Blog - Embodying Truth

Book Review: The Work of Our Hands

Friday, June 15, 2012

How should churches and Christians respond in our era of high unemployment? Taking its title from Ps. 90:17, The Work of Our Hands answers that question with current examples of action. It reports how the church community in Fresno, California, is working with others for the well-being of that community where the unemployment rate runs between 15 and 17 percent. Fresno’s Mayor, Ashley Swearengin, wrote the foreword.

Twenty years ago a coalition of church, non-profit, business, and civic leaders in Fresno formed the No Name Fellowship (NNF). Recently, NNF established a focus group "to examine the issue of job readiness, and to research concrete examples of what was working locally, nationally, and internationally.” Randy White, editor of the book, has served as chairman of this focus group.

In the first chapter, White and Sharon Stanley note that, "We in the church have often focused more on evangelism, discipleship, and mission, and have left others to think about social issues: the causes of poverty, the brokenness of neighborhoods, the unsustainable levels of unemployment, and more.” As a result, they say, many Christian leaders have not learned how to connect the faith with the basic necessity of working, earning, and self-support.

This has not always been the case among orthodox Christian leaders. During my years with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, I came to appreciate the life and work of its founder, A. B. Simpson. In an 1893 sermon entitled, "The Ministering Church,” he said: "There is room not only for the worship of God, the teaching of sacred truth and the evangelization of the lost, but also every phase of practical philanthropy and usefulness.” Among these activities, he included industrial training, workshops for the unemployed, and "every agency needed to make the Church of God the light of the world . . . .”

The Work of Our Hands offers far more than theory. Chapter Two cites 22 examples of organizations that serve others with the love of Christ by employing them, training them, and placing them in jobs. The organizations are located in the U.S., Canada, the Philippines, and India. Four case studies in Chapter Three explore lessons learned from church- and business-based models in Fresno itself. The next chapter examines "What we’ve learned from our own backyard” and lists another 18 Fresno-based ministries that are part of the coalition dealing with the unemployment crisis.

In Chapter Five, Jeff Harrington and Bud Searcy suggest steps churches and agencies in other communities may take to help people find work for their hands. They point out, "As the appointed vessel of transformation, the Church should seek ways to minister to the vocational needs of people.”

As I read this book, James 2:15-17 came to mind: "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” The Work of Our Hands contributes inspiration, insights, and resources for those who wish to practice the biblical gospel that calls us simultaneously to good words and to good deeds.

Comments (1)

Mrisqi (7/8/2012 6:47:50 AM)
As a pastor's wife- this topic is near to my heart! First of all, I have to say that I do not believe that the "Church" is at fault!! The Bible is very clear, that it is to be us PARENTS that are to be training our children in righteousness!!! Sunday School & Youth Group were started many, many years later; really were started for the "non-churched" kids! Those statistics are sad, but I think they are a lot due to the fact that parents have been relying on the church to teach their children about Christ instead of taking an active role themselves (actually living what they believe)! A couple things our church does that I LOVE are... when children turn 4, they join their parents in "big" church--children younger than that are certainly welcome, but there is nursery & children's church provided for children under 4. Although I do understand how difficult it can be for some kids to sit so long (we are all about wiggles at our house), we believe that having children in the service, plants seeds in their little hearts! We also have just started a curriculum (our pastors & elders & teachers have created) that lasts 7 years & walks everyone through the Bible... all Sunday School classes of various ages as well as the sermon are focused on the SAME topic... are memorizing the same verse, etc. In this way, children (along with their parents) will go through an in depth study of the whole Bible twice.Sorry, this is getting way too long! Great question! Jessica

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