REVIEW: Seek social justice
Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim. The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-Taking, Justice-Seeking, Disciple-Making Congregation . Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. 192 pages $12.69.
Larry M. James. The Wealth of the Poor: How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in Our Cities . Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 2013.288 pages. $24.99.
Jim Martin. The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-Taking, Justice-Seeking, Disciple-Making Congregation . Carol Stream, Ill. Tyndale Momentum, 2012. 288 pages. $14.99.
More churches are declining than growing in the United States, according to a host of recent studies. Much of our culture doesn’t seem too impressed by the church. Often, we are known for what we are against rather than what we are for.
Yet, here is something we cannot ignore: Though numbers are in decline, passion for justice is drastically increasing. It is one of the primary rallying cries of the younger generation.
“Justice” is a trigger word in many church contexts. Put “social” in front of it, and conversations immediately turn to bleeding-heart politics and do-gooders doing more harm than good. Many have allowed Glenn Beck or MSNBC to define what justice is more than Scripture.
I prefer the definition given by Christian-based International Justice Mission, or IJM: “Injustice is what happens when someone uses their power to take from someone else the good things God intended them to have — their life, their liberty, their dignity or the fruit of their love or their labor.”
Church leaders would be wise to at least entertain what is at the heart of this stirring. In all her beauty and chaos, the local church, thriving and working as God intended, is still one of the greatest hopes for our world’s injustices.
Books on the fight for justice are becoming common, but readers interested in this topic should seek out authors who have written from the struggle — not just about it.
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Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim, authors of “Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery,” were two stay-at-home moms who were introduced to modern-day slavery in a way that created a holy ache.
Yim founded a nonprofit for women to work together to fight slavery. Moore is author of “Global Soccer Mom: Changing the World is Easier Than You Think.”
In these authors’ collaboration, the two women write for individuals — mostly women — who want to join a global movement to end slavery worldwide.
Yim says, “I believe women like me — women with freedom, liberty, and opportunity — have an obligation to speak into our generation on behalf of those in the world who do not have a voice: those targeted, exploited, and held against their will.”
Combining startling numbers (the international slave trade enslaves 27 million people and earns profits about the same as ExxonMobil) with impassioned voices, this book makes the daunting task of working for global justice possible and within reach, as the authors themselves are mothers of children in the home.
Another recent book, written by Larry James, director of community development organization CitySquare, approaches social justice from a more local level. “The Wealth of the Poor: How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope In Our Cities,” walks readers through the journey of how CitySquare grew to become a powerful agent of hope in inner-city Dallas.
The stories of how CitySquare has attacked poverty through housing-first programs, hunger relief, health and hope will leave readers celebrating the wonders of God.
Refreshingly, James tells just as many stories about what didn’t work as what did work and shows that part of living with passion is not being afraid to fail. It’s why Jesus invites us to take risks.
Like James, a former paid minister who left his position to lead CitySquare, Jim Martin, author of “The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-Taking, Justice-Seeking, Disciple-Making Congregation,” left his preaching position to become the vice president of church mobilization for IJM.
Martin works with church leaders as they develop strategies to implement justice works into the life of the church. His purpose is to help them prayerfully and carefully reallocate funds and energy for justice-oriented efforts locally and globally.
“The Just Church” supports working with both local and global movements for justice. The book is divided into two parts. The first argues that working for justice is a crucial part of church work. The second guides readers to finding ways their church can serve, using their unique talents, needs and call.
Appendices list Scriptures related to justice, offer additional resources for getting involved with causes that work for justice and give a sample church strategy for fulfilling their justice mission.
Both “The Just Church” and “Refuse to Do Nothing” come with questions at the end of each chapter, to continue the conversations they start. Individuals and groups will find the questions inspiring, challenging and impactful.
In these books, readers will be challenged yet edified, disoriented yet hopeful, broken yet believing in God’s restoration. Readers will be moved to engage in God’s redemptive work throughout the world, kicking down the doors of injustice and bringing hope to the hopeless.
JOSH ROSS is the author of “Scarred Faith: This is a story about how Honesty, Grief, a Cursing Toddler, Risk-Taking, AIDS, Hope, Brokenness, Doubts, and Memphis Ignited Adventurous Faith ” and the preaching minister for the Sycamore View Church of Christ in Memphis, Tenn. His passion is to partner with God as restoration spreads throughout this world.
FeedbackSpeaking only for myself and calling on my understanding of both Scripture and politics, I think the concept of “social justice” is defective. Is it sinful for someone or some group to use their “power” (i.e. – force?) to take something from some other person or group that God intended the original possessor to have? Of course it is. We used to call this the Iron Rule: Might makes Right. It comes from Satan.
Our efforts should be directed toward trying to change the hearts of men by teaching them Christ crucified. If someone compels you to go with him one mile, go with him two.Stephen BrownEdgehll Church of ChristPetersburg, Virginia
USAAugust, 9 2013“‘Justice’ is a trigger word in many church contexts. Put ‘social’ in front of it …”
Perhaps the problem is that justice needs no qualifying words. The good definition you offered from IJM defines injustice quite well. Not “social injustice,” just “injustice.” Likewise, we don’t need “social justice,” just “justice.” The term social justice was coined by leftists who define it as an “injustice” when person A has more money than person B. They recognized that they could not apply the words justice/injustice to socialist politics without qualifiers, hence the new term social justice. Perhaps Christians should just concern themselves with justice & injustice, per the IJM definition.Clark ColemanRugby Avenue Church of ChristCharlottesville, VA
USAAugust, 8 2013The greatest hope for our world is salvation and refuge in Christ Jesus. For some, justice will not be achieved in this life because that may be part of God’s plan.
Let’s focus on spreading the gospel of Christ and the power of God’s forgiveness, healing and grace because this is what the world is dying to hear.
I am not big on social justice because we can easily get sidetracked and forget our primary mission of converting souls to Christ. I have seen it happen.
“Vengence is mine, says the Lord.” Let God deal with justice while we deal with spreading the gospel of Christ and saving souls.Stephen MapleMemorial Road church of ChristEdmond, Oklahoma
United StatesAugust, 8 2013“Many have allowed Glenn Beck or MSNBC to define what justice is more than Scripture. I prefer the definition given by Christian-based International Justice Mission, or IJM: ‘Injustice is what happens when someone uses their power to take from someone else the good things God intended them to have — their life, their liberty, their dignity or the fruit of their love or their labor.'”€ I am not in disagreement as much as I immediately noted the irony of appealing to scripture for a definition and then sharing a preferred definition from a non-scriptural source. Some scriptures supporting social justice as a primary calling of the church would be prudent in such an abstract.Mike NanceCentral church of ChristLufkin, Texas
USAAugust, 8 2013