Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Timothy Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Solid introduction to mercy ministry. I read the 2nd Edition, not sure what has changed since then. His first section on principles was really good. He lays out the foundation for mercy ministry in Christ’s mercy shown to us. He does a good job of trying to tight rope freely giving and also not enabling sin. He overshoots in some situations. For example, his equating of word ministry and deed ministry was a stretch (chapter 7). He views mercy ministry at a higher level than I do. Also his discussion of the rich living moderately to provide for others was good, but not real clear. What is a moderate lifestyle? His emphasis on caring for your family first comes through in several places, which was good to see as this is often ignored by those interested in mercy ministry.
His second section on practice was hampered by the fact that he operates from a large church paradigm. Most churches, even of two to three hundred people, would have a hard time doing what he describes. He is too program driven and not organic enough. Also there is an assumption that the state should do a lot of mercy ministry and the church should supplement where the state or other agencies are failing. This assumption is faulty. His point that magistrates are to extend mercy to the poor is a good one, but requires a lot unpacking in our current cultural climate where program after program has been implemented by the government to care for the poor. I appreciated the emphasis on mercy ministry being something the whole congregation does. But he left deacons out almost entirely. Why? It was an odd exclusion. How deacons can promote and facilitate mercy ministry along with the congregation would have been helpful. The five invitational questions in chapter 10 were good. Finally, his emphasis in the latter chapters on systemic injustice was squishy in places and raised a few red flags.
A good book, that can help a person think through the issues, as long as they able to filter our some false ideas and translate the principles to their church setting.
My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.
2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.
3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.
4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is quite different from 4.5.
5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.