The Integral Challenge
One way of describing integral mission is rooted in the whole Gospel out of which there is engagement in the community for transformation of society, the inauguration of a new Kingdom. I have been asked why do we say the “whole Gospel”, after all, can the Gospel be anything but whole? The emphasis on the “whole” Gospel is there for the same reason we emphasize “integral” mission – we have tended to separate aspects that should never be separated, for example:
1) Believing and Living
Somehow we have separated believing in the Gospel from living the Gospel, often prioritising the believing. The Gospel message always integrates faith and obedience so we need to ask ourselves can we really believe the Gospel and not live it out? One of the biggest obstacles to sharing the Good News is the scandal that many who profess to believe show no evidence of living this belief out. The world then looks on and calls us hypocrites and our message lacks authenticity and integrity.
2) Individual and Creation
Our emphasis over the years has tended to put individual salvation at the centre of the Gospel, leaving out the redemptive plan of God for all creation. All things were created in Christ and for him. The Gospel message is a message of reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth, which includes not only us as individuals, but the church, communities, nations, creation! Over emphasising the individual, as important as this is, results in an image of the church as a container for souls, rather than a living demonstration of the transformation that God intends for the whole of creation.
3) Proclamation and Demonstration
This is the most common understanding of integral mission – the Gospel needs to be heard and seen.
When we focus on the former aspect of the each of the above we reduce the Gospel to an “otherworld” dimension and lose sight of the here and now. We have a form of godliness but lack integrity and power for change. Similarly, if we focus on the latter aspect of each of the above we become social workers yet transformation is limited. Without the proclamation of Jesus as Lord there is no integral Gospel, and without an integral Gospel there is no integral mission.
There are other aspects we detrimentally separate, for example private and public, spiritual and material. We need to strive to live an integrated holistic life, mirroring Christ in all we say and do. David prayed: Psalm 86:11 - Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Let us share this pray with David as we reflect on how to live out integral mission.