Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road

ISBN: 0875522173
ISBN 13: 9780875522173
By: Timothy Keller

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About this book

Some lay blame for poverty and need on oppression; others on laziness. Pastor Keller demonstrates that the biblical viewpoint is far more sophisticated than either extreme. He sets forth scriptural principles for mercy ministries, suggests practical steps to begin and persevere in active caring, and deals perceptively with thorny issues. Balanced and informative! Includes discussion questions.

Reader's Thoughts


This is a biblical and practical book for Christians about why we should be involved in meeting the felt needs of the poor and oppressed -- and how to do it.The book is divided into two parts, with seven chapters in each. Part 1 lays down the principles for mercy ministries. Keller builds a theology of mercy by expounding the parable of the Good Samaritan, discussing the call, character, and motivation of ministry. He addresses issues such as the lifestyle of believers, how to discern where to focus our efforts in meeting needs, how to address the needs of the poor holistically, and the importance of combining deeds of mercy with evangelistic word-oriented ministry.Part 2 is more practical and leads the reader through the process of initiating and managing a ministry one step at a time. Attention is given to preparing a church for mercy ministries, mobilizing volunteers, developing vision and strategy, how mercy ministries should relate to evangelism and church growth efforts, and practical criterion for meeting people's needs.Two helpful features of the book are (1) the careful theological reflection woven throughout, as Keller shows how the gospel informs and shapes ministry, and (2) the many examples and illustrations of individuals, churches, and communities that have embraced mercy ministries.The only weakness of the book is that it is somewhat dated - the second revision taking place in 1997. Perhaps the next edition will include updated statistics. But this has little impact on the overall value of this very helpful manual on how to meet the needs of hurting people in Jesus' name. I highly recommend this book to pastors and ministry teams.


Full of practical advice and theological support for helping the less fortunate.

Dave Cruver

Keller makes the Gospel the heart of mercy ministry- where it should be. The Gospel is the motivation by which we do mercy. If we are not motivated by the Gospel in our mercy, our mercy is not mercy but self interest. This book is excellent!

Silvia Tjendrawasih

How important is deed ministry in Christian life? I was raised to see the importance of word ministry, but failed to recognize that Jesus' abundant mercies was written so profoundly in the Bible. The parable of Good Samaritan is familiar to every Christian. It is not teaching about moral values, but it is the teaching of true Christianity having Christ abiding in the heart of believer, and the teaching of God's commandment to put 'love your neighbor' into practice.Part 1 of the book gives a very comprehensive importance and scope of deed ministry modelling the good Samaritan. The next part of it provides practical ways of starting deed ministry in our home, church by carrying out missions.


The first half of this is more "interesting" with the whys and theologies of Mercy Ministry. The clarity of the case (if you need logic to prove this to you) is made with strength and cogency. The Spirit should move you to do these sorts of things, and there's very little reason for you do any of this if guilt in the only motivation you have. We are all the priests of Christ and His hands and feet in this world. Chapter 13 is also really good on this topic.The second half is also interesting (but a little boggy-down) as it explains the "hows" of committees, praying, growth, volunteer coordinating, etc. Lots of good information in these sections. And the constant reminder that the goal of mercy can't *just* be to feed and clothe people, but to bring those people into a relationship with Christ and submission under the His Lordship. Mercy and evangelism are not in conflict and shouldn't be in competition with each other within a church. Overall, I really liked this book and found it very fascinating. I listened to this as an audiobook, and learned that I really don't like audiobooks. But I'll buy it and re-read it and probably still like it. Probably like it better, and get different things out of it.


Just can't seem to get this book out of my head. It was an easy read and wasn't filled with unnecessary or needless words. Here's what stuck to me: The rich young man (Mt. 19:16) and the law expert (Lk. 10:25) ask Jesus, "What must I do to get eternal life?" In both instances, Jesus refers to the poor, our neighbors. Keller's explanation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan was eye-opening. Keller, pg. 65: "Of course, many true Christians do not evidence the social concern the Bible says is a mark of real faith. How do we explain that? Though it may not be in evidence, a heart for the poor sleeps in all Christians until someone preaches grace in connection with the ministry of mercy."


Strikes a great balance between outlining the causes of poverty and hurt (both physical and spiritual) and how to minister to those in need of mercy. It also provides information relevant to the individual as well as the larger group/church, making it very useful.

