by each community member.
Because members of the Sword of the Spirit belong to several different Christian traditions, we do not have a single, comprehensive statement of faith. However, we adhere to the primary Christian beliefs as they have been held by the mainstream of Christianity through the centuries. Members accept the truths stated in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds and are encouraged to turn to their individual churches in matters of doctrine. The teaching given in the Sword of the Spirit is ecumenical and focuses on our commonly held Christian truths and on practical Christian living.
People join Christian community for many different reasons. Some do so because they have a strong desire to live out a more committed Christian life. Others are attracted by the charismatic spiritual life. Some are looking for the family-like relationships found in the community. Others want to grow as Christians or see a Sword of the Spirit community as a good place to love and serve the Lord. The decision to join Christian community is a personal response to the work of the Lord in the life of an individual.
Members receive teaching that is biblical and practical – teaching that will help them with their day-to-day lives. They receive tangible support to grow in living as Christians – that is, to grow in Christian character. They become part of a loving network of people. They can expect the gifts God has given them to be employed to help build the kingdom of God and to reach others for Jesus Christ.