Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works

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Press:Baker Books Baker Books; Assumed First edition (April 1, 2002)
Publication Date:2002-4-1
Author Name:Ronald J. Sider,Philip N. Olson,Heidi Rolland Unruh


This book gives churches the tools to develop effective "holistic ministry" in their communities--a delicate balance of evangelism and social outreach.

About the Author

Ronald J. 
Sider (PhD, Yale University) is the founder and president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action and distinguished professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.
He is t


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Comment List (Total:12)

  •     Excellent book.
  •     It's good
  •     Very informative and life changing eye opening!
  •     A strong and thorough case and instruction manual on creating a holistic ministry in your church and community.a great resource for those wanting to serve their community
  •     Best line in the book: "If its not there, everyone will know its missing." The book makes a strong case for more attention to social activity in advancing the gospel.
  •     This is a good down to earth look at the balance between social justice and evangelism. Every Christian should read it.
  •     Churches That Make A Difference has clearly been a popular Christian book, now having reached its third printing. The subtitle, "Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works", suggests the subject matter, namely - how to bring together Good News and Good Works in the Church. The book's great strength is that the content is based on fifteen "in-depth case studies" of Churches in the greater Philadelphia area. That is, it has its feet planted in reality. Among its weakness, in my view, are its "makeshift" theology - not because the authors espouse any theology in particular, but because the theology is not particularly well thought through, tending to fray especially in the details.The authors point out that "evangelism rarely happens by osmosis". "Loving acts need the complement of the verbal presentation of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. If people don't ask, and Christians never tell, how will anyone ever know the gospel?" That is, the gospel should always be presented clearly. On the other hand, however, "proclamation alone may ring hollow". The authors refer a great deal to "holistic ministry". This is ministry where "evangelism and social action are distinguishable but inseparable". Holistic ministry is "based on the understanding that the physical, spiritual, moral, and relational dimensions of human nature are intertwined. Churches of this type encourage faith commitments in the context of social activism". The book describes five classic models of social ministry in evangelical Churches today, as well as the option of forming coalitions or partnerships in social ministry.However, I sensed a void at the centre of the book, which has to do with the American "can do" attitude. In fact the concluding chapter is titled: "We Can Do It". The authors would seem to suggest that the solution to social ills is just a matter of "reaching your community with the whole gospel for the whole person". However, it needs to be borne in mind that, in some parts of the world, it is a case of "NO can do". In fact, in many parts of the world, the general situation is rapidly regressing, and there seems to be little hope of assistance from outside. What sustains people in such situations? What should sustain people over five years - even a year - of grievous want or oppression? It may not be enough to offer that "God's salvation includes [...] material prosperity, justice," or that He "promises to renew the earth".
  •     This book is excellent and inspiring. If only we could consistently be motivated to put our faith into action, what a difference could be made!
  •     I read this for a church renewal class and I highly recommend it - BUY this book but also go get churches worth getting up for by Gutenson! See my review there.
  •     My pastor required reading this book at the right time. God spoke to me regarding strategic planning for our ministry next year.
  •     Ronald Sider has done it again. That is, he has left many of us who may not be fully engaged in significant social ministries in our communities, feeling a little less "holistic". Now this statement should not be mistaken for a criticism, but rather as an honest sigh or moan on the part of this pastor, and I suspect many others who far too often are ensnared in the traditional model of doing church. As I read "Churches That Make a Difference", I was impressed with the scholarship of this new resource. It attempts to bridge that age-old gap between evangelism (in the traditional context), and social action. The book is based upon a significant research undertaking conducted by Sider and his two colleagues, Heidi Unruh and Philip Olson. The research project sponsored by Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary examined the relationship between evangelism and social action in fifteen protestant churches in the greater Philadelphia area, and involved over 2,000 respondents.What I appreciate about this book is that it is well researched biblically, theologically, and scientifically. The authors are not novices, and this is not popularist fluff. The book gives generous examples throughout of churches bringing balance to an issue that for years has divided believers and reduced the effectiveness of many Christian churches. The reader is given a glimpse into success stories of "holistic" ministry, and testimonies of hope and assistance. I believe that many 21st century churches desire to reach out to the world outside of their walls, but they may not know how to respond to this call to do so. Traditional models of evangelism which the church utilized well into the late 20th century seem unfortunately inadequate in a 21st century Postmodern culture and context.To paraphrase their description of how this can happen, a "holistic" church is an exciting, exuberantly alive place in which the active presence of the Spirit can be felt; where renewal, growth, and transformation take place, and by which the church is a change agent in the community. It has a spiritual dynamic about it which causes it to be sacrificially caring, boldly prophetic, and lovingly nurturing. This holistic church understands its mission, possesses a dynamic spirituality, is healthy, and practices what it preaches.For Sider, the Christian church must recover her mandate embedded deeply in Jesus' command to "love God and love your neighbour as yourself". Sider and his associates emphasize that individual churches must find new and innovative ways to connect people with Christ. They stress that diversity in ministry based upon community needs, and employing the spiritual gifts and resources of the members, which are influenced by the vision and calling of the church is holistic. Holistic ministry in fact is well defined when a church: 1. Focuses on ministries of personal spiritual transformation as a path to social change; 2. Focuses on social services ministries as a door to evangelism; 3. Focuses on ministries of reconciliation that witness to unity in Christ; 4. Focuses on community development to express God's love for whole persons and communities; 5. Focuses on justice ministries that embody the empowering message of the gospel; 6. Focuses on reaching skeptics by demonstrating that the church can and does make a difference in society.The bottom line for these advocates of holistc ministry--:"Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works", is that "any church can become a centre of healing, hope, and shalom in its community...any church---including your church---can make a difference by serving the kingdom and witnessing to Christ the King." Who among us would not agree? This book is a must read toolbox for churches and leaders seeking to do just that, "make a difference" in their community and world, as Christ's hands and feet, His mouth and heart, His life incarnate among a broken and bleeding human race.Dr. R. Wayne HagermanSenior PastorFirst Baptist Church,Prince George, BC.Canada
  •     Theologically sound and very practical guide to how your church can impact your community for Christ.

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