But there's more. I think the second thing you need if you're going to have a church is a story.
Our lives make up a story -- a story of events, decisions, turning points, roadblocks, discoveries, joys, sorrows. And because the church is made of people, you can think of the church as a collection of stories. A church community brings together all the stories of the people who are part of the church. We need to pay a lot more attention to the stories that are present in our church.
But the story that makes the church is not first of all our life stories. It's the Big Story. The Great Story. It's God's Story.
Christians, unlike people of some other religious faiths, believe in a God who works through historical events. God called a man named Abraham to leave his home and set out on a pilgrimage of faith. He promised to make him the father of a great nation, which seemed out of the realm of possibility because Abraham and his wife Sarah were old, and barren. But God gave them a miracle child, Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob, later re-named Israel, and Jacob's twelve sons became the founders of a nation named after him, Israel.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, and God reached out to save them when they were powerless to save themselves. God showed himself to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed. God set them free and gave them a law to guide them, and a Promised Land to live in.
But they kept on messing up. Rather than following the path God laid down for them, they followed "the devices and desires of their own hearts." Weakened by their stupidity and waywardness, they were easy prey for enemies who conquered them and took them into exile. But God once again redeemed them and restored them. And the hope was born that God would one day send a saviour who would right all wrongs and lead them back to God.
That saviour eventually was born in a stable in Bethlehem. His name was Jesus. He came to proclaim that God's rule of righteousness and peace was near, and can actually be a reality in our lives here and now. Jesus offended the holy and religious people, as well as the politically powerful people, and he was tried in a kangeroo court, executed by the exquisitely cruel Roman method of crucifixion and laid in a tomb.
But early one Sunday morning, his disciples went to shed tears over his body, but were blown away when they found the tomb empty, and later saw him -- alive!
This is The Story, the story that turned a raggle-taggle bunch of fishermen into a powerful movement of faith that spread throughout the world.
In the beginning, they didn't have hardly any of the things we think we need for a church -- a building, a budget, a paid minister. What they did have was a Story -- and the experience of seeing Jesus risen and alive. When their stories came in contact with this Story it changed their lives -- and empowered them to change the world.
And it's still the same today. You can still have a church without a building or a paid minister. You can't have a church without people whose life stories have been transformed by God's Story -- and who are prepared to tell others about it.