What makes a group of believers a church?

What practices are necessary for a group of believers to become an assembly, and what causes it to cease to be an assembly?

Those who study artist’s work recognize the work of famous painters. Even apart from his name on the painting, each artist’s work has his unique "signature" in its details. And so it is with God. If He has established an assembly, it will bear God’s "signature." This signature is the design which is always consistent with the pattern given in His word. God doesn’t need variety to somehow amuse Himself. He works consistently and follows the same pattern He gave nearly 2000 years ago. Here are some things we would expect: no other name but the Lord’s to identify the group; a plurality of overseers; separation from denominational associations; the display of head coverings as taught in 1 Corinthians 11; evidence of the priesthood of all believers; attention to the development of gift; supremacy of the Word of God; gatherings for at least the breaking of bread, prayer, ministry, and gospel; recognition of the different roles God has entrusted to males and females; the practice of both baptism for all believers and also biblical reception.

When the Lord removes a lampstand (Rev 2:5; 3:3, 16), of course that group ceases to be an assembly. When He does that, only He knows. The group may continue its activities - and perhaps do all the right things, as the church at Ephesus did - yet not be an assembly.

David Oliver