Blog Tour: AND by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this Blog Tour book review I had nearly given up on (don't worry, the other two posts I promised for today will still be up!):

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. Zondervan, 2010. 205 pgs.

Since I started paying attention to church, I have seen the growth of, or been involved in, the para-church movement, the small group movement, the mega-church movement, the emerging church movement, the house church movement, and the missional church movement (to name a few). It seems that we are forever trying to fill the vacuum of evangelical ecclesiology with ever new and more successful models. Of course, the questions behind all of these movements are sincere; we really want to do church well and many people seem to have a sense that, at least in recent years in the west, we are not. Not only are they sincere, but they need to be answered.

Into the midst of this long evolving debate step Halter and Smay. What they offer I think is best described as a breath of fresh air. The title of the book really says it all. Instead of pushing one model or method, Halter and Smay argue that we can be both gathered AND scattered, missional AND institutional. We can do evangelism/outreach AND spiritual formation, create more AND deeper disciples, and so on. Having recently graduated from Regent College, Vancouver, both/and language (as well as now/not yet) language is very familiar to me. So, unsurprisingly, this book struck a chord.

In particular, Halter and Slay are right on in focusing on the purposes of the church: to incarnate Christ in the world AND gather together in loving community. They offer a vision of church which incorporates costly discipleship (they don't use those words, but I couldn't help but think of Bonhoeffer as I read Chapter 3) AND grace. And they elaborate on a plan of spiritual formation which balances inclusive community, communion with God, and mission to the world. All of these are, I believe, badly needed visions/correctives in the church today.

My only qualm is that I cannot recommend this book alone. They never clearly define incarnational community, instead constantly referring to two other books they have published: The Tangible Kingdom, and The TK Primer. This makes sense; why repeat yourself? However, considering how central this idea is, as well as how frequently it arises in this book, they needed to offer more clarity on the subject than they did. This criticism, unfortunately, extends into many of the areas of their book. They left me wanting me, and sometimes they pointed to where I could find it, but that was the best they did. They didn't give me the more, and sometimes didn't even point me to it. Perhaps, to give them the benefit of the doubt, this was intentional. Perhaps living in living out church in this way I will find that I don't really need to read more at all. Instead, maybe the more I long for is the appropriate more that I need to find in the gathered and scattered church. We will see.

Conclusion: Recommended. 4 of 5 stars.
This is a very good book on being church, with a good mix of practical and theoretical ideas and advice. It offers a place to start, and leaves the reader wanting more.


Larry Baxter said...

Nice review that captured the thrust of the book well. I definitely agree that it left me wanting more info. I had hoped to not have to read this book *AND* Tangible Kingdom.

I don't know I would say they promoted "institutional" church - perhaps organized or attractional. The type of gathered church they describe is definitely not institutional.

Andrew said...


Thanks for the comments, and the correction. Your right in distinguishing institutional church from organized/gathered church. I meant the latter, but need to be precise in my terms. Institutional church means something very different to most people I think.

Andrew said...
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