History of Health & Healing in Christian Missions

The following are recommended readings regarding the history of health in mission and Christian missions in general. If you have other recommendations please email them to: [email protected]

The Bible – no other resource can teach as much about what God has said about health and taught us about how healing can be used to further His kingdom.

  1. Sent to Heal: Emergence and Development of  Medical Missions by Christoffer Grundmann- Sent to Heal! traces the development of medical missions, one of the most intriguing, complex, and controversial phenomena in the history of the encounter of Western and Non-Western cultures promoted by Christianity. This groundbreaking study surveys the missions from their earliest beginnings in the 15th century until the turn of the twentieth century. Sent to Heal! is a defining reference work on the philosophical, theological, missiological, and scientific aspects of medical missions. An extensive bibliography is included.
  2. Healing in the History of Christianity: Amanda Porterfield  “This wide-ranging survey is unusually even-handed in its treatment of a difficult and controversial subject. In particular, Porterfield is entirely persuasive in arguing that healing–as a multi-faceted response to suffering and evil–has been at the heart of Christian practice from the time of Jesus to the present. Her sensitive treatments of the large place of healing in Christian missions and in the recent world expansion of Christianity are especially welcome.” — Mark A. Noll, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
  3. Healing in the Early Church: The Church’s Ministry of Healing and Exorcism from the First to the Fifth Century by Andrew Daunton-Fear. (if anyone has read this piece and has comments please sent them to [email protected])
  4. The Quest for Health and Wholeness by James McGilvray. When I (Mike Soderling) asked Christoffer Grundmann about when his second volume (of Sent to Heal) would be coming out to complete the time line of the Churches involvement in health missions he referred me to this book which was written in 1981 and is available free from the German Institute for Medical Missions Tübingen.
  5. The Healing Church. The Tübingen Consultation 1964, WCC, Geneva 1965 (World Council Studies 3), 34-43 This little known (I’ve never heard anyone refer to it) piece was the product of the first Tubingen meeting and is filled with excellent insights and recommendations. If only the Church has listened 50 years ago!
  6. The Healing Mission of the Church. Coonoor Conference, March 7-18, 1967 [CMC, Genf, 1967] An interesting read as a followup to the Tubingen Consultation the Conference was concerned with the question of how the church is to understand itself as a healing community. Interestingly they identified the first step in renewal of the Church (or in helping identify its role in health and healing ministry) was an exercise in self understanding.
  7. Health, Healing and the Church’s Mission: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities by Willard Swartley. I include this reference since it does have some reference to the history of health and healing ministry in the Church and does a good job of addressing the question of What is “health?” The main question the author seeks to address is Does the Christian community have the resources to develop a coherent response to health care challenges today?
  8. Mission and Ministry: Christian Medical Practice in Today’s Changing World Cultures. David E. Van Reken. Billy Graham Center Monograph, 1987. Not readily available but we are thinking of converting it to digital format for free accessibility. There is a bit of a historical flavor to this work so I’ve included it here.
  9. Health, the Bible and the Church by Dan Fountain. This is out of print and I (Mike Soderling) have all remaining paper copies and I have this work in digital format for those who like a copy. There is historical perspective here too in that Dan goes into some of the historical roots for why our (western healthcare workers) efforts haven’t produced healthier communities where we have worked. (sometimes in places we have been for more than 100 years!)
  10. The Christian Communities Contribution to the Evolution of Community-Based Primary Health Care. Two veterans of the early Christian experience and the Alma Ata conference of 1978 share information about the early years of the CMC and its work with the World Health Organization. (based on a presentation by Dr Carl E Taylor and Dr John H Bryant.