“Every time the single-moment act of accepting Christ becomes the goal instead of the portal, we get superficial Christians. And every time personal practices of piety wiggle away from the big picture Jesus sketches before his followers, it becomes legalism.”
In his newest book, Dr. Scot McKnight wants to help us move away from these shallow ideas of what it means to follow Jesus. One.life: Jesus calls, we follow (Zondervan, 2010) could easily be called, “Your idea of discipleship is too small. Wayyyy too small.”
McKnight is the rare Biblical scholar who is as adept as communicating with popular audiences as he is writing for his ivory tower’d academic peers. His Jesus Creed blog has long been a mainstay of my online spiritual diet – this site’s wide-ranging, intelligent and wholly civil discourse about everything from theology to Crocs is a model of what it can look like to have a thoughtful, gracious online conversation. In fact, I won my copy of One.life by participating in a contest on his blog. (Yes, the cranberry-chocolate chip ribbon cookies did it for me once again!)
But I would have probably purchased this book. It is that good – and is desperately needed. The premise sounds simple, but the ideas in One.life are anything but simple. McKnight explores what it means to follow Jesus – and shows us that the call to discipleship will require a “yes” from every area of our lives – heart, soul, mind and strength. There are 14 chapters in this 200-page book covering themes including committment, justice, church, sex, vocation, eternity and more. Instead of creating a rah-rah, you-can-do-it, go-team call to discipleship, McKnight instead builds his case the way that Jesus did – by inviting people to experience his kingdom, insisting that the usual definitions of kingdom used in most corners of evangelicalism these days are selfish, small copies of the real thing. He notes, “This word kingdom is being used so often today it’s getting muddled and fuzzy. It has been internalized by some into an inner experience, it has been socialized by others into a program for ending poverty and creating better laws and saving the planet, and it has been downsized by yet others into little more than a personal spirituality.”
The truth is that few of us want to give our lives to something smaller than us – and these ways of presenting the kingdom have attempted to shrink it into something we can carry and manage. Each chapter in One.life attempts to unhook our popular notions about how the kingdom works in order to show us that the kingdom is so much bigger than any of these wee components. McKnight closes each of the first few chapters of the book by developing a working definition for the kingdom invitation that is firmly rooted in the words and works of Jesus. Between each chapter is a one-page “interlude” section designed to do kingdom work by busting the invitation out of the pages and into our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Though this book would be an ideal gift for someone in their twenties or thirties, I believe readers of all ages will benefit from possibly having a few of their own sacred ideas challenged about what kingdom life is. This would be a great book for a study group to tackle as well. Recommended.