Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
A couple weeks ago, I launched into a new series of blog posts looking at the four core values of our new community of faith in North Oshawa - the values of Gathering, Scattering, Place, and Grace. To do this, I'll be focusing on Hebrews 10:23-25 as a template for how these values call us to live. Last week, I wrote about the practice of Gathering - why it's important that we gather together as followers of Christ. And, I hinted that it's our practice of gathering that allows us to engage in all these other values.
So, today, I want to introduce the value of Scattering to you.
I ended my previous post reminding all of us - myself included - that worship matters. Our gathering together as brothers and sisters in Christ matters. And it's only one part of the rhythm of life for God's people. Worship matters, but to fully live into the complete rhythm of Life in Christ, we need more than just the practice of Gathering. We also need to Scatter - to be spurred on to love and good deeds. To love our neighbours and serve them in real, tangible ways. And we need to both Gather and Scatter in the context of a sense of our place, in a community shaped by grace.
But sometimes we in the church so value our gathering times that we forget that there's more to the life God wants for us. I was part of a church once that desperately wanted to see the church grow and flourish, and see people come to know Christ for the first time, or in a new way. The heart of this church was beautiful, and they longed to make an impact in their neighbourhood - an admirable and Biblical goal. However, they just couldn't see past Sunday morning to do so. They so prized their Gathering, that they assumed that if they just made it good enough, everyone else would love it, too. So - in an attempt to reach more people, they decided to shake up their worship time a bit. They changed the arrangement of the room, bringing in new paint colours, creative seating arrangements, and local art to make the space feel more welcoming. They made a concerted effort to make their music skew younger, and make their preaching more relatable. And all of these were good things, and did help the congregation think a little differently about how worship can and should be done in their church.
But, none of the paint colours, seating arrangements, or topical preaching brought in anyone who wasn't already connected to that church community. It changed the mindset of the people of the congregation a bit, serving as a teaching moment about creativity and experimentation and holding loosely to our own preferences and prejudices of how church should be. But, ultimately, rearranging their worship in order to connect to their neighbours was a little bit like saying, "You know, I'd like to make more friends. I think I'll move the furniture in my living room." No matter how beautiful my living room looks, I'll never make more friends unless I leave my living room. I'll never meet new people unless I step outside and go to where people are. A similar dynamic is at work in our churches as well. We can no longer expect to connect with those outside the walls of our church if we never leave the building. We need to go to where people are already, build relationships, and enter into life together outside of the church, rather than wait for them to come to us. Just like you need to be inside my house to know what my living room furniture looks like, you need to be a part of the church already - at least in some capacity - to know what worship looks like.
And so, we are called to scatter. To step out of the walls of our church and embrace and engage what God is already doing in our neighbourhood and our world. To serve, show kindness, and be partners to other organizations, charities, and community services. Hebrews 10:24 encourages us to spur each other on to love and good deeds. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus tells us that all authority belongs to Him, and that now we have the authority and the mission to go - and, as we're going, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and initiating them into the Church, the body of Christ. And along with all this, Micah 6:8 reminds us that God wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
This is how we Scatter. After we come together in worship to glorify our Creator and be renewed and refreshed and reminded of our purpose in Him, we're sent out into the world. To live in love. To do good deeds. To acts of love and kindness and peacemaking. To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. And, as we're going, to make disciples, inviting them into the Life with a capital L that we experience in Jesus Christ.
This kind of Scattering matters deeply in our neighbourhoods. In fact, our work in and for and among our neighbours can actually give a monetary value to our communities. When the church engages with its neighbourhood - whether through programs, social justice initiatives, work in housing, healing from substance abuse, job training, or safe spaces for children - the whole city benefits. A recent study out of the University of Toronto estimates that for every $1.00 a congregation spends on outwardly-focused ministries, the city receives approximately $4.77 worth of common goods services. Our Scattering adds value to our cities that is so powerful it can even be measured in monetary impact. And if that's true, just think of the transformation that's created that can't be measured!
In our new church, we will deeply value our Gathering. And then, we will send each other out from that gathering so that we can Scatter well, in ways that add real value to our neighbourhood. We will spur each other on to love and good deeds, to live in just, merciful, and humble ways with God. And we will, with God's help, make disciples as we go and live into this Scattering. We will say to God, along with the prophet Isaiah, "Here I am. Send me."
What, exactly, will this look like? While some of this is still growing and forming as we move toward a more structured community, next week's blog will touch on some more details of how this Scattering will play out when I talk about our value of Place. I hope you'll come back and read more!