Reviewed by Paul Robinson
Scatter: Go Therefore and Take Your Job With You
By Andrew Scott
Chicago: Moody, 2016. ISBN 9780802412904. 224 pp.
Mission Round Table Vol. 15 No. 3 (September-December 2020): 41.
In Scatter, Andrew Scott introduces his idea that God intends his people to “scatter” into every sector of society to share Jesus Christ. He explores his theme by showing the big picture story of the Bible, humankind created in God’s image, and the essential value of vocation and work.
Through telling a number of distressing stories from around the world, Scott introduces his text and dramatically states that “this generation has learned to worship in the church but seems unwilling to worship in the world” (32). He provocatively cites Amos 5:23–24 and lays down the challenge that “A good merit of true compassion is resulting action” (34). In the following chapter, the scatter theme is observed throughout Genesis, the exile to Babylon, the Gospels, the early church, and church history to-date. Scott asserts that throughout time it was not just preachers and missionaries who were responsible to share the good news of Jesus Christ, but also “business owners, labourers, fathers, mothers, storekeepers and carpenters living out their faith in the marketplaces” (58). He concludes that making Jesus known is the responsibility of all the people of God. As he says, “When we lose our ‘why’ we lose our ‘way’. When we fail to keep the main thing the main thing, our focus, energy and efforts all seem to get distracted and wasted on things that do not matter as much” (63).
Chapter 3 discusses God, creativity, and the big picture plan for creation. The following three chapters (4, 5, and 6) then articulate humankind’s agency within this plan. Scott establishes that humans are imprinted for a relationship with God, “chosen before time to be His child” (93). They are designed for good works that God has prepared in advance for them to do. They are uniquely shaped to do these as they discern their talents (112–116). Failure to do this has sobering consequences. “In asking new recruits to give up their vocation and the skills related to it, the modern missions effort, with the best of intentions, has succeeded in removing the greatest tools God gave these individuals to live out their role in His purposes among the nations” (115).
This is a searing and timely challenge to mission agencies, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, to critically reflect on past recruitment practice and be more flexible, creative, and nuanced going forward. Action that may result in many pathways into mission becoming intentionally mobilised rather than only the “vocation abandonment” route condemned by Scott.
The book seems to gather momentum when Scott addresses work, beginning in chapter 7. Inspired by the eighteenth-century Moravians, he presents work as a vehicle for using God-given talents, for pointing others to God’s glory, and for sustaining people. He stresses that work is not the ultimate goal, rather it allows people to use their best years for the purposes of God. “Work is part of our life and therefore the place where we primarily get to reflect His glory and goodness—and the good news is that most of us work. No one gets excluded” (144).
“God is looking for a people who will see heaven as their home and so no country, city, or house—no matter how comfortable—will keep us planted, stuck, and settled while we are here on earth” (149). Through the stories of Joseph and Daniel, Scott argues, in chapter 8, that this heavenly perspective releases the scattered people of God to make a lasting, and at times excellent (Daniel 1:19–20) impact for his glory through the nations. It is a motivational chapter on the power of work to share Jesus Christ that recognises that “there is no real point in simply scattering if we do not have the ‘fire’”—the Holy Spirit-prompted desire to share Jesus Christ—“attached to us” (165). The final chapters warn against “tent faking” (173)—which Scott defines as the practice of using mediocre work practice as a sort of façade for the cross-cultural worker to hide behind in order to have access to people to share the gospel. Rather than separating and devaluing work and faith in this way, Scott advocates for integration, transparency, and authenticity when sharing the good news of Jesus Christ:
If we were to live out our lives with excellence for the purposes of God in every sector of society, we would not have to shout so loudly to make our message heard. It seems today that Christians spend most of their time screaming out their dislike for the way things are in society. We are then labelled as intolerant and irrelevant. It is time for the whole church to live out all of life in every sector of society. To be who God has made us to be and to do it with excellence “as unto the Lord” (177).
This book is very accessible. Scott includes many personal stories and experiences from around the world to explain his points, frequently elaborated by biblical texts from both the Old and the New Testaments. His language is easy to understand and each chapter concludes with a handful of questions to facilitate personal application. However, for me, it is only in the final third—where Scott turns his focus specifically onto vocation and work—that the book becomes compelling. At times, the earlier chapters feel like “scene setting” that prepares the reader for the main event. At the end of the book, Scott makes helpful suggestions for churches and mission agency leaders to better recognise, affirm, disciple, and commission people into workplaces across the street and across the world.
Probably my biggest criticism is the “assumption of choice” that is presumed within the text and evidenced by intermittent slogan quoting (See the Howard Thurman citation on page 116). Yes, many people can choose their vocation and work, but there are many who cannot. Surely, they too have an important role in furthering God’s kingdom. At times, the text seemed silent in addressing (and valuing) people in this situation and context. Overall, I found the book inspiring and extremely affirming about the biblically grounded role of personal vocation and work and its far-reaching power to further God’s kingdom, scattered, throughout the nations.
I will close by quoting Scott’s words from the back cover:
My prayer is that we will be the first generation to scatter on purpose … that we will go to every sector of society—business, the arts, education, and more—and be the Daniels of our day: being good at what we do, gaining favour in our workplace, and having the credibility and freedom to share our faith boldly.