A church is a group of people in fellowship with each other. It should be a network of relationships.
The church consists of people. However it is not just any group of people. It is a group of people who are bound together by strong relationships. To show this more clearly, I will remove the people from the diagram (this is for illustration, I am not saying that they are not important). I have made the lines gold, to show that the relationships are precious.
A church is a network of relationships. The lines on the diagram are just some of the relationships that hold the church together. They are the supporting ligaments which join and hold the body of Christ together in love and allow it to grow up in love in Jesus (Ephesians 4:16) In contrast, relationships in the modern church tend to be more like a dandelion.
The focus of the elders should not be on maintaining buildings or running programs. Their primary focus should be on building and maintaining relationships.
Meetings will only be really useful if they strengthen these relationships. On the other hand, it will be possible to maintain these relationships, even if the whole church cannot meet together. This is very useful in times of persecution.
Relationships in which we can strengthen and support one another are the heart of the church. The depth of the relationships between its members will determine the strength of the church. The quality of the relationships is more important than the quality of the leadership.
Relationships are Essential
A Church consists of the relationships between its members (and relationships with God). Christianity is fellowship with God and with other Christians. Therefore, a church must be a group in which members get to know each other well. The Christians of the New Testament developed very strong relationships with each other. A Church was a community in which people shared their lives in an intimate way (Acts 2:44,46). Their strong commitment to each other contributed to their spiritual strength and energy.
A church is a network of people, who each have a relationship with Jesus, and who are bound together by relationships with each other. They will be joined together by love. For this to take place we need a radical change in our understanding of the church. (This same point is make in Ezekiel.)
A church is not an institution. The modern church is a bewilderingly complex array of structures, activities and programs that can sometimes prevent the world from seeing Jesus. Programs are useful, if they provide people with skills that they need. However programs do not make a church.
Programs do not join the body together, so that it builds itself in love (Eph 4:14-16).
People come from all over the place to attend a program. Only a few of those who come have strong relationships with each other. Most others do not know each other very well.
While they are on the programme the people get to know each other quite well.
However once they leave, they go their own way. The people who had a strong relationship, before they joined the program, will find their relationship is strengthened. A few others may establish relationships that will last. However, most just drift apart again.
A church is a very simple thing. It is quite simply a group of Christians in a locality who are committed to each other, who meet regularly for worship and fellowship, and who are overseen by elders. There are two defining characteristics of a church.
Relationships are the heart of the church, so locality is very important for a church. Each Church should be attached to a particular locality, and there can be as many Churches as there are different localities. However, each locality should only have one Church. Properly understood, this is a very radical but biblical idea. To have a number of different kinds of church in the same locality is inconsistent with the New Testament.