07 Aug '12
The both/and of Missions: Gospel and Compassion
In the early 1900’s there was a major clash in the American church between the liberals who emphasized good works at the expense of the Gospel and the evangelicals who insisted that good works by themselves would not help people find Christ and experience His grace. In simple terms, what followed was a divide. The liberals jettisoned the Gospel for a religion of good works while evangelicals, in an over response often jettisoned good works for a sole emphasis on the Gospel.
What the liberals lost was the life changing message of Jesus while emphasizing Jesus concern for people. What the evangelicals lost was the concern for people’s needs with a sole concern for their eternal destinies. What both lost was the both/and of the life of Jesus who was always concerned about their situations but never addressed their life issues without also addressing the core issue of the heart.
The example of Jesus in the Gospels ought to be our guide: He cared deeply for people and their situations. That is why people followed him. That is why He healed them. That is why he talked to them non-judgmentally about their sin. But He never left it at that. He always talked to them about their hearts.
In fact, if you look at church history it was Christians and missionaries who founded hospitals, schools, took care of the sick, buried the dead in the plagues, and were known for their good works. My own background was that of a Missionary Kid of a doctor who founded a hospital that took care of the sick regardless of their ability to pay – and also shared the Gospel with each patient – connected with a strategy of church planting in Hong Kong.
There are innumerable stories of evangelism efforts, literature distribution or other ministries done in the name of Jesus that have almost no lasting impact because while people made professions of faith, there was no church left behind for them to be nurtured and to grow. When you separate missions from church planting, you no longer have missions in a Biblical sense but simply compassion ministries. That is why Paul always focused on church planting while always encouraging believers to be the hands, feet, compassion and love of Jesus.
One of the guiding principles of ReachGlobal is that we are holistic in our approach. We want to care for the whole person and are deeply involved in ministries of compassion, education, medicine, caring for those who come out of sex trafficking, AIDS orphans and many other ministries that minister to the whole person as did Jesus. But front and center and at our core we are about multiplying transformational churches. We must leave behind the Bride of Christ to make disciples. The church must reclaim the concern of Jesus for the whole person but must not lose the centrality of multiplying His church in the process.