Integral Mission

Time and again ‘Mission’ is misunderstood as being one-sided, comprising of certain verbal or non-verbal activities. It is important for us to understand the Biblical concept of Mission in its holistic sense. The effort is to understand Mission in a balanced way integrating both verbal and lifestyle communications or proclamations. We will try to understand certain misconceptions in order to know all about Integral Mission.
Soul winning or social activities in mission: Many a time we hear the phrase ‘soul winning’. Some even claim that they could win a certain number of souls. However, we know that we cannot separate the soul alone from an individual to win it. On the other hand many are only involved in social work caring for the needs of people around. They are not worried about their souls.
We must understand that our role model is our Lord Jesus Christ who had compassion on the multitudes with both spiritual and physical needs. Mt. 9:35-38. He proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom and healed every disease and sickness. Another time Jesus told the disciples to feed the multitude when he found them to be hungry. Mt. 14:14-16. That means God’s concern is holistic, that is for the total person.
Secular/Sacred division in mission: Often, we hear people say certain things are spiritual and some others secular. For example, singing Christian songs, worship, prayer, Bible study, fasting, preaching, Bible reading are all spiritual things where as all other activities, jobs, music, art forms, media, Information Technologies, various study disciplines, courses, research, banking, agriculture etc., are all treated as secular things.
We need to understand that the whole world and all what is in it belong to God. All activities happening in the world are known to God. It is God’s world and he commanded human beings to be fruitful, to multiply and to fill the earth and to take care of his world through hardwork and governance. He made them in charge of his created universe. Gen. 1: 27-28, 2:15, 19. Thus all jobs in the world are holy and godly. The purpose of all works is to bring glory to God. Certainly one must assess whether an activity is within the purpose of God and brings glory to God. We need to avoid activities which harm the creation and all created things, not to say human beings who are the crown of his creation.
Over Emphasis of going to heaven:
Many believers in Christ talk about going to heaven and singing many songs of end times. So many end time preachers are there. Many songs are written about Jesus’ second coming and taking all believers along with him.
While there is no denying heaven is important, believers are also to live in this world as faithful witnesses of the Lord Jesus having the same compassion of Christ to the people around. Jesus, in his high priestly prayer, prayed for his disciples not to be taken out of the world, but to protect them in the world – John 17:15-18. He also said, “As the father sent him in to the world, he is sending them into the world.” We find this thought in John 20:21 too. Yet, only a few songs or sermons emphasize our responsibilities in this world, particularly as to making heaven on earth, as all believers in Christ are already in eternal life. Christ said the Kingdom of God is among us. Exploiting the Nature rather than protecting and preserving the nature created by God; resources like natural energy, water, air, animals, trees, etc., is neglecting God’s world.
Thus over emphasis about going to heaven like with reserved seats is a form of escapism from this world, rather than being involved in the suffering of the humanity of it and preparing it for His coming again. The irony is that, such ‘heaven-oriented’ believers are not ready to leave this world, as they live with all comforts and riches because they don’t live in the light of eternity with regard to their investments and constructions of houses etc.,
Praying at the expense of taking actions: Prayers are mainly for personal gains and there is no social element in it. Even if there are prayers for social needs, they risk the chance of remaining as nominal prayers without any proactive actions as result of praying.
Prayers need to be integrated with actions to be taken to solve problems and sufferings of the society and nations around. We must pray like Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, giving praises to God and asking God to forgive as we forgive others. Paul also prayed for believers to have God’s love abound in them. Phil. 1:9-11.
Use of Christian Jargons instead of Role Models:
People especially from other faiths hear a lot of christian jargons and terminologies that are strange or have lost their meaning. Such words have no connection whatsoever to the regular life of people and their sufferings. When we preach that Jesus is the answer, without knowing their questions or the issues they face how can they understand or connect the message with their real life situations. Some people hate words like ‘born again’, questions like ‘are you saved’, etc as they don’t see role models.
We must understand the culture, religion, social norms and problems to connect the Gospel with their real lives. For that we need to study and spend time with them. Then we don’t speak strange words with them or we don’t hurt them with our jargons.
Mission means going to remote villages:
Many think that a mission is to always ‘go out’ rather than being available for God’s Mission wherever God placed us. God calls some to go to remote places. But what about all the others? They are just satisfied with church going routine.
