an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: Homelessness

On the Cost of War: A Demonstration of Extreme Love and Loyalty at Great Cost

A recent trilogy of Rough Translation podcasts tells an amazing story of two people who make great sacrifices. I was struck by the display of the often unseen cost of war and violence and by the great display of love demonstrated by one who joined in with the sacrifice of a hurting veteran for whom she grew to care a great deal. There are many dimensions to the story and its implications; I’m still processing. The humanity, vulnerability, loyalty, love, sacrifice…

Here are links to the three podcast episodes that tell this story. They are worth your time. Beware if you are squeamish; the first episode tells the story of terrible injury and suffering in war.

  1. Battle Rattle
  2. Battle Lines
  3. Battle Bourne

God is at work in Long Beach (written for Kingdom Causes December 2011 Blog Post)

God is at work in Long Beach. That’s my theory. It’s more than an intellectual thing, actually – it’s a belief. Tied in with my belief in God and trust in Jesus to be one of his children is the sense that God is at work in this world where he has put us. The times we live in here in Long Beach are alive with His purpose and meaning. I believe, in fact that the times are pregnant.

When God called me and my wife Susie to Long Beach to serve, we didn’t want to come. God took it all (graciously) in good humor and told us to come anyway, a small-time Mosaic moment. (No bushes were burned in the making of this life…) Within weeks of arriving, God confirmed to us that he was moving in this place. He had plans for Long Beach, and we were here to be with him in those plans. At that time, the sense of the moment seemed that it was a time of preparation – a now but not yet. It was not, to continue using biblical terms, the fullness of time. It was more like the times were pregnant.

We were new to Long Beach and to ministry. There wasn’t much money – not just in the church, but in the neighborhood! I worked outside the church to make a living, driving daily to an office up the South Bay curve in the LAX area. We were blessed with many Khmer friends as the church grew. Babies were born, including a son for us: Samuel (heard of God) to add to the two we brought with us, Laura and Benjamin. With many other babies and their parents an historic downtown church came to life. Resurrection. Family. This year the church is 123 years old and younger than ever, perhaps.

A man who met Jesus at this church before moving away in 1961 dropped by yesterday. With tears in his eyes he told me that he became child of God here and that this church had taught him how to follow Jesus (back when I was being physically born). He said it had been a good life with Jesus these past 50 years since he left. He sought me out to tell me these things. Then he walked away. An unexpected messenger of encouragement. “This is a great thing you have going here!” He didn’t know what he would find after all these years. An unknown brother. What is God doing? It’s bigger than we know, rooted in the past, alive and growing in the present. The vain part of me wants to believe his “you” means “me”. But I know it is a great thing that God has going here in Long Beach, and it is bigger than any one local church. It is about the church of the city- all God’s people here. I am not essential to what God is doing. I am privileged to be a small part. Grace at work here.

Is God’s time of preparation in Long Beach moving into fullness? I think it is. A time of action for God’s people in Long Beach is being born. I think a foreshadowing of that action began in the past year. God’s people did something. It crossed church boundaries. It connected to what city government and non-profits were doing to help move homeless folk into housing. More than just housing, it moved a number of those homeless folk into regular connections with caring communities of God’s people. Being downtown, I have a lot of homeless neighbors and friends. I don’t want to overstate a small beginning, but what happened with this project was remarkable. Government and community leaders cooperated with churches to do an effective work with dozens of the most at-risk homeless people in the downtown area. Church teams provided furniture and friendship to people moving from the street into housing. More than this, the tone of how we work together in the city changed. God’s name and the body of Christ was respected in ways that I have not before seen in my time in Long Beach. We – God’s people – worked together in a way that was good for the city, good for homeless folks, and good for us. I have to say, it seemed literally miraculous to me. Hope. A new birth? How do we feed THIS baby? Is it, in God’s time, the beginning of a season of action? If it is, this effort is not the fullness of that action. It is a beginning – perhaps the first child of a new time in God’s plan for his people and Long Beach.

Where am I going with this? Allow me to suggest that you ask yourself a question. What would your community’s reaction be if your church disappeared? People, buildings, programs… everything. Gone. Who would notice? What would their reaction be? Would it be perceived as a loss or as a gain? Would anyone notice at all? What would be the reaction of our city – Long Beach – if God’s people were removed? I’m not talking end times theology. I’m talking practical display of God’s character, purpose and glory through the life of the body of Christ in our city. How will they see His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Jesus, walking around in Long Beach? We need to be that glory. It’s how we grow up and give birth to new life. We are called. Who will answer?

Do you guys have a written policy for your mercy ministry? Do you have anything that explains your process or exceptions concerning helping people in need?

Someone recently (late 2011) wrote me and asked this question. This is a slightly edited version of what I said. Think of it as a description rather than a prescription.

Actually, we do not have any official written policy. We are not primarily a service agency or mercy ministry; we just have lots of neighbors with many needs. I can explain my perspective on how we informally operate after a few decades of being a church in this neighborhood. We intentionally leave a lot to the judgment of those who are ministering. It’s about personal relationships, not institutional services.

In practice, the help we give fits one of two categories. One is exceptional help for people in a circumstance where they are caught short or need help getting back to stability. This might be in the form of helping with a bill, “loaning” a security deposit, or helping to keep someone from being evicted when it looks like they’ll be able to cover their rent in the future. The idea is that we are not seeking to create a dependency situation wherein someone looks to us to maintain their regular living expenses; but we are willing to help with exceptional circumstances. This usually happens through someone spending some significant time getting to know the person and their circumstances. Occasionally we will help with a one-time expense without knowing the person too well; it is a
judgment call.

The second category is the people who just never seem to get their act together (or are simply unable to get it together). With them, it is a few dollars at a time for food or whatever over a longer period of time. This one is handled on a much more personal level. That is, it is not church money. It is personal money that doesn’t go through any church account, though we do share information so that people are not “double dipping”. We help one another when one of us is tapped out. We also do not encourage people in the church to step into this role unless we think they are ready. Getting ready involves gaining experience by watching more experienced folks handle this sort of thing and talking it over. Fred Newkirk is freer with his dollars than anyone else around here; but he is also
much more gifted at ministering through the interaction that goes along with being in that role. And, he is the exception in that it is not always personal money with him; donors give money for this ministry when they can. There’s a lot to talk about there. The rest of us are more limited in what we do with this role. We need to know the person pretty well and understand their situation and
think it is a good idea to help them.

