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An Age of the Scattered Church

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Eddie Hammett wrote a book with the title, The Gathered and Scattered Church. The phrase was coined at some point in the Christian story to identify times when believers were gathered for worship, and times when believers were scattered for service or private worship. I cannot determine when the phrase came about, but it is common language among many in ministry. We are in a time when we are unable to gather for worship, and we may feel spiritually disconnected from each other. I know I felt unusually detached when we canceled the first worship service at our congregation. What do I do now? During my education as a congregational coach, great coaches like Eddie Hammett would ask, “What would ministry look like if you had no building to go to for worship?” or “How would you continue to be a congregation if you had nowhere to meet?” These are challenging questions intending to push leaders to consider the central essence of what it means to be a congregation of Christ’s universal Church. Today, we are challenged to answer this for ourselves. With the church doors closed, how do we go on being the people of God? How do we worship God when we feel exiled from the sanctuary of our church? We are genuinely scattered! I recall how the Israelites were in exile, Babylon struggling to retain what was left of their identity. Identity is a big deal for Jews, and it was a big deal in Daniel’s day. How do they go on as Jews with no Temple? Who are Jews without a promised land? The Chaldeans tried to brainwash these Jews into being Chaldeans by forcing them to learn and practice Babylonian culture and to worship Babylonian gods. The time of Babylonian captivity galvanized Jewish identity more than any other event in Israel’s history. The cauldron of captivity produced purer people. The example isn’t perfect, but the question is the same. How do we go on being Christians if we have no place to worship? What does a scattered church look like? I was asked to compile a list of possible resources for keeping your congregation running during a time of social distancing. I hope that by the time you receive this magazine, I have wasted my time compiling this list of resources because we will have returned to regular programming. Nonetheless, if not, perhaps leaders can use these options to help continue to foster relationships and discipleship.

1. Consider Zoom web conferencing for Worship, Study, or meetings. 2. Facebook groups for Bible study. If you have a Facebook page, set up subgroups to focus on a topic and invite your friends and members to the group. You can upload videos, comment, link webpages, or using poling to create a learning environment. 3. Facebook or Instagram Go Live for sermons, lessons, or music. 4. YouTube challenge broadcasting. 5. Schedule conference calls with 6. Set up prayer stations outside your church (like Stations of the Cross) for people to visit on their own time to reflect, pray, and read scripture. Maybe set one station for each of the “I Am” statements of Jesus. 7. Make a schedule for members to read aloud the Bible from beginning to end. Have a member agree to read out loud from the scripture for 30-minutes, then call the next one on the list. Continue for set periods of the day until the scripture is read entirely. 8. Make a schedule for members to pray. Have members sign up for prayer times to pray for 30-minutes, then call the next one on the list. 9. Visit the 365-day devotional online at: 10. Make a gratitude journal online (perhaps through Facebook groups). 11. Create an emergency fund to help those who will miss paychecks due to lack of work. 12. Call the shut-ins in your church or those you know. 13. Send cards or letters to those you cannot visit during this time. 14. Encourage members to create a sacred space in their homes. Perhaps light a candle in a specific place to read the scripture and pray. Maybe include worship music to help you focus on private worship. 15. Go online and research “Church to Go.” Prepare “To Go” packages for people to worship and learn at home.

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