Church – Gathering to Scatter or Gathering While Scattering?

29a896c4-2c79-4739-abd9-9169b94c5adaIn the last 24 hours, I have seen a number of posts on Church & Mission which have worked me into bit of a frenzy.  While I hesitate to say the following is Part II to my series “I Don’t Want To Be That Guy Who’s Pegged As Anti-Church, But…,” it might just well be.  Let’s get to it then…   

The church gathers so it can scatter.  The assembling of the body  is more like a convergence of those on already on mission, debriefing, adjusting, talking, and attesting to the work of God that is going on in their midst, and less like a body being equipped or prepared to go on mission.  Hence mission leads to church not vice versa.  Church then is not primarily a sending body, but a body that is sent.  A bit of missional physics; “a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest.”  Mission moves church. Church does not tend to move mission.  A church at rest will stay at rest until mission moves it.

There is no dichotomy between gathering and scattering.  The dichotomy of a scattered vs gathered church is forced in the definition of the word “church.”  If we keep thinking that church is a “place” like a spiritual gas station, a clinic, a safe haven, oasis, or even a watering hole, then we foster and aggravate that dichotomy.  The Church doesn’t have a mission.  The Mission has a church.

Christianity furthers instigates this dichotomy by making pastors “leaders” of churches.  Churchdom has taken a vampiric attitude towards the other 4 giftings in Ephesians 4:11.  It has drained them of their blood and embalmed them in into a single person who represents 1/5th of a Spirit inspired ideal.  We’ve sucked the missional blood from the veins of a full-orbed and ordained body of Christ and limp away wiping our mouths like malnourished, parasite infested, zombies.  If Pastors were supposed to be the leader of churches by themselves, simply protecting and feeding the sheep, then there would be no need for mission. Even the walking dead know they’ve got to get out to be fed.  They know by instinct that mission is central to their “survival.” 
Breathe Miguel, Breathe…
Now, before you over react, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be pastors or gatherings.  In fact, I believe that pastors should do their 20% of the work of the ministry to the best of their god-given ability.  I also believe that the gathering to scattering ratio should be somewhere in the range of 14% gathering to 86% scattering.  Do you know where I come up with that figure?  What’s your church’s ratio? 
Ok, I’m done with my rant.  Did I go too far? 


0 thoughts on “Church – Gathering to Scatter or Gathering While Scattering?

  1. Carlos says:

    I don’t think you went too far at all Miguel though I must confess to a bit of surprise by some of the analogy in your post (i.e the vampire stuff like sucking the blood and embalming). A fitting analogy though.

    I have thought about this myself in recent weeks how the pastoral role has all but taken over the church (something doesn’t sit right in that to me).

    Here is something I wrote recently (I am writing a book on Freedom to Express Spiritual Gifts that I intend to give away for free)…

    “The five gifts are commonly understood to be “ministry” gifts or gifts whose expression is the exclusive right and privilege of those who hold positions of leadership in the church (otherwise referred to as ministers) and practically, at least in modern times, as being for the most part expressed through the person we have come to call the Pastor.

    The Pastor is said to be exercising the prophetic gift when he expresses the heart of God through a sermon. Likewise, when the sermon is more evangelistically oriented, he is said to be operating in a gift of evangelism. And, of course, through it all he is said to be operating in the gift of teaching as well.

    In some Christian circles the Pastor is even said to be engaging in an act of worship when he preaches! So not only do we get to watch him acting in the role of a prophet, evangelist, and teacher but we get to sit and watch him worship as well!

    It’s no wonder that those of us in what is commonly looked upon in practice (if not in theology) as laity tend to mostly sit around and watch the Pastor do all that up front!

    Pastors have become a kind of jack-of-all-ministry-gifts in our modern day church practice.

    Especially in Christian circles where the gift of apostles is no longer believed to be around at all. In such circles the Pastor is the only visible representation of the five gifts in modern times!”


  2. David Woods says:

    Not far enough. I thought you were just getting revved up, and then you put on the brakes. 🙁
    Oh well, maybe next blog.

  3. Miguel, you indicate that there is no dichotomy between scattering and gathering but then make this statement

    “The assembling of the body is more like a convergence of those on already on mission, debriefing, adjusting, talking, and attesting to the work of God that is going on in their midst, and less like a body being equipped or prepared to go on mission. Hence mission leads to church not vice versa. Church then is not primarily a sending body, but a body that is sent.”

    If there is no dichotomy then why make the distinction? I also wonder how much of your cultural context is being imposed into what you describe.

    Regarding your description of leadership, I think we have to make some careful distinctions. On one hand, you do have pastors that serve as authoritarian leaders over their congregation and “manage” people. This is typically accompanied by vision development and shaming people get on board and/or developing a program structure that inhibits people from thriving. This is what strangles the mission of the church. But that is quite different from the biblical model of leadership which still does call for those who take responsibility for the flock. I have to disagree with how you describe that leadership (elders) are not responsible for equipping. What is the point of gathering then? Maybe I’m just not getting your nuance.

    But here is my overall concern. I fear that what you describe castigates any local assembly/gather that doesn’t line up with your model and renders them illegitimate. You say your not creating false dichotomies, but by pitting one model and against the other that is exactly what you are doing.

    When Christ said that he would build his church, I have to imagine that the complexity of her functions can accommodate different models. Do you not believe that God is big enough to accomplish his purpose with different models? As long as the Spirit is involved and thriving and a local body strives to commit to its purpose, why throw it under the bus if it doesn’t fit it one model.

  4. Lisa, I think you’re misunderstanding where Miguel’s coming from.

    There’s only one model of church worth having and that’s the model that Jesus described. It’s both/and. It’s love one another and it’s make disciples that will make disciples. For hundreds of year the church has seen itself as drawing others in from the world. But Jesus said, ‘Go!’

    Victor Choudhrie talks about the ‘Come’ church and the ‘Go’ church. For Alan Hirsch it’s about communitas, not community. Jesus and the disciples were always on the move from village to town to village to Jerusalem to village.

    I love how Miguel writes that the church doesn’t have a mission, but instead the mission has a church. It was that way in the beginning and it should remain so now.

    To be blunt (taking my lead from Miguel here), I’d say our choice is the the church that Jesus wants or the church that we want. We can’t have both.

    My last post was on a related but different topic. How are we going to lead one another?

    PS – Miguel, have you been reading Hirsch again? Tsk, tsk 🙂

  5. Hello Miguel – first time commenter on your blog. I am a fan already. I’ve been edified by this post and by the comments that have been left after it, particularly the dialogue between Lisa and Chris – well expressed in grace too.

    I do concur with David, though, that you appear to have put on the brakes. as though there was more for you to say, that you chose not to say at this point, but which I hope you will say in future. Keep up the good work.

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