Or (to people who come to the church and ask for financial help), I might say something like “We are a church, and we are here to help people follow Christ. If we get to know you well, we will naturally be involved in your life in deeper ways to help you follow him. But if the only time I see you again is for you to ask me for more money, the second or third time the answer will be no.” I might well give a small amount of assistance if I have it. Then I have to be able to remember people who test me.

Overall, my goal is God’s glory. That glory is often reflected through his people. When Christians have the reputation of being less generous than the average person on the street, then we have a problem. Jesus said to give to those who ask, so I usually do when I have it within what I explained above. If the amount is an amount that impacts what I know God has given me to do in my life (like pay the bills to keep my family fed and warm), then I don’t have it to give. The truth is that I could say yes to a lot of people who ask me for spare change or a dollar without it impacting my life measurably; it doesn’t happen THAT often. I know the common wisdom is never to give money. I know that people sometimes use money they get from us to feed their sin. However, when they are ready to do serious spiritual business, they go back to the people from whom they experienced generosity rather than the people from whom they experienced judgment. That doesn’t mean I hand over money to the alcoholic breathing vodka into my face when he asks for spare change. There’s judgement and a prayerful attitude involved to make it work. It’s not easy.

For a much more thorough background, I highly recommend When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett.

Independence and Community

Recent experience has reminded me again of a difficult issue. The issue is independence. And how independence intersects with community. Americans, and perhaps westerners in general, value independence. We expect people to “pull their own weight” – to “contribute to society”. And there is merit in that, dignity even. Of course, we make exceptions. We make exceptions for the very young, the disabled, and sometimes for the elderly.

We also make exceptions for the healthy. Sometimes these exceptions are damaging and symptomatic of unhealthy relationships. The fashionable term for these exceptions is “co-dependency”. My point here is not to define this term or explain how to identify when relationships are unhealthy, but rather to note that there are dependency relationships that are unhealthy, and in what I write I am not intending to defend these. It is also my point to say that there are many types of dependency that are healthy, rewarding, and integral to healthy family and community relationships. I am dependent on my wife for many things; I love her and I love our relationship. I would not describe our dependence upon one another as unhealthy or undesirable. It is mutual and good for us both.

The difficult issue is that there are many members of our communities that are deeply dependent on others to live a reasonably healthy and constructive life. This is particularly true in urban areas of Long Beach where there are many group homes and sober-living homes. Many people are dependent in ways that are exceptional or even demanding – sometimes very demanding. This dependency is not balanced. That is, if I am engaged in a relationship with one of these people, I apparently have to give much more than I can ever hope to receive in return. When this imbalance becomes too pronounced or “unprofitable”, it seems that human nature is to cut the relationship off. It’s too much trouble.

Let me give an example or two. There are people with emotional or mental health issues that are very difficult. They are in some way “out of control.” They have difficulty with normal life choices. They are a drain on family and acquaintances. In our ministry at LBFC, we encounter many marginalized people, often homeless, who might meet this description. (Note that word: “marginalized”!) These days, reaching out to the homeless and otherwise needy is “in”. The pattern usually goes like this. A person wants to get involved. They reach out. They discover that a relationship with the person to whom they are reaching out is costly, particularly in time and emotional resources. The first instinct is to work with the person to help them get treatment or training that will enable them to become more self-sufficient. There is a flurry of activity as the marginalized person finds someone who will pay attention to them. This flurry of activity gradually dies down as the well-meaning one who is reaching out concludes either (1) “this person is never going to be independent and I am in over my head!” or (2) “it is going to take a long time and a lot of effort to sort through the problems in this person’s life”. Discouragement sets in. Expectations go unmet on both sides of the relationship, and it fades or crashes.

The (non)solution that our society has adopted is to institutionalize relationships that the “normal” members of society find inconvenient. Mental illness. Homelessness. Unemployment. Criminals. Too often we pay people to keep them from disturbing the rest of us. For good reasons, one of the goals of these institutional relationships is to help the inconvenient person to at least become able to live “on their own” and to function as a “normal” part of society as much as possible. One possible advantage to this is that institutional relationships can be professionalized. Sometimes there are real advantages in this, but I question whether professionalized relationships can ever replace authentic community. (There are institutions that are making a valiant effort at this, with some success. But ask them about budget…)

I also question if professionals can devote the time needed to each relationship. While I’m not the person with the most capacity for this, I can say that I find these relationships very draining. It is hard to manage more than a very few of them at a time, and I need support for even that. Most professionals I know have a case load that leaves minutes per week for each inconvenient relationship. It is possible to make trade-offs and increase here and decrease there, and sometimes effort is valiant. However, if it takes a village to raise a child, how many does it take to “raise” one of these inconvenient ones? What if they don’t show up when scheduled and must be pursued?

It seems to me that there are more than a few people in our society who will never really be “independent” in the way that we hope everyone can be. There are others who can be, but the relational cost to get there will be very high – effort measured in man-years. Our society is generally not willing to foot this kind of cost when it comes to paying professionals. I’m not convinced that it should, if this is a way to avoid personal responsibility for inconvenient community. Whatever you did for the least of these…

In a talk from a recent TED conference, Nicholas Christakis discussed social networks. He ends his talk with “social networks are fundamentally related to goodness, and what the world needs now is more connections”. And that’s just for us regular folks. Where is the church – where are Christians – when there is so much need for community? Where am I?

Many of us live in neighborhoods where the inconvenient are not allowed. NIMBY. In my uncharitable moments I think these should be called “goat neighborhoods”. Goaterhoods? (Is this griping? Or prophetic? Perhaps some of both.) Sometimes it just gets to be too dark for me. I’m looking at the problem, and not lifting my eyes to the Giver of hope and strength.

The cost of community is high. It is not convenient. Giving is, well… giving. And yet, the act of loving others is ultimately life-giving. It changes me. It breaks me. It’s a kind of death. I don’t always like it… Let me rephrase. I don’t like it when I am called to love others… again, and again, and again… seemingly without end. I need breaks. I have to get away and re-charge. Will it always be this way?

