Ascend the stairs to the upper room.
Crack open the door, and join Jesus and His disciples as they celebrate Passover together for the last time.
Discover, with Bill Donahue, that da Vinci’s masterpiece is only one way of looking at The Last Supper. The Irresistible Community is a continuation of the life together which convened around that long-ago table in Jerusalem. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this fellowship “a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate,” and the need for this kind of community did not end with the last chapter of the book of Acts.
The Fellowship of the Table (Matthew 26:17-20)
Bill Donahue helps us to see, with quirky humor and intensely practical guidelines, that we can pull up a chair to any number of tables in the Body of Christ, but there are “table manners” or values that are indispensable for the comfort of all. Around the table, we gather to eat, to make decisions, to negotiate, to take a break, and to search for answers in the company of others. In the course of this messy life, we may even find ourselves ON the table when our soul needs surgery or there’s a catastrophe to be cleaned up.
The Ministry of the Towel (John 13:1-17)
A towel is indispensable for community-building, for just as Jesus took up the towel in the upper room, so we are to get our towels dirty in service to God and to His people. As Jesus was clear about His mission (Luke 4:16-21), so He was also clear about our duty in the Great Commission. We accomplish this disciple-making, baptizing, and teaching as a community, which necessitates serving both inside and outside our comfortable local church; rescuing the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the stranger; making time for friends; and paying attention to where the Spirit is working and what He is doing in our own hearts. Again there is etiquette associated with the towel such as using your own — not someone else’s – and not “shoving your towel in someone’s face.” The spiritual “order of the towel” is characterized by mutual submission, mutual encouragement, and mutual accountability — but above all, never throw in the towel.
The Circle of Truth (John 8:32)
Bill Donahue pleads a strong case for believers to open Scripture with transformation on our minds — a necessary yin to the yang of our quest for information. The goal is zeal with knowledge; i.e. faith informed by truth. Around the table, a hunger for truth will express itself in the form of questions that probe for understanding, to guide conversation toward greater depth, to invite reflection. Bill gives us some pointers in the form of sample questions. Most critically, truth is the spotlight we aim toward our own hearts to reveal the cherished falsehoods that get in the way of true community with God and others.
The summary tables on pages 142, 183, 230, and 237 are so helpful that they truly deserve a mention in the table of contents, but this ability to pause and summarize in “here’s-what-we’ve-covered-so-far-style” seems to be one of this author’s particular strengths.
Saving my favorite feature of the book for dessert, each of the twelve chapters is prefaced by a first-person profile of one disciple. In Who-Am-I format, Donahue — like da Vinci — paints each of Jesus’ followers using minute brush strokes and a keen eye for the state of each one’s heart around that somber and significant table.
The Irresistible Community is centered on loving, serving and learning. The table gives us meaning, the towel guides our mission, and the truth guides our message. As people of God, let us pray to become people who are also characterized by this lifestyle of redemptive community.
This book was provided by BakerBooks, a division of the Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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