“Has God called us to live safe lives?” That’s the question being pondered in the book, “The Just Church” by Jim Martin. The subtitle is equally as riveting, “Becoming a risk-taking, justice-seeking, disciple-making congregation.” For Christian leaders who embrace the whole gospel, this book is a call to action. If time allowed, I would write more posts on this book. (Let me know if you have read it or plan to read it and would like to have an online discussion in the fall.)
I’ve known that I have wanted to read this book for a while. It has been sitting on my shelf with countless other desired reads I was looking forward to devouring post seminary life. When I decided to complete my last independent study on biblical justice, however, I saw an excellent opportunity to read this book now. It is an International Justice Mission (IJM) resource and I finished it right before attending the Global Prayer Gathering a few weeks ago. Part of IJM’s mission and the focus of this book is to mobilize churches to live out God’s character as redeemed people who transform the world.
What I love most of all is this book connects the responsibility of discipleship with the kingdom mission of the church. I have often said, “If we try to talk to people about justice, without first addressing the priority to make disciples, then we are bound to fail.” Justice was become somewhat of a buzz word in the modern American church. Everybody wants to do something. The reality is that many men and women of God have been on the justice journey long before it was the popular thing to do, and if we want this new wave of interest in pursuing justice to sustain over a long period of time, then we have to ground it in Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. When the people of God understand that responsibility, they will not waver when the justice work is no longer the popular thing to do or when it gets hard, because it will indeed get hard.
God calls us to go into the hard places and do the hard things. That’s the risk-taking being discussed in this book. We must be willing to open our eyes to see the hard things, to shine light in the midst of darkness to share hope where there appears to be no hope, to seek truth that dispels the lies, and say to some lost soul, “You are worthy of love and God loves you.” This is the nature of our faith. Growing in spiritual maturity requires that we respond in faithfulness with a “Yes” when God calls us to go. We are called to get into trouble.
What I mean by trouble. It’s the place where we have become so identified with the suffering of our neighbors that we are suffering alongside them. It’s the place of desperation where we cannot help but fall at God’s feet and beg for his intervention. The place where we are acutely aware that we ourselves need rescue—and the only one who can save us is God (32, God’s Promise in times of trouble: Ps. 50:15, Is. 58:6-9).
Martin writes, that not only is God calling us to go into trouble, he is also calling us to risk everything (86). “What would happen if churches actually began to lead in risk taking…I’m talking about the biggest risk any follower of Christ can take, in any circumstance: taking God at his Word and living as if it’s true (86-87)?”
Being open to taking risk is the beginning of the justice journey. The next step is justice-seeking by encountering, exploring, and engaging. Encounter means that we make justice a part of discipleship-making for the entire church, lay a scriptural foundation for seeking justice, and set a clear definitions of terms. Explore requires that we ask questions, find real neighbors to love, research our own communities, and discern was God’s is calling us to do. Finally, we engage by confronting our fear, focus on a learned procedure and execute it step-by-step, pray and plan carefully. This is the “process is which the church can actually build biblical justice into its ministry DNA (102).”
This process with have an impact on the local congregation and the community in which it serves, and it will also “involve all three types of engagement: universal, local, and global (137).”
This is all good news because the Bible does not tell us that the church exists simply to comfort, teach, and encourage itself. We have to do that, of course, because we want healthy and mature servants at work. From the very beginning, however, the Christian community was called to be on mission for God. They went under the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. God himself went before them to do his great kingdom work. They responded in obedience and we are called to do the same. This book is an excellent resource for any church and church leader who wants to live the whole gospel and disciple others who live the whole gospel.
Download the first chapter for free and find out more at the official website: http://www.thejustchurch.com/
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2014