by André Jansen and Flip Buys - May 2, 2016

During the past one hundred years the worldwide Protestant Church either focused so excessively on social ethics and human liberation that the core of the gospel of salvation became marginalized, or neglected humanism and preservation of life by focusing on “evangelization for the salvation of individuals and numeric growth of churches.” There have been endless debates and discussions on what holistic mission should include? what a missional church should be doing?

When we take our starting point in defining mission biblically it should be first of all the mission of God. What does the Bible tell us about the overarching plan and purpose of God for the whole creation and the human race? For if we have any mission to engage in, it must surely be connected in some way to the mission of the God who created and redeemed us.

The growing interest in missio Dei is leading to a global urgency for rethinking and understanding the biblical foundations of the integration of word and deed when the gospel is proclaimed and in the structure of ministry in local churches.

A thorough biblical exegesis of the holistic or interwoven approach of word and deed shows an ongoing global dualistic thinking in ministry, especially in the West and reveals an abundance of revealed principles, core values, strategies, and dynamic, organic, contextual implementations of God’s mission, founded in God himself. It enriches the ministry, honors, and glorifies God when people are saved and start living according the principles of the kingdom of heaven.

The first question to be asked in ministry is why, which reveals the source as well as the purpose of the ministry. Call it the Alpha and the Omega of our ministry, because it is God’s mission, his ministry, the missio Dei. Every part of ministry starts and ends with God. A holistic understanding of God discloses that God does what he is. Consequently, every biblical core principle contains a unity of identity and activity.

Five questions unlock a holistic understanding of these core biblical principles and open perspectives on the integration of word and deed for each of the key biblical concepts.

  1. Who is God?
  2. Why did God create the earth?
  3. Why did Jesus Christ become man, die, and rise from the dead?
  4. Why was the Holy Spirit sent to earth?
  5. What is God’s purpose with the church in the world in view of Jesus’s return?

These questions shape our understanding of word and deed relations for key biblical concepts, like: word, blessing, godliness, fear of the Lord, peace, disciple making, witnessing, ministry, justice, righteousness, fellowship, peace, love, poverty, co-worker, image of God.

As an example a brief consideration of peace shows that the triune God is called the God of peace. Before the fall creation is full of peace. God sends his Son, Jesus Christ into the world as the Prince of peace restoring peace with God by suffering on the cross and his resurrection. The Holy Spirit is poured out to bring forth this peace as fruit in God’s children, the church, which is to be the bearer of God’s peace with heart and hands and voices in this world. Peace is therefore experienced as a foretaste of everlasting peace which is to come after Jesus’s return.

In conclusion, God intertwines the holistic dimensions of heart and hands and voices in his design for people, for the whole of his creation and for his glory. The key words analyzed are interwoven like the threads of a spider’s web. When one touches a single thread, the entire web moves. Likewise, all of the biblical concepts discussed above are implied when one of them is in question.

* The opinions expressed in Unio cum Christo Blog represent the views only of the individual contributors; they do not reflect the views of the editors, of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, or the International Reformed Evangelical Seminary, Jakarta.