EMQ » September–December 2023 » Volume 59 Issue 4
Summary: Global health engagement is a key part of church planting efforts and an indispensable partner in meeting global goals for sustainable development. Health and healing can be experienced and, for the church, can remain as an essential pursuit – a sign of the presence of God, and a foretaste and anticipation of God’s intention for the reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth
By Daniel W. O’Neill
Global health engagement is central to the gospel of the kingdom. It has been and continues to be a key adjunct and groundwork strategy for church planting efforts. It was part of Ralph Winter’s vision for the mission of God, as he perceived a blind spot in Western Christianity.[i] It has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of a globalized Christian witness, and an indispensable partner in meeting global goals for sustainable development. What are the theological underpinnings of making health for all nations and creation a central part of the mission of God?
In our Christian Global Health in Perspective course, we lay out the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic frameworks for the whole church to engage in health-promoting action as an essential part of the church’s reason for existence.[ii] To overcome either-or dualisms, we propose the missional framework of Four Great C’s:
- Great Creation Mandate: stewarding the created order wisely (Genesis 1:28; 2:19).
- Great Commandment: loving God and neighbor fully (Matthew 22:37–40; Mark 12:30–31; Luke 10:26–28).
- Great Commission: making disciples of all peoples, going, baptizing, and teaching (Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–16).
- Great Convergence: attending body, mind, soul, and spirit in both word and deed in ecological contexts (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12; 3 John 1:2).
Global heath is realized in every one of these: the pursuit of stewardship, divine love, discipleship, and integration. Healing requires sacrifice, compassion, the word of God, repentance, purification, holiness and acquired virtue, which the church brings uniquely to communities.[iii]
Individual health cannot be seen in isolation from public health, and the common good. Human health cannot be seen in isolation from planetary health. And none of these can be fully acquired in the absence of cosmic health – a life-giving relationship with God.
The manifestation of love for God with heart, soul, mind, and strength speaks of God’s desire for human wholeness. Love for neighbor is defined by Jesus as cross-cultural service which addresses need in the context of corporeal suffering (Luke 10:25–37). This is part of what the inheritance of eternal life looks like, according to Jesus. Making disciples reproduces the blessing of life-giving teaching, touching, and treating among all the nations and builds capacity for global health, a new paradigm for medical missions.[iv]
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