Saturday, October 11, 2014

Subversive: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Stetzer - a review

Ed Stetzer the well known church leadership and data researcher shares insights in his book Subversive that are spot on.

The book served me as a pastor differently than it might another Christian.  For me it was more of a confirmation book of trends and correct ways to view things within church rather than an eye opening book.  For some it could be an eye opener.  This book was especially useful not as an idea book for me, but as a way post on the road preaching through the Gospel of Luke, kind of like someone saying "right on, keep it up" on certain passages.

Much of Subversive pulls from the radically subversive nature of Jesus in the Gospels.  He is not comfortable with people staying in the status quo spiritually, but actually living for God instead of their culture, their homespun religions, or themselves.

One thing which I strongly do not like in books is a conversational style, because of course, while you may think of reading as a conversation, it really is not.  This is distracting at best, reading it as though in a conversation like a fiction work/novel.  Stetzer's book has large conversational style sections.  But I judge a book more on content than format, so moving on....   The work as well doesn't come across (in its strength) as a research book either, but more of a praxis book.  In this book's purpose this shows the author's skill and he has to be satisfied this is an accomplishment for an accomplished researcher like Dr. Stetzer.  He could easily write a book in that style and it would be great stuff, but probably that would be for a different audience type.

The book will best serve most genuine Christians as a breath of fresh air. You're able to be challenged to be obedient.  It's not mere cultural commentary.  It is about your walk with God making sense.

This explains the title and the ending sentence:  "stay subversive."  If you just live like everyone around you that is not any new kingdom you are in in faith in Jesus.  If you live differently, you are seen as subversive.  That is the goal, to call Christians out of the wide path/the wide way and onto more of a Christian path of obedience.

A few minor things:  One, not a fan of NorthWood Church in DFW that he references in the book.  While there are some great things there, the missions approach they have doesn't include just reaching lots of people (which is cool, who could disagree with that!), but helping to build/construct mosques with Christian volunteers and money.  NorthWood advocates the viewpoint that you should never plant a church unless you also help out with a local mosque or synagogue.  This is embarrassing by the gospel/NT standards, where Paul never did such a thing with any of this many missionary/church planting teams.  Shame on Ed Stetzer for endorsing that kind of agenda.  It's known that the less informed, less Bible rooted church starts in Dallas-Ft Worth associate with NorthWood, not realizing it is not God's will for them to use church funds to build mosques.

Also second other minor thing, much of the book is what you could get just by reading the gospels on your own.  Jesus' words have power.  Many pages of this book are just quotes.  That's great in one sense, but it is akin to just picking up your Bible instead too. I think Stetzer knows this, it is no mistake, he realizes most Christians in churches rarely open their Bibles, but they might use his book for a "small group" or "Sunday School," thereby learning the Bible still.  This would result in a step in the right direction for maturity, getting a taste of what they must be reading for maturity to come.  So it has a wise planning side to it's fact in the work.

The book has a strong point of being church-centric.  So often people see the church as unnecessary for spiritual growth and for walking with Jesus.  Dr. Stetzer shows how Jesus took a different view, that the church is what He works through.  Stetzer also points out how the local bodies of believers (churches) in the New Testament (NT) are said to be supports of the truth.  He also points out how the Scripture talks of not forsaking being in worship and discipleship through a church.  So the book is incredibly encouraging and insightful in this area, where most in our country would miss these truths in a normal life not probed or thought through.

There is a good emphasis on the already-not yet aspect to the kingdom.  That we reflect it here, but it is later in heaven.  This is great theology.

There is great spiritual advice in relationships, turning the other cheek and so on.  These are well placed to where they flow with the whole.  I trust God will use this book in your spiritual life too, wherever you are with Jesus now.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to someone.  You'll walk away from reading it a stronger believer in Jesus.

God bless!

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