A Greater Gathering

Are those who no longer attend Sunday services part of a scattering movement that is undermining the mission of the church in the world, or are they in fact people looking beyond conformity-based environments for a more meaningful relationship with God and with others? Wayne reads and responds to a recent article called The Scattering Movement, to show how the prevailing definitions of church actually lead us away from real community. But it also opens the door to an important conversation: What is the church and how does she reveal the heart of God in the world? And, how does community arise out of a growing relationship with Jesus, and not conformity to a man’s vision, or an institution’s agenda.

Podcast Links:
John Burton’s article, The Scattering Movement
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121 Responses to “A Greater Gathering”

  1. Terri says:

    I’m a tad late in listening to this one, and to the conversation, but, I have to say, it’s grabbed me by the heart. In fact, I listened to it, then hit the replay button so I could hear it all again.

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the above comments, this is really just a quick drop in to say ‘thanks Wayne’. This is something the group of people I spend time with over here (Melbourne, Australia) have been talking about for a while now. How to be more intentional, together, without a ’cause’ or ‘entity’ becoming the focus and taking on a life of it’s own.

    I’m just about to listen to the ‘aftermath’ podcast, and hope to get a chance to read the above comments tonight after work.

    So thanks Wayne! Great stuff (as usual)!

  2. Alan Gray says:

    After reading these many posts, I am left with the question that I had before I began reading. Why gather as Christians at all?

  3. Raymond says:

    Alan thats a good Question, there are many possible reasons that i may try to give you and some may hold Ground then some nothing at all but i suppose the one that can really answer you would be Christ himself im not one that is really on a Group gathering My self but then there are others that are for what ever reason. but then im Curious as to what others may have to say i guess. or Whayne Him Self on this one. Ive been alone for a long time with a hi here and there thats all im use to it now, i take what comes as i go.

  4. Kevin says:

    You’ve got to gather to collect the offering.

    ::: ok, I shouldn’t have ::: :-P

  5. Wayne says:

    Alan, methinks you may have missed the point of the podcast. We don’t need to gather Christians at all. “The Greater Gathering” is not another meeting to add to all the other meetings Christians have organized over a couple of thousand years, it’s the knitting of hearts together who are growing to know him. It’s the conversations, connections, and collaborations that the Spirit inspires that allow God’s glory to be revealed in the earth. It’s not something we have to do. It is something he is already doing in the earth.

  6. Alan Gray says:

    Wayne, methinks you may have missed the point of my question. I didn’t imply that we ‘need’ to gather. I asked, simply, “Why gather as Christians at all?”. What you can correctly infer from the question is that Christians, like every other sort of people _will gather_. What I honestly (and I don’t mean any veiled irony in this) don’t understand is, why?. I suspect it is almost entirely for the purpose of dispelling insecurity. There is nothing weak or wrong about it, it is in fact very wonderfully human. What is most often wrong is how we dispel it. Someone coined the phrase “Fight or Flight” to describe our options to insecurity. I noticed one day that there are more than two options in that pithy little truism. The transparent option is “or”. It stands in the middle, quite content to leave it’s larger brothers to the anxiety of reaction, while it sits peacefully in between, remaining unaffected. I believe Jesus is the ‘or’. Jesus was the only truly human being that ever walked the face of this earth, with the character of Adam possibly being the only exception. Confident in the guidance of his uninterrupted conversation with his Father, there was no contention for the truth, despite the many who contended with him. He lived in the midst of endless contention, as he still does, in our own hearts. He stands as the ‘or’ of humanity that doesn’t require resolution, just a peaceful place to abide in the midst of the warring contention of this difficult task of living.

