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Transforming Power Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community

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'Book: Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community by: Robert Linthicum IVP Books (2003) Summary by: Rev. Bethany Dudley



Executive Summary

Author Robert Linthicum is an urban renewal specialist who started Partners in Urban Transformation, now a part of Millennium Tools. Linthicum uses Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community to Biblically address how the church and its’ leaders can use power to strengthen and transform both communities and lives. Transforming Power is divided into two main sections, the “Theology of Power” and the “Practice of Power.” Linthicum uses his own life experiences of living and working in an urban environment along with Scriptural references in order to show how leaders are able to utilize power to bring about true transformation in an urban context. This is accomplished by establishing that God has a desire for shalom communities and then taking a deeper look at how humans tend to destroy these very communities of shalom that God so desires. Linthicum writes about two types of power, unilateral and relational. It is the view of the author that relational power is the way to true community transformation.


Transforming Power Chapter SummariesItalic text

Introduction: Linthicum begins by recalling a conversation he had with a friend in which the friend assumed working for a Christian organization would mean not having to deal with power plays; to this Linthicum busts into laughter. Most Christians view power in a negative and suspicious light, seeing it as conflicting with Jesus who is loving and gentle. Christian leaders have often experience the abuse of power in their own ministries and therefore see it as a negative.

Chapter 1: Society as God Intended It to Be Part One, “A Theology of Power”, of Transforming Power The foundation of this chapter lies in the view that the crimes of the individual are no match for the power of the crimes of the world and that unless the church addresses the sins of the power of systems it will be unable to truly transform the lives of individuals in an urban context. A city is made up of three entwined systems, the political system, the economic system and the religious system. It is in this first chapter that Linthicum defines a shalom community as the world which God originally intended it to be. It is the churches role to work for the realization of God’s shalom community.

Chapter 2: What Keeps Going Wrong? The nation of Israel and later the Christian church has been called by God to be a nation set apart, holy and to be a prophetic voice among the world. Scripture calls God’s people to utilize the power and knowledge they have been given in order to speak and hold accountable the systems of the world. When those who God has called neglect to do this power is abused and systems become corrupt. It is by looking at the personhood of Jesus Christ that the church will be able to begin fighting against the corrupt systems of the world.

Chapter 3: What Was Jesus All About? The Gospel of Luke presents a clear and direct view into the mission and vision of Jesus Christ. Jesus came in order to bring about restored systems. Scripture presents Jesus as one who brings about transformation for the individual as well as the community/society/creation as a whole.

Chapter 4: What Should The Church Be About? Power is the “ability, capacity and willingness of a person, a group of people or an institution to act” (pg. 81). The church needs to realize its’ power and work for the shalom of the city. Linthicum points out Jeremiah’s instructions to God’s people for seeking shalom: become God’s presence, pray for the city, practice your faith through action, and proclaim the good news.

Chapter 5: Nehemiah And The Iron Rule Of Power This chapter stresses the iron rule of ministry: never do for others what they can do for themselves. It is not up to the church to solve the communities problems. Nehemiah shows the power of building relationships and helping empower and journey alongside the local community in order to bring about transformation.

Chapter 6: Jesus is Caesar, Paul’s Theology Of Power The apostle Paul views the church as key agents of change in the world. In order to become these change agents the church must get involved in the political system as God’s ambassadors. It is when the church is involved in the political system that it can begin to have a lasting impact on justice and transformation. First Corinthians 4:20 reminds the church that the kingdom of God “depends not on talk but on power.” The church should not run away from this power.

Chapter 7: Building Power Around Relationships Part One, “The Practice of Power”, of Transforming Power The task of transformational change agents is to build relationships that will change the world. When entering into these relationships it is vital that listening takes place. Working towards a shalom community in an urban context is not about brining one’s own agenda but about listening to the concerns, needs, joys and aspirations of the community. In chapter seven Linthicum gives practical steps on how to build relationships with a community.

Chapter 8: Organizing For Community Action Community transformation is not about programs, it is about relationships; when people learn how to work together towards a common goal and to empower each other, transformation takes place. When community members are developed and empowered they begin to work for the shalom in their own community.

Chapter 9: Biblical Tactics For Change Avoided By Today’s Church Scripture is clear on how the people of God can utilize power in order to influence powerful systems. In this chapter Linthicum gives examples of different tactics used by Biblical figures to change systems: accountability, confrontation, civil disobedience, negotiation, and agitation.

Chapter 10: The Spirituality Of Relational Power It is through committing to the shalom community and utilizing the power that is available to the church that God’s desired shalom community will come about. Linthicum finishes with three main objectives (pg.180):

     1.Seek to build the relational power of the people through tier capacity to bring change to their situation 
       (especially in their capacity to negotiate powerfully with the systems).
     2.Discover, call forth and build leadership among the people.
     3.Create community across church and organizational lines through the articulation and embracing of common values and common      
       spirituality.