FAQs About Network 9:35 and Holistic Ministry
Where did you get the name “Network 9:35?”
Since Jesus is our model for holistic ministry, offering the good news by proclaiming salvation and
meeting human needs, we use Matthew 9:35 - ―Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing very disease and
sickness‖ – as our foundational text to convey our commitment to holistic ministry in the pattern and
spirit of Jesus.
Link the word ―Network‖ to (Matthew) 9:35, and we hope to have gotten across our commitment to doing Jesus-centered holistic ministry together; because let’s face it: we are way over our heads when it comes to trying to address the needs of our communities! To help God’s people network together to engage their communities in holistic ministry is Network 9:35’s reason-for-being.
What exactly do you mean by “holistic ministry?”
There are at least eight central features of holistic ministry:
(1) unconditional commitment to Christ;
(2) a passion for evangelism;
(3) a passion for the poor;
(4) a concern for the whole person in community;
(5) consciously chosen programs to enable committed Christians to develop informal, relaxed
friendships with non-Christians;
(6) relocation among the needy;
(7) partnership with the larger body of Christ;
(8) the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Whether you are talking about a church or an organization or a person, if these eight features are present in
some form, then it fits our understanding of holistic ministry.
(From Cup of Water, Bread of Life by Ron Sider, p. 177)
What is the biblical and theological basis of holistic ministry?
It is rooted in the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ, which has the power to transform and renew both
individuals and society.
Jesus is the good news. God incarnate: Son of God/Man, Lord, Savior, Christ/Messiah -- God’s first,
final and ultimate word to humanity.
Not only is Jesus the evangel, he is the evangelist. Jesus witnessed in word and deed. He proclaimed
and practiced the kingdom of God. He responded to the needs of whole persons with a whole gospel.
The gospel is a witness of word and deed. We can’t divorce one from the other. Like a two-sided coin,
we can tell the difference between a head and tail; we can tell the difference between evangelism
and social ministry. But it’s one coin – one witness.
The gospel is kingdom-centered. Jesus came proclaiming the rule and reign of God’s kingdom. Our
task is to proclaim not ourselves, neither our churches, denominations nor ministries. We proclaim
the kingdom of God/heaven.
The gospel addresses whole persons. No part of our lives is exempt from the rule and reign of God.
We are social, spiritual, emotional, physical, psychological, and intellectual beings. God’s good news
addresses every facet of our existence.
The gospel addresses individuals and systems, persons and communities, people groups and nations.
We don’t live in isolation. Transformation can and does come to and through all levels within
societies and cultures.
Finally, the gospel (communicated by word, works and wonders) can only be effected and effective
when it’s empowered by God’s Spirit. We serve as conduits of God’s grace and spiritual gifts, which
enable us to carry out the call and challenge of the Christian gospel.
What does a church doing holistic ministry look like?
If you have been to such a church, you recognize it. If you are not in one, you sense something is
missing. Holistic congregations can take many forms, but they share four main characteristics:
1. Dynamic spirituality
• Worships the triune God
• [Is guided by] [Submits to] the inspired and authoritative Word of God [and adheres to historic
• Sustains a passionate spiritual life of worship, prayer, and discipleship
• Cultivates an orientation toward outreach, based on understanding [the missional nature of the
church] [that the church is by nature engaged in mission] and sharing God's love for the lost, lonely,
2. Healthy congregational dynamics
• Nurtures loving, accountable, reconciling relationships within the church
• Utilizes the full range of spiritual gifts available to the church • Upholds empowering leaders with vision, courage, and integrity • Places every area of life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, without distinction between "sacred"
3. Holistic understanding of the church's mission • Integrates evangelism, discipleship and social action in every area of ministry, desiring to see both
spiritual and social transformation
• Recognizes both individual and systemic sources of and solutions to human problems
• Supports a spectrum of social action that includes charity, compassion, community development,
justice and public policy
• Views mission as both local and global in scope
4. Holistic ministry practice
• Relies on the power of God’s Spirit for fruitful ministry • Seeks to develop long-term relationships with ministry recipients and welcomes them into church
• Ministers with a spirit of sacrificial servanthood and humility
• Cooperates with other expressions of the body of Christ
No church will travel the same path to becoming a holistic congregation. Each congregation starts in
a different place, has a unique makeup and character, and ministers to a particular community
context. While there are no simple 1_2_3 steps to holistic ministry, there are three distinct phases
that most churches experience along the way: setting the stage, unleashing the vision, and
sustaining the vision. Wherever your congregation is now, the key point is to commit yourself by
faith to take the next step in reaching your community with good news and good works.
