This blog is prompted by two events...

I was at a meeting to discuss integral mission a couple of weeks ago and Whole grain breadespecially enjoyed a talk given by former All Nations Principal Chris Wright. Chris was my Old Testament lecturer, personal tutor and dissertation supervisor when I was a student at All Nations. At the meeting Chris presented a wonderful Biblical theology of integral mission.

The second event was later that week when I was reading a magazine including an interview with a short-term mission worker. When asked what she was going to do overseas, the interviewee said she would be doing youth work and working in integral mission with a local development agency.

I am committed to integral mission, but integral mission as integral. Integral mission is a transliteration of the Spanish phrase “misión integral”. The word “integral” in Spanish comes in the phrase “pan integral”, which means “wholegrain bread”; i.e. the whole grain goes into the bread. Integral mission is the whole of the Gospel. Integral mission therefore includes evangelism, youth work etc. It is not Christian development work.

The question these incidents prompted in me was: what is the message of the Gospel in this integral mission? Chris Wright made the point that the Apostle Paul gives this message in Ephesians 1:10 and especially Colossians 1:20-22:

“… and through him [Christ] to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation …”

When I was at school, around the age of 13, I started to take my faith seriously and wanted to share it. So I kept talking about “the Gospel” as if everybody knew what I meant. Eventually one kid asked: “So what is this Gospel you keep banging on about?” My answer was: “if you trust in Jesus, you’ll go to heaven when you die.” My understanding was the Gospel was only about individual salvation.

The Apostle Paul actually starts at the other end: God’s overall purposes for all of creation—things on earth and things in heaven. God’s overarching plan is the reconciliation of all things. This is achieved by Christ shedding his blood on the cross, and we who were alienated from God have been reconciled to him through faith.

God’s reconciliation of “all things” is integral. Our salvation is part of God’s bigger plan to redeem creation. This is truly an integral evangelism. We have been given the opportunity to be part of God’s reconciliation of the heavens and the earth.

 

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