At the NAB convention today, my friend, Norm Poehlke, a former pastor in Calgary and now a Vice President with the North American Baptist Conference of churches, presented six items that must exist in order for a gathering of people to be considered truly a church. These items, Norm termed, are the "irreducible core." I think they present a great launching pad for discussion and consideration about what makes up a church. And when you add "obedience to God's will" to this irreducible core, the result, Norm suggests, is the muliplication of churches. What do you think?
1. Confession of Christ
2. Love God (Greatest Commandment)
3. Love Others (2nd Greatest Commandment)
4. Live in Community (or "Love One Another" – New Command)
5. Make Disciples (Great Commission)
6. In Partnership with the Holy Spirit
Hey Andrew… I’m working through your comment. Lots there!! : )
Your note about obedience makes me wonder whether it should be on the list… Or is it also implied in the simplicity of #1 and #2? Norm mentioned that obedience to this “irreducible core” will create a “multiplication” of churches. Following this essential core and being obedient to it (or to God technically) will naturally result in the Gospel spreading around the world and more disciples adhering to this core.
And your note about the Holy Spirit causes me to wonder whether the Holy Spirit should be mentioned on the list. Certainly in the book of Acts, the church would not exist without the Holy Spirit. Hmmm…
I would be interested to know that was included in the confession of Christ. Does that just mean that the individuals believe and claim that Jesus died on the cross? Or does it mean that they believe that Jesus was a real person who lived at one time? Or does it mean that they must confess that JEsus is the Son of God, the trinity? There is probably too much theology present in some of those confessions for the groundwork of faith, but perhaps not. jesus calls us to know him, perhaps knowing theology behind His statements of Himself is only a minor step in achieving that knowing.
I also think that number 3 and 4 sound similar. The oving your neighbour was explained as loving anyone around you who had need, thus granting a very broad range of interpretation and claiming them all. The loving of one another was to set apart the disciples from all other groups who meet and other people groups because their love was what would make them known. I am not really sure that this is different. I know that a part of it involves how they love each other, but I also think that there is a part which interacts with the rest of the world and it is on the basis of their ‘love of their neighbours’ that they would be known. I could be wrong.
Does this list not include obedience to God then? It sounds like the list includes the 6 things and then obedience must be added to it, but I think that obedience would be right up there with knowing, or at least desiring to know, our Lord. A lack of obedience to God would reveal no real Spirit within. Cooperation with the holy Spirit can only be achieved when obedience to God is present. I think it is a vital component of any church, or group wishing to call themselves a church, that they be obedient to God.
I might also add something about a dedicating or setting apart of time and energy to pursue further knowing of the Lord. Having these beliefs and acting on them are different and any church that meets and does not discipline itself to acting in accordance with God’s will AND pursuing God to know His will is not really a church. Perhaps that is included in loving God if love is not meant as a passive and heartful emotive association, but as an active pursuit, but I think it could use a little clarification there.
That was a lot, sorry.
I think that is implied in the first two, James. But certainly this is key!
Ultimately I think you’re right about one and two, Dan. Perhaps the distinction was made to draw out the necessity of Christ.
Three and four: Norm mentioned that the distinction there has to do with loving your neighbor and second with loving those who are a part of the church community (“love one another”).
Would one and two not be the same?
Would three and four not be the same?
I like the list though. Simple.
Starting with Christ as the Head.