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

The Christian life is not a quiet escape…

As quoted by James Calvin Schaap in The Professor’s Death Song,” Books & Culture, Eugene Peterson wrote the following comment on the Christian life while considering Psalm 121:

The Christian life is not a quiet escape to a garden where we can walk and talk uninterruptedly with our Lord; not a fantasy trip to a heavenly city where we can compare our blue ribbons and gold medals with others who have made it to the winner’s circle. The Christian life is going to God. In going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop the same stores, read the same newspapers, are citizens under the same governments, pay the same prices for groceries and gasoline, fear the same dangers, are subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, are buried in the same ground.

The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from evil, he will keep our life

I recommend James Calvin Schaap’s article also. Here. It’s a challenging statement of grace.

Ruminating… (Read that article first.) I have friends who are on Megan’s list. Another friend served 30 years for rape. Sometimes grace is hard to find. I can’t say I went out looking for friends with backgrounds like these. What can I say? I value the friend but would prefer their baggage to go away? Probably true. Tax collectors and sinners. Rapists? Shudder.

While I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s comment very much, I wonder if I actually agree with it, literally speaking. I mean, I agree with his point. But I wonder if Christians are called not just to walk the same ground as everyone else, but to seek out those who inhabit the ground where grace is most needed. Walk where no one else wants to tread. As a famous teacher once said, …not my will, but yours.”

Ever been asked for spare change?

A friend of mine was recently in Houston. His report:

A street person asked me for change. I asked him if he could direct me to the best nearby restaurants. He knew every one, but confided that the cafeteria in the Presbyterian Hospital had the best deals. I gave him $5.

This is magnificent! Exchange. Dignity. Wow.

Gerald May on Addiction, God, and Human Freedom

Addiction cannot be defeated by the human will acting on its own, nor by the human will opting out and turning everything over to divine will. Instead, the power of grace flows most fully when human will chooses to act in harmony with divine will. In practical terms, the means staying in a situation, being willing to confront it as it is, remaining responsible for the choices one makes in response to it, but at the same time turning to God’s grace, protection, and guidance as the ground for one’s choices and behavior. It is the difference between testing God by avoiding one’s own responsibilities and trusting God as one acts responsibly. Responsible human freedom thus becomes authentic spiritual surrender, and authentic spiritual surrender is nothing other than responsible human freedom. Here, in the condition of humble dignity, the power of addiction can be overcome.

Addiction and Grace; Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions

Dignity and God’s Glory

It seems nearly impossible for people from conventional backgrounds, particularly Christians, in my experience, to approach those who are homeless or otherwise in unconventional circumstances without trying to “fix them”. It seems that we are afflicted with a desire to play God for other human beings. Watch the movie The Soloist for a great depiction of the temptation and where it leads. The book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert has an excellent section covering this topic.

In our ministry at LBFC, we are committed to the idea that every person deserves to be treated with dignity. People are not primarily a target for our evangelism. We love to introduce people to Jesus, and are outspoken in pointing to Jesus; but it is all too easy to objectify people, carving notches on our Bibles when we get them to “pray the prayer”. God forbid that we treat people with anything less than authenticity. People on the street are accustomed to being herded and disrespected by those who represent authority (which includes pretty much anyone who is not on the street too). We must intentionally establish relationships of a nature that allow authentic exchange. Frankly, while I’m glad to share the gospel when the opportunity arises, I do not usually ask people if they want to make a commitment to Christ until we’ve come to a place in the relationship where I feel as though the person will be able to respond truthfully, having some idea of who I am and why I think this is important. Par for the course in Christian ministry to the homeless is that the homeless know they need to “pray the prayer” in order to access resources from Christians who favor those who cooperate in their evangelism efforts.

We simply must not see people as primarily objects of our improvement efforts. To think in these terms is to assume a superior position that is not worthy of the king who washed his disciples’ feet, and called us to follow him. Human beings are created in the image of God. They are inherently worthy of respectful and dignified treatment because they bear his image, however tarnished. It is tarnished in me, too! People on the street need real friendship, not co-dependency or pandering or condescension.

What are some common big mistakes?

Number One. The most pervasive and pernicious mistake that Christians make is to expect dramatic change in a short period of time. Yes, it is true that God can do miracles and there can be changes “overnight”. However, even in those who trust him, it seems more often that God works through normal human relationships of honest caring over extended periods of time to build people to be like Christ. God created families for a reason. The family is the primary setting for socialization and discipleship. It is where we learn the skills, values, and habits that are vital to healthy relationships. When a man or woman has lived a life without the shaping that comes from a healthy family – or even worse, has been deeply scarred by an abusive family – the void or damage does not evaporate overnight. Instead, what has been lacking must be replaced by constructive and formative relational experiences – family and community experiences. This shaping takes years in a normal family. Why would we expect it to take less when undertaken at a later age after years of scarring? (Think of the advantages of learning a language while young…)

Number Two. We like to play God. We don’t think of it that way, but that’s what we do. I have my act together; you do not. Let me help you. I’ll take over your life (at least the important parts) and (perhaps) let you have them back when you are ready. In truth, hardly anyone would say this so bluntly – but we act like it is what we believe. In truth, this is playing God. In truth, we who feel superior are broken people who are not qualified to run even our own lives, let alone someone else’s. If we do not acknowledge this reality, we will hurt ourselves and others when we try to “help”. The book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert has an excellent section covering this topic.

That’s not all, but that’s enough for now. Pray for me to avoid these pitfalls.

Four Reviews at Barclay Press

I reviewed four books a few years back. The reviews were done for Barclay Press, but are no longer available on the Barclay Press website (as of August, 2015). Having had some requests to be able to read them, I put them here. The four books are Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps from a Better World by Mae Elise Cannon, Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh & John Perkins, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor by Robert D. Lupton, and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor – and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert.

These four books all approach the issue of social justice. However, they are intended for very different audiences. Charles Marsh and John Perkins write to motivate. This book is intended as a call to Christians and churches to the social justice movement. It does this by telling stories and weaving a vision of the kingdom that Jesus announced. Because of this, it is also useful in gaining some historical appreciation.

