MORE THAN A CLUB
What makes a church different from any group of friends and neighbors that occasionally gather for food and fellowship? I’m beginning to think that that may be a critical question for the church as we enter a rather uncertain environment. If we are the Body of Christ, what distinctive beliefs and practices help to define that?
Given our current distrust of all institutions in our society, including the church, we can’t look for a set of criteria provided by a national or worldwide body. There are enough competing spokespeople to leave people confused. It begins with a local church.
MORE THAN MAJORITY VOTE
However, this is not a list developed according to a majority vote. We distrust authority, but we need an authority larger than ourselves to help us discover a truth on which we can rely. In this case, we need an authority that claims our loyalty.
Instead of seeing this as a problem, let us consider it to be an opportunity for growth in discipleship. As a beginning, remembering that we are the Body of Christ, let us look to the Gospel’s story of Jesus as our resource. At a church gathering, invite people to sit in small groups, perhaps around a table at a meal.
FIVE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
Pose the following challenge for each table. If you could only choose five teachings of Jesus that would form the core beliefs around which you would build your church, what would your table agree to be the top five?
After a suitable amount of time, ask each table to report their list and keep a master list on newsprint before the entire group. As tables report, when the same teaching is listed, give it an additional vote. See if as a body you can agree upon seven core beliefs.
Next, with this list before the group, ask each table to identify some basic practices or ministries that would incarnate or flesh out each of the beliefs. If these are the core beliefs of our existence, what behaviors by the church would that suggest?
After each table has reported in, ask if there is anything missing that seems essential for an authentic church? Note what belief of Jesus would support the addition.
Now suggest that people take the ideas home with them and think about them. Note that the results of their work will be shared via newsletter and web page so that the whole congregation can be involved in the reflection.
Later you can invite people to gather again and discuss how their own behavior supports the church in exercising its core ministry.