The Hands and Feet of Jesus — and the Mouth!

It seems like all of the more popular ministry outreaches these days are ones that focus on being the “hands and feet of Jesus,” i.e., ministries that focus on ministering to peoples’ physical needs. Examples are digging water wells in Africa, fighting human trafficking, sponsoring children in third world countries, and doctors performing surgeries on children who have severe injuries or deformities. I have been wondering, lately, if some of these “hands and feet of Jesus” ministries have the right priorities.

Don’t get me wrong. All of the causes I mentioned above are undeniably worthwhile. And, I definitely believe they are things Jesus wants us to do. But, one thing I rarely hear in conjunction with those outreaches is whether they also share the gospel as they perform the other charitable services. If we meet a person’s urgent physical needs but leave them in a spiritually-dead condition, have we actually accomplished the mission Jesus calls us to?

If we dig a water well in Africa, providing clean water to a village for the first time, but leave the village without telling them about Jesus, the water of life (John 4:10; 7:37), and how He can solve their spiritual thirst, what, truly, have we accomplished?

If we rescue people from human slavery and/or sex trafficking, but never tell them how they can be freed from slavery to sin and its eternal consequences (John 8:34; Romans 6:1–11), haven’t we ultimately left them in the same condition?

If we sponsor poor children in developing countries, giving them enough food to eat and tutoring to help them in school, but leave them starving for truth (John 8:32) and ignorant of the salvation Jesus provides (John 14:6), will they still be grateful when they discover themselves eternally separated from God after death?

If we provide funding for doctors to travel around the world to perform surgeries to fix all kinds of awful physical maladies, but leave the recipients spiritually blind, deaf, and lame, haven’t we essentially put a bandage on someone who is dying of cancer?

The Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19–20 is to make disciples. Making disciples requires evangelization, the proclamation of the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yes, being the hands and feet of Jesus often results in people being more willing to listen to what we have to say, but, here is the main point: we still have to say it!

One of the most popular quotes in Christian history is often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” Based on Francis’s life, if that quote is truly from him, the next sentence would likely have been, “And it is always necessary to use words!” Saint Francis boldly proclaimed the gospel, in word and deed. He was a powerful example of being the hands and feet of Jesus, while also being His mouth.

What bothers me about the radio commercials, internet advertisements, and promotional material from various ministries is that I rarely see or hear even a mention of the gospel.

I am not making accusations against any specific organizations, outreaches, or causes. Hopefully the “hands and feet of Jesus” ministries do make the proclamation of the gospel a key aspect of their outreach. One of the reasons so strongly supports Compassion International is that we have been to several of their centers and have absolutely no doubt that the gospel is being clearly and consistently explained to the children they are ministering to.

God has not called us to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our mission is to proclaim the gospel to a world filled with people who are headed towards an eternity separated from God.

Yes, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But, the primary purpose of being the hands and feet of Jesus is getting to the point where we can be His mouth.

S. Michael Houdmann

Return to: homepage

The Hands and Feet of Jesus — and the Mouth!