Book Review of Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road

Book Review of Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Timothy J. Keller

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: P & R Publishing; 2 Sub edition (July 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9780875522173

What is the relationship between evangelistic ministry and ministry of mercy?  Do churches and individual believers today have a responsibility to be involved in both?  Are both equal in importance?  These are questions that many are asking and Timothy Keller provides answers.  Keller is the successful pastor of an admirable church in New York City.  He writes from an academic background tempered by a pastor’s heart.  Using the story of the Good Samaritan to discuss our responsibility to our neighbor, Keller explores the Bible’s emphasis on ministry to the poor.  His approach is thoroughly influenced by his strongly held Reformed position.  This affects his view of the relationship of responsibilities given to Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church.  It also undergirds his perspective on the Kingdom of God and how it will develop in this era.

While I do not accept his hermeneutic or the resulting understanding that evangelism and social action are equal partners in God’s purpose, I do appreciate very much his explanations about how to effectively institute and integrate ministries which alleviate the real needs of people in our churches and communities.  Though Keller rejects a prioritist attitude toward evangelism and I embrace that position, I nonetheless feel that his delineation of the particulars of establishing and maintaining ministries of mercy is very helpful.  That is to say that I would not recommend the book per se for its theology, but I do recommend it for its practical value in providing direction for fulfilling our responsibilities to serve people in their need.  Some of us have held to positions regarding ministry to the poor and downcast of our society which, if we are honest, are over-reactions to a purely social gospel (which Keller adamantly rejects) as opposed by our forbearers.  Ministries of Mercy can help us move toward a more balanced answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” by giving step by step instruction on how to identify peoples’ needs, appropriately minister to those needs and shepherd those people into productive participation in the local church.

This book can be helpful to the discerning reader in challenging his individual thinking regarding his responsibility to the needy all around him.  It includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter that make it useful for small group Bible studies or Sunday school classes.  Keller is not a fundamentalist or a dispensationalist, so there is much to dislike in his book, but it definitely challenged my thinking and opened my eyes in a good way.

Reviewed by: Mark C. Vowels, Director of Missions at BJU

This book is available at

Sample Chapters available here.


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