Faithful in Small Things: How to Serve the Needy When You’re One of Them, Kevin Wiebe (Herald Press, 2021). 224 pp. $22.09. (paperback) ISBN 9781513807744. Reviewed by Stephanie Unger, a resource pastor at Many Rooms Community Church in Winnipeg Man.
In Faithful in Small Things, author and pastor Kevin Wiebe explains that he is “writing this book to ordinary people who may not be able to afford to take trips overseas but who read the words of the Bible and feel compelled by God to do something to make this world a better place.” His goal is to add to the conversation about this important topic rather than to present a final word on the subject. I believe that Wiebe has accomplished exactly what he set out to do; I highly recommend this book to the ordinary people in our ordinary churches.
Wiebe gifts the reader by gathering wisdom from many experts in one very readable book. In this way, we “ordinary people” don’t have to read 20 books or travel the world to learn from others’ invaluable experiences. He includes well-known role models such as Mother Theresa, Shane Claiborne, Ron Sider, Henri Nouwen and John Perkins (to name a few), but also wisdom gleaned from conversations with lesser-known leaders and the examples of his own parents and church family. We hear from experts in varied global, urban and rural settings. Wiebe has curated a valuable resource to help individuals and groups ponder key issues surrounding our Christian calling to care for the poor.
This might be the first book I have read on the topic of helping the poor that makes self-examination the focus. Wiebe does not define poverty in terms of socio-economic status, but says, “When any of us stray from the truth of our identities, which are rooted in who God created us to be, we enter into a state of poverty.” He encourages every reader to recognize our own poverty, caused by breakdowns in relationship, but also to acknowledge our value and worthiness.
Through a self-examination that cultivates humility, compassion and mutuality, we can avoid a lifetime of making mistakes and hurting others in our attempts to help. It excites me to picture groups of hopeful (naïve?), passionate (prideful?) followers of Jesus in our churches reading and discussing this book together, preparing each other to not only serve and share their gifts but to humbly accept the help they need from others.
Wiebe touches on how important it is to understand the big picture when considering how to address poverty. Global disparity, systemic injustice, societal polarization and disunity in the church’s approach can lead to the real possibility of causing more harm than good in our attempts to help.
Even the mention of some of these issues can be paralyzing and prevent us from getting involved. However, Wiebe presents this complexity and risk along with practical advice that empowers the reader to believe we still have a contribution worth making. As his title suggests, pursuing faithfulness in small things is the goal. He says, “If we can’t serve others in small, everyday ordinary ways, then I wonder if the big picture we are so obsessed with is really the same as the one at which God is looking.”