    Reading the exchanges here, reminded me of a left handed man disputing the proper techniques of penmanship with a right handed man. In the end, if the righting is legible, it is the content of the message that overshadows the method. If we are not certain of our conviction, we will probably find someone or an entire group to validate it. It is the resolution of that uncertainty that often leads to failure. While one will resolve to displace their insecurity by adhering to a group that is most affirming, leaving the details of their conviction to authorized thinkers, another will cement their conviction independently of others by some reasonable, common sense, perhaps “biblical” thesis that they may promote and defend on their own.

    I heard John Burton reaching for the same goal you are reaching for. The institutional structures he advocates have worked well for him (I presume) in finding the image and meaning of true humanity in the person of Jesus that we are all so desperate to know and be. John’s article is a common insecurity of those who have found their resolution in these institutions, which seem to be eroding away. That is as honest an insecurity as is your experience of the human destruction his institution has inflicted. Any resolution that leaves an “us” and a “them” is no resolution at all though. The resolution that leaves a ‘we’, sets us on the narrow path that leads to life.

    I am very impressed with John’s presentation in the exchange and mostly his ability to leave one final, and respectful comment. I hear great confidence in his words and am glad that he has found a branch upon which to alight.

  7. Alan Gray says:

    or “writing” ;-)

  8. Alan Gray says:

    You can simply send them to me. :-)

  9. Alan Gray says:

    Raymond, Makes sense. I think I have talked Jesus to death with other people and now, either I hear them say what I already know or am kind of offended at what they make of him. I don’t think Jesus came to create Christianity so I don’t really want to join it. As I said, I think Jesus came to make us truly human again. We have clearly lost most of what that means. I have sat in church groups for 40 years and listened to every sort of Christian belief, conviction, myth, superstition and cultural conditions. It all seems like people trying to make something special out of Jesus purpose when I now think he meant to make things ordinary again. When we believe in God like we believe in gravity, what is there really to say about it, other than to appreciate what it does for us. No amount of gravitational theory or conviction will improve on it. No one gets together to talk about gravity.

  10. Raymond says:

    Hi Alan
    To me the Word Church doent mean any thing to me we have to as people get past this point. Abraham was or should Say he had great Faith because he did what the Holy Spirit told him and he Heard and acted on it to do the word Church never came up. Jesus never spoke it either what he did say many times is this i am here to do the will of the Father not even his own thing. We need to know how to live and we dont know how because of many Factors invovled. Alan why Gather you are Right why i dont know Why.
    Abraham did he go out to Gather in a Service no,Did Jesus go to Gather no none of the Above did this he just did what the Holy Spirit told them to do. One Day it can be helping a person, or given some one a ride, or maybe just having a coffee with a stanger at what ever place your at. I m afraid that to many of us and me at times have got into something that we think we have to do and instead try to listen more and live your Life at where your at. i live in Maine, Wayne i think :ives in Californa there is no way that he and i can do what you read in the book of Acts and get the same result it will not happen. If people read the Book and try to get the same result it wont happen.
    There is nothing wrong in wanting to get together with other people who are on the same Road that you or i am . But for now i feel like Moses im out in the Desert and to be honest with every one thats where i belong for now. i Have to be Happy where im at i have to except it and if i dont then it will take God a lot longer for him to keep showing me or he will leave me there until i hear what he has to say. Hebrews Chapter 3 Verse 7 to 11
    But for the Guy or Female that follows the Holty Spirit there is plenty for that person to do.
    And for john Buxton this is what he dosnt understand and of Course the Word Church he needs to learn to be a servant first like Milking a Cow then you will move up and make Cheese, Ice Cream, etc but first he needs to learn to Milk the Cow first. I think he is over educated, plus when shown how to milk his first cow then he might like it i dont know these are my thoughts what ive pasted in the bottom From Ken Brown in one of his writing i just pasted it. below. People are trying to make things to complecated out there. The Sun Rises and Goes down at the Same Speed every day. Can you image that it has not Changed since God Created it. And then he said this is Good.

    This is what Paul had to say about understanding things that can’t be known through the natural, physical senses. It’s found in I Corinthians 2:9-16.

