This week I finished AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church by Halter Hugh and Smay Matt, the second book in the Exponential Series. AND is written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay (authors of The Tangible Kingdom). It’s big idea is to attempt to bridge the divide between attractional and misssional models of church – regardless of denomination, size, context etc. As pastors of Adullam, a “congregational network of incarnational communities,” Hugh Halter and Matt Smay share a passion towards a missional/incarnational approach to church (the “scattered” church), but also acknowledge the point that “gathering” is inherent in the definition of the word “church” – ecclesia (“the assembled ones”).
I found this book a frustrating read, I’d thoroughly loved reading Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (check out my review here) and so had really high hopes for this book given the ease and relevance of the previous book. The topic seemed to be continuing in the same vein – a frustration with the way church happens but an understanding not to throw the baby out with the bath water – the importance of missional community but that often leads back into attractional gatherings and so they can’t be separated into two types of church, they must be linked.
As someone who works as a youth minister in a larger UK-based Baptist church (around 650 adult members) I see this tension played out often: at times we’re guilty of being too mono-stylistic in our worship, but in the same vein our three Sunday gatherings are in worldly terms “succesful” and see a number of people joining the church. There is no sense in which we could suddenly swap to being an incarnational set of communities but we do need to re-evaluate and embrace some of these theologies and concepts.
The book starts well with strong arguments that neither attractional nor missional churches will ever completely best serve a community or the purposes God has for the local church but it seems to get lost in chapter five. This chapter is based on “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission” by Ralph Winter, which you can read here. Winter writes about sodalic and modalic communities where modalic communities were originally founded around the idea of a “Christian” local synagogue, and sodalic communities were more linked to Paul’s mission to the gentiles.
It was at this point the book seemed to swap from story (which is how Exponential had been written) too much more theory, and it didn’t seem to give a flow to the book’s direction. The only clarity I found in the second half of the book was a challenge to smaller communities to re-evaluate how they gather together, and how to embrace some of what it means to be a church gathering, but as someone working in a larger church setting I found surprisingly few challenges or encouragements on how I could embrace and involve the house church movement within my larger church setting. If the book had gone more in that direction I think I would have found it more of an interesting read but instead I felt frustrated that it highlighted key problems for the Western 21st century church but didn’t seem to encourage us to wrestle with them if we’re based in a larger church gathering already.