What makes a distributed church truly a church - and therefore different than a small group, home group, or Bible study - is that they embrace the following four things:
Self Identity - a distributed church understands its identity and function as that of a church. This isn’t merely about a choice of term or what members call themselves; it is about a commitment to being the church in your context, embracing God’s ministry and mission (Us for Them, There). As a result, spiritual families/distributed churches don’t see themselves as an aspect of the church, but as a whole church interconnected with other churches.
As a foundation for their identity and connection to other churches, distributed churches align with the historic theological creeds (The Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.).
Sacred Practices - a distributed church integrates the sacred practices of communion, baptism, weddings, and funerals as part of their shared life and worship. These are the practices that God has given us to affirm our identity in Him.
Service to Empower - a distributed church understands that it is who it is for the benefit of others. It pursues opportunities to serve one another and those outside its group in a way that empowers them to serve others as well. It embraces the opportunities for ministry that God brings its way.
Spontaneous Expansion - A distributed church is focused on the expansion of the Church. It understands that its mission is to make disciples. So, a distributed church multiplies. These are churches that plant churches that plant churches.
What isn’t needed to be a distributed church is a building, band, powerpoint presentation, or professional clergy. When we understand that, and we get down to the essentials of what it means to be a church we can begin to see “church” more along the lines of family. When we define church along the lines of family we are freed up to create churches in a whole new way.
Again, God's plan to bring His kingdom to earth has not changed and the heart of that plan is communities of disciples, transformed by Jesus, serving others.