The Great Commandment and the Great Commission

Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in His name. He also brought good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for prisoners, and release for the oppressed. Followers of Jesus cannot separate evangelism from social action, righteousness from justice, faith from repentance, or concern for the salvation of souls from concern for those who suffer.

Jesus commanded us to love God and our neighbor. This is the great commandment. He illustrated love for neighbor with the story of a man who overcame his fear and prejudice to save the life of a stranger who had been beaten and left for dead.  Jesus also commanded his followers to proclaim the good news of salvation through faith in Christ, and to make disciples of all nations. This is the great commission. Our responsibility is not to choose which of Jesus’ commands is most important, but to commit to obey everything Jesus commanded. 

If the tendency of the last generation of evangelicals was to neglect the great commandment to give priority to evangelism, this next generation might be tempted to neglect the great commission while giving priority to the great commandment. In today’s postmodern culture, it is perfectly acceptable to serve the community but religious views are, and must remain, a private and relative matter.

As the pendulum swings one way and then the other, our challenge is to hold to the middle, and make it our aim to be faithful to everything Jesus commanded.

Evangelism in the Context of Love and Good Works

Many evangelicals view evangelism as a rational process. Believers make truth claims. Hearers consider those truth claims and make a decision to believe or reject them.  Working from that assumption, the command to make disciples is a command to teach and preach the truth.

Jonah Lehrer in his book “How We Decide” argues from neuroscience that the decisions we make are a blend of both feeling and reason. In an interview, Lehrer says, “For the first time in human history, we can look inside our mind and see how we actually think. It turns out that we weren’t designed to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment”.

Researcher John Pijanowski at the University of Arkansas developed eight stages of decision making Pijanowski (2009, p.7). He describes the first stage as “establishing community: creating and nurturing relationships, norms, and procedures that will influence how problems are understood and communicated. This stage takes place prior to and during a moral dilemma”. In other words, the first stage of the decision making process is not intellectual, but relational. In establishing community, we choose who we will trust and what assumptions we will bring to the table.

My intention here is not to delve into psychology or neuroscience, but to raise the question: “Is evangelism an entirely rational process of making truth claims, or is there more to it than that?” What more could there be?

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Could it be that our most convincing argument is the quality of our relationships more than the logic of our propositions?

Jesus also said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:18. Could it be that our actions speak louder than words, and that the most convincing argument for faith in Christ might be our charity?

Fifth Annual North American CHE Network Meeting

We are excited to announce that registration for the fifth annual North American CHE Network Meeting in Louisville, KY on November 6-7, 2013 is open. Network members gather to exchange ideas, encourage and work together to achieve our goals of strengthening our ministries and the expansion of the CHE movement.

Our format will be new this year. We will spend the first day in three working groups aimed at answering the following questions:

  • How can we use CHE to make Public Health a major mission strategy?
  • How can we use Public Health Professionals to strengthen CHE programs?
  • How can GCN members serve each other and still meet organizational goals?
  • What kinds of things keep missionaries from serving each other?
  • What defines whether a community is a CHE community?
  • What prevents organizations with mature CHE programs from serving as mentors to organizations younger in CHE usage?
  • What are the underlying perceptions of disability in your area?
  • How can we mainstream disability in our CHE programs globally?
  • What are the pros & cons of disability-specific vs. disability-integrated programs?
  • How is a wholistic approach key to success in the transformation of people with disabilities?

Please send other questions you would like to suggest for discussion to info@chenetwork.org.

We are praying that the answers will lead to the following outputs:

  • A plan for facilitating internships for public health students in active CHE programs within the network.
  • A plan for introducing CHE as mission strategy through courses offered in Christian Colleges and Universities.
  • A plan for publishing the results of CHE programs in academic journals.
  • Develop a disability-specific worldview assessment tool that could universally be utilized to determine the underlying values informing disability perceptions
  • Develop a customizable strategy for integrating people with disabilities into CHE programs worldwide
  • A commitment among organizational leaders using CHE methodology to be dedicated to the building of God’s kingdom even if their organization does not receive credit or recognition.
  • Clear strategy for unity among CHE practitioners in the field without favoritism or judgment.
  • Commitments among the organizations present to serve as examples and advocates of unity among GCN members in making disciples of Jesus using the CHE strategy.

We will come together on the second day to share our answers and to pray.

No Sacred Secular Divide

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Discovering the secrets of God’s universe is sacred work and the glory of kings. Discoveries that build a nation also glorify God who concealed those truths in His creation for us to explore, discover, understand, use, teach, and celebrate. Every discovery that benefits humanity is a revelation of the glory of God.

