For over forty years, the community of Good Works, Inc., has shared life with its neighbors in rural southeastern Ohio, a region with high poverty rates and remarkably resilient people. Offering friendship to those without a support network and shelter, care, and community to people without homes, those involved with Good Works have made it their mission to embody the gospel in innovative ways. What insights can be gleaned from Good Works, and how might these lessons be applied to our own communities and churches?
Keith Wasserman, the founder and executive director of Good Works, and Christine Pohl, a scholar of hospitality who has written extensively on church and mission, explore challenging insights from the story of Good Works and how it has grown over the years into a unique expression of discipleship in the body of Christ. At the heart of this community’s story are connection and mutuality. Good Works functions not as a charity or social service agency but as a place where everyone has the opportunity to both serve and be served. And although worship is a central paradigm for life at Good Works, Keith and the leaders of the community regularly partner with non-Christians from all walks of life who desire to help.
Christians who hunger for lifegiving involvement in their local communities—wherever they might be, and in whichever circumstances—will find inspiration and guidance in this quiet but powerful Appalachian ministry. Short prayers and questions for reflection at the end of each chapter make this a book to be studied and shared among those who know that love of God and neighbor is the starting point, but who aren’t sure where to go from there.
Table of Contents
1. Worship as Our Paradigm for Mission
2. Integrity Matters
3. Keeping Perspective
4. A Community of Friends
5. Leadership in Community
6. How Are Good Works Good?
“Good Works is an inspiring and beautiful book full of wisdom. It weaves together Christine Pohl’s decades of insightful scholarship with the practical, lived wisdom of Keith Wasserman and the community of Good Works, Inc. This book helps us all go deeper into Jesus’s call to hospitality and faithful discipleship and to be inspired to live more faithfully ourselves.”
— L. Gregory Jones
president of Belmont University
“Wasserman and Pohl invite us to pull up a seat at the table of friendship where laughter and tears flow freely and where people who are counted as little in the eyes of the world discover they are seen and known. Good Works welcomes us into their home and introduces us to a family where all are embraced.”
— Michael Mather
author of Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places
“Our work is our worship, and our worship is our work. That could be the tagline for the beautiful community of Good Works. As a pastor in Chicago, I have heard of Good Works for years. Without hoopla, fame, or a megachurch behind them, this community of Jesus just does the work of the gospel. Keith Wasserman has followed God’s invitation to live in community with those closest to God’s heart: the poor, the lonely, the homeless, and the forgotten. Doing so has made Wasserman one of the richest men alive. Let his experience and teaching serve as your own invitation to a life rich in good works, alive with the goodness of God, and awake to the gifts of each day. By providing study guides and reflection questions this book makes a marvelous addition to small groups and church ministry programs.”
— Laura Sumner Truax
author of Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together
“Good Works offers a profound paradigm for ministry whereby work with those at the margins is only ‘good’ to the extent that our own character and relationships with God and others are good. Turning the usual metrics upside down with refreshing power, Good Works illuminates the profound difference between ministry and social service agency.”
— Chris Rice
coauthor, with Emmanuel Katongole, of Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing
“Regardless of one’s ministry context, this book about Good Works, Inc.—a ministry with people struggling against poverty and homelessness—will spiritually challenge yet profoundly reward anyone earnestly seeking to embody Christian hospitality. This account of Keith Wasserman’s forty years of leadership, articulated and arranged by Christine Pohl’s rich and warm theological mind, displays in the most concrete of terms what it takes to truly receive, and be received by, the other as a gift. Only a community rooted in worship and in constant pursuit of relational integrity guided by the Spirit can hope to become a community of friends, not only enduring but flourishing.”
— Michael Gulker
president of The Colossian Forum
“A defining feature of early Christianity’s life together was its commitment to create a community without need. As theorists and practitioners of Christ’s radical hospitality, Keith Wasserman and Christine Pohl draw on their years of experience writing about and living in community to animate the relationship between good works, hospitality, and God’s justice-making mission. This is crucial reading for pastors, organizers, and all who desire to build ‘heroic communities’ of God’s peace on earth.”
— Drew J. Strait
assistant professor of New Testament and Christian origins at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary