by Ronald J. SiderBook Review:Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel
Good News and Good Works by Ronald Sider is about overcoming the problem of one-sided thinking in the churches of America.By one-sided, he means that most churches either focus on evangelism or social action, but not both.As a result, one-sided churches are not obedient to the call of the gospel: that is to reach out to and love the lost as in the Great Commission and to love our neighbor and show mercy as in the Second Greatest Commandment.This of course is a result of understanding and accepting how Jesus Himself thought about and responded to the physically, socially, and spiritually sick people, families, communities, and social structures as He walked the earth.
For a book that is only around two-hundred pages, Sider covers a great deal of information.I found myself underlining and making notes constantly which dramatically and negatively affected my reading speed; however, it affected me in many positive ways which I will discuss in a following section on ministerial strengths.The information that Sider covers is full of Biblical references and stories, as well as many organizations that have performed wholistic ministry throughout the last several decades; many of which he gives no definition for or framework by which to understand the organization.Throughout the pages of his writing, it seems evident that his primary theme and thrust is for the Christian not to be passive or one-sided.Sider works very hard at explaining that Christians must evangelize and care about making social change.He says on pages 17 and 18, “...I believe, a genuinely biblical perspective inseparably interrelates and intertwines evangelism and social responsibility without equating or confusing the one without the other.”In the early chapters, Sider demonstrates how many religious movements have grievously erred in accomplishing this task of interrelatedness between evangelism and social action.As I read, I couldn’t help but think of John’s address of the seven churches in Revelation although the author certainly does not make this connection.
After dealing thoroughly with issues of how different religious organizations look at evangelism and social action, the Good News of the Kingdom in its most broad sense, and the topic of salvation, Sider deals in detail with the two main topics he has been discussing: Evangelism and Social Action.He asks the question, “Why Evangelize?” in chapter 7.This was perhaps my favorite chapter of the book.In it, he makes the case both biblically and from a sensible, easy to understand perspective the rationale for evangelism.I think any minister could easily transform this entire chapter into a wonderful sermon series.The chapter motivates the reader to be a “watchman to warn those who are perishing (133).”Chapter eight begins with the question, “why do social action?”.His arguments are very strong and convincing that the Christian should be involved with social action.For instance, the section on types of social concern make great sense.His use of the Bible to show Jesus as the example for social concern is stellar; however, when he gets into Jesus and politics, he begins to lose me.On page 153, he says, “It is true that he [Jesus:] did not organize a political group to lobby the Roman senate, but neither did he organize a “foreign missionary” society to evangelize the Romans.”First of all, are the apostles and the church not a missionary society designed to evangelize Rome and all the world?Second, it seems strange that all along he uses Jesus as our example for social action, but then says even though Jesus didn’t do this or that, we should.Here I think he is stretching the boundaries of the case he is trying to make.Social action is important, even if it is just our idea.He fares better I think to just say this.Lastly from this section, although he made a great effort to make the case that Christians should be involved in politics, he failed to do so.
As Sider moves into part five, I found myself really beginning to question some of his assertions.For instance, he really goes out of his way to make the case for evangelizing conglomerates and social structures.This really just makes no sense.Conglomerates and social structures are composed of people, who do indeed need evangelization; however, it seems as though he is trying to coin new terms here or push too hard for evangelism at some root level.Considering these things, it surprised me when I read on page 162 that he believes Christians can work with non-Christian or even anti-Christian groups and never speak about Jesus.It seems as though this section was written by someone other than the guy who for the first one hundred pages was pounding on the reader about the need for evangelism and wholistic ministry.
The book concludes with a clear picture of the need for wholistic missions, churches, discipleship, apologetics, political engagement, and Christians.He often asks the question, “What would happen if...”.This allows the reader to dream of the perfect world where all Christians actively engage the lost, and support the poor and oppressed in our churches and individual lives.On page 194, Sider says, “If Jesus spoke the truth, if the Bible is God’s Word, then every Christian congregation should be wholistic.”I think he is right.This book makes a strong and undeniable biblical case for Christians to be involved in both evangelism and social action.
