Monday, August 6, 2012

Subversive Kingdom

This blog highlights books from Ralph Winter’s Library and compares excerpts to Winter’s own writings on one or more of the themes from his list of twelve “Frontiers of Perspective.” (See the full list at the end of this blog.)
(6) The Reclaiming of the Gospel of the Kingdom 

Stetzer, Ed. 2012. Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation. Nashville: B&H.
This book was not actually in Ralph Winter's library until I put it there, since it was published 3 years after his death. But it is one I'm sure he would have ordered. 

The printed title of the book whimsically conveys the main point—God’s Kingdom is backwards to the world’s expectations. This is Stetzer’s meaning of the term, “subversive,” that is the key to living the way Jesus lived and taught. Subversive means turning the other cheek, going the second mile. Stetzer interprets these examples of Jesus’ kingdom illustrations from the Sermon on the Mount in light of good cultural understanding of the ancient Mediterranean world.
 The title’s whimsical graphic also hints at the informal, easy reading style of the book. But don’t be misled. This book is based on sound biblical scholarship, although cleverly disguised at times as a friendly chat, stories in illustration of a point, or a challenging sermon.

I particularly appreciated the succinct truths punctuated throughout the book. A few examples:
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been made a citizen of this kingdom (p. 8).
[The kingdom] is subversive. It turns against the way most people think and act—even the religious (p. 12).
We are far too pleased with the comforts of the church rather than the work of God’s kingdom (p. 48).
As big as the church is, the kingdom is even bigger (p. 55).
We carry around an agenda designed to get the kingdom of God both brought up in conversation and brought down to earth” (p. 121).
Actually, the church doesn’t have a mission; the mission has a church (p. 166).
God’s mission is God’s glory (p. 167).
We are God’s “store window” on earth where he shows off his kingdom (p. 186).
The kingdom’s work is done in small ways by people living as agents of the King (p. 227).
The kingdom of God has come near, and our families and churches are outposts for the kingdom of God (p. 231).
I’m glad I read this book when I did, as it was a helpful resource for the chapter I’m writing on health, shalom, and the church for a book Bryant Myers is co-editing for a health practitioners conference at Fuller Seminary.
I wish Dr. Winter could have read this book. He tried to introduce the label, “the Kingdom era,” for what he saw as a fourth major era in the spread of the gospel in the past three centuries. (The first three were the geographic emphasis on coastlands, then inland cross-cultural work, and now unreached people groups.) I think Winter would have especially appreciated Stetzer’s section on the need to work in community to demonstrate what God’s will for his people looks like.

Ralph Winter’s 12 “Frontiers of Perspective” represent major shifts in his thinking that “profoundly modified and molded his perception of the mission task”:
(1) Unreached Peoples
(2) The Great Commission and Abraham
(3) From the Unfinished Task to the Finishable Task
(4) Failure with the Large Groups and the Off-setting Trend to “Radical Contextualization”
(5) Reverse Contextualization, the Recontextualization of Our Own Tradition
(6) The Reclaiming of the Gospel of the Kingdom
 (7) Beyond Christianity
(8) A Different Type of Recruitment
(9) A Trojan Horse
(10) Needed: a Revolution in Pastoral Training
(11) The Religion of Science
(12) The Challenge of the Evil One