Tag Archives: Moody Publishers

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

Corbett, Steve, and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor or Yourself. 2nd ed. Chicago: Moody, 2014. 288 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Westminster Books or on Kindle.

How can North American churches appropriately and effectively work to alleviate poverty at home and abroad? Drawing from their extensive experience, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert wrote When Helping Hurts to answer this question. Corbett and Fikkert work together at the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, a research institute that seeks to equip churches to minister to low-income people, and teach together at Covenant College in Lookout, GA in the areas of community and economic development. Two motivations drive this book: North American Christians, particularly with their vast wealth, are not doing enough about poverty; and when they do attempt to do something about it, their methods are often more harmful than helpful.

When Helping Hurts has four parts, each containing three chapters. Part 1 provides a biblical and theological understanding of poverty, with Chapter 1 focusing on the nature of the gospel and the mission of the church, Chapter 2 on the nature of poverty itself, and Chapter 3 on a biblical understanding of poverty alleviation. Part 2 concerns general principles that should guide our understanding of helping the poor. These include recognizing the different kinds of intervention a situation might call for (Chapter 4), utilizing the poor’s assets whenever possible (Chapter 5), and enabling those you are helping to participate in the process (Chapter 6). Parts 3 and 4 provide practical strategies for putting the principles of Parts 1 and 2 into practice, including advice on short term-missions trips (Chapter 7), working in your own community (Chapter 8), and how to get started (Chapters 10-11).

With over 225,000 copies of the first edition (2009) sold, When Helping Hurts has had an immense impact on evangelical poverty relief work, and this is a good thing due to the book’s strong gospel focus and useful strategies. The authors rightly ground poverty alleviation in the gospel and a holistic understanding of salvation. Chapters 2-3 are particularly helpful in this regard, highlighting how human beings are spiritual, social, psychological, and physical beings, and that every person is poor in the sense of hurting in their relationship with God, themselves, others, and creation. Therefore helping low-income people must take all of these relationships into account, and not just physical, material needs. As the authors state, “poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again” (p. 77). This idea leads to one of the strongest points in the book, which is that the goal of poverty alleviation is not to make the materially poor into middle or upper-class North Americans, or even to make sure they have enough money, but to restore people to a “full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be,” in all four relationships (78).

The authors build upon this strong gospel-centeredness by offering several practical applications. Churches must work to combat the individual and systemic causes of poverty, to identify assets that the poor already have instead of duplicating those assets, to empower the poor to help themselves instead of just doing things for them. This means the default response of churches and individual Christians cannot be to just give more money or things to help the poor, as it too often is (though in cases of immediate need this might be necessary). The authors rightly demonstrate why this default response is most often not only unnecessary but hurtful (106-09). Churches must do the harder, more time-consuming, but much more effective work of developing relationships and leading people to help themselves as they realize their dignity as created beings through the gospel. The authors’ much needed critique of the typical short-term missions trip is along these same lines (161-80), as too often these trips are focused on short-term relief at the expense of long-term development.

The book does have some minor weaknesses. Corbett and Fikkert don’t adequately distinguish between the church’s mission, Jesus’ mission, and the individual Christian’s mission, (e.g., pp. 14, 37, 40-41, 44, 73-75), and a book such as Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilberts’ What is the Mission of the Church? would be a helpful supplement. The authors also conflate what the Bible says about helping the poor inside the church with helping the poor outside of the church (e.g., pp. 38-42). Additionally, some of the strategies the authors propose, such as setting up micro-finance institutions for people in developing nations, seem to be beyond the capabilities of the average-sized church. None of these weaknesses take away from the overall value of the book, but do have the potential to lead to confusion or discouragement.

I recommend When Helping Hurts to pastors, deacons, missionaries, and any involved in Christian benevolent ministry. The book is written to be used in group studies, and as a pastor I profitably led our deacons through the book using the questions and activities provided by the authors. This resulted in several positive changes for our church’s benevolent ministry and a deeper appreciation for the holistic nature of the gospel. The second edition adds two additional chapters, a new foreword by David Platt, and a new conclusion, but these additions don’t necessarily warrant a new reading if you have read the first edition. If you haven’t, this book offers insights too good to pass up for a minister of the gospel.

Walking as Jesus Walked by Dann Spader

Walking as Jesus WalkedSpader, Dann.  Walking as Jesus Walked – making Disciples the Way Jesus Did.  Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011.  192 pp.  $16.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less or for Kindle for only $1.99.

Introduction

Dann Spader is founder and director of Sonlife Ministries, an inter-denominational ministry dedicated to raising up leaders to be disciple makers in order to equip the next generation of leaders to do the same.  He has more than twelve years of pastoral care experience as well.  You can read more about this work at WalkingAsJesus.com.

