Over a four-year period in the 1970s, a meeting known as “Take and Give” (TAG) began drawing as many as 2000 per week to Washington, D.C., for passionate Bible teaching and worship. C.J. Mahaney and Larry Tomczak, both young preachers converted in the wake of the Jesus Movement, were the leaders of TAG’s successful ministry. But they longed for something more than an assembly of loosely connected Christians and wanted to build a local church like those they saw modeled in the New Testament.
A Growing Church
So in 1977 a small group of Christians (55 at the first meeting) began to gather in the basement of a suburban Maryland home. Together, they committed to build a community where they could learn and grow and worship God together. The final meeting of TAG was in December of 1979.
As the young church grew, it met in several local schools and facilities around Montgomery County. Then in the early ‘90s, God provided 40 acres in the middle of Gaithersburg where Covenant Life began to build a permanent home.
In 1997, God drew a young author and speaker named Joshua Harris to the vision of the local church. After much prayer and counsel, Joshua moved from Oregon to Maryland to be trained in ministry by C.J. At Covenant Life, Joshua encountered a church that earnestly applied God’s Word, loved the work of God’s Spirit, and prized genuine relationships.
Seven years later in 2004, after 27 years of faithful service to Covenant Life, C.J. passed the lead pastor baton to Joshua Harris in order to devote himself to serving Sovereign Grace Ministries full time.
Season of Change
Following circumstances that led to a long period of sober consideration and prayer, on December 16, 2012, Covenant Life Church ended its formal association with Sovereign Grace Ministries. We remain grateful to the leaders of Sovereign Grace who played a foundational role in establishing and building this local church.
In January of 2015 Joshua announced his plans to step away from his senior leadership role and pursue formal studies at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. The Covenant Life elders wholeheartedly supported Joshua in the decision, expressing unbridled enthusiasm for his future mixed with a deep sense of loss and sadness to see him go.
Joshua’s last Sunday preaching was April 12, 2015. He and his family moved to Vancouver in mid-June.
A search team of elders and members began engaging with both the congregation and lead pastor candidates in May to explore who the Lord might bring to fill the Lead Pastor role. In September the elders and search team recommended PJ Smyth for the position, and in December the membership voted to affirm PJ as the new Lead Pastor of Covenant Life.
We expect the immigration process to conclude in September or October 2016, enabling the Smyth family to relocate to Gaithersburg in late 2016 or soon thereafter.
Covenant Life continues to be a growing, culturally diverse church that exists to worship God, love one another and make disciples of Jesus Christ—the same goals cherished by those first 55 members who met in a basement.