‘What is integral mission?’ is a question I get asked a lot. Partly I get asked it because it is in my job title. Partly because explaining it is actually part of my job (and more importantly passion). And partly because I keep using it to describe the kind of christian mission that I have tried to live and which is at the heart of the why and how of Tearfund, Soul Action, Cinnamon Network, Serve, Call2Compassion and the other organisations and initiatives of which I am a part.
So I have started a series of short video blogs and longer podcasts to explore integral mission- its meaning, practice, implications and most crucially how we can join in with Gods mission in the world. The first video blog can be found here. They cover similar ground but the podcasts go a little bit deeper and cover a little more. I hope you enjoy
Podcast 1: Understanding Integral Mission
This is the first in a series of podcasts exploring integral mission- a phrase developed in Latin America to refer to mission with ‘nothing left out’. I explore this understanding of mission through asking the question: ‘which is more important evangelism or social action?’ and demonstrating that it is a silly question- because it sets up a false distinction. We cannot divide what God has put together.
This leads me to look at Jesus’ self understanding of mission. Jesus described his mission on earth in Luke 4 and how we understand those words is crucial to our understanding of God’s mission today. We note that there have been three great interpretations of his ‘mission statement’ that have often been held in isolation. I gave these three viewpoints some modern names and most evangelicals have been more comfortable in one of the first two understandings of Christ’s mission however these three approaches to mission are mutually compatible, reinforce each other and were meant to be held together.
- Forgiveness- Christ was primarily about dealing with personal sin and reconciling us with Father. The most important thing we can do is to present the story and reality of Christ’s work through testimony and preaching. The goal is forgiveness of sins.
- Charismatic- Not only did Christ come to bring forgiveness of sins but to pour out His Spirit on us. We have God’s presence and power with us to save and heal and deliver. God is intimately concerned with our needs and cares and sicknesses and hurts and Jesus came to release us from these. The goal is to know God’s empowering presence.
- Jubilee- Jesus is reading from what we call the Old Testament and we can only understand his words if we understand what he was quoting. Then we will know what he thought was being fulfilled. The key concepts are found in Leviticus 25 where the year of Jubilee (or the year of the Lord’s favour) is described. This was an amazing once in a generation re-ordering of society where debts were cancelled, slaves set free and there was a massive re-distribution of wealth. God wanted a society where no child’s future was limited by the misfortune or sin of their parents.
I then go on to sketch out how these three elements work together. In mission we need to hold together the context of eternity and the context of people lives. In integral mission we do not do things to people but build relationships with people so that we can discern what is going on in someone’s life, discern what God is doing in that context and then join in with God!