The Sword of the Spirit is a growing network around the world of some 90 communities and more than 100 movements that have a common vision, way of life, and spiritual culture. There are more than 14,000 adult members in these communities and at least as many again in the movements.
We sometimes describe ourselves as a “community of communities”. Each community within the Sword of the Spirit is self-governing but receives help in living out its life as a community from the sharing of resources with other communities around the world.
The Sword of the Spirit has a strong common culture that transcends our international differences. As a result, when members of different communities get together, even though they may be from different parts of the world, there is a very strong sense that we are part of the same international community of communities.
The Sword of the Spirit is ecumenical. Some of our communities are ecumenical in their make-up, with members who belong to various churches – Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox. Other communities are all one denomination. But the call of all our communities is to foster the unity of all Christians. While recognizing our differences, we look to see how we can share in the riches of one another’s Christian traditions and work together for Christ.
This is what the members of The Sword of the Spirit are all committed to hold in common in order to maintain their unity while recognizing diversity at the local and regional levels.
1. Our Call and Identity
We share a common identity and the same prophetic call from the Lord. We serve the church as one community of communities, ecumenical, international, charismatic and intergenerational. We are a community of disciples on mission.
2. Our Covenant Commitment
Our communities are committed to each other through our covenant of membership and therefore each member has a personal commitment to the members of the other communities. Each local covenant expresses in essential matters the same understanding of our commitment to God and to one another as members of the same people.
3. Our Way of Life
We are recognizable as a people because we have a way of life practiced in all our communities, that includes worship characterized by charismatic praise, openness to gifts of the Spirit, and hearing the word of God in Scripture. This way of life is formed in us and handed on through a set of basic teachings and a process of initiations imparted in all communities.
4. Community Care
We give ongoing support to one another as community members. This is made possible by having a pattern of life as a community, a pastoral approach to caring for one another, both families and single people, a process for identifying and training leaders, and an integrated approach to working with our youth both locally and regionally.
5. Our Mission
The core of our mission can be described as bulwark-building, that is preaching the gospel and building Christian community. Therefore we actively maintain an approach to evangelism that brings others into our life. Our members are committed to our mission and engage in it locally, regionally and internationally.
6. Our Government
Our government helps us safeguard and promote our common life and mission. Each of our communities has a constitution that includes a set of required elements. Internationally we have a common federal government of a representative and collegial nature. It upholds the common nucleus, supports and safeguards its member communities, and coordinates our common mission.
7. Intercommunity Relationships
We share our human and material resources, and come together internationally and regionally for the sake of unity among our communities, leaders, and members.
Strengthening our way of life
There are other areas that characterize our way of life and we have teaching resources to help our communities emphasize them from time to time. These are the Lord’s Day Celebration, Financial Giving, Personal Prayer, Community Service, Mission and Evangelism, Family Life and Caring for One Another.
Sword of the Spirit Mission and Outreach
We are called to live, work and strive, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that others might have true life in Christ, now and forever.
We do these things individually both in our daily lives and by serving in the community or its outreaches. We do these things corporately by opening our life to others, by maintaining outreaches, and by helping to build new communities.
What we are called to be and to do to fulfill this mission
What We Are Called To Be
- A Bulwark We are called to be a bulwark that defends people in this time of spiritual warfare and is an instrument for God’s work in difficult times (Ps 8:2).
- A Prophetic People We are called to be a people that lives the Christian call radically as disciples so that the world might know that God has sent Jesus Christ (John 17:11).
- A Servant People We are called to serve church and society by working to stem the tide of evil and promote holiness in the daily circumstances of our lives.
What We Are Called To Do
- To Proclaim We are called to proclaim the kingdom of God by life and word so that others might come to conversion to Christ.
- To Gather We are called to bring others into communities and movements so that they can live effectively as Christians.
- To Leaven We are called to live as disciples and work for truth and justice in the daily circumstances of life in such a way that we might leaven the situations we are in.
- To Defend We are called to defend Christian truth and morality in church and in society.
