Lately there seems to be frequent conversations and perhaps even disagreements about the essentials elements that a faith/church community needs to entail in order to be considered a “church” or a worship experience. In particular, this is a hot topic when it comes to the offering of online worship and faith communities. In a recent article published by the Barna Group, Benjamin Windle shares the seven essential ingredients for church community as described in the New Testament. Those ingredients include:
- Spiritual engagement (Colossians 3:16)
- Preaching the Word (Hebrews 13:7)
- Worship and prayer (1 Timothy 2:8)
- Evangelism (Acts of the Apostles 1:8)
- Interpersonal responsibility (Romans 12)
- Inconvenient hospitality (Acts 4)
- Institutional physicality (Matthew 26:26)
Windle offers these key ideas in his article:
- We should not allow consumeristic Christian preference to be the behavior that develops our models of the future church.
- Digital should supplement, not replace, in-person community.
- We need a biblical framework of ‘church community’ that goes beyond digital vs. hybrid vs. in-person.
- We should radically innovate in the digital world, within boundaries that reflect our purpose and mission.
- We should harness online tools to extend our reach and deepen our discipleship making.
- We should identify, and then elevate, the aspects of an in-person church service that cannot be replaced online.
- We should lean into new ways to use our physical spaces, to provide relational elements that people cannot get online.
- We should be intentional about value-adds for people when they are already physically onsite, instead of asking them to come back a second time during the week. Are we able to provide options for onsite small groups, support and care groups, age distinctive ministries, deeper Bible training, and leadership development courses that start before or after the primary weekend service?
- We should rediscover the ancient practices of physicality, such as the laying on of hands with prayer, communion, and baptism—moments where the congregation can sing and feel the wonder of God at work with His people in a physical place and time.
- We should embrace hospitality at a higher level—coffee, food, sitting areas. Foyers and cafés need to become as important as auditoriums in our facility design.
- We should make room for new and innovative expressions of church that transcend geography and use a curated mix of both online and in-person elements to build a healthy church that is global in reach.
Here is the challenge for you as a church leader. Gather your leaders and those who are responsible for planning and leading worship for your church. Study the scriptures noted above in relationship to the key essentials for a faith community. Discuss the twelve key ideas Windle offers related to those seven essentials. What essentials are already being practiced and implemented in your in-person experiences? On-line experiences? Where are the gaps? What actions steps are you willing to take as a church to eliminate those gaps? What is your timeline to do so?
Making decisions based on scripture rather than personal preferences or opinions will leave leaders with the biblical undergirding to support said decisions and lead to considerably less conflict and debate.