Summary: Yes, this comes from Ray Hollenbach at: Adapted it for a Sunday night sermon

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You Know You're Visiting a Bad Church If... The usher asks if you prefer the smoking or non-smoking section. Baptismal tank has a wave-maker machine. Sign out front has latest preacher’s name written with dry erase markers.


It’s difficult to stand in defense of church when there are so many examples of dysfunctional churches around us. But we need to be reminded that Church is vitally important. We were designed for community, but also something beyond community—we were designed for church.

Many people will object, and nearly everyone has gruesome tales of hypocrites, self-righteous blowhards and sexual predators. I get it. Some parts of the North American church are desperately sick, and in many cases the church hinders the spiritual growth of people. But before we allow some to have coffee and croissants at Starbucks and call it church, I’d like to suggest that God has given us a few clues about what He thinks makes up a church. The truth is this: Church is God’s idea, and we ignore it at our peril.

Thesis: Here is one man’s list (Ray Hollenbach) of at least six vital parts of a real church

For instances:

1. The church meets together regularly.

I am fascinated by churches who emphasize small groups or house groups. Some emphasize them so much that they have the small groups on Sunday morning and the corporate gathering on Sunday night. They tell their people that if they can only make one then go to the small group. Others call quits on traditional church and want to meet at their house or coffee house or some non traditional place and have a house church. Just going to meet at the house church. Admire their willingness to try something new for church but there is a problem here.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47, NIV.

Notice that met together far more than North Americans might find comfortable. In a variety of settings, for a multitude of reasons, followers of Jesus meet together regularly and share their lives together. This much is sure: a regularly scheduled, habitual gathering is a mark of the church. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25, NIV.

The church has a defined structure.

Even with those churches that I mentioned who emphasize small groups, we must notice that they are doing this to promote spiritual growth and evangelism, a definite plan and structure.

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