“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
We are a Lutheran community,” our mission statement tells, “committed to…sharing the gospel and ourselves with those who do not know [Jesus].” The statement directs us to those who do not know the Savior while it instructs in a way of sharing among them. We share the gospel; we share ourselves.
The language is borrowed from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. The Apostle cares deeply for his friends in Thessalonica. And his caring moves him to sharing – not only the pronouncement of the Word of God, but the enactment of the love of God. Paul shares his very “self.” Other translations refer to “soul,” or “heart,” or “life.” The idea is clear enough. Paul shares everything he is. “Our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
The apostolic task is larger than preaching. It involves sharing our very lives. It means concrete actions of love, bold adventures in service, creative sharing – not only in words, but in deeds.
This is a biblical kind of sharing, sometimes described as wholism. It is infused by God’s caring for the whole person: God cares for our physical, psychological and social lives, as well as our spiritual lives. God loves our bodies, our families and communities – even the earth on which we live. He invented them! He proposes wholeness in every sphere of the human experience.
Practically speaking, this means that biblical apostles cannot permit dichotomy between “social” ministries and “spiritual” ministries, as if more of one must mean less of the other. We find no such dichotomy in God’s Word. The Bible envisions the fulfillment of history in a “new heaven and a new earth.” Until that day we are called to work within history toward the ultimate fulfillment of history.
We are called to “share the gospel and ourselves.” We preach the Good News and we work toward the wholeness of human lives and communities. Our Handbook pledges us: “To announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God not only in word but also in deed; to initiate such programs as will overcome evil, heal and help other people and thus make life more like God wants it to be.” (¶11g) This indeed is biblical sharing.