I want to wish everyone a healthy Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Remember to keep Christ in Christmas and keep it simple.
Shalom, Kathy Smith
This article was featured in the Fall 2016: Health Ministry Matters print issue. Written by Scott Morris on September 26, 2016. Rev. G. Scott Morris, MD is the founder and CEO of Church Health and author of God, Health and Happiness and other titles. He holds degrees from the University of Virginia, Yale Divinity School and Emory University.
Once when I told a pastor he had diabetes, he refused to believe it. “I do not receive it,” he said. “Whether you receive it or not, you have it,” I responded, the lab report in my hands. Before putting him on mediation, I gave him 90 days.
He enrolled in a nutrition class at Church Health Center Wellness, where he had to confess his ignorance about how the body processes various kinds of foods. During the 90 days, his family rallied. His wife came to the cooking classes, and his two daughters launched a family version of “Biggest Loser.” In 90 days, the family lost a collective 60 pounds, and with improved nutrition and movement in his life his disease came under control.
Then he took it to the church. In addition to his own congregation, he helped facilitate a local group of pastors that met regularly. He shared his story. Other pastors got on board, lost significant weight, and encouraged their own congregations to think about health in deliberate ways.
Congregations can be powerhouses of life-giving community. Churches can step up to speak to the world with God’s message of healing—beginning with the people in their own midst who badly need to hear this good news. Health ministry is not about filling the pews with doctors and nurses. The roots are not in science and medicine but in being faithful to the gospel’s call.
A Good News Opportunity
Congregational health ministry is an opportunity for individual members and the faith community as a whole to encounter the good news through a whole-life lens. Scripture teaches us that God created us as body-and-spirit beings right from the start. Genesis 2:7 reminds us the Lord “formed man from the dust of the ground” (body) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (spirit). Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s care for both physical and spiritual needs—usually at the same time. The call of Scripture is that we are whole people not divided between, but rather united by, body and spirit.
When we step into the opportunity of health ministry, we step into a practice that be- gan with the earliest Christians. Jesus said, “Just as you did it to the least of these ... you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Early Christians took these words to heart in ministries of healing. Centuries of church history show us that the faithful opened the earliest hospitals, cared for the poor and marginalized with dignity, and preserved and practiced knowledge of the healing When Jesus sent his first followers out to do the work he had prepared them for, he sent them out. Health ministry, in whatever form it took, reflected the best knowledge of the day. Congregational health ministry helps contemporary churches do the same.
Health ministry is a lived faith intimately connected to the core of what Jesus did. to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2). As people who follow Jesus now, we are called to do the same. Jesus came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The gospel message calls people to God both in body and spirit to experience whole and abundant lives.
The gospel is embodied with good news. God created our bodies. Jesus was born into the world with a body and rose from the dead in a physical body. Healing ministry helps us to know God in our bodies as well our spirits and demonstrates the kingdom of God at work. Beginning with Peter’s healing a man lame from birth (Acts 3:6–10), we see the church’s healing ministry welcoming people not only into community but into a kingdom of abundant living.
The Bible uses the word shalom to show us God’s vision for what our lives can be. The biblical concept of shalom is a powerful argument that God cares about the well-being of peo- ple. The word appears in the Old testament more than 250 times and describes not only a spiritual connection to God, but a life connection—bodily health, contentedness, social relationships. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah to come as the Prince of Peace, the em- bodiment of shalom (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy. Healing of body and spirit point to God’s active presence in this world.
Health means wellness in body and spirit. Even when we fail miserably in the ways we treat our bodies, God comes to us and transforms us. This good news is a wide open opportunity for people of God to live out what we read in the Bible and believe in our minds.