Notes on AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church By Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Recently there has been a reaction against the traditional form of doing church. The reaction comes in the form of the organic church model. Both models have significant short sides:
Multi-site, mega or “attractional“ models, while focusing on meeting needs of the families who attend, are usually high in maintenance, spend lots of money on staff, programs and brick and mortar, oftentimes produce a “consumer” mentality, do not produce true disciples and are not always missional in their approach.
The “micro-model”, while generally focussing more on relationships and missionality, often are not truly growing beyond their small groups which meet in homes. Families often miss the value that corporate worship and programs bring, leading to the question, “What the heck are we supposed to do with the kids?”
Micro-models are not always contextual for most people in suburbs and cities. Also, “non-leadership” sounds great, until you try to lead people somewhere. The next obvious question is, what do we do if it works? If we keep filling houses up, do we not at some point need to look at a corporate gathering? If our smaller, organic expressions work in the sense of more and more people coming to Christ, we will have to navigate their desire to want to be together. And then, are we not just becoming another church?
Maybe the answer is not in the either/or, but in the AND.
God’s people have always been a sent people, from Genesis 12 through the New Testament. There is more to just doing church. The answer to the gnawing feeling that there is more is understanding why the church exists. The church is to be a community that is sent and given away for God’s purposes.
Moving toward the AND means thinking like a missionary. Missional is not a form of church. It is largely determined by the extent to which your people model the life, actions and words of Jesus.
Any church of any size or form can be both missional and non-missional at the same time. The difference is the lifestyle of the believers.
either a new church plant (Church planting is “Creating church where it does not exist.”) or an established church must process through the same phases of building a missional community:
Engaging Culture –> Forming Community –> Structuring Congregation
This is about “context”: the background understanding that God has been at work weaving together Spirit-led thoughts, dreams, and kingdom innovations in a city, in a neighborhood and in the life of every person you’ll meet.
We get a feel of context by becoming friends with people. Context takes time to develop and unpack.
Being missional is about recognizing and living our “sentness”. Being incarnational is about how we go and what we do as we go. Engaging the culture is incarnating the presence of Christ in every relationship we form.
Forming relationships around a faith community. People are leery of organized anything or institutional anything, especially church. Yet they are still intuitively drawn to authentic environments where they can find friends and grow as persons, even if they are spiritual environments.
Two Different ideas concerning ministry
1) Traditional Ministry Flow looks like this:
Engaging Culture (Evangelism/Outreach)
Church services (teaching)
Church programs/Small groups (discipleship)
2) Missionary Flow is quite different:
The main idea here is that discipleship and even conversion happen very early on in the engaging culture and forming community stages. We make disciples by life-on-life transfer of the kingdom of God, the Life of Christ in us, to others, which happens through friendships.
This simply means discovering how to hold people together in mission: there must be some structure for their continued growth, connection and common vision.
We have to think through what happens when the living room is full.
For existing, structured churches, the flow is backwards:
A structured congregation –> begins to form community –> and engage culture
An existing church must gather bands of missional people out of the larger body, bring them together and then begin the process of engagement. All you need is a handful of people who want to pilot an incarnational community. Then you tell the stories, loud and long.
We can establish leadership reading groups and pilot communities. Recruit 10 percent of your church to these pilot groups of incarnational community.
The deeper question is: How can we best engage the culture to which God has called us?
Consumerism is the hamster wheel that is wearing out our pastors and church leaders. It keeps us from making true disciples. It keeps us burnt out trying to sustain programs in order to keep our people. Consumers are not disciples and disciples are not consumers.
God calls us to stop consuming and start bearing fruit for the kingdom of God. He calls pastors to stop producing consumers and make disciples who a give their lives freely. People do not need most of the stuff we are giving 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.
The only remedy for this is to remove what they are consuming or provide something completely different.
We have to live in the tension of creating a clear pathway to move people from consumers to disciples and fellow kingdom workers.
What should we provide? What should we remove for the sake of true spiritual growth? Our answer will be unique to what we are called to be as a church.
