Scattering, or Gathering?

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Recently I was catching up on some podcast listening and enjoyed hearing Wayne Jacobsen’s response to an article by John Burton. I am unfamiliar with Mr. Burton, but in general, his interpretation of observable trends does seem to differ from mine—at least, his conclusions certainly differ.

His article is titled: “You are NOT the church: The scattering movement : What about church online?” (… long title!)

I feel like it’s a bit of a Straw Man argument—the “I’m the church” section of his article (does anyone really think that he or she, as an individual, is “the church”? I have not come across that philosophy…)—but other than that, I do understand where he’s coming from: I just disagree.

He contends that the trend towards Jesus followers removing themselves from the 501c3 “churches” and emphasizing daily life being the Church (living loved by God, and actively loving his people around you) is a “scattering” of the Church: God’s people are being wrongly divided and the Church is being lessened by it.

Listen to Wayne’s closing comments from that episode:

I think there’s not a ‘scattering movement’ going on, John Burton, I think there’s a gathering movement. Honestly, I think our Sunday morning institutions with their political ambitions, with their different names and distinct doctrines—with all the things they do—they have more to do with scattering the church in an area, and people who are leaving some of those things are actually being invited to a greater gathering; a gathering that’s greater than my preferred style of worship, or my human leader I want to follow; a gathering that’s more important than ‘do we agree on all of these little, narrow doctrinal minutia’.

It’s based on people who are learning to live loved by the Father, and then live as lovers in the world, caring for people. I see that church in amazing ways.

I concur with Mr. Jacobsen. It’s apparent to me that many people who desire a more real, everyday life with Jesus and his Church are not finding that in the organizations that culturally we think of as “churches”, but realizing a much more full life (“I came to give you life, and life to the full”—Jesus) when not tethered to (beholden to) those named entities.

Obviously, no experience or label is universal. And, these are my thoughts from my experience. However, they seem to fit what I observe, and I wonder if we, the Church, continue to miss out on the fullness of life that could be had as first, followers of Jesus, living completely dependent upon him and his lead and sustenance in our lives, and then second, as he intersects our paths with followers with whatever frequency he should choose as head of his church, we encourage and build up one another as those opportunities come: no agenda, or self-sustaining plan to accomplish that end of our own making.

I certainly admit that such a view of God’s Kingdom could be heavily influenced by my own personality. (I bristle at most “plans”. Knowing I have “things to do today” often weighs me down to the point of not being able to do anything!) But I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus didn’t name anything. He didn’t establish a structure to train up and “contain” his Church. He builds and directs his Church… no?

Again, it all comes back to Jesus.

So, please have a look at that article, and enjoy the response to it via Wayne’s podcast episode. And I welcome your thoughts/discussion here as well.

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