Mae Elise Cannon writes to gather a wide range of useful information in one place so that it can be used by those who are seeking to increase awareness of social justice issues in their typical American church. It is full of references to other resources, a veritable tour guide of the social justice landscape in America.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert write for those who are convinced that they need to help the poor. It is a primer to convey best practice and ideas to practitioners in the hope that the same old mistakes that everyone seems to make can be avoided. Read this book if you are getting involved in ministry to the poor.

Robert Lupton writes out of his decades of experience in community building in Atlanta. The lessons he has learned are invaluable. This book is useful for practitioners and decision makers. It is also useful for Christians who want to understand why urban communities are often not happy with churches and service providers for the poor that locate in their neighborhoods.

All four are recommended for those to whom they are addressed. See my more detailed comments on each for more detailed information.

Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor
by Robert D. Lupton

This is a book about community development. It is not really a book about ministry to the poor as you may have experienced it. It is, in fact, a strong argument that community development is the best way to minister to the poor. The book distills practical lessons learned in the author’s experience at FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta. Lupton is associated with Christian community development as practiced by CCDA organizations. (CCDA stands for Christian Community Development Association.) This book grew out of his efforts to explain the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude displayed by urban neighborhoods when a ministry desires to move in. Places where social services are offered and even churches (if they are commuter churches) are not necessarily assets in developing a community, from his perspective. Lupton explains that he is a community developer first and a social service provider second. He desires that Christians would advocate for both the community and the most vulnerable at the same time, finding a balance that serves the interests of both. It seems like this book is his attempt to say that, generally speaking, community development is the best social service that can be offered. (Those are my words; I don’t recall him ever saying it exactly that way.)

The book is organized in a logical fashion, laying groundwork in the earlier parts for the later parts. There are four main sections in the book following a forward by John Perkins and an introduction by the author; each section has several chapters. Each chapter is a very quick read, but deserves time for reflection, particularly if the concepts and ideas Lupton presents are new to you.

Part 1 – What’s Wrong with this Picture

There are tough issues to face when it comes to helping those called in scripture “the least of these.” Part one explores some of these issues and challenges assumptions that hinder a biblical approach. This part of the book establishes essential principles for working with the poor, giving the biblical basis for each.

The most unexpected chapter for some will be the chapter on community churches. Challenging the prevailing trend toward commuter churches, Lupton considers the impact such churches have on communities in which they locate and the greater loss of community in American society that is reflected in the church at large. The combination of practical experience and scriptural teaching is a powerful witness that should be heeded. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Part 2 – Is it Time to Consider a Change?

“Doing for others what they can do for themselves is charity at its worst.” This section explores how to serve those who are poor in ways that avoid damaging the poor and their community. A dominant theme of this part of the book is the idea of exchange. Exchange, as Lupton describes it, is a way of establishing dignity for those who are assisted by offering goods that help the poor in exchange for some sort of payment they can afford. In addition, by having an appropriate price, many common problems associated with giving away goods are avoided.

One chapter considers the merit of “doing good” in the form of various free types of assistance, and again compares these to mechanisms considered better by Lupton. In my experience, Lupton is surely on to something important when he says “when our feeding programs value order and efficiency over the messiness of personal involvement, good has become the enemy of best.” The idea of exchange and setting up systems of exchange promotes this ideal more effectively than giving things away, generally speaking.

Lupton includes a chapter in which he advocates the ideal of mixed income housing (as opposed to exclusively low-income housing), drawing from his own painful past experience. This is a foreshadowing of what he has to say in part 4. He goes on to describe instances of commuter churches that find themselves in conflict with the communities in which their facilities are located. Lupton disdains parking lots that are empty six days out of seven as a poor use of community real estate.

The last chapter in part 2 discusses the pitfalls of having a “servant attitude.” Too often, what is intended to be serving others is embodied in a form that says “I know better than you what you need.” It becomes “parental” (my word) or one-sided rather than embodying the ideal of exchange among partners with equal responsibilities to the community. Domination and control characterize the ragged death-dealing end of this spectrum of how it is possible to “serve.” Another dark side of “serving” is the commercialization of helping the poor. Lupton does not use this term, but here in my neighborhood certain “helpers” are known as the “homeless pimps.” This is the reputation one gains in the community when it is clear that one is helping others with the root motivation to gain financially for oneself.

In contrast, “Friends are people who know each other, who care, respect, struggle and are committed through time.” In friendship, “we” are in this together. Those called into the community by God form solidarity with the indigenous residents of the community, working together. I cannot begin to emphasize enough how important are the concepts taught in this section of the book for Christians who feel like they should get involved in working with the poor and broken. (For a fuller treatment of this issue, see When Helping Hurts.)

Part 3 – Toward Responsible Charity

This portion of Lupton’s book is key to his thinking; the introduction to it summarizes important ideas in just a few sentences. Quoting: “Everyone must pull his own weight. That is the key to responsible charity – which is not to say that everyone has equal capacity – just equal responsibility. When individuals, like communities, assume responsibility for their own destiny, when they abandon self-pity, self-indulgence and blame to face the hard work of building (or rebuilding) their lives, they have taken a giant step toward health.” The first chapter in Part 3 explains and amplifies these ideas, and the later chapters work out their implications in a process that leads to a community development paradigm. The strength of these chapters is in how Lupton walks the reader through the circumstances and reasoning from where everyone seems to start to end in understanding the need for development.

Part 4 – Final Thoughts

Part 4 takes up the topic of gentrification. “Gentrification with justice – that’s what is needed to restore health to our urban neighborhoods.” Gentrification, for those unsure of the term, is the trend toward moving into and restoring urban property by the middle-classes. It is a broad demographic movement of wealth back into the centers of U.S cities, re-making them in the pattern of most world cities, where wealth is concentrated in the center of the city and the poor are pushed to the periphery. Lupton views gentrification as the reality to be faced in American cities. What are the implications of gentrification for community development in the inner city?

