For decades there has been an uncomfortable tension between those who see people primarily in light of their eternal needs and those who want to relieve their physical suffering here and now. Yet I find it difficult to imagine the early church debating whether to preach the good news of Jesus Christ or to give a cup of cold water in His name. It wasn’t a matter of either/or, but rather both/and. This tension surfaced at the Lausanne III meetings I attended in Cape Town (Oct 2010). I think John Piper offered the most balanced response when he stated,
“Some love the one truth; others the other. Might we as the global church say we care about all suffering; especially eternal suffering? Is God calling us to choose? If you feel you have to choose, you either have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.” Certainly our earliest Encompass missionaries modelled a commitment to present a solution for sin (the gospel message) while dealing with the problems we create for ourselves as sinners (our broken world). In fact, good missionaries have always found ways to minister to the whole person – body and spirit. Among the many things that encourage me about the emerging generation is the fact that they see people holistically. In fact, they often scratch their heads in wonder as to what the debate is about. May we follow their example in reuniting what God never intended to separate, and may God grant us the wisdom to deal with all suffering, and especially eternal suffering.
What Advice Would You Give?
The following excerpt from a missionary letter illustrates the real challenges of living among the world’s poor: “Team Chad [has] been wrestling with issues of poverty, wealth and dependence. We come from the richest country ever in world history and God places us smack dab in the middle of one of the poorest nations in the world. How do we reconcile our relative wealth and teach them biblical truths about ownership, finances and stewardship when the differences between us seem insurmountable? When they come to ask for financial assistance should we always give them what they ask for? When is this kind of assistance necessary and when is it detrimental? What is our role? Our work here seems at times, impossible, yet we know God has called us here, to this place, during this time, and we trust He will use us for His glory. “Pray that we would be effective in our partnerships, encouraging in our relationships and strong in our convictions.” New Reality: We will live and proclaim the gospel in all its implications.
Originally published in March 2011
by Dave Guiles, Executive Director