Recommended: An extremely helpful and thorough look at the crucial elements of what makes the church the church.
What is a church?
This question is one that all Christians need an answer for. Today, we have all kinds of churches—seeker-sensitive churches, emerging churches, missional churches, purpose-driven churches, blogging churches, house churches, multi-site churches… You name it, there seems to be a church for it. But, these really have more to do with style and theological leaning than defining what a church is.
In Vintage Church, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears attempt to define exactly what the church is and how it can fulfill its mandate to transform the world as Christ has commanded.
For the majority of Christianity’s history, the definition of the Church has been assumed. The Nicene Creed states that “we believe in one holy and apostolic church,” but does not elaborate further than that. Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote The Unity of the Church in 251, and no significant contribution to the subject was made until Wycliffe wrote The Church in 1378 (pg. 36). For 1000 years, it was essentially left untouched.
Realizing the importance of defining the Church before being able to really talk about it, Driscoll and Breshears establish the following definition, based on Acts chapter 2:
The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy (pg. 38).