Peter Greer is no stranger to doing good. As president and CEO of HOPE International, he has invested his life in addressing both physical and spiritual poverty through microfinance. However he also knows the shadow side which can accompany good doing. When people give their life in service through activism, missions or ministry, they may end up serving from the wrong center. Some serve to earn salvation. Some give their life to a cause to prove their own worth. The Christian response should be to serve out of a response of overflowing gratitude for all Christ has done on our behalf. Unfortunately, we often louse that up and end up casting more shadow than light.
In The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good Greer shares his own journey of ways he’s ‘done good’ but from the wrong motivation. At one point he devoted his life to ministry but ended up giving ‘leftovers’ his wife and family. He had bought into a sort of Christian Karma which declared if ‘I do this for God, God will do (fill in the blank for me). He has used the wrong measuring stick in defining success and has compared himself to others. The lessons he’s learned along the way help us be aware of where our ministry might have slid into the danger zone.
Greer shares lots of stories of where ‘doing good’ can be dangerous for our souls. He isn’t trying to talk us out of doing good, but to examine our internal motivations. So he turns over the idea of ‘doing good’ and points to the places of possible danger. We’ve all heard the stories of the Christian leader who blows up and blows it. Greer gets us to examine our own hearts in action before our own life falls off the rails. The fact that he does it with humor and grace is an added bonus.
Much of the advice in this book is practical good advice like: have friends you are accountable to, listen to feedback, being authentic and humble, don’t take photos of nursing gorillas or tell a room full of ministry supporters that you welcome them with open legs (a language error, in case you were wondering). These should be obvious and basic. Unfortunately life in ministry can sometimes reflexively fall into the category of ‘doing important tasks’ without doing the hard work of self reflection which should accompany ministry. Greer’s book provides a good diagnostic tool for Christian ministers.
I enjoyed this book and give it four stars. It is a good read for active minded people who like to ‘get involved’ in ‘helping others.’ Greer’s recommendations will help us do that from a healthier place.
Thanks to Bethany House for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.