Imago Dei Ministry Book Recommendation: Church in Hard Places

By Max Rosenthal and Jonathan Grubbs

The authors of the book, Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley, seek to show that God’s vision for the local church is paramount in bringing life to those in hard places.

“For most evangelicals thinking about ministry among the poor, the conversation begins and ends with deeds of practical service and benevolence. If a church operates mercy ministries offering things like a food pantry or a clothes closet or backpacks of food for local school children, the assumption is they are reaching the poor about as well as they can.” (Page 173)

The book explains that ministry among the poor is much deeper than that. Mez and Mike break it up into three major parts; first, they explain why it is the Gospel that changes our lives and communities, second, they explain how and why the local church is designed to reach those in poverty, and third they explain some practical actions churches can take to fulfill God’s vision for the local church in hard places.

A clear understanding of the gospel is of utmost importance for reaching all people and then for lasting change to take place. When it comes to the poor, “The fact is, the world can watch Christians ladle soup or paint over graffiti for a thousand years, and they’ll never come to the conclusion that Jesus died for their sins and rose. We must open our mouths and speak the content of the gospel to the world, or no one will be saved.” (Page 63) Although these acts of service are wonderful, the authors’ belief is that “the local church is God’s primary evangelism strategy.” (Page 87) Can the same Gospel that transformed our hearts also transform our communities?

Mez and Mike have extensive experience working with people in various poor communities. As you would expect, people living in poverty experience layered issues and have multifaceted needs. Mez and Mike’s stories on how a healthy local church brings lasting change compared to simply performing deeds of service and benevolence are extremely compelling. Accountability, patient and forgiving love, teaching from God’s word, the opportunity to use God-given gifts, submission to healthy authority are just some of many great things that God has given the local church. God has designed these ordinary means to be used by ordinary people in ordinary churches for the Gospel to come forth in extraordinary ways. The Gospel proclaimed and lived out from the everyday church leads to Gospel renewal in hard places.

If you are interested in learning more about this, we would encourage you to read the book. At the least, reading a more detailed book review from the Gospel Coalition can give you a few nuggets of wisdom on the subject.

If you want to talk about this subject further, feel free to reach out to one of the pastors at Veritas or connect with a member of the Imago Dei ministry.