Blog - Embodying Truth
Book Review: The Work of Our HandsFriday, 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.