Subversive Sabbath

The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World

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Christianity Today 2019 Book Award Winner (Spiritual Formation) and Award of Merit for CT's Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year
Outreach 2019 Recommended Resource of the Year (Spiritual Growth)

We live in a 24/7 culture of endless productivity, workaholism, distraction, burnout, and anxiety--a way of life to which we've sadly grown accustomed. This tired system of "life" ultimately destroys our souls, our bodies, our relationships, our society, and the rest of God's creation. The whole world grows exhausted because humanity has forgotten to enter into God's rest.

This book pioneers a creative path to an alternative way of existing. Combining creative storytelling, pastoral sensitivity, practical insight, and relevant academic research, Subversive Sabbath offers a unique invitation to personal Sabbath-keeping that leads to fuller and more joyful lives. A. J. Swoboda demonstrates that Sabbath is both a spiritual discipline and a form of social justice, connects Sabbath-keeping to local communities, and explains how God may actually do more when we do less. He shows that the biblical practice of Sabbath-keeping is God's plan for the restoration and healing of all creation. The book includes a foreword by Matthew Sleeth.


Part 1: Sabbath for Us
1. Sabbath and Time
2. Sabbath and Work
3. Sabbath and Health
Part 2: Sabbath for Others
4. Sabbath and Relationships
5. Sabbath, Economy, and Technology
6. Sabbath and the Marginalized
Part 3: Sabbath for Creation
7. Sabbath and Creation
8. Sabbath and the Land
9. Sabbath and Critters
Part 4: Sabbath for Worship
10. Sabbath and Witness
11. Sabbath and Worship
12. Sabbath and Discipleship


"Do you ever just want to pull the plug on your schedule? A. J. Swoboda's Subversive Sabbath shows you why you should and how you can; it will fundamentally change your life. It is a total reconstruction of America's frenzied, frenetic lifestyle, offering the ultimate regenerative alternative."

Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm; editor of The Stockman Grass Farmer

"Subversive Sabbath is incredibly well written, accessible, and deeply encouraging. A. J. Swoboda avoids oversimplification and presents a deep, rich, and energetic argument on what it means to be fully human through an obedient pursuit of rest and well-being. This book gives a theology of Sabbath-keeping that was a much-needed encouragement for me. I'm sure it will be for you as well."

Ken Wytsma, founder, The Justice Conference; pastor, Antioch Church, Bend, Oregon; author ofThe Myth of Equality

"If I were permitted to recommend only one book on Sabbath-keeping, A. J. Swoboda's Subversive Sabbath would be it. This one volume acquaints the reader with a vast literature on Sabbath from both the Jewish and Christian traditions. Through practical reflection questions at the end of each chapter, it provokes changes in doing as well as thinking. It explores the implications of Sabbath not only for one's personal life but for relationships, for worship, for public life, and for the whole of creation. Best of all, it highlights the lavish gift and the countercultural adventure of Sabbath. No one can read this book and ever again associate Sabbath-keeping with 'blue laws' or legalism or boredom. Subversive Sabbath dares one to do life as God intended from the beginning."

Shirley A. Mullen, president, Houghton College

"Our smartwatch-driven age can measure every heartbeat, every step, even the quality of our sleep, but it cannot measure the health of our souls. Our limitless freedom has paradoxically imprisoned us in an achievement culture of constant measurement. Escape from the exhaustion of endless opportunity, embrace the singular God behind the singular Sabbath day of rest. Stop, breathe, read this profoundly helpful book, and be remade."

Mark Sayers, senior pastor, Red Church, Melbourne, Australia; author of Disappearing Church and Strange Days

"Few things are as subversive to the hurry addiction of the modern world than the practice of Sabbath. And few things are as life-or-death important. A. J. has written his best book yet. His keen mind, quick wit, and deep soulfulness come through beautifully, page by captivating page. But more than anything, this is a book that is lived. My new go-to book on the Sabbath."

John Mark Comer, pastor of teaching and vision, Bridgetown Church; author of God Has a Name

The Author

  1. A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) is assistant professor of Bible, theology, and world Christianity at Bushnell University. He also leads a Doctor of Ministry program around the Holy Spirit and leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the...

    Continue reading about A. J. Swoboda


Christianity Today 2019 Book Award Winner, Spiritual Formation, and Award of Merit for CT's Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year
Outreach 2019 Recommended Resource of the Year (Spiritual Growth)

"Subversive Sabbath is a rich, timely, and a needful word to American Christians. 'Sabbath,' writes Swoboda, 'is a gift we do not know how to receive.' Yes! Sabbath rest is for us, for others, for creation, and for worship. With helpful prompts for self-examination, Swoboda's well-grounded practical theology yields life-giving practices that teach true rest."

Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung,

Christianity Today

"Swoboda writes in a nurturing way, employing practical applications and beautiful illustrations. His book is theological, holistic, pragmatic, and doxological. I have read several books on Sabbath, and this is the best."

