Roll Up Your Sleeves: a book review

Following Jesus involves getting your hands dirty. So argues David Nowell, author of Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These. Nowell is the president of Hope Unlimited For Children, a Christian ministry which ministers to ‘sex-trafficked children, street kids and child prisoners in Brazil.  Nowell’s book is brimming with heart breaking stories of ministry on the margins. But this book is also full of hope. Nowell and Hope Unlimited have been able to help kids transition from the hard life of the street to a place of security. They have also brought these kids to freedom in Christ.

Dirty Faith is about our willingness to enter into the suffering of those who society throws away. Nowell’s ministry context takes him to the streets of Brazil and he shares the stories of the kids he’s ministered to there–his successes and his failures. He makes the case that Christians have the responsibility to stand against injustice and minister to those who are hurting (i.e. the ‘widowed and the orphaned’ see James 1:27).  This doesn’t mean he isn’t passionate about proclaiming the gospel. Nowell advocates concern for both the physical and spiritual well being of the kid’s in his care. He also urges a thoughtful approach to ministry which is mindful of systemic problems  and ongoing behaviors that aggravate the person’s suffering.

I haven’t interacted with specific passages from the book in this review.  I don’t think that Nowell says much new about injustice or our responsibility; however I think he is thoughtful in his approach. One standard critique of missions-type-books is their  focus on global issues, sometimes obscure issues and ministry opportunities here.  Nowell speaks from his ministry context, but nowhere does he expect his readers to have the same calling and experience as him. This is a book meant to motivate and move us into action on behalf of the marginalized in this country or abroad. It is meant as a way of lighting a fire underneath us and moving us to action. This is good stuff.  I give this book 3½ stars.

Notice of material connection, I received this book free from  Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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