Sunday, July 25, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
If your task is to share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard before, then which is the best (or better) way? Preaching is good, but what if people are hurt and hungry and not interested in listening? Healing is great, but what if you are so busy doing it you fail to preach the truth? How you answer the question depends a lot on your background, experience, biblical understanding, and your world-view.
I just returned from a conference in the US sponsored by our organization that really challenged my thinking about this topic. Over the years I have tried to integrate both in our ministry, but I confess that the ‘healing’ part of it tends to take precedence. I have felt the tension of ‘preach or heal’, but haven’t really got it figured out. I have been continually remodeling my ‘Theology of Health and Illness’ as I call it, but this conference really forced some re-thinking. Much of the material came from a book called “Preach and Heal” by Dr. Fielding. Now don’t be put off by the title thinking it is only for health care people. It is one of those books that I really think everyone who is serious about following Jesus needs to read. (I don’t often get so passionate about recommending a book, with the exception of the Bible)
I just love the opening chapters that basically have an ongoing dialogue between the ‘preacher types’ and the ‘healer types,’ each presenting their biblical basis for saying that “Preaching” is right, or “Healing” is the answer. They both have strong arguments. Fielding helps us to better understand this artificial dichotomy. You may be surprised to hear that the author (a medical doctor) will conclude that the answer is not one or the other, but both. And will try to convince you that the church has to once again embrace the opportunities of Preaching and Healing in order to more effectively reach all who need to hear the good news.
I like how he takes the “A,B,Cs” of emergency medicine (airway, breathing, circulation, etc) and applies them to missions. Let me share just a bit to whet your appetite to buy the book (available through our mission link on the right).
We all know the biblical mandate for missions. Both the OT and NT make it very clear. Jesus, makes it very clear in his teachings, and the early NT church got to it after a while (after the initial persecution of the early church). In the book, Fielding suggests the following as a model for a form of missions that is both Preaching and Healing, whether you are a health care worker or not.
Access the community. Be in the community, side by side the people you are trying to reach. This is the relatively easy part.
Get Behind closed doors. Although mass-evangelism can work, it is more effective getting into peoples homes where you can share the love of Christ with them and their family.
Care for people with the compassion of Christ. That care takes many forms, both tangible and non-tangibles, medical and non-medical. There is great power in first diligently listening, and then praying for people in their time of trouble.
Disciple the believers – to be followers of what Jesus taught (remember he said to go and make disciples, ‘teaching them to obey all that I have taught you’.) This may not take the traditional form of teacher/student, but that of ministering along side one another, learning the culture and language, while modeling the Jesus-way of life. It’s not just about head knowledge, but heart knowledge translated into a Holy Spirit empowered transformed life.
Empower the local body of Christ-followers. If Sally and I try to do it all, there are only two of us – limited impact. But if we do the A,B,Cs and then do D and E, God can multiply the effect. I have to confess it is often hard, with my ‘I can do it all’ mentality, to let go and empower others to do it. Yep, they will make mistakes along the way, but so have I. Our task is to encourage one another in our walk with Christ.
So there it is – the summary of the ABCs of Preach and Heal missions. For us the ‘A’ and ‘C’ is the easy part, but the ‘B’ is the part that takes effort. And without an intentionality of the ‘D’ and ‘E’, we would just be another group doing good for the poor. Christ calls us to do more than just ‘do good.’
The book has several chapters on how one can take these ABCs and apply them to areas like Community Health, Water and Sanitation, Nutrition, Prison and Refugee Camps, Volunteer teams, and some traditional medical areas like HIV/AIDS, Community based TB treatment, and Mobile Medical Clinics.
I would really encourage you to get this book. If you are interested there is another article on “Teach, Preach, and Heal” by Michael K. Augustson, MD that challenges us along these lines. (www.churchclinic.org/resources/hcrs_teach_preach.pdf) It’s a great read.
As you might imagine, Sally and I are once again rethinking how we are doing our work in view of these simple, but biblical concepts. We are excited to think of what God may do though us by applying this to our ministry to the Basotho in the mountains of Lesotho. We’ll keep you informed…