Seeking and saving the lost (7): Practical holistic evangelism

GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 640 • May 9, 2021

SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Number 7
PRACTICAL HOLISTIC EVANGELISM: DO GOOD FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE.
Galatians 6:1-10

Evangelism is generally discussed in terms of “soul-winning” – that is, telling others what to do to be saved, and assisting the penitent believers in baptism. We discuss it both as a collective endeavor and as “personal evangelism,” as the church’s mission and the individual Christian’s mission too. We certainly do not want to understate the importance of this for the Christian. We encourage increased participation in it (Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 1:28, 2 Timothy 2:25-26).

It is easy enough, in Bible study classes, regularly scheduled assemblies of the church, and in homes to teach and learn general Bible content and meaning. Again, we recognize the importance of knowing and sharing the scripture in this way (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Acts 17:11 and 20:20).

But we must not ignore the practical aspects of instruction in the ways of God. We should engage in practical evangelism, a holistic approach to sharing the gospel. Holistic medicine apparently attempts to take the whole person into account: physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. Holistic evangelism would be a mission to the whole person, not just to the spirit/soul. Principles of Biblical truth must be applied and not just expressed or explained. We must be examples of and to the believer (1 Timothy 4:12).

A very practical part of Christianity is expressed as simply “doing good.” See Acts 10:38, Galatians 6:9-10, Ephesians 2:10, Hebrews 10:24, and Romans 12:21). In this lesson we will try to define good, and determine who should do good, to whom, when, and for what reasons – as part of practical evangelism.

WE CAN DETERMINE WHAT “GOOD” IS FROM THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS.

Jesus himself was good, and his example is good for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21-23). Jesus was a “whole man” – all aspects of humanity were in him (Luke 2:52; John 4:6, Mark 9:19; Luke 22:41-44). He ministered to the whole person. (Luke 4:18). He healed the sick in body and mind, whether their sicknesses were normal or demon-related (Luke 4:40-41, Acts 10:38b). He fed the hungry (not as a common indiscriminate practice, but) when it was good to do so. There was no manna for the whole Jewish nation in the ministry of Jesus (John 6:1-14 and 6:22-27). He preached the gospel of “peace in the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). But he did not give or do everything that was asked of him. He did what was good for the person, and what was good for the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness). Good can be defined in a number of practical as well as theoretical ways, and all are needed for a complete and proper understanding and application of the command to do what is good to all men (Gal. 6:10).

Whatever leads one to maturity and to the proper function and preservation of the whole person – body, soul (mind and emotions) and spirit – is good (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Whatever leads one to see his need for God and his dependence upon God, is good. A “thorn in the flesh” can be good (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Poverty and hardship can be good or bad (Hebrews 10:34, Mt.5:12). Riches and ease can be good or bad (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Whatever keeps one close to God, growing in the Lord, and faithful to the Lord – is good, Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food that is convenient (good, suitable) for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of the Lord my God in vain.” (Proverbs 30:8b-9). Good can obviously be a relative thing. Something good for one person or in one set of circumstances may not always be good for others, or in all other circumstances.

WE ARE TAUGHT TO MINISTER TO THE WHOLE PERSON.

There is the commonly-emphasized ministry to the spirit of man, what we usually and rightly call evangelism (James 5:19-20, Romans 10:12-14). There is also a ministry to the physical man, to the body. See Matthew 25:31-46, James 2:15-16, and 1 John 3:17-18 with regard to the needs of the body and the importance of meeting those needs: food, shelter, clothing, medicine. God’s word has always included something about the care of the body, proper and improper diets, habits, etc. One must be taught about the sanctity of the body, as a temple for the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20).

There is a ministry to the mind of man: teach him. The teaching is certainly not to be limited to the plan of salvation. Truth in any category frees one from ignorance and error in that category (John 8:32). There is a ministry to the emotions of man (2 Corinthians 3:1-5, Romans 12:10-15, 1 Peter 1:21-25). Comfort, consolation, joy, patience, brotherly love, etc. There is a ministry to the morals of man. There is a ministry to the conscience of man (1 Timothy 1:19, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 3:15-16). Educate and appeal to the conscience. Teach them to distinguish right from wrong, and encourage them to do right (Galatians 6:1-2, Titus 2:11-12, Romans 2:15). Do what you can prove to be right, and avoid what has even a hint or perception of wrong about it (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

We have a ministry to the social needs of man (Hebrews 13:1-2 and 10:19-25, Ephesians 4:15-16). We need more frequent contact with each other. A “special friend” system would benefit everyone. Be a special friend to a young person in the Bible class you teach. Your students need more than Bible content. Some of them may have no personal contact with other Christians, except in class. Some may have no moral and spiritual support except in the assemblies of the church. New Christians need a special friend, someone to show special interest, special concern for them. It would certainly reduce the mortality rate among all Christians, not just the new ones. Old persons should not be neglected. They are often “left out” and lonely. Young adults and teenagers need social contact and wholesome recreational outlets, to minimize the attraction of “evil companionships which corrupt good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The church is not a social club, but remember that the Lord’s word demonstrates and teaches the need for good wholesome social relationships – Christians who care about others will try to meet those needs. If we are going to restore New Testament Christianity” and “speak where the Bible speaks,” we must not ignore any part of our mission to the whole person.

WHO IS TO DO GOOD? TO WHOM? WHEN AND WHY?

Every Christian is to be a doer of good. “Let us not be weary in well doing… as we have opportunity, let us do good…” (Galatians 6:9, 10). To whom should we (at least be willing to) do whatever is truly good – for the person and for the kingdom of Christ?

• To all men ( Galatians 6:10).
• With special attention paid to those of the household of faith – that is, to other Christians (Galatians 6:10, James 2:15-16, 1 John 3:17). • Even to our enemies (Romans 12:20, Matthew 5:44-45).

When should one do good? The need is seldom seasonal, so our good works ought not to be seasonal. Do good whenever you have opportunity (Galaians 6:10), whenever there is a need (James 2:15-17; compare the example of the “good Samaritan” in Luke 10:30-37). There is never a time when it is right to do what is wrong. And there is never a time when it is wrong to do what is right (James 4:17 (We generally accept the last part of the statement – wrong is always to be avoided. But what about the other part? Is it wrong to neglect the good?).

Why should one do good? To please God (1 John 3:22, Hebrews 13:21) and glorify Him (Matthew 5:16, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17). Do it because of the value of the one for whom good is to be done (Philippians 2:3-4, Mark 12:29 “as you love yourself.” Do it to avoid sin (James 4:17) and for personal approval and reward (Matthew 19:27, Galatians 6:9b, Matthew 10:42). Do good for goodness’ sake – that should be motive enough, especially if you consider that the alternative is doing bad — would you do bad just for badness’ sake? The chief reason for doing good is to be like God the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-48).

CONCLUSION

Remember that our ministry and mission is to the whole person. Above all, we want the person to be spiritually clean and properly reconciled to God. But we also want the person to be fulfilled mentally, emotionally, socially, morally, and physically. That was and is the mission of Jesus and of his people – spiritually above all else, but with no part of the person neglected or unfulfilled. All needs of man except spiritual might be met without Jesus. But there is no forgiveness of sin, no salvation, no spiritual fulfillment apart from Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12). With proper evangelistic attention all can stand complete in Christ (Colossians 4:12b). <><>

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