The Leadership Structure of the Sword of the Spirit
The Sword of the Spirit is a federation of self-governing local communities. When the local communities enter into the covenant of membership, they enter into the international community of communities. The international leadership, therefore, has the primary responsibility to unite us and move us forward as a community of communities.
International Assembly of the Sword of the Spirit
The International Assembly is the highest leadership body of the Sword of the Spirit. It meets once every two years. It is responsible to review and approve the policies and the teachings that are followed by all the member communities.
The Assembly meeting is also a forum for the leaders to provide and receive personal support, relationship-building, communication of vision and sharing of experience that all strengthen the life and mission of the Sword of the Spirit.
International Executive Council
The International Executive Council, led by the President of the Sword of the Spirit, is the leadership team that maintains and moves forward our common life and work. It is an executive body in that it directs the work we do on the international level. It also makes executive policy for our common life and work on the regional and international levels, and coordinates that work.
Regions and Zones
Most local communities are grouped into four established ‘regions’ (Asia, Europe & the Middle East, Ibero-America, North America); we also have some communities in Africa and in the South Pacific where we do not yet have established regions.
Regions are established by the international government to be vehicles for the communities of the region to support one another and advance the common mission in the region.
Each region is led by a regional council. Most of the work of each regional council goes to advancing the region and the communities in it, as decided by the region itself. In addition, the regions contribute to the advance of the international community of communities.
The regions are the primary places for strengthening the communities, building relationships and unity building, caring for local communities and for community support programs, regional youth programs and leaders formation programs.
Some regions are also broken down by geographic or culturally-specific ‘zones’ to further develop and support our life.
Finance and Funding
The Sword of the Spirit is an international federation of self-governing communities. As such, our funding is ‘bottom-up’.
Individual members: We encourage the historic Christian approach to ‘tithing’, teaching our members to give a tenth of their income to ‘the work of the Lord’ (dividing it between their local church and their local community), and to be generous beyond that as they are able. We believe that those who are more affluent should be especially generous in their giving, and should not think of tithing as the upper limit of giving.
Local communities: Each community is funded by its members. Local communities are self-governing, and they are responsible for their own budgets, which they generally manage through a non-profit corporation that is run according to applicable national law and regulation.
The communities also fund the regional and international work.
History and origins
We have our origins in the charismatic renewal in the United States in the late 1960s. At several universities, a network of students and others began to earnestly seek God and attempt to form Christian community. They were “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” to use the New Testament term – they began to experience the working of God’s Spirit, promised by Christ to his disciples.
They experienced a deeper personal relationship with Christ, an inner strength to conduct their daily lives in an upright way, and a new confidence in speaking to others about Christ.
As word spread and people prayed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, charismatic prayer groups sprang up in many places in the USA and soon in many countries around the world.
In the midst of wildfire growth, affecting the lives of tens of thousands, some people came to a growing awareness that for long-lasting Christian renewal, individuals needed to have committed relationships with one another. Inspired by the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles, some prayer groups formed themselves into covenant communities – a new form of community adapted to modern circumstances.
The charismatic renewal and the communities movement flourished during the 1970s, with vibrant communities springing up in the United States, the Philippines, Lebanon, the South Pacific, Europe, and Latin America.
During the 1970s there were also attempts by the communities to link together for mutual support, with little lasting success. But in 1982, several communities with a similar vision joined together to form the Sword of the Spirit. Their desire was to be an international “community of communities,” a network of communities with a common mission and way of life. In the years since, we have grown in our understanding – sometimes through trial and error and disagreement – of how to live out the call to Christian community both locally and as an international community of communities.
From the beginning, we experienced a call from God to live as a witness to Christian unity as an ecumenical community. Some of our member communities are ecumenical local communities, and we all share the call to ecumenism in our international community life.
Today, the Sword of the Spirit has grown to some 90 communities and more than 100 movements in 28 countries – with a unity based on common teaching, mission, structure, and way of life.
For more on the History of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, click here.
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.
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.