on April 22, 2001
"Walking with the Poor..." is simply the best single book about holistic Christian development theory, theology, and real Christian organizational practice which I have read to date. The purpose of the book in Myers' own words "is to describe a proposal for understanding the principles and practice of transformational development (positive material, social and spiritual change) from a Christian perspective. It is my intention to try to bring together the basic streams of thinking and experience. The best of the principles and practice of the international development community needs to be integrated with the thinking and experience of Christian relief and development nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Then these two streams of experience need to be informed and shaped by a biblical framework for transformational development." For the most part, Myers achieves his purpose.
Myers quotes liberally from many other development thinkers and theologians from both economically developed countries and lesser developed countries. He uses wonderful diagrams that are worth their weight in gold for those who learn visually, and his appendices list pertinent Biblical texts and ways to evaluate spiritual transformation in a community. If you are a Christian working anywhere in development, you need to read this book! "Walking With the Poor" introduces a variety of development paradigms and theological reflections about development to those who may never have studied development formally and includes material likely to be new to even the more experienced development practitioner. "Walking With the Poor" is especially useful to get westerners thinking about and praying about how much they do not know about indigenous people, their worldviews, the problems they face, and the importance of the spiritual aspects of development work. Specific topic areas addressed are: a)differing Christian worldviews; b)Christian theology for development including "Third World" theologians views; c) descriptions of major development writers secular and sacred theories of development; d)the importance of participation of the poor in project design and management; e)some methods used by World Vision and other development organizations for encouraging participation by the poor; and f)some transformational evaluation methods used by World Vision.
The only mild criticism is that the book uses too many World Vision examples and experiences (which is reasonable given Myers' position as Vice-President of that organization) and does not include as much about other Christian NGOs work.
on April 28, 2005
I loved this book. I mean I LOVED this book! It probably took me longer to read it than it took the author to write it, because I kept underlining it and pausing to consider the concepts!
My only two concerns were this: The book should be marketed to ALL followers of Jesus, not just those people who work in full time humanitarian aid! Every follower of Christ is called to make disciples--and we need to recognize that this means holistic discipleship--promoting the advancement of health in every area of life: spiritually, physically, mentally, etc. That is primarily what this book is about, and every follower of Christ can benefit from it.
The other issue I'd like to bring up is that the book refers to having to work with the local institutional church, and how even though that is often difficult, it has to be done. My concern here is that there are other ways to integrate "church" into community development--like discipling the people to start their own simple fellowships. Too often institutional churches provide perpetual spiritual "relief" rather than "development". By that I mean that the pastor or leaders just "tell people how it is" rather than helping new Believers dig into the Bible on their own. It's like a spiritual "welfare program". Is it reasonable to suggest that since holistic community development means helping people to help themselves spiritually as well as in other ways, then we should promote/facilitate the kind of churches that model this? The house/simple church movement that encourages "every member ministry", church as a lifestyle, shared responsibilities, dialogue over monologue, etc., should at least be a strong consideration. I pray for the day when Christian humanitarian aid workers and church planters recognize that their work is identical if truly done holistically! IE discipling people in life-giving lessons that can be easily transferred to others (II Timothy 2:2), while alternating topics from day to day or week to week. One day the lesson may be about oral rehydration solution, and the next day it's on forgiveness, etc. Both are vital lessons for the health of the community, and both can be easily passed on by the local people, while working in a field or sitting under a tree, etc.! Holistic teaching IS promoted in this book, but it's not seen as empowering the local people to lead their own simple, reproducing churches.
"Church Planting Movements" by David Garrison, "Houses that Change the World" by Wolfgang Simson, and "Going to Church in the First Century" by Dr. Robert Banks are helpful books on this topic.
on November 5, 2011
Walking With the Poor is a seminal book on working in transformational development. If you want to help the poor, and you care about whether the poor people you come into relationship with are really helped, then you need to read this book.
Myers gets into the basic questions that we need to face in work with the poor. What are the root causes of poverty? What is God calling us to in our relationships with the poor? What are the end goals for them and for us? What kind of attributes and tools does a transformational development worker need to have to answer what God is calling us to and reach those end goals? Because of the fundamental nature of these questions and the wide body of theological research that Myers surveys in pursuing answers, it can often get dense. But if you care about the answers to those questions, the material deserves a careful read.
There's far too much good stuff to summarize, so I'll just highlight a few things that helped me. In looking at the causes of poverty, Myers's surveys of Jayakumar Christian's investigation of the "web of lies" that entrap the poor and of Walter Wink's list of "delusional assumptions" were both helpful. The information on "God-complexes of the non-poor" is also especially good. In looking into what constitutes Godly, Kingdom-focused transformational development, the explanations of what kind of end goals we're looking for, how we can best go about evaluating our progress, and what kind of person it takes to meet these goals were all worth copying and saving. The final sections on bringing together evangelism and development were also excellent and prayerfully thought out.
This is the kind of book that I know I'm going to have to go back to and read again as I continue my journey of working alongside the poor. If you have an analytical mind and are willing to give the book the energy it deserves, I highly recommend it.
I also highly recommend the related "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert as a shorter, more mainstream-targeted book that tackles the same subject for the layman who is interested in serving the poor.
