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The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus [Hardcover]

Robin Meyers
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 13 2012
A new way to follow Jesus that draws on old ways of following Him

The Underground Church proposes that the faithful recapture the spirit of the early church with its emphasis on what Christians do rather than what they believe. Prominent progressive writer, speaker, and minister Robin Meyers proposes that the best way to recapture the spirit of the early Christian church is to recognize that Jesus-following was and must be again subversive in the best sense of the word because the gospel taken seriously turns the world upside down.

No matter how the church may organize itself or worship, the defining characteristic of church of the future will be its Jesus-inspired countercultural witness.

  • Debunks commonly held beliefs about the early church and offers a vision for the future rooted in the past
  • Proposes that the church of the future must leave doctrinal tribalism behind and seek a unity of mission instead
  • Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said,"Robin Meyers has spoken truth to power, and the church he loves will never be the same."

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The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus + Saving Jesus From The Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus
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[STARRED REVIEW] Meyers (Why the Christian Right Is Wrong) offers a number of subversive ideas in his latest, reminding readers that Jesus came to feed the hungry, wage nonviolence, and generally afflict the comfortable in his day. Today, the comfortable are seated in the pews of Christian churches, worshiping idols at twilight. Like many who use a traditional, prophetic voice, Meyers has a talent for putting theology on the ground and in the midst of life. Jesus really does mean for us to feed people, as he did: hospitality is a cardinal Christian virtue. So is nonviolence, but it’s so hard that most fail at a practice that demands discipline and sacrifice. Meyers calls for other practices running counter to the prevailing imperial culture, including low or no-interest moneylending and tithing, which may startle middle-class mainline Protestant churchgoers. Going back to basics is not a new idea, but Meyers writes with energy, intelligence, and conviction, adding to the choir calling for Christianity in a new key. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, December 21, 2011)


Praise for The Underground Church

"DANGER: The contents of this book are explosive and could turn the world upside down. About time!"
Bill Moyers

"When was the last time you thought of going to church as dangerous? Once we challenged the status quo; now we mostly defend it. The Underground Church tells the story of how we forgot where we came from and why we must recover our subversive roots. Read this book if you dare. Become part of the movement if you are daring."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Read this book. Written by a wordsmith, it is a passionate and challenging call to churches to be liberated from the cultural captivity of convention and into the 'underground church.'"
Marcus Borg, canon theologian, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and author, Speaking Christian

"The Underground Church invites Christians to encounter a radical Jesus, to practice a subversive way of life, and to move beyond belief to love. This is no longer merely church—rather it is a movement that many are aching to join!"
Diana Butler Bass, author, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

"As I read Robin Meyers's new book, I felt afresh how subversive the Christian way of life should be in relation to today's partisan ideologies and consumerist assumptions. He depicts a subversive, transformative, and hopeful identity for followers of Christ—one that I hope will be increasingly contagious."
Brian McLaren, author, speaker, activist (

"This beautifully written manifesto, grounded in the author's deep faith and faithful ministry, is manna for those of us who love what the church is called to be—but who have a lover's quarrel with the way it too often distorts the good news about love, justice, mercy, and care for 'the least of these.' May The Underground Church rise up and flower everywhere!"
Parker J. Palmer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Robin Meyers book is required reading for those who call themselves Christians or those who have given up on their christian faith. He takes us back to the early history of the faith in the first century when the followers got it right and how the Church from Constantine onward got it wrong.

There is a sea movement of change going on in many denominations of the Christian faith these days as a result of people like Robin Meyers who are re-establishing what the teachings of Jesus Christ are all about.

The book is provocative to many I suppose and even I have trouble with some of it. However, it is a valuable message that needs to be known by the Christian Community.
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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a challenging proposal capable of reversing decline & changing everything March 3 2012
By Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith) - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the book no American who follows the Way of Jesus expects, but the wakeup call each follower and congregation needs. Meyers seeks to restore that which Jesus envisioned in a way quite unlike that of the Restoration movement in which he was raised. He focuses on the big picture of what the church should be, providing suggestions that are offensive to all who embody and extend the status quo - from the theologically conservative to the theologically progressive. Readers will be challenged to discard the declining church that is entwined with Empire in favor of a church that embraces its "radical roots" and is "driven by a truly subversive anti-imperial message and mission" (p. 9-10).

To construct the framework for this vision Meyers' begins by clarifying Christianity's past, noting that the early church was never the "pure" or "unified" entity it is often popularly portrayed to have been (p.43). While any student of church history knows Constantine forever changed the religion, Meyers places Constantine's involvement alongside other changes initiated by powerful and power hungry people that transformed radically inclusive egalitarian faith communities into highly structured systems with considerable inequality and a focus on belief.

Meyers compares the church's past to its present manifestation in America, noting how entwined most congregations and denominations are today with Empire. Against this prevailing model, he constructs his vision of the underground church - a church far more like the first three centuries than the last seventeen. This new underground church is subversive rather than safe, Jesus-centered rather than tradition or Empire centered, and calls for deep involvement by followers rather than marginal participation by members. The undeground church is a nonviolent community that replaces the word "faith" with the word "trust;" values authenticity over orthodoxy; makes Jesus a model for living rather than an object of worship; builds coalitions by working with others on issues of peace and nonviolence, radical hospitality, and economic justice; stands out from the dominant culture by engaging in subversive acts motivated by experience; expands the communion meal into a true feast; addresses issues of economic injustice; empowers activists and participates in creative noncooperation; favors counterimperial praxis to doctrinal uniformity; talks less and does more; and does no harm when harm can be avoided. In short, the underground church reclaims the subversive way of Jesus for our age.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An alluring idea March 1 2012
By John Gibbs - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Few people wake up on Sunday mornings with a real sense of longing or anticipation for what might happen in the sanctuary, according to Robin Meyers in this book. They expect little more from worship than social respectability, often wrapped in the air of dull familiarity; the last thing anyone thinks about church is that it might be dangerous.

