Gathering and Scattering

There are five stages of God’s relationship with man.

1> God and us … Adam and Eve walked naked in the garden with God. They had no shame. God and man lived in perfect harmony with one another. Unfortunately, this was short-lived.

2> God for us …After the fall, man couldn’t be in the presence of God. God, however, sent guidance. Whether He did it through prophets, judges, commandments, or covenants, God was still for us.

3> God with us … Then God took on the form of man. He sent His Son to preach the good news and call people home. His Son was born in Bethlehem, and His name was Immanuel, “God with us.”

4> God in us … As Jesus predicted, the temple was later destroyed (in 70 A.D.). Fortunately, God’s presence was no longer bound to a temple and accessed through a high priest. Jesus put an end to animal sacrifices when He became our sacrificial lamb. The temple’s curtain was torn. The altar closed. And the temple was multiplied. The cross of Jesus changed the church. God moved from being for us, to being with us, to being in us. We became the temple of God. And the Bible states, “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

This idea of God being in us is laced throughout the New Testament.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
  • 2 Timothy1:14 says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
  • Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

All these verses point to one revolutionary idea. The Church is no longer a place. It’s now a people. Wherever we are, there the church is. Basically, Christians turn buildings into churches. Churches don’t turn people into Christians.

How you view God’s Church changes how you view God’s mission. And vice versa.

According to the Barna Group, 71% of Christians say the main influence in their salvation was not going to church but a personal relationship with a Christian. This is so important for us to recognize, because this generation don’t trust institutions. But they will trust someone who represents one.

Things have changed in this generation. Young people don’t read the Bible. They read Christians. Although millennials and Gen Zers may not be going to the event on Sunday, they are meeting Christians throughout the week. They’re meeting us at their job, in their neighbourhood, in their daily rhythms. We have ambassadors all over the world. But many don’t realize they are called to be ministers of reconciliation right where the live, work, and play. 

One of the issues is that churches are strong at gathering and weak at scattering. Barna found that within two years of conversion, 80% of Christians give up their former friendships with unbelievers. We subtly construct holy huddles. We become comfortable with the 99 and forget the one.

Remember, the Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news” (Romans 10:15). Not, “How beautiful are the churches we bring people to.” When we shift our focus from creating great temple experiences (Sundays) to training Great Commission disciples, we leverage the full benefits of the cross. After giving us His commission, Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). So God is with is, because God is in us. 

Do people in the pews live like this? What a shame if they don’t realize it’s “through the church [that] the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Ephesians 3:10).

5> God and us … One day Christ will return and all things will be made new. God and man, back in harmony. What a redemption story! The beautiful irony is that there is a fifth stage, which is simply a return to the first stage. 

This is good news. This is worth sharing.