Allen Yeh,

Christianity Today

"In an iWorld that measures individual productivity down to the single step, Swoboda reminds readers that the climax of God's creation was not humanity but rest. Subversive Sabbath is grounded in Scripture but includes observations from the realms of history, health, and community. Like a good physician, Swoboda diagnoses our busyness and offers readers a time-tested cure with equal parts theory and practice. In a Sabbath-kept world, flourishing replaces production as the standard, and one's very schedule has the trickle-down effect of wholeness and justice."

Sandra Glahn,

Christianity Today

"In our 24/7 world, addicted to busyness, where metrics of work and production supposedly define our worth and identity, Swoboda's book is more than a breath of fresh air. It's the breath of the Spirit. The Spirit of the Sabbath that bids us find rest in the all-sufficient work of God in Christ. . . . This book is both theological and practical, wooing us back to the gift of the Sabbath and demonstrating how that looks in the life of a believer today. This work is a godsend to the bedraggled and a come-back-home call to the over-worked and under-rested church."

Chad Bird,

Christianity Today

"You may not have time to read this very carefully researched and crafted argument for a true rest time each week, but if you do, you will be both surprised and challenged by the author's conclusions."

Knute Larson,


"Swoboda provides a counterpoint to the Church's mimicry of our industrial, success-obsessed, rise-and-grind culture with his book on Sabbath-keeping in the modern age. . . .Swoboda's chapters shimmer with small details and connections. . . . Swoboda offers important reflections on the role of Sabbath in the life of faith. . . . As someone who makes a lot of excuses about how vital my seven-day-a-week busyness is, I am challenged and encouraged after reading Subversive Sabbath. I realize that beginning to make even small commitments and adjustments can help me, my family, my church, and my community, enter into shalom."

Matthew Braddock,

Englewood Review of Books

"I highly recommend that you get ahold of A. J.'s book as soon as possible. . . . It makes a great read leading up to Easter. . . . I have been blessed by years of friendship with A. J., and his latest book is the outflowing of a heart that loves the Lord. I hope you, too, take the time to get to know him--and God--more through Subversive Sabbath."

Matthew J. Sleeth,

Sabbath Living

"God's commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy is often overlooked, and in this book Swoboda takes a hard look at the effects of ignoring God's direction. . . . His explanation of how creation was affected by the fall is most interesting and quite eye-opening. This book is a wake-up call to reclaim the rest God intended for His people from the moment of creation. Recommend it to those who are weary of the busyness of modern lifestyles. Questions end each chapter making the book suitable for group study."

Elizabeth Wisz,

Christian Market

"[A] great new book. . . . I loved this book because it seems to speak to the spirit of our age better than almost anything I've read in a while. . . . You wouldn't expect a book on the Sabbath to speak so much about technology or the environment or justice or community. But the truth is that our inability to rest is more related than we know to so many of the other problems we have, in fact, a lot of them are really only symptoms of the fact that we can't rest. And Churches are often no better than the rest of society in this regard."

Jonathan Storment,

Jesus Creed blog

"Wow, what a gift, a hard, challenging, lovely, grace-filled gift of very good writing, contemporary cultural analysis, spirituality and radical discipleship with the trajectory towards a good, good life. . . . [A] major new work by one of my favorite contemporary writers. . . . [It could be] the most important book you'll read all year. . . . This is one of the best books on Sabbath I think I have ever seen. Just judging from the table of contents, the many, many footnotes, the authors with whom Swoboda is in conversation, Subversive Sabbath is simply a must-read for anyone serious about this classic spiritual practice. . . . [This book] is written for you and me, ordinary Christian people wanting to get beyond platitudes and simple practices to a robust and sustainable sort of discipleship that is faithful, relevant, and a blessing to the world God so loves."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"I am impressed with Swoboda's heart felt desire to see Christians keep Sabbath. . . . I appreciate the many insights in this book. . . . Swoboda's is a convincing argument. His theology is sound. . . . This book gives a solid foundation and many good ideas. . . . This would be a good book for pastors and teachers. . . . There are Questions for Reflection included at the end of each chapter. This book could be used as a small group study for thinking Christians."

Joan Nienhuis,

Book Woman Joan blog

"I confess, I find most theological books to be duller than dirt. I am delighted to report, however, that Subversive Sabbath is the opposite. In fact, I found Subversive Sabbath to be a delightful book--fun to read, inspiring, and practical. . . . I found Subversive Sabbath to be a wonderful book, full of practical wisdom on how to plan your own Sabbath. I found the Professor's ideas to be solid as well as Biblical. I have a new perspective on the Sabbath after reading this book. "

Chris Lawson,

Bassocantor blog

"We are a restless people living in a restless world surrounded by restless activities. . . . Swoboda is spot on when it comes to identifying the true human need amid all the frantic happenings. . . . Systematically, the author leads the reader through the basics of Sabbath, beginning with what it means for us. . . . We are wired for work but too restless to leave work alone on a regular basis. As Swoboda has shown us, it is tragic when we fail to let the Sabbath work for us. As the author moves from personal benefits to the wider community, and to the larger created world, he has shown us how pervasive the need for Sabbath [is] in our world."

Conrade Yap,

Panorama of a Book Saint blog