I’ve become aware of a deficiency in Evangelical Christianity in the last couple of years.
Gnosticism is the belief that the spirit is the only thing that is real or good. The body is disposable and unimportant. In our missionary efforts we are at times evangelically gnostic. We often teach that the MOST important thing is that people say a prayer so that their souls will not go to Hell. Many of our missionary approaches in turn have reflected a huge emphasis on church planting, tent meetings, street evangelism, door-to-door tracting and Billy Graham style crusades.
The problem with this approach is that it’s only one part of the story the Bible expresses. When sin entered the world all of creation fell out of relationship with God. Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t just redeem our spirit’s relationship to God; it redeems all of creation. The Bible clearly teaches that when Christ returns ALL of creation will be restored. So when we focus solely on people’s souls we do not love them the way God intends them to be loved. God loves their whole person, body and soul. He wants their bellies, minds, hearts AND souls to be filled.
We absolutely should be seeking to save people’s souls. There is nothing wrong with church planting and evangelism. They are vital. But they are not all there is. We also need to be building schools and water wells, teaching people how to grow food and eat nutritiously and strengthening family and community relationships. Sole focus on the spirit leads to gnosticism.