Monthly Archives: October 2015

On definitions and quandaries

On Monday I stated my belief that mission is either integral or it is not mission. When we are talking “Integral Mission” we are really talking “Mission”. So what is mission?

One of the most difficult things to do as a missional theologian is to define your subject. This may seem to be a daft statement. A biologist does not spend much time discussing the nature of biology nor does a computer scientist spend hours wondering what a computer may be! Mission theologians spend ages discussing the nature of their subject.

David J. Bosch, one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century said that ultimately it is not possible to define mission (Transforming Mission, 1991, 9). He contents himself with proposing 13 statements on mission as an “Interim Definition” (TM, 8-11) and, what he refers to as “approximations”.

Bosch says that “The missionary task is that coherent broad and deep as the need and exigencies of human life” (TM, 10). Mission includes evangelism but goes beyond the merely verbal communication of the Christian message.

The Micah Declaration (2001) says,

Integral mission or holistic transformation is the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

“The proclamation and demonstration of the gospel”. There should be no doubt that evangelism is part of integral mission but that evangelism has social consequences. This begs the huge and deeply theological question as to the nature of the gospel. If, as many Evangelicals would say, the gospel is an individual, eschatological and vertical salvation then the social consequences are likely to be seen as individual moral improvement. However, if salvation has cosmic consequences then the whole of human life in its relationship with creation will also be affected.

This has a more profound foundation in God’s mission and even deeper in God’s character. Tomorrow, we will return to that subject.

You gotta have faith

Quite what George Michael had faith in is not clear from the lyric of the song. My point is that being part of God’s mission and his salvation requires faith, not as a an adherence to a set of propositional truths but as a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.

When I was a youth pastor in Mississippi in the late 1980s, there was a controversy in the Evangelical world between John Macarthur and Zane Hodges over what became known as the “Lordship Salvation/Easy believism debate.” In this, although not much in other things, I side with Macarthur. Hodges was trying to avoid any hint of “works salvation” in his faith. He argued that if faith is anything else than belief in a set of propositions then it became works. Macarthur said that believing in and making Jesus Lord of your life was salvation but not works. This is a particlar debate for a particular set of theological beliefs that were present in the US and remain to this day.

The debate would have been foreign to Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Faith can never simply be a box ticking exercise to a set of propositional statements. This is what the Old Testament prophets railed against; believe in the LORD and live as you like. Commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, not only as your lord, but the Lord of all is foundational to Christian mission. Christ is my Lord, so I live like it is so.

Mission that is truly integral can only be carried out by those who live their lives as subject to the Lordship of Christ. Luther is said to have said “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” The faith that saves is always accompanied by a transformed life. This does not mean that the person becomes more religious but will have the heart and concerns of God.

God’s concerns are very clear in the Bible. God is concerned for those who have no one to be concerned for them: the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. This is what Paul means when he talked about being transformed by having our minds renewed (Romans 12:2). A student of mine had a T-Shirt that had the words “Changed People, Change the World.” We could paraphrase it with “Transformed People Transform the World”.

I would like to add something to this by saying that “Transformed Communities of People Transform the World”. Yes, each transformed individual contributes to the transformation of the world but actually it is the formation and maintenance of communities of people who live for the widow, the orphans and the foreigner who really transform the world. This is one, but not the only reason why integral mission can only be truly carried out by local fellowships of believers and not be organisations operating as NGOs.

That little discussion is for another day!

Buy Jesus! Buy Jesus! He’s the best saviour on the market!

Following my posts on integral mission and the local church, I have had some interesting conversations. Therefore, I decided to continue blogging on this subject.

When we were in Argentina we were members of the same church as Rene Padilla. (Theological name dropping is one of the most pointless activities around!) I remember saying to Rene one Sunday morning that we should not need to qualify the term “mission” in regard to the church’s mission. We talk about “integral mission” or “wholistic mission” but really unless the mission of the church is integral or wholistic it is not mission.

Mission that does not deal with the whole person as a soul-body-in community is simply selling Jesus as the best ticket to heaven you can buy! The church becomes the marketing department of God. If mission is, as I understand it to be, subject to the mission of God (the missio Dei) then it must deal with more than a set of beliefs (given that the devil know that Jesus is the saviour of the world).

Mission cannot be signing as many people up to a set of beliefs, however true those beliefs may be. This is for a great number of very good theological reasons which we will explore in the next few days.

Mission is integral or it not mission

Following my posts on integral mission and the local church, I have had some interesting conversations. Therefore, I decided to continue blogging on this subject.

When we were in Argentina we were members of the same church as Rene Padilla. (Theological name dropping is one of the most pointless activities around!) I remember saying to Rene one Sunday morning that we should not need to qualify the term “mission” in regard to the church’s mission. We talk about “integral mission” or “wholistic mission” but really unless the mission of the church is integral or wholistic it is not mission.

Mission that does not deal with the whole person as a soul, body in community is simply selling Jesus as the best ticket to heaven you can buy! The church becomes the marketing department of God. If mission is, as I understand it to be, subject to the mission of God (the missio Dei) then it must deal with more than a set of beliefs (given that the devil know that Jesus is the saviour of the world).

Mission cannot be signing as many people up to a set of beliefs, however true those beliefs may be. This is for a great number of very good theological reasons which we will explore in the next few days.