The Church as a Subversive Kingdom Presence in the World (Insights from Chapter 7 of “Subterranean” by Dan White Jr.)

3D-Book-Templatesub1-690x444I am what some call an activist who serves as a pastor of a diverse faith community filled with people living from both the “center” and margins of our city. As a so-called activist I have many friends who advocate for justice with megaphones, picket signs (sometimes in the form of tweets), civil disobedience, and legislative agendas. All of that is fine I suppose, but it isn’t for me. I think there’s another way. In the seventh chapter of his book, Subterranean: Why the Future of the Church is Rootedness, Dan White, Jr. seems to agree. He suggests the way of practicing fidelity:

“Fidelity becomes the taproot of relating with God when you’re fully aware that opposing Powers are making claims over everyday life…The taproot of fidelity is only exercised when we become aware of the force of resistance around us. The subterranean church plays a subversive role in unsettling the evils in this present age, faithfully toiling together for justice, peace, belonging, and healing in our specific locations.”

In this chapter Dan calls the church away from a me-centered christian imagination shaped by the Jesus-is-my-personal-Lord-and-Savior rhetoric that has ultimately made us complicit to the other oppressive empires. He reminds us that the life-blood of the Spirit flows from the taproot of fidelity and gives birth to the subversive society God’s in-breaking kingdom intends to create. This is what Dan calls “the resistance movement of the church, faithful to the mission of being the subversive kingdom presence in the world.”

The modern church has failed to see what the early church understood so well, that the kingdoms of this age clash against the kingdom of God. “The Powers,” as Dan calls them, work against the new realities proposed to us by the reign of Christ. Our lack of awareness, nurtured by our consumeristic tendencies and self-centeredness, has caused us to ignore the Powers that have pressed into cruciformity and infiltrated the church. Consequently, we’re losing our identity as we steadily wander away from our call to subversive resistance to the Powers.

Dan reminds us that the church is a subversive society, but not the kind that fights in open belligerence for justice, peace, belonging, and healing by asserting power over others or managing outcomes. The church as the subversive kingdom presence in a particular location participates in a different kind of subversion, one that patiently embodies a cross-shaped imagination by self-giving love that works to undermine other expressions and understandings of power to create new possibilities and new realities. This “subterranean” way of being gives birth to a faithful community of disciples committed to the “difficult discipleship of discernment” who refuse to waiver from naming and engaging the Powers contrary to the way of God’s kingdom (Dan offers a brief but remarkable description of the process of naming and engaging in this chapter). This leads to practicing fidelity.

dan-landscapecropThere’s so much more to say but I think you should just read the book. What makes this book special is that Dan writes as a pastor-theologian and practitioner whose writing style is thoughtful and accessible. It’s a captivating read. If you get a copy of his book before October 23 you’ll get 40% off by using the code ROOTED.

It’s been an honor to participate in the blog tour for this new book. Please be sure to read these recent posts, along with the posts to come:

Zach Hoag has written a review of Chapter 1: Hotels or Trees

Tim Suttle discusses Chapter 2: Excessive Personality

Ben Sternke reflects on Chapter 3: Extracted Perception

Kathleen Ward writes on Chapter 4: Expedited Production

Ray Holenbach discusses Chapter 6: Rooted in Fidelity

I write on Chapter 7: Practicing Fidelity

Look for Karina Kreminski’s reflection on Rooted in Locality next week.

About Fred

I am a follower of Jesus, the husband to Alison Glenn, daddy to my little man Ian. I am a son, brother, friend, bi-vocational pastor of Williamsburg Christian Church, ethnographer, activist and justice seeker, founder and president of 3e Restoration Inc, adjunct professor at Regent University, and mission specialist of church renewal with Mission Alive. I received my B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and my Masters of Religious Education in Missional Leadership (MREML) from Rochester College. I am currently working toward my Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology at Northern Seminary.
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