Jim Martin is the Vice President of Spiritual Formation for International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. His recent book, The Just Church, is a practical guide for churches to engage in life-giving justice ministry.
KW: What led you to write The Just Church?
JM: One day I had the realization that it was just a matter of time before I walked in to a bookstore and saw a book with the words “Justice” and “Church” in the title. Having been in ministry for eighteen years—most of those as a pastor at a church passionate about justice, I realized I had a pretty specific perspective about what kind of book would be most helpful. I felt that any such book should make a strong connection between justice and discipleship rather than simply justice and mission. I also wanted to be sure that such a book would be very practical, offering a time-tested methodology for churches seeking to surmount the complex challenges inherent to the battle for justice both locally and internationally. A few nanoseconds later I realized that, given IJM’s experience with churches over the last decade, we should write that book. I was just at the right place at the right time.
KW: Through your book and work with International Justice Mission (IJM), what is the key message you’d like to share with Christians about the importance of justice?
JM: Here’s what so many have experienced and what we hope so many more will come to understand: It turns out that the work of justice is both a result of and a means toward our spiritual formation. It’s a virtuous cycle.
In other words, we do the work of justice because, as disciples of a just God, this is precisely what we are called to do. But as we engage in this work, what we find—often to our surprise and joy—is that the God of justice uses this very work (especially the hard parts of it) to shape and form and grow us into the courageous, loving, humble people he created us to be. The obvious benefit is that vulnerable victims of violence are, often miraculously, rescued and restored. But what we can easily miss is also miraculously true: It turns out that the work of justice is some of the most fertile ground for discipleship that many of us have ever experienced.
KW: What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your work at IJM?
JM: I am constantly encouraged by the faith, love, and bravery of my IJM colleagues around the world. Day after day these faithful and courageous friends show up in the dark places of oppression around the world. They purposely interpose themselves between victims of violence and those who would oppress them. In the name of God, they seek rescue for victims and accountability for perpetrators. It is faith in action and it’s invigorating to get to see it up close.
Similarly, I’m deeply encouraged by the church. Day after day, I come in contact with churches willing to step out in faith, willing to confront darkness and complexity, willing to turn outward and move toward the vulnerable, willing to do the hard work of pursuing justice. There are more and more stories every day of churches becoming known in their communities and around the world for their courageous service to victims of violent oppression. I find this deeply encouraging. There’s a whole chapter in The Just Church (Chapter 11) dedicated to some of these wonderful stories.
One of the most significant challenges in this work is simply the problem/opportunity of scale. The CIA Fact Book tells us that there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world. In the U.S. alone, there are roughly 333,000 churches. What my IJM colleagues in the field most desperately need is to know that there is a gathering army of justice workers in this movement for justice . Over the next generation, the church can become, must become, the infantry of that army. IJM, along with other great advocacy organizations, is working vigorously to scale up our engagement with churches precisely to recruit that army. By God’s grace, we expect to see even more miraculous change in the next decade.
KW: What does your new role as VP of Spiritual Formation entail?
JM: The work of justice is hard. And IJM’s vision to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible is ambitious. These things have great potential to exhaust us physically, emotionally and spiritually. All along, IJM has sought to do this work with excellence. But more than that, we’ve sought to develop the spiritual support necessary to achieve this vision with joy, humility, love for God, and dependence on God. My new role as VP of Spiritual Formation is about staying out in front of organizational spiritual health. I’ll be providing spiritual formation training and resources to our global staff, and ensuring that leaders of teams within the organization have the resources they need to offer spiritual leadership to their teams.
KW: What advice do you have for Christians who want to get more involved in justice-related work and ministries?
JM: I would let someone wanting to get more involved know that right now is the very best time. The Just Church provides detailed advice and a time-tested methodology for churches seeking engagement with justice both locally and internationally. The Church has the potential—and indeed, the mandate—to lead on this absolutely crucial issue. The time is ripe to jump in. IJM is here to support you every step of the way.
For students interested in IJM as a potential career, we’d love for you to learn about IJM’s Internships and Fellowships. Those interested in current job openings at IJM should check out the careers section of our website here.