Holistic mission can be defined as “the task of bringing the whole of life under the lordship of Jesus Christ”1 and includes the affirmation that there is no biblical dichotomy between evangelistic and social responsibility. “Integral mission,” the term adopted for holistic mission at the Micah Network in Oxford (2001), defines it as “the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel,” emphasizing that it is not simply the issue of evangelism and social involvement occurring simultaneously, but that “our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life” and that “our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.”2
The mission of God is “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20) and our part is crossing geographic, cultural, political, economic and social barriers “with the intention of transforming human life in all its dimensions, according to God’s purpose, and of enabling human beings to enjoy the abundant life that God wants to give to them and that Jesus Christ came to share with them.”3 Thus issues of justice for the poor, orphans and immigrants figure prominently in holistic mission. Indeed, properly understood, holistic mission was a concern for every Issue Group at the 2004 Lausanne Forum.
The Holistic Mission Issue Group addressed topics in four sectors particularly pressing in the evangelical world:
– economic justice
– displaced people
Sector papers integrated or concluded with action plans for churches, para-church organizations and the evangelical community at large. With regard to economic justice, the mandate for the church was seen as: pursuing a holistic theology where economic justice is integral to its mission; embracing and teaching a biblical understanding of the poor and poverty; denouncing systemic and structural sins of injustice; addressing lifestyle issues related to consumerism; demonstrating economic justice through word, deed and sign incarnationally among the poor; and involving the poor in the process of transformation. The sector group identified twenty action steps for churches, including implementing holistic models of microfinance and enterprise as solutions to economic injustice; incorporating issues related to economic justice into pastoral training; helping reshape the global economy so that benefits of globalization (such as access to markets) are available to the marginalized and vulnerable; promoting an understanding of the negative ecological impact of economic injustice; and encouraging debt relief, fair trade and the transparency and accountability of governments, transnational corporations and the international banking sector.
With regard to health, it was heartening to note how local churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America have responded, often in partnership with Christian non-government organizations such as World Vision, MAP International, Food for the Hungry, Samaritan’s Purse, Tearfund and Trans World Radio. Programs have: begun in the affected community; built on local assets; developed multifaceted ministries; strengthened local capacity; addressed disease prevention and health promotion; and become sustainable. Additionally, a declaration on HIV/AIDS was developed, calling for a response to this complex biological, behavioral, cultural and socio-economic issue which affects both youth and a disproportionate number of women. A response of compassion was advocated, addressing the root issues of poverty and injustice and the challenge HIV/AIDS brings to world evangelization.
The sector group focusing on hunger dealt with agriculture, advocating economically-viable, resource-efficient and environmentally-sound agriculture that promotes justice while building community. This is characterized by less dependence on fossil fuels and allows room for both wild and domestic creatures. It also encourages local and natural methods of pest control (rather than purchased pesticides) and produces agricultural products primarily for sale in the region in which they are produced. Only the surplus is used to earn income.
Finally, a Christian response to people uprooted by conflict, persecution, poverty, economic collapse, famine and natural disasters was considered. Scripture has a great deal to say about both the care and plight of aliens and foreigners. Hospitality, solidarity and love toward the displaced are responses grounded in Scripture. Not only are the provision of food, housing and caring for refugees necessary, but the church has the unique task of bearing “witness to the reality of Jesus’ victory”4 that gives meaning and purpose to existence. The response of the church must include ensuring survival, providing protection, offering spiritual care and enabling people to recover identity and vocation.
Interested in knowing more of the compelling work of the Holistic Mission Issue Group? Read the full paper at http://community.gospelcom.net/lcwe/assets/LOP33_IG4.pdf and consider how you can respond to global human need. For information, go to .
- Hughes, Dewi. 2004. “Introduction. Holistic Mission,” Occasional Paper No. 33.
Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE).
- The Micah Declaration on Integral Mission.
- Padilla, C. Rene. 2004. “Holistic Mission.” Holistic Mission, Occasional Paper No. 33. LCWE.
- Newbigin, Lesslie. 2003. Signs among the Rubble. Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Eerdmans, p. 113ff.