Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book Review: Robert Linthicum, "Transforming Power," (Downers Grove, IL: IV Press, 2003)

Robert Linthicum is currently the president of Partners in Urban Transformation. Prior to that, he was the director of urban work for World Vision International (info from back of the book).

The main point of this book is for Christians to use the power that God has given them to transform society in such a way that is faithful to Scripture, to bring us closer to the ideal world that God intended for us to have—the “shalom community” i.e. the Kingdom of God (13). Linthicum identifies this God-given power as “relational power:” “It is only by using the power of relationships that the church can work for the shalom of the city and thus become in deeds, as well as in words, the people of God” (82, 90, respectively).

The book is therefore divided into two major sections: one concerning the theology of power, and the other dealing with the practice of power. The theology section is where the author lays out biblically how God intended for the world to be, and how that vision has been tainted by evil, which has both personal as well as social aspects due to sinfulness. This section also talks about how the church should be concerned with what Jesus was concerned about, mainly the announcement and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, and to use relational power as Jesus did to transform lives and systems. Linthicum also mentions the Iron Rule of Power—“never do for others what they can do for themselves”—as the way ministry should be done to allow relational power to empower people to change the communities in which they live (111).

The practice section (unsurprisingly) explains just how this relational power can be used tangibly and realistically to bring about the transformation put forth in the previous section. The author spends considerable time explaining first how to build up relational power—by individual meetings with people in the community, through house meetings, through social research, and ultimately through action (ch. 9). And the end result of all of this relational power that is built up is the creation of a community built around that power so that we can experience the “resurrection of all creation” that we find in Jesus Christ (190).

Linthicum ends his book with a charge for us not to sit and do nothing as a result of reading this book, but rather to “get to work” in using this transforming power to “make the most significant differences in [our] church and community” (193). I appreciated this book because unlike the previous reading (Transforming the Powers) this reading was much more concrete. Linthicum explained more of the theoretical/theological side of things, but did not just leave it at that, and went on to present more of the practical concerns—the “how.” I seem to resonate with most of what he had to say. I think that a community built upon the mission that Jesus started and left for us to complete cannot help but to transform this world in which we live. However, how do you get the current culture of your church to change? How do you get people to see that there are other important things to be concerned about than just the saving of individual souls so that they can go to heaven?


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