As missiologist Paul Hiebert says, for a long time, life was fragmented into different spheres such as – public and private; economic, social and political, and religious; rich and poor. In the same vein, missions was separated from evangelism, and proclamation separated from acts of justice and mercy. Today we are trying to pull these threads together again, since they should not have been separated in the first place.
But it’s hard to hold proclamation and justice together, as history has shown. There have been groups who have so focused exclusively on telling people about Jesus that they have cared little for the body; while other groups actively cared for the needs of people without pointing them to Jesus who gives eternal life. While this either-or approach may seem easy, it actually undermines the integrated message of the gospel. God called Abraham so that he could be a blessing to the nations. That “blessing” is not just spiritual but must surely be all the fullness that God wants to give his people. As Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10.10). That fullness can not just be life eternal in the kingdom to come, but also in the kingdom here and now.
Hence, we should be concerned about eating and playing, about Jesus as personal Lord and Saviour, and about the structures which reinforce injustice and prevent people knowing Jesus. We are concerned about unjust governments as well as the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And we want to build up the common good, so that everyone can flourish.
As individuals we are not called to do every one of these things. But we are certainly called to be aware that all these are part of God’s mission for God’s people. We need to encourage our faith communities to see this big picture, and over time and space, address all these aspects of life.
It does mean that we are required to hold these tensions in life, work and ministry. This is a tough call, and one which requires us to be in teams. There can be no soloists in the Kingdom of God, but rather we all work together as members of the Body of Christ. We need to be aware of the different roles, strengths and gifts of different people in the faith community and support and honour each other, so that the whole body is built up and Christ glorified. So we are all called to do Integral Mission today.
Kwa Kiem-Kiok (Ph.D Asbury Theological Seminary) is Lecturer in missiology and inter-disciplinary studies at Biblical Graduate School of Theology. She has taught missions, including urban ministry, at East Asia School of Theology. She has written on a wide range of subjects, including a contextual commentary on Matthew (ATA, 2017), contributed to the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Zondervan, 2011) and on missions and discipleship generally for her local church newsletter. She and her husband, a Methodist pastor, enjoy walking in the outdoors.