Deeper life for deeper ministry

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Deeper life for deeper ministry

How wholistic development transforms the world

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Compassion for whole persons, deeper understanding of systemic sources and solutions of poverty and injustice, and healthy disciplines of relief and development work—all these represent huge and positive additions to the missiology and ministry of The Alliance in the past 50 years. We’re grateful . . . and believe continuing change [is] for the good of our shared vision. –Tim Crouch, vice president for Alliance Missions

Caring about people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs has been a basic core value for God’s people since creation. It is our history and, as believers, our mandate. The prophets in the Old Testament preached about the importance of our caring for the poor and the oppressed and warned about the consequences when we don’t show concern. We are told that it is our responsibility to welcome the alien and care for widows and orphans and to seek justice for the poor and all who are oppressed. Jesus set the example for us, and that example has been demonstrated down through the centuries. From the first Christ followers to the present, we have had wonderful examples of God’s people doing His work for His glory.

An Emerging Philosophy

My personal journey in wholistic development began many years ago when I was contemplating overseas service and saw a video from our denomination promoting mission work in Africa. I squirmed a bit when in the film the narrator stated, “We’re glad these relief and development people are here in Africa because it frees us up to do ministry.” Like me, many in the audience wondered why this had become the philosophy of The Alliance when it wasn’t at all what our founder, A. B. Simpson, believed and taught. We discussed among ourselves why ministry had become something separate from caring for the poor. Weren’t these activities what Jesus had called all His followers to be concerned about? Didn’t Jesus say that when we neglected those who were poor, we were neglecting Him? (Matt. 25:45)

It was during those perplexing years that I met out-of-the-box thinkers, like businessman Gary Ginter, who encouraged me to pursue creative ways to serve the Lord in wholistic development. A committed Christ follower, Gary was using his entrepreneurial gifts to deeply impact the world. This inspired me. He even took me on an international trip so I would see for myself examples of wholistic development. During this time, I saw many organizations and people who were quite involved in development and even speaking out on behalf of the oppressed, poor, and unborn. It didn’t seem right that our denomination, which in the past had been very involved in social issues, had then departed from that position.

A New Era

This transpired many years ago and may have been a prominent attitude in our denomination at the time. However, views have radically changed. We are now in a new era. We are now not only heading in the right direction but also serving incredibly well. Many of our denomination’s workers and national colleagues are now involved in some form of wholistic development and no longer keep those activities secret, as some in the last generation thought they needed to do. Our churches all around the world acknowledge that wholistic development is part of our calling. It is not holding a carrot out just to get more followers. It is not to get a foot in the door so that we can do “real” ministry. We do wholistic development because it is ministry and what our Lord modeled for us. He came announcing His Father in heaven, and He also came on behalf of people who were suffering. Touching the oppressed, poor, sick, and despised ones, He healed them while calling them to be complete. Jesus saw people as whole persons and responded to their needs because they were in such great need.

True Transformation

With ongoing natural disasters around the world, relief and rehabilitation need to be understood. Those in development or relief situations or who resonate with wholistic development but have limited experience and training in this area—or are youth pastors, short-term team members, mission leaders, interns, or college representatives—must be encouraged to avoid the temptation to settle for mediocre development where they live and work.

One can hardly hear of the prisoners who are given hope, the poor who are given jobs, the prostitutes who have been saved from the streets, and the kids who have been given dignity without wanting to be involved. Yet, simply drilling wells, building schools, and starting healthy programs will not heal the world. Instead, when all of the gospel is woven into every aspect of people’s lives so they see, feel, and touch it—that is when it will bring true transformation and be truly wholistic.

Jesus gave us the Great Commission when He told us to make disciples, and He also gave the Great Commandment when He said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Our actions will naturally flow out of our love for God and our neighbor. We know what we want for ourselves, and it is those very same things that we should strive to provide for others.

We may preach and they may hear. However, when we live what we preach, it goes to their hearts. That is how we authenticate the gospel!

Hands: Stories and Lessons of Wholistic Development was written by international workers and wholistic practitioners to offer a biblical foundation for carrying out the mission of Christ and bringing healing and restoration to individuals and communities spiritually, physically, socially, and economically.

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