What makes a church?
A building? [no.] A ‘fellowship'? Elders? A pastor?
What makes a new church?
Church is not about buildings. While churches may meet in buildings, they may also gather anywhere.
So what makes a church a church? Here's our attempt at an answer:
1. God's evident action...
...new life in individuals and households who call Jesus Lord by the power
of the Holy Spirit
...that causes like-minded believers in a geographical location to gather as
one family in Christ, often across familial and ethnic lines
...who are called out of the world to live together beneath the apostolic
message that speaks of God's saving action in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Christian scriptures
2. Joining God in mission...
...this gathering then translates that message into loving word and deed
...bringing evidence of God's saving, transforming, compassionate, just,
and healing power (in all that means) to the world, beginning with where
this gathering is rooted geographically, but not limited to that area
...with the intention of seeing more of such believing communities planted
...with a recognition that joining God in mission will mean opposition
and even persecution, as faced by our Lord, that will test the community
and even open new doors for Christ's love to infiltrate the darkness
3. Joining in Christian fellowship...
... signified by believers who are baptized in the name of the Father, and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of entering relationship with Jesus Christ and His church
... centered on eating together and the Lord's Table, both formally and
as a lifestyle of life shared in common at all times because of the cross, as
the proclamation of the community's hope and message and unity
...committed to accountability and discipleship as brothers and sisters in
regards to orthodoxy (right teaching) and orthopraxis (right
...committed to an inter-dependant relationship and accountability with
other local churches and the global Church, symbolically represented
by a continued relationship with other churches that gave birth to us (i.e.
this is where denominational ties in our day come into the picture)
...committed to corporate and individual prayer
...committed to generosity and sharing of time, talents, giftings, and
money for the edification of the church and the furthering of Christian
...requiring called elder leadership to teach, oversee, correct, nurture,
organize, and guide the body into effective life and witness
...welcoming the leadership gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor,
and teacher for the growing unity and maturity of the body."
Surely this is an inspiring biblical vision of the Church!
Further to these, we must add that church multiplication is about relational affinity: Influence flows through relationships - in families, at the hockey rink, at the soccer field, at social gatherings. We will follow the influence of the Spirit of God along relational lines.
Our practice then, will be to discern where this life is emerging, where there is a family or household ('People of Peace' - see How we multiply) who have an emerging passion to see the church grow in their community, and where there are elder leaders who are called by God to serve as spiritual parents to the new church.