Each of us have to involve in God’s Mission in some way or the other. Especially now there are so many migrant labourers who are working and staying in our towns and cities. What a ripened situation to care for them! And what about the offices, factories and companies we work at, our neighbours with whom we interact on a daily basis?
We must integrate our faith with our surroundings and engage with the people around us with Christ’s compassion.
Holier than thou attitude:
Many times, we can observe isolated lifestyle of believers rather than a well connected life with surroundings in a given environment. We think that our faith is superior to all other beliefs and so we are above all. We often find fault with others rather than connecting with them effectively by appreciating the good in them. The human incarnation of the Lord Jesus itself was to identify with the sinners and remain without sin. He emptied himself and became a complete human being. If we do not connect with the people around us, we are good for nothing for them. If we keep on isolating ourselves from them, it is like living in monasteries.
Thus our role model is Jesus and we must learn from him as to know how he integrated his faith, life and teachings with his deeds and doing. Then we become humble like Jesus and be willing to give our lives for them as he did to us.
These are some of the prevalent misconceptions about the Christian Mission over the past many years. Missiologists researched on Christian Mission and came up with many concerns on Mission which are an integral part of God’s mission. Hence, we need to understand those concerns also to have a holistic understanding of Mission in order to be relevant in our times.
Integral mission is the speaking of and living out the faith in Jesus Christ in every aspect of life. It is prayerful and God-guided work, seeking to restore relationships between God, humanity and the world, and is the work of the believers in contributing to the positive physical, spiritual, economic, psychological, political and social transformation of people.
What is it to be involved in integral mission?
God created the earth and everything in it and declared that it was all good. He is intimately concerned with what happens to the creation that continues to depend upon him for its existence.
Given below are five areas of basic human needs:
Jesus addressed each of these areas in his ministry. He also addressed the causes of the problems people faced.
Here are some examples:
  • He spoke out against the injustice and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and religious leaders.
  • He assured people of God’s care and provision addressing worry and anxiety
  • He dealt with attitudes toward children etc
  • He stood up for those treated unjustly, like the woman caught in adultery
  • He talked about anger, forgiveness, greed etc.
  • He fed, healed and comforted people
  • He broke hurtful social, cultural  and gender  barriers – spoke to women like the Samaritan woman because she too was created in the image of God
  • He talked about eternal life
Apart from our relationship with God, the Bible also teaches about these relationships (amongst others):
  • Husbands & wives
  • Parents & children
  • Men & women (gender issues)
  • Employers and workers
  • With our enemies
  • Sexual relationships
  • With fellow believers
  • With unbelievers
  • With Authorities
Look at the issues of the world which are God’s concerns:
  • Reconciliation: Peace with God and Man.
  • Blessed are those who are peace makers. Peace-making and Ministry of Reconciliation with God and Man, Individuals and communities are all God’s concern.
  • Issues of Race-Ethnic War, Racial discrimination: In Exodus God came  down to say to the Pharaoh, ‘let my people go’ through Moses.
  • Gender discrimination: All are one in Christ Gal. 3:28. God created man & woman in the image of God.
  • All kinds of Inequalities, Human rights violations, Caste discrimination, Economic disparity, Child labour, Poverty, Corruption, Manipulation of economic market, Careless use of plastics, Inaccessibility to Internet, Environment exploitation like misuse of energy and resources like electricity, water, Pollution of Air etc.
  • Nationalism vs. internationalism, Invasion to another country, Boundary disputes, nuclear threats, disarmament treaties, Monopoly of Oil resource
  • Good Governance /Administration/ Politics
Beliving students have to think on these concerns and study these subjects to integrate Mission in day to day living in the Universities, Society and Nation at large. All disciplines of studies and jobs are to be integrated with God’s mission to fulfill His purposes for His Universe.
Thus there would be committed and mission minded people with God’s concern in all those areas of need and influence in the Society and Nation. We are supposed to be salt of the earth and light to the world. Mat. 5:13-16. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. Mk.11:17. We are given stewardship of his universe. We are His representatives on the Earth.
-Courtesy to the paper Holistic Ministry-what is it? by Mike Smallbones, March 2008
Jose Thomas is the Mission Cell Staff of UESI, married to Lizy Jose, staff with Mission Cell and they are blessed with three children.
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