Forsaking the 3-B’s of Church, Inc.

Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:

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.

  1. Bigger is always better.
  2. Work for the big splash.
  3. If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing perfectly well.
  4. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
  5. 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’s of Church, Inc., where success is defined by (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the bank, and the number of (B)utts 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, thirty years later, here we are, feeling the wind of the Spirit whispering to us to stop our pursuit of the 3-B’s 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.


The enemy of our soul is keeping watch. Church, Inc. has eyes everywhere. Christ’s army of the subversive, contemplative pastors 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.

My prayer: Father God, I’m afraid that I quite honestly prefer to play it safe at times, just going along with what the “status quo” tells me is important. As a pastor, I know Church, Inc. tries to convince me that to be “successful” I need to work toward securing larger (B)uildings, accumulating more (B)ucks in the offering, and coaxing more (B)utts into the seats. But the subversive Christ I find in the New Testament just doesn’t seem to agree with that line of thinking. Awaken me, Lord, to what is true and right. For Your name’s sake. Amen. 

My questions to ponder: What bonds of slavery do I have in my life by maintaining the “status quo” of American Christianity? What changes need to occur in my approach to discipleship and church life so that I might become more like the subversive who follows Christ versus the guy or gal who plays it safe in order to blend in with our culture?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?

Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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1 thought on “Forsaking the 3-B’s of Church, Inc.

  1. Pingback: Specific Acts of Christian Subversion. | The Contemplative Activist

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