While reading the autobiography of the famous missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1999) I came across a statement about healing which was prompted by a Nigerian doctor who suggested that the basic unit of healing is not the hospital, it is the Christian congregation. This led to a conference on the Church as a healing community. They published a document entitled ‘The Healing Church’. At its heart was a fresh definition of what we meant by healing, which is as follows.

“The Christian understanding of healing begins from its place in the ministry of Jesus. There it was a sign of the breaking into human life of the powers of the Kingdom of God, and of the dethroning of the powers of evil. The health which was its fruit was not something static, a restored equilibrium; it was an involvement with Jesus in the victorious encounter of the Kingdom of God with the powers of evil.

A concept of health which is merely that of a restored balance, a static ‘wholeness’, has no answer to the problem of human guilt or death, nor to the anxiety and the threat of meaninglessness which are the projection upon human life of the shadow of death. Health, in the Christian understanding, is a continuous and victorious encounter with the powers that deny the existence and the goodness of God. It is a participation in the invasion of the realm of evil, in which final victory lies beyond death, but the power of that victory is known now in the gift of the life-giving Spirit. It is a kind of life which has overcome death and the anxiety which is the shadow of death. Whether in the desperate squalor of over-populated and underdeveloped areas, or in the spiritual wasteland of affluent societies, it is a sign of God’s victory and a summons to his service. The Church’s ministry of healing is thus an integral part of its witness to the Gospel.”

(Unfinished Agenda, Lesslie Newbigin, p.193)