Our vision as a team is to
see a new generation of leaders in Cambodia engaged in
recognize that the term
“holistic mission” is potentially ambiguous and subject to varied
interpretations. We have therefore
prepared this “position paper” which outlines our current understanding
holistic mission and some parameters as to the manner in which it is to
implemented within the work of our team.
We are by no means experts in the areas of development and
ministry. This framework paper may
therefore, quite frankly, contain misguided thinking, errors in
poorly crafted terminology. We submit
this paper, therefore, as a “work in progress.”
We warmly welcome any clarification or suggestions from those
experience is broader and understanding is deeper than ours!
WHAT IS HOLISTIC MISSION?
We desire for our team to have
a culture of conceptual
development about holistic mission. This
position paper for a holistic mission framework is simply the starting
for that development. True to our core
values, we desire to have an “attitude of learning” – continual
growth about this subject and how International Teams East Asia – Cambodia Team can be a part of
holistic mission in
As we live and minister here
in Cambodia, we become
increasingly aware of the vast number of social problems plaguing this
nation. Human trafficking, deforestation,
HIV/AIDS, corruption, injustice, poverty, and many other issues
leading us to experience heartache, compassion, and sometimes
anger. As we read God’s Word, we realize
that God cares very much for these issues, and He desires for us as His
to share His compassionate heart for these problems, as well.
Sticking our head in the sand like the
proverbial ostrich is simply not an option.
Furthermore, we see a variety
of agencies around us
responding to some of these problems.
Some of these agencies are Christian organizations, but many
‘secular’ development NGO’s. External
governments are also intervening through foreign aid programs. As
we try to look at these problems from the
perspective of a Biblical worldview, we cannot avoid the suspicion that
secular NGO’s, in their naturalistic/humanistic frame of reference, are
something. The dimension of spiritual
darkness, so obvious in Cambodia with its animistic Buddhist worldview,
critical factor in the underdevelopment of this nation.
Thankfully, many Christian
development workers have begun
to organize a coherent framework for understanding all these factors in
integrative way, through the development of the concept of
Development (TD). Likewise, as an
organization, International Teams East Asia – Cambodia Team (ITEACT)
consistent framework for understanding these social problems and
strategic responses to them, within the context of our mission to
multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches in Cambodia through
strategic partnerships.’ Thus, we need
to consider the implementation of TD within the context of our mission
multiplication – we will call this ‘holistic mission.’
This framework, then, will
consider the problems which
holistic mission needs to address. A
brief consideration of secular and other perspectives on poverty and
development will be included. Following
that, we will develop a theological framework for understanding
from the perspective of a Biblical worldview.
Next, we will integrate these perspectives into a coherent
of the nature of holistic mission.
Finally, we will develop a paradigm for implementing holistic
within the context of our specific organization.
Secular Perspectives on
Poverty and Development
Our starting point will be the
general theories of
poverty and development which many of those working in ‘secular’ NGO’s
using as their framework of reference.
Development thinkers have
formed various theories about
the nature of poverty. Some approach
poverty from a purely economic perspective.
For instance, they may look at ‘asset poverty,’ which is the
economic wealth. Another view would
‘income poverty,’ which measures the level of income in a given
against a standard ‘poverty line.’ These
economic views of poverty are correct in understanding poverty as an
related to the use of resources for fulfilling basic human needs.
However, a mere economic view of poverty is
too limiting. Other views of poverty add
helpful components. For example, the
capability view of poverty focuses on the ability (or lack thereof)
poor have to carry out fundamental, valued activities.
Other poverty perspectives emphasize the
importance of the poor defining for themselves what it means to be
Another helpful dimension of poverty has been
explored by the work of other development thinkers, such as Robert
John Friedman. These take more systemic
approaches, understanding poverty as a collection of interrelated
factors. Chambers’ approach includes
physical weakness, vulnerability, isolation, and powerlessness.
Friedman emphasizes that poverty is a power
issue. Christian thinkers like Jayakumar
Christian and Bryant Myers build on these systemic views, but add
components to them.
