author Scot McKnight
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.