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The Just Church: Book Review

Three years ago, I was a leader of a home group through a college ministry in Dallas, Texas. We studied to book of Micah, felt very compelled that we were called to engage in the work of justice, found a cause we were passionate about (human trafficking), and tried to get started. What we quickly found is that outrage and indignation would not sustain a justice ministry. Eventually, our efforts fizzled out without any noticeable impact.

I know those members of the small group. They are dear friends of mine. I know their hearts. I know they really desired to engage human trafficking. The reason that project fizzled out had nothing to do with hardened, calloused hearts. It was because we lacked a plan to really engage in the work of justice.

This experience makes Jim Martin’s book, The Just Church really exciting for me. In his book, he lays out a plan for the beginnings of a justice ministry in the local church. This plan, if followed, could help put teeth to the tiger of indignation that wells up in any compassionate heart that hears of the injustice people suffer all over the world.

In the first part of the book, Martin lays out the beginnings of what is necessary to engage justice. He lays out principles that would be useful to a believer dealing with any area of discipleship. Perhaps the greatest challenge he issues is to believers is to be willing to ‘get into trouble.’ So much of our lives can be consumed by small, insignificant problems. In order to grow in our faith, Christians must intentionally seek out situations where they must cry out to God, knowing it is only Him that can save them. These situations bring about ‘failure points’ in our faith. Just as muscles must be pushed to the place where they cannot continue to grow, Christians must be brought to places where their faith fails, only to cry out to God, reflect, and experience growth.

Encountering the dark world associated with a justice ministry will inevitably bring about these situations. As we read the countless psalms that show us people surrounded by enemies, crying out to God for deliverance, we should realize that this is the actual lifestyle of countless people in the world. Martin calls on Christians to make their suffering our suffering and then call out to God for deliverance. As we do this, we will find ways to engage and to do so with both courage and humility.

After laying out principles that are required for a church that wishes to engage justice, Martin goes on to display his plan for beginning a justice ministry in a local church. This is a three-fold process: Encounter, Explore and Engage. These three phases are laid out in detail in his book, and Martin wonderfully balances giving enough detail to be helpful to churches and holding back enough to allow the Holy Spirit to guide particular churches to engage justice ministry according to their unique call.

The book closes with several examples of churches that have done extraordinary work in justice ministry. These churches have responded to the call of God in incredible ways, with one church deciding to take the funds from their building campaign and direct them toward an aftercare program. These churches take the book beyond the theoretical to the practical.

This book is a gift to the church. As a pastor, I believe that anyone in church leadership should take the time to deal with the ideas introduced here. If pastors are willing to walk their congregations through this process, I know that the God of justice would respond in powerful ways. May we all have the courage and humility to allow the creator and savior of the world, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to work through us to rid his creation of oppression. To God be the glory.

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