Salad Ecclesiology: a book review

I like Scot McKnight. I have read a lot of his books  and intermittently imbibe his blog.  King Jesus Gospel  (Zondervan 2011) is my favorite of his books–a sort of N.T. Lite challenge to the gospel reductionism of the (mostly) Reformed camp.  McKnight has authored other books of note on prayer (Fasting: The Ancient Practices, Praying with the Church),  women in ministry (Junia is Not Alone), Christian Spirituality (The Jesus Creed, One.Life, etc.), Biblical hermeneutics (The Blue Parakeet), the atonement (A Community Called Atonement),  several Bible Commentaries (Galatians and 1 Peter in the NIVAC series, The Sermon on the Mount, etc) and more. He is prolific.  Recently he has turned his attention to the local church and its mission. A Fellowship of Differents explores what church is supposed to be like: a salad bowl where “differents” are tossed together  as God’s church (13).

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The image of the salad bowl is a good one.  A salad is most enjoyable when there is a mix of ingredients–greens and fresh veggies, Romano cheese, nuts and berries, perhaps something spicy and a drizzle of olive oil. The result is mix of flavors and textures, each ingredient contributing something unique and special and enhancing the whole (14).  The House churches that Paul planted included craftworkers, tenants, slaves, family members, homeless people and migrant workers. McKnight urges us to aim at as a place that welcomes people of diverse cultural, socio-economic,  educational, gracial and ethnic backgrounds: a multigenerational and diverse place where differents are brought together in unity as part of a new humanity in Christ 16-17). But not in a way that demeans a person’s unique culture, experience and personality. The early church took special care to make sure the ‘invisible’ people in church were well cared for (For example, the Hellenized widows in  Acts 6). Mcknight challenges us to look for the invisible people in our  own church contexts: children, women, senior-citizens, inner-city people or suburbanites, the doubters, the uneducated, LGBT folks, introverts or whomever (21-22).

They are all together at the table , in the salad bowl, thrashing it out with one another. That thrashing out is what the church is about — and that is what the Christian life is all about: learning to love one another, bu the power of God’s grace, so we can flourish as the people of God in this world. And the purpose of church is to be kingdom in the present world, and the Christian life is all about learning to live into that kingdom reality in the here and now” (24-25).

This “salad bowl” fellowship of differents is the context for everything  McKnight says about life in the church. Throughout the book he explores six-themes related to the Christian life and the church: Grace, Love, Table, Holiness, Newness,  and Flourishing. These flow into one another. Grace begins with God’s “Yes” to us  in Christ Jesus (chapter three). That yes makes space for us to live in real relationship with God (chapter four). Next. God’s Grace calls us to lifestyles of Love where we commit to, work for the good of others and share our lives with them in fellowship (chapter five through seven).  As we share with one another we are gathered around Christ’s Eucharistic Table–individually present but connected with one another (chapters eight through ten). Gathering in God’s name causes us to think through the meaning of Holiness–what it means to be set apart for God and the process of which it happens (eleven to thirteen). We also consider what it means to live into the Newness that the gospel brings–living faithful lives, with God’s guidance and God’s kingdom priorities and being empowered by the Spirit (chapters fourteen to seventeen). And finally,  this leads us to a place of Flourishing (chapters eighteen to twenty-two).

As always, Mcknight has good things to say. He has a gift for writing accessiblely for a wide audience.  That being said, I normally read at a voracious pace and I took months to digest this (too long for a review copy, sorry Book Look Bloggers!).  I got a little bogged down in places but on the whole I would say I enjoyed this book and find McKnight’s attention to the New Testament refreshing. So much  of popular level Christian books are fluffy. This has substance. I especially appreciate the sensitivity and exegetical insight McKnight brings to the issue of same-sex attraction and what it means for the church to be holy  and gracious in the midst of our current conversation. Essentially McKnight upholds a traditional position but not in a tone-deaf insensitive way (see chapter twelve).

I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

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