The author aims to put the "dangerous" back into church by advocating a number of practices that would make most "liberals" and "conservatives" uncomfortable. These include advocating pacifism, embodying radical trust, working co-operatively with others, subversively engaging with the dominant culture, refusing to accept money from the government, lending money at no interest to members of the church community, and caring for the environment.

As a member of the Jesus Seminar, the author holds to the view that we know practically nothing about Jesus because the gospels, being devotional in nature, are not reliable biographies. Unfortunately this view gets an airing in the first chapter of the book, so that the author is likely to lose readers of a more orthodox persuasion before they encounter the substance of his arguments. This is a pity because the book is addressed to Christians of a broad variety of theological persuasions, and many of the author's arguments are clearly derived from the pages of the New Testament.

There is something alluring about recapturing the idea of the "underground church", the pre-Constantine illegal persecuted church. In some places in the world today underground churches exist, although they are not mentioned in the book. By the end of the book I felt that the author had some good ideas - as well as others that I disagreed with - but even if those good ideas are implemented the church in the West will still not feel like an underground church.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing, thoughtful voice in a genre losing its soul Feb. 21 2012
By ErickinOKC - Published on
Dr. Robin Meyers continues his thoughtful discourse on what's wrong, missing, or misunderstood about Christianity and the Church with his latest book: The Underground Church. While Dr. Meyers lives in the reddest of red states and is often mischaracterized as a politician in preacher's clothing, he's usually the opposite - a minister with a voice so refreshing and outside the norm for this part of the country that many only know how to view him through a political lens.

Just as he has in his many other novels, Dr. Meyers takes the ideas that the church is sometimes corrupt, its priorities are often misplaced, and its ideology tends to become hijacked by extremes and surprises the reader by using it as the beginning of an exploration into history and motive, interpretation and intent. So often - most often, really - those ideas are used as attacks, as weapons against modern Christianity, as talking points against politicians or people; Dr. Meyers, though, does what he always does: takes the sting out of the issues, wraps them gently in a bed of thoughtful and thorough research, and hands them to the reader in a way that can be appreciated, respected, and understood.

At no point in this or any of Dr. Meyers' books does he insist that you agree with him. He doesn't belittle any reader with a different view, try to persuade a reader to change a position or create a feeling of defensiveness. Instead, he simply presents information in a way that's both informative and entertaining and asks you to consider his words and find ways to make them impactful in your own life.

It's well worth your time and money to read this book as well as Dr. Meyers' many other great works.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can your Christian faith handle this book?? May 3 2012
By WB - Published on
MY BACKGROUND: I spent the greater share of my 48 years within traditional/fundamental biblical teaching. Sadly, I fear that others with a similar background either won't read this book or won't have 'eyes' or 'ears' to see/hear what Robin Meyers has to say. This is most unfortunate.

A quote from The Underground Church: Reclaiming The Subversive Way Of Jesus, "By now it should be obvious that the purpose of this book is not to cast one more stone against the glass house of the church from the outside, lest any of its dingy windows remain unbroken. My hope is to renew it from the inside. My life has been given to the church, but my gathering conviction after three decades of parish ministry is that Christians now blend in so well with the dominant culture that we have effectively disappeared. The community that used to give the Empire fits now fits right in with the Empire." (p. 192)

This is a book about how faith communities of EVERY Christian denomination/affilliation can impact this world with the teachings and practices of Jesus, regardless of our differences. As a matter of fact, Meyers says we MUST get past our differing 'beliefs' if our 'faith' is going to make a difference at all in this world.

This is a book that Christians MUST read. Can you put your preconceptions and differences aside and take up the challenge? I hope you can.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ideas for rebuilding our broken Christian churches Jan. 7 2014
By Heather D Cawlfield - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book because I was unsatisfied with many aspects of my own church experiences, and was in search of ways to revitalize church. I found this book to be a compelling read which was packed with valuable insights. By the end of the book the author had laid out a number of suggestions for restoring genuine Christianity in our churches and for becoming a relevant and, yes, subversive force for the benefit of our communities and world. But jumping to the (awesome) last chapter, mining out these ideas, and tossing the rest of the book would be a waste because the real value is in the reasoning and shift in focus that seems to me to be the real thrust of this book. Now the burden is on me to transfer and translate these ideas to my own church experiences.

One mild criticism is that at times Meyers would reiterate main ideas using catchy or cute phrases that would trigger my anti-rhetoric reactions. Ultimately, though, Meyers's arguments are not rhetorical but are instead based on careful study, reflection, and reason. The main source material, so to speak, comes from the Christian movement of the first century or two AD as illuminated by ancient writings (including scripture of course), art, and various other archaeological methods. But this is not yet-another book on primitive Christianity as it extrapolates from there to a vision of an improved modern-day church.

Sometimes I felt that Meyers made too much fuss about a polarization evident in most congregations that he intentionally oversimplifies as conservative versus liberal. I can understand reasons for addressing this directly -- he wants to point out that neither religious ideology nor political alignment should really matter in the Underground Church and its members. But sometimes it felt like there was too much fixation on this division.

These criticisms are too minor to detract from the book, and I strongly recommend this book to everyone and especially to those who are, like me, wrestling with the idea of church.
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