One’s view of poverty
inevitably shapes one’s view of
development – how one defines the problem often implies the necessary
solution. If poverty is merely economic,
then economic solutions are required to promote economic
If the problem is an inability to meet basic
human needs, the response is to build capacity and develop structures
ensuring the fulfillment of those basic needs.
More systemic approaches realize the need for expanding the
the poor across a variety of ‘transformational frontiers.’
Empowerment of the poor seems to be a major
theme in these systematic views.
Reading some of this
literature on poverty and
development is a bit overwhelming. The
ideas introduced in these various perspectives are largely accurate,
are not complete. They are helpful, but
they are not adequate. For example, in
one sense, the economic definitions of poverty seem inadequate.
Certainly, the problem of poverty is not as
simple as measuring how much income (or wealth) everyone has. But
the more systemic views are also somewhat
confusing. Because they include so many
factors, it begins to appear as if poverty is everything!
One begins to wonder what poverty really
is! Christian theories add the necessary
spiritual dimension, but may not always pay proper attention to the
role of the
Clarity can come in two
First, we should define
poverty as an ‘incapacity to
mobilize essential resources to satisfy basic human needs.’
Defining poverty simply in terms of income,
or of wealth, is inadequate. The root
issue of poverty is not being able to mobilize the resources necessary
satisfying one’s basic needs. For instance, someone may have zero
have such a great store of wealth that they have all the resources they
ever need. Conversely, someone may have
no wealth, and live from paycheck to paycheck, but those paychecks are
to support a comfortable lifestyle.
Neither of these people could be considered poor.
Furthermore, someone could have neither
income nor wealth, but be so ‘well connected’ (social capital) that
needs were always satisfied. In short,
there are a variety of ways to mobilize the resources essential for
basic human needs. Any one of those ways
will keep a person from being poor. But
when someone is simply incapable of mobilizing those resources, that is
the horrible state of poverty becomes frightening reality.
Second, we must realize that
poverty is not
everything. Poverty is not the only
‘development problem.’ Rather, it is a
single factor within the entire framework of underdevelopment.
Other factors include broken families,
oppression, ignorance, disease, crime, and injustice.
All of these factors are systemically
related. But they are distinct factors. Together, they make
up the complex issue of
underdevelopment. The diagram here reveals
that at the core of underdevelopment are three fundamental
power, resources, and knowledge.
In order for people to develop, they need
access to resources, they need the power to use those resources for
development, and they need the knowledge to know how to use those
resources. A breakdown in any one of
these core development issues can lead to the various factors of
A Theological Framework
for Understanding Development
In order to grasp the vast
array of Biblical teaching
which relate to holistic development, we need a clear framework to
thinking. Various teachers have
suggested a four-stage process in the implementation of God’s plan to
glory to Himself through His people.
This process consists of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and
Consummation. Let us consider each of
these phases in turn:
The starting point of a
Biblical worldview comes in the
understanding that God is the Creator.
This fundamental premise is clear from the very beginning
and on throughout all of Biblical revelation.
It is clear that God has created all things in existence in the
world (Genesis 1:1-25), and He is the creator of humanity as well
1:26-31). As Creator, He is the Master
of all that exists (Psalm 24:1-2, 89:11-12).
Another way to say this is that God is the sovereign Lord, or
reigns as King. As such, all created
things are accountable to Him, and are made for His glory (Psalm 19:1;
95:6; Isaiah 43:7; Revelation 4:11).
The pinnacle of God’s creation
is humanity, which God has
made – male and female – in His own image.
God designed humanity for a relationship with Himself. Humanity
was designed to love and serve the
only true God, his Creator. We can call
this role or responsibility of man ‘worship.’
It is clear, however, that humanity was not designed to be an
worshipper. Worship is not the sole
responsibility or role of man. God also
designed man to be in ‘relationship’ with other human beings (Genesis
2:18-25). This responsibility of
relationship is the foundation of human society. Finally,
God also entrusted man with a role
of responsibility over the natural order.
The natural order still belonged to God, but man was expected to
over it on God’s behalf (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:6-8).
