I've looked at the "who" and the "why" questions related to church. The answers to these questions are the foundation that sets us up to start talking about the "how" and "what" questions. How do we do church? How are we to behave? What are we to do?
I think these are where we start getting controversial. It's generally accepted that the Church is made up of those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior (although there are disputes about exactly what that means), and it's commonly held that we are commanded to make disciples. What gets tricky is how we go about doing this.
Since these can be treacherous waters, I'll lay out the foundational values which will guide my thinking. The first, and greatest, of these values is - of course - love. I'll talk about this one today.
In the Gospels, Jesus tells us the greatest commandments sum up all of the law. That is, if we follow these two commandments, we are obeying the law. The commandments? Love God, love people. Jesus says in this passage that, "[a]ll the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Wait, you might say. Don't these commandments apply to everyone, not specifically the church? Great question; glad you asked. Yes! These commandments apply to everyone. However, the church is a subset of "everyone." If everyone is to follow these commandments, then certainly the Church must.
In fact, the church is to be known for love, especially for each other. What this tells me is that most of the discussions we have about church fail immediately when they descend to a non-loving way of communicating. Regardless of our feelings on the best way to "do church" we must never, ever lose sight of the fact that we are to love our fellow believers. This precludes such things as ad hominem attacks, rumor, gossip, slander, hate and deceit from ever entering our discourse.
So when talking about how to do church, value #1 is to do so in a loving manner. And "doing church" is also to be done in a loving manner. If a church is doing something that is not loving, that church is doing something it ought not do.
Above all else, love.
There are other values to which I'll move next. Unity, freedom and selflessness are the ones that come to mind. Any values you think should drive the discussion? Chime in (lovingly!) in the comments below.