Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Being Better Together

The church I’m a part of is about to begin a new series that is meant to be an invitation for us to think and feel and discern what it means to be a fellowship of differents.

What does living that out look like?

The old story goes like this…you can build a better and bigger church by making as much as you can of the principle of homogeneity. Like draws like and the more you are the same the more comfortable people will be gathering together. It’s a kind of “path of least resistance” to getting the maximum number of people under the same roof.

There are a few problems with that story but not least among them is that this bears no resemblance to the kingdom Jesus came to build.

Martin Luther King Jr. called the church out when he observed, "it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning." We’ve segregated ourselves. No one did this to us. And that is the most appalling part of it for me.

We segregate ourselves by ethnicity, by culture, by age, by socio-economics, by theology, by politics, by a multitude of preferences so that we can gather together to convince ourselves we’ve got something everyone else needs.

The thing is, we’ve been at this for 2000 years and counting. Wouldn’t you think we’ve had sorted this out by now? Am I the only one that thinks our will to segregate negates our authority to speak to the dominant culture?

Scott McKnight, in his book A Fellowship of Differents, writes, "The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together are designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a family."

I don’t know if anyone has ever been given an “F” for show-and-tell but we definitely deserve one.
If our churches – no, if our lives – don’t reflect the diversity of our community, we are not living like Jesus.


The early church didn’t take to this like a fish to water either. This is hard work. Read James or 1 Timothy or 1 Thessalonians or 1 Corinthians or the Didache. Doing something new means doing hard work. There have been some bright lights, some hopeful communities, some tastes of what this beloved community can be like but we struggle to sustain it.

Because it is hard work.

Because it is costly.

Because it is the path of the most resistance.

But it is the good life.

Can I be offensive and suggest that I’ve seen as many or more people who are not Christians living this good life than I have seen Christians who embrace it?

Can I risk being offensive to tell you that the evangelical system of the last 100 years has taught us to be partisan in the worst ways and called “holy” our bent towards division?

There is a movement of churches of which I am familiar that published a resource for their churches on how to have difficult conversations. It’s a key practice for anyone who wants to be in the beloved community, a fellowship of differents. But here’s the deal, as a movement of churches they kind of suck at having difficult conversations. I’m sure they happen. I’ve heard they happen. But I’ve also heard from more people who didn’t get invited to have them than I’ve met people who did get invited to have them.

Why bring that up? Because historically we, as Christians, are great at telling everyone how they ought to live, what’s wrong with them, the way things out to be done, but when it comes down to us doing it – being better together – embracing each other in a fellowship of different – we kind of suck. 

But we don’t have to.

(to be continued)

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