Can we all just get along?
E Pluribus Unum: “Out of many, one.” This motto is emblazoned on the Great Seal of the United States, but it could be the church’s model, too. Unfortunately, the daily experience of many Christians and churches feels like the opposite: out of one, many. We are increasingly aware of what makes us different from others, and it is hurting the church and its witness.
All Together Different will help readers understand why we find it so difficult “to just get along.” Drawing from research on personal and group identity, it equips readers to navigate a culture that often pays lip service to the value of diversity, but struggles to foster constructive dialogue and mutual respect. With clear writing and real-life stories, All Together Different translates social identity theory for pastors, church leaders, and ministry practitioners, exposing it to the light of biblical and theological reflection.
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About the Author
JOHN KOESSLER serves as chair of the Pastoral Studies department in the undergraduate school of the Moody Bible Institute where he has served on the faculty since 1994. Prior to joining the Moody faculty, John served as pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, IL for nine years. He is an award-winning author who has written thirteen books and numerous magazine articles. He writes the monthly Theology Matters column for Today in the Word and is a frequent workshop leader at the Moody Pastor's Conference. John is married to Jane and they have two adult sons. They live in Munster, IN.
Table of Contents
1 Our Identity Crisis 15
2 Seeing Ourselves in God's Mirror 31
3 I Am the Walrus 53
4 In with the "In Crowd" 83
5 One among Many 109
6 Race, Ethnicity, and Identity 131
7 Neither Male nor Female 153
8 Generational Differences 185
9 Living like Outsiders 209
10 Final Thoughts 231
What People are Saying About This
Church conflict is painful, but inevitable. At some point, a person or group in a congregation feels overlooked or mistreated, and the seeds of discord are sown. All Together Different will help church leaders understand how identity plays a role in these conflicts. Tucker and Koessler are scholars with pastors’ hearts. They’ve written a wise book explaining how we can take our individual differences seriously while upholding the unity of the church.
Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College
All Together Different is a substantial yet practical book that points the way forward toward a more unified experience of the body of Christ. In these pages, you’ll find deep reflection and actionable suggestions for developing and maintaining a culture in your church that prioritizes unity in essentials, liberty in nonessentials, and charity in all things. Too many churches divide over secondary and even tertiary issues. Read this book. More importantly, heed its message. I highly recommended it!
Senior Pastor, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois
Are you battle-weary from all of the arguments on national disunity, racism, and identity? Western culture has been drowning in bickering and bitterness for a long time. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Hope of resolving our differences seem to be slipping further away. Now we seem to be arguing for arguing’s sake. We listen not to discover a resolution but to find an opening to launch our own salvo to further our agenda. If you would like to find a portal to discuss unity in an intelligent, meaningful, and substantive conversation again, read All Together Different. It will give you a path to finding a solution to the problem of understanding our personal and corporate identities. It will also show us believers how we can rediscover hope for unity and even invite others into this community of acceptance. I enjoyed this read. It was informative, stimulating, and biblically challenging.
Dean of Dallas Theological Seminary–Houston and Professor of Pastoral Ministries
Gender, race, age, sexuality, theological persuasion—all of these issues highlight our differences. In the midst of this, Christ-followers are called to live in genuine unity while not erasing our human distinctions. Through careful research, cultural analysis, and biblical insights, Brian Tucker and John Koessler encourage us to dive into the messiness of being all together yet different. To my knowledge, nothing quite like this has been written for evangelicals. I have no question it will move the ball downfield in this important discussion.
Mark S. Mitchell
Lead Pastor, Central Peninsula Church, Foster City, California
In a fragmented world confused by various identities, Brian Tucker and John Koessler provide a great introduction to the meaning of identity, race, gender, and community, and what they mean from a Christian perspective. This is a great volume on how faith shapes our identity as followers of Jesus. A much needed book in an age of identity politics.
Michael F. Bird
Lecturer in Theology at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia
Identity is at the heart of the human experience. The challenge for Christianity is identity's fluid and divisive nature. In All Together Different, Tucker and Koessler bring us a biblically rich and theologically hopeful vision for the way we understand identity. They remind us that our individual identities and differences make sense only in light of our shared identity as God's children, who are tethered together in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is a significant book for challenging times.
Matthew D. Kim
Associate professor of preaching and ministry, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and author ofPreaching with Cultural Intelligence
How should we then live in an age when nationalism, hate groups, and political fights seem to be showing up everywhere? John Koessler and Brian Tucker have some answers and they go well beyond simplistic platitudes of respect and tolerance. Instead, they offer us a set of ideas and practices that strike at the core of who we are. Understanding our identity and the identities of others is the first step toward building cultural intelligence, so I highly recommend this book for helping Christians in that quest.
Leader, Cultural Intelligence Center, East Lasing, Michigan
Simply terrific! I need a book’s worth of words to describe how much this volume has helped me as a follower of Jesus and as a pastor. Tucker and Koessler present a rich biblical vision for how identity in the body of Christ serves as our “master identity,” helping us negotiate the challenges of racial, sexual, and generational division. Their insights have better equipped me to pursue the Spirit’s gift of unity in the church and to view the church as a people who are all together different—not altogether different.
Steven D. Mathewson
Senior Pastor, CrossLife Evangelical Free Church, Libertyville, Illinois
Our world is filled with racial conflict, church fights, identity confusion, and ethnic and generational tensions. Into this mix, Tucker and Koessler provide a biblical understanding of how unity and community are possible. All Together Different is readable, challenging, and refreshing. This should be required reading for all church leaders who dare to go beyond shallow answers to find biblical hope for true unity and community. As a pastor, All Together Different was the book I needed to lead my church to true unity and community so we can be light in a broken and divided world.
