Jeff Vanderstelt – scattered gatherings

Jeff Vanderstelt from Soma Communities speaks about taking a Sunday off:

“Although we do not always gather in the same building, we wouldn’t say we “take Sundays off” or “cancel Sunday Gatherings”. This language seems to betray our belief that if it is not done by the few of us paid pastors at our building, it doesn’t really count. When we don’t all gather together in one place we call them Scattered Gatherings that are led by Missional Community leaders in their homes, community, park, etc…

Each Expression (what we call a Soma Church Plant) determines if they want to do this and how often, but most do it once a month.

In order to understand what a Scattered Gathering might look like for us, I’ll describe the last one our MC did:

The believers met in my home at 9 am for prayer, breaking of bread and some time to speak the Gospel to one another. Then at 10 am our neighbors joined us for brunch. The believers served, asked questions, listened to people tell their stories, looked for opportunities to bless our neighbors by listening closely to needs (so we can serve our neighborhood during the week), listened for what they believe and don’t believe, asked God for open doors to share the Gospel, and then helped clean up.

The last unbeliever left around 1 pm and then we sat around until 4 pm talking through how the morning went. We discussed what we discovered and how we can serve. We talked through the Gospel doors and barriers. We looked at how Scripture would direct us forward in our mission and we prayed some more.

Eventually some left, others napped on our couches and chairs, and some of us talked about how to best lead the mission forward (2 of these men will likely plant a church someday). It was a great gathering of the church (9am-4pm) and was full of good Gospel mission and ministry.

There are several reasons why Soma has chosen this methodology:

1. We are committed to the ASSEMBLING TOGETHER of the believers in many forms and contexts. It has seemed to me that many in the Church only know how to gather in formalized settings with the paid church leaders at the helm. Or, in small groups that have been formed and directed by Church staff with a guided curriculum.

2. We are committed to the EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS for ministry. Ephesians 4 says that some of us have been given to the Church to equip believers for ministry leading to their maturation enabling them to equip one another so the body is building itself up in love.

3. We are committed to increasing the PREACHING AND TEACHING OF THE WORD. We believe that it is our job as leaders to see more preaching and teaching of the Word going on by more people and in more places (not just a few in our large group gatherings – though we believe in that as well).

“getting out where people are at teaches people how to engage in the Gospel in the everyday. Keep in mind, most of the Church is going to need to preach the Gospel in uncontrolled, often hostile environments (work, neighborhood, family, etc…). If all people ever see and experience is The Preacher in a room where he controls the environment, they will have a hard time learning how to do this in their context. The Scattered gathering gives them an opportunity to learn this.”

4. We are committed the MISSION OF THE GOSPEL in our context.

We believe contextually the Sunday gathering is effective for reaching the “Churched” unbeliever and the “I should go to church” unbeliever. However, we also have a calling to reach those who will not “Go to Church” and since Sunday is a key day that they have open (in my neighborhood, all but the Christians are home on Sundays), we are willing to adjust in order to reach them (80% of my neighborhood will NOT go to a Church Gathering in a building, but many of them are open to talking about Jesus with us in our home Sunday morning).

5. We are committed to MULTIPLICATION of Disciples, Leaders and Churches.

I believe that hearts and lives are changed through the Proclamation of the Gospel, but I don’t believe you can effectively equip people to be disciple-makers themselves through preaching and gathering in large groups alone.”

“At some point, we have to release our leaders to take responsibility for the ministry themselves in order to really become equipped.”

Read the whole thing here.

I think there are similar dynamics at work here in Cape Town:

where there are many churched unbelievers who would not feel too uncomfortable in going to a building where a church meets on a Sunday

but equally there are many (and a growing number) who just will not!

Soma’s strategy would need some contextualization here in Cape Town but it does seem to aim to connect with both groups, both of which are a reality here in Cape Town.

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~ by John on June 21, 2009.

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