Becoming a Good Samaritan Church


Combining caring ministry with proclamation of the Gospel is the key to effective ministry says Robert Pierson, according to reviewer Ann Michel.

In Needs-Based Evangelism, Robert Pierson, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, makes a simple but essential point: We must combine caring ministry with proclamation of the Gospel. Pierson blames the decline of so many mainline Protestant churches on their tendency to dichotomize good works and evangelistic witness.

“The old idea that we can divide the Christian faith into two tasks — evangelism and social concerns — is ridiculous theologically and not helpful,” writes Pierson. “Too often, Christians help others, but don’t explain why.” Many missions have devolved into impersonal social service programs, often done at arms length, rather than vital, relational caring. A classic example is churches that minister to children through preschool or daycare, but in highly secular ways. Failure to share the Gospel in such settings makes the church seem inauthentic, maintains Pierson. Needs-based evangelism calls for “clear, gentle witnessing” in tandem with ministries of compassion.

Pierson favors ministries that serve persons experiencing life transition — support groups for the newly widowed or divorced, substance abuse recovery programs, career transition workshops, classes for new parents. Not only do persons in these vulnerable situations need help — they are interested in and open to change and therefore receptive to the Gospel. “The church’s task is to lead people to Christ. The method is to help them know God’s love by helping them wherever it hurts,” says Pierson. He maintains that only the localNeedsBasedBookCover congregation can perform this task effectively, not cooperative or ecumenical ministries.

As a growth strategy, Pierson’s approach is simple, pragmatic, and biblically sound. But he does not expand his vision far enough beyond support-group-style ministries. Congregations preoccupied with the busyness of church life, or caught up in stagnant ways of thinking, may be reluctant to embrace needs-based evangelism, says Pierson. Indeed, the book’s primary purpose seems to be to deliver a wake-up call to such somnolent churches. However, readers are left hoping for more specifics on how to develop caring ministries that openly speak the Christian message.

Needs-Based Evangelism: Becoming a Good Samaritan Church can be purchased through Amazon or Cokesbury. 

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About Author

Ann A. Michel is associate director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and teaches in the areas of stewardship and leadership. She is also the author of Synergy: A Leadership Guide for Church Staff and Volunteers (Abingdon, 2017), available at Cokesbury and Amazon.

Adult Education Studies from the Wesley Ministry NetworkAdult Education Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network

The Wesley Ministry Network brings the best of contemporary Christian scholarship to your congregation’s small groups and adult Bible studies.These video-based group study courses encourage the energetic discussion and personal reflection that are keys to a life of informed discipleship. Courses are designed for use in small groups in a wide range of denominations, but they are also appropriate for individuals seeking self-study opportunities. Learn more now.

Ecumenical studies: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes SenseJourney through the PsalmsDevotion to Jesus: The Divinity of Christ in Earliest ChristianitySerious Answers to Hard QuestionsReligion and Science: Pathways to TruthIn God’s TimeA Life Worthy of the GospelWomen Speak of God
United Methodist studies: Methodist Identity — Part 1: Our Story; Part 2: Our BeliefsWesleyan Studies Project — Series I: Methodist History; Series II: Methodist Doctrine; Series III: Methodist Evangelism