Lupton believes gentrification is a trend that will come and that cannot be resisted. His reaction? Make the best of it. Even more, he believes that the influx of new residents with means and education is necessary to rebuild inner-city communities. He may be right, though I am attracted to a paradigm of community-building from within. The problem with my preferred approach is that gentrification is a trend that gives every appearance of building steam, give or take a recession or two. Start making an inner city neighborhood safer and better to live in, and people will move in from outside. Lupton’s acceptance of the new reality and advice on how to live and work justly in the new gentrification environment is invaluable, whether I like the phenomenon or not!

Lupton does more than submit to gentrification, however. He also offers good advice on how to work for justice in the face of this new reality. Those looking at the future of ministry to the poor should, I believe, pay careful attention. The face of inner-city ministry is changing and will change much more in the years ahead. How should Christians work for justice as gentrification takes place? This section of the book is a good resource from someone with long experience, intellectual capacity, and a desire to be faithful. As usual, Lupton is not just talking theory; he’s speaking from hard-won experience and the perspective gained from past mistakes.

Lupton closes his writing with a challenge to the entrepreneurs and business leaders among Christians. Good! And yet… there is something that bothers me in this. I’ve learned from experience and had confirmed to me through my interaction with other CCDA practitioners the value of building a community over time with some influx of people called to the work, but more importantly through building up the indigenous young generation over time to be the core of the new, developing community. I treasure this idea as a practical reality! In this challenge I perceive an edge of “they can’t do it without you” that goes down like dry dust. But don’t let that keep you from this book.

I suppose, being a Quaker from long-time Quaker roots that the utopian ideal of building a new and just community came in my DNA. Quakers in the U.S. have a long history of moving (mostly westward) and starting new communities: building towns and schools. Let’s get it right this time! The ironic truth is that this has mostly been accomplished by people moving to an area for a new community. However, my call has been to build a new community in the inner city, raising up a new generation of leaders as the foundation for that community. The thought of materialistic “heathens” from the ‘burbs moving in and messing with that community is not a thought I relish. (How selfish is that? Pretty selfish, I suppose. Thank God He is in charge.)

Lupton’s book embodies so much valuable hands-on experience at community development that ignoring the lessons he has learned would be foolish in the extreme. And yet, it seems to me that there is a focus on the techniques and idea of development that leaves some important relational realities unaddressed. This criticism is, I think, more a reflection of what I value than any failed intention of Robert D. Lupton. Lupton does a great job of introducing the essential ideas and gives them good traction through real-life examples. Please read this book if you are thinking of getting involved in ministry to the poor, particularly if you will be working as a community developer.

Be warned. The temptation for those new to this type of work may well be to jump right to the final stage of development. Lupton describes a process that starts by moving into a community and working in fairly traditional ways and eventually led to a community development approach. I do not believe this is an accident. There is a learning process that not just the incoming workers in a new location go through, but that a community must go through. Surely there is benefit to knowing the destination before you start the journey; but knowing the destination does not substitute for the journey. I am learning the virtue of allowing those whom God has called to a work to go through the stages of learning that lead to mature ministry. There is no need to take what we know to be a mistaken approach or let others make obvious mistakes. There is, however, a need to work in a community and earn trust and establish context and understanding and trust through which the more difficult tasks of community development can be undertaken. Sometimes that trust is earned by allowing the learning process to take its natural course.

The last section of the book is an appendix in which is reprinted a CCDA article by Wayne Gordon. Gordon is another leader with decades of experience in faithful obedience to a call from God to an impoverished community in Lawndale, Illinois. Lawndale is on Chicago’s west side, and has now reached legendary status in Christian community development circles. Read this section of the book. Digest it. Read it again. Get the audio from a CCDA conference workshop where Wayne Gordon or John Perkins explains these principles and listen to it. They are right on target! This is vital information.

The title of the appendix is The Eight Components of Christian Community Development. The eight components are:
1. Relocation: Living Among the People
2. Reconciliation: to God, to People
3. Redistribution
4. Leadership Development
5. Listening to Community
6. Church-based Community Development
7. A Wholistic Approach
8. Empowerment

You can guess at the fleshed out explanation of the components from their titles, but don’t. Take time to study this core philosophy of Christian Community Development. It has been developed through decades of experience and serious engagement with Jesus’ teaching. The information in this appendix article is also available online at the CCDA website. CCDA is the organization that brings together the best Christian practitioners in this area of ministry.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor – and Yourself
by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Who should read this book? This book is written for those who are preparing to do something about poverty. It is not a “call to arms.” So, if you want to be convinced of the need to do something, look elsewhere. If that works for you and you become motivated, then come back to this one! This book is written in response to the armies of Christians marching out to “do something about poverty” at home and abroad. Often, these efforts end up hurting those who go and those they intend to help. Let me make the premise perfectly clear: well-meaning, highly-committed, highly-motivated, Bible-believing Christians jump into efforts intended to help those in poverty and end up hurting themselves and those they intended to help. If you question that premise, this book is for you. If you know that this premise to be true, and want some practical help making sure that you actually help others in need, this book is for you.

The book opens with a forward by John Perkins, founder of CCDA. The forward is followed by an introduction that explains how to use the book and gives references to other materials and resources.

The book is written specifically for “North American congregations” who are getting increasingly involved with poverty alleviation and who are often without experience in wise practice. Corbett and Fikkert point out that the methods often used by North Americans to alleviate poverty actually make worse the situation of those that we intend to help.

The main body of the book consists of three parts:
1. Foundational Concepts for Helping without Hurting
2. General Principles for Helping without Hurting
3. Practical Strategies for Helping without Hurting

Each part consists of three chapters. Each chapter includes an exercise to be done before reading it and another to be done after reading it; there are also some extended exercises between chapters. This is a great book to use in a class or small group setting. It is not intended to be read quickly. Rather, it should be read over an extended time, carefully considering as they are presented the concepts and approaches necessary to help alleviate poverty without hurting those we intend to help. Working through this book with others to promote discussion would be ideal.

In part one, Corbett and Fikkert establish foundational concepts. To start: Why did Jesus come to earth? The authors consider the answer given by 99% of evangelicals and contrast it with what Jesus had to say about himself and his mission. This is a core issue that leads to a consideration of the mission of the church. The rest of the book rests on how this question is answered, and answering this question is an exercise for the first chapter. The result, biblically speaking: There should be no poor among you.

