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A Mission Diverged

If evangelism and social justice are equal parts of our Christian responsibility, why does it often feel like they’re at odds?

"Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This phrase has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi as often as its original source is debated. Regardless who said the words, the idea behind them comprises the missional vision of many Christians today. It has become a modern motivator for those taking a stand to fight the social injustices of the world—and rightly so.

But this mantra also betrays a tension that has long troubled Christians as they seek to live out God’s mission in a hurting world. Is the communication of the Gospel native to words or action? If evangelism and social justice are equal parts of our Christian responsibility, why does it often feel like they’re at odds? Why do we talk about them as separate tasks? And in a world of overwhelming human need, is it better to hand out free rice bowls or Bibles?

In a world of overwhelming human need, is it better to hand out free rice bowls or Bibles?

These are the questions we’ve asked ourselves as we put together this issue of Reject Apathy. For the past few years, we’ve dedicated the magazine to exposing five realms of global injustice: loss of innocents, creation care, preventable disease, poverty and violence. But woven through all of these issues is the hope that those affected by these injustices will come to know the One who is able to save both the body and the soul.

There can be no doubt about it—the world is in desperate physical and spiritual need. Evangelism and social action stand ready to do something about it. But first, to be fully equipped for the work at hand, we must understand where the two meet.

2 Comments

Nikola Nash

2

Nikola Nash commented…

micah network put it like this...To motivate and equip a global community of Christians to embrace and practice integral mission.

The term integral mission comes from the Spanish ‘misión integral’, which is a commonly used term in Latin America for what others may describe as holistic transformation.

A number of phrases have been used to attempt to capture and summarise the model of mission expressed throughout the Bible, each with their valued strengths and limiting connotations, for example:

holistic mission
holistic development
transformation
good news to the poor
Christian development
holistic diaconate
mission integral
holistic transformation
integral mission
As a global network, Micah Network needed to decide on a phrase and vocabulary that broadly covers all these near alternatives so as to facilitate a shared understanding and thus avoid confusion and distraction from our shared commitment to promote the full intent expressed in the whole Gospel. We have therefore suggested the term integral mission, not to impose it in any way on member organisations or indeed within the global Christian community but just as a matter of practicality to help us focus on the outworking of mission rather than loose time in terminology discussions.

Our founding verse from Micah 6:8 underpins a proactive engagement, which inspires us to respond:

"What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Our definition of integral mission is taken from a consultation[1] held in Oxford, United Kingdom, in September 2001, which resulted in The Micah Declaration on Integral Mission being produced. The introductory extract outlines the summarised definition of integral mission as follows:

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.

If we ignore the world we betray the word of God, which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the word of God we have nothing to bring to the world. Justice and justification by faith, worship and political action, the spiritual and the material, personal change and structural change belong together. As in the life of Jesus, being, doing and saying are at the heart of our integral task

Nikola Nash

2

Nikola Nash commented…

Being integral practitioners I rekon this statement is for us all without question the two are co-reliant :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.

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