The Power of Proximity: Moving Beyond Awareness to Action, By Michelle Ferrigno Warren alt

The Power of Proximity

Moving Beyond Awareness to Action

by Michelle Ferrigno Warren
Foreword by Noel Castellanos

The Power of Proximity
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Published: July 25, 2017
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 8926
  • ISBN: 9780830889266

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We can see evidence of injustice all around us, whether in continuing incidents of racial inequality or in the systemic forces that disenfranchise people and perpetuate poverty. It's important to learn about the world's inequities and to be a voice for the voiceless any way we can. But in an age of hashtag and armchair activism, merely raising awareness about injustice is not enough.

Michelle Warren knows what is needed. She and her family have chosen to live in communities where they are "proximate to the pain of the poor." This makes all the difference in facing and overcoming injustice. When we build relationships where we live, we discover the complexities of standing with the vulnerable and the commitment needed for long-term change.

Proximity changes our perspective, compels our response, and keeps us committed to the journey of pursuing justice for all. Move beyond awareness and experience the power of proximity.

"I'm grateful that Michelle has shared her struggles, her convictions, and her wisdom in The Power of Proximity. My prayer to God is that he will use this book to help us overcome our own fears and insecurities—to express our faith in Jesus Christ by walking in close proximity to the poor as an expression of our love for him."

from the foreword by Noel Castellanos, president, CCDA

"In Jesus, God leaves all the comforts of heaven, puts on skin, and moves into a broken world—born a refugee, wandering as a homeless rabbi, executed as a criminal. In this book, Michelle Warren dares us to follow the suffering Christ by leaning into the suffering of our world. She calls us not to conform to the patterns of this world, which might otherwise convince us to move out of Jesus' neighborhood."

Shane Claiborne, author and activist

"The great Holocaust writer and survivor Elie Wiesel says that we are most universal when we are most particular. Michelle Warren takes us through her individual and particular journey in a way that powerfully reveals the core of the call to all of us, wherever we come from, to love mercy and do justice. A wonderful book for young Christians—and for all Christians who have begun to authentically wrestle with the demands of whole-gospel discipleship. Wise, funny, and well written. Read it!"

Alexia Salvatierra, coauthor of Faith-Rooted Organizing

"Warren offers us a theology of testimony—that is, a theology that grows out of lived life. This is an account of a journey into a richer understanding of God and the mission to which he calls his people. But a testimony is more than a retelling. The Power of Proximity beckons us to join the pilgrimage to walk alongside the vulnerable—a pilgrimage that will transform how we incarnate Christian faith."

M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), Blanchard Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College, author, Christians at the Border

"Michelle Warren is a faithful witness to the power of proximity. She writes like she lives—with great passion and purpose—and shows us the path to justice by sharing her own story with vulnerability and insight. The Power of Proximity urges us to overcome our fears and courageously cross the deep dividing lines within our society. We are challenged not only to get close to those who are hurting on the Jericho road, but to transform the whole road!"

Shawn Casselberry, executive director, Mission Year

"Michelle Warren is a genuine and credible expert on this topic. She and her family have personally lived out the value of proximity, and her work with everyone from neighborhood stakeholders to senior politicians has demonstrated that there really is untapped power here. I encourage you to allow Michelle to guide you on a journey into a new perspective on the intersection of faith and social engagement."

Daniel Hill, senior pastor, River City Community Church, author of White Awake

"Michelle Warren is a remarkable woman who, along with her husband and family, has lived among the poor for over two decades. They have learned so much from the people around them. Michelle weaves her story in touching and heartfelt ways that teach us all about the importance of proximity. I highly recommend The Power of Proximity."

Wayne "Coach" Gordon, pastor, Lawndale Community Church, president emeritus, Christian Community Development Association

"As a person of color who has long lived in the 'hood like Michelle Warren, I was eager to read how she deals with issues such as racial privilege, discouragement over our political system, and the plight of those without proper papers. Her vast experience, sage advice, and biblical insights about fighting for God's shalom are useful for everyone—whether you're just now exploring issues of justice or have been a longtime activist. I especially heeded Warren's timely recommendations about collective engagement for the long haul. The Power of Proximity is a clear reminder to me of how solidarity with the poor is a way to God's heart."

Russell Jeung, professor, San Francisco State University, author of At Home in Exile

"We cannot effectively love our neighbors as ourselves, as Jesus commands us, unless we're in close proximity to them; we will never be good Samaritans if we avoid the Jericho road altogether. My friend Michelle Warren, who with her family has lived in close proximity to poor and vulnerable people for decades, offers this important challenge as to why awareness of injustice is not enough. I pray this superb book will transform how Christians serve and learn from their vulnerable neighbors."

Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization, World Relief, coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger

"In an age of hashtag awareness and digital outrage, Michelle Warren invites us to embrace the power of the incarnation, to let our love for others and our passion for justice take on flesh and 'move into the neighborhood.' This is not a book, a collection of stories, or a set of principles; this is a life lived in self-giving love. So be warned: by entering these pages, you will become proximate to Michelle's story, and in doing so you will be powerfully challenged and personally transformed."

