Friday, October 5, 2012

A Review of The Just Church

Jim Martin is the Vice President of Church Mobilization for International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

Instead of writing a book on social justice based on guilt and manipulation, Martin’s book, The Just Church, lays out a vision of a better future for oppressed people around the world. Martin acknowledges the overwhelming need around the world but provides a blueprint for churches to make an impact for justice locally and globally.

The fight for justice is a call to discipleship as it works in step with the heart of a just God. Martin encourages churches to start “looking for trouble” in the sense that there are people who are in distress and it is God’s plan for the church to embody good news to those people and relieve their suffering. As churches look for trouble, they may find situations that put their faith at the “failure point”; that is that place where you encounter people in situations that may cause you to question how a good God could allow this happen to people. At these points where theologically pat answers do not suffice, the “failure point” of one’s faith has to trust that God is involved in these situations and that he cares for suffering people far more than you can. And that is why you are involved in the issue of social justice, because God has called the church to that work.

This book is more than just the biblical mandate to social justice. Martin lays out a practical three-step process that churches have used to become “just churches”. The first step is “Encounter”, learning the heart of the God of justice in an unjust world. This is for the churches to be educated on the Scriptures’ call to be engaged in fighting injustice. The second step is “Explore”, finding real neighbors to love. The book provides great questions to ask of the church and the community at large to see how the church can get involved and harness the gifts and the passions already within the church. The third step is “Engage”. Here is where the church is encouraged to overcome its fear and get to work meeting the needs discovered in the “Explore” phase.

The book closes with stories of churches both big and small that have gone through the steps and are actively engaged in their communities and globally in the fight against injustice. The book does not paint a rosy picture of how simple this will be. To engage in the long haul is both hard and scary but it is worth it. God commands it and people need it.

Martin believes that believers grow in their faith by putting themselves in situations that require great faith. Engaging in the fight against injustice is really a dimension of spiritual development. For the church, engaging in social justice is the blueprint for revival.