I’ve been asked to conduct a training on the biblical foundations of integral mission, also known as holistic ministry or transformational development. There are many folks who have addressed this question more ably than I. My favorite discussion so far is Bryant Myers in the second edition of his book Walking with the Poor. Here are links to the intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.
This is our final session on the biblical foundations of integral mission. We have seen that God has been pursuing our development from the very creation of the universe. We have seen that the spiritual and the physical are inextricably linked. Our love and faith inevitably produce responses that are both physical and spiritual. The faith that does not produce a physical response is a dead faith. We have seen that our acts of compassion must be empowering rather than producing dependence. We have been given a ministry and a mission that we are only capable of by the grace of God, and we must extend that same grace and mission to those we minister to.
Sin as Broken Relationships
Let’s add one more dimension to our discussion of sin and integral mission. One of the most powerful models of sin is sin as broken relationships. That is not all that sin is, but it helps us to see a very important aspect of sinfulness. Sin is the broken relationship between man and God.
Colossians 1:21-23 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 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— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard –
We were enemies of God, of our own free will. While we were still in that state, God came to us to restore our relationship. Not only were we enemies of God, we were enemies of one another. This is seen in Adam and Eve’s blame game, in Cain’s murder of Abel, and all throughout the biblical story.
Ephesians 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace
While this passage is talking specifically about Jews and Gentiles, it is equally true of humanity in general. Jesus came to make one new humanity and to make peace. Easy enough?
So, if sin is broken relationship with humans and with God, then integral mission is concerned with restoring those relationships. We must acknowledge again that restoring humanity’s relationship with God is primary because the strength for restoring humanity’s relationships with one another depends on a restored relationship with God. So, we “make disciples of all nations” and “teach them to observe the things that I have commanded you” as in Matthew 28. And we do these actions by remaining in the love of Jesus and loving each other as He loved us as Jesus commanded in John 15. Or as Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Corinth
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God,who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Scriptural Examples of IM
We have looked at lots of models, examined lots of dichotomies, and experienced a lot of tensions. Let’s take a few steps back and just look at some examples of the way that the church has acted in different situations. I make no comments, just let the Scripture speak for itself.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
Acts 2:44-47 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
James 2:15-17 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
Until the End
That’s what integral mission has looked like in various situations in the Scriptures. There are many, many other examples. Integral mission always requires wisdom, patience, dependence on God, and love. It requires trusting others. It is hard. It is joyful. It is necessary. It is the result of faith. The God who makes you stand can make others stand too. And there is hope at the end. The God who began His work in holism has promised that He will finish it in holism as well. And, the same freedom and responsibility that He has offered us from the beginning will be extended until the very end. Some will pay a terrible price for their choices, and that gives our actions an even greater urgency.
Revelation 21:1-8 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
I don’t exactly understand what that passage means, but I understand that it is very good for those who believe and very bad for those that don’t. It looks like God’s development project will continue throughout eternity.
It is a very, very important message to remember according to Revelation 22:18. In the end, God’s gift of choice does not undermine His commitment to justice. We are integral missionaries, and it is our job to proclaim these truths. I hope you have learned something about integral mission, and that it will change your life in some small way. May the God of creation empower you as you live out the love of Jesus Christ in all the aspects of your life.