One of my favorite churchmen today is a theologian and pastor who speaks in terms of two distinct categories regarding the church’s identity and function. A simple description is: the Church Gathered is who we are and what we do each Sunday morning, and the Church Scattered is who we are and what we do with the rest of our time.
On Sunday mornings, the Church Gathered corporately and communally gathers under the name of Christ. We sing together, we pray together, we sit under the authority of God’s word together, we lament together, and we give together. This is our corporate worship and our corporate gathering in Christ as His people, His body, His church.
In this gathering, our awareness of membership with one another is heightened, our perspective of the communal nature of the church of Jesus Christ is calibrated, and our conjoined submission to and instruction from Christ is enjoyed.
Throughout the week, the Church Scattered serves as bankers, plumbers, homemakers, construction workers, transporters, caregivers, and a host of other things – all in the name of Christ as well. In varying ways, Christians serve Christ and their neighbor through the use of their individual gifts, talents, and resources.
When a Christian serves someone by nobly giving away her time and treasure in the service of another, the recipient may rightly understand that he has been served by “the church” – the Church Scattered.
The church gathered is a vital institution, and the church scattered is a vital organism. The church gathered is well structured, orderly, and Scripturally defined. The church scattered is intuitive, sometimes seems chaotic, and Scripturally principled.
May God grant us grace to see our incredible need for one another as the Church Gathered, and may He grant us eyes to notice the innumerable opportunities we all have to serve Him and others as the Church Scattered.