In studying the Bible, we found that the descriptions of "church" emphasized four particular values:
The body of believers is supposed to be closer to us than our own families (Matt. 12:46, Luke 14:26). Jesus said that "all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). He also prayed that his disciples would be so "perfectly one" that the world may believe that the Father sent Jesus (John 17:20-23).
Let's be honest—so often we don't even know the people in our churches, much less exhibit this supernatural type of unity and love. And if we're even more honest, we'd admit that it's much easier to try to invite someone to a church service with a cool band, an excellent children's program, an amazing speaker, and a comfortable building than actually loving that person with Christ's love. Being part of our biological family is hard enough, so showing this other-worldly type of love that God demands requires real sacrifice and his Spirit every day.
In a family, no one is left out. Every person’s needs should be cared for (Acts 4:32-34), and the family takes it upon itself to care for its members. This is a kind of love that points people to Jesus.
As followers of Christ, we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). In a lot of our church experiences, however, we're used to inviting our friends to church so that the pastor can tell them about Jesus, not us. Yet, this isn't the job of the pastor—it's the mission of every follower of Jesus.
We all spend our weeks in different mission fields: our neighborhoods, schools, offices, gyms, coffee shops, and more, so we come together on Sundays and pray for each other to stir one another up for boldness. While we can be sure that persecution will come as we share the gospel (2 Tim. 3:12-13), we can stand firm together in one faith (Phil. 1:27-30).
Jesus himself had his twelve disciples, and there came a time when he no longer called them servants, but friends (John 15:15). Paul also called the believers in his care to grow up into the full maturity of faith in Christ (Eph. 4:13).
Often it's all too easy to attend a church for years and years without ever being equipped to serve and live out the gospel. As consumers of church, we come in, get filled up by the worship and message, and then our only option is to come back week after week to get filled up again and again. However, if all we ever do is consume, how do we ourselves ever become fishers of men? (Matt. 4:19).
We've found that in a smaller church setting, people are more disposed to build up the body using their particular gifts for the benefit of others (1 Cor. 12:7-31). New leaders are continually being trained by the elders and current leaders because the group starts preparing to multiply from the outset. They are trained in the specific theological and practical concepts necessary to lead God's church.
Just as children are expected to grow up and move out of the home, all members are being prepared to be able to stand on their own (Heb. 5:11-14).
We see throughout the New Testament that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, communion, and the prayers, as summarized in Acts 2:42. There’s no precedent for anything flashy or glamorous—just a focus on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe a contemporary gathering ought to strive to do so as well. While a superb sound system, a spacious building, convenient childcare, and an engaging speaker can be blessings to the body, too often we become dependent on any one of these items. In fact, sometimes we won't even go to a worship service if our usual worship band or gifted speaker isn't there.