Senior Pastor, Woodside Bible Church, Troy, Michigan
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.] When reading a book like this one has to look for an agenda on the part of the author. One does not write a book like this without one, and while at times authors are open and up front about their agendas, at times authors are less than candid. In this case, the authors are at least open about the fact that they wish for churches to be more sensitive and more responsive to individual identities of people, including racial, sexual, and gender identities, while attempting to baptize their view of identity theory in enough scripture to make it passable for those who see the Bible as the ultimate authority. Although I am someone who cares a great deal about identity , I find the authors' views about identity politics to be less than persuasive and at times bordering on if not crossing over into what is offensive. At times the authors seem clueless that genuine Christians have always at all times and in all places been sojourners, and not just in our present evil age. Overall, this is a book which has worthwhile insights although the language used to convey those insights is highly technical and sometimes less than helpful in demonstrating the author's credibility as experts. This book is about 250 pages long and is divided into ten chapters, with the last chapter summing up the book and providing the lessons the authors wished to convey in the previous nine chapters. After an introduction the authors write about our societal identity crisis (1) and urge readers to see themselves in God's mirror (2). The authors use secular culture (3) as a way of providing a mirror into the preoccupations of people outside of the church and as a way of building bridges. After that the author talks about the nature of "in crowds" and the way that our thoughts and perceptions can be distorted by group identity (4) before looking at the multiplicity of identities that believers can carry with them (5) as well as that are present within the church. The authors then spend some time specifically examining issues of race, ethnicity, and identity (6) as well as gender (7) and generational differences (8) before closing with a downbeat discussion of the decline of traditional views of morality in the face of the culture wars of the last few decades (9) before concluding (10). Unfortunately, this book's insights are hindered by it being written by people who appear to be overschooled and underchurched. The authors clearly want to appeal to a hip audience that treasures the involvement of women and minorities but the authors find themselves in somewhat of an uncanny valley that is likely to offend both sorts of audiences they wish to appeal to. On the one hand, their highly technical and nonbiblical language is likely to offend those who point to the primacy of the Bible in determining questions of identity and who are likely to (rightly) suspect the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of those who spout identity and generational theory as if it was gospel truth. On the other hand, the authors' call for Christians to live as outsiders and sojourners in an increasingly heathen and ungodly culture are likely to offend those who believe that a hip portrayal of the Gospel is all that is necessary to appeal to those who are outside of contemporary Christendom. As this book is neither biblically sound nor couched to appeal to its intended audiences, one wonders
Unity is a buzzword in our culture today. Culture tends to promote unity, decry anything as foul that brings disunity, and desire uniqueness yet sameness simultaneously. It feels contradictory and is difficult to actually live out. There is a deep tension felt because even as we desire unity and sameness, we are increasingly individualistic as a society. We must understand that “Different is good. Our foundational differences have their origin in God’s design…both our differences and our unity are gifts from God” (All Together Different, pp. 232, 241). At the core of this tension of unity, diversity, uniqueness, sameness, is identity. Identity is something that doesn’t get talked about much in the regular, day-to-day life we experience, but it is what we draw from in order to make decisions every day. Our identity, who we are, is inextricably intertwined with what we do. All Together Different, by J. Brian Tucker & John Koessler, is a step in the right direction for pastors from all denominations, races, and cultural contexts understanding the power of identity, unity, and diversity. Why? I think this quote accurately sums up the reality we face as pastors, and the reality of what it is to shepherd a congregation in 2018: “We believe that being in Christ must consistently be in the top position in the [identity] hierarchy in order to inform and direct different identity performances… pay attention to the circumstances or the various aspects of the person that might be contributing to the formation or deformation of their Christian identity.” (p. 72). The truth is, we either grow to become more like Christ or less like Christ, depending on what kind of core identity we live out. Though I have the identities of father, husband, son, friend, pastor, church member, man, none of these should be the only identity I live out. At different times I live out different aspects of my identity, which is the identity hierarchy the authors mention. However, if I choose to live out of one identity over and above my identity as being in Christ, something will go wrong. We see this kind of thing every day, and (too often) experience it in our own lives. The world we live in carries so many distinctions and labels of people it quickly becomes impossible to catch up. However, as important as aspects of identity are (such as family background, ethnicity, country of origin, occupation), these have been reprioritized for the follower of Christ. How can we actually live all together different? You’ll have to read the book to find out! The short answer is we can only live all together different through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. That is most clearly seen when reprioritize our identities and realize that every identity marker is second to that of our master identity of being in Christ.
ALL TOGETHER DIFFERENT Upholding the Church’s Unity While Honoring Our Individual Identities By J. Brian Tucker & John Koessler In this book the authors give a detailed description of how we are identified. They have ten chapters that offer different identity methods. They cover identity factors of race, ethnicity, male, female, generation, the “in crowd” and church. The conflicts between these factors sometimes can be a crisis in getting along with others and making decisions. They show we look at things from a view point of our background or how we live and that can cause problems. The points they cover are very important to how we see things and people and make decisions about them. They show how we can change and look at things differently by letting God show us our true identity. The book helps us understand that all people are different and how their identity affects the way we see them and how we can learn to get along as one. At the end of each chapter a list of questions is given, for refection, these will help with understanding that chapter. The book is written to help us understand what social identity can teach us about church unity. In the final chapter they cover the highlights of the book. The book should be a help in understanding why we look at things differently and how that can change. Why we all have our own way to looking at things. Why conflicts come up between people and groups. Letting God be in control of our thoughts and still have a separate identity. A great addition to helping us in our walk with Christ. I received this book free from Moody Press Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255