    “But just as Isaiah has said, the eye hasn’t seen, nor the ear heard, neither has man in his wildest imagination ever dreamed of all that God has prepared for those who reverence Him and are quick to obey Him. But God reveals them to us through His Holy Spirit. For it is only the Spirit Who understands the things that lie hidden well beyond the perceptive abilities of our natural senses. Men tend to understand only what they’ve reasoned out of their own minds. But the Holy Spirit understands only the things of God (He’s not burdened down with a rational mind controlled by physical senses and appetites). Now, we don’t follow the natural senses that reveal only the things of the world. Instead, we follow the Spirit of God, Who has been given to us so we can comprehend the things that God has given to us out of His grace. So that the things we’ve been telling you about have not come out of our own understanding (they didn’t originate in our own thoughts, and we didn’t learn them from other men). But it is the Holy Spirit Who has taught us these things by adding one spiritual concept upon another. Therefore, those who insist on relying on their own natural senses will never understand what the Spirit teaches. They will think these things are absurd and will never understand what comes only through the Spirit. The man who follows the Spirit will understand spiritual things. Yet, those who follow only after their natural senses will never understand Him. And who has ever understood all that is in the mind of the Lord that he could ever tell Him anything? Yet we have the mind of Christ available to us (revealing the thoughts and purposes of His heart to those who are submitted to Him).”

  11. Alan Gray says:

    I hear ya. I sat in church services for 40 years – doing nothing. No body in the building was doing anything except a hand full of people who exhausted themselves for 6 hours every Sunday organizing, cleaning, making coffee, practicing a couple of stage shows and then performing them. Everyone else just sat there and watched.

    Now, I don’t even ‘gather’ with people who call themselves Christians at all, but I am with people all the time. I remodel homes for a living so I am with new people all the time. I am also with coworkers who may or may not call themselves Christians. We gather for a purpose. Together, we improve the living standards for people.

    In the course of doing these things, I spend the bulk of my energy doing these things as an extension or as a representative of Jesus in these people’s lives. I don’t really try and emulate Jesus, I just show up and intend to be, say and do what I have grown into over the decades of endless mental conversations (mostly one sided – but still okay) with God.

    I had breakfast with some Christian friends last weekend. The food was good, they talked about work and kids and life which was mildly interesting. Before they ate their food they closed their eyes and said a few very repetitive words that seemed more like an obligation than sincerity. As we ate, they each pretty much repeated words about Christian doctrine or Christian culture they had heard in sermons or books – that have all been said far too many times and were far too predictable. At one point two of them disagreed about the words and settled like a couple of chickens squabbling over some corn by retiring to their own corners and ‘agreed to disagree’. In the end, we all got up and left. I don’t know what good it did besides helping everyone feel a little less lonely for an hour or so, which was probably the best thing that came of it. I am sure there were some other people sitting at a table in the restaurant talking about soccer or golf or a book they read, accomplishing the same thing.

    I still don’t know why Christians gather at all, other than to feel like there are other people who think like they do, same as Hindus do or Republicans or Construction workers. The only difference between many people here in this forum and John Burton is the form in which the gathering takes place, the former wanting no structure and the latter needing significant structure. But in the end, they seem like they all gather for the same illusive purpose (illusive to me that is).

  12. Alan Gray says:

    “The Greater Gathering” is not another meeting to add to all the other meetings Christians have organized over a couple of thousand years, it’s the knitting of hearts together who are growing to know him. It’s the conversations, connections, and collaborations that the Spirit inspires that allow God’s glory to be revealed in the earth.

    I don’t really know what “the knitting of hearts together” means. I guess it means “making friends” in another vernacular?

