There are a number of ways you can approach the comparison of church models in the 21st century. Early church models and images are one frame of referents. Richard Neibuhr offers a way to describe the church’s relationship with culture while Avery Dulles provides a lens on theological aspects. Neil Cole suggests a more organic model that considers the unique contributions of a decentralized church.
Using these as a base, I would suggest these thirteen elements:
- definition of and sources for understanding of church (scriptural references, analogical images, theological frame)
- location (gathering place/space)
- who can (cannot) be members and what expectations are there for them
- site of authority/power (or lack thereof)
- definition of leadership roles and ministries
- elements of formation and lifelong learning
- process for discernment
- use and role/place of ritual (and sacraments)
- means of salvation
- understanding of mission
- opportunities for faith-based, justice-seeking action
- view of “thorny” issues (i.e. abortion, gay marriage, women clergy).
What would you add/subtraact?