And: The Gathered and Scattered Church

My ministry experience has led me to different kinds of churches throughout the years. I’ve led choirs at traditional, rural churches and I’ve led youth ministries at a modern, multi-site church. I’ve walked away from what I considered at the time to be a “dream position” to church plant. And now, I’ve just finished my first year as the lead pastor of a young, missional church.

The truth is that I’ve always found my heart somewhere in the middle. I’m not a pragmatic, modern church guy. And I’m not a “why do we need to get together to read the Bible anyway” missional guy either. For a few years now, I’ve found myself in the in-between.

After discussing the unique place we find ourselves, I mentioned my curiosity towards a new book that I felt might finally describe what we hope to become. I had met Hugh, and knew that his heart was bent on calling the Church back to a radical, culture-changing existence. Our children’s ministry director – who is more passionate about church planting than I am (which is saying a lot) – went out and purchased the book and read it. (This was a textbook example of leading up.) So naturally, I had to get my copy.

AND did not disappoint. In the book, the authors do much more than most missional authors – they did more than merely deconstruct the church. Instead, they describe what God is calling his Church to.

God is calling his Body to be gathered and scattered. We’re called to gather for worship and the preaching of the Word while scattering for the sake of the mission.  Church services simply do not provide a suitable replacement for the Church.  And yet that is where most churches find their identity – by what happens on Sunday mornings.

The last forty years of Sunday services, biblical sermons, safe childcare, affinity-based small groups, and programs to fit any need are not producing the strain of Christians that have significantly changed culture… The church service is not inherently a problem, but it can lead to the consumer-oriented faith that we’ve all come to know and lament.

And so the answer is to give the Church back her mission – to give the people of God back to the mission of God. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could have a warm and fuzzy place to gather on Sunday mornings, sing nostalgic songs, and take a nice nap. Christ gave his life away for the sake of his bride. We, the Church, are called to nothing less. AND gives us a picture of what that could look like.

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One more thing: I can’t deny that another reason that I enjoyed the book so thoroughly was that it continued to reference the church that my family attended while in Austin, as well as their pastor Brandon Hatmaker. I’m honored to be his friend, and humbled to have called ANC home, if even for a short while.

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