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.)