- Paperback: 236 pages
- Publisher: P & R Publishing; 2nd edition (July 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0875522173
- ISBN-13: 978-0875522173
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road 2nd Edition
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Using the metaphor of a garden in part two, Keller moves to the practical concerns of just how ministries of mercy can be instituted in the church. He notes that like soil, the congregation must be prepared for compassion ministry through teaching what scripture says about the subject. Through such teaching individuals will surface whose hearts and gifts are so oriented. The author describes the formulation of the vision for such a ministry, and how to achieve consensus in the congregation on this vision and to mobilize its expression.
The careful management of compassion ministry is especially important if it is to be maintained consistently. Christian volunteers are subject to burn out, and other physical and economic resources are subject to similar exhaustion if not wisely used. Keller offers many useful suggestions about how to integrate church activities with other churches, parachurch and secular organizations to maximize impact. Finally, he discusses how a ministry of mercy impacts and may dictate how church growth is managed.
As with many arguments for compassion ministry based on some interpretation of the Kingdom of God statements of Jesus, there are questions of direct applicability to the church today. Keller may be guilty of some of this misapplication, but his destination is correct even if his starting point and route are questionable. One example of debatable interpretation is the use of the Good Samaritan parable itself. Jesus was speaking to an opponent (a scribe) seeking to trip Him. Jesus was describing the error of an insular Judaism (as also seen in Jonah), not defining any specific ministry direction for Israel or Christianity. The real lesson to be drawn from the parable is that no one (i.e. the elect Israel or the believer) is deserving of God's grace, but having received it must express it to others - even perceived enemies. The details of this expression of grace (i.e. the physical mercy) are incidental. However, the parable is entirely applicable to the church as it describes a people who are inward directed and unconcerned about the lost in any meaningful way.
The real problem with theological justification of corporate compassion ministry is that there is really no direct scriptural evidence for such ministry to the lost. All examples of compassion ministries are toward the believing churches themselves. In fact the NT is rather explicit in not addressing the social issues of the day except in terms of individual (not corporate) behavior. This is not to say that social concerns are not affected by the genuine faith of individuals, just that they are not the target. When the human heart is made new, then it can accept instructions for slaves to obey masters wholeheartedly (Eph 6:5-6), and for masters to treat slaves as brothers (Philemon), and countless other attitudes and behaviors in a total and revolutionary contradiction to the wisdom of the world. The details of these behaviors are not the subject of commandment, per se, but it is the renewed mind that produces them.
The command in the story of the Good Samaritan (Go and do likewise) is not a request. It isn't optional. The modern church has largely failed to embrace the need for ministries of mercy. This book can change that.
The second part of the book walks you step by step through the process to create such ministries in your church. It gives you pitfalls to avoid, and the best way to approach it with your church leaders. It is a practical blueprint. Any lay person can take this book, follow it's prescriptions, and start a vibrant ministry of mercy in their own church. That is where the real value of this book is. It isn't just theory.
I couldn't agree more with Pastor Keller that such ministries are the best way to spread our faith, particularly in this cynical, post modern age where our faith is seen by many as an out of date straight jacket on freedom and common sense. (It isn't, of course. See CS Lewis for the answer to that - but that's another review.) What if the world's stereotype of Christians was "that group of people always helping the poor" instead of "that bunch of prudes who want to control me?" If we spent more Saturdays addressing the social needs of our community, we would likely see more butts in the pews on Sunday.
If you agree, and want to participate in such ministries, get this book now. Mine is heavily underlined. Yours will be too.
The book is divided into two parts, with seven chapters in each. Part 1 lays down the principles for mercy ministries. Keller builds a theology of mercy by expounding the parable of the Good Samaritan, discussing the call, character, and motivation of ministry. He addresses issues such as the lifestyle of believers, how to discern where to focus our efforts in meeting needs, how to address the needs of the poor holistically, and the importance of combining deeds of mercy with evangelistic word-oriented ministry.
Part 2 is more practical and leads the reader through the process of initiating and managing a ministry one step at a time. Attention is given to preparing a church for mercy ministries, mobilizing volunteers, developing vision and strategy, how mercy ministries should relate to evangelism and church growth efforts, and practical criterion for meeting people's needs.
Two helpful features of the book are (1) the careful theological reflection woven throughout, as Keller shows how the gospel informs and shapes ministry, and (2) the many examples and illustrations of individuals, churches, and communities that have embraced mercy ministries.
The only weakness of the book is that it is somewhat dated - the second revision taking place in 1997. Perhaps the next edition will include updated statistics. But this has little impact on the overall value of this very helpful manual on how to meet the needs of hurting people in Jesus' name. I highly recommend this book to pastors and ministry teams.