I can’t say I agree with much of what McKnight will stand for in this book. Yet it draws some useful distinctions. How do we view God’s kingdom? What is the actual focus we have when we are talking about working in God’s kingdom?
McKnight, Scot. Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Brazos Press, 2014. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 1, “Skinny Jeans Kingdom.” pp. 1-8
McKnight begins by drawing a distinction in churches between the “skinny jeans” and the “pleated pants” people. Among younger elements of the church he sees an emphasis on a “kingdom gospel” rather than a “spiritual gospel” (McKnight 2014, 1). The kingdom focus he identifies is an emphasis on ministry which results in social change as opposed to some sort of inner and personal change. Osborne considers this in the context of a song by Derek Webb, “A King and a Kingdom.’ His observation is that the “skinny jeans” people seem to know what the kingdom is, “and as a whole they’re a bit sketchy about the local church or the church as an institution” (McKnight 2014, 2). Webb reportedly felt that same ambivalence but, after leaving the church for a time, came to love it and returned, finding his place. Likewise, McKnight observes that raising money for social activism is relatively easy but it is difficult to raise money for or interest in the more traditional tasks of churchly life. McKnight cites numerous examples of writers and speakers who consider topics such as atonement and redemption irrelevant to the work of social change and justice. While the Bible will be brought into these social justice discussions it is used as “a selection of life-giving and important texts” (McKnight 2014, 4) used as a political narrative.
McKnight counters this by observing that the Bible uses the concept of a “kingdom” of God quite differently. The “kingdom work” or “mission” is never described as a political mission but a world of spiritual redemption. “Millennials are leaving the church, and it is usually observed that they are leaving the church because it has become too political” (McKnight 2014, 5). Yet in mcKnight’s view these are the people taking up a political cause in the name of Christ. This book will therefore seek an answer to a related question. What is the nature of a biblical “kingdom” work? McKnight does not think it is “social activism that is for the common good and accomplished in the public sector” (McKnight 2014, 8) as his “skinny jeans” people would. He will continue by analyzing the “pleated pants” errors.