by W. Dayton Roberts
All parts of the missionary orchestra are essential in holistic mission.
The concert hall is packed and the audience expectant. The piano soloist sits erect on his bench, flexing his fingers.
Behind him, under the guidance of the conductor, the orchestra carefully builds a swelling accompaniment-first the strings, then the winds, and finally the percussion instruments-all rising to a climax to prepare for the entrance of the soloist.
When his moment comes, the pianist strikes a chord, then an arpeggio, and the orchestra drops to a whisper as he begins to weave the melodic theme of the concerto.
Sometimes the piano plays alone, ringing out its motif with clarity and precision. Most of the time it is accompanied by the orchestra with its counter-melodic support and rhythmic foundation. Occasionally, it remains silent, while other instruments take up the melody and explore its implications in tones and registers less suitable to the piano.
The audience hears music at its best-a masterful concerto, In which a solo instrument and the orchestra together communicate the composer’s full and imaginative grasp of a pleasing musical theme.
Allow me now to shift the scenario a bit to a purview of world missions.
Missiological literature is full of inadequate paradigms and unsatisfactory figures of speech that attempt to describe the church’s mission. In particular, the relationship of evangelism to any other mission components is subject to confusion and debate.
Although I do not like the implied dichotomy, the church’s mission is sometimes likened to a pair of scissors, one blade being evangelism and the other social concern. Similarly, It has been described as a bird in flight, one wing being evangelism and the other medical and relief work, education, and so on.
Still other missiologists have compared it to the Roman Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals, in which all are equal, but evangelism, like the Pope, is "first among equals." None of these similes, despite an element of truth in each one, is entirely satisfactory. Therefore, I would like to add yet another one.
To me, nothing illustrates the mission of Jesus Christ and his church better than the musical concerto, in which evangelism is the major soloist, but all the instruments play their own significant parts. Without them, the solo would be unexciting, perhaps even ‘dull. With them, the theme comes alive and leaves a powerful impression on the audience.
Some ministries are supportive-the schools that train evangelists and pastors, the books that teach and inspire, the publications and programs that provide depth and balance, not to mention relevance, to the gospel.
Other ministries enhance the evangelistic message, making it more attractive and understandable-such as youth camps, radio and. television, music and drama. Still others serve to illustrate and apply the gospel to the healing of sickness, the relief of suffering, and the welfare of families and children.
All together, these purposeful activities underline, strengthen, and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, and help to bring in-God’s kingdom and establish God’s reign in the hearts and communities of redeemed children, women, and men. Each and all, they are legitimate and necessary expressions of the burden of the church’s witness on behalf of her Head.
Such a concerto in missions is holism at its Christian best. The whole is better than the sum of its parts, because each part relates to each other part and to the purpose of the Great Conductor. The complete concerto incorporates and enhances the melodic clarity of the soloist.
Holism, I believe, is correctly spelled without a "w." "Wholism" could be construed to imply a simple totality. "Holism" implies more than totality. It refers to the internal relationships that make the whole more than its constituent parts. It communicates integrity, or "integrality."
For example, all the parts of a bicycle can be heaped into a "whole"-a pile of junk. That accumulation of parts becomes holistic only when it is assembled in an intelligent, harmonious, functional way.
The mission of the church is a perfect example of holism. "In holism," according to Webster, "the universe (and especially living nature) is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes (as of living organisms) that are more the mere sum of elementary particles." Holistic thus means: "(1) of or relating to holism, (2) emphasizing the organic or functional relation between parts and wholes."
This is what the church’s mission is all about. It is holistic to the core. When Jesus said, "Go and preach the gospel," he added the command to baptize and teach "all that I have taught you." Healing, helping, serving, training-all are important instruments in the orchestra.
NO EXPULSION OR SECESSION
No part of the missionary orchestra is unnecessary. Evangelism, medical work, child welfare, education, leadership training, relief, development-all are essential to the evangelistic and kingdom objectives of the church in mission. "The eye cannot say to the hand," declares the apostle, that "I have no need of you." There can be no unilateral expulsion nor secession in Christ’s body.
When the concert is ended, our first and loudest applause usually is for the soloist. Perhaps this is inevitable, given the unusual skill and virtuosity required.
But the soloist (evangelism in our simile) is wise and well advised when he waves Ms hand at the orchestra and indicates that much of the applause must go to the accompanying musicians. And if the truth is really to be served, all the praise should go to our Great Conductor and Composer.
NEEDED: SPIRITUAL FIGHTERS
The greatest need of all, of course, is among the unreached people groups of the world. I think of the Kurds, the Baluch, the many "new" groups in Central Asia and in Russia. So to me, the Muslim challenge and the "10/40 Window" are the most strategic. The whole church should be focusing on them, though I don’t believe God is leading everybody to those places. Others are needed behind the scenes or to help build the church up in existing areas, because the church in many parts of the world is very weak.
For longer-term missionaries, we need a higher quality person. People who can learn the language. People who are flexible and can bond with people of other cultures and nationalities. We’ve got to have people who are disciplined. It’s going to be rough. It’s going to be tough. Their hearts are going to be broken.
We need people who are spiritual fighters. I think there are a lot of pacifists among the Lord’s people, a lot of introspection, which produces a spiritual wimp instead of a spiritual fighter. In some parts of the world, we need people who have a fair amount of drive and perseverance. For example, it’s not everybody’s "cup of tea" to live in an unreached group along the Turkish border among the Kurds.
Some people still misunderstand short-term work. They can’t discern between a serious short-term program where people are being stretched and trained and disciplined, and some kind of glorified overseas sightseeing trip. Short-term work can be, not a substitute, but a great complement and supplement to existing long-term work, especially since national churches and national leaders are often asking for short-term teams to help them out.
Like all mission work, there will be casualties and heartaches, but I feel very strongly that we need to see a much greater army of Americans giving a couple of years. The people who give not just a summer but at least one or two years, as well as the mission society, will be better able to discern whether they really have the potential to be long-term, cross-cultural workers.
A lot of the so-called "great" missionary churches in the states are decreasing in numbers. They can’t keep up with their faith promise program. It’s a miracle church that has both a strong overseas emphasis on missions and unreached people, and a strong work at home-reaching people here, seeing people converted, seeing the church grow. It’s so easy to just emphasize one or the other—George Verwer, international director, Operation Mobilization, in Pulse.
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