A simple measurement for faithfulness:
Did you do all that you could with what I gave you to make people like me?
Are our services, activities, processes, staff positions, and financial resource allocations actually helping us reorient someone’s life direction so that they are growing closer to and more like Jesus?
Programs and pulpit may be necessary, but deeper discipleship happens best when a leader gives someone personal time. Whatever you give your best time to will grow (Sunday service, programs, discipleship/leadership development)
The deepest level of growth will probably not happen in the Sunday gatherings, but in those activities/venues related to scattering.
There are two kinds of tension we must face (choose from?):
- How do I keep people coming to my church?”
- How do I help every person become more like Jesus?
The real problem we face is not about how we should lead the church; the problem is spiritual formation. People need an active spirituality where they see God and grow. They need to move beyond knowing Jesus to becoming like Jesus. We need to provide real-life pathways them to do this.
A disciple is not someone who stays the same. A disciple is someone struggling to live a life of heartfelt love and obedience to the Father, living and dying for the higher purposes of God’s kingdom. Disciples expect tension, change, growth, supernatural provision. They have real relationships with a community of believers and with the non-Christian culture.
The final goal of spiritual formation is becoming like Jesus. It is moving people out of consumerism to and toward the life, actions and devotion of Jesus.
There are three common spiritual formation blunders:
- Simply not having any formation process at all (people will not grow without an actual process)
- Having a lopsided process (over-emphasis, for example, on loving God or on small groups, rather than having a balance of Loving God, loving people and impacting our world)
- Minimizing the barriers between the spheres; failing to provide intentional ways to help people overcome these barriers
If the spiritual formation process in our church is weighted toward Communion, we will tend to produce pharisees. If it is weighted toward Mission, we will tend to create social workers. If we over-emphasize Community, we will have great parties, but never move people toward Christ or maturity in the Christian faith.
The key to healthy spiritual formation is the balance of these three.
Jesus’ process: follow me, live life with me, teach them about the kingdom, debrief, confront, encourage, raise the bar, live and learn in community, trust the Spirit.
What we are talking about here is an apprenticeship environment. There are four steps to this process:
- Observance (let me watch, be inspired and then have the opportunity to participate).
- Hearing our story – This is where people decide if their story matches with your story; like a dating process. Jesus modeled this process in John 3, Luke 9, Luke 19; see also Acts 5:13. People need to hear our story clearly (what do you expect me to do). People are not drawn to mission statements, they are drawn to stories.
- Hearing their story – Understanding the gifts and brokenness that is unique to every person
Transition: Calling people out into a higher level of dying (with high-level leaders; with new members classes)
Another season of preparation is necessary because people have lost their heart for church and church-related stuff. They have not lost their heart for God, for loving Jesus – it’s just the religious stuff. They are hanging by a thread of loyalty. Preparation is a short term experience that communicates, “Look, we’re not here to get you to help us build our kingdom; we are here as church leadership to help you find your heart again” – it is leading them back into kingdom oriented, missional living.
They need venues for experiencing the kingdom of God (outside the church service). Push them to an active posture, connecting them with real people who have real needs:
- throw a party
- find things they don’t need in their home, sell them on Craig’s list, give the money to the poor
- cross the road, connect with a neighbor they have always seen, but never related to
- go to a public place, watch people,imagine their struggles, pray for them
Transition: Public sending and blessing (this is perhaps a time to publicly acknowledge a person’s intent to follow Christ again)
People are now trying and doing – they are living well and being willing to give time, resources, and relationship to people who are looking for what they have. Living with no particular goal in mind except faithfulness to Jesus.
Training and coaching our leaders needs to be the highest investment in time and energy that we make.
Transition: Commission – Create a step of intentional partnership, where people decide to own the vision and join with you.
Partnership is a level of leadership where someone is actually partnering or taking ownership of not only their own growth, but also the growth of others. Partners are faithful, gifted, stable and willing to sacrifice for the larger community.
