Make Poverty Personal

Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does

series: ?mersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith

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God is concerned about poverty. Are you?

In a world of plenty, poverty abounds. But poverty is not new. And neither is God's deep concern for the poor; it is a theme deeply woven throughout the pages of Scripture. Yet, sadly, churches and individual Christians have too often been blind to this biblical emphasis, or they have been paralyzed into inaction by feelings of helplessness. It's time for this to change.

In this urgent, provocative book, Ash Barker offers both challenge and hope. Working his way through both testaments, Barker reflects on significant passages related to God's concern for the poor. These studies are interlaced with personal reflections--firsthand accounts from fifteen years of ministry among the poor. Whether you read this book alone or with your small group, you'll be challenged to make poverty personal.


"There is an immediacy about the summoning God of the Bible. The call of that God draws us, without big words or abstract thought, down and dirty into the economic reality where the truth of God's kingdom is at stake. That immediacy in God's call is replicated in this powerful, compelling study by Ash Barker. The book makes clear that the author has been seized by the near-to-hand crisis of poverty as a life-or-death issue for the world and consequently a life-or-death issue for the faithful.
"This acute sense of urgency--forged in Bangkok and Melbourne--is matched by a grasp of daily, lived reality. That urgency, moreover, is matched by wise and compelling scripture study. The book is an invitation to unlearn so much of conventional church faith and to learn afresh about God's good news for the world. Barker knows about texts and knows how they connect to lived reality. He helps the reader with suggestive pedagogy, thus making the text available for the reader. There is a clarity that will let many readers come to grips, perhaps for the first time, with the revolutionary, subversive intention of the Bible. The book is an important one and the issues it addresses are urgent."--Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Personal, passionate, authentic, challenging, engaging, relevant. These are some words that readily spring to mind on reading Ash Barker's new book. This is no programmatic or utopian vision for ending poverty and injustice in our deeply wounded world. Instead, this is powerful testimony, rooted in the biblical story, in costly discipleship, and in risk-taking involvement to follow Jesus the servant of God to the poor. The book calls us to rethink our values, to retool our vision, and reprioritize our lives in order to be God's transformational agents in a world where the cry of the poor has become an indictment of our lack of humanity to others. This book is not structured for the quick read but for a grappling engagement regarding the call to all to bring God's shalom to all the places of injustice."--Charles Ringma, Professor Emeritus Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

"Make Poverty Personal is an impassioned challenge to Christians to take seriously the Bible's most ignored message. Ash Barker has written it from the heart of a Bangkok slum, so the sights, smells and sighs of poverty as two-thirds of our world experience it are woven into this compelling text. I commend it to you with the proviso: Beware: It could change your life!"--Tim Costello, World Vision Australia

"Here is a searing biblical call to end poverty, coming not from the safety of the snug office of an economist, an academic or a theologian, but from deep inside the bowels of the largest slum in Thailand. Ash Barker's prophetic voice issues not just from his experience of living among the poor in Bangkok, but from a thorough-going analysis of the Scriptures. Make Poverty Personal is a discomforting, energising and ultimately hopeful read. I thoroughly recommend it."--Michael Frost, Morling College, Sydney; coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come

"I have seen Ash Barker at work in the Bangkok slum and I know the authenticity of his ministry. Now everyone can read why he has made the war on poverty personal for himself, and why all Christians should. His biblical arguments are compelling. So are his stories and his study questions."--Alan Nichols, Anglican minister, former refugee worker, and Canon of the Church in Rwanda.

"What will puncture the insulation of Western middle-class Christianity, looking inwards and upwards while most people in the world live in grinding poverty? With a strong biblical brush Ash Barker paints a compelling picture of God's shalom, and challenges us to make poverty personal as we live into God's future. This book is full of stories, ideal for study groups and dangerous for life as most of us know it."--Ross Langmead, Professor of Missiology, School or World Missions and author of The Word Made Flesh

"At last, a book that goes past speculations, head spinning theories and philosophies and gives everyone PRACTICAL keys on how to personally combat poverty and injustice. I truly believe that there is a yearning in the heart of every Christ follower to give their life to more than paying off a mortgage or being consumed with the latest gadgets. There is a fingerprint of the Creator in all of our lives that will find fulfilment only in Him and doing His will. This book is a clear signpost to do just that!"--Nicole Conner, associate minister, Citylife Church, Melbourne, Australia

"It has been said that we must have the courage of our convictions. But here is the thing: you can have no courage without convictions. This new book from Ash unpacks the needed biblical convictions that have the power to birth courage in us, a courage that will take us to places and people where few have gone before."--Michael Duncan, lecturer, speaker, pastor, and author of Move Out, Costly Mission, and Who Stands Fast?

