Ed Stetzer makes an important contribution to the conversation on missional living and spirituality with his book, Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation. While numerous books on the market point to the problems of the church (especially the conservative evangelical stream) and its leaders in ways that are hurtful, Stetzer navigates a balance of confessing problem areas while offering a redemptive–indeed, subversive–way forward.
The book is divided into three parts: 1. A subversive way of thinking, which makes an eloquent case for rebelling against rebellion; 2. A subversive way of life, a section particularly helpful with its focus on eliminating personal idols and learning to seek reconciliation with others; and 3. A subversive plan of action wherein the church is called to join God on his mission, which is to bring glory to himself by creating a kingdom and saving people through the gospel for his glory.
On page 21, Stetzer summarizes his call to subversive action as follows: it “is sharing and showing the good news of Jesus. That’s really subversive!” I whole-heartedly concur. My only quibble is that in reference to people possibly taking this language out of context and objecting to it, he frets the hypothetical headline on “some blog site run by a guy who lives in his mother’s basement: ‘Stetzer calls for subversive agents of world conquest’” (p.21). While I understand his preemptive comment, I think he would have been better served using more charitable terminology, rather than the oft-used mother’s basement phrasing.
Writing from a deep background of missiology, church planting, missionary endeavor, and growing self-aware humanity, Stetzer leverages theological and social scientific rigor against the counterweight of pastoral concern and candid observations on his own personal struggles to produce a work worthy of broad attention. An anecdote relating to personal conflict between him and Thom Rainer is likely the most potent example. It led seemingly to irreparable damage in the relationship, but by God’s grace, was later healed. Indeed, they are once again work colleagues at Lifeway Resources.
Subversive Kingdom, therefore, speaks of heart matters of a personal nature as well as broad-sweeping themes of culture, mission, and the church. Stetzer rightly encourages social engagement, but not at the expense of gospel proclamation. For indeed, the gospel must be heard to be believed, and believers ought to be engaged redemptively with their communities, both in word and acts of compassion.
Church leaders from all points on the theological dial will do well to read Subversive Kingdom. Stetzer’s tone is characteristically respectful and his content is constructive. The continuing missional conversation cannot continue with honest self-reflection without seriously engaging the ideas of this book.
In the interest of candid self-disclosure, I received a complimentary soft-cover copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my opinion of the work. The opinions contained here are my own.