Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
So what are some specific acts of Christian subversion? They’re common Christian acts. The acts of sacrificial love, justice, and hope. There’s nothing novel in any of this. Our task is that we develop a self-identity as Christians and do these things not incidentally to our lives, but centrally. By encouraging one another, by praying together, by studying Scripture together, we develop a sense that these things are in fact the very center of our lives. And we recognize they are not the center of the world’s life, however much cultural talk there is about Christianity. Eugene Peterson (from Rodney Clapp’s Introduction to The Contemplative Pastor p.18)
As I see it, biblical Christianity will never be popular.
Following Jesus and His Kingdom ministry will never get us on the cover of Time Magazine, nor should it. Men or women who learn the fine art of practicing the Kingdom presence of God will never be invited to speak at big national church conferences, nor should they. Simple acts of subversive Christianity (i.e. sacrificial love, justice, and hope, as Peterson states here) will never be the big stuff that gets the attention of our world. Nor should it.
Subversive is just that. It’s underground. It’s small. It’s quiet. But powerful. It’s consistent but never showy. It’s like a spray of water, which over years, carves out a Grand Canyon. Jesus’ Kingdom ministry, (see Luke 4: 18-19) will never be the ministry of choice by those who subscribe to Church, Inc. The Americanized church refuses to slow down, refuses to be quiet, refuses to do the small things.
As we discussed last time, the marching orders for the Americanized church are these:
- 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!
But in the world of subversive Christianity that Peterson dreams of, dull things, like encouraging one another, praying together, or studying Scripture together, are cutting-edge tools of our trade. Simple acts of love, mercy, and compassion are atomic bombs against the enemy of our soul. Quiet words that whisper for justice and hope are massive weapons of mass destruction in a world where hardened-hearts and lovesick souls currently prevail.
So who will come?
Who will be willing to walk away from the human zeal that drives the Americanized church? Who will work quietly, as subversive, contemplative men and women, to re-shape and re-form the church of Jesus Christ, using blueprints found in God’s Word? Who will be willing to stop the noise, noise, noise for a decade or two, quieting ourselves before our Master, so we might once again hear the sound of silence echoing from the heart of the Spirit of God?
More questions next time.
My prayer: Jesus, Master of my soul, I hear Your quiet call to be still and know who is God. I confess that, so often, my noise and busy-ness drown out Your still small voice. May I submit, once again to Your Spirit, forsaking the spirit of Americanized church, in order to re-align myself with You and Your Kingdom plans, regardless of how quiet and subversive they might seem to be to me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How much time in recent weeks have I spent trying to make a big splash for Jesus? Worse yet, how much time have I poured into making my name better known to others? What might it look like to go “subversive,” where simple acts of sacrificial love, justice, and hope become my passion?
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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I appreciate much of what you say, especially about the 3-Bs of Church. A message of love, justice and hope is what we need to project. I’m not sure we should be too quiet about it. And I am not convinced that we do not need a more dramatic change at this point in time.