Book review: Ministries of Mercy

Ministries of Mercy: the call of the Jericho road is a book that Tim Keller wrote back in 1989. It is very different in style from his latest books like ‘The Prodigal son’ in that it is very systematic, logical and pointed. However, this book is simply superb. A MUST read.

Let me tell you why:

  • This tackles the controversial issue of whether and how a Christian should engage in social action. His answer is based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but delves deeply into the Old and New Testaments as well as Church history to demonstrate his answer.
  • This book is written by both a strong theologian and a practical pastor. This means that throughout the book you are shown Biblical reasons why to do something and Practically how to do it.
  • The argument is logical and progressive which means you can follow along easily (especially with the Grudem style chapter intro’s). He also sums things up into logical steps and statements.
  • Keller is full of the gospel and grace. This comes out in his ability to see both the long term need of the gospel of grace to save people from Hell and for God, yet at the same time see the need to demonstrate and extension of the Kingdom of God and our gospel living in helping people practically.
  • Very often Keller comes up with absolute gems. My favourite is ‘let mercy limit mercy‘. This is about the important issue of how you help someone and to what degree. I’ll be honest, I wish I’d read that 5 years ago. It blew my mind. You have to read that part.
  • This book will help you transform your local church wisely and properly in the ways of mercy.Keller is very sensitive to how you change a church and how you do ministries of mercy.

I remember being in a Christian conference once and being told that we should not waste our time on social action as our job is to convert. The thought was: when the people are converted – they will carry out the mercy ministry. The only problem was, once they were converted, they were told not to do social action…. It was a vicious circle that intended to make you feel ungodly for helping anyone outside the household of faith.

On the other hand, I have been told numerous times by well meaning Christians, that if I do social action I should not share the gospel as that is attaching strings and is not loving. But how can it be loving to knowingly send someone to hell on a full belly?

Those two positions are caricatures (straw men even) but they are positions that have been explained to me time and time again. I am so glad that Keller has written a book that helps us not to get a balance – but to be biblical. I needed this book. I was desperate for this book. I will read this book again.

Whichever position you come from, you need to read this book too.

Don’t wait as long as I did…buy it, read it and live it!


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