Transforming Power – book review

October 16, 2006

Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community
Robert Linthicum
InterVarsity Press: 2003

Author
Robert Linthicum has worked with numerous urban ministries, and is passionate about empowering the poor and transforming communities.

Thesis
Linthicum argues convincingly that God’s intent for the world is that all people live in shalom. God despises inequality and oppression, but instead seeks peace, joy, community and fulfillment for all people, especially the poor and the oppressed. Linthicum then offers a number of practical methods to transform communities and to empower the powerless.

Summary
Transforming Powers is divided into two main sections. First, Linthicum tries to convince us that God is concerned with the social well being of the world, and then he provides us with hands on tools to redeem the world.
Linthicum pulls on numerous biblical passages to establish God’s view of shalom for his people, and to show God’s particular concern for the poor and the oppressed. He challenges the complacency of the modern Church that allows for inequality, and sheds light on the systems that have caused and maintain injustice. He asks the question, “what would it look like to follow the Jesus of the Gospels?” and then lays out a strong vision of leadership that seeks to empower people to bring about change and that is not afraid to confront the systems that go against God’s shalom.

Linthicum then takes his theology of transformation and provides practical tools for both the individual and for the Church. He focuses on the importance of hearing people’s stories and passions, and then bringing people together to take action themselves to fix the problems that they see in the world. The focus is not on the leader creating programs, but rather on raising up other leaders to do the work of ministry in the world. Through doing this, the people can participate with God in redeeming their communities.

Reflection
At first, I thought Linthicum’s book was nothing new. Throughout the first half of the book, he offers a pretty standard argument for God’s concern for the poor, and the church’s role in bringing change. He paints a picture of God’s shalom, the Jubilee and God’s plan for equality, but it was all stuff that I had heard before. Nothing blew my mind and I didn’t really feel stretched in my view of the poor and of God’s kingdom.

And yet, maybe this is what the Evangelical church today needs. Though it’s not revolutionary, Linthicum does an excellent job of laying out the basic foundation for why the Church should care about the poor and about the oppressed. So often in conservative churches, the idea of social justice as an end in and of itself is left to the liberals and is seen as theologically deviant. Individual salvation is stressed so much that it is almost looked down upon to care for the holistically for an individual or a community. Linthicum manages to make a good case for God’s concern for the whole person, and that Jesus’ was concerned with establishing the Kingdom of God now. Basing his arguments completely from the Bible, Linthicum’s book might just be able to create the foundation needed for the Evangelical church to become involved in social action and allow us to work along side of God as He seeks to redeem the world.

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