Book Review for The Just Church, by Jim Martin

 

The Just Church, by Jim Martin of International Justice Mission, provides an excellent foundation for the local Church to carry out the Biblical command to seek justice. With the basis of social justice grounded in scripture, this book will reignite the Church’s passion for reaching those in need. Broken in two sections (Justice, Discipleship, & the Failure Point of Faith and The Justice Journey), The Just Church explores the journey from failure to joy while providing practical insight into the application of developing a just church structure.

In the first section, Justice, Discipleship, & the Failure Point of Faith, Jim Martin details the failure of faith through the story of Blair. In the quote below we can begin to understand the passionate pursuit that a true disciple of Jesus will take to expand his kingdom.

God‘s gracious call to us is an invitation to pursue him out of our comfort zones and into a place where failure is a real possibility–perhaps even an inevitability. It’s a call to follow God to places where dependence on him is a necessity. […] To accept this invitation is to discover the work of justice is significantly about our own discipleship” (p. 10).

The reason for our personal discipleship is not to simply obey a command of God (Matt. 28:18-20), but rather to build his kingdom, bring him glory, and bring justice in an unjust world. In order to accomplish this we must grow our faith. “Faith grows most profoundly when it regularly encounters the failure point (50)” and “we grow faith not by sitting alone and trying to flex our faith muscles. We grow faith by putting ourselves in situations that will require faith of us” (49-50).

In the second section, The Justice Journey, Jim Martin expands the readers understanding of the process of spiritual formation. Through fueling our work, encountering the just God, discovering ones talent, need & call, and stepping out in faith instead of fear this book will “invite you on the adventure with God, who is in the habit of using the pilgrimage to transform the pilgrim” (234). With this in mind, if you find yourself drawn to social justice, the hurting world around you, or you simply want to fulfill the purpose of God on this earth The Just Church will equip you with the necessary vision and passion to begin pursing the mission of God. Moreover, “if you muster the courage to be faithful, what you will witness is God’s unambiguously miraculous power to rescue and deliver. When that happens, a whole new kind of fear enters your soul–an awe-struck appreciation for the God of justice who is able to do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine” (192).

 

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Influential Books

Having a deep passion for reading has allowed me to consume exceptional books over that past few years. Ranging from academia, ministry, leadership, and personal growth, these books have all influenced my life through the challenge provided within their pages. Yet, three have transformed the way I live: The Selfless Way of Christ, Crazy Love, and The Millennials.

The first book that I will discuss is The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer.[1] This book provides analysis for the millennial generation, individuals born between 1980 and 2000. The reason this book has such an influence on me is because they are the largest generation in US history and are the generation that I will have the privilege to lead into the future as a pastor. This book explored the impact of this generation on everything including family, diversity, work, money, media, and religion. This generation is quickly becoming the least churched generation (85% are outsiders) in US history and we must motivate ourselves (the church) to begin reaching them on their terms and with methodologies that will truly inspire this generation.[2] One of the main methods of inspiring this generation is through social justice. By connecting to the community through demonstrating real concern for others by living with deep, meaningful devotion to Christ, we can begin to inspire this generation to move toward a relationship with Christ and not away from the church as they going.

The second book that I would like to discuss having influenced my life and ministry is Crazy Love by Francis Chan. In seeking a manner to minister to the millennial generation, I found Crazy Love to be exactly what the Millennials are looking for in a deep meaningful devotion to Christ. There are very few individual Christians that are able to live the lifestyle exemplified in the pages of Crazy Love, but if we are able to the millennial generation will be able to observe the life of Christ lived out before them. One of the major areas that Millennials hold against Christians is that we are hypocritical; our lives do not match the way we say we are supposed to live.[3] Therefore, we must radically transform the way we live our lives. In order to accomplish this Francis Chan challenges the reader to face the inconsistencies of their life, examine what they truly believe in and about scripture, and to then surrender everything we are (or hope to be) in obedience to Christ. By accomplishing these, we will begin to live the Christian life before the eyes of the millennial generation.

