I’ve been spending my morning devotional time in the book of Acts (thought it might be helpful in planting a church to look at how the church was born and grew) and today came across a familiar passage. But since we’ve been discussing as a church the importance of the church as a “gathered and scattered” called-out group of people united by common vision (more than a group united by a building and a Sunday service), I enjoyed seeing another example of “scattering.”
Sometimes, and probably more often than not, “scattering” is intentional. Christians aren’t to gather 24/7. We gather for worship, fellowship, discipleship, etc…But much of our time is spent at work, home, neighborhoods, hobbies, activities. When we do so, we are to be intentionally looking compassionately at people wherever and whenever we intentionally scatter.
But we see in Acts 8 that the early church didn’t intentionally scatter much until they were forced to scatter via persecution. Now they sure did have a “scattering feel” to their fellowship time. But it seems that few really scattered until they were forced to scatter. Or you could say scatter unintentionally.
In America, we don’t have to literally scatter because of persecution. Yet we do often scatter unintentionally. Sometimes it may be a job transfer or a loss of job, and as a result scattering may be literally, and largely, a geographical change of scenery. And highly unintentional. The takeaway from this passage is that the early church seemed to preach Christ wherever and whenever they were unintentionally scattered. Despite being forced to different locations (unintentional), they intentionally looked around them. They simply saw who was there and who needed Christ.
But sometimes unintentional scattering may be less geographical. Sometimes God continues to put people in your path that you wouldn’t normally think about loving and moving towards. Sometimes you find yourself unintentionally in places like Teeball three nights a week (not sure there is need for practice when there are literally no rules; I actually do have fun but it is 100% about building relationships and not skill development for Connar). Or a baby comes and changes the schedule. Or certain people continue to invite you to do things and you don’t know why. Or you keep seeing the same person time and again. Or for time constraints or various other reasons, you’ve been scattered to different places and spaces, among different people, or different kinds of people (sometimes not kind).
This is what I call unintentional scattering.
The application from this passage is to be on the lookout wherever you go. Whether you intentionally scattered or unintentionally scattered, the Sovereign Lord has put you there for a reason. Let us be looking, even if all around us is unfamiliar territory or unfamiliar folks. The gospel spread and continues to spread not only by intentional scattering but also informal unintentional scattering. Both are equally as important. The destination or how you got to that destination is far less vital than your “looking” when you get there.