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    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    The Gathered AND Scattered Church

    One of the things I've been interested in watching is the Church-Planting movement that has been going on for some time now.  I've been eating up their books, hungry to find the pulse of what they are about and excited to see the church moving towards the community.

      AND was available for a Zondervan book tour, so I put my name on the list and was lucky enough to snag me a copy!

      AND is a great book, written by practitioners of the church-planting movement.  It's funny as you read because the authors didn't seem to actually plant a church...they just desired to be people of the community and God built a church using those efforts!

      As Hugh and Matt intro the book, they give some heavy reasons as to why we as the church must change from only working on ourselves (the Gathered church) and start working on the people outside of the church and allowing our people to be people "out there" (the Scattered Church).  Once such quote smacked me hard in the face: "...I learned that the majority of funding for most mega-churches comes from the Boomer generation.  These folks grew up with a high value for stability, and they generally equate a large building with sustainability.  The bad news for these churches is that later generations don't necessarily share these values.  We may have only another ten years at this financial commitment and available resources." (pg. 21)

      That's a pretty serious problem and Hugh and Matt use this book as an attempt not only to wake us up to these realities, but also as a book to stimulate how we can do church differently, think of church differently and effect change in our communities more powerfully so these realities don't bite us so hard.  They also remind before we jump into the book as a whole that "The Scriptures are clear.  God is the one who builds the church." (p. 26)

      Chapter One is titled: The Beautifully Sent Church which describes how the church was not meant to be a stand-alone item where Christians come and are fed, yet watch the communities around them decay without the knowledge of Jesus.  I could quote them time and time again because what they have to say about this idea of the church "being sent" is rooted in the Scriptures and is a passion of their lives.  These two guys have been called to "give their lives away" (p. 47) and challenge to reader to see that the same call (if they claim Jesus as Lord) is upon their lives as well. We are called to die to ourselves...which includes our Western selfish idea that it is about us (even church...it isn't all about us!)  Needless to say, I blazed through this chapter, excited, challenged, convicted and highlighting like a kid with: a wall and a paintbrush!

      Chapter Two is titled: Starting the AND...Wherever You Are.  This was a chapter in a church planting book I've only dreamed of!  Usually as you read church planting books, they talk about how to start these things from scratch, but have no real practical ideas for pastors in an already built church.  They say: "Any church of any size can be both missional and nonmissional at the same time." (p. 52)  Hugh and Matt work hard to provide the "how" for both planters and pastors in established churches.  The model for planters is: Engage Culture---> Forming Community--->Structuring Congregation  and the model for the established pastor is:  Structuring Congregation--->Forming Community--->Engage Culture
      Matt and Hugh do a great job of breaking both down to let the reader see and make this missional/incarnational type of ministry to the community work.  Here's the kicker they threw in the mix, which should make all church leaders pay attention: "All leaders must intentionally provide a structure that will continue to both gather AND scatter God's people for mission." (p. 65)

      Chapter Three is titled: Consumerless Church: Every Church's Dream, Every Church's Nightmare.  I will simply summarize this chapter with a quote from the authors: " The pain of providing what people want instead of what they need will eventually either kill you or cause you to ask, 'Why am I doing this anyway?  I this worth the agony?  What was the Main Thing I'm trying to do again?'...A consumer is not a disciple and a disciple is not a consumer!" (p. 75)  Basically, we need to as church leaders create an environment that is not consumer driven, where the people don't feel they are "shopping" for something.  We create an environment where they always get what they need, but not always get what they want.

      Chapter Four is titled: Spiritual Formation for Missional Churches.  I have to be honest and say that this was the only chapter that disappointed me.  It didn't disappoint me because it was "wrong" nor because it didn't have good things to say, because it surely did.  I was disappointed because most of what was talked about in the realm of spiritual formation was working on outside things.  A person can be more focused on others without changing their heart.  They do say: "We're here as a church leadership to help you find your heart again." (p. 112)  I believe this is true, but working on the externals may spark a new desire for God on a deeper level, but in my experience with spiritual formation, heart questions need to be asked.  Not "are you going to the streets and being friends with the community" but: "What about where you are with God causes you not to go be friends with people in the community".  I know it may sound like an antithesis to what they were saying (and I agreed with 100%) about it not being about YOU, but there needs to be a heart check as to why they are not engaging in these things.  The Spirit was inside Jesus and Jesus did these things naturally.  The same Spirit lives in us, so where in our lives are we quenching His missional desires within us?  Those seem like better questions to ask.

      I could go through the rest of the book and describe all that is in it...because it really is a GREAT book that calls the reader out and forces them to desire to become part of a missional community.  The authors say: "The idea of the AND is that every church can find a balance of both scattering people out for mission while maintaining a biblically meaningful reason to gather together." (p. 124) and that's what this whole book is about.  The rest of the chapters; 5- The Big AND; 6- Morph; 7- To Gather or Not to Gather: Is That the Question? And 8- Legacy: Live as if You're Really Dying are all based around this one phrase.  Chapter 5 gives pictures and a deeper understanding for the whole picture, 6 helps the change, 7 breaks off some myths and 8 encourages the reader to leave a lasting legacy.

      If you are a pastor (even a Youth Pastor like me) this book should be on your reading list.  It is a strong call to missional living and a GREAT view on how to get it done.  Churches, youth groups, and missional communities alike can gain wisdom, understanding and application from this book.


    Doug P. Baker said...

    In our small/young church we are at a stage in our development at which we are beginning to think of scattering, as in planting a couple of new churches. Reading AND really made me reconsider exactly how we go about this. I had been thinking in terms of renting a small store front, inviting people . . . All the standard old options. But now I'm getting much more excited about the idea of simply and slowly building a Christ-like community among those who would have no interest in coming to a church if they were invited.