One of my favorite words is “subversive.” Ask Justin …he’ll back me up on that. So you can imagine my excitement when I read this excerpt from Eugene Peterson’s book, “Subversive Spirituality.” The emphasis of ECPC has always been on SAVORING the King of kings, and of course slowness and savoring are inextricably linked; but a less known dimension of SAVORING the King of kings is relishing the subversive strategies He employs for expanding His Kingdom. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Spiritual direction is a slow process that looks idle and inefficient.
It’s subversive, and therefore pastors are subversives. Pastors gather people in worship, we engage them in matters of spiritual correction, we pray to unseen persons …pastors are consummate subversives. We live in a culture that we think is Christian. When a congregation gathers in a church, they assume they are among friends in a basically friendly world (with the exception of pornographers, etc.). If I, as their pastor, get up and tell them the world is not friendly and they are really idol worshipers, they think I’m crazy. This culture has twisted all of our metaphors and images and structures of understanding. But I can’t say that directly. The only way that you can approach people is indirectly, obliquely. A head-on attack doesn’t work.
Jesus was the master of indirection. The parables are subversive. His hyperboles are indirect. There is a kind of outrageous quality to them that defies common sense, but later on the understanding comes. The largest poetic piece in the Bible, Revelation, is a subversive piece. Instead of (being) a three-point lecturer, the pastor is instead a storyteller and a pray-er. Prayer and story become the primary means by which you get past people’s self-defense mechanisms.
In my book, I say it this way: “I must remember that I am a subversive. My long-term effectiveness depends on my not being recognized for who I am as a pastor. If the church member actually realized that the American way of life is doomed to destruction and that another kingdom is right now being formed in secret to take its place, he wouldn’t be pleased at all. If he knew what I was really doing and the difference it was making, he would fire me.”
True subversion requires patience. You slowly get cells of people who are believing in what you are doing, participating in it.
Eugene H. Peterson, Subversive Spirituality