The deepest desire of those of us in a broken world is to become what we were created to be: whole people in Christ. With its mission of “the whole Church taking the whole gospel to the whole world,” the Lausanne movement desires to first obey Christ in the Great Commission: “Making disciples of all nations… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). Second, it desires to obey what Jesus called the greater commandments to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28- 31). In its commitment to the whole gospel, the Lausanne movement is committed to holistic mission.
Ephesians 3: 9-11
“I was chosen to explain to everyone this plan that God, the creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
God's purpose was to show his wisdom in all its rich variety to all the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. They will see this when Jews and Gentiles are joined together in his Church. This was his plan from all eternity, and it has now been carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“And by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross.”
Wholeness requires that first of all we be reconciled to God through Christ’s redemption completed on the cross. Having experienced that foundational reconciliation, God has chosen the Church to carry out his comprehensive plan for the reconciliation and restoration of the world until his return (see Ephesians 3:9-11 and Colossians 1:20 at right).
According to Bob Moffitt, “The staggering implication of Paul's assertion is that the Church is more important to the healing of human brokenness—hunger, sickness, political corruption and economic injustice—than civil leaders, state governments, economic policy and development or scientific advance. God will use these and other means to advance his purpose, but the Church holds the principal ordination for this supreme assignment. However, the Church cannot fulfill her role until she understands her significance, and equips and mobilizes individual members to purposefully represent God's holistic agenda in their respective worlds.”1
Ministry: From Soul to Whole Person
To approach mission holistically is to be concerned with ministering to the whole person: to the person’s spiritual needs and also to his or her physical, practical and emotional needs. As the church that I personally am part of seeks to practice holistic ministry, we are finding that our building is open more and more during the week. In addition to worship services on Sunday and ministries for different age groups within the church, the homeless come in out of the cold and sleep overnight once a week at the church. Those in need, including people with addiction to alcohol and drugs, people with mental illness and people with criminal records, come weekly to a drop-in centre called “Oasis” where they enjoy a warm meal and a place they feel at home. We host a ministry for those who are struggling with sexual and relational brokenness on Tuesday nights. The Alpha course, which invites those outside the church into a personal relationship with Christ, takes place on Wednesday nights. There are also groups for single parents and those living with chronic illness. There is also a group that sponsors international refugees resettling in Canada. We hope to continue to discern how God would have us use the building he has given us as a resource for the holistic needs of our community.
Perceived Brokenness: From Others’ Hurt to Our Own
Those of us who seek to approach mission holistically enter the local and international communities to which God has called us looking for where God is already at work. We are called to be like Jesus; to be servants and to consider others better than ourselves; and to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others. Honoring God and the people we serve means setting aside our agendas, listening before we speak, taking time to build relationships, meeting people where they are, hearing from others what the needs are in their communities and responding accordingly.
Mother Teresa epitomized a ministry of love and compassion. Consequently, she won the respect and admiration of the world because peoples’ hearts (believers and non-believers alike) resonated with the rightness of what she did. She represented God’s kingdom values in action.
Those of us who would be mediators of God’s wholeness in the world are of course still on our own journey from brokenness to wholeness in Christ. We have much to learn from people of other countries and segments of society. By spending time with these individuals, we can expect to become more aware of the values (like individualism and materialism) that we unwittingly absorb from our own culture. Instead of sharing our fifty percent divorce rate with the rest of the world, we, the North American Church, can learn from how our Christian brothers and sisters in other countries are practicing marriage and family.
Calling: From a Partial to a Multidimensional Gospel
A commitment to the whole gospel is a commitment to see God’s wholeness, health and restoration come in our world. This can be achieved through: (1) the spiritual rebirth of the people that God created in his own image, (2) economic justice that ends the oppression of the poor, (3) healthcare that fights disease, (4) stewardship of the earth by caring for the environment, (5) development of sustainable sources of food and water for the starving and (6) relief aid to those in distress. Missionaries, pastors and evangelists have long been the heroes of the evangelical community. We are good in our churches at fuelling a passion for evangelism and missions. But what about those who God has created with brilliant minds and a passion for economic justice, healthcare and the environment? Do they receive the same encouragement and validation in our churches to pursue those dimensions of the whole gospel that God has given us? The church must equip and disperse its people into every sector of society as intentional advocates for the will of God. Organizations like Evangelicals for Social Action can help lead us forward.
Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, has certainly emerged as one mentor who helps us see HIV/ AIDS as the leprosy of our day. In his recent address at the United States National Prayer Breakfast, he declared to God’s people that responding to HIV/ AIDS in Africa is not about charity, but about God’s higher standard of justice. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concerns, it questions our commitment. Over 6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease due to a lack of drugs most westerners can buy at any drugstore. Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market is a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents is a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents is a justice issue.
The poor are mentioned 2,100 times in scripture. In the 2004 Lausanne Occasional Paper on Holistic Mission we are reminded that “It is an unquestionable biblical truth that God has made an unbreakable link between faith in himself and the outworking of that faith in seeing that justice is done to the poor and oppressed.” is heeding that call. It is a global Christian campaign that aims to deepen engagement with the poor, to challenge leaders to achieve the UN’s “Millennium Development Goals,” and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015.
Becoming Whole Together
God created us to be whole people in him and to minister to others in their journey from brokenness to wholeness. According to Moffitt, “Those of us at Lausanne believe that Christ can and will empower the Church to fulfill her task as she grasps the significance of her role and obediently follows the strategy he left her. We therefore call the leaders of the Church to the overriding and ultimate job description of all who lead God's people—to equip each saint to demonstrate and proclaim God's whole concern for the restoration of all that was broken in the fall (Ephesians 4:12).”2
As we move into this calling we can expect to experience the soul satisfying joy of knowing that we are doing what we were created to do: joining God in his kingdom work. Societies will be transformed and communities of people all over the world will experience spiritual rebirth. We can look forward to Christ breathing new life into creation so that it is liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:20-21).
1. Written for the 2004 Lausanne Occasional Paper on Holistic Mission. It can be accessed at http://www.lausanne.org/.
2. Written for the 2004 Lausanne Occasional Paper on Holistic Mission.