One of the greatest challenges facing the church is to address the need of people everywhere to live lives of health and wholeness (shalom). This was at the very heart of Jesus’ ministry on earth as demonstrated by his integration of preaching, teaching, discipling, with works of deliverance and healing. Jesus showed the integration of the physical and spiritual that was intended for the church’s ministry rather than the separation of the two by Greek philosophers and the Enlightenment.
‘We call on . . . All local Christian communities to demonstrate respect for the unique dignity and sanctity of human life, by practical and holistic caring which integrates the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual aspects of our created humanity.’ The Cape Town Commitment II-A-6
But we do not often see this complete integration demonstrated in the activities of the global church. Western attempts have been represented by what is commonly referred to as ‘medical missions’ with a strong emphasis on curative care that relies mainly on sick people coming to healthcare facilities we have built so that they can receive high quality treatment for their dis-ease. This has tended to cause those we seek to reach with the gospel to worship the technology we depend on while ignoring the very frequent spiritual side of the dis-ease.
On the other extreme are healing ministries of the church that rely solely on prayer and perhaps anointing with oil to affect a deliverance or miraculous physical healing of the dis-eased person while denying that our current healthcare resources are God-given and complementary to prayer and supplication. At the same time, many in the church still seek the services of traditional healers who rely on satanic sources for treating those suffering from physical illnesses.
Excellent progress is being made in the area of community health, but there are still gaps in the connections between community health outreaches and the work of primary healthcare and tertiary care providers. And there remains the question of how well these initiatives are being integrated into the work of the local church.
How are ideas within the church and theological and missiological circles to be addressed to bring a more healthy balance in the understanding of health-related missions? How are ideas from other disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, and education being integrated into a more holistic understanding of the church’s role in ministries of health and wholeness?
Biomedicine has emphasized a reductionist physiologic basis of disease, and evangelical missions/theology has emphasized saving souls at the expense of holistic and community transformation. Some health-related missions overly emphasize curative care instead of community health development and prevention. Integration with gospel proclamation at times created an unnecessary competition for resources and priorities in mission endeavors.
How can the whole church become a healing community, working together for the healing of the nations? How can the church be promoters of health and healing in a way that shows our God as one who heals?
The Lausanne Health for All Nations (formerly Health in Mission) Network is the newest issue network, launched in March 2015. This networks seeks to connect Christian global health leaders and influencers to collaborate and share ideas and innovations to contribute to making Christ known among all ethne by:
- Collaborating with a cross-disciplinary group of theologians, missiologists, pastors, anthropologists, sociologists, educators, and Christian healthcare professionals in various fields including global health, community health, tertiary healthcare, mental health, and more.
- Connecting with community-based initiatives, hospitals, consultations, groups supporting health workers and health policy advocacy, local congregations, and other ministries related to biblical health, healing, and wholeness.
- Discerning and understanding how ministries of health, healing, and wholeness are demonstrated in the Bible.
- Coordinating regional forums/workshops.
- Employing research and developing best practices.