(Reviews supplied by the Rev. Kevin Powell)
Beukema, George, Stories from Below the Poverty Line: Urban Lessons for Today’s Mission, (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 2001) George Beukema succeeds in telling us the real life stories of ministry as he, his wife and family have lived them in some of the rather anti-glamorous and non-photogenic places of urban America. At least that’s how most people would see it as Beukema carries out themes like Evangelism, Sin, Righteous Anger and Common Grace while moving between missional homes in Cleveland and a housing project on Chicago’s northwest side. Beukema’s stories are not just true-to- life, they are true. His gospel is anchored. And that is what makes the Poverty Line so important to all in ministry today.
Campolo, Tony, Revolution and Renewal: How Churches are Saving Our Cities (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2000). Popular Baptist preacher Tony Campolo has been at the forefront of the social justice movement within the evangelical community. This book tells of churches that infused new life into urban communities. Campolo’s books is both immensely practical (it even has a chapter on how to host a Town Hall meeting) and profoundly inspiring but telling success stories of churches making a difference in their communities.
Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative, Sacred Earth, Sacred Community: Jubilee, Ecology, and Aboriginal Peoples (CEJI:2000). Excellent reflections on humanity’s relationship to and stewardship of the earth, Aboriginal issues. Each article delves deeply into eco-justice, Aboriginal relations and provides guidance in these issues for congregations to explore. (Available from Synod Office.)
Childs Jr, James M, Ethics in Business: Faith at Work (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995). Noted ethicist James Childs show how businesspeople can bring their religious convictions to bear on their vocations. He deals with such concrete issues such as competition, regulation, environment, risk, truth-telling, whistle-blowing, leadership, discrimination, affirmative action, and conflict resolution.
Hessel, Dieter T, Social Ministry (Westminster/John Knox, 1992). This book includes interviews with clergy and lay leaders, from whom Hessel derives fresh insight into what congregations are doing in society and the problems they are encountering when developing social ministries. Hessel calls on parish communities to meet human need as good Samaritans while seeking justice boldly.
Jacobsen, Dennis A, Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001) This book combines both theological reasoning and practical application in engaging in justice and compassion ministry. Jacobsen writes as a pastor on the front- lines and offers a thoughtful analysis of poverty issues and the role congregations can play in the issues that permeate North American inner-cities.
Kavanaugh, John Francis, Following Christ in a Consumer Society: The Spirituality of Cultural Resistance (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1989). From a Catholic perspective, Kavanaugh’s critique is aimed at a society that increasingly values persons and communities by the criteria of marketability and consumption. Kavanagh’s alternative is a society of “persons” rather than “things,” where the real issue of Christian faith is love.
Kysar, Robert, Called to Care: Biblical Images for Social Ministry (Augsburg Fortress, 1991). Treating the whole of Scripture, Kysar forges the connections between the practice of social ministry and the biblical images undergirding and motivating that ministry. Social ministry is more than charity: It wrestles with the very structures and systems that deprive and oppress. This book examines not only the usual “justice” texts but also those that seem to counter this position and shows how the bible addresses practical, contemporary concerns and fears.
Lewis, Robert, The Church of Irresistible Influence (Zondervan, 2001). Today, “instead of turning the world upside-down, we’ve largely turned it off” writes Robert Lewis. “We have a choice. We can maintain our trajectory and descend into irrelevance. Or we can reclaim the irresistible influence of a church vitally connected with God, each other, and the world around us.” This book helps congregations explore their ministry options. Written from a conservative evangelical perspective, but has many thought-provoking questions and inspiring stories to facilitate congregational and community change.
Longacre, Doris Janzen, Living More With Less (Kitchener, ON: Herald Press 1980). From the Mennonite tradition, Longarce provides practical guidance for simple living that honours the call of Christian stewardship of the earth, offering chapters on money, clothing, homes, homekeeping, transportation and travel, celebrations, recreation, meetinghouses, eating together, and strengthening each other.
Payne, Ruby & Ehlig, Bill, What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty (RFT Publishing Co., 1999) This handy 126-page book (plus additional pages for appendixes and bibliography) is a great tool to use with your parishioners who are serving in your social ministries. Down-to-earth, practical, and reader-friendly, the deals with topics that are common as well as subjects that might get overlooked in any orientation or training for social action.
Sider, Ron, Churches that Make a Difference (Baker Book House, 2002) Is your church meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of your community? Churches That Make a Difference explores the biblical mandate and how-to’s of developing and maintaining an effective holistic ministry that combines evangelism and social outreach. This comprehensive resource will help your congregation embrace change, resolve conflict, and overcome social barriers. This volume is the practical application of his earlier theological book Good News and Good Works. Use the evaluations and assessments included to take your church beyond the mere facts-and into a lifechanging outreach of holistic ministry.
Sjogren, Steve and Janie, 101 Ways to Help People in Need (Navpress 2002). This little book has many good ideas for congregations wanting to reach out to help people in need but don’t know where to begin. Steve Sjogren is a Lutheran trained Vineyard pastor who has effectively integrated a compassion component to his church’s evangelism ministry. This isn’t a book on advocacy but provides immensely practical and creative ways for congregations to reach out to people with physical, emotional, and relational needs – at the local, as well as national and global levels.
_______, Good News and Good Works: A Theology of the Whole Gospel (Baker Book House: 1999). Is someone in your congregation telling you that religion and social action don’t mix? Or has another person saying that social action and evangelism are divorced from each other? Ron Sider has met the same attitudes. In this volume he addresses the need for a holistic ministry in today’s churches where justice issues and evangelism flow into each other into one unified proclamation of the gospel. Sider is an evangelical and his primary audience is that community, so many of his conclusions may unsettle some mainline Lutherans. But he offers an excellent call to justice for all Christians.
________, Rich Christians in and Age of Hunger (Word Publishing: 1997 [20th Anniversary Ed.]) This classic text caused quite a stir when it was first released in 1981. Sider indicts western affluent Christians who ignore the cries of the poor. His treatment is solidly biblical and profoundly prophetic. A must read for all Christians to hear this message whether they want to or not.
Zorilla, Hugo, The Good News of Justice – Share the Gospel: Live Justly (Herald Press: 1999) In the biblical model, evangelism and justice walk hand in hand. Zorilla shows why following Jesus means that Christians should do both. He shows that God’s justice makes provision for the good news of wholeness in Christ. The good news rings true when Christians live justly.
Volume 4 in the “Peace and Justice Series.”Sine, Tom, Mustard Seed Versus McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future (Baker Books, 1999) Sine challenges both individual Christians and congregations to commit to “whole life Christianity” because most Christians have “compartmentalized” the faith. He blames Plato’s dualism and the Constantinian church for the lack of commitment that traditional church structures had fostered. He says that looking at the fulfillment of the Christian life as Heavenly bliss removes human responsibility to this world. While all this has been said many times and by many other writers, his primary audience is the evangelical world that might find his words challenging. For us in the so-called “mainline” churches his words are a powerful reminder of human response to grace. Excellent social analysis and practical examples. One of the best books of this type that I have ever read.