The Evangelical Church has long had a healthy tension between social activism/ministry and evangelism. I think there should be a tension. We are called to do more than evangelism. But included in our ministry must be some form of evangelism.
But as with any tension (healthy or not) there tends to be a pendulum swing one way or another to counter previous excesses. Right now I think we are in a social activism swing. I am all for this. I have worked with homeless ministries, community development, education, etc. And I think they are important part of a church’s work if for no other reason than to get the church outside of their own four walls.
Dillon Burroughs, Daniel Darling and Dan King have written a first steps book. It has first steps for why the church should be involved in a number of issues from Slavery, Abortion, Homeless, Orphan Care/Adoption, Community/Business Development and much more.
The book is very oriented toward practical steps. Each chapter talks about what a particular social problem is, profiles some ways that the church is working in this area, talks about how you can get connected and then a variety of next steps (how to find people in your areas that do that type of work, how to read more about it, or how to get started working on your own.)
Some areas are easier to get started on than others. But that is part of the reality of the world. Some problems are more intractable, some are geographically more distant, some are best approached from a large scale, some from a small scale.
Having worked in Church based non-profits my whole life, I think the biggest problem is getting started. We have lots of good intentions that stay good intentions. But as people allow themselves to get started God often opens doors. Last week I was at a training meeting for an after school program I work with. When asked by one of the trainers how many people thought they would be doing work like this as they were growing up, only a handful agreed, most strongly disagreed.
I got involved in homeless ministry initially because I had to write a paper in college on a social issue as part of the project we had to volunteer somewhere. I ended up volunteering at that organization throughout college and even worked there part time for another 18 months after I graduated from college.
So this is a good book to read and discuss with a group to hold one another accountable to actually getting out of your comfort zone and doing something. There is something here that will strike the heart of just about anyone.
There was a good section within one chapter about unintended consequences of ministry, creating dependency, actually making things worse because of poor planning or program design. I wish this had had its own chapter. Because as good as that section was, it is worth exploring more fully. Good intentions are not enough. So I would encourage people to primarily join with a group or organization that is already doing good work. Go through the training, work along-side others that have been involved for a while and learn the ropes. What is important is that God is glorified not ourselves.
At the same time I was glad that for the most part, it was smaller organizations that were profiled and discussed. And that these were organizations that mostly the authors have actually worked with.
This is an introductory book. It is not designed for more in-depth look at any of the particular issues. All of the issues have had multiple books written about them. And there certainly have been dozens of books about the theology of social ministry. Those books are for a more in depth look later. This book is designed to get you started.
Related Bookwi.se Book Reviews
- Streetwalking with Jesus: Reaching Out in Justice and Mercy by John Green
- Humanitarian Jesus by Christian Buckley and Ryan Dobson
- The God of the Mundane: Reflections on Ordinary Life by Matthew Redmond
- The Unity Factor: One Lord, One Church, One Mission by John Armstrong
- Passion Is Not Enough: Four Elements to Change the World by Greg Darley