Our ecclesiology is biblical and simple, just like the early church. As Nazarenes, we affirm micro-churches as the most basic expression of the church. When two or three believers come together in Christ’s name, Jesus is present (Matthew 18:20). If these believers choose to work together in sincere worship, genuine community, being accountable and aligned with the mission of Jesus to share the gospel and expand the “ecclesia,” they are the church! So, for us 1)worship, 2)community, 3)accountability and 4)mission are our ecclesial minimums.
The Board of General Superintendents have wisely defined a church as “any group that meets regularly for spiritual nurture, worship, or instruction…with an identified leader and is aligned with the message and mission of the Church...” (Nazarene Essentials), p 13. The four church minimums are found in this statement: 1) worship, 2) community, 3) accountability and 4) mission. Notice here, the church does not have to have a building or property. It does not have to have a clergy pastor. It can be led by a lay pastor that we provide with theological education. It does not have to be a big church. It does not have to worship on Sunday. It can worship on other days of the week.
The church has never had to be a certain size to be an effective church. It can even be a “micro-church.” If we are going to reach into every community and cultural group on every district, we must begin thinking differently. We should embrace missionary thinking and missionary strategies as we enter a secular culture. Every church in the world usually begins small. We are ok with planting hundreds of micro-churches in unreached neighborhoods throughout the world. In the mega-cities of the world where real estate is cost prohibitive, micro-churches (churches in homes) will no doubt be the way the church continues its exponential expansion.
As the world continues to change, so must the church. Never our message, but yes, our methods, our style, our strategies must always keep changing. We must keep adjusting and innovating if we are to penetrate every sub-culture and micro-context on our districts with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This multiplication of the church is embedded in our doctrine of the Church. The church always exists “in culturally conditioned forms” (Manual, par 11). We need dozens of churches like the one you are thinking about. But we also need dozens of the kinds of churches you are NOT thinking about. It takes all kinds of churches in all kinds of places to reach all kinds of people.
As Nazarenes, we always seek to empower rather than control. We believe starting new churches is the most effective method of evangelism and is a Nazarene essential to making Christlike disciples in the nations. We encourage all of our churches to mother new churches and all new churches to have a mother church. When this is not possible, the church planter becomes directly accountable to the district superintendent. We can start a church anywhere we have lost people who need the gospel, where God raises up a leader.