Putting the Last First

Near the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus described his mission to people in his hometown of Nazareth. He went to the synagogue in the community where he grew up, opened a scroll, and read from the book of Isaiah:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18,19)

After reading this, Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. With every eye in the synagogue fastened on him, he declared, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” On that day, Jesus declared himself to be the anointed one of whom the prophet spoke, and appropriated the words of Isaiah as his own personal mission statement. He used these words to explain to people in his hometown who he was and why he came.

The passage that Jesus chose to describe his mission makes it clear that the hurting, the poor, and the oppressed would be the focal point of his ministry. Jesus would take those who had been pushed to the periphery – the suffering, the alienated, and the marginalized – and move them to the center.  The last would be first.

Near the end of his public ministry, Jesus describes a day when he will sit on his throne as judge and separate the righteous from the unrighteous based on how they responded to the needs of the poor. He says to the righteous: “I was hungry and you fed me”, and to the unrighteous “I was hungry and you did not feed me.” (Matthew 25:31-46) Acts of service to the poor are not only characteristic of righteousness, but are received by the king himself. They are not only good deeds, but they are acts of worship.

At the beginning of Jesus ministry, he stated that his mission was to preach good news to the poor, heal the sick, and release the oppressed. At the end of the age, he separates the righteous from the unrighteous based on how they responded to the needs of the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. Jesus defined ministry to the poor as ministry to Himself. As his followers, we want our lives and ministries to reflect these values.

Wholistic or Holistic?

I came to the conviction long ago that my ministry should be obedient to both the great commission and the great commandment. I joined the (w)holistic ministry camp. Two decades later, I still don’t know how to spell what I am. My spell checker rejects the spelling “wholistic”. (Technically, “wholistic” is not in the dictionary and is not an alternative spelling of the word “holistic”). On the other hand, many of my colleagues argue that “holistic” is closely identified with alternative medicine or eastern religion and is therefore inappropriate as a description of Christian ministry.

Now I am planning a (w)holistic ministry conference and have to face the question of how to spell the word head on. What do we name the conference? Do we name it the “International Holistic Ministry Conference” or the “International Wholistic Ministry Conference”?

Some of us spell the word with a “w”, and some without a “w”. Some of us use different words altogether, such as “integral” or “integrated”. Whatever word we use, we are united in the pursuit of loving God with all our being, loving all people selflessly, and reproducing disciples of Jesus around the globe.

With that as our united mission, let me invite you to join us at the first International Wholistic Ministry Conference facilitated by the Global CHE Network in Phoenix, Arizona, January 9-11, 2013. For more information, visit http://wholisticmissions.com/.

 

Integration Begins With Me

As followers of Jesus, our obligation is obedience to everything Jesus commanded. That means that we do not choose which command is most important (evangelism or social action), but we find ways to do both. For the sake of the discussion that follows, I will define integration as “obedience to everything Jesus commanded”, and specialization as “choosing which commands to obey”.

Integration in Christian ministry is fundamentally a mindset that is born out of a Biblical and wholistic worldview rather than a dualistic one. Integrated ministries are built on personal conviction that resists both internal and external pressures toward specialization.

When I arrived on the mission field in 1986, a senior colleague approached me with a word of advice: “If you feed someone today, they will be hungry again tomorrow. If you save their soul today, they will be saved forever.” That phrase summarized my colleagues’ philosophy of ministry and theology of mission. Our task was to save souls and plant churches, not to care for the physical needs of people. This is an example of what I will call external pressure toward specialization. Another good example of external pressure toward specialization is the reality that in a hostile environment it is easy to do acts of compassion, but harder to evangelize.

There are internal pressures as well. I might find it difficult or intimidating to talk with others about their need to repent of sin and put their trust in Christ. It might be easier for me to do good works, and wait for people to ask me how they can be saved. That is an example of internal pressure toward specialization.

Complete obedience to everything Jesus commanded requires resistance to both external and internal pressure toward specialization. It is rooted in convictions about what I must do, not just what I am gifted or trained to do.

I can teach what I know, but I reproduce what I am. If we want integrated ministries, then we must be integrated people. Integration begins with me. I must develop convictions that resist pressures toward specialization, and be willing myself to work outside of my comfort zone. If I am a community developer, I must evangelize. If I am an evangelist, I must involve myself with community development.

What are the implications of these ideas for those who are developing a program of training and equipping for wholistic ministry? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Training must be rooted in God’s Word and should focus on integration in the life and ministry of the individual.

2. Training should challenge assumptions of a dualistic worldview, and promote a mindset of ministry to the whole person and community. Individuals must be trained as generalists, not specialists.

3. Training must offer tools that are simple and transferable, enabling the individual to respond personally to the whole need of individuals and communities whether spiritual, physical, social, intellectual, or economic.