Thus, we call this responsibility
Each of these
roles/responsibilities is also an area of
need. Humanity needs a right
relationship with God, a right relationship with other human beings,
right relationship between his body and the natural order.
This is clear in Genesis 2:16-18. God
gave man a command – man must obey in
order to be in right relationship with God.
God created a helper for the man – to ensure that he was not
alone. God provided food for the man –
he was in a right relationship with the natural order.
Thus, in creation we get a
clear picture of man’s true
identity and calling. He is made in
God’s image, and is called to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of
worship, relationship, and stewardship.
It is little wonder that, when man truly fulfilled these roles
sovereign Lordship of God, we call that condition ‘paradise.’
Paradise did not last too
long, however. After
surrendering to the temptation of the
devil in the guise of a serpent (Genesis 3), everything went
wrong. The two main results of this fall
into sin can be expressed as ‘alienation’ and ‘corruption.’
Alienation is a description of what happened
in the three major roles of humanity, and corruption is a reflection of
happened in the main actors themselves.
We see the ‘alienation’
effects in the account of the
Fall itself. Humanity is alienated from
God, as Adam and Eve hide from the Lord as He walks in the garden
3:8). Adam and Eve are alienated from
each other, as their shame causes them to cover themselves with fig
hurl accusations (Genesis 3:12, 16).
Finally, as a result of the curse, humanity is alienated from
natural order (Genesis 3:17-19). These
various categories of alienation, left unchecked, lead to more
problems. Alienation from God leads
humanity to seek substitutes for Him, resulting in idolatry.
Alienation from other people leads to
multiple dysfunctions in human society, a condition which we can (as
above) call underdevelopment. Finally,
alienation from the natural world and a rejection of humanity’s role as
stewards of it leads to environmental degradation.
actors in this
horrific drama are also corrupted
by the fall into sin. God Himself, of
course, is holy and remains untouched by sin.
However, humanity’s choice leaves opportunity for the
infiltration of a
usurper – Satan with his demonic forces (Ephesians 2:2).
The facilities of man, created in God’s
image, are corrupted (Ephesians 4:17-19).
We call this ‘the flesh,’ humanity’s natural powers being used
in a way
of life which exalts self and opposes God (Ephesians 2:3).
The collection of fleshly humans into society
is also corrupted, resulting in the evil world system (Ephesians 2:2; 1
2:15-17). Finally, the natural order is
corrupted, resulting in universal decay (Romans 8:20-23).
Thankfully, God never lost
control of the situation.
He also never abandoned His plan to bring
glory to Himself through doing good to His people which He had
God’s holistic plan of redemption had two
major phases. The first phase involved
in the creation of the people of Israel.
God called Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-8), a man of faith, and
his descendants created a nation for His glory (Isaiah 49:3), a nation
would be a model of the holistic peace that God intended for His people
Exodus 19:3-6). To guide this model
nation, God gave them the Torah, a set of instructions which would lead
into a lifestyle which reflected the principles of holistic peace.
In the Torah, the supremacy of
God as the only Lord and
King is unmistakable. Israel is clearly
called to a recommitment to fulfilling the human role/responsibility of
worshipping the one and only true God (Exodus 20:1-6).
The prophets, the ‘guardians of the Torah
principles,’ repeatedly called Israel to forsake their idolatries and
their commitment to worship.
The Torah also includes
comprehensive guidelines for life
in human society. Seven fundamental
pillars of human society are amply supported in the Torah’s
1. Democratic Rights.
The Torah demonstrates respect for the person, including basic
such as property (Exodus 20:17; 21:28-36; 22:9; Leviticus 6:3-4).
2. Family. The
family is the core of society in the framework of the Torah.
There are numerous laws which regulate sexual
behavior and protect the integrity of the family unit (Leviticus 18).
3. Equitable Economic
given to avoid economic oppression
(see Deuteronomy 24:10-22)
Education of the next generation in the Torah lifestyle is
5. Health Care.
Instruction is given in basic sanitation and health (e.g.,
6. Public Safety.
Protection from violence is provided for in the law (e.g.
