Summary: Yes, this comes from Ray Hollenbach at: http://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/ray-hollenbach-why-the-church-six-bold-preaching-points-1971.asp Adapted it for a Sunday night sermon
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
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.
Structure is built into God’s order of creation. Single-celled organisms reveal astonishing complexity of function; in the human body there specialized functions. Without the structure of a skeleton, the body cannot stand. These physical realities point toward spiritual truth.
Every New Testament church had a recognizable structure. It’s not possible to read Acts or the Epistles without recognizing the importance of structure.
Church doesn’t need a rigid structure, but there does need to be some kind of structure. “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20-22, NIV.
Those who church hop or worship on the golf course or have house church, their only structure is what they are against, form these things because against organized church, not a solid foundation
3. The church provides authority.
Authority! Just mention the word and people tense up. Abuses abound and many churches in North American operate more like a business than a church. Yet we all must personally come to terms with passages like “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” (Hebrews 13:17) Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus could be considered all about authority! Nearly everyone has a horror story about abuse of authority in the church. Here’s my take: Authority without compassion and relationship makes a sham of God’s Kingdom, but compassion and relationship without authority miss God’s Kingdom entirely.
This is what some like about the house church idea, no authority. Oh really, their is no leader, no one who steers the worship. I bet there is.