“One of the most important developments in contemporary Christian missiology is the recovery of a theology of mission in the late twentieth century that integrates faith and life, word and deed, proclamation and presence. This holistic understanding of Christian mission is deeply rooted in the biblical theology of the Judeo-Christian faith of the Old and New Testaments.” 1 – Las G. Newman, PhD

The mission statement of First Missions includes the following sentence: “We will build churches, train leaders, support missionaries, send short-term teams, encourage long-term commitment and serve compassionately meeting spiritual, social, and physical needs with a focus on poor and marginalized people and communities…” To be part of God’s plan for His people, holistic mission must be taken to the world by the church; it is how He has designed the Missio Dei (mission of God) to be shared globally.

First Church works in partnership with churches, missions organizations, and missionaries on six continents, in 150 countries. Below we have highlighted a few that may be unfamiliar, along with how they contribute to our holistic approach to missions.

Missions and the Mind

For, “Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NLT)

Ratio Christi (Latin for “The Reason of Christ”) is a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. Along with other organizations such as Reformed University Fellowship, Y2Believe, and Young Life that First Church partners with at FGCU and local middle and high schools, young people are being trained to have the mind of Christ. Globally, partnerships with Christian Leaders for Africa and Forman Christian College in Pakistan are allowing the minds of students to be exposed to the Gospel and equipping future pastors, missionaries, and leaders to stand upon theological truths.

Missions and the Body

“…Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” – Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)

Meals on Wheels is an organization that provides nourishing meals to people in our community who are homebound and unable to provide meals for themselves. ECHO supplies agricultural information both locally and overseas, distributing seeds and plants, and offering hands-on training to community leaders in developing countries to help provide solutions to hunger. She Is Safe and Wings of Shelter rescue and provide shelter,  education, and resources for young girls who have experienced slavery through human trafficking and exploitation. Supporting missions such as these is an invaluable tool through which the body of Christ shares God’s love in tangible and sustainable ways.

Missions and the Soul

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29 (NLT)

Weekly, members of the First Church Lee County Jail Ministry team distribute Christian books and literature, share the Gospel through Bible study, and pray with those who are incarcerated and in need of rest for their souls. In Guatemala, Potter’s House is extending the kingdom of heaven to the people who inhabit or make a living from the local garbage dumps. Through a partnership with PEER Servants, finances are being invested in microfinance loans that are then provided to Potter’s House. These loans help the materially poor start or grow small businesses, educate their children and pull them out of a life of spiritual, physical, intellectual and economic poverty which brings rest to their souls. Imagine being born in a caste system where you are considered below the lowest of the low. Such is the dahlit caste in India, otherwise known as “the untouchables.” Witnessing Ministries of Christ in Uttar Pradesh, India, has walked beside the dahlit people for decades, providing opportunities that bring hope and rest to their souls while diminishing their feelings of isolation. Through faith, education, and employment, transformation is taking place in these children and families.

Holistic Missions

Though many of our mission partners have a specific aspect of ministry to which they have been called, there are others utilizing a holistic approach. Compassion International has a mission to release children, in the name of Jesus, from their spiritual, social, and physical poverty, and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. Light of Hope Ministry in Ethiopia is reaching out to over 10 million Arsi Oromo people focusing on education, health, church planting, Bible translation, and evangelism among this Muslim people group.

Whatever their call, we continue to pray for the outstanding mission organizations with which God has allowed us to partner, and are grateful for the “faith and life, word and deed, proclamation and presence” they are providing for God’s Kingdom.

1 Excerpt from the Foreword to Holistic Mission: God’s Plan for God’s People by Brian Woolnough & Wonsuk Ma, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010

Note: Dr. Las Newman is Global Associate Director for Regions for the Lausanne Movement begun by Billy Graham and past President of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology in Jamaica. He is known for his leadership in Global Theological Education and contributed several books and journals in the areas of Mission and Church History.

by Trusha Barner, Director of Missions