Continuing their war on poverty alleviation ignorance, Corbett and Fikkert ask: “What is poverty?” Ask the poor, and you get a different answer than if you ask those with resources and wealth. The difference is telling, and has deep implications for efforts to alleviate poverty. “Shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, voicelessness” – these are the words used by poor people to describe what poverty is like. Those in poverty experience a loss of self-determination, meaning, purpose, and hope. Ask a North American, even one involved in efforts to alleviate poverty, and you will nearly always hear a very different answer. Hmmm. Seems like a problem.

Taking Bryant Myers’ model for the fundamental realities embodied in persons created by a relational God, the authors explain a biblical framework for understanding poverty in terms of one’s relationships with God, oneself, others, and the rest of creation. Because of the Fall, these relationships are broken. Poverty is the result of these broken relationships; the absence of shalom in all of its fullness. For poverty to be alleviated, the broken relationships must be addressed. This book is intended to be worked through in sequence, its wisdom discovered and processed through interaction with others, contrasting preconceptions with the insight brought to bear by the authors as one works through its pages. It would not be a service to readers for me to give out samples of the hard-found wisdom embodied in this book in a way that undermined this process. Yet samples at a big-box warehouse store are intended to whet one’s appetite for the whole package, so to that end we will turn.

It is a major premise of this book that those who attempt to work with low-income people without realizing their own brokenness will do more harm than good. Any sense of superiority or reaching down from on high to help the lowly poor will result in harm to oneself and harm to those one is attempting to help. This reviewer will go so far as to question the whole idea of “help” as though some humans had the upper hand over others – this upper hand being demonstrated by one’s economic status. Those of us who are rich often come with a “god complex” to which we are blind – deceived by the evil one. We increase the sense of inferiority and shame endemic to poverty with our “I am superior” attitude. I literally shudder at how easily we fall into this self-deception! The result of approaching relationship in this way is harm to oneself and to others.

What to do? Fortunately, this book goes a long way toward helping to increase awareness of these problems. The real-life examples that are analyzed for more than “feel good” moments are very good, and well-presented. The authors understand the problems of hurting more than helping quite well and present them in a very effective manner. Please read this book if you are considering an effort to alleviate poverty and are not already well-versed in these issues. Let me say again: be really sure you understand what the authors of this book are trying to convey before you harm yourself and others in your poverty-alleviation effort.

The rest of the book lays out general principles and practical strategies for helping without hurting. These principles are good, time-tested, and will hold up in real life. I highly recommend this book. In fact, I have given away so many copies to my friends who are engaged in this sort of work that I’ve had a hard time keeping my hands on a copy long enough to complete this review! There are a lot of books out there, but I know of no other book that will serve as a better introduction to these concepts and get you started more accurately in a good direction. No book will substitute for experience, and you will make mistakes anyway, but if you heed the teaching of this book you will make fewer mistakes and learn more quickly.

So, is the book perfect? No. There is a tendency to almost a legalism about avoiding certain types of action that might make even cast Jesus as a “law-breaker” if taken too literally. Nearly every “rule of thumb” that I’ve ever been given for working with the poor is broken by someone who works effectively with the poor. Those in this book, though well-motivated, are no different. The concepts are right on target. The problems they identify are real, and pressing. The principles for application are excellent. However, they are not a substitute for Jesus’ heart and an active desire to glorify God as you communicate his love to other human beings. I’m sure the authors would say they never intended the principles they teach as such a substitute. Yes. It’s just so very easy to believe that we have this all figured out and thereby start yet another sort of “god complex.” It’s easy to be about being effective at “helping” and skip the vital relationships through which life flows – both ways.

I have this one little part of my soul that still aches after reading recent books on poverty, compassion, and helping – including this one. The trend these days is to take a pretty strong position on the idea of development as being superior to relief. That is entirely understandable, correct – even commendable. I support this trend. We as humans and we as the church have erred in this so many times and for so long, bringing relief in a way that hurts those in poverty when development is needed, that serious corrective action is needed. I see the terrible results of this daily. And yet… there are those who will not be helped by development efforts that are economically justified. There are those so broken that one must pour out hundreds of hours of love and dignity to maybe see just a glimmer of hope. Even then, the prospect of a “return” on one’s “investment” seems dim. (See how evil we are, that we think in these terms?) Who we really are in Christ is revealed by how we handle relationships in which we have nothing to gain. Do we do what we do to get credit for a good deed or to feel good about how much difference we have made? The hard truth is that there are some who are unlikely to be restored to anything resembling wholeness and Shalom in this life. It’s easy to be caught up in visibly helping when you can see that you have made a difference, because it is rewarding. What about those other times – those other people? “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

I don’t think the authors of the book would disagree with what I write; I intend not criticism of the book but a warning against a particular attitude. I suppose that is a subject for a different time. If you’re going to get involved in helping to alleviate poverty at home or abroad, study this book first. Please.

Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community
by Charles Marsh & John Perkins

Who should read this book? Christians. This book is a “call to arms” for the church, advocating that the church embrace justice as essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is written in the form of alternating chapters by the two authors, each following and building on what the other has written in the preceding chapter.

1. Charles Marsh – The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement

In this chapter, Marsh sets the scene. He gives a very brief historical introduction to the civil rights movement, detailing its roots as a Christian movement. However, by 1964, the Christian foundation and essence of the movement seemed to be forgotten. The church was left behind; the spiritual vision of a redeemed society no longer seen as relevant. The remainder of this first chapter introduces John Perkins and his vision of creating beloved community. Marsh explains the “three R’s” of Relocation, Redistribution, and Reconciliation, which formed the basis of Perkins vision. (Another five principles have been added to Perkin’s original three in more recent formulations from the Christian Community Development Association, which Perkins founded.)

2. John Perkins – The Cultural Captivity of the Church

Having grown up in Mississippi, witnessed his brother’s murder, and been tortured by racist white law enforcement officers, John Perkins tells the story of going back to Mendenhall, Mississippi in response to God’s call. Perkins tells of a white pastor friend who committed suicide after his church rejected his plans to work with Perkins.

