Mission as a Holistic Ministry

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The training curriculum of the Institute of World Mission is built on five learning objectives: Growing Spiritually, Thinking Biblically, Reasoning Missiologically, Living Holistically, and Serving lncarnationally.

This focus denotes an effort to consider the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an all-encompassing and holistic ministry.

More often than we think, missionaries are sent by God and the Church to distant places and difficult places to minister to and serve those in need.

Accordingly, many committed missionaries go to preach the good news, and in addition, find themselves in challenging circumstances where providing educational development, physical healing, and emergency response are priorities.

Missionaries often become engaged in educational and developmental work since these types of ministries provide a venue in which people and communities can have an opportunity for change and transformation.

God provides excellent opportunities to reach people through education and development, which lead to transformation and redemption.

Development, Education, and Mission

Personally, I have come to the firm conclusion that development as understood and practiced from a holistic Christian perspective offers much more hope and has a better chance of success than does a mere secular education and development that dichotomizes the body and soul, creating a false separation between the physical and spiritual realities of life.

A holistic approach to mission and ministry will seek to be inclusive and integrative, aiming at addressing the person in his or her wholeness.

Such development encompasses every dimension of human existence: physical, moral, psychological, social, and spiritual.

Missional education and development have to do with the restoration of human dignity. Many times, the motivation behind this type of educational initiative is to help provide opportunities for those who are poor or discriminated against.

True education and development are achieved when the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the vulnerable, and the miserable of society have been enabled to participate as responsible members of their communities, each one contributing to the realization of a just and free society.

When their basic needs are met, individuals become participants in shaping their own future because they have access to resources and opportunities.

Individual or community holistic development in all its perspectives and forms is a radical concept. It has to do also with the redemption and transformation of the structures and powers that hinder and obstruct the person from the abundant life Christ wants everyone to enjoy (John 10:10).

In this case, our holistic ministry's philosophy is based on the assumption that love is the foundation for a Christian vision of human development (1 Cor. 13) because development is relational.

Although development does include material, technical, and capital inputs, these alone are inadequate.

A person without dignity is a person who is not loved and valued. The goal of holistic development is a person-in-community transformed by love whose dignity has been restored and who has found a productive and socially responsible role in the community.

In the past, such educational and development initiatives, motivated by a spirit of humanitarian benevolence and charity, inspired the establishment of several schools and universities in Europe and throughout the world, many of which still exist today.

In his book Christian Charity in Action, Michel Riquet makes the following comment regarding the establishment of the Sorbonne in France and other European universities: "It was in fact in order to enable sixteen poor men, Masters of Arts aspiring to the doctorate, to pursue their studies at the University, that Robert de Sorbon, chaplain to St Louis the king, founded the College of the Sorbonne in 1257.

It was the same at Orleans, Salamanca, Oxford and Cambridge. In these university centers the Friars Preachers for many years fostered a flame of fervour and charity" (1961:124-125).

For these missionaries, the charity which was inspired by the spirit and fervor of the gospel needed to encompass all forms of Christian life and practice—evangelistic, educational, medical, pastoral, and so forth.

It was with this aim in mind that Ellen G. White went forward with the vision to establish the Loma Linda College of Medical Evangelists in 1906.

The purpose was for the healing of the sick and the ministry of the Word to go hand in hand.1 This purpose must continue, and not only at Loma Linda University, but in all educational, medical, and other institutions of the church—integrating the teaching of the Word and the healing of the body.

God's mission must continue through educational institutions that not only teach the established curriculum but also build men and women of noble character, through hospitals that not only heal but also promote the teachings of the great Physician, and through relief and development agencies that not only provide humanitarian aid but also offer words of hope in the God who loves and cares for them.

His holistic mission must continue through churches, missions, conferences, unions, and divisions that not only manage but also live and preach the good news of the gospel in word and deed. God's mission must continue as you and I, members of the church, learn, live, and practice the holistic gospel of Jesus.

Missionaries who are involved in holistic ministry and mission (humanitarian relief and/or transformational development programs along with being a Christian witness) need to be careful to follow the principles and concepts presented in the Bible.

They must study the life of Christ to see how He imparted life and salvation as he ministered to all—healing, teaching, and preaching the good news.

In the end, we all need to understand that preaching the good news and healing the human body is one and the same activity, an activity that is carried forward by individuals through the Spirit.

As a missionary engaged either in humanitarian relief, educational and development activities, administration, preaching, or medical mission, you are the hands and feet of one Body—the Body of Christ.

Thus, holistic ministries must be carried out together and in an integrated manner as we endeavor to live the good news of God in the wisdom and strength of the Spirit and in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

So, what is your role in God's holistic mission? May God bless you as you continue to serve Him as a faithful and dedicated missionary in God's holistic mission!

By Wagner Kuhn

  1. See Richard A. Schaefer (1995), LLUMC Legacy: Daring to Care. Pp. 162.

 

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