Finding the balance: Every church can can find a balance of both scattering people out for mission while maintaining a biblically meaningful reason to gather together.
Sodality and Modality
The New Testament church formed modality around the idea of a local synagogue (weekly/daily community).
Alongside this modality was a unique community completely focussed on the people outside the traditional gathered setting (sodality).
Historically, sodalic renewal movements organize and morph into modalic expressions, but the two arms of the church can work together!. In fact, they must work together for the church to be whole and expanding in influence.
In our present context:
Modality involves shepherding, teaching, caring, nurturing, sustaining and growing us in our faith. Edifying/building up “inside the church”.
Modality is necessary. However, with the growing chasm between what the culture desires and what the modality-laden church offers, if sodalic communities do not emerge, the existing church will become nothing more than a hospital, spiritual/social club, or teaching center. The church will effectively lose its ability to influence the culture.
Sodality pushes through to those who are outside the church. This includes missions agencies, parachurch organizations, church planting, missional community groups, etc.
For people to better understand this concept, maybe we should use the words Caring (modality), which includes equipping, and Sending (sodality). It is important to know that leaders may have one call or the other, but not necessarily both. It doesn’t matter if you start sodalically and morph modalically or the other way around… the critical issue is that both forces work together from the center and push out.
This can apply to an individual person, a team within a church, an entire church, or a multi-church, church planting initiative within a city.
There are four primary functions of a movement:
- Vision (Calling the church to something different – a clear picture of the future)
- Training (The actual equipping of the church to reach the vision
- Systems and Support (administrative, financial, communications and organizational support)
- The Actual Modality (the local church) “If you want to see real missional kingdom movement, you’re going to have to develop some type of modalic expression where people are not only brought to Christ, but held together under Christ.”
How do we practically morph the modalic and sodalic essences of the church?
Church leaders must consider:
- Gifting (modal or sodal?)
- Calling (a leader’s calling generally flows from gifting)
- Capacity (what you have to work with – leaders, building assets, finances)
- Variables (How hard should you push your people; how fast should you change; subcultures, traditional and theological understanding)
Should the church gather? Of course – the church always gathers, no matter how big or small the gathering (“2 or 3 in my name”). Ecclesia means “the assembled ones”. If our smaller, organic expressions work in the sense of more and more people coming to Christ, you will have to navigate their desire to want to be together. Church services do not have to be meaningless. People get weary of church services when they realize that their participation is not necessary for it to continue.
** Loyalty is no longer the value for this generation — the new value is meaning.
Historically, people have always gathered, around the altar, the tent, the tabernacle, the temple, the synagogue, from house to house.
Biblical reasons for gathering include: survival, meaning and new family.
Church-based ministry to children should augment, not replace what the kids are getting at home. We should include them in meaningful and missional activities that show them what the kingdom of God is about.
Pointers about gathering:
- The gathering should be a different experience from what they get from scattering
- The gathering should not pander to consumeristic tendencies, but should be a place to call people into the bigger picture of giving their life away.
- The gathering should be the most pliable, flexible and adjustable aspect of the church
- Gather in a way that makes them want to go
Live as though you are really dying. What are you going to pass to the next generation?
- The legacy must be motivated by real people – there must be actual people that we pass the baton to. Who are they? What are their names? What are we doing to equip them?
- Leave them something useful: your expertise your mentoring (time), encouragement, chance to hear our stories, chance to have their own stories, our example if giving our life away.
- The biggest gift I can hand down is faith. They need stories of men and women who outgave, outfaithed, outrisked and outloved – we need to model it.
- Peer pressure toward the right things (kingdom instead of Christendom)
The resources for the next generation church are in our hands — will we release them?
- We serve the One who is both the head of the Church AND the Lord of the Harvest
- Most of the ruts people fall into occur because we haven’t called them into something greater
- We must transition from a “going to church” mentality to “being a mission to this city”
- One can actually grow closer to God outside of a church or devotional setting (while involved in missional, scattering activities)