(From Churches That Make a Difference by Phil Olson, Ron Sider, Heidi Unruh)
This might be asking the same question, but what does holistic ministry itself look like?
A program that embodies the church’s holistic mission will have the following components:
* Ministry leaders with passion for both spiritual and social transformation, love for both the
congregation and the community, and commitment to the church’s overall ministry vision.
* Staff who are selected on the basis of their character and spiritual maturity as well as their
professional skills, with a commitment to excellence and a longing to pray and share the Gospel with
those they serve.
* Holistic program content that effectively integrates the best insights of the medical and social
sciences and community development with significant opportunities for spiritual transformation and
discipleship, including biblical material, worship, Christian counseling, and prayer.
* The teaching of a holistic worldview that understands that personal and societal brokenness results
from a complex interplay of both sinful personal choices and unjust social structures, and thus seeks
wholeness in the area of ministry at the spiritual and material, personal and societal levels.
* Evangelism training that prepares staff and volunteers to integrate word and deed in ways that are
sensitive, relational, clear, and effective.
* An emphasis on prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit, leading staff and volunteers to pray
regularly for the healing of those they serve in every dimension of their lives—spiritual, physical,
relational, financial, and psychological.
* Opportunities for building relationships of caring and trust with the people served, as a basis for
faith sharing, mentoring, holistic support services and referrals, and invitations to join a Christian
community (whether your own church or another congregation).
(Adapted from Churches That Make a Difference by Phil Olson, Ron Sider, and Heidi Unruh)
One concern about holistic ministry, or any kind of ministry that focuses externally, is how
the people in the church can get neglected. How can practitioners of holistic ministry
guard against this?
One of the key challenges churches face in the development of holistic mission is crafting the
balance between nurture and outreach. If a congregation becomes overly focused on its own needs,
it becomes a social club that never gets around to carrying out the work of the Kingdom for others.
On the other hand, the people of God can’t reach out effectively if they’re hurting, vision-less, ill
equipped or divided. The church cannot help new converts grow if it lacks strong ministries of
discipleship and fellowship.
A holistic approach to discipleship sees spiritual growth and service as an interlocking spiral. Study
and devotion should foster active obedience, and the experience of carrying out God’s mission in the
world deepens our desire to know God better. The more we know about who God is and what He is
doing in the world, the more we act on it; the more we follow God’s will, the more insights we gain
into God’s character and the closer we grow to Christ (Matt 12:50). David Apple of Tenth
Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA summarizes the relationship between study and action:
―Christians need to know what they’re doing. And Christians need to do what they know.‖
Many churches approach discipleship as a two-stage process: first you study and learn the
disciplines of a vigorous personal spiritual life; then, after you have achieved a sufficient level of
spiritual maturity, you may graduate to active ministry duty. Jesus’ teachings and example, however,
indicate that even for fledgling believers, engaging in acts of ministry should go hand in hand with
instruction in the faith. Setting believers to work in obedience to the mandate for holistic ministry
makes the teachings about the Kingdom come alive, and tests their commitment to a life of
discipleship. ―The best way to disciple in the way of Jesus Christ,‖ asserts Rev. Bill Borror of Media
Presbyterian Church in Media, PA, ―is to have Christians involved in hands-on ministry.‖
[Adapted from Chapter 8 of Churches That Make a Difference, by Phil Olson, Ron Sider, and Heidi Unruh).
How do you envision the networking part of Network 9:35 to happen?
We see it happening on at least 5 different levels:
• Geographically-based: bringing congregations, NGO's, and para-church organizations located in a given area to contribute to local community transformation.
• Denominationally-based: taking advantage of already formed networks of churches, i.e., denominations, to introduce and/or develop and/or enrich holistic ministry efforts.
• Urban-Suburban Partnerships: facilitating suburban churches to partner with urban churches to
work together toward transformation in a given neighborhood.
• Global partnerships: learning from and enriching one another’s holistic ministry efforts across
national lines. Churches across the globe, particularly in the Two-Thirds World, can teach churches in
North America a thing or two about holistic ministry, as well as provide contexts in which
international church-to-church partnerships can work together for personal and social transformation.
• Organizational Partnerships: bringing together the wisdom and resources of Christian organizations
worldwide to help local churches engage their communities holistically.
If you think Network 9:35 can help your church, denomination or organization, please contact us.