"Becoming Whole" by Brian Fikkert and Kelly Kapic. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Every Friday morning I dedicate about two hours of my time picking up nearly-expired produce, breads and meats from grocery stores to take to a local Christian food bank. Our church is invested with this service organization doing various drives through the year (collecting toiletries, toilet paper, etc.) and lending a hand at the facility on occasion. What draws us to sink our time and resources into this ministry's work is that they have a bigger aim than just feeding the bellies of their low-income "clients". They set up arrangements for medical care, teach folk how to budget, maintain a network of other resources to aid them, have a kitchen where they will begin conducting classes on cooking soon, and more. But the volunteers and staff also talk with the patrons-in-need about the Bible, their lives and loves, as well as provide biblical material and offer to pray with those they serve. "Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty isn't the American Dream" penned by Brian Fikkert, Founder and President of the Chalmers Center at Covenant College, where he has also served as a Professor of Economics and Community Development since 1997, and Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies at Covenant College since 2001, is a 304 page paperback manual that takes a similar approach in poverty alleviation. This volume kindly challenges and carefully changes perspectives in an easy-to-read fashion.
Fikkert and Kapic point out that at "the heart of poverty alleviation is change" (17). And that, in a nutshell, is what the book is all about; "helping us to change the story of our lives in general and of our poverty alleviation efforts in particular" (35). The authors show how there are competing narratives clamoring for our veneration, such as the American Dream, and the Christian readers need to be reclaimed by the truer tale of who God is, who humankind is, and how we are made to flourish through properly order and restored relationships: with God, ourselves, one another and creation. Humans "are necessarily relational creatures; love must be expressed toward someone or something. As creatures who reflect the triune God, human beings are hardwired for relationship. We are made to be lovers" (46). The book as a whole revolves around this theme, showing how we have failed at times by listening to different stories - to the wrong stories, like Evangelical Gnosticism, etc. - and how we can succeed.
Further, Fikkert and Kapic point out with great and necessary regularity, "Human beings are transformed into the image of whatever god they worship, so that the core of effective poverty alleviation is worship of the one true God" (191). Therefore, the way people can come to encounter genuine flourishing is "when they serve as priest-kings, using their mind, affections, will, and body to enjoy loving relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation" (247). I found myself thrilled at the authors' anti-Gnostic approach to poverty alleviation. I was also deeply challenged about the approach I have taken to this subject in the past.
"Becoming Whole" is an essential book for deciphering better ways to help those in need without furthering their self-harm and idolatry. This is not a "how-to" manual but more of a "way-to" resource. It is an encouraging, informative guide for improvisation in messy situations. Church deacons and elders should make this book a must, and work through the chapters and discussion questions together. Pastors and ministry leaders ought to have a copy and plow through it with pen and highlighter in hand. I highly recommend the book.
My thanks to the authors and Moody Publishers for kindly supplying, at my request, a copy of this book used for this review. They asked nothing more of me than that I give a written evaluation. Therefore, all remarks made in this assessment are freely made and freely given.
You can obtain the book here: Becoming Whole
There is also a field manual that can accompany the book: Field Manual
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