Academic journal article International Review of Mission

What Is the Church's Healing Ministry? Biblical and Global Perspectives

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

What Is the Church's Healing Ministry? Biblical and Global Perspectives

Article excerpt

E. ANTHONY ALLEN [*]

One of the church's foremost missions is also one of its most neglected. This is the ministry of healing. An examination of this neglected ministry brings us closer to the reason why the spiritual life and vitality of too many churches seem to be at such a low ebb. Perhaps the greatest reason for this neglect is the ignoring by Western-influenced churches of the biblical theological foundations of the church's call to a healing ministry. The purpose of this article is to examine these biblical perspectives and to suggest some practical implications.

Luke chapter 9, verses 1-4, summarizes very well the theological challenge to a commitment to the understanding of and involvement in the church's healing ministry:

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: "Take nothing for the journey -- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town". (NIV)

According to the above passage, the challenge to the church today is a threefold one. God's people are being called to be:

* Healers who proclaim and demonstrate a total gospel of forgiveness and healing,

* Healers of the whole person,

* Healers in a healing community.

If the church, through its local congregations, can come to grips with these theological cornerstones of healing, then we can be assured that this ministry will truly be transformed from a neglected imperative to an all out initiative, from a maybe to a must. This should be a priority task for the church as we face the alienation and increasing marginalization of persons in the new millennium.

Healers who proclaim and demonstrate a total gospel

The total gospel according to Luke 9:2, is to "preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick..." (NIV). Traditionally, Western-influenced churches have abandoned healing and health care delivery to the medical establishment. Even those involved in medical missions have relied on medical professionals to do the job as separate from the day-to-day mission of the local congregation. Thus we in the church have tended to be guilty of a "schizophrenic" or split mind approach whereby we isolate our members' use of medical science, as well as psychology, from the realities of spirituality and the need of the church to be a healing community. However, health is not only the business of the professionals -- medical, psychological, or any other. It is also the business of the church.

If we are to take scripture as the basis of our functioning, then it becomes apparent from the verses in Luke that one theological cornerstone of a commitment to the church's ministry of healing is that it is a mandate of Christ and one that should be obeyed. This mandate comes from the very will and love of Christ. Thus, when Jesus called his twelve disciples, "he sent them out" as disciples, not only to "preach the kingdom" but also to "heal the sick". As apostles of healing, we are sent. The Greek word for "he sent" is apesteilen. We can see that it has the same root as the word "apostle". The apostles were ones sent, and so, as ones sent, all in the church are to be apostles of healing.

Once we make a commitment to Christ, we are taking up the challenge to be involved in a ministry of reconciliation and healing. This is also a commitment to those to whom Christ himself is committed. John the Baptist questioned Jesus, saying, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Notice how Jesus replied: "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. …

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