Holistic ministry to the whole person and with an emphasis on justice and cultural transformation is not only the biblical pattern but it is a culturally relevant way to speak to those outside the church in post-modern America. “Involvement in social justice issues may cut the negative perspective on the church in half (with unbelievers).” People listen when they know that you actually care about people. Simply put, from a pragmatic perspective, when a church is involved in these types of ministries, it [the church] increases in favor with God and man.
This is at least part of what is meant in Acts 2:42-47 where we are told that the early church sold its possessions and shared in such a way that all who had needs were cared for. The result of this extraordinary generosity was that they were held in favor by all (vs. 47).
Eighteen years of ministry in Bolingbrook, Illinois has proved this over and over. Our health clinic, dental clinic, eye clinic, food pantry, housing counseling and assistance, clothing pantry, ESL classes, computer classes, work with gang members, community service projects, acceptance of community service workers, letters to people who have been arrested, cards to new mothers in the community, surprise-pregnancy counseling, biblical counseling of couples, basketball, baseball, soccer and football clinics, vacation Bible schools, backyard Bible clubs, and encouragement of adoption and foster care families have all garnered high praise from city officials and townspeople alike as well as high respect within the local clergy association.
Pastors at the church have received keys to the city, grand marshal positions in parades, newspaper praise and favor on controversial issues in part because of the holistic ministry of the members of the congregation.
These ministries are what might be defined as outreach. They are the inoffensive witness of changed lives that pave the way for the more offensive yet life-transforming message of the gospel. These types of ministry should become a part of our ministry texture in post-modern America. They are low risk but high impact ministries. They work off of the principle that there is “no impact without contact.” They help our people to initiate contact at the point of need. The Apostle Peter talks about the power of this type of ministry in 1 Peter 2:12-17:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Good works, holistic ministry, accompanies proclamation and paves the way for the gospel to penetrate the heart of the hearer. But as good and biblical as these ministries are, they are not a substitute for proclamation of the gospel. We cannot just do good, we must proclaim the good news. Tomorrow, I will take the issue of proclamation up here on the blog.
Where have you seen holistic ministry pave the way for increased harvesting for the gospel?
 Class notes, Ed Stetzer, MN 9412-01 Missional Church Planting, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2009.
 Cf. Matthew 11:6; 13:57; Luke 7:23; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2001). Emphasis mine.
Continued: Why we love outreach and hate evangelism.