The third book that has influenced my life is The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen. In this book, Nouwen explores the concept of downward mobility and its influence of the Christians life. Downward mobility is the manner in which Christ lived his life and as his disciples, we must continue to live within the realm a servant, dedicated to the ones we serve. As a method of evangelism, downward mobility provides the exact context Millennials are seeking and allows Christians to live out the life of Christ today. Nouwen writes “Yet, when we have carefully looked into the eyes of the poor, the oppressed, and the lowly, when we have paid humble attention to their ways of living, and when we have listened gently to their observations and perceptions, we might have already a glimpse of the truth Jesus spoke about. It is a glimpse of the “grace-healed eyes” of which Tertullian spoke.”[4] Social justice activism is the methodology that the millennial generation desires to take part in and we must use it to reach this lost generation.

Other books that I would add to this list include:
  • Plastic Jesus, Eric Sandras
  • UnChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
  • A Public Faith, Miroslav Volf
  • Life and Holiness, Thomas Merton
  • Growing True Disciples, George Barna
  • Everything Must Change, Brian McLaren
  • God’s Politics, Jim Wallis

[1] Two other books that have influenced this area of my life are UnChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, and Revolution, by George Barna

[2] Rainer, Thom S., and Jess W. Rainer. The Millennials. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2011.

[3] Chan, Francis. Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008.

[4] Nouwen, Henri. The Selfless Way of Christ. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2007.34.

Philosophy of Ministry

My personal philosophy of ministry stems from both my experience and education. Experientially, I have been a part of ministry’s that were pastor led (more of a dictatorship) and those that were committee based. Both of these experiences have exhibited exceptional problems. Educationally, I have learned concept of servant leadership, but have had little exposure to it in practice. The philosophy that I hold to are the leadership principles of servant and team leadership or servant-led leadership (combined).

Through my experience, I have observed that the pastor led model of leadership can limit the growth potential of the staff and the congregation to the limit of the pastor themselves. Now, there is a tremendous amount of mega-churches today that hold to this model of leadership and on the outside appears to be successful on all fronts. I am not saying that this model is ineffective across the board, but rather, in my experience it has eventually led to major leadership issues within the senior pastor and staff or congregation. The other side of the dictatorship style of some pastor led congregations is the committee-based church. These committees are comprised of, usually untrained, volunteers who sacrifice their time to take part in the administration of the church. It would be great if every church had a person who was trained in human resources, a Forbes’s 500 list maker, and well versed handy-man who could all tackle the individual committees that they are trained to work in, but that is not the case. Oftentimes, these untrained individuals are doing their own thing or listening to others who are desperately seeking to have their will done as opposed to the will of the Father. Therefore, I desire to build a team where the individual members are altruistically leading their ministry and understand the strengths/ weaknesses of each other while meeting the needs of the congregation.

The servant-led organization is often viewed as successful when the leader focus’ on the followers, as opposed to the organization. This perspective can often lead to a highly positive work environment, which will then develop into followers that who invest in their positions and have the drive to succeed on part of the organization. In order to develop this form of work environment the leader must have a grasp of key principles such as (a) agapao love, (b) humility, (c) altruism, (d) vision, (e) trust, (f) empowerment, and (g) service.[1] I believe that one of the strongest principles identified by Dr. Patterson is that of altruism. If a servant- leader is not concerned for the welfare of others then the leadership is truly missing the point of their position.[2] It is the role of the servant-led leader to know their strengths, but also the strengths of their followers. It is the role of a servant leader to be willing to meet other’s needs, fill-in where needed, and pick-up the slack often created in a workplace atmosphere. This leader will also guide their employee’s into the proper projects, work aspirations, and even assist in their development into future leadership positions all because of the altruism principle living within them.

I or we (the team) will equip the people of God for the mission of loving with reckless abandon. This radical type of love is relentless. Through sincere worship experiences, passionate preaching, missional community, and purposeful outreach the local church will relentlessly pursue the great commission as lived out in the local area, the state, the nation, and the world. With this as my philosophy for ministry, I believe that the church can properly fulfill the Great Commission while living out the Great Commands.


[1] Patterson, Kathleen. Servant Leadership Theory. School of Global Leadership and Entrepeurship, Regent University, Virginia Beach: Regent University, 2003.

[2] Ibid.6.