    I am also confused about “collaborations that the Spirit inspires that allow God’s glory to be revealed in the earth”. Thinking about God’s glory revealed in the earth, man, that’s pretty much all I see, in spite of the conversations, connections and collaborations of people. They are a very small part of it but on the whole, all one has to do is breathe in and breathe out to experience how amazing God is, which I suppose is what glorifying God means. Gravity is the glory of God, we are entirely dependent on it and at the same time, we ignore it all the time.

    What seems to trouble people the most I guess is the idea that we are the glory of God. That he loves us. I suppose gathering together to remind each other of that gloriously redeeming fact is well worth it but if we need to continually meet for that purpose, I wonder if we ever really believe it at all. Once we do believe it, it seems the best thing to do is leave off the meetings and go live it.

  13. Rod says:

    I noticed the question Why Gather? above several times. So I thought I would express some of the reasons I gather with other believers regularly. First of all when I say gather I don’t necessarily mean a meeting. Also there is never an appointed leader running the gathering of saints that I fellowship with. Thirdly not everyone is like minded on all details.

    We gather around Christ and not doctrine. We are a extended family to each other. It is a place I feel safe to let down my guard and share inner feelings and thoughts because these people have been changed by Christ. I have no need of putting on a front of perfection among these people.

    We gather to encourage each other in our walk with Christ in a world that often is often confrontive to our faith.

    We gather to sharpen each other. Although we all can hear from God we all have special gifts that sharpen each other and help us to see another point of view that we might have been blind to. There have been many times that I thought I was completely right in something and a brother or sister helped me see from a different perspective.

    We gather so we have a fellowship that we can bring other friends to who our seeking Christ. I often find that I cannot provide everything a hurting person needs because of time and physical limitations. However in a body every part does its part and thus it keeps one part from being over worked. Often times a group can minister better to someone than an individual. When someone says something that they are struggling with there is more chances in a group that there will be someone that can relate to it than just an individual.

    If my gathering consisted of different people all the time it would be to me like being an orphan. I need a close knit family so that I can go safely out into the world. I need deep relations with people that last over time. Even Jesus had a close group around him that was fellowship to him that went beyond the crowds and the random meetings with individuals.

  14. DeWayne says:


    thank you for sharing.

  15. Raymond says:

    Sir Rod
    I understand what you are saying and that holds true for many but on the other Hand I understand Alan as well His Journey is different that is something that you dont understand. i Dont really know him but i can see that he may have some issues that you are not going through or even understand you give the right answers and live the way you read it but for Alan it is different for right Now.
    Now for me for the last 30 some years it has not been a easy Road like many others but at the same time the reason i can understand Alan in some ways is because of where he is in the words he uses on his Journey. What it seems like he is Feeling or going threw. You see i dont have a close Family Because i said i was A born again Christain some 30 some years ago even the church i went to pretty much didnt care if i survived or died. My Flesh family all went in the Dumps,Father Mother so on and on brothers Sisters etc.
    Now for the last 35 years i have been pretty much by myself i ran Crews all over New England and when you Run Men And Women to do work this is a different thing then People who just go to Work every day and go home. I ran Hired and Fired Many people in those years for differenht Companys some crews were 30 to 40 Men And Women Inbetween. I know how Men will React before they do it i knew there Strenghts and Weekness at the same time. So i could get this Job done on time and Under Budget. And at times this was not easy or plesent in any way. But thats how it works in the world.
    I was use to givening orders and making sure it got done. Now 2 years ago While i was looking for Answers God had Showed me a few things that had Sparked my interest. Because i had asked him and he began to show him self to me a little at a time. Just because you read it and some peole can get togethere and share whats going on in there lives this is Great for them and for Many more i read about on the Web Site and a few other web sites i dont desagree with any of it but i will tell you that you havent walked my shoes Rod neither has Wayne. Now Moses Killed a man And god sent him in the Desert for Forty Years, David did many things as well. Paul alsoJesus had to kind of Strike him Down for him to Listen that was the only way. And on his Journey you seem to forget that most of it he was alone except for a few he had around him and of Course the people that he talked to on his Journeys. Paul went out for 2 years to different Countries to witness about Christ before he Talked to Peter and Every one else, Rod Does Your Journey fit Pauls Life Style and i dont think it does. Neither does mine.
    So i have just given you a little about my Life i dont want to write a book here but i will say that i can Relate to Alan because it seems like he has different issues that they may not be like mine but i know how he feels about his life in some Fashion because im going threw the Same thing. But in different ways and some of it may be written and some is not written in the Good Book and there are very few People who do what i do also and following Christ that are living today. I have asked God to send some one to me or talk to but he said i will show you myself i will Guide you Ray. I cant Compare myself To Jesus because im not him but if i am to be like him then the Father and Him will show me.

