Holistic evangelism: A bleeding woman and a dead child

I finished my last post by saying, please God, may my anger continue to burn until the church practices holistic evangelism as God has called it to do. This raises the question of what is holistic evangelism? I answered the question by saying, “when the kingdom is enacted on the earth, amidst all the messiness of human existence with its sin, sickness and spite.” But what does this actually look like?

I find Mark 5 inspiring and helpful. You will know the stories, of the Gerasene demoniac and the 2000 pigs, which is closely followed by two interwoven stories. Jairus came to Jesus, an anxious father concerned for the well-being of his 12 year old daughter, desperate for Jesus to heal her. On the way He was accosted by the older woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Jesus stopped and spoke with her, during which time Jairus’ daughter died. For Jesus, even death was not an obstacle: rather it became the opportunity for displaying his power. Indeed, the whole chapter is part of a larger passage that reveals Jesus’ power over nature (the calming of the storm at the end of Mark 4), over evil, over sickness and disease, and over death itself, a foreshadow of His own approaching death. The earliest Christian creed, Jesus is Lord! is an affirmation of this, an acknowledgement that Jesus Christ has the ultimate power and authority over all things.

Consider the individuals and groups Jesus encounters: men and women caught up in evil, people suffering from sickness and disease, parents and children, the bystanders and onlookers, family and friends. Jesus engages with those totally excluded from society, but also those excluded within society; he engages with public leaders and their families, and with his disciples. It is no accident that just after these narratives Jesus sends out the twelve on their own mission. Neither is it that just before this narrative we see Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God through parables.

The point for me is clear: the stories of Mark 5 are both a demonstration of the Kingdom of God breaking into the lives of individuals and communities, and an example – a model if you will – which  He expects His disciples (and us) to follow. He teaches about the kingdom, He illustrates the kingdom and He sends us out to live and practise the kingdom. This is holistic evangelism, engaging with those within, without and beneath society; with the least, the last and the lost. Oh, and everyone else as well. It is preaching the good news of the kingdom, and being the good news of the kingdom. It is not either proclamation or social justice and ministries of service. It is both. It is genuinely holistic – all embracing.

And it works, but I will say more of that in the next post.


[For a longer exposition of some of these concepts in Mark 5, see this co-written piece.]

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John Baxter-Brown

John Baxter-Brown

Chief Executive Officer at Global Connections
John Baxter-Brown, or JBB as he is usually known, has previously worked as consultant to the World Council of Churches (on evangelism), World Vision International (on Church Partnerships) and Compassion International (on children and youth in mission). In addition to his role with Global Connections, he serves as Senior Advisor in Evangelism for the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance and occasionally lectures in mission and evangelism at universities and colleges. Throughout his ministry, JBB has worked in evangelism, youth and children’s work, theological education and training, and ecumenism, at local church through to global levels. He has edited and authored numerous books, chapters, journals and articles. He is married with two teenage daughters and two dogs and lives in Wiltshire.
John Baxter-Brown

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