Book Review: Transforming Power by Robert Linthicum (InterVarsity Press, 2003)

The Author
Robert Linthicum is a specialist in urban evangelism and urban renewal. He directs the organization Partners in Urban Transformation, which “strengthens international networks of urban ministry and provides encouragement and resources for urban workers.” He has also been head of the Urban Ministries division of World Vision.

The Book
Transforming Power takes a Biblical approach to the challenging question of how church leaders can handle and use power to transform communities and lives. Linthicum weaves stories from his experiences of working in difficult urban environments with examples in scripture to provide numerous step-by-step, practical examples of how leaders should use power to change communities and meet the needs of the people around them.

The book identifies two different kinds of power, unilateral and relational. Linthicum then works to convince the reader that relational power is the key to transformational success.

Linthicum’s book is filled with practical lists, from what a church should focus on within a community (become God’s presence, pray for the city, practice faith through action, and proclaim the good news) to how Nehemiah used relational power to rebuild a wall in 52 days that the Israelites could not rebuild in 141 years. While some of the detail may be cumbersome, each piece is a goldmine of practical ideas that can produce incredible fruit if put into action.

The Reaction
Transforming Power was the most useful book we have read in class to date, primarily because it took the previous two books’ strong points and combined them. It took the active practice of a book like Irresistible Revolution and combined it with a theological and sociological understanding found in Transforming the Powers to bring a holistic picture of how a church or organization can use power to transform a city into a more kingdom-focused place.

I appreciated Linthicum’s Biblical examples that were fused with practical experience to show how Nehemiah, and even Paul, viewed power and used it to transform society. There is a tendency in church life to lean toward extremes when working to influence culture. One will either focus solely on serving the least and avoid government and power completely or get so focused on changing the governmental structures they lose sight of the needs of the least.

Linthicum’s examples of how to work as a leader to empower people to make changes for themselves also spoke to me directly, as I am just starting to work within a ministry where a shared vision for intentional community and community development are needed. His writing helped me remember that it is more important to spend time in prayer and take the time to listen to people than it is to sit alone and develop a plan to help people with the problems I perceive.

It will be a healthy challenge to see what it means to live out the Iron Rule of Power presented in the first half of the book: “Never do for others what they can do for themselves.” As church leaders, we must help both those inside the church and those outside the church work for change in society. And just like so much else in life, that is best done in community.

Related Links

Robert Linthicum talks about Transforming Power

Amazon Link

Author Bio

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Book Review: Transforming Power by Robert Linthicum (InterVarsity Press, 2003)

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