Today, I had the honor to preside over the distribution of Christ's body and blood, preach Christ and Him crucified from the pulpit, and announce the forgiveness of sins to sinners. In this building we were able to receive His gifts and have fellowship as sinners/saints. It was church at its best.
To begin a discussion about ecclesiology (church stuff), we have to begin with the very basics. Although my goal is to dig very deep into contemporary church issues, I will begin with the bare bones of what the Scriptures/Confessions tell us of the church.
"The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacrament." Augsburg Confession, Article VII.
There it is. Plain and simple. In order to be considered the church, there needs to be the Gospel and the Sacraments. Now, it is good to remember what Melancthon and the Reformers were trying to fight against in the 16th century. They were battling the Catholic church which defined the church by the political order all the way up to the Pope. The Reformers were boiling it all down to the basics to eliminate the Pope, bishops, or councils to define the church. They were not fully addressing the complexities of a "denominational" world or thinking of how unity should look when there are more than Catholics and Orthodox around.
So what do we need? The Gospel-Jesus crucified for our sins and the Sacraments (Lord's Supper & Baptism). This brings many questions: So what about a non-communion service? What about churches that do not believe those Sacraments do anything? What about doctrines such as homosexual ordination or the ordination of women? How many doctrines are needed for unity of the visible church?
These are questions we will address, but for now, think and reflect on what is ABSOLUTELY needed for the church to be the church? We start with "Gospel & Sacrament"and we will dig deeper as we go. My prayer is that your church has both of these things and not on everything else.