Hatmaker, Barefoot Church


Brandon Hatmaker, Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture. Zondervan, 2011.

Referenced in: STRATEGIES for Social Ministry, Social Justice, Urban Ministry Summary

This book emerges out of Hatmaker’s experience of trying to lead himself and his church, the Austin New Church in Austin, Texas, into serving “the least of these.” He tells of a time when as the senior pastor of a mega-church, he decided to end one busy Easter Sunday by visiting a small, socially active church. He experienced a vision where God asked him to give his new boots to a homeless man. This began his heart-felt journey to discover the meaning of being a barefoot church, one that serves the least even to the extent of giving away one’s shoes and being barefoot. This book conveys what he has learned. He expresses the purpose:

My purpose isn’t to give you a model for church planting. Rather, it’s to share principles we’ve found helpful in equipping believers to live outside themselves. I’ll offer practical ideas for creating service-based, missional communities that end up beging surprisingly as much about evangelism, discipleship, and real-life transformation as they are about serving others. We’ll take a look at how the organizational structure of church can be created and even restructured for mission in any context. And by the end, I hope to demonstrate how any church can truly be a catalyst for individual, collective, and social renewal. (16)

I especially like how toward the beginning he carefully defines terms that are often used carelessly, and in so doing strikes a healthy balance. For example, he avoids calling his suggested approach by any of the popular terms such as attractional, seeker-sensitive, culturally relevant, or even missional, exclusively. He believes each of these can create false dichotomies. Instead, he says:

“It is about serving the least and your neighbor. It’s about balancing the fasting and the feast. It’s about making the altar both a place for communion and a place to leave your shoes.” (26)

This is missional in “the sending or incarnational efforts of the church” where we move into the community and speak its language. It is attractional insofar as the “gathering nature of the church” includes “programs and events designed intentionally to attract attenders to the church campus or to the location of an event.” More importantly, “it’s by design that they actually work best together…[with a] beauty found in their coexistence: working in perfect harmony by taking the focus off ourselves and placing it where it ought to be - on God and on others.” (26-27)

Also, he defines “the least” as “a collective description of those in need, anyone who simply has less.” This can be the underprivileged, marginalized, neglected, or oppressed. “The poor” are a specific group of “the least” who are in physical need. Relatedly, “social action” is a broad focus on the holistic concerns, whereas “social justice” refers to “long-term societal change stemming from significant global needs.” “Mercy ministry” is “anything that offers temporary relief to an immediate need.” Whereas “justice ministry” is targeted to a “more global presence of need, such as the orphan crisis.” (27-28)

Some other special features on his chapter on “Parntering with the Nonprofit World,” and “A New Metric for Success.”

These are just a few examples where Hatmaker provides a very thoughtful, balanced, inspiring, and convicting picture of what it means to be a “Barefoot Church.”

**For a summary, click here for the Kindle Version, go to right column, and download the free sample. If you don’t have a free Kindle Reader on your computer, there’s a link for that too.

Publisher’s Description

People are hungry to make a difference, yet most don’t know where to start. In fact, ‘serving the least’ is often one of the most neglected mandates of Jesus. Barefoot Church shows readers how today’s church can be a catalyst for individual, collective, and social renewal in any context. Whether pastors or laypeople, readers will discover practical ideas that end up being as much about the Gospel and personal transformation as they are about serving the poor. Here they will see how the organizational structure of the church can be created or redesigned for mission in any context. Drawing from his own journey, Brandon Hatmaker proves to readers that serving the least is not a trendy act of benevolence but a lifestyle of authentic community and spiritual transformation. As Hatmaker writes, ‘My hope is that God would open our eyes more and more to the needs of our community. And that we would see it as the church’s responsibility to lead the charge.’

About the Author

Brandon is an author, church planter, non-profit collaborator, and missional strategist. He currently serves as lead pastor of Austin New Church (, is co-founder of Restore Communities (, and is a ministry coach with Missio ( Together, ANC and Restore Communities have developed a unique network of missional communities, churches, and non-profits which serve in a collective effort to impact their city and world. Brandon is married to author and speaker, Jen Hatmaker.

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