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Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith) Paperback – February 1, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is not a book for the casual reader. Barker (Surrender All), founder of a missionary order working among the poor, asks the question: how should Christians respond to poverty? And the compelling answers he extracts from often-ignored passages in the Bible—both Old and New Testaments—will push most readers out of their comfort zones. It is certainly a punch in the gut to prosperity gospel, which purports that Gods design includes personal riches. As the author writes: This book is aimed particularly at those who have a sneaking suspicion that the Christian faith is more than a cultural ornament, that it is a call to follow Jesus as he stands in solidarity with the poor. Barker is not a great writer and some of his fictional parables fall flat, but his stories of life in the slums of Bangkok, where he and his family have chosen to live, have considerable moral authority, as do his wonderful exegeses of Moses being called to stand with his people and the rich young man confronting Christ. Designed as a study guide with thoughtful exercises and a foreword by activist Shane Claiborne, it is an excellent tool for small groups of Christians ready to take their religious practice to the next level. (Feb.)
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From the Back Cover

God is concerned about poverty. Are you?

In a world of plenty, poverty abounds. But poverty is not new. And neither is God's deep concern for the poor; it is a theme deeply woven throughout the pages of Scripture. Yet, sadly, churches and individual Christians have too often been blind to this biblical emphasis, or they have been paralyzed into inaction by feelings of helplessness. It's time for this to change.

In this urgent, provocative book, Ash Barker offers both challenge and hope. Working his way through both testaments, Barker reflects on significant passages related to God's concern for the poor. These studies are interlaced with personal reflections--firsthand accounts from fifteen years of ministry among the poor. Whether you read this book alone or with your small group, you'll be challenged to make poverty personal.

"Ash Barker and the UNOH revolution invite us to hear, smell, and touch Jesus in his most distressing disguises, in the slums, with the poor, in the most abandoned places of empire in which we find ourselves."--Shane Claiborne, The Simple Way, Philadelphia

"A harrowing, deeply personal manifesto on our responsibility to the poor. Humane, grace-filled, and literally reverberating with prophetic vigor, Make Poverty Personal deserves to be read by a wide and grateful audience."--Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways

"An invitation to unlearn so much of conventional church faith and to learn afresh about God's good news for the world. There is a clarity that will let many readers come to grips, perhaps for the first time, with the revolutionary, subversive intention of the Bible."--Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary


Ash Barker has served the poor for nearly twenty years. He is the founding director of Urban Neighbours of Hope (UNOH), a missionary order founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 1993 to work among the poor. Since 2002, Ash and his family have been involved with planting UNOH's first overseas community in Klong Toey, the largest slum in Bangkok, Thailand.
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Product Details

  • Series: emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801071895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801071898
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #583,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ash Barker, with his wife Anji and their children, have lived in Klong Toey, the largest slum in Bangkok for the past 12 years. Since early 2002, the Barkers have shared life there, developing poverty alleviation initiatives, local leaders and churches to transform the neighbourhood through Jesus. Until October 2013, Ash was the founding director of Urban Neighbours Of Hope, which the Barkers started in Springvale (Melbourne, Aus) in 1993 and now has eight teams of Christian workers loving God and neighbours in some of the neediest urban neighbourhoods in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Bangkok. After over 20 years leading and founding UNOH, the Barkers will step out of UNOH and Klong Toey to move to Birmingham, November 2014. The Barkers will again be immersed in the life of an urban poor neighbourhood - this time a Birmingham public housing estate - to seek transformation through Jesus there. Ash will join of the faculty at nearby Springdale College and be free to serve locally, speak widely and support the work of the International Society for Urban Mission as Convener. An inspiring speaker and lecturer, Ash is also the author of eight books including "Make Poverty Personal", "Slum Life Rising", and "Risky Compassion", which is due for release in July 2014. He completed his Ph.D. addressing a Christian response to the rise of urban slums (MCD University of Divinity).

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stewart and Laura Perry on March 16, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ash's book is a lot like Ron Sider's classic, "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger". Ash's writing and life reminds me of a young Tony Campolo, but from Australia living in Bangkok.

