Holistic Mission

Throughout the years, Christianity has struggled to maintain the proper balance of sharing both the gospel and compassion. As followers of Jesus, we are called to display His kindness in both word and deed.  

Church History

  • At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Church became sharply divided on how to prioritize word and deed.
  • Both the fundamentalist revivalist movement and the liberal social gospel movement gained traction at the same time, and, somewhat, in response to one another.
  • Evangelical Tradition
    • This group claimed a “great reversal” took place to limit missions to the verbal proclamation of the gospel.
    • With the decline of society, they surrendered the hope that the gospel would transform societies but focused on the individuals in need of salvation.
    • Responding to the task of the proponents of social gospel, they hunkered down on the belief that education and reform programs would not usher in the kingdom ethic.
  • Ecumenical Tradition
    • This movement began to prioritize a naturalistic, worldly approach to further human ambitions.
    • The desire to “teach a man to fish” characterized the path toward progress.
    • The hope is that by alleviating scenarios for suffering, all people will experience a “salvation” of sorts in this life.

“Wordless” Gospel?

  • “Preach the gospel; when necessary, use words.” – Disputed Quote (but Prevalent Concept)
  • Since the “gospel” is “good news,” you cannot share it silently; words must be involved.
  • The gospel is news and not instructions; it is the announcement of what Christ has done – not what you must do.
  • The gospel message is primarily news about the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15; Matt. 24:14; Col. 1:13).
  • If the gospel only centers on the individual, we miss the Kingdom aspect of it, and, therefore, will overlook our responsibilities to the thorough needs of this world.
  • The evangelical focus on an individual misses the Kingdom, but the ecumenical focus on a society misses the King.
  • The gospel message transcends all cultures, but the messenger must acknowledge the culture of context.

Compassionless Christianity?

  • If the gospel is news for God’s Kingdom to be restored, the Church must provide a tangible taste of that future reality.
  • To be identified with Jesus is a promise to operate fully under the values and concerns of the Kingdom.
  • The early church was distinguished as a community of people in which no needs existed (Acts 4:32-35).
  • 20% of the world’s Christians suffer from hunger, while 33% of the world’s wealth is attributed to Christians.
  • We will not create heaven on earth, but we should be living to create a foretaste for others to experience.

Proper Balance?

  • Quotes from Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today
    • “If love is the key, there are at least three goals: to offer merciful relief, to seek justice, and to hope for conversion” (252).
    • “Mission aims not only at changing the conditions that have created slums but also the person in the slums. We want to see people converted to Jesus Christ” (253).
    • “The church, if it is to offer a faithful witness to the gospel, must be seen as a community that gives itself for the sake of the other, a community that is deeply involved in the needs and concerns of its neighborhood” (253).
    • “The most important contribution the church can make in the face of the momentous issues and problems of our day is to nourish its people so they can live out the gospel in their various callings” (256).

Mark 2:1-12