What is happening to the church in America today? By all appearances, it looks like we are “doing’ church better than we ever have. Our programs are effective, our pastors are relevant, and our buildings are increasing in size. In the past 30 years the number of mega-churches has increased from under 100 to over 7,500. In the past 10 years the number of multi-site churches has increased from under 100 to over 2,000. By the numbers, these church movements enjoy the national platform, the national voice, and the resources to profoundly impact the Kingdom.
But to what end? In spite of the rapid growth of these prevailing church movements we are still losing ground, and the church in the west is in massive decline. Numerous studies and books have been written documenting the flight of members from the institutional church.
Yet the local church is Jesus’ plan for reaching the world.
The strength of the mega-church and multi-site models can be found in a strong emphasis on attracting people to the church, where they have an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ. Yet many younger leaders are rejecting this model in favor of a more incarnational approach to ministry. These missional communities tend to focus their attention on trying to release people into ministry.
In recent years a growing schism has emerged between those calling themselves incarnational leaders and those leading the prevailing church models. But what if we were able to incorporate the insights of both models into a cohesive understanding of the church? Can we bring together the very best of the attractional AND missional models for church ministry?
What is needed is not is another book about how to do church better. Our focus on the form church is misguided when the vast majority of unchurched Christians and non-believers aren’t moving toward any form of church. Beautifully Sent will give permission for leaders to value existing church forms while catalyzing a missional movement of incarnational people into the world.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was quite eager to read AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. AND discusses a question that is important for churches - what are the benefits of an attractional approach (draw people into the church to hear the gospel, find fellowship and build them up as disciples) versus a missional/incarnational approach (sending our people out into the lives of others directly to witness and grow as disciples). The book makes a strong case that the answer is Both-And, not Either-Or.
After a solid introduction, Chapter Two was for me the most powerful section of the book "Starting the AND... wherever you are". The authors jumped right in with a key question: how can you take a church that is strongly attractional, perhaps even inward focused, and help its people better understand what it means to live missionally and to see new avenues for ministry outside the walls of the church. It had some great discussion about how you can reach the same essential core of incarnational...
Missional. For some, that word represents a Spirit-led (and much needed) church shift. For others, a mere fad. For still others, perhaps something more threatening than a fad.
While I don't fall neatly into any of those camps, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay have taken the missional approach and shown how beautifully it compliments a more traditional approach to church, hence the subtitle: "The gathered and scattered church".
This book feels like a healthy balance to the abundance of missional books out there, and it is certainly less intimidating and threatening for those coming from a traditional church background (such as myself). At the core of their approach is the idea that the church needs both those who "go" and those who "make disciples". There are the senders and there are the sent. This is not only a marriage between two types of people in the church, but a union of two approaches to church itself. We gather to equip, to train, to encourage, to build up...
Halter and Smay, who previously co-authored The Tangible Kingdom, help lead the Adullam community in Denver, Colorado and in AND, propose moving the conversation debate between "attractional and missional" to a place where we can affirm and recognize the need both to gather and to be sent together as a community, suggesting that "quite possibly, God may be growing weary of our deconstructive critiques guised in the covering of 'strategy'" (24).
I had a few minor quibbles with the book. After reading and rereading a few larger sections, I am not quite sure how the book as a whole is organized; the chapters work together loosely, but I found that many could function on their own or in a different order. The book focuses on ideas overly familiar to current church/ministry conversation (missional, incarnational, contextual, etc.) and did not always cover new ground. Some of these terms may be reaching their current saturation point and I look forward to fresh concepts...
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