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title A Fellowship of Differents author Scot McKnight date 2015 publisher Zondervan
Scot McKnight in A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, argues that our Christian lives are formed by our experiences in and with the church. And so, the shape of the church is of profound importance to understand and embrace because, like it or not, “churches determine the direction of our discipleship.”
McKnight obverses that far too often the church is organized around the principle of “likes” and becomes a gathering of those who are similar in theological persuasion, socio-economic status, race or some other organizing principle (missional, liturgical, contemporary, etc.). But he argues that this kind of homogenization, though definitely easier, short-circuits God's purpose for the church. The main image McKnight uses (surprisingly) is a salad bowl. As he walks the reader through some key texts in the New Testament, he argues that the church is a fellowship of difference and differents all tossed together in one, big, mixed-up, not-always-happy family.
And this, McKnight acknowledges, is hard work.
McKnight contends that “we often attend church for ourselves” which stops us from thinking of church as a communal commitment we make to each other, for the sake of others. This type of commitment can help us look past personal preferences and draws us to love those who are different around us. “We don’t love others for who they are now” he argues, “but for what God will make them in the kingdom.” This is not simply tolerance (which is meaningless word in our western culture), but a deep and foundational commitment to “transcend our differences while remaining different as we live with one another. Our difference is not eliminated, for difference is the vitality of our fellowship.”
McKnight calls the church to unity – not uniformity. Living together in the salad bowl has many challenges, but if we can allow for healthy “differents,” perhaps the church can play a wonderful part in showing the world God’s design for life together.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Scot McKnight provides an essential teaching to the American church that is tempted to forget its global and historical diversity. 90% of American Christians are worshiping in congregations filled people that are 90% like they are. This can make people forget the diversities of experience and culture that we inhabit (or inhabit us). Beyond the normal questions of gender, sexuality, and race, McKnight reminds of diversities of age, political views, and even social engagement (like how churches can exclude introverts). McKnight builds his work upon biblical and theological scholarship and still writes in a very accessible way for everyone. It is not as creative and transformational as his "Blue Parakeet," but it is an essential message. Indeed, the book should have been unnecessary: what is more basic to Christian experience than that God brings all different kinds of folk together?
When I choose this book I was looking for explanation to how this wild and crazy idea of church is supposed to work. The first of the book was much like others I have read some statistics and options covered with a scripture or two, but the gem was discovered with the mission of Paul. A new understanding of how difficult it was for the first church goers to get along and love each was encouraging and offered much hope to my sometimes worry that today's American church is epically failing. I'm reminded that this is God's creation and that things work out when His Spirit's working in His church!
To say that this work is an important work in our time, would be be an understatement. Dr. McKnight navigates well through some tough terrain to insightfully remind us of the importance of doing life together, to the Glory of God the Father. SDG