Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
We at NDI have always believed in holistic ministry. I have often personally expressed it this way: “We believe in the whole Gospel for the whole man by the whole church for the whole world.” I believe that statement succinctly summarizes both the Great Commandment to LOVE (Mk. 12:30-31; Jn. 15:12) and the Great Commission to GO (Matt. 28:19-20). They must go together. These two great Commands from Christ cannot be separated or segmented into the ‘Spiritual Gospel’ and the ‘Social Gospel’ as Christians have sometimes done. To divide them into separate ministries is like trying to walk on one leg. At best you can only hop! It takes two healthy strong legs to walk physically and spiritually.
Jesus’ ministry was the perfect balance of both the spiritual and social. The Bible clearly reveals that there were two things that characterized His life and ministry, good news and good works. He never separated the two into different ministries. His words acted and His actions spoke. Jesus not only ‘talked the talk’ and ‘walked the walk’ – He also ‘talked the walk’ and ‘walked the talk.’
Mark’s Gospel is both the earliest and most succinct record of Jesus’ life and ministry. Here is how he summarized the ministry of Jesus:
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come…the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk. 1:14-15).
Matthew amplifies this account with more details:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness among the people…and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them” (Matt. 4:23-24; c.f. 9:35-36).
What was the public response to this balanced ministry of good news and good works…of teaching and touching…of heralding and healing…of precept and power…of declaration and deliverance? Doctor Luke briefly reports: “News about Him spread through the whole countryside” (Lk. 14:14). Matthew expands this further and tells us exactly where the news about Jesus spread: “News about Him spread all over Syria…Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and regions across the Jordan followed Him” (Matt. 4:24-25). Once again, His good news coupled with His good works – generated great popularity. We could summarize His ministry this way: Proclamation plus power provided provisions that produced popularity.
So Jesus demonstrated a balanced holistic ministry. He ministered to the total person – spirit, soul and body. And in doing so, Jesus always began with the people’s primary “felt need” – whether it was ignorance, fear, sickness, disease, hunger or demons. As a result, God used that balance of good news and good works to produce good views about Christ! As we saw: “News about Him spread everywhere.”
When Jesus first sent out the Disciples, He sent them out with this same holistic approach to ministry:
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Lk. 9:1-2).
Sometime later, Jesus sent out the 72 “…ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go.” And as He did so, He gave them the same holistic ministry (Lk. 10:1-16). When this time of outreach was completed, they returned rejoicing and exclaimed to Christ: “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your Name.” Their ministry was so powerful in Judea that it had ramifications in the heavenly realm. As a result, Jesus said this to them: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:17-18).
It is also important to note that this holistic ministry that Jesus had empowered the Disciples for resulted in great joy for Him. Listen to these words of explanation by Luke that were amplified by Christ – which had to be spoken with joy in His voice…a sparkle in His eye…and a big smile on His face!
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Lk. 10:21).
So this holistic ministry by the Disciples in the Name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit, brought passion to them…provision to people…pleasure to Christ…praise to God! And it had both temporal and eternal impact. It reverberated from earth to heaven. It had influence over both the human and demonic realm.
After Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter referred to this holistic ministry of Christ in his sermon in Caesarea at the home of Cornelius:
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:36-38).
Did people sometimes follow the good works more than the Good Worker? Did some of the people follow Christ with mixed motives just to “get what they could” from Him? Were there ‘opportunists’ in the crowd? Did some try to take advantage of Him? “Yes” on all accounts. Even Jesus’ closest Disciples sometimes ‘jockeyed for power” and ‘competed for position.’ They argued over who was the most important one among them. James and John even got their mother to try and persuade Jesus to give them the highest places of honor in the Kingdom – one enthroned on His right and one on His left (Matt. 20:20-28)! Talk about opportunists! And when the other Disciples heard about this ploy – they were angry. No, the Bible says that they were “indignant.” They were past mad – they were furious! And their wrath toward James and John was because they had not thought of this first! That they had stealthily out-smarted them in their desire to manipulate Jesus!
After Jesus fed the five thousand with a few loaves and fish, John recounts this timely insight:
“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself…” (Jn. 6:14-15).
So there has always been the “fish-and-chips” crowd. They do not want to be made good through Christ – they just want the “goodies!” They want to make Him ‘King for the day’ – just as long as He will keep throwing the best picnic in town! Just as long as He will promise them prosperity now as well as “pie in the sky by-and-by!” That’s why the ‘Miracle Workers’ and ‘Prosperity Preachers’ are so popular on TV and in person!
