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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: missional

And: The Gathered and Scattered Church

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Last week I read And: The Gathered and Scattered Church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, and am finally blogging a few of my thoughts.

I had heard of this book initially after a few friends were at Exponential this year.  I couldn't go because I'd just been at the Q Conference in Chicago.  However, I probably should have been there because I'm in the throes of planting Fair Haven's first multi-site right now called South Harbor Church (a week and a half from the first preview, with launch on 10.10.10.), but I couldn't give up the Q experience.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and will recommend it to several people - particularly certain chapters.  Let me begin with a critique, and end with some things I liked.

The premise of the book is basically to stop fighting over different models of the church and honor one another in our differences but seek to use whatever models work in seeking the kingdom.  The book talks often of mega and mini churches, and of missional and attractional.  These are important dichotomies on the one hand - and ones I've struggled with myself.  On the other hand, it's too easy a division to hang a hat on and there are deeper issues than the book goes into.  Ultimately, I love title, but think the book got into too much about Adullam (Halter and Smay's church), and only scratched the surface of these deeply ecclesiological issues of our time.

"And" does a good job of articulating the need for working together through various models with the same ends in mind, but in my estimation never gets to some of the deeper issues about how much a model influences the end goals.  For instance, Halter does a good job talking about moving people out of consumerism and into transformation and into dying to oneself for Christ.  He nails the issue that disciples are not consumers (chapter 3), but then never really deals with models of doing church these days that promote consumerism of a Christian sort.  In an effort to be unifying, Halter sometimes borders on not being critical enough where healthy critique is necessary.  Other times, though he says that both types of models are helpful, but then tends to tip towards favoring the missional impulse.  One question that would be more helpful to me would be around how the mega church can remain missional enough to be Christian and how does the missional church become attractional enough to stay alive and have an influence beyond a small group.  Overall, I think he tries to be balanced between multiple models, but speaks only out of the Adullum experience.  It would've been nice to see a balanced approach in this book with multiple models all expressing the unifying aspects of the gathered and scattered church.

Where "And" does hit the nail on the head in terms of what's necessary for both the scattered and gathered, missional and attractional, mega and mini is the incarnational community.  Here is how it's put on page 66:

"Whether you're starting from scratch and moving down the missional flow or starting from an existing structure and moving up, you'll notice that the center of the process is 'incarnational community.'"

By incarnational community, they mean here bands of people with the missional heart of God integrating their lives with those who don't know Him and are doing something intentional about.  Simplistic, yes, but true none-the-less.  Too many churches lose the core mission of God to reach his people far and wide and lose their very nature as church altogether.

For me, chapter 4, "Spiritual Formation for Missional Churches" was the best chapter in the book.   This chapter really deals with how to move someone from being far from God through the discipleship and growth process to the place of mobilization in ministry (in their words from Observance to Preparation to Participation to Partnership).  This is such a key issue, and one that churches tend not to do well.  We call it a "people pathway" or a "people process" - but who wants processed people!  However, churches today desperately need a pathway of discipleship that includes evangelism, grounds people in the basics, and moves them towards influential leadership in the use of their gifts.  With studies like Reveal and churches realizing their lack of depth, discipleship pathways are getting popular.  Chapter 4 is all about how to go about that, focusing on the transitions in stages, and developing a clear pathway.  I like it. This chapter is one that I will recommend several people read.

Chapter 5 is also very helpful in describing the difference between modalities (structures focused on caring for those already in the church) and sodalities (those that push toward those on the outside).  This is a helpful chapter, finding its roots in the missiology of Ralph Winter.  This is where the book gets closer to living up to its name.  I think if the book had moved this chapter earlier (after the biblical foundation of Chapter 1) and then built upon it, dealing with the centripetal and centrifugal forces necessary for the gathered and scattered church to remain in balance, it would've felt more balanced and helpful.  This chapter is one that I will recommend several people read (like church planting interns, student and children's ministries staff, seminarians, etc.)


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torn...

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... it's not an either-or (so let's stop beating each other up, or saying our way is the only way) but start living more creatively both-and ministries of multiple forms to reach people for Jesus and have a transformative impact on the world in which we live....It's not only a missional statement about incarnational living, but about inviting the church, or people of God to be the mission in the post-christendom (or post-modern if you please) world. His missional passion, in my estimation, is about how to be on mission in our changing world rather than doing the same thing that reaches less and less people as the culture shifts.

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The Future of Evangelicalism 10

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Recently I've been reading a fabulous book by Tom Sine called "The New Conspirators."  Tom wrote the books Mustard Seed Conspiracy and Mustard Seed vs. McWorld, both of which have been very influential in my own life and thinking along the way.  Tom is from a much different generation than I am, but I love how he resonates along with people like Scot McKnight and Robert Webber with the so-called "Younger Evangelicals" (Webber's term).  Thinking about what McKnight in the last post I put up, listen to Tom Sine in his new book and notice the similarities:

...my passion is for discovering what God is doing in these turbulent times, and how I can be much more a part of it. [p. 18]

...much of the focus, language, and programs of traditional institutional churches no longer connect with post-denominational, post-Christendom, post-Christian and postmodern culture. [p. 19]

Though God works in all generations, as my wife Christine and I wander the world, we see the Spirit of God working largely through the vision, creativity, and initiative of a new generation - through emerging, mission, multicultural and monastic streams - as well as in traditional churches that are hungry for a more authentic, vital, mission-centered faith.  This book is written to invite you not only to support what God is doing through these renewing streams but also to join this conspiracy of compassion... Those involved in these streams almost always tend to be more outwardly focused, seeking to engage urgent needs in their communities and the larger world. [p. 20]

Sine mentions people I've also learned a great deal from like Alan Roxburgh, Alan Hirsch, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Scot McKnight, Eddie Gibbs, Ryan Bolger, John Stackhouse, Leslie Newbigin, Steve Taylor, Walter Brueggeman, NT Wright, Marislov Volf, and many many more.  He speaks about issues of consumerism, kingdom, environmental stewardship, war & peace, and visions of a new reality.  (an whoa... one of the best biblical descriptions of heaven I've read that drew me to tears while sitting in a coffee shop when I read it... cf. pp. 104-108)

I also love the 4 emerging trends he mentions:  emerging church, missional movement, new monasticism and hip-hop.  I loved this because 3 of the 4 have resonated deeply with me (I've just had little exposure and connection to the hip hop church culture, but I bet I'd love it, too).  Anyway, his book is worth reading and discussing and it's great to have a guy with his breadth giving some credence to this new generation of thinkers envisioning a new reality in our new emerging culture that is both consistent with and yet somewhat different than the previous incarnation of church in an earlier historical culture.


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