Book Review: When Helping Hurts

The authors bring an abundance of theological and economic background to this book. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert both work with the Chalmers Center for Economic Development and Covenant College.

This book thoroughly discusses the positive and negative impact that well-meaning Christians have on foreign cultures when they serve in the name of the Great Commission. The authors contend that often these efforts do more harm than good. Many times missionaries and churches set out to aide or help nationals, when in fact, they do greater long-term damage.

The first third of the book is a wonderful analysis of the biblical mandate that calls every Christian to be involved in bringing the gospel to the world. The authors do a thorough job of analyzing what the bible has to say to us all regarding missions.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the book provides little biblical support for its hypothesis. The authors provide great political, philosophical and economic justification for limiting humanitarian activity, but little biblical rational. While their views are sound from a secular perspective, their viewpoint has little theological support.

The authors are concerned that many missions efforts create dependency and rob the recipients of dignity. If one looks at Jesus’ life, never once did Christ worry about creating dependency before he raised the dead, healed the sick or fed the hungry. Jesus’ ministry, and by extension ours, is to show mercy and love to those in need.

The book discusses the commendable labors of many secular philanthropic organizations and the wonderful work they have done without creating dependency. However, no mention is given to the fact that those well-intentioned organizations do nothing towards bringing glory to Christ, which as Christians should be our first priority.

This book imposes secular views on Christian ministry with insufficient biblical justification. Christians are called to provide mercy to the needy. We should not rob Christ of his glory by reducing those efforts.

About Mike

Mike, 49, grew up in California and spent 38 years of his life there. He received an undergraduate degree in Political Science, graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary and is pursuing a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. Before accepting God’s call to fulltime missions, Mike worked in the California State Senate for 12 years. He became a Christian at the age of 20. Mike was a Ruling Elder at Soaring Oaks Presbyterian Church(PCA) for seven years. While at Soaring Oaks, Mike served as the Director of the High School Youth Group, Sunday school teacher, and instructor of evangelism. His cross-cultural missions experience includes five short term trips to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Peru (Lima and Cusco) through Mission to the World (MTW). He has volunteered with World Relief by teaching and counseling international refugees. Mike has also attended cross-cultural church planting conferences in New York and Orlando and completed the Perspectives course on the World Christian Movement. He attended Bible Study Fellowship for two years. He is a certified instructor through Evangelism Explosion and is a certified trainer of the Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention program. He completed MTW‘s Disaster Response Training. Mike is an experienced speaker and author. Over 70 of Mike's articles on missions have been published and he has written three books. He is a trained and experienced mentor, discipler, leader and a passionate teacher of small groups and Bible studies. Mike received an undergraduate degree in Political Science, graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. Before accepting God’s call to fulltime missions, Mike was a Ruling Elder, Youth Group Leader, adult Sunday school teacher and evangelism instructor at Soaring Oaks Presbyterian Church in Elk Grove, CA. Mike is an experienced speaker and author. Over 70 of Mike's articles on missions have been published and he has written three books. He is a trained and experienced mentor, discipler, leader and a passionate teacher of small groups and Bible studies. From 2007 to 2017 Mike served as a fulltime missionary for MTW. Mike served as Team Leader, Church Planter, and Seminary Professor. Mike and his wife Erin served in Honduras in Central America and Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa. Mike currently serves as the Director of the MTW West Coast Hub where he trains and mentors new missionaries from CA, AZ, & NV. Mike is also busy writing his next book.

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