    To Gather i know How that is done in a Organized Setting every Sunday been there and Done that and it doesnt work. Now im use to having different people around me at all times because i did it all my Life. And Am i a Orphan Rod No im not i Dont know your Level and I can tell that you are not at my level as well. I wish i could Do what you do But Guess what that is not me.
    What i think that many people dont relize is this when God Had a person lay on one side of his Body for a year do you think any one went to relate to him no and then God told him to Change sides And do that for another year no one went on the Second year to relate to him either.

    Im not saying that it would be nice to talk to people and have a Gathering and talk about different things that may help a person out with there problems,issues,or even there Joy but you have to understand is that God has to do this for me i look around and hope but at the moment its not there yet. So can i talk to you about running a 50 man Crew or a 20 man Crew i dont know that unless you are doing this.
    It may seem like im upset but im not really at all. All im doing is giving you some thing to think about thats all and on top of that it is not all written in the Good Book. When i read What Paul Did,Peter,James and what Jesus did i know i dont even come Close i cant answer for any one else but to be able to do what they did my ears have to be really sharp in listening. When Jesus sayes i can move Mountains then i want to move Mountains when Jeus says to heal then i want Jesus to use me as a tool for his Glory with a prayer and he is healed or She. I dont want to read about it. And maybe im asking for to much i dont know yet but i know he has to take the Ray out of himself so Ray can see Him for what he is and can Do.
    For me this place is a good place for me to Gather as you would put it not in the Flesh but when we read what People are Going threw in Life and the Joys and Hard times that any one is going threw. They can relate to some degree here. And that is good Paul was alone many times Rod he even mentiones it in the Good Book a few times. And then what did he say about it. Im just trying to flip the Coin for you to look at thats all. And if you read that last Paragraph that you wrote there are peole that do live alone that dont have the Deep relations that you have with other people. So heres a question For you if God Took your Good Book Away from you for 2 years is there enough in you to live. And if he took all your freinds away from you for Two years would there be enough in you to Live. Now that would be a Journey Its about Faith. Dont Get me Wrong here all im saying is this I understand exactly what you have Written Down but not every person has That luxry that last few lines you wrote down Bothers me for some reason. or Paragraph i Guess. I thinks you are missing The Point Rod. What im trying to tell you is this Your Not Alone My Freind and im not a Orphan either. Every one has a different Gift and Christ calls on different people for different Reason. And they have to go threw things for a reason first.

  16. Alan Gray says:

    I need to emphasize, before I comment, my not being in such a group, nor there being no such group in my world right now, does not invalidate your being in one. I appreciate that you have such a group and wouldn’t in any way want to sound discouraging about your meeting together in it. But since this is just a ‘conversation’ my question is an honest one and I am honored that it is accepted here.

    In my 40 year excursion into the world of Christianity, I have been in several groups that I suspect I would have defined the way you describe yours. As I have engaged these groups, I found one thing to be true of them. They were groups. Individuals were it’s components. The sense of security and peace or assurance that came from the group drew individuals to join and to enjoy the assurance of the group. There was a sense of belonging in the group, meaning and ‘place’ and eventually, purpose and perhaps, responsibility. There were old timers in the group, and there were newcomers. If an old timer left the group, it was a significant loss, if a new comer left it was the reasonable exercise of an option and frequently, done much to the relief of the rest of the group.