Summary

This is not a book to read as much as it is a book to study.  To that end, it is divided into a 5-day a week, 10-week study.  Each week has a “getting started” section that introduces the primary topic for the week’s study.  Each day is introduced with a story that builds into the lesson what has already been learned and what will be discovered that day.  There are verses of Scripture to look up and questions to answer specifically about disciple making.  Each day ends with a section “for deeper reflection” which helps to further drive home the lesson.

Review

As studies go, this work is well-written.  It is driven by Scripture and not by man.  Sure there are stories and such, but, the points that are made come straight from Scripture.  There are many blank lines in the book which shows that that reader must wrestle and interact with the Scripture passages being discussed.  Each lesson takes as much time as you want to put into it.  The lessons are written with a purpose and by the end of the 10-week study, you will have learned what it means to be a disciple-maker from a biblical perspective (is there any other perspective?)

Recommendation

If you are wanting to study this subject, the Kindle edition for $1.99 is a great place to begin.  There is a movement afoot in the church to focus on disciple-making, this resource should certainly be added to the list of acceptable works to that end.

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung, Kevin. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009. 128 pp. $10.99. Purchase the book at Westminster for $7.69.

Audiobook

Narrated by Adam Verner. Escondido: christianaudio Hovel. 3 hours. Download–$9.98, CD–$15.98.

Introduction

A search on Amazon for books on God’s Will returns over 231,000 results.  Everyone wants to know what God’s will is for their life.  Not everyone wants to actually do God’s will for their lives.  Kevin DeYoung challenges many preconceived notions in his book Just Do Something.

Summary

In an extremely short book, Kevin DeYoung begins by smashing what many use as a crutch–trying to discern the will of God.  He states at the end of chapter one that our seeking the will of God has enabled us to postpone growing up.  He likens our seeking the will of God as asking the great Magic 8-Ball whether or not we should eat at McDonald’s or Arby’s.

There is a better way.  DeYoung explains what that is and what it looks like in the Christian’s life.  Basically, the title of the books says it all…Just do something!  Though some might think that just doing something is aimless, we are presented with the tools (think prayer and Scripture reading) to discern God’s will in your life.  It is at this point that you are able to know that you are walking in the will of God.

Audio/Content Review

Adam Verner does not read this book in a dry, formal manner.  He reads more as though he is your pastor and you are discussing the matter of seeking God’s will for your life at your local coffee shop.  I appreciated his voice inflection as well as his tempo in reading.

The content of the book was dead on.  Kevin DeYoung nails it as far as the paralysis of analysis that grips many young Christians today.  We have made an idol out of seeking God’s will and Kevin attempts to rectify this in 128 short pages.  His use of Scripture helps to elucidate his solution to the problem which in the end is a biblical solution.

Recommendation

Just Do Something is a book that needs to be read by every Christian, young and old.  The book can be read in one sitting if you have the time (say 2 1/2 hours).  It makes for an excellent study for youth groups and adult bible study groups.  Kevin DeYoung offers many morsels to chew on when it comes to discerning God’s will for one’s life.  Having the book to read is great–you will mark it up with your fountain pen.  Having the book to listen to was even more of a bonus–I felt as though I was in the middle of a conversation.  Adam Verner really makes listening to the book an enjoyable experience.

Words from the Fire by R. Albert Mohler

Mohler, R. Albert.  Words from the Fire.  Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 2009.  201 pp.  $22.99.  Purchase at Westminster Books for $14.94.

Review

Too many Christians today feel as though they need not regard the Ten Commandments as binding.  Many believe that the Ten Commandments are useful insofar as evangelism is concerned.  After all, only those apart from Christ will be held accountable for there deeds and those are going to be judged against God’s commands, right?  Dr. Mohler argues that the Ten Commandments are just as binding on the New Testament Christian as they were the Old Testament Jew.

He writes with passion and conviction as he rightly divides the application of the Ten Commandments for the Christian today.  In looking at each Commandment individually, Dr. Mohler explains how the underlying message, the root of each commandment either teaches how we are to relate to God or how we are to relate to one another. Along the way, the reader will be challenged to discard unbiblical understandings of the application of the Ten Commandments and may very well learn just how much we have been sinning in our conversations about what God is doing in our lives, our worship to him, our use of the fifth commandment with our children, etc.

With every commandment explained and understood biblically, Dr. Mohler’s words will pierce to the heart and lead you to the cross of Christ where we can find true righteousness.  If you call on the name of Christ, you need to read this book.  It will show the magnificence of what He has done for us in dying for our sins (and oh are there many!) afresh.

You can listen to the sermon series that was the basis for this book by clicking on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s resources web page.  (The current first sermon on this list is not part of the series by R. Albert Mohler.)