7. Balanced Legal
A system of judges who implemented the law without partiality is
instituted (Exodus 18:17-26).
These seven pillars are in
direct opposition to the seven
factors of underdevelopment outlined above.
The protection of democratic rights diminishes oppression.
Strengthening the family minimizes the damage
done by broken family structures. An
equitable economic system protects against poverty.
Education works against ignorance. Health
care guards against disease. Ensuring
public safety protects society from
crime. A balanced judicial system works
against injustice. By addressing these
issues, the Torah thus provided a basic framework for healthy
The prophets were equally concerned when the
people of Israel wandered away from this ideal (Isaiah 58:1-11, Micah
The Torah also does not ignore
the final responsibility
of man – environmental stewardship. The people of Israel were
instructed in how
to live in care for the land (Exodus 23:12; Lev 25:1-5; Deut 22:6-7).
The first phase of God’s
redemptive plan through Israel
and the Torah was good, but it was only provisional.
The complete implementation of God’s
redemptive plan came in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the community of
gathered around Him. After Pentecost,
this community of disciples became the church, now empowered by the
to be the agents of God’s holistic mission in the world.
The New Testament reflects the
same concern for the
spiritual, social, and physical responsibilities of humanity. The
redemption introduced by Christ is
designed to bring restoration in each of these domains:
spiritual, social, and physical. We
have been reconciled to God (2 Corinthians
5:18-21). We are united into ‘one new
humanity’ (Ephesians 2:14-22). The world
will be restored and set free from bondage (Romans 8:19-22).
Thus, New Testament salvation
goes beyond merely
receiving forgiveness of sins. That is
foundational, of course, for sin was the fundamental problem which
all these problems in the first place.
The vision of the New Testament is broader, however. Salvation is
redemption from sin (and its
effects) and restoration of man’s holistic role in God’s Kingdom.
God’s people are to engage in
ministry in each of these
domains: spiritual, social, and
physical. This ministry involves both
fulfilling our divinely ordained roles and alleviating the effects of
Our salvation thus defined has
commenced, but it is not
complete. God’s Kingdom has been
inaugurated, but the consummation awaits Christ’s return.
When Christ does indeed return, He will
institute the complete fullness of His Kingdom and holistic peace –
perfect peace – will be here at last.
God promises to bring about a final consummation which will
restoration in each domain: spiritual,
social, and physical. We will be set
free from sin and share eternity with God.
We will be together as a multitude praising God.
The natural order will be restored as a new
heaven and a new earth.
In the meantime, we live in
the ‘overlap of the
ages.’ It is in this overlap that we
must participate in God’s plan through engaging in holistic mission.
The Nature of Holistic
In light of these principles
we can define holistic
mission as follows: Holistic
the process of leading human society toward holistic peace through the
work of creating communities of disciples which engage in integrated
to spiritual, social, and physical needs.
Several points in this
definition deserve more detailed
This is the wholeness which
results from environmental
stewardship, healthy societal character, and Christian
The Biblical word for this is ‘shalom.’
Holistic mission is ultimately
not the work of any
organization. It is the work of Christ’s
church. While the church may decide,
under the leading of the Holy Spirit, to commission certain of her
cooperate together in an institutionalized manner – that ‘mission
remains an arm of the church and is responsible to the church.
Organizations which ignore their church in
their efforts to do development work are not engaging in holistic
Some of thinkers (e.g., Rick
Warren) have summarized the
work of the church in five functions:
worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. Each
of these functions has a critical role
to play in holistic mission. Worship is the focus and motivation of
mission. Through instruction we can
promote a biblical worldview. In
fellowship we have an opportunity to model the kingdom community.
Evangelism is the means of spreading the
power of holistic change. Finally,
through service we reach out in mercy ministry (Note:
‘Mercy Ministry’ is ministry which alleviates
the effects of sin and demonstrates God’s compassionate love through
deed, with a special focus on the marginalized of society).
‘Communities of disciples’
We can call these groups
‘missional communities.’ It
is a group of Christ’s followers, working
together in harmony, which best promotes holistic mission.
