The world is a broken place—we feel it, and long for things to change. This book contains a few encouragements that place the church and all followers of Jesus in the center of trying to figure out how to foster true change, both spiritual and physical. Does God care about the hopelessness felt by billions of people living in desperate poverty? Do followers of Jesus have a mandate to engage poverty that flows from a gospel-motivated center? If so, what does it look like?
The purpose of this book is to contribute to the discussion regarding the role that the fight against poverty should play in the mission of the church. It considers evangelical history because modern evangelicals often resist activities related to social transformation because they don’t seem related to the proclamation of the gospel. Historically, evangelicals have considered this differently. And there are reasons why modern evangelicals have treated social engagement as a space reserved for the government or other non-profit groups, thereby promoting a type of dualism that guts the gospel and leaves the world trapped in its evil and brokenness. That is not an option for followers of Jesus and will be explored in detail.
But history is only a guide. Scripture speaks loudly concerning God’s heart for the poor and how that should shape the behavior of his people. Chapter Three traces a journey through Scripture that gives structure and power to the overall discussion. Then Chapter 4 is a deep-dive into James Chapter 2 for a ‘no holds barred’ exploration of faith. The discussion uses socio-rhetorical principles that may be too academic for some, but is worth a skim nonetheless. James’ arguments are straight-forward and remain as impactful now as they were nearly two thousand years ago. Faith lacking corresponding works is not living faith.
Chapter 5 contains a theological discussion as a framework for church-based activity. How does a local church consider the work of the Spirit, already active and moving in local communities, and then join him? What does this even look like? The model that takes shape forms ongoing community engagement. After a short summary of the material covered thus far, the book finishes with an examination of the ways that good intentions fell short in a South African context and what proper engagement could look like in the future. A model is promoted by which local church leaders could formulate a congregational approach to mission, particularly as it relates to engaging the needs of the poor as a mandate of gospel advance. If one applies the principles of this book, what should transpire is a powerful advance of the gospel by the church as it meets the needs of the poor.
May it be so.