Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation
Publisher: B&H Books
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Since I am a constitutional monarchist (a product of being Canadian and the firstborn son of British expats), author Ed Stetzer didn’t have to try very hard to convince me to review his latest book, Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation. But the monarchy angle is not what excited me most; what set this unapologetic monarchist’s heart aflutter was the subtitle’s call to live as an agent of gospel transformation. No royal sighting or ceremonial event could ever compete with my passion for the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Subversive Kingdom is an unrelenting manifesto for sold-out allegiance to, and activity on behalf of, the one true King of kings and Lord of lords.
Among my many book ideas (both to write and to read) the recovery of Christ’s kingship has long been at the top of the list. Not because such books do not exist (a few that come to mind are The Lord is King by Hugh Williamson, Praises for the King of Kings by Walter Chantry, and The Sovereignty and Supremacy of King Jesus by Mike Abendroth) but because there is a segment of Christendom – note the irony – that calls monarchical language concerning God outmoded and old-fashioned. So we can always use more books, more voices, lifting up the sovereign kingship of almighty God. As the Bible does.
Using a selection of Jesus’ parables as source texts, Stetzer shows just how subversive Jesus’ teachings were…and are, for they remain eminently applicable to twenty-first century Christian life. Stetzer’s use of the term subversive does require explanation, however. He is not advocating political subversion but lifestyle subversion. His memorable phrase “rebelling against the rebellion” situates the Christian life in relation to the rest of the world, which is held in thrall to the kingdom of darkness whether it knows it or not. Our paradoxical “subversion” features upstanding morals and practices, not carried out pharisaically but deployed with integrity. In three parts, Stetzer demonstrates how Christian subversion plays out in our thinking, our lives, and our actions.
Stetzer writes with verve and vigor; the book is relentless in its pace and passion. Which reminds me – if you have seen him speak, you will know Stetzer is an excellent communicator who uses alliteration effectively (I almost typed “affectively”) and generates some memorable turns of phrase. For instance: “We will talk with others about the power of the gospel not just because they’re lost but because our Lord and King is glorified in finding them.” Makes me want to shout, Soli Deo Gloria!
My local church is currently going through a process of becoming more missional. I have to hand it to them (the core leadership of 25 paid and lay leaders in a church of 300) because they know what they want to see happen. But they seem to be at a loss about how to engender congregational excitement and involvement. If I could afford it and could guarantee they would all read it from cover to cover, I would put a copy of Subversive Kingdom in each leader’s hand. Then I would recommend to the senior pastor that he consider the Subversive Kingdom small group material for the next round of small group ministry. If your church is in the same situation, consider becoming subversive.