“So what I have tried to develop first of all, in myself, is the mentality of the subversive. The subversive is someone who takes on the coloration of the culture, as far as everyone else can see. If he loses the coloration he loses his effectiveness. The subversive works quietly and hiddenly, patiently. He has committed himself to Christ’s victory over culture and is willing to do those small things. No subversive ever does anything big. He is always carrying secret messages, planting suspicion that there is something beyond what the culture says is final.” Eugene Peterson (from Rodney Clapp’s Introduction to The Contemplative Pastor p.18)
In our world of Americanized Christianity, the corporate mentality prevails. The rules and regulations are pretty simple.
- Bigger is always better.
- Work for the big splash.
- If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing perfectly well.
- Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
- What’s the bottom-line? Get-R-done. Now!
In truth, there just isn’t much room in Americanized Christianity for the quiet, hidden-away, patient subversive Peterson talks about here. But as I see it, there is a move afoot. Slowly but surely, there is a quiet revolution of subversive activity going on behind the scenes of Americanized Christianity, as we now know it.
It’s a whisper, but to be honest, it always will be just a whisper. The Spirit of God never yells. The winds and waves of God rarely draw attention to themselves. Jesus and His Kingdom ministry will always be birthed in out-of-the-way, hidden places. Like an obscure stable in the little town of Bethlehem, there are smaller church communities across the nation today whose pastors are beginning to hear the quiet whisper of the Master.
The 3-B Syndrome of Church, Inc., where success is defined by Building size, Bucks in the bank, and the number of Butts in the seats, is slowly being undermined by a subversive move of God’s Kingdom. A new wave of God’s Spirit is quietly spreading across the fruited plain. Men and women who have spent their entire careers in pastoral ministry trying to be ‘a success’ by driving their church through the next numerical growth barrier are awakening to a different song. Subversive prophets of this new wave of God are sprouting up, but not through the traditional way of publishing books, holding national conferences, or appearing on big revolving stages with big-name CEO’s of big-name churches. As Peterson states here: “No subversive does anything big.”
Eugene Peterson saw this subversive move of God’s Spirit back in 1989 when he wrote The Contemplative Pastor. These comments taken from the book’s Introduction allude to the vision Peterson spells out in later chapters of his book. And now, over twenty years later, here we are, feeling the wind of the Spirit whispering to us to stop our pursuit of the 3-B Syndrome and begin to quietly pack our bags, preparing for a different journey with the Master. As I see it, Peterson spells out well the destination of our travels, and in many ways, is one of the old sages who has blazed a trail before us.
Are you ready to go? Quietly, now. Shhh. The enemy of our soul is keeping watch. Church, Inc. has eyes everywhere. Christ’s army of the subversive, contemplative pastor is slowly coming together. But we must be still. Talk only when necessary. Watch your step. This might cost you your life. It will definitely cost you your present Americanized church ministry. But it also just might change the world, as we know it. More next time.