The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good

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Charity and Service Have a Dark Side

You want to live out the Gospel by serving others, and you're willing to sacrifice your time, money, and perhaps even your safety. But do you realize the spiritual dangers you face as you serve? Peter Greer, the CEO of a Christian nonprofit, found that serving others and seeking justice actually did him harm. He shares how something that started with the noblest of intentions got off track--and how he got back on course. His story is a compassionate warning for anyone who works in ministry or charitable nonprofits, from CEOs to weekend volunteers.


"Doing good can take its toll on our lives if we aren't careful. The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is an honest look at the dangers we all need to avoid as we seek to make a difference."

Craig Groeschel, senior pastor,

"Peter Greer is a friend and a brother, a sparring partner on capitalism and things that matter. As well as anyone I know, Peter lives out the old saying of Jesus: 'Be shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove.' This is his newest book . . . full of shrewdness and full of innocence. It is a brilliant reminder that what we do is not nearly as important as who we are--and how much we give is not nearly as important as how much love is in the giving."

Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and lover of Jesus

"In this extremely timely and important book, Peter Greer applies the apostle Paul's teaching to the twenty-first century leader. Readable, humorous, and keenly insightful."

Brian Fikkert, author of When Helping Hurts

"This book is a needed message for all leaders interested in social justice, ministry, or simply loving their neighbors as themselves. It is timely and welcomed. So get ready for a challenge. Peter is a thought leader who is changing the world. Read this book!"

Brad Lomenick, president and lead visionary, Catalyst

"If you are looking for another fluffy 'how to be a better you' book then keep looking, but if you're ready to take an honest look at your leadership then read this work with a continual prayer on your lips: 'Lord, show me how this might be true in my life.' Too often Christian leaders gloss over these issues at their own peril. Read it, take heed, and become liberated from the hero who must die in order to live--you."

Dr. Scott C. Todd, senior vice president, Compassion International

"Anchored in personal, gut-honest experience, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is a clarion call to all of us. Peter and Anna discuss how to change the world without sacrificing what is most important. I deeply resonate with the principles found in this book. I am taking an inventory of my own journey as a result."

Stephan Bauman, president and CEO, World Relief

"Peter has nailed it. He has uncovered unique signs and situations we overlook as leaders that cause serious harm to ourselves and to others--particularly those we love most. Want to be a great leader? This is a must-read."

David Spickard, president & CEO, Jobs for Life

"My thought as I was reading was It's time for us to get off our soapboxes and get off the platforms, roll up our sleeves, and go to work for Jesus and Him alone. Peter helps us in practical ways to serve Jesus with a pure heart, pure love and, . . . no applause necessary. I believe this book will get you in your gut and you'll be forever changed."

Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne's, Inc.

"This book will speak truth into hearts that are open. From gorillas in Rwanda to prophets in Panera Bread, the authentic stories and relevant topics will help those in ministry avoid the dangers that so often accompany doing good. "

Scooter Haase, executive Director, Water Street Mission

"Peter is a veteran leader who shares his experience in a powerful way. This book is for those advocates who live and serve with their neighbors. Peter is well aware of the dangers of service and shares them in a helpful way. This book will help you rediscover the foundations of service."

Leroy Barber, president, Mission Year

"Insightful, engaging, and eminently readable, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good will pique the hearts, minds, and consciences of anyone who wants to exchange the perils of doing good for the gratitude and security of remembering why we serve."

Kim S. Phipps, PhD, president, Messiah College, past chair, Council of Christian Colleges and Universities Board of Directors

"If you hope to better the world, you had better read this book. With striking vulnerability, Peter Greer interweaves his own experiences with biblical truth to expose the dark side of doing good. As a professional 'do-gooder' in a city of do-gooders, I'm buying this book in bulk."

The Rev. Thomas R. Hinson III, rector, Church of the Advent, Washington D.C.

"I've taken enough photographs to realize there's a greater story behind the image. Peter is willing to take us beyond the portrait of a nonprofit leader to give us a glimpse of the hidden dark side that comes with doing good. This book is honest and a needed challenge for anyone who wants to help change the world."

