The Gathered AND Scattered Church

I had heard about Hugh Halter and Matt Smay’s book The Gathered AND Scattered Church for awhile and it even sat on my shelf for several months before I picked it up. I’m glad I finally did.

The premise of the book is to look at the discussion many pastors and leaders have when it comes to church:  Are we missional or attractional? I have always found this conversation kind of pointless because I believe the church should be both. The goal of this book is to show how a church of any size can be both, hence, the AND.

They start off with a great question, “What could God do with entire generation who loves him but won’t settle for stale church anymore. What could God do with an army of kingdom peasants who have no interest in safety, religion, or money, but who want to help people experience the presence of his kingdom in the here and now?” It is a great question. I think the answer if God could do so much more with people like that than what is happening in many churches around the country and in the lives of many people who sit in those churches.

Chapter 3 “Consumerless Church” is worth the price of the book. If there is one thing holding back the church in America, it is consumerism. Think about it, the number one reason people leave churches is because “I’m not getting fed.” “They don’t have the programs I want.” Our culture is so consumer driven that we expect our faith to be the same. Yet, Jesus over and over called his disciples to die for him, to lose their lives, to take up their crosses. Not sure how we get consumerism out of that. What happens in churches is that we strive to have as many programs and ministries as we can possibly have (the thinking is to have more than the church down the street). What that leads to is a church that just takes and takes instead of serves and gives. As the authors point out, “A consumer is not a disciple, and a disciple is not a consumer.”

The problem with the consumer church is that you fill up your calendar with church things and then you are never loving people into the kingdom because you only know people who attend your church. I often get asked why we are simple and don’t have a long list of ministries for people to plug into. The answer is, “We want you to grow in your faith and the best way to do that is through Saturday night’s, small groups, serving inside and outside of the church, which then leaves time for you to build relationships with people who don’t know God. One of the best lines in the book articulated what I have seen in so many people’s lives, “People don’t need most of the stuff we give them. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between providing too much and the immaturity that develops when people are given the chance to overindulge.”

Here are a few other things that jumped out:

  • The church is beautiful because it is endowed with the purpose of giving herself away wholeheartedly to the world God desires to redeem.
  • How “missional” you are is largely determined by the extent to which your people model the life, activities, and words of Jesus.
  • Church happens when a group of people decide to go on mission with God together.
  • Engaging culture isn’t as much about doing evangelism as it is incarnating the presence of Christ in every relationship we form.
  • Church is God’s people intentionally committing to die together so that others can find his kingdom.
  • The more missional you want to be, the more incarnational you’re willing to be, the more you release your people out into the world, the more you desire to equip and empower young leaders, the more effective and faithful you want your church to be…the more you’ll have to die to your self.
  • Whatever you give your best to will grow.
  • Love this one:  Pastoring is as much about protecting the flock as it is about growing a flock. It’s about pushing them and challenging them instead of pandering to them.

What this means practically is the philosophy we’ve had at Revolution from the beginning. We want our gathering times, whether that is Saturday night or small groups to propel us to scatter and be on mission in the world we inhabit.

Definitely a book worth wrestling through, regardless of your belief on the attractional or missional discussion. It will definitely stretch your thinking.