Glenn Packiam, lead pastor, New Life Downtown, associate senior pastor, New Life Church, author of Discover the Mystery of Faith, Lucky, and Secondhand Jesus

"As Michelle Warren eloquently explores, there is simply no substitute for relationships. None. When we make relationships our priority, the transformative power of God is unleashed as we listen to and learn from those who are different from us. That's why I'm so grateful for this timely book. It's an excellent guide, grounded in a lifetime of experience, and it provides an alternative story to our polarized and fragmented culture."

Tim Soerens, cofounding director of The Parish Collective, coauthor of The New Parish

"I wholeheartedly affirm Michelle Warren's powerful storytelling about the personal transformation experienced when one makes the decision to live among precious people experiencing poverty."

Andy Bales, CEO, Union Rescue Mission of Los Angeles

"With disarming candor, Michelle Warren gently guides us to a pursuit of Jesus that unmasks our consensual hallucinations of ourselves heroically in charge, saving the world on our terms, or sated with stuff, status, security, and success. At the same time, with insight and vigor she chronicles a rich life of proximity with people in need and reminds us that in a world torn by trauma, there is nothing 'natural' in being neutral."

John Hayes, founder and general director, InnerCHANGE

"Michelle is one of our country's top organizers. She has a heart for people, a gift for organizing, and a commitment to marginalized communities. She is a voice we should be listening to today. I highly recommend her book to anyone who is interested in organizing and has a concern for people."

Leroy Barber, director, The Voices Project, board chair, Missio Alliance

"With the guiding voice of a mentor, Michelle instills in the reader the necessity of the intrusively life-altering work of proximity. Because injustice is not merely a case study, ongoing proximity is necessary to move toward justice. This book is a practical introduction for a young adult, especially a young adult from a community of privilege, who is seeking inspiration for shaping a lifestyle that reflects a just God."

Diana Collymore, assistant director of missions, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

"In the spirit of John Perkins's call to 'relocation' in the 1980s, Michelle Warren's The Power of Proximity calls a new generation to defy the moving sidewalk that pushes us to seek out and settle down in communities of comfort. Instead she says, 'Lean in.' Michelle's life and words declare that the renewing of our minds requires the relocation of our bodies into the epic day-to-day struggles of ordinary people pushed to forgotten corners of our cities and towns. Here we experience the power of proximity to heal and transform our world."

Lisa Sharon Harper, speaker, activist, author of The Very Good Gospel

"At a time when it's so easy to distance ourselves from those who are different from us or make us feel uncomfortable, Michelle reminds us in The Power of Proximity that it's when we are close to the suffering and poor that we truly understand the heart of God. This book is an important reminder of the power of relationships to transform and deepen our understanding of a relational God who is working to redeem all things for his glory and justice. Using her own life story as an example, Michelle shares key lessons learned from coming alongside marginalized communities and demonstrates how justice cannot become personal until you are proximate to it. I highly recommend this book as a primer on how to go beyond awareness to living a poured-out life that Jesus demands from his followers."

Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy, World Relief

"At a time when the people of these United States of America are clearly so divided, Michelle Warren's book The Power of Proximity has captured the crux of the matter: the church cannot effectively address the ills of poverty and racial injustice based on its limited knowledge and awareness of these issues. While frequent mission activities in urban neighborhoods are helpful, they are no substitute for living among the poor and gaining the unique insight of being up close. Using the very familiar story of the good Samaritan coming to the aid of a man beaten up and left for dead, Ms. Warren uses her family's experience of living in an urban community to make a very compelling statement. That statement is at the heart of what the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) has advocated all along: those who want to help break the vicious cycles of poverty and racial injustice must be willing to walk among (and in the shoes of) the people who are broken and be willing to be broken themselves. It's a powerful book!"

John Perkins, cofounder, Christian Community Development Association, founder, John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation, Justice & Christian Community Development

"Ferrigno Warren succeeds wonderfully in presenting her primer on the power of proximity principle, and Christ followers will necessarily begin asking themselves if their lives require a change of address."

Michele Howe, Christian Market, July 2017


Foreword by Noel Castellanos

Part I: How Proximity Transforms Us
1. Becoming Proximate
2. Deeper and Higher
3. Embracing Brokenness

Part II: Proximity Compels Response
4. Leaning into Love
5. Race Matters
6. Privilege Needs to Take a Side

Part III: Proximity for the Long Haul
7. Fear, Courage, Redemption
8. Solvitur Ambulando
9. Joining the Collective Engagement



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Michelle Ferrigno Warren

Michelle Ferrigno Warren is the president and CEO of Virago Strategies, and helped found Open Door Ministries, a community development 501(c)(3) corporation in downtown Denver, to address poverty, addiction, and homelessness through social programs. She has served as advocacy and strategic engagement director for the Christian Community Development Association and done coalition work with the National Immigration Forum. She is the author of The Power of Proximity.