What makes a church a church?

“Church”, writes former Archbishop Rowan Williams in the Foreword to Mission-shaped Church, “is what happens when people encounter the Risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter in their encounter with each other.”
‘Church’ is the plural of ‘disciple’.
“Rather than bequeathing a church, Jesus handed over to his followers the means for creating a church. He left them with his teachings, their Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament), the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, leadership based on the apostles, and with ongoing support – the promise of his continued presence through the Spirit….  He left behind not a Lego church but Lego bricks.”
That is how Michael Moynagh talks about the beginning of churches as we know them, but the basic bricks seem to have given rise to an enormous variety of options. How do I go about deciding which church might be helpful to me?
When the culture and the environment changes, is it unreasonable to go back to the original drawing board?
So Moynagh’s writings suggest some questions for thought:
  • At what point does a new community based on encountering the Risen Jesus become a church?
  • Do traditional church practices become roadblocks to inclusion?  Are they given preference at the expense of relationships, especially relationships with new Followers of Jesus and those searching for faith?
  • Should we see the church as a tradition that is constantly innovated, rather than as a tradition that is passed on?
  • Once a gathering decides when and where to meet and with what agenda, it is bound to exclude some people,  but does this matter?  
  • Can crisscrossing networks lead people from one meeting of the like-minded to another, but drawn from a different context? Is this is a contemporary version of New Testament practices? Can a church be local everywhere? Could Church in the 21st Century evolve into a network of networks?