I'll end the review with one quote from Myers. I think this really sums up the message of the book:
"The challenge to the poor is to recover their identity as children of God and to discover their vocation as productive stewards, discovering that they have been given gifts to contribute to social well-being. The challenge to the non-poor is to relinquish their god-complexes and to employ their gifts for the sake of all human beings rather than using their gifts as a source of power or control."
on November 25, 2013
If you're interested in transformation and community development, this is a rich resource, packed with ideas, practical suggestions, methods, and resources, and thought provoking discussion.
Myers distinguished transformational from traditional development in terms of his concern for "seeking positive change in the whole of human life materially, socially, and spiritually" (p. 3). Christian witness represents Myers realization that "core values and beliefs of where we get our understanding of who we are and what we are for. . . these guiding principles shape our understanding of what a better human future is and how we should get there" (p. 3). He noted that his is a Christian in contrast to other belief and/or faith traditions.
Topics included: Theology particularly a Biblical framework; poverty including why it exists, various views, causes for poverty and what we know about poverty; Development - survey of what it is and what it does; Synthesis of Biblical perspective, understanding of poverty, and survey of development thinking. Finally, chapters 6 and 7 provide practical tips, tools, and methods for practitioners.
A really wonderful compendium of thinking on development and set of practical resources in a single volume!
on January 18, 2007
This is an excellent, practical presentation of what biblical transformation can look like. An excellent presentation of the biblical story & world view, with a helpful and practical description of the kingdom of God and Shalom. It presents poverty not simply as an economic issue, but a relational issue with a spiritual root.
I have already given away several copies of this book and plan to give more away. Should be required reading for all churches and church planters.
on January 3, 2013
This is an excellent book for those interested in the transformational work of development. I read it on my kindle, but if I had to do it over, I would order the hard copy. There are numerous valuable tables that would be easier to see in a printed book. I appreciated the text to speech function as it enabled me to listen to huge sections while driving or working around the house.
on April 20, 2014
If you go to the mission field, particularly if you are American and have never been abroad, this is an excellent book to give you an awakening of how to deal with poverty in nations that are not as blessed as we are. Because of our abundance, I feel very guilty when exposed to the poverty and disadvantages that these people are living in and my tendency is to give everything I have because I don't get it. Things come so easily hear in the US but not abroad.
Well, if you give a man a fish you have fed him for the day, but if you teach him how to fish, then you are feeding him for life.
I give myself away, everything knowledge wise that I have learned, so, I give of my time, but I hesitate very much to give money, it does not help the local population to learn to survive in the environment they are in. I don't want them to become dependent on me. I want them to be able to feed themselves. Catasthrophies are another matter, natural disasters, same thing, a helping hand is definitely needed and should be given if you have the ability to provide.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering going into the mission field for the first time, be it a short term or longer term trip.
on January 3, 2013
This book was lifechanging to me when I read it years ago. Changed my entire perspective. It's a reasonably academic book, so not for the amateur, but its depth and breadth are very valuable to people interested in Christian development work.
on May 15, 2013
In his book Walking with the Poor Bryant Myers drives home the point that relationships are really fundamental to creating lasting change in the lives of those who have less. Rather than seeing poverty as an overarching, impersonal issue, we need to understand and walk with people who are suffering. This book focuses extensively on Myers' experience at World Vision, which is fantastic because he has a lot of interesting stories to tell. If you are curious to learn more about somebody else who has spent his life learning what it is like to walk with the poor I encourage you to check out Chi-Dooh Li's book Buy This Land which is all about his work to help the poor in Central America become landowners.
on June 2, 2009
Bryant Myers approaches the conversation of Christian social development recognizing that existing preconceived notions of Christian social work have proven to be unhelpful. His first task involves deconstructing the modern paradigm, this enduring legacy of the Enlightenment, which separates the material realm from the spiritual realm and thereby separates community development from evangelism.
After constructing a theology that provides a more holistic view of Christian witness, Myers deconstructs the fallacy that the label `poor' suggests: that there exist underdeveloped people in need of help from developed people. Utilizing analyses from leading social scientists, he summarizes the many overlapping factors of society that create the phenomenon of poverty. Myers lands here on one of his key theses, that poverty is primarily a relational issue whose cause is primarily spiritual. These two insights allow Myers to construct his definition of transformational development while emphasizing that the relational brokenness caused by spiritual dysfunction is also present in the non-poor.
Myers realizes that poverty is a complex phenomenon that no one Christian ideology addresses completely. Still, a key theological concept for Myers is the incarnation. Christ's ministry was a ministry of being - setting up tent in the neighborhood of humanity. Thus, the developmental practitioner must begin alongside the poor, willing to legitimate their story and meet them in that story.
Myers refuses to adopt simple charity as a means of helping the poor. The love of Jesus demonstrated in the incarnation cannot be reduced to a romantic ideal. It is a love that challenges unjust systems and worldviews. Thus, while providing for basic needs is important and necessary, the developmental practitioner engages the messy realities that create poverty, empowering the people to challenge them through peace with justice. This is not the myth of human progress marked by Modernism, it is the power of God to untangle the web of lies which entrap poor and non-poor alike and provide a vision for a redemptive future.