Many in the church would like to have meaningful and fruitful engagement with those living in poverty, but they are uncertain about what are genuinely effective ways to serve and give. As a result, their ministry to the poor is stifled by feelings of uselessness, helplessness, and guilt.
Listed as a 2020 finalist by the Christian Publishers Association for Best Christian Book of the Year for Faith and Culture, Shrewd Samaritan is an engaging, highly readable book. Written by a leading development economist, the book acts as a bridge between the latest research on the effectiveness of poverty interventions and the everyday Christian who would like to engage in fruitful ministry to the poor.
Who will love reading this book?
- Pastors who would like to access the most current knowledge on poverty interventions to equip members of their church for practical, effective ministry to the poor.
- Churches who would like to increase their overseas giving, but are uncertain about what types of engagement truly make a transformative difference in the developing world.
- Members of congregations who would like to volunteer for different types of domestic ministries to the poor, but want their time to be spent in the most effective way.
- Leaders of non-profit organizations who would like to focus their scarce resources in ways that maximize ministry impact.
- People leading and participating in short-term mission trips who want efforts devoted to these trips to have lasting value for both participants and host communities.
- Missions pastors who want to build lasting and transformative relationships with individual communities overseas.
Interview with the author, Bruce Wydick:
Why did you write this book?
I wanted to act as a bridge between what rigorous new science has shown to be effective ways of engaging poverty and boil this down in a fun and engaging book that could help equip the church for more effective ministry. Much of my own research has involved scientific studies on the effectiveness of programs that involve ordinary people: international child sponsorship with Compassion International, cleft palate surgeries with Operation Smile, animal donations through the Heifer Project, and the TOMS Shoes One-for-One shoe giving program. This book was a natural outgrowth of that research.
What is the book’s Biblical foundation?
The book is based on two parables, the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (from whence comes the title of the book!) Short commentaries on these parables are interwoven with a synthesis of new research and practical examples of successful ministry. In the book I try to develop a Christian framework for thinking about engagement with the poor based on a biblical concept of human flourishing.
What is the flow of the book?
The book begins with a series of vignettes of three people that are on the road to being what I call “Shrewd Samaritans.” These are people who are learning to love their global and local neighbors not just with their love and good intentions, but wisely, even shrewdly, in ways that will genuinely help them. The following sections present new breakthroughs in understanding of the causes of poverty, followed by an assessment of programs in areas such as health, education, enterprise development, and missions. The last chapters of the book explore different roles people can play (for example “giver,” “investigator,” “advocate”) and how we can learn to identify with a particular group among the poor.
Why should pastors read and recommend this book to their congregations?
Pastors are busy and they don’t have time to read all of the articles in the Journal of Development Economics. The same is true with church members. They don’t want a bunch of academic jargon–what they want is something that boils down the important stuff in an engaging read. They want to know the essentials of what new knowledge has to offer, but also allows and inspires them to take practical steps to help their lives make a real difference to others in need.