Review of Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer’s new book, Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation, is written to encourage the church to move beyond viewing the Christian life as a matter of attendance at an event one day per week. As the title suggests, Stetzer wants to challenge (American) Christians to see themselves as agents of God’s kingdom who subvert the agenda of the world through living as the subjects of the Lord Jesus.
The basic thrust of the book is compelling: living lives in subjection to Jesus with the intent to witness to the reality of his kingdom is a vision that surely the American church needs to adopt. As Stetzer shows from the gospels and the epistles, we really should see this emphasis throughout the Scriptures, but we too often miss it because of our idols confused allegiances.
I really liked the way the book started. Stetzer established early on that one way to conceive of our role in our Christian lives and in God’s mission is to rebel against the rebellion. That is, mankind is in rebellion against God (and this shows itself in people, systems, and relationships), but we are called to rebel against this widespread rebellion. How do we do that? By living subversive lives, which are revolutionary not in their political tactics and motivational speeches, but in oftentimes small, unnoticed acts of love, faith, and service in our churches and communities.
Stetzer also gives some examples of the way that people and churches are living subversive lives. From churches helping their neighbors in need, to businessmen using their skills to helping the impoverished church overseas, he gives beautiful and inspring examples. I would offer one criticism in that I think the book needed much more of this. And it need more of it in the small, little ways that mentioned in the book. I.e., it’s great to hear of the thousands of dollars Brook Hills church and others use for kingdom-minded purposes. But what about your average person and your average, even tiny church? The book is targeted to that, but there are few examples of what that looks like.
There is one aspect of the book that I felt disappointed by, and that is that there I’m not sure that it is theological enough for those theologically trained nor practical enough for those not so trained. E.g., while he briefly mentions the question of the institutional church versus the role of individual Christians, it’s really never examined in any sort of serious way. Similarly, the discussion of the relationship between the church and the kingdom was insufficiently clear and thorough, in my opinion. Those were the big question marks for me in terms of how the church itself lives subversively, even as I greatly appreciated the overall thrust of the book in moving towards a mission-minded life.