Jeremy Cowart, entertainment/humanitarian photographer and founder, Help-Portrait

"YES! Finally. A book, or story rather, about REAL leadership for those who are 'leaders in ministry.' This book is solid gold because of the humility of the author and his desire for all of us to be whole so we can truly serve others."

Jeremie Kubicek, founder, GiANT Impact

"The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is a forensic exploration of souls in the center of the serving experience. Peter Greer gives us language on how to be mindful of our internal dynamics while we are externally experiencing our faith. Every Christ-follower should make this book their surgeon before serving."

Charley Scandlyn, campus pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

"In story after story, in a vulnerable and transparent way, Peter shares the truth about doing good. He confesses to identifying with the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son and to his own pride in his works. Yet he reminds us of the Good News of the grace and love of God--which are unlimited."

Greg Campbell, former executive vice president, Coldwell Banker Corporation

"Peter's stature as a Christian nonprofit leader makes his raw honesty about the struggles of service all the more compelling. By sharing how he has persevered through trials in marriage, friendship, leadership, and more, Peter has given us a book that will reach readers in all walks of life. I hope this book finds a home on individuals' nightstands and in group studies alike."

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, author, The World Is Not Ours to Save and founder, Two Futures Project

"My brother Peter and I have journeyed together, and I echo with Peter that it's not just what we do, but who we become that is most important. The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good is a needed message for anyone eager to follow God's calling for a lifetime of faithful service."

Carlos Pimentel Sanchez, president, Esperanza International

"I wish I could have read The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good as a young pastor. My idealism has often been my greatest strength and my most catastrophic weakness. Peter understands this, and his stories and insights would have saved me from heartache and major mistakes. It is a must read."

Chris Seay, pastor, Ecclesia Houston

"So often we measure our Christian life by what we are doing for God and not who we are becoming. We all want heart transformation but often settle for behavior modification. This is a book about the heart. If you choose to read it your heart will never be the same."

Justin Davis, co-author, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn't Good Enough
co-founder, RefineUs Ministries

"This book is an uncomfortable yet life-giving exploration into the souls of those who desire to bring good to our world. It is refreshingly honest, thoroughly practical, and full of hope for those who are courageous enough to acknowledge their own frailty and need for God's grace."

Charles Lee, CEO, Ideation and author, Good Idea. Now What?

"Peter Greer invites us to see the mighty and redemptive hand of God at work in the midst of weakness. This book not only will challenge you to examine the true motives of your own heart and actions, it will also give you a profound hope to approach and engage in service from the depths of who you are on the inside--one who is daily being formed to be more and more like Christ."

Bethany Hoang, director, IJM Institute for Biblical Justice

The Authors

  1. Peter Greer
    © Michael Rothermel of Cursive Films

    Peter Greer

    Peter Greer ( is the president and CEO of HOPE International, a global Christ-centered economic development organization serving throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Prior to joining HOPE, Peter worked...

    Continue reading about Peter Greer

  2. Anna Haggard
    © Becky Svendsen

    Anna Haggard

    Anna Haggard is the executive writing assistant at HOPE International, where she collaborates with the president and CEO and the marketing department to share HOPE's message through print and social media. She coauthored The Spiritual Danger of Doing...

    Continue reading about Anna Haggard


"Provides a powerful wake-up call for Christians . . . Each of the book's 17 chapters demonstrates spiritual pitfalls and how to avoid them. The discussion questions and suggested videos on a variety of topics make this excellent for group studies. The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good should be required reading for all Christians whether they are involved in overseas missions or work in their own neighborhoods."

Congregational Libraries Today

"Peter Greer became the CEO of HOPE International at a relatively young age and has been fighting poverty in one way or another for most of his adult life. As Christians, we are called not only to serve, but to serve with the right kind of heart. Greer outlines in The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good many of the dangers that go along with serving others, including an inflated ego, judgmental heart, and serving the poor at the neglect of one's spouse and family. Greer offers insight based on his own experience and points readers to the God who asks us to love others, and to do it with a heart that is open to Him. This book is a great devotional resource for anyone who serves others, whether as a pastor, nonprofit leader or volunteer at the local food bank."

Youthworker Journal