Would the real mission please stand up? It’s all too easy to think that one’s own particular form of ministry is the real one. That our part of the body of Christ is the main part, whereas others are trivial, laughable, or even detrimental. But when we think like that, we’re not really being like Christ at all, let alone his ‘main’ representatives. 

Australian Christianity has some great ‘mouth ministries’ focused on sharing the message of God’s kingdom, and some wonderful ‘hand ministries’ focused on relief and development work. Both should be considered equally spiritual—the Holy Spirit animates the whole body. But similarly, neither can claim that it alone is doing God’s mission without the other (see 1 Corinthians 12-13).

 Both should be considered equally spiritual—the Holy Spirit animates the whole body.

Baptists aren’t into the hand punching the mouth and the mouth biting the hand—we’ve better things to do together. Mouth ministries have many reasons to be grateful for hand ministries. What do they do for the gospel? They enact it; they embody it; they vindicate it. All the practical ways that Christians humble themselves and work for the benefit of others ‘make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’ (Titus 2:1-15). It’s not Baptist World Aid’s first motivation, but when an Australian Baptist opens their mouth to talk about Jesus, they get a better hearing because of Baptist World Aid.  

Likewise, hand ministries have many reasons to be grateful for mouth ministries. True ‘saving of souls’ is never detached from poverty alleviation, tangible emancipation, and community development. A soul’s salvation is not a mere ticket to heaven or (God forbid) a get-out-of-social-responsibility-free card. 

Family in Uganda smiles at the camera. Thanks to Baptist World Aid and our supporters, they have enough food for their children.

On the contrary, a soul saved is a radical rescue from selfishness, empty materialism, and other enslaving ideologies and powers. A person who hears and receives the invitation into God’s kingdom enters a process of sanctification and a call to ministry, to (as Australians bluntly put it) ‘become part of the solution instead of part of the problem’. It’s a process, I know. But the message of Jesus as true Lord and true Saviour is essential in the full emancipation of individuals, families, and communities.  

So, let’s press on with working together. Plenty of us are significantly involved in both mouth and hand ministries. We’ve found that actions speak louder than words and words speak clearer than actions. The great news of full redemption comes across loud and clear only as the whole body works together in the whole mission of God. 

This article first appeared in our biannual Better World Magazine. Read here.