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This book is an important one for Christian leaders as well as those who may feel disillusioned with the Church. McKnight provides an amazing vision for what the church could (and should) look like as a "fellowship of differents" who pursue God together.
If you were to ask 100 people, “What is the church supposed to look like?” you might get an astonishing variety of answers. Despite their cultural and ecclesiological variety, however, these answers ought all to be shaped by the Bible – specifically the teachings of Jesus and Paul.
It is to this task that New Testament scholar and author Scot McKnight turns his attention in his latest book, A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together. In this thematically arranged work, McKnight argues convincingly that our Christian lives are formed by our experiences in and with the church. Thus, 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 all too often the church is organized around the principle of “likes” and becomes a gathering of those who are similar in theological persuasion, socioeconomics, race or any other organizing principle (missional, liturgical, contemporary, etc.). But he argues that this kind of homogenization, though definitely easier, short-circuits the divine purpose of the church.
The main image McKnight employs – perhaps surprisingly – is a salad bowl. Looking at 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. McKnight rightly acknowledges this kind of fellowship is hard work. He traces the necessary virtues and practices he sees laid out in Paul’s writings that must be present in the church both historically and today in order to achieve this kind of community.
He begins with the necessity of grace that is “both a place and a power” to transform hatred and divisive suspicion into love. This is not just a concept, but a series of commitments and actions undertaken by the “differents” inside the church. After all, “love is a great idea until the one you are called to love happens to be unlike you.”
McKnight contends that “we often attend church for ourselves” which prevents us from thinking of it as a rugged communal commitment we make to each other. This covenant has staying power, 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 no mere tolerance, however, 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.”
Overall, there is a clarion call to unity – not uniformity. Living together in the salad bowl has its challenges to be sure, 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.
I added this book to my reading list partially because of the cover and also partially because of the description of it. There was much that I enjoyed about the book.
Community is not about conformity toward sameness. It is according to popular author, Scot McKnight, a "fellowship of differents." Using the metaphor of a salad bowl, McKnight argues passionately that the Church should look like a "salad" of different tastes, different ingredients, and different mixes. In fact, the Church is "God's world changing social experiment" for bringing all sorts of different people together. Differences are not to be despised but welcomed. Alternatives should be celebrated. This refers to not only gender or ethnicities but also status changes like widows and widowers.
I especially like McKnight's presentation of Pauline theology throughout the book that transcends the work of others I have examined to date. McKnight's research on the life of Paul and the house churches he established is clearly presented throughout the book to show how this is not a new idea but one marked by a counter-cultural way of relating to others which Paul and the early house churches were known for. In order to facilitate the fellowship of differences, McKnight proposes six ideas to keep different people together.
This book is a wonderful contribution to how a "third way" can be realized, to give a fresh breeze of hope for the weary and a renewed sense of purpose in accepting one another not simply because we are different, but because we are all in Christ. There is no single common denominator than to build the church on Christ.
By the end of this book, I'm not sure if I love the idea of the book more than I do the content. Sunday mornings are some of the most segregated times in America today. McKnight acknowledges that "like attracts like", he challenges the reader to go beyond that, not for the sake of diversity, but for the sake of growing deeper with Christ and deeper in fellowship.
And the diversity he tackles is not just ethnic diversity, though that's his strongest argument. He challenges every Christian to examine their routines to see how we're trusting the routine more than we are God. Some thoughts are fleshed out better than others, but all-in-all, a great book.
McNight portrays a beautiful salad bowl image of the church and how beautiful it is when it is functioning as it was designed to. I appreciate the challenge to pursue and embrace what is different in rich community. It is not some slick strategy that he gives us though, it is in many ways taking us back to looking to the Scripture, the Spirit, and focusing intentionally on flourishing on mission. If you want to be compelled to live a flourishing life in Christ, this is a great read!
There have been a number of excellent books regarding multi-ethnic ministry and focusing on being a church for ALL people. This book provides the biblical foundation and motivation for this important movement. McKnight again provides scholarship that can be accessed by those in the pulpit and pews (or stage and theatre seat). I so appreciated this biblical call to be a church that is a fellowship of differents. We need this message now more than ever!
Scot's focus on the dimensions of Grace (God's great Yes), Love (spelled out as a series of prepositions: with, for, unto), Table (unity, connection, we instead of me), Holiness (devotion, redemption, also tackling the gay issue), Newness (freedom from social boundaries and sin, unto community, love, faithfulness, guidance, political issues) and Flourishing (focusing on the Spirit, exposure, suffering) draws one into a new paradigm, that's comforting (it's good news) and at the same time challenging (it's deathly serious). I hear Dietrich Bonnhoeffer anew through Scot's voice: "every summons of Christ leads to death."