Book Review: The Invisible

By Citizens for Public Justice

From The Catalyst, Summer 2016

The Invisible: What the Church Can Do to Find and Serve the Least of These
By Arloa Sutter
Wesleyan Publishing House, 2016

Reviewed by Darlene O’Leary

The Invisible is an exploration of Arloa Sutter’s experiences working in street ministry in Chicago.

Sutter aims to provide a “deeper theology about how to care for the poor.” She shares of encounters with those served at Breakthrough Urban Ministries. But The Invisible also frames these stories with scriptural lessons from church leaders who have led movements for social change. Sutter reflects on being drawn by the work of the Spirit and bringing people together to provide support for those in need.

The Invisible highlights a model of church that is motivated by compassion and a sense of social justice. It outlines “breakthrough practices” that would transform churches through deeper engagement with those who are poor.

The book is compelling in its reflection on God’s call to serve those in need. It shows how following this call changes people and communities for the better. The stories of those who are served at Breakthrough are moving. They remind us of the depth of suffering those in poverty endure as well as the depth of humanity they embody.

There is reference to social justice and the need in particular for “racial understanding.” But this book repeatedly falls back on a charity model. Even discussion of addressing root causes of poverty and the need for a plan leads back to a recommendation to follow the Spirit and support charities. And there is no mention of changing public policy. This reflection and analysis take us part of the way to a justice approach, but the book does not get there.

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