"The prophetic life and voice of Ash Barker challenges us to make poverty personal by seriously re-engaging with the universal drama that is the Word of God amongst us. In exploring a range of Biblical texts we discover that Jesus continues to call and accompany us on the risky journey of sharing with others rather than staying in safe places and accumulating material goods for ourselves. As Western Christians with lots of choices available to us, we are reminded that empowerment by the patient Spirit of selfless compassion is to be embraced rather than the easy deceit of instant gratification. It is an ideal resource for small groups to reflect upon together and then, hopefully, to respond in creative ways that will offer hope to those trapped in the poverty cycle being accelerated by our human greed."--Merrill Kitchen, principal, Church of Christ Theological College

"Benjamin Franklin noted over 200 years ago that 'in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.' He was wrong! For thousands of years the voice of God in the Bible, the arts, our conscience, our souls, our spirits, our intellect, our experience, and even invading our technology driven multi-media western culture has been telling us, 'You can be sure of this also, you will always have the poor with you!' and I suspect he has also hinted, 'and you will also have those who don't care about this fact!' Taking seriously the challenge to collide head on with governments, politicians, corrupt businesses, and comfortable middle class churches, Ash Barker not only talks theological and moral sense, but demands a genuine heartfelt response from each of us who grimace at getting our new shoes dirty."--Sammy Horner, Celtic singer/song writer and author of Wild Goose Chase

"A harrowing, deeply personal manifesto on our responsibility to the poor by one of Australia's significant missionary leaders. This book is not an easy read. Not because it is not well written, it is, but because one cannot fail to be thoroughly challenged by its contents. Humane, grace-filled, and literally reverberating with prophetic vigour, Make Poverty Personal deserves to be read by a wide and grateful audience."--Alan Hirsch, National Director of Forge Mission Training Network and author of The Forgotten Ways

"Here's another challenging offering from a prophet who practices what he preaches, urging us all via the medium of Bible studies and accompanying questions and exercises to move from our comfortable complacency to understanding and practising social justice. I am delighted to commend this important and timely book." --Rowland Croucher,

"The issue of 'poverty' is becoming an increasingly popular topic in our generation. Hopefully, the growing awareness and increasing concern will translate into practical action that will bring about positive change. I believe that this book will help ensure that this becomes a reality . . . written by someone whose very life displays God's heart for the poor. I heartily recommend this challenging book by Ash Barker."--Mark Conner, senior minister, CityLife Church, Australia

"Ash's prophetic compassion is as dangerous as it is compelling. If you care about Jesus and his mission I strongly urge you to read this book and I pray that it will both wring your heart and thrust you into action on Christ's behalf in the world."--Deb Hirsch, director of Purple Heart ministry

"If you're reading this, you are most likely among the most affluent people who have ever walked the face of this planet. You may also be experiencing a strong urge to put this book down and avoid being disturbed by the question of your response to being in this position. If you have the courage to open up personally to the issues of poverty and oppression, this book will lead you on the uncomfortable spiritual journey towards integrity. I urge you to find a group of friends to walk this journey together. It is not for the faint-hearted."--Rick Lewis, pastor, Castle Hill Community Church, Sydney

"Make Poverty Personal has in part tapped into the idealism of youth. Here we have a book that moves us from idealism to action without killing the 'ideal' that we really can make a significant difference--each and every one of us. Get your young people to read it, encourage them then follow their lead!"--Daryl Gardiner, national director, Youth For Christ New Zealand

The Author

  1. Ash Barker

    Ash Barker

    Ash Barker has served the poor for nearly twenty years. He is the founding director of Urban Neighbours of Hope (UNOH), a missionary order founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 1993 to work among the poor. Since 2002, Ash and his family have been involved with...

    Continue reading about Ash Barker


"An absolutely critical read. . . . By following the arc of the biblical narrative, Barker leads a sweeping expedition that will inspire and challenge. In addition to sound biblical exposition, Barker's personal experience and deep conviction appear on every page."--Daniel Clark, YouthWorker Journal