“That’s when I started to realize that the church had become captive to our culture. We’d taken the good news of God’s love that’s supposed to burn through racial and social divisions and turned it into a religion that reinforced the status quo. That’s the Christianity we’ve inherited in this country, and that what our missionaries have gone around the world preaching. We’ve over-evangelized the world too lightly, and the church has reinforced America’s problems more than we’ve given people reason to believe in something new. I started to see that in a little town in Mississippi forty years ago, and I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to preach a gospel that burns through racial and cultural barriers and reconciles people to God and one another.”

Perkins was called to preach the good news – to white people! Taking up the story, Perkins explains the effects of oppression upon black communities in America. Then, in a truly prophetic turn, Perkins explains that no one ever puts a chain on another human being without “attaching the other end to themselves.” He tells a story about a white leader told him how far we’ve come in reconciliation because his church had invited a black man to preach for the first time. Perkins: “You ought to be ashamed. After more than a hundred years your church has finally found a black man you’ll accept, and you want me to be happy about it?”

Perkins believes that discipleship must include reconciliation as an essential component.

3. Charles Marsh – The Power of True Conversion

In this chapter, Marsh tells something of his story. Marsh comes from white roots in Mississippi – the other side of the tracks from Perkins, so to speak. In 1980, after college in Massachusetts, Marsh returned south and through a sequence of events was exposed to Perkins’ writing. He arranged to meet Perkins. In a random act of reaching out in love, Perkins sends a batch of blueberries from his garden to Marsh’s grandmother, about whose racial views Marsh had been embarrassed. Through this simple act of kindness extended to his grandmother, Marsh was drawn into Perkin’s vision.

From relating this experience, Marsh moves to a call for the church to live the compelling love of Christ. “Most of my students who have left the faith have left because they have listened to Christians in hope of hearing beautiful songs and have instead heard something thin and shrill.” Ouch. Marsh seeks to spur us on towards love in action, crossing the barriers that divide us. “The existence of a compelling Christian witness in our time does not depend on our access to the White House, the size of our churches or the cultural relevance of our pastors. It depends, instead, on our ability to sing better songs with our lives.”

4. John Perkins – The Next Great Awakening

Perkins hits his stride in this chapter – and what a stride it is to behold! He begins: “The job of an evangelist is to connect God’s good news with people’s deep yearnings.” He builds. “To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ today, we’ve got to invite people into authentic relationships where they can be restored to a beloved community and work for the common good.” As Perkins preached the good news of reconciliation in one body to God and one another through Christ, I could almost hear the heavenly choir! Perkins, with the natural flow of an accomplished artist, wings his words into an invitingly beautiful tapestry revealing God’s heart for authentic relationships and community. Jesus “has destroyed every barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

After an inspiring start, Perkins draws the reader into considering Jesus’ call to “follow me.” This naturally flows into considering Jesus’ model for leadership development and a call to love one another – just as Jesus said. You really must read this book, if only for this chapter; this is the core of Perkin’s thought. I don’t suggest reading only this chapter, because it is set in an important context established by the first three chapters. I can’t say that I learned new information. But oh, the beauty of the vision Perkins sets out! It was affirming and energizing and encouraging. Inspiring!

The chapter continues with specific examples that Perkins wants to share. The examples are good, but the magic for me was in the vision spun over the first pages. If this vision excites and inspires you, then you may be cut out for ministry at the front lines in our diverse American culture – the ministry of reconciliation among the poor across the dividing lines of our society. Thank you, God, for this prophetic vision that you have given to John Perkins. Of course, as with any vision truly from our God, there are others who share it. I think it was first fleshed out for me, from the beginning yearnings that God gave, when I met and grew to know Fred Newkirk. Marsh quotes Henri de Lubac’s description of the effect saints have on us: “All of the sudden the universe seems different; it is the stage of a vast drama, and we, at its heart, are compelled to play our part.”

5. Charles Marsh – God’s Movement in the Twenty-First Century

In this chapter, Marsh attempts to build substantively on the foundation established by Perkins in chapter 4. His rehearsal of the hopes and dreams of a new generation of students and workers is competent and useful. It follows the pattern set by Perkins. However, for me, the magic captured in Perkin’s chapter evaporated. Though many signs of God’s movement in this time are listed, the descriptions seem generic, and the engaging nature of the personal stories from the earlier chapters is lost.

There are three ideas that Marsh seeks to promote in this chapter. The first is a richer understanding of the church (echoing Perkins in chapter 4). Perhaps I’ve read too many articles forecasting the soon-to-be global majority of non-white, non-Western Christians. There’s nothing particularly wrong here; but neither is anything said that isn’t said better elsewhere.

The second idea is the idea of deeper contemplation and silence. While these are familiar and valued concepts to anyone conversant in Quaker practice and thought, it was unclear how this idea flows from what came before it. I don’t doubt that this thread can be woven into the themes of this book. There are hints, most clearly in the idea of people being “fed up with words,” which can easily be linked to Perkin’s call in chapter 4. However, the connections are not clearly drawn. Instead, Marsh launches into a contemplative ideologue and leaves it to the reader to figure out what this has to do with Perkins’ call to action in addition to belief.

The third idea Marsh calls “a bolder humility.” This idea meanders into a call to the peaceable kingdom. Again, from a Quaker perspective… of course! But where did we lose all that energy that came from John Perkins tying into our deepest yearnings? Something went off track here; the compelling case is not made. The momentum of the personal stories leading to deep conviction in the gospel of Jesus Christ has dissipated.

6. John Perkins – A Time for Rebuilding

From the writing of the prophet Zechariah, whom he says “understands the problems of my neighborhood,” Perkins expounds on the specifics of what needs to be rebuilt among the poor in America. He begins with broken families. He takes on the “homogeneous unit principle.” He claims that churches have decided to outsource justice; that they are only concerned about justice “out there” somewhere – a place where one goes on a short-term mission trip, but not a part of the church’s community. He relates economic justice to peace, and challenges us to consider what the church has to offer a community in which healthy men beg on the corners. He takes on prisons and the prosperity gospel.

The contribution Perkins brings in this chapter is to highlight the fact that God has constructed the world in a certain way. If we do things according God’s plan, the problems we see will go away “naturally,” so to speak. But we do not. Perkins is not without hope even in the face of a world gone awry. There is always a remnant! And that is all we need.