Today in missions we call these kinds of self-absorbed and self-seeking followers “Rice Christians.” They “accept Christ” just as long as you keep their rice bowls full! They follow Jesus – or Christian leaders, only for the blessings and benefits they can get. So human nature has not changed – whether in the First Century or the Twenty-First Century!
Will some people take advantage of you…exploit you…abuse you…misuse your good works…abuse your resources? Will they sometimes wrongly use your money? Certainly. Has that ever happened to me personally and to NDI. Yes. But does that mean we have the right to become cynical…jaded…disillusioned…hard-hearted? Absolutely not! We must continue to do good works for good reasons for God’s glory.
Jesus made this absolutely clear in one of His Parables in His Sermon on the Mount. Even though you know this teaching well – read them afresh with this wider understanding:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. IN THE SAME WAY, let your light shine before men, that they may SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
Did you connect the spiritual dots here? Did you get the point Christ was making? After stating that a “city on a hill cannot be hidden,” and that you do not “light a lamp and put it under a bowl”; He said: “in the same way” you are to use your “good works” for the blessing and benefit of others. You are not to “hide them” – but to let them “shine before men” to the end that they will bring good to others and glory to God!
The rest of the New Testament echoes this same principle of holistic ministry. It teaches a balance of good news and good works. Let me share several for your prayerful reflection – and obedient action:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:8-10).
“…good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden” (I Tim. 5:15).
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (I Pet. 2:12).
“Command those who are rich (virtually all American Christians!) in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (I Tim. 6:17-19).
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with action…” (I Jn. 3:17-18).
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Matt. 25:35-40),
What could be clearer than those Biblical exhortations?! Especially about the judgment! Note the ‘action words’ in the face of each need: “…gave…invited…clothed…looked after…came to visit.” Their eternal reward was not based on the fact that they “prayed about” the need – but rather that they “did something” about the need!
And I am stating the obvious when I say that it takes goods to do good works. As John says, it takes “material possessions.” To do good works locally or globally requires money…resources…investment capital…discretionary funds.
While God has primarily called me to preach, teach and mentor, I am also a Kingdom entrepreneur, social worker, relief agent, development officer – and general networker and fund-raiser for the Kingdom of God! So in addition to taking my Bible on ever mission trip so I can preach the “good news,” I also try to take as many resources as possible with which to do “good works.” That may be clothing, medicine, Bibles, Christian literature, drip irrigation kits, vegetable seeds, tools, computers, Edu-Packs of school supplies – ANYTHING that I can get on an airplane that will meet needs and advance the Gospel. That’s why I tell the people who travel with me that they must be willing to be a ‘pack-mule for Jesus!’ That means that they get one suitcase for personal items – and I get the other one to carry in much-needed supplies.
I am just before leaving for Africa again (May 19 – June 5). This time I will be in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Kenya – in that order. We will be doing Conferences in each country. But in addition to preaching and teaching, I will also be checking in on various strategic NDI sponsored projects that are meeting needs and advancing the Kingdom. Some are funded, some are not. Let me share them with you for your prayers and “proactivity – that means giving! So ‘pick a need’ and be a blessing!
$8,000 to drill a well at our Samburu Youth & Sports Camp in northern Kenya;
$2,000 to transport a fully loaded 20 ‘ container from Mombassa to South Horr Kenya;
$2,300 to put a roof on a new farm building;
$3,000 for a solar system for the Camp;
$1,200 to fund two Rondoval Huts at the Camp;
$3,000 to complete payment on a used Land Rover for the Camp;
$500 for water tanks for the Camp;
$300 to send two Kenyans to our Genesis Farm in Ethiopia for training for a month;
$25,000 for a Brick-Making Machine for building churches and houses;
$1,000 to buy a good used tractor;
$500 for sports equipment;
$3,000 to truck a loaded 40’ container from Mombassa to Yei;
$350 to buy breeding goats;
$400 to build a Tukul (traditional house) for farm workers;
$1,000 to build a Guest House on the farm;
Thanks for letting me share these ‘Kingdom Investment Opportunities’ with you. Please remember that it is your partnership that makes all we do in His Name possible. It’s your goods that make it possible for us to do good works to meet needs for His glory. God loves you for it – and so do I!
For His Kingdom and Glory,
PS: I recently had a “new direction” in my preaching. I was asked to preach the “Senior Citizens Sunday” at a nearby church. I spoke on “12 Steps For Recovery From Retirement.” You can listen to it on our web site or subscribe to our free podcast (Subscribe). I think you will enjoy it and be challenged by it! It is about Caleb – one of my 85 year old heroes in the Bible.