Once again, we believe that God’s primary
agent of influence for His Kingdom in the world today is the church of
Christ, expressed through the formation of local congregations of
believers. This community models the
values of the Kingdom, champions the truth of a biblical worldview, and
holistically to the world around it.
‘Creating communities of disciples’
The act of creating such
communities is essentially
equivalent to what is normally called ‘church planting.’
However, since this is done by the church,
and not an isolated individual, the better term would be ‘church
Holistic mission is not simply
‘tacking on’ social
outreach to our already existing ‘spiritual ministries.’
Rather, the various ministries are woven
together, not just placed side by side.
Holistic ministry thus integrates saturation church planting
for pervasive influence of church within society) with transformational
‘Spiritual, social, and physical needs’
Our theological overview has
shown that God created
humanity with spiritual, social, and physical responsibilities.
Each of these areas of responsibility was an
area of dependence or need – we were designed to need God, to need each
and to need the sustenance of the natural order. Furthermore,
humanity’s rebellion has brought
alienation and corruption into each of these areas, resulting in
need. Holistic mission responds to these
needs, bring the holistic message of God’s salvation to the community,
working out that salvation in compassionate service.
Thus, holistic mission will
embrace and integrate
evangelism, mercy ministry, church planting, church growth, and
A few other points about
holistic mission deserve
Holistic mission cultivates a Biblical worldview.
A worldview is simply one’s
set of basic assumptions
about the world and how it operates. A
worldview is how you think about the world around you.
A worldview is how you perceive the world –
the ‘glasses’ through which you view all of reality.
Because worldviews are usually shared within
the context of one’s culture, a person’s worldview is usually not
reflected upon unless it is challenged externally – by a major crisis
unravels the worldview or by encountering other, contrary yet
We act based on what we
worldview is such a central defining
element in how we think, it will have pervasive impact on how we
the world around us. A faulty worldview
will have far-reaching negative consequences in the spiritual, social,
physical realms. Cultivating a Biblical
based worldview is therefore foundational to holistic mission.
Holistic mission increases commitment to God’s
The fundamental cause of
alienation in the spiritual,
social, and physical realms is sin. It
is only in leading people into a greater commitment to God’s purposes –
under His authority in His Kingdom and living in accordance with His
principles – that the root cause of spiritual, social, and physical
can be dealt with. This is therefore the
central aim of holistic mission.
Holistic mission does not distinguish between the secular
and the sacred.
We firmly believe that Christ
now reigns over the entire
world. As His disciples, His authority
extends over every aspect of life. We
are called to serve in spiritual, social, and physical roles. All
this means that it is inappropriate to
divide life into ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ spheres. Agents
of holistic mission will be found
among housewives, police officers, pastors, soldiers, travel agents,
Structure for Holistic Mission
As an organization, we have
long operated with the
following mission statement: ‘To advance
the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches in Cambodia
strategic partnerships with organizations and local churches.’
This is a strong mission statement, and the
essence of this mission must remain at the core of what we do as an
However, the mission statement
is still somewhat
vague. We know that we partner with
organizations and local churches – but what is the nature of those
partnerships? Can we partner with any
organization? Any local church? Doing any kind of ministry
– as long as it
somehow advances the multiplication of disciples, leaders, or
We need to strengthen this mission statement
so it more clearly reflects what kind of partnerships we desire to
develop. Leadership development has long
been a focus of our ministry as an organization – and this is
it responds to a serious need within Cambodian society.
However, recent developments within the team
have demonstrated a need for increasing focus on holistic ministry,
define as work which integrates ministry to the spiritual, social, and
needs of members of Cambodian society in an attempt to increase their
commitment to living in accordance with God’s purposes.
Thus, we propose that, from this point
forward, we operate with a new mission statement:
‘To advance the
of disciples, leaders, and
churches in Cambodia through strategic partnerships of leadership
and holistic ministry.’
We also need to clarify what
our vision is. Our
mission statement defines what God has
sent us here as an organization to do.
Our vision describes why we do it – the end product that we want
as a result of the fulfillment of our mission.