    But groups always have entry requirements. Not just anyone is as fully accepted in a group as everyone is. We leave a few, precious secrets outside of a groups, so that we can be received into the group. We don’t share everything.

    My greatest fear now is that groups offer a false sense of acceptance that inserts itself. I don’t know where you are from but it no doubt has a significant effect. I am in Seattle. It is a hip, young, wealthy, gay, lonely and isolated culture. Acceptance is compulsory (unless you are a Republican) but intimacy is elusive. We live in our own heads. I don’t say this to our shame but it is an indictment against us.

    I want what you describe. It has been offered to me before and many times, I have indulged in it, but in every case, as I learn it’s culture, it has been more parochial than universal. It has power to mold, shape but most disquietingly, to hold an individual to a common standard. When presented with a group, I have found, as you have, a “world that often is often confrontive to our faith.” I don’t find my world confrontive to my faith when I am true to the expression of who Jesus Christ is, by engaging anyone, accepting everyone and valuing each person. When I represented a group, I felt suspicion and confrontation. It has invariably been a group that has the most power to extinguish Christ in me than any single individual or unscheduled combination of people.

    Does this make any sense?

  17. Alan Gray says:

    This is interesting. It is a bit like elevator conversation. Perhaps everyone got back on and traveled to the next floor. :-)

  18. Raymond says:

    I had found this the other day and thought i would Share it

    We should not think that man needs salvation merely because he is sinful. Even if man did not have sin, he would still need to believe in the Lord Jesus. Man needs to believe in Jesus not mainly because he has sins but because without Him man has no meaning in life. This is just like a suit that needs to be worn in order to be meaningful. Man needs to believe in Jesus not merely because man is sinful. Even if man were not sinful, he would still need Jesus, because man was created in God’s image to express God, and thus, he needs to receive God. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, but they did not receive God’s life into them. Even if they had not sinned, they still needed to receive the life of God.

  19. Alan Gray says:

    It is an interesting thought. I think the message imbedded in it is pretty solid. I am always a little confused by terms like ‘saved’ or ‘sinful’ or “believe in Jesus” but having been around the vernacular for so long, I think I understand what people mean by them.

    I have been in an email conversation with several friends for some years and recently have been thinking, as a result of these conversations, that what Jesus really did was to simply cast light across the entire world. I don’t know how he did it exactly but I think your quote says it in a way.

    “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – Jesus – The Bible

    I used to think, as many in Christian culture still do, that we are to ‘seek the light’ from the darkness of our sinful lives. But I think the opposite is actually true. Because of Christ, light is everywhere and the only alternative left to us is to find somewhere to hide from it. It is inescapable except if we can find some place of darkness where we can hide our ‘sin’ from others (or at least think we are hiding it). But what I hear Jesus saying is “Come out of your caves, I am not ashamed of your sins anymore. Bring them with you and don’t concern yourselves with them anymore. They will wither and die like the fungus they are when you simply stand in the light that I have come to shine” -err something like that.

    If you would like to ‘be part of the conversation” several of us have been having online (for 3 years or so), send me an email directly at goofyfishing@gmail.com and I will loop you in. We set up a Yahoo group called abbasardentlypeckishbairns and we all met here. You are welcome to join in. I still don’t know what the name means but we had to come up with something so – there it is.

    Then again, this comment section is a perfectly wonderful place to continue the conversation. I am pretty sure you and I (and Wayne) are the only ones reading it anymore however.

  20. Colleen says:

    Amen Wayne, it is like you have read my heart and walked with me in my walk. Thank so much for your teachings, wisdom and willingness to step and speak truth.

  21. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for this teaching….
    Very cathartic and personally vindicating.

    You have successfully articulated my heart in this matter very well.

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