Thursday, May 10, 2012

Living As Agents of Gospel Transformation - A Book Review and A GIVEAWAY

I was recently contacted and asked to review Ed Stetzer's (director of research at Lifeway publications) newest book, Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation. I had never even heard of Ed Stetzer (or so I thought), but I have read books and used studies from Lifeway, so I did a little digging on the internet and decided to read the book.

And all I can now say (after having devoured the book) is wow. This is one of those books that makes you squirm in your seat. It is one of those books that challenges you to live beyond your comfort zone. It is one of those books that makes you stop and really assess your life.

Basically, Stetzer discusses how conventional Christianity has become easy, cushy, "it's all about my comfort."  It's about what God can do for us, how He can bless us. We as believers think we are different than the world, but we're still held captive by the world's consumerism and "good life" way of thinking. We want comfort and ease. And we're happy to serve God as long as we don't have to reach beyond our parameter of comfort.

Stetzer points out that this is not how we are called to live as true believers. Rather we are to be "rebels against the world's rebellion." We need to stop seeing our churches as places to go to to make us feel good, places to lift us up and to hide away from the world. Rather our churches are to be agents of transformation; groups of believers serving God OUT in the world together.

"A church that becomes activity-driven rather than kingdom-driven runs the risk of ceasing to be an authentic church at all, because it is no longer focused on bringing God's glory to its neighborhood and the nations."

"The glorious, redeeming gospel of Jesus Christ, living and operating and generously shared through His church, is not just what we've been sent here to offer whenever people bother to show up. It's what we've been sent out from here to give." (bold mine)

In other words, the church needs to stop expecting and waiting for people to come, and we need to get up out of pews and go out into this lost, hurting world.

But Stetzer doesn't just pinpoint the church, he addresses believers as individuals. After all, it is the gathering of the believers that makes up the church. So the church will not function properly if the individual believers are not living the lives and convictions that God fashioned us to live.

"For too many, and for too long, we've reduced Christianity to a moralistic philosophy of life - do this, go to church, don't do that. Yet it's so much more. The kingdom of God is breaking into the world. We have been transferred into it and made to be a part of its work. Yet many are satisfied with steeples and pews and songs to keep us happy, rather than being a part of the work of that kingdom" (bold mine)

Stetzer discusses how we are living in the "already, but not yet" period of time. God's kingdom was announced when Jesus came. And His Kingdom will be fulfilled upon His return. So we as believers are living in the "in between" time. So what are we doing with this "sovereignly ordained meantime?"

"Life 'in between' the time of the King's departure and His return is populated by believers in Christ who function as subversive agents of His kingdom. To believe otherwise is to be caught simply existing as Christians, so focused on the promise of a kingdom we'll one day inherit; we don't feel responsibility for engaging in the mission that's already in front of us. Worse yet, when blinded by this haze of inertia, we usually find ourselves more susceptible to being shaped by the world around us than by God's Word and His truth. We lose our compelling reasons for resisting the pull of culture's self-interested standards, and we forfeit the opportunity to make a present-day kingdom difference the way God has commanded us to do." (bold mine)

I LOVED this book. As uncomfortable as it made me feel, as much as it convicted me and my desire for an easy life of comfort, this book spoke right to the deepest part of my God-given heart and soul. As Stetzer said, "The Christian life is so much more than many Christians live it." It is not acceptable to sit in the church pew week after week after week receiving and then stopping there. We are called to give out of what we receive from Him.

In other words, He fills us up so that we can be poured out for others.

"Never forget that the God who entrusts is also the God who expects - not so He can be hard and taskmastering toward us but rather to give us ongoing work that yields joy and purpose and confidence and value."

Now, that's the kind of work I want to invest my life in.

If you would look at my copy of this book, you would see red all throughout it. I have this book so marked up because this was one of those books that spoke volumes and volumes to me.

This book inspired me, not because its content was easy (although it was written in a very easy-to-read style) but because I truly do want to live my life as a follower of Christ exactly how He has designed me to - fully and with joy. And I want others to know the life-giving gift that I have experienced and am so grateful to have received.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to every believer!

And because this book touched me and inspired and motivated me so much, I want it to do the same for you so I'm giving away a brand new copy to one of my readers. To enter, please use the rafflecopter giveaway function below. This is my first time using this function, so I'm hoping it works!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends in one week from today, May 17th!


Thistle Cove Farm said...

I'm not at all sure if I've done this thing correctly but the book looks like an enjoyable, uncomfortable, read. WOW indeed! Christianity has become cozy and comfortable. I tried to get a Bible study started with some church women and was roundly shot down for my efforts. People were already "too busy"...painting, quilting, etc.
So sad.

Stephanie Burton said...

Our Pastor just preached on this on Sunday. I'm so glad that my family and I attend a church whose mission is to 'Increase the size and health of God's church EVERYWHERE!' and we're currently in the process of getting team together to leave our church, head to a foreign land and plant a church. My brother and sister in law are going to be leading that expedition in the next couple of years... Thanks for sharing Amber!

Vanessa Lyons said...

The book looks like it will be a good read...

Anonymous said...

I've heard Stetzer preach a couple of times and read a few of his books (Breaking the Missional Code broke my way of thinking) so I'll be looking to get my hands on this one too.

Jan said...

Great review, this sounds like a fantastic book. Would love to read this one!

Kayla Seyler said...

Entering! :)