The combination of personal stories, imagination and serious biblical study makes this a must read for Christians. It is also a great read for non-Christians as it takes seriously the spiritual dimensions of poverty.

And the great thing is that Ash writes not from the hallowed halls of academia or the rose colored glasses of a church office, but he writes from an unairconditioned office in the middle of Klong Toey slum. His stories have the ring of truth to them because they are real.

This would be a great book to do as part of a small group study.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Doug Priest on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ash Barker and his family live smack dab in the middle of the urban poor of Bangkok, Thailand, where they are loved for their activism, listening and care. The stories of this revolutionary book are interspersed with solid theological content. As you read, you will be forced to examine your presuppositions about consumerism, the majority world, AIDS, and your own parochialism! A solid read by a solid guy.

Doug Priest
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. Lowe on March 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Read Make Poverty Personal about 2 years ago. As I look back now I recognise that it has had a massive impact on my life. Through it, and similar material which I have read since, God has turned my life on it's head.
It's still an ongoing quest to get my life realigned with biblical principles but I recognise the reading of Making Poverty Personal as the starting point. Thanks Ash!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Clark on March 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does is an absolutely critical read. This became real to me when it was sitting on my desk and somebody walked in, saw it, and said, `That's your problem. You think about the poor too much.' First, I didn't know I had a problem. And second, I feel compelled to live like Jesus did - at the intersection of community and compassion. By following the arc of the Biblical narrative, from Exodus to Eschaton, Barker leads a sweeping expedition that will inspire and challenge. In addition to the sound Biblical exposition, Barker's personal experience and deep conviction appear on every page. He is not an academic speaking from a distance; but he and his family have served the poor with their very lives. He is not only responding to urgent and overwhelming needs; he's thinking about what the Bible really has to say.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Whitlock on February 13, 2011
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Excellent book for churches to have are considering an improved response to poverty in their communities & beyond. The needs of the person who lives in poverty is often misunderstood. Respect should be at the top of the agenda to be helpful. Consider this book for a study group in your church.
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I have mixed feeling about this book... in the future I may read it again and see if I like it better than '3 stars'. Certainly the subject matter is important, and that is why I purchased this book from Amazon, esp. when I saw that it has personal and group study questions at the end of each chapter (which are all excellent btw) and suitable for small group study. I also liked (well, maybe 'liked' is not the proper word) the examples the author, Ash Barker talks about his experiences (wife and baby included!) of teaching living in the Klong Tuey slums of Thailand teaching the poorest of the poor in this part of the world and learning from them as well. (I wish that he had talked even more about these experiences) The weak part of the book is all the rest of the text - the Biblical basis for being advocates for the poor, and combatting greed (my words). Perhaps it is just that I've found this same type of material better stated within other books I've read on poverty and the Bible, but it just seemed that Barker was not clear and/or long-winded and the material about the Bible not presented all that interestingly. (Remember that I was reading this book for use in a small group setting... so I know that very long chapters - esp. Barker's one on the prophets condemnation of not caring for the poor - would lose folks' interests. Part of the book's problems may be that is not laid out in an interesting way... with way too many Bible references imbedded IN the text instead of being made into side / footnotes
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Dahli on October 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
He asks the question, "could it be that Christians could play a crucial role in ending the despair of poverty..?" "Surely poverty is as much about identity, meaning and belonging as material goods. Surely God's hope needs to be involved to change the world and rid it of poverty." This is an author who lives what he speaks. Reflecting on a good deal of Biblical text on poverty/justice alongside personal stories and news, this book is a call to consider a proactive daily commitment with Christ in solidarity with the poor. A book written for personal reading and group study with questions at the end of each chapter. "God inspires ordinary people to do extraordinary things!" Vibrant and easy to read, this book will encourage you to put 'legs on' the calling of Christ to love one another and especially those among us who are vulnerable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Newcity-Barrio on September 23, 2013
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Dave Bennett
I work & live in an under resourced neighborhood & understand a micro amount about poverty in a spiritual & material context. Ash brings to the forefront Christ's call to unselfishly do something & make a difference in the lives of those that are broken. This is a dangerous book to read because your view of what constitutes real wealth & poverty will be changed.
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