Lewis Chafer says, The organized church is recognized in the New Testament. A church existed wherever a group of believers were met together in the bonds of fellowship. This meeting of Christians answered the fundamental meaning of the name church, by which they were identified. They were a called out assembly. There were notable advantages then as now in the convocation of believers.”1
Commitment is Key
Humanly speaking, commitment is key to being a church. Without commitment, there is nothing. The difference between a group of people doing a Bible Study and a group of people being a church is easily and perhaps best defined by the commitment involved.
Miroslav Volf makes the powerful case that two or three families, who commit to Jesus Christ and who He is, powerfully defines them as a church: “A church is an assembly, but an assembly is not yet a church. An indispensable condition of ecclesiality is that the people assemble in the name of Christ. Gathering in the name of Christ is the precondition for the presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit, which is itself constitutive for the church. ‘…where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Matthew 18:20). Two conditions of ecclesiality: 1) the ‘name of Jesus Christ’ unequivocally identifies the person around whom those in the church are gathering … 2) and the commitment of those assembled to allow their own lives to be determined by Jesus Christ.”2
1 Chafer, Lewis Sperry. 1980. Chafer Systematic Theology. Dallas, Tx: Dallas Seminary Press, vol 4, p.145
2 Volf, Miroslav. 1998. After our Likeness: The church as the image of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co, pp135-136