We propose that the following best encapsulates our vision as a
‘To see a new
leaders in Cambodia engaged
in holistic mission.’
In order to complete this
mission and move towards seeing
this vision become reality, we need to ensure that the appropriate
and programs are in place. We currently
have a strong program of next generation leadership development
Kampong Cham, Cambodia. However, we want
to ensure that the leaders we are currently developing share our vision
holistic mission. There are a number of
ways to do this:
1) Deepen the
commitment to holistic mission within our organizational culture.
If holistic mission becomes part of the way
we think as an organization, then it will more naturally spill into the
develop young leaders.
2) Provide young
leaders with training from those experienced in holistic mission.
3) Provide young
leaders with opportunities to engage in holistic mission.
The best way to engage in all
three strategies is if
holistic mission actually becomes part of what we do as an
If we engage in some manner in holistic
mission, then we will deepen our organizational commitment to this
will have human resources with a background of actual experience to
young leaders, and we will have a ready context for offering young
chance for practical application of holistic mission (e.g., through
In order to implement holistic
mission within our
organization, we need a new structure, a new program division. It
is important that we structure this
division well. We have cast ourselves as
an organization that does not plant new churches. We
have determined to be an organization that
works in partnership with other groups.
We are part of a worldwide mission organization that firmly
that ‘mission belongs to the church.’ In
light of all these factors, the best approach for designing this new
division is as follows:
[Note: the following section in
brown was part of the
original position paper produced by the team. However, a
modification in this plan has been made. The project discussed
below will instead be developed under the SHALOM ministry area.]
new ministry division will
be called ‘Partnerships
for Holistic Mission’ (abbreviated PHM).
The PHM Ministry Division consists of formal, strategic
focusing on the intentional implementation of ITEACT’s holistic mission
framework. The overarching objective for
this ministry division is to develop structured opportunities for
the Cambodian church into holistic mission.
will our PHM work look
like? Since we
do not yet have extensive experience
in this area, it is hard to determine the precise nature of such a
ministry. However, we can outline some
proposed components of such a ministry division. The
actual outworking of PHM will take place
in specific projects, each ideally focused on a particular
These projects will always take place in
partnership with a local church, who will be the primary agent of
mission in that community project.
ITEACT will function as a catalyst for the local church,
equipping it to fulfill the holistic mission which God has given it.
criteria for inclusion of
a project in the PHM
ministry division would include the following:
The proposed project must
be holistic – integrating
spiritual and social/physical needs.
The proposed project must
be done in partnership
with a Cambodian church
The proposed project must
have a leadership
The proposed project must
allow for the involvement
of other ITEACT missionaries (i.e., not an individual project)
The proposed project must
have a formal project plan
identifying intended outcomes
The ultimate goal of each
project should be a
community-based church with the vision and capacity to engage in
mission. Each project should also look
at the various factors of holistic peace outlined above:
Christian Discipleship, Healthy Society
(democratic rights, family, equitable economic system, education,
public safety, and a balanced judicial system), and Environmental
Stewardship. While specific indicators in
each of these
areas are beyond the scope of this paper, the factors of holistic peace
least provide a model for considering what specific details should be
in each community.
We can, however, identify some
general outcome areas
which we would like to see present.
These are marked indicators of success in each of these projects.
We want to see the core group/church initiated in these projects
multiply itself through ongoing outreach in holistic mission.
> Biblical worldview.
We want to see members of the community captivated by a Biblical
worldview, the structure of which we have outlined above.
> Character. We
want to see the members of the community demonstrated Biblical,
> Abundance. We
want to see the community able to access abundant resources in their
to meet basic needs.
> Peaceful and Just
want to see the community knit together in
peaceful and just relationships – the kind which make for a healthy
> Restored Identity and
want to see all members of the community
understand their identity as humans made in God’s image and their
glorify Him through worship, relationship, and stewardship.
If International Teams East
Asia – Cambodia Team can play
a catalytic role in seeing these outcomes become reality, we will have
on the road to seeing our vision and mission as a team fulfilled.
May God grant us favor as we
engage in holistic mission
for His glory!