Timothy Keller’s Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road is a valuable expansion on both the why’s and how’s of loving our neighbors, particularly doing so through mercy ministries. After taking a closer look at both Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (in the Prologue and Introduction, respectively), Keller divides his book into two parts, each with seven chapters: Principles and Practice. The first portion, Principles, is an in-depth study of the Biblical teaching on loving our neighbors through social justice and mercy ministry, while the second portion, Practice, focuses on the practical and technical aspects of practicing mercy ministry.
The basic layout of the book is as follows:
Prologue: The One Who Showed Mercy
Introduction: Who Is My Neighbor?
Part 1: Principles
1. The Call to Mercy
2. The Character of Mercy
3. The Motivation for Mercy
4. Giving and Keeping: A Balanced Lifestyle
5. Church and World: A Balanced Focus
6. Conditional and Unconditional: A Balanced Judgment
7. Word and Deed: A Balanced Testimony
Part 2: Practice
8. Getting Started
9. Preparing the Church
10. Mobilizing the Church
11. Expanding Your Vision
12. Managing Your Ministry
13. Mercy Ministry and Church Growth
14. Meeting Needs
The practical half of this book deals primarily with betterment of mercy ministry rather than development in mercy ministry, though the final portion of the book does touch on the latter. For an expansion on the importance of development versus betterment in long-term mercy ministry, I highly recommend Robert Lupton’s Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life.
My husband, Daniel, read Ministries of Mercy about 4 years ago, and it greatly impacted his (and subsequently, my) thinking on mercy ministry at that time — a time when we were going through many paradigm shifts, particularly in relation to ministry and the living out of our faith. While the book does deal with church-orchestrated ministry, it also addresses individual and family mercy ministry. I found these sections in particular to be very helpful (and convicting) to me personally.
For those who are interested in reading and learning more about mercy ministry and/or social justice and their place in the Christian’s life, I recommend three books in particular, perhaps to be read in this order:
- This book, while written by Tim Keller prior to Ministries of Mercy, is probably best read as an introduction on the subject. It lays the theological foundation for justice.
- I included a brief review of the book in this post.
- This post includes excerpts from Keller’s book on “4 Types of People Who Would Benefit from Generous Justice.”
- This book expands on the foundation that is laid in Generous Justice, and explores the practical side that isn’t covered as much in the latter.
- This book explores the problems at just leaving mercy ministry at betterment, and shows why true, long-term compassion and justice pursues development. It also explains what betterment and development are and how they differ.
- The book primarily deals with the fleshing out of this concept within urban and inner-city ministry, but has much broader application. For me, it was eye-opening and slightly paradigm-shifting. The book emphasizes Jesus’ teaching that the whole law hangs on the two commandments to love God and neighbor. Often, the simplicity of these commands is hidden beneath a lot of spiritual clutter.
- I have not yet written a review for this book, but plan to sometime this month, hopefully.