What is mission? Noah Webster’s dictionary defines the word “mission” as “being sent or delegated by authority, with certain powers for transacting business; commission; as sent on a foreign mission.”
The Head, the Heart, and the Hands
By Youssry Guirguis
What is mission?
Noah Webster’s dictionary defines the word “mission” as “being sent or delegated by authority, with certain powers for transacting business; commission; as sent on a foreign mission.”1 The Latin Christian theological term missio Dei2 gives us the source of mission. It indicates that mission begins with God, who sends out missionaries. Referring to the sphere of mission. Stefan Paas says, “We must not limit ‘mission’ to countries far away.”3 In other words, “mission should not be defined by an address or geographical location.”4
In order for any missionary to be successful in the mission field, the “total person”—the head, the heart, and the hands—must be involved. We must be fully committed to God, serving others, and sharing the gospel message in order to change lives, including our own.
Mission begins in the head, where the brain, our cognizance, is located and our thinking takes place. To become believers, we must accept Jesus in our mind.5
The apostle Paul says: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). The word “understanding” is the Greek nous, which means “mind.” This word refers to the ability to think, to reason, to understand, and to comprehend. It also depicts the mind as the source of all emotions.
In Greek, the word “mind” represents the inner power of a person. It’s the central control center for a human being.6 Therefore, it was understood that the condition of the mind was what determined the condition of one’s life.
Commenting on the significance of the mind, Ellen G. White wrote: “When the mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite, the effect on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In such communion is found the highest education. It is God’s own method of development.”7 This simply means that a positive attitude toward God will affect and influence our thoughts, our feelings, and the way we behave or do things.
The heart is the “bed,” or center, for the emotions. It is where we feel and anticipate what we believe, and where the Word of God begins its faith work. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Faith isn’t just a mechanical application of truth; it also affects how we feel. A missionary must have a passion for mission. Siegfried H. Horn defines “passion” as “a strong emotion or desire.”8 The Cassell Concise English Dictionary comes with a similar view: that passion is an “intense emotion overpowering affection of the mind” and entails “ardent enthusiasm.”9 Thus, passion is an “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.”10
It’s important to remember, however, that although faith will affect how a person feels, how we feel should not affect our faith. There is a difference.
When the apostle Peter wrote to wives in 1 Peter 3:4, he instructed them to give special attention to the “hidden person of the heart.” The word “heart” is the Greek word kardia. Although Peter is not referring to the actual organ, the physical heart is a vital as well as central organ of the body. Although the heart is invisible to the natural eye, the human body cannot live without it. It has a great impact on every single part of the human body as it pumps blood through arteries and many miles of blood vessels. It therefore influences the person’s ability to live and function. Peter gives the reader a powerful insight into the human spirit.
Similarly, ancient Egyptians believed that “every divine word has come into existence through the heart’s thought and tongue’s command.”11 Peter—as did the ancient Egyptians—used the word “heart” figuratively to refer to the inner person, the seat of feelings that drive our actions. In other words, if a person’s heart is filled with the life of God, it will pump life into every part of that person’s being. Therefore, whatever is in the heart will be reproduced in a person’s life and conduct, and will influence the way we relate to others.
The human spirit is the life force of any person. As Ellen White observed: “Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Savior grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life.”12
Christ tells us that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). These things destroy our mission and unity.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is mission-oriented. So it’s no wonder that Ellen White called the church’s attention to unity and not division. She admonished the church to “strive earnestly for unity. Pray for it, work for it. It will bring spiritual health, elevation of thought, nobility of character, heavenly-mindedness, enabling you to overcome selfishness and evil surmisings, and to be more than conquerors through Him that loved you and gave Himself for you.13
Russell Brownsworth tells the story of Lord Nelson of England when he was about to enter an important battle. Lord Nelson heard that two of his officers were at odds with each other, so he called them in and said, “Gentlemen, give me your hands.” The two captains put their hands into the commander’s hands, and the commander squeezed them with a tight grip. “Men,” he said, “remember, the enemy is out there!”
This is a great story about the power of unity in action.
To have unity in action when involved in mission, we must follow Christ and proclaim Him to the whole world. We need to be deeply rooted in God’s Word and spend much time in prayer. In this way we will become a “sermon in shoes” and lead lost souls to Jesus (see Matt. 28:19).
The hands symbolize action. We work, talk, and minister with our hands. We even fight with our hands. We use our hands to sign contracts, to adjust a microscope, or to play a musical instrument. Hands can show joy or disgust. So when head and heart are in tune with God regarding missions, then hands will be in tune as well.
We are not to be idle. We need to be active in community service and helping others. We should not wait for all conditions to be “right” in order for us to become involved in service. American publisher and author William A. Feather explained it well when he said: “Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all facts are favourable do nothing.”14
Ellen White also emphasized the importance of labor: “In our labor we are to be workers together with God. He gives us the earth and its treasures; but we must adapt them to our use and comfort. He causes the trees to grow; but we prepare the timber and build the house. He has hidden in the earth the gold and silver, the iron and coal; but it is only through toil that we can obtain them. . . . No man or woman is degraded by honest toil. That which degrades is idleness and selfish dependence.”15
Keep All in Balance
We must embrace a balanced understanding of mission, one that involves the total person: head, heart, and hands. When we truly learn God’s will about mission, we will long to be involved. The roles people play in mission vary from individual to individual, but all of us must have hearts totally committed to God and a willingness to serve where needed. “Let the one who would worship God open his mouth in praise, his heart in receptivity, his mind in contemplation, his purse in dedication, and his hand in fellowship.”16
In the end, it’s all about love, which reveals itself in sacrificial action. It means giving of ourselves to help others and share with them the gospel message. It may cost us in many ways to love like this, but the benefits will be eternal.17 n
1)Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), s.v. “mission.”
2) “mission of God” or the “sending of God”
3)Stefan Paas, “Prepared for a Missionary Ministry in 21st Century Europe,” European Journal of Theology 20, no. 2 (2011): 119-130.
5)A few thoughts and the title are taken from the sermon “The Head, the Heart, and the Hands,” by W. Alderman.
6)Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems From the Greek: 365 Greek Word Studies for Every Day of the Year to Sharpen Your Understating of God’s Word (Tulsa, Okla.: Rick Renner, 2003), p. 751.
7?Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 126.
8)Siegfried H. Horn, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (1979), s.v. “passion.”
9)The Cassell Concise English Dictionary (1989), s.v. “passion.”
10)Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (2003), s.v. “passion.”
11In)MindReach Library, www.cosmic-mindreach.com/Egypt_Part1.html, accessed Jan. 27, 2014.
12)E. G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 13.
13)Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1991), p. 290.
15)Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), pp. 214, 215.
16)Attributed to Keith Huttenlocker. See www.churchesofchrist.net/authors/Grady_Scott/thingsbeforeworship.htm.
17)I am greatly indebted to Canaan Mkombe (senior lecturer at Solusi University) for proofreading this article and adding insights to it.
Youssry Guirguis holds a master’s degree in religion from Solusi University. He is pursuing a doctorate degree in biblical studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.