Keren Threlfall

Timothy Keller's Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road is a valuable expansion on both the why's and how's of loving our neighbors, particularly doing so through mercy ministries. After taking a closer look at both Jesus' command to love our neighbors and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (in the Prologue and Introduction, respectively), Keller divides his book into two parts, each with seven chapters:  Principles and Practice. The first portion, Principles, is an in-depth study of the Biblical teaching on loving our neighbors through social justice and mercy ministry, while the second portion, Practice, focuses on the practical and technical aspects of practicing mercy ministry.The basic layout of the book is as follows:Prologue:  The One Who Showed MercyIntroduction:  Who Is My Neighbor?Part 1:  Principles1. The Call to Mercy2. The Character of Mercy3. The Motivation for Mercy4. Giving and Keeping:  A Balanced Lifestyle5. Church and World:  A Balanced Focus6. Conditional and Unconditional:  A Balanced Judgment7. Word and Deed:  A Balanced TestimonyPart 2:  Practice8. Getting Started9. Preparing the Church10. Mobilizing the Church11. Expanding Your Vision12. Managing Your Ministry13. Mercy Ministry and Church Growth14. Meeting NeedsSuggested ReadingThe practical half of this book deals primarily with betterment of mercy ministry rather than development in mercy ministry, though the final portion of the book does touch on the latter. For an expansion on the importance of development versus betterment in long-term mercy ministry, I highly recommend Robert Lupton's Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life .My husband, Daniel, read Ministries of Mercy about 4 years ago, and it greatly impacted his (and subsequently, my) thinking on mercy ministry at that time — a time when we were going through many paradigm shifts, particularly in relation to ministry and the living out of our faith. While the book does deal with church-orchestrated ministry, it also addresses individual and family mercy ministry. I found these sections in particular to be very helpful (and convicting) to me personally.For those who are interested in reading and learning more about mercy ministry and/or social justice and their place in the Christian's life, I recommend three books in particular, perhaps to be read in this order:1. Generous Justice:  How God's Grace Makes Us Just This book, while written by Tim Keller prior to Ministries of Mercy, is probably best read as an introduction on the subject. It lays the theological foundation for justice. I included a brief review of the book in this post. This post includes excerpts from Keller's book on "4 Types of People Who Would Benefit from Generous Justice." 2. Ministries of Mercy:  The Call of the Jericho Road This book expands on the foundation that is laid in Generous Justice, and explores the practical side that isn't covered as much in the latter. 3. Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life:  Rethinking Ministry to the Poor This book explores the problems at just leaving mercy ministry at betterment, and shows why true, long-term compassion and justice pursues development. It also explains what betterment and development are and how they differ. The book primarily deals with the fleshing out of this concept within urban and inner-city ministry, but has much broader application. For me, it was eye-opening and slightly paradigm-shifting. The book emphasizes Jesus' teaching that the whole law hangs on the two commandments to love God and neighbor. Often, the simplicity of these commands is hidden beneath a lot of spiritual clutter. I have not yet written a review for this book, but plan to sometime this month, hopefully.


A very insightful, much needed and well-rounded book by Keller. Perfect for church officers, and helpful for all believers. This book is thick with practical applications - and this is it's strength as well as it's flaw. You might find much that can not apply to your church setting. Also, there is a tendency to speak dogmatically about methods without clear support. Bottom line: a must read for those leading mercy ministries.

Matthew Hodge

Another great book by Tim Keller, this one on the topic of how the church can help people in need. Keller builds his thesis around the story of the Good Samaritan, which provides a good framework for the book.In some ways, I still marvel that we needed a book like this to be written. You would think it would be obvious in the pages of the Bible that we are to care for our neighbour, and those in need. Despite this, the Christian world is still struggling with the great split of the 20th century, with liberals delivering social work on one side and evangelicals who decided to focus on the personal spiritual life at the expense of helping those in need.Of course, the reality is we need both - and Keller simply and powerfully argues that the church should be helping those in need. He grapples with a variety of different approaches to the topic, works up a theology of ministry to those in need and then talks about the logistics that are involved to get such a ministry happening at the local church.If you need a theological justification for ministering to those in need, this is your book. If you're after a practical guide on how it might look, I highly recommend The Church of Irresistible Influence, which I will review one day if I can find my copy of it ...

Vincent Chin

A very terrible and hard book for me to swallow and stomach which mainly focusses on the parable of the Good Samaritan. When I was reading Generous Justice few months back (and was financially stable), the concept of giving to the needy is still within 'acceptable and comfortable' range. But now that I am tighter in budget and being presented a book that shares the same theme as Generous Justice, it actually starts to become increasingly difficult to stomach some of the teachings in the book that was deemed necessary to the faith. The introduction of the book talks about statistics of people living in poverty, low income, homeless people and stuff like that, which is quite staggering given the numbers that is presented in the book and survey which is done a few years back. When the statistics and facts are combined, the truth is just too heart breaking...Indeed, when the teacher of the law asked Jesus "Who are my neighbours?"; the neighbours are no other than all these needy people that are around. Those numbers you see in the introduction. Even from the starting point of the book, it's apparent that the writer is begging the question, "So what are you going to do about this?".Last but not least will be this horrible quote from Robert Murray M’Cheyne in the book that made me a bit sleepless. "I fear there are some Christians among you to whom Christ cannot say [“Well done, good and faithful servant”]. Your haughty dwelling rises…thousands…have scarce a fire to warm themselves at, and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost; and yet you never darkened their door. You heave a sigh, perhaps, at a distance, but you do not visit them. Ah! my dear friends! I am concerned for the poor, but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day. You seem to be Christians, and yet you care not for his poor. Oh, what a change will pass upon you as you enter the gates of heaven! You will be saved, but that will be all. There will be no abundant entrance for you: ‘He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly’….I fear there are many hearing me who now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh, my friends! enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none away; enjoy it quickly, for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity." In the process of reading it, so far it looks like a good book but definitely a terrible book to read before bed time.


This book is so well written about our call to Social Justice. Tim Keller delves into the absolute of who we are called to be, why, and why when we DON'T help our neighbor we are destroying our own character. There is so much more to it than this, but he writes it so much better than I ever could and this review only barely touches on that.


A very complete view of mercy ministries. Keller's view of the importance of mercy ministry in the life of the church is a little bit overstated. But his overall approach will be very helpful for churches that has not thought much about ministering to those less fortunate. God's view of how we treat others is very important to him and should be a lot more important to most of us. Eph. 5:1.

Joshua D.

Helpful (and very practical) book on starting ministries of mercy in a local church. Long exegesis of the the parable of the Good Samaritan, theological and exegetical analysis of some objections to "doing mercy", and then lots of practical suggestions on how to get a mercy ministry up and running in a local church.

Mike Awtry

The first half on why do mercy and deed ministry was quite good, convicting, and certainly thought provoking. But the second half is a how-to guide, which bogged me down. If you're interested in deed and diaconal ministry, read this with the excellent "When Helping Hurts" by Corbett & Fikkert.

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