Mercy Ministry: Theology and Practice

When the bubonic plague broke out in 1519, Ulrich Zwingli won the hearts of Zurich, Switzerland’s citizens as he remained in the city to care for victims and nearly died himself while other religious and civic leaders fled. His preaching combined with active faith ushered in the reformation. Theology and mercy are always connected. To no one’s surprise, God’s word remains true, and poverty and plagues persist in our day. For those reasons, the Reformation Society of Indiana’s 2014 fall conference Growing a Heart for Ministry will highlight the theology and practice of mercy ministry. The conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, October 31-November 1 at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Our speakers, Dr. Philip Ryken and Dr. David Apple worked together for nearly two decades at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Together, they proclaimed the truths of the Bible and practiced mercy in the heart of Philadelphia. Today, Dr. Ryken serves as the president of Wheaton College and Dr. Apple remains as the director of mercy ministries at Tenth Presbyterian.

The sessions, to be supplemented with Q&A, are:

  • Seeing Mercy in Christian Doctrine (Ryken)
  • Coming Alongside People in Need (Apple)
  • Loving People Who are Hard to Love (Ryken)
  • Welcoming Jesus Through Hospitality (Apple)

Dr. Ryken is a well-known to the church as a pastor-scholar, author, and leader.

Dr. Apple is presently making public to the wider church what he has learned and practiced in forty years of diaconal ministry. His new book Not Just a Soup Kitchen will be released on September 16, 2014 and is presently available for pre-order. Sources indicate that this may be the most useful book to date on diaconal work in the twenty-first century. Dr. Apple tells me that this book is roughly ten percent personal testimony, ten percent Tenth’s testimony of mercy ministry, and eighty percent a biblical study of the role of deacons and the mercy ministry of the church.

Dr. Apple writes:

Not Just a Soup Kitchen was written in response to the consultations which aired the frustrations of pastors and deacons of large and small churches in urban, suburban and rural areas. I have heard such questions as, ‘What are my biblical responsibilities? How much do I give and when do I stop? How do I deal with difficult people? How do I avoid burn out’? This book addresses the needs of these ordained servants and others who are actively involved in ministries of mercy and compassion. It is a how-to book helping people to work smarter and more effectively. This book is for churches that are seeking answers about diaconal ministry. The book will help readers come alongside those in need, and chronicles ministry stories while providing a user-friendly guide to establishing relationships with those who feel the effects of brokenness and despair.”

He also notes two philosophies that guide his ministry:

  1. There is no mercy without the gospel–we must provide an alternative to what the world offers.
  2. Don’t work harder than the people coming for help–encourage independence, not dependence.

You can read Dr. Apple’s brief but fascinating biography at his Amazon page.

Everyone who ministers, from pastors to elders to deacons to lay people who may be simply serving their neighbors, will grow in their heart for ministry through conference. Ordained deacons who pre-register for the conference will receive a complimentary copy of Not Just a Soup Kitchen – simply add the title “Deacon” to along with your name in the “First Name” field of the online registration page. We also invite those deacons who preregister to join Dr. Ryken and Dr. Apple for a time of informal discussion regarding diaconal ministry over lunch following the conclusion of the conference on Saturday.

The Reformation Society conference is free of charge. A free-will offering will be taken to defray expenses. You can download the brochure here (feel free to print and distribute). Everyone can register online here to help us plan appropriately and expedite registration at the conference. We hope you will join us on October 31 and November 1, 2014!

Reformation Heritage Books will supply the bookstore and refreshments will be provided both Friday evening and Saturday morning.