Book Review: Loving Your Community: Proven Practices for Community-Based Outreach Ministry, by Stephen Viars
Stephen Viars has pastored a large church in Indiana for the past 30+ years. In addition, he serves as a biblical counselor and frequent speaker at conferences, colleges, and seminaries. His latest book, Loving Your Community: Proven Practices for Community-Based Outreach Ministry, is written from his experience in trying to reach his community with the gospel.
In the introduction, he lays out the idea of taking the gospel to the streets. Rather than waiting for the world to come to the church, the church needs to take the gospel to the world. According to the author, the first step is in trying to craft ministries and programs that meet the needs of the surrounding community.
In Part 1, the author presents “The Biblical Foundation of Community-Based Ministry.” Playing off the title of the book, he addresses Loving in the name of Christ, Meeting Your community’s pressing needs, and Caring for the welfare of you Community. It is a thoroughly biblical approach to serving as an ambassador for Christ in today’s culture.
In Part 2, the author presents “The Practice of Community-Based Ministry.” He describes several ways churches can meet the needs of the community. He includes offering counseling to those who are hurting, opening the church facilities for community events and needs, offering practical classes, taking surveys of the community to determine their needs, partnering with the city to develop parks and/or community centers, and offering residential treatment programs. He gives specific examples of how his church has done these things and the testimonies of those who have been touched and impacted by the programs.
In Part 3, the author addresses “The Challenges of Church-Based Ministries.” The author tries to answer the common questions and objections that might be raised, as well as providing encouragement on how to get started. He made a point to explain that community-based outreach is not a reinvention of the social gospel movement. Rather than redefining the gospel, these ministries “create compassionate platforms for addressing social need so that the gospel may be clearly and powerfully proclaimed.”
On the one hand, it would be easy to dismiss the book and ideas as something that you need to be in a larger church to do. On the other hand, the author provides practical encouragement to start small. Take one idea and implement it rather than trying to do everything. If God lays it on your heart to be part of this type of ministry, the book will give you ideas on what you might consider doing and how to get started.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.