Empowered to Repair

Becoming People Who Mend Broken Systems and Heal Our Communities

Cover Art

Where to Purchase

More Options


"An inspiring starting point for Christians looking to put their beliefs into action."--Publishers Weekly

Political and cultural wars are tearing communities apart. Issues such as immigration, racism, and guns are driving wedges between people and hampering Christians' impact in the world.

In Empowered to Repair, Brenda Salter McNeil looks to the biblical story of Nehemiah for answers. There, she finds an action-based model for repairing and rebuilding our communities and transforming broken systems.

McNeil goes beyond theories, offering practical tools Christians need for organizing, empowering, and activating people to join in God's work of equality, reparations, and justice. She provides strategies to drive systemic changes that go beyond superficial diversity and teaches the skills needed to engage in this important work long-term, such as organizing people, leveraging resources, and avoiding burnout through rest, prayer, and self-care.

Learning from Nehemiah, readers will be emboldened to go out and help build congregations, organizations, and communities where all people can flourish and reach their full, God-given potential.

1. Ask the Right Questions
2. Identify with the Plight of People
3. Pursue Proximity to the Problem
4. Organize a Diverse Coalition
5. Repair the Breach Together
6. Expect External and Internal Opposition
7. Stay Covered in Prayer
8. Avoid Faithful Exhaustion
9. Leverage Access to Resources
Conclusion: Redefine Success


"Dr. Brenda takes the gloves off to teach the next generation of reconcilers how, like Nehemiah, to repair the compromised walls of God's church for the ongoing, holy work of racial and structural healing. It's her bravest, most urgent, and most wise yet hopeful and strategic guide and pronouncement to date. An inspiring triumph."

Patricia Raybon, Christy Award-winning author of the books My First White Friend, I Told the Mountain to Move, and the Annalee Spain Mysteries

"Brenda Salter McNeil is one of the most important scholars and practitioners of racial reconciliation of our generation, which means now, more than ever, we need to listen to what she says. This book offers a new paradigm for thinking about the work of reconciliation at this heartbreaking moment. It is timely, powerful, and so very necessary. It must make its way into the hands of every pastor, congregant, and Christian who believes there is a work of reconciliation yet to be done."

Willie James Jennings, Yale Divinity School

"Brenda Salter McNeil's latest book, Empowered to Repair, is the sum of sage wisdom from a lifelong reconciler. Through story and precept Dr. Brenda shares what must be done here and now, why, how to do it, and how to take care of ourselves and our communities while on the reconciliation journey. While every chapter contains valuable knowledge and guidance, the chapter on reparations is worth the price of admission. For those awaiting the tools to make a better world, you found them!"

Rev. Randy Woodley, author, speaker, co-sustainer: Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice

"Beginning with the challenging observation that the Christian reconciliation movement has lost its power because of a failure to do the work of repair, McNeil describes an ongoing spiritual process that leads to reparative action. This process can take place (by God's grace) on a personal level or on a collective level, but either way, the culminating question is, 'What can I do to make it right?' As I finished reading this challenging and richly nuanced work, I found myself praying that God would give each of us the strength to participate fully in the ministry of reconciliation by asking this question and then doing it."

Ruth Haley Barton, founder, Transforming Center; author of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

"Many people know Dr. Brenda as an incredible preacher and inspiring communicator. Empowered to Repair reveals that this wise and passionate reconciliation leader is also a skilled strategist. Are you weary of conversations and debates about justice? Are you ready to practically and meaningfully contribute to systemic healing in your community? Good news--you're holding the playbook in your hands. Let's get to work!"

David Swanson, pastor, New Community Covenant Church; CEO, New Community Outreach

"The work of reconciliation is ultimately a work of love. Having done this work of love for many decades, Dr. Brenda generously offers the wisdom she has gained along the way as a gift to her readers. This book is an outpouring of care and love from Dr. Brenda to the curious learner. In an increasingly polarized and hostile world, Dr. Brenda calls the people of God out of our places of comfort and into places of dissonance to embody God's love and justice for the world as our faithful response to God's call."

Julie Tai, director of chapel and community worship, Fuller Theological Seminary; cofounder of Kinship Commons

"For emerging Christian leaders wanting to walk the path of justice, this book is a great guide for the journey. Drawing from the life and narrative of Nehemiah, it illuminates important thematic signposts like lament, proximity, prayer, self-care, and reparations, all of which are vital to justice."

Robert Chao Romero, associate professor, vice chair, and director of graduate studies, UCLA Chavez Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies; author of Brown Church

"Noted professor and beloved pastor of reconciliation Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil pivots toward organizing, reparations, and self-care in her new book Empowered to Repair. With years of hard-earned wisdom gained from close proximity to the challenges, Dr. Brenda injects new-generation paradigms and relevant practical advice into her biblically rooted vision of reconciliation. This book will inspire and instruct readers on their own journey as instruments of healing and as activists for reconciliation."

Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Co-CEO of Minnesota Council of Churches

"Brenda Salter McNeil explains why the church in the United States has lost its witness and invites us to repair it so that the church can be an inclusive community known for the love it embodies. This work of repair is not an individual pursuit of a select few; instead, she invites us to build intergenerational, intercultural, multiethnic, diverse, and inclusive coalitions. For those who grieve the church's witness and are committed to reconciliation, this is the book to read to take the necessary steps toward mending what has been broken."

Jennifer Guerra Aldana, associate professor of Christian ministry and practice, Point Loma Nazarene University; cofounder of Kinship Commons

"In Empowered to Repair, Dr. Brenda reminds us why her work is indispensable: because she lives out the teachings of her text. In encouraging the church to move toward concrete action, Dr. Brenda not only speaks and teaches biblical truth, she also demonstrates it. This book points the church toward a possible brighter future as a reconciled church--a message we so desperately need to heed."

Soong-Chan Rah, Robert Boyd Munger Professor of Evangelism, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Empowered to Repair presses further into making the ministry of reconciliation tangible, organized, and sustainable. Activating communities for transformative change is challenging work, so Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil invites the reader into the biblical narrative of Nehemiah and the grassroots realities of structural injustice. I can think of no better person to lead this journey toward healing as our cities and neighborhoods face entrenched systems of oppression. I have witnessed Dr. Brenda at work, and this book continues her legacy as a faithful voice of courage, hope, and love."

David Leong, professor of urban and intercultural ministry, Seattle Pacific University and Seminary

The Author

  1. Brenda Salter McNeil
    Zac Davis

    Brenda Salter McNeil

    Brenda Salter McNeil (DMin, Palmer Theological Seminary) is a dynamic speaker, award-winning author, professor, and thought leader. Her mission is to inspire, equip, and empower emerging Christian leaders to be practitioners of reconciliation. Dr. Brenda is...

    Continue reading about Brenda Salter McNeil


"An impassioned call for Christians to bridge racial and social divides by drawing on principles from the biblical book of Nehemiah. . . . McNeil's uplifting message is enriched by her poignant personal musings. . . . The result is an inspiring starting point for Christians looking to put their beliefs into action."

Publishers Weekly