Integrate Mercy Ministry and Church Planting

George Patterson

Coworkers and I discovered these guidelines while working in undeveloped areas of Honduras.

1.     Let believers do what their gifting leads them to do.

Most pastors and church planters make poor administrators of mercy work, and most mercy workers made poor administrators of pastoral training and church planting. Therefore, do not always ask the same person to administrate both; two administrators can integrate both ministries by harmonizing them as 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 13 require. Only agape love born of the Holy Spirit, as depicted in chapter 13) makes it possible to enhance and strengthen others’ ministry without competing; so keep the interactive church body life of chapter 12 tied without a break to the compassionate love of chapter 13, as the apostle Paul originally wrote them.

2.    Integrate the two ministries in new churches.

In rural Honduras professional health care was lacking, so we enabled new churches to provide basic, non-professional health care. Two extension workers traveled together; one trained new pastors, the other trained deacons and deaconesses to give health care. Workers harmonized their efforts, and sometimes as many people came to Christ through the deacon’s compassionate care as came through the pastors’ teaching. Isolating mercy ministry from shepherding ministry weakens both.

In poor, less educated, pioneer fields, workers should teach new believers from the beginning to do works of mercy, which Jesus commanded with the strongest possible emphasis (Luke 10:25-37). Take advantage of available health care, and practice preventive medicine, sanitation and proper nutrition. Before we taught this, we sometimes hears new leaders passionately denounce drinking alcohol, but they paid no attention to drinking water laced with deadly amoebas that were slaying over half of their village’s babies.

3.   Get advice from experienced workers and experts.

A registered nurse coordinated health training for workers that had little formal education. A voluntary Honduran medical doctor supervised the work at a distance, providing guidelines for what health workers could do at any particular level of training. A first level permitted only medicines with no danger of overdose, and no injections. With experience, health workers received a certificate that authorized them to give shots and dispense certain medicines.

4.   Male Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor in a practical way a part of pastoral training and require pastoral students to initiate mercy ministries.

A church that disobeys the command to which Christ gave highest emphasis is, by definition, apostate.

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