Having been a Christian from a young age, I have long been familiar with the word ‘Mission’. For a considerable time, I associated the word with being overseas doing some kind of ‘physical labour’ as well as preaching the Gospel. Yet, I never had to confront the tension of when to do what, as it was always simply a function of the program that was planned.
It was not until I was challenged to live missionally – an ‘everyday life’ of knowing God and making Him known wherever I am – that I truly wrestled with the tension between proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel. Which should take prominence in any given situation? Is the feeding of a homeless person only given ‘true meaning’ if I told her it was Jesus who sent me? Or is it more critical to ‘save her’ from her physical hunger? Is there really a priority for one over the other in a disciple’s life and ministry?
“Integral Mission” contemplates that our proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel are not dichotomous; they do not even come “alongside” one another as parallel concerns, but are in fact integrally fused into one another.
When my daughter was an infant, I carried out what seemed like ‘thankless tasks’ on account of having declared myself as her Father. On one occasion, while I was changing her, she soiled herself in the process of being changed. I remember that brief moment of frustration as I reached out for a fresh diaper, telling her in the process: “I’m doing this because I’m your ‘Papa’, ok?” For some strange reason, I felt inexplicably compelled to tell her that my demonstration of love to her in meeting this immediate need was premised on my declaration of being her Father, and what that meant to me – even though I knew she could not yet grasp it.
Over time, as I watch her grow in her consciousness of this truth/reality (as well as her ability to speak), I’ve observed that she now uses the word “Papa” to identify both who I am and also what I do for her/am able to do for her (often by pointing to it).
Perhaps it is hard to identify where the ‘proclamation’ and ‘demonstration’ begin/end in this analogy. And maybe, that is precisely the point. Both are so integrally connected that there is hardly any debate as to which is of priority:
“…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”.
Does either one come first?
Where we speak of ‘actions’ being the fruit of what we profess to believe, it is also true that ‘actions ’ carry the seed of what eventually grows into the fruit of belief itself. And as the Bible tells us, the World stands to gain from tasting of such fruit as much as it does from seed falling on the right kind of soil.
Jonathan is a disputes lawyer by training and profession. When he is not advocating for clients in court, he expresses his love for storytelling through writing and music. He also serves as a deacon in his local church and as a volunteer mentor with Awaken Generation Singapore, a part-time worship and music mentorship school.