Perkins eventually gets around to calling the church to develop community, which culminates in the development of leaders in place from that community; this is standard Christian community development philosophy. “Outsiders” are often called to be a part of this process, but fundamentally “indigenous leadership” must be grown over an extended period of time. In a longish list of ideas that need to be taken seriously, this is a fundamental concept, and a fitting capstone to the chapter and the book, ending where those familiar with Perkins know that he stands. I can speak from personal experience that commitment to this idea is fundamental to success in building the blessed community where there is none. There are no shortcuts.

This book is more about inspiration and story than nuts and bolts; Marsh and Perkins excel at telling the story and inspiring. When they get into nuts and bolts, the results are uneven. So, read this book for some personal context and inspiration. Turn to other books such as Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor by Robert D. Lupton or When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor – and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert for nuts and bolts.

Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps from a Better World
by Mae Elise Cannon

Micah 6:8
He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Who should read this book? This book is written for those desiring to increase awareness of social justice issues in a typical American church of the majority culture. It is not a serious how-to book for those already engaged in social justice ministry or those getting started in working with the poor. It is oriented toward being a powerful resource for Christians who are starting to build awareness of and action for social justice in American churches. In this, it succeeds. Mae Elise Cannon has done a great service in gathering information for those who are walking this path after her. Think of this book as sort of a tourist’s guide to social justice. For those who already live in the area, it may still be useful in finding unexplored areas and for having collected many references in one place. But its real utility is for those newly exploring.

Cannon’s book grew out of the author’s experience in ministry focused on social justice at Willow Creek Community Church and Hillside Covenant Church. After meeting with many ministry leaders involved in social justice, Cannon was pushed into a personal struggle with the practical issues of how to go about pursuing social justice and biblical justice. She compiled what she was learning in these areas and this book is the result. She considers this book to be “Social Justice 101” – fundamentals rather than comprehensive coverage. Cannon intends her perspective on social justice to be rooted in scripture – a faithful Christian approach to putting biblical belief into action where we live. Here again, she succeeds.

The book is also intended to be a call to action for the church; not simply a theoretical consideration of the issues. However, I found it to be less effective as a call to action than as a reference tool. The facts are there – and one might hope that this is enough to serve as an effective call to action. History says otherwise. Cannon lacks the punch of John Perkin’s in building an effective call to action. She is younger and more concerned about avoiding offense than Perkins; her concern to retain credibility within the evangelical establishment seems palpable. To her credit, she says the right things; but Perkins, at his advanced age and level of experience, can tell the stories and draw the inevitable conclusions that will ruffle feathers. From where I sit, those feathers need to be ruffled. Isaiah or Ezekiel would have said it more like Perkins!

Let’s get into the structure of the book. The three-page table of contents at the front of the book is excellent, and essential. It lists all the chapters and articles, including the small topical articles scattered throughout the book.

The first portion of the book is intended to be an introduction to social and biblical justice from a Christian perspective. It is a chapter by chapter progression establishing a general foundation. Chapter one does a credible job at providing biblical underpinnings to a social justice theology. Chapter two establishes definitions and argues that much effort spent on compassion (effects) would better be spent on social justice (causes). There is an extended discussion of various aspects of justice.

Chapter three is historical background, considering events significant to understanding social justice in the Americas. The coverage is useful but very basic and somewhat uneven. Significant chapters of Christian engagement in social justice go unmentioned while some included examples seem, well, a bit of a reach. (Example: The hospitality of Pilgrim communities is considered significant; but the Holy Experiment in Pennsylvania and peaceful living with native Americans goes unmentioned? One wonders when Quakers are hardly mentioned in a survey of social justice issues in America. John Woolman?) The story of Christian involvement in social justice in America is richer than it is here portrayed. On the other hand, much useful information is gathered together in an accessible resource.

Chapter four is about the process of promoting transformation of apathetic Christians to become “agents of justice.” There are some good, practical suggestions for those coming from a well-educated and privileged American cultural perspective, and some exhortation for others. The clinical approach Cannon takes provides accurate information; however, inspiration for change is better found elsewhere. Even so, this chapter is helpful to those seeking to establish social justice as a priority. Cannon identifies nine components that help Christians to move to advocacy: prayer, awareness, lament, repentance, partnership and community, sacrifice, advocacy, evangelism, and celebration. She gives significant consideration to issues of “partnering with humility” and paternalism in this chapter, introducing these important concepts clearly and cogently.

Chapter five is about solutions to injustice. Whose job is it to bring social justice, anyway? In this chapter, Cannon considers personal, church, and government involvement in social justice in a perfunctory manner, noting how Christians can take responsibility themselves and cooperate with others.

Scattered throughout the book are small, well-placed articles to spice up the reading. These articles include profiles of people involved in social justice, ideas on how to raise awareness of the issues, and exercises for spiritual reflection to consider how God is calling the reader to respond to what they are learning. In addition, there are many references to other resources for further research scattered through the text of the book.

The second portion of the book is a sort of encyclopedia of many social justice issues. This part of the book is intended to be an easy reference for those wanting an introduction to certain social justice issues. There are over 130 pages of brief background articles, each with references to additional resources. Each article provides suggestions to begin thinking and acting for justice on the topic it covers.

Of course, there is more coverage of some social justice issues than others. For example, there is little mention of oppression directed at immigrants and those working for immigration reform, or of the injustice that results from the morass of conflicting and confusing immigration laws. There are dedicated Christians working for social justice in this area. One might be tempted to think this omission could reflect a desire to avoid controversy; but consider that Cannon includes an article strongly advocating that women should not be limited in the use of their gifts in the home, workplace, or church. So we’ll have to chalk up the lack of coverage of immigration issues to something else. It would be hard not to leave something out!

After the second portion of the book, there are several very useful appendices giving lists of resources. These include lists of organizations, books, documentaries and unrated movies, and mainstream movies which are useful in exploring or introducing the social justice issues introduced by the book.

Overall, this is a fine book and a great resource for Christians concerned about getting involved in social justice. It is a fine “tour guide” for those gaining exposure to the many areas of social justice covered, and a fine reference work for ministry leaders.