What makes a church a church?

It is a question several of us ask around Discovery. What activities, ministries and postures are essential for a church to actually be a church? Without one of them, we might be a very good thing, but we’d no longer be a church. What do you think a church must be about in order to be a church?

Here is Discovery’s list: 

— Centrality of Jesus. The core of everything at Discovery is Jesus – His teachings, his God-ness and his work on the cross and in the tomb. We exist to invite people into life in Christ (what the apostle Paul calls being, “In Christ”) and then to orient every fibre of their life, every corpuscle of their being around the centrality of Jesus.

— God’s evident power. In today’s resourced and technological world, we can accomplish impressive and sophisticated work, but a church has access to power that is unique to God alone: transformation, redemption, salvation. Churches put all kinds of energy and effort into ministry, but is it fueled by Divine Power that only God provides? While Discovery is far from a “name it and claim it” culture (!!!) we look for and point to signs of God’s providence and power where “only God” got us to where we are.

— Fruit of God’s Spirit. Paul of Tarsus reminds us in his letter to the church in Ephesus that we can see evidence of God’s work by the “fruit” that God produces. A church is a place where an uncommon level of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control are evident. We are far from perfect but a church should be able to point to an uncommon amount of fruit – evidence that God is at work among us.

— Love of Neighbor and Enemy. Jesus’ simplest commands are often the most difficult to fulfill. Many of our culture’s enterprises like media and politics have a vested interest in keeping us at odds with each other, yet Jesus calls us to love our neighbor and our enemy as signs of God’s radical Kingdom. Loving a neighbor or enemy can often look like serving them in simple ways, or praying for them and sometimes nothing more simple and profound than listening to them and letting them have the last word.

Shared life in Smaller Community The early church in Acts revealed a radical level of commitment to each other, often in smaller community. As Discovery gets bigger, it is designed to feel smaller by participating in midweek community known as Lifegroups. A life group is 8-16 people who meet every week or every other week, sometimes with children, sometimes just as adults, often over a shared meal. A life group shares life together – struggles, secrets, wounds, but also laughter and common interests. It is in many ways the heartbeat of Discovery’s community.

— Love of marginalized and under resourced locally and around the world. The consistent testimony of authors in the Bible is that God holds great concern for marginalized and under resourced people and furthermore, God’s resourced and powerful people ought to be using their power and resource on behalf of the poor. This was in tremendous contrast with the practice of the time which was to exploit and overpower the poor. A sign of God’s Kingdom is that the rich and poor are in relationship with each other through mutuality, reciprocity and solidarity. Discovery actively partners in our own zip code, in the greater Front Range area and strategically around the world with other like minded groups to serve people on the margins.

Orientation of our decisions, calendar and bank account around the sovereignty of Jesus.  The church is not something we go to, it is something, by the power of God that we are. Paul of Tarsus reminds us, “Now YOU are the body of Christ.” We often may not feel like the body, or think we’re worthy of being the body and we may be tempted to assume someone else will step in, but the church is at its best when YOU participate and help make it happen.

Phew, that’s a long list! No one of us can do it all, but all together as a collective we can. As you look at the above list, how involved are you in any or all of it?  I’d love to hear from you (steve@dc2.me) – are you already participating in something on this list? Tell me! If you have questions or want to get more involved, let me know! We need your involvement for the church to thrive!