I vaguely remember Tom and I having discussions years ago trying to discern the basics of what it meant to be "a church." You know, something along the lines of: what are the minimum markings of a group of people that make it a church community? I still find myself wondering about the foundational practices I believe are necessary - or at least most important to me - for making a church a church.
I've had this list of "things" sitting on my desk at work that I jotted down some time ago. I usually forget it's there, but every now and then I will add to it or edit. I don't know if I would label them "core values" I believe are important, or "predictable patterns" that should be established, or what.... but these are some of the more important things to me. If I were ever in a position to start or lead a church, this would be my short list.
FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS: Establishing a regular rhythm (probably weekly) of ---
- Gathering together to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
- A focus on the Shema - seeking God (Father, Son, Spirit) first.
- The primacy of hearing/reading Scripture (God's Word).
- The taking/serving of communion - to remember Jesus among us.
- An emphasis on ministering to "the least" among us (thereby serving Jesus).
- Learning, praying, and internalizing the Lord's Prayer as a way of life.
I am not claiming these are things the bible says are necessary for the church to be the church, nor am I saying this should go for everyone. These are simply six things that seem right to me, and I believe are a Scripturally sound set of practices to guide a church community in living out their faith.