Biblical and Ministerial Strengths
As I said in the summary, Ronald Sider effectively used a large amount of scripture to make his case that Christians should be focused on evangelism and social action.The vast majority of the passages used in his writing I felt were within context and thought through with proper exegesis.I thought the case for evangelism in chapter seven was perhaps the most significant chapter from a Biblical strength perspective.The way he laid out the case for evangelism, all from scripture was phenomenal and perhaps one of the best cases I have ever read.
From a ministerial perspective, I thought the overall concept and support throughout the book for a wholistic approach (evangelism coupled with social action and support) to ministry was superb.Of course, this is what he apparently set out to do considering the title of the book.I think he makes a case clear enough that a minister could readily see where things can be done in one’s own church and make a case for it from the Bible for the rest of the body.I have read some things in the past on different ministry topics that made a case for a particular type of change, but the biblical connectedness was weak.This book really gives the biblical “horsepower” necessary to be convinced of the message (if we take God seriously that is) and proclaim it to others.I also think that a strength of the book is the honest approach he takes at some church structures or religious groups.I felt that his honesty may really make some people stand up and take notice of their own systems and practices that may be faulty as it relates to evangelism or social action or both.
Biblical and Ministerial Weaknesses
Overall, I don’t have a negative opinion of Siders use of the Bible.He seems relatively conservative in his use of scripture and even says from time to time that he won’t make a case a certain way because the Bible just doesn’t allow for it; however, I think at times he does push the Bible and some of the concepts therein too far.For instance, on page 85, he talks about how salvation happens in history and is social, corporate, and communal.There is no doubt that salvation comes to large groups of people at the same time as on the day of Pentecost, but it does not seem accurate to think that by being a part of a certain community or group, one will be saved (outside of the Jewish people perhaps in the exodus?).Salvation is still an individual process, and Sider seems to go the wrong way here.
As Sider tries to make his case for where to allocate resources on page 168ff, I think he takes some liberties with the Bible that are perhaps just his opinion.For instance, he says on page 170 that Jesus would have wanted us to spend equal resources on evangelism and social action.If done properly, the two should not be distinct, so in one sense, they would have equal resources; however, I can’t understand how he believes that the Bible would make a case that Jesus was as concerned with digging a well as He was with eternal salvation.On the previous page, Sider tries to make this case for social action as equal to evangelism since Jesus healed others so often.To Jesus though, His presence and His healing (although out of compassion) pointed directly to Him as Messiah.I think this case for resources is dangerous from a ministry perspective.Social action is important on its own, but I am not convinced that it should be done without a direct link to evangelism.
Specific contributions made by the text to their present and/or future ministry context:
Two and a half years ago, I began a ministry called Suburban Missionaries.My goal was to get people focused on evangelizing the suburbs since in my mind the inner city was already taken care of.This class and this book have helped me see what a one-sided, and inaccurate view that was.Suburban Missionaries has always been marketed as a resource to help people who already have everything.The reality is that even in the “burbs”, people don’t have everything.Yes, suburbanites have debt and lousy marriages in secret, but we also have our fair share of social injustices to contend with.Many get rich on the backs of the poor.This is not a message I have ever focused on for that ministry much less thought about.For Suburban Missionaries, the goal is to implement a more wholistic approach.That is, to talk about social action and social injustice that at times keeps others from obtaining prosperity (owning the ponds) as well as specific things some people in business often do: lie, cheat, and steal to get where they are.The evangelism is important, but I agree that there needs to be a sense of social responsibility taken and communicated in our evangelism to the suburbs.
In my church ministry work at Northland Mission Church, I have already decided that we need an Urban Ministry.The need is greater than I ever imagined, and our suburbanite church goers need to see it, and feel compassion for it, a desire to make changes happen, and an opportunity to actually do something about it.I have already changed my sermon series for February to begin talking about ministry and the need to “do” something, not just “hear” something and nod our heads.I will be working at assembling a team of laity that has a heart for urban ministry and get resources such as Kozol and Sider in their hands.Hopefully in March, our “Deployment Sunday” where we put feet to our faith will provide us an opportunity to start talking about how we at Northland Mission can reach into the city and make an impact for the Kingdom.
|Title||Good News and Good Works|
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|Author||Ronald J. Sider|
|File size||4.8 Mb|
|Book rating||4.49 (48 votes)