Book Review: Barefoot Church

BarefootHatmaker is a pastor, church planter and non-profit organizer. He is the lead pastor of Austin New Church and the co-founder of Restore Communities.

The Barefoot Church is about bringing Christ’s social gospel to reality in our local churches. The author calls churches to be the light that shines in the darkness of a world that leaves many behind. The book provides many examples and anecdotal stories and gives a difficult challenge for churches and individual believer to begin serving the poor, widow and orphans in their neighborhoods. The author is not a particularly gifted theologian, but he does understand that serving the poor is important to Jesus.

Many have viewed this book as a gimmick to plant successful churches. Instead, it is a two-thousand-year-old command. It echoes the call that Christ gives again and again in the Bible to serve the poor, help the homeless and love the unlovable. Jesus is not making a request when he calls us to serve. Our Savior has commanded us to use our time, talents, and treasures to aide the needy. He has called all of us to serve the least of these.

The author points out that it would be nice to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when he could do something about it. But, unfortunately God could ask us the same question. We often confuse the heart of compassion that requires a response with the feeling of sympathy that remains idle.

The Scriptures command us to love our neighbor and does not give us an out if our neighbor is difficult or lazy. As Christians we are to treat hunger, poverty and social injustice as contrary to the mercy our Lord calls us to provide for others. We should serve others and meet their needs without judgment or prejudice.

Today in the US churches are building huge multi-million dollar buildings that remain mostly empty for five days a week. We are creating programs that serve those already saved and make them feel comfortable. This book should be read by church leaders and staff to help develop a culture of service within the church. A culture change is needed in our modern Western churches. That change must abandon the personal security and comfort we have made a priority and instead call us to return to the service and mercy Christ called us to.