One of the great things about living in Austin is the common passion to care for our city. Faith communities, non-profits, and numerous other organizations work day in and day out with a heart to see the restoration of Austin. Much of what we do and take part of involves the physical realm; we address issues of poverty, slavery, injustice, abuse, hunger, and much more. Yet we often neglect the deeper issues that are behind the more obvious ones; what are people believing about themselves? What are their desires, or lack thereof? Our community is not one of need, but of people with needs, and as we pursue the good of our city, our focus has to be on restoring the whole person.
Restoration in the Community
In my role overseeing the care ministry in our church and directing our church-based professional counseling center, I have become increasingly convinced that as we address our community’s physical needs we must also devote our resources to the mental heath needs in our city. The gospel addresses the whole person, speaking into ones theology, identity, relationships, and to physical issues.
Here are three reasons why I believe it is critical for us to advocate for mental health restoration in our city.
- We are God’s Ambassadors Throughout the entire story of the Bible we see clearly that God cares about the brokenhearted and struggling. He models for us a special care for the poor and broken and he explicitly calls his people to represent him by declaring and demonstrating his love to our neighbors. What we do for the least of these we do for Jesus.
- The Gospel is Holistic A Biblical understanding of sin sees it as that which affect our hearts, bodies, and relationships. The gospel doesn’t just address one part of our lives but our whole lives – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The gospel is the good news of what God has done and is doing in the person of Jesus for all our brokenness, sin, and suffering. It offers the glorious hope of salvation and hope for the physically broken, anxious, fearful, depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, angry, and addicted people in our city.
- Deeper Issues Must be Addressed By looking at the mental, emotional, and psychological brokenness of our neighbors we will begin to get to the root of much of the cycles that lead to the multitude of physical needs and problems. If we fight to keep drugs off the street, we must also address the root of addiction. When we provide loving homes for foster children, our efforts should also reach out to support single moms in the community. As we deal with the many issues that are common within our community, it’s necessary to be diligent in examining the deeper root issues and beliefs that lead to the outward issues we see in people.
Restoration through Community
Many of the people in our city that are in need of help simply need true community – people that will faithfully love and care for them holistically. As we take time to examine the deeper issues within people’s hearts, living in biblical community will be the context in which the whole person can be cared for and developed over time. There is no greater community available than that which is found among the people of God through the local church. God has designed his church – his people – to be ministers of reconciliation to both believers and to the world. That reconciliation is found within gospel communities of people who will challenge each other and encourage each other as we all journey through the life-long sanctification process.
Realistically, there are often struggles, trauma, and painful experiences that go deep below the surface and keep people out of the church. Being involved in biblical community may not be a feasible option at a certain time in their life. Due to any number of reasons, it can be a real struggle to even conceive of living an authentic, transparent life with other believers. This is where we have a great opportunity to minister to people who experience that struggle through professional counseling, Recovery, and other ministries that reach into the city to meet their deepest needs. These ministries can serve as a bridge to help lower the barriers to getting involved in biblical community.
We have an opportunity to bring the whole gospel to the whole person in our whole city.