What does the Bible teach to be the primary mission of the church? That question is what the debate between prioritism and holism seeks to settle. Prioritism is the belief that though the church may do many things, the proclamation of the gospel must take priority. Holism is the belief that the church must give an equal priority to ministry both to the soul and body. To come to some conclusions, we must look at the ministry of Jesus.
The ministry of Jesus is summarized in Matthew 4:23: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (English Standard Version) The threefold ministry of Jesus was to teach, to proclaim the gospel, and healing. So, we see that Jesus ministered to both the soul and the body. Many would include justice as a part of healing ministry, which makes sense in light of the Old Testament emphasis on the subject and its prophetic attachment to the Messiah.
Pioritism in missions and ministry means that the proclamation of the gospel takes priority over other ministries. The first priority of the church is evangelism and making disciples. We find evidence of this fact in Jesus’s words. After healing many people in Luke 4 and with many people looking for him for healing, Jesus said, “I must preach the good news in other towns as well, for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:23) Further, it is reflected in Jesus’s commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples among every people group.
Our first priority is to make disciples. That truth doesn’t mean that other facets of ministry are not important. We do good to all people, not necessarily to open doors to evangelism, but because it is the right thing to do. Our loving ministry to the needs of others along with our stands against evil and injustice are part of our witness. But our priority is to proclaim the gospel and to make disciples.