Exploring Integral Mission in Today’s World—Integral Gospel (3) │ Dr. CHAN Nim Chung

Author> CHAN Nim Chung, Chief Executive

It would be quite natural for us to think of ways to change the world once we have touched on the issue of “Mission”. In fact, it is we who should change first so that our lives and thoughts be transformed to live out the Gospel.  In the previous two instalments, I shared with you the multiple-faceted meanings of Integral Mission which is established on the basis of the Integral Gospel. We should not allow our limited knowledge, experience and culture, etc. to restrain the breadth and depth of the Gospel.

Is the Church an integral entity? Along the stream of history, the Church has been divided into many denominations as well as organisations of various functions. Competitions, criticisms and even rejections occur often. Recently there is much reflection and responses to issues in politics, economics, cultural shifts and myriad other social issues spawned by globalization. Many organisations, networks and large scale conferences are emerging.  Let us look at a few aspects of this promising development.

Churches are neither here for their own good nor be good on their own. In contemporary society, developing partnership and network for effective deployment of God-given resources locally and globally trumps one’s own solitary empire building. In the field of relief and development, Integral Alliance and Micah Network, whom CEDAR Fund affiliates with, connect needs with resources effectively. These networks encourage participation of churches around the world to join forces in research, practice and theological reflection, achieving mutual enlightenment, result sharing as well as promoting the implementation of Integral Mission on a broad scale. The spirit of mutual trust and selfless sharing is vital in realizing the spirit of being an Integral Church.

Churches quite often employ an extractional or attractional mode to draw people out of their original background and require them to adapt to a set of established church regulation, culture and operation while churches turn away from other issues of the world. This mode of operation drastically reduces believers’ capacity to dialogue with society and exclude many who are scared by the church but otherwise love Jesus. As Christians, we are sent into the world but not of it, nor to be detached from it. Jesus comes to be Lord in every aspect of this world. Therefore, every Christian should live out her faith in every way possible as well as experience and reflect on the relevance of faith in the context of workplace, natural environment or culture. This may even enrich our theology. The concept of Missional Church has been around for a few decades and has recently been attracting a lot of attention and discussions.

We should not limit to the contextualisation of western theology and church modes but also inculturation (or indigenisation).  The collision and fusion between Christianity and other cultures or sub-cultures allows us to experience God’s epiphany in every scene and in every community, thus enriching our understanding of God. Therefore, not only should we enter into the world but also to learn from people from different parts of the world such as India, Latin America and Africa where there is a mass of frontline experiences and theological reflections. Chinese may participate likewise.

2011 marks the 20th anniversary of CEDAR Fund’s journey of walking the path of poverty alleviation and justice advocacy. Global problems will only become graver in the days to come. Hoping to see the realisation of Integral Church, I am in the process of gathering various Christian communities and individuals for establishing a platform for global care, breaking through boundaries in the spirit of unity and mutual complement, with synergy and through in-depth research constructing the theory of “Integral Mission” and its practises.

(The original Chinese version of this article was published in Christian Times on 26 June 2011)

Exploring Integral Mission in Today’s World—Integral Gospel (2) │ Dr. CHAN Nim CHung

Author> CHAN Nim Chung, Chief Executive

The Cape Town Commitment[1] of Lausanne III 2010, with reference to the Micah Declaration[2] released by the Micah Network in 2001, presents Integral Mission as the inseparable nature of gospel proclamation and social involvement. Since its inception in 1991, CEDAR Fund has long been a member of Micah Network whose 300 plus members have been working tirelessly to address the global concern over poverty issues, research and theological reflection upon myriads of serious poverty issues. A decade later, Micah Network has embarked on reviewing the Micah Declaration[3] in the hope of enriching its content to better address the present day situation around the world in a manner that reflect God’s mission and the role of the Church.

On the surface, if Integral Mission equals gospel proclamation plus social concern, then are many churches not on board already? What effect does this mode of engagement have in society, culture and value system? In the first instalment, I maintained that Integral Mission must be established upon the understanding of an Integral Gospel. A cheapened individualistic gospel is powerless in responding to societal and structural evil in many global issues. The Gospel is detached from social concern which is further degraded into a means for evangelism. Behaviour of Christians often faces challenges. If we contend that the Gospel should reach every corner of society, then social action should be carried out on incremental basis which could be categorised into three dimensions:

1. Relief and Provision—providing people in jeopardy with basic need and continuous assistance.
2. Development—transformation of individuals and communities; improvement in capacity and relation
3. Advocacy—addressing unjust authority or system

None of these three should be neglected. However, it is tempting for us to take the easy route of avoiding matters we are not familiar with.

It appears that Integral Mission focuses on saying and doing.  In fact, I consider “being” as the most crucial of the three. Otherwise, everything may just be resounding gongs and clanging cymbals. Talk is cheap. The power of transformation comes from one life influencing another. On the other hand, bad examples are the greatest hindrances. We must therefore take a serious look at whether our own lives and our dispositions carry the fragrance of Christ. Undoubtedly, God needs not rely on us to carry out whatever mission or to witness on His behalf.  It is, however, for our benefit that our faith may grow through the experience.

In addition to being, saying and doing, there are signs and the imprint of the work of the Holy Spirit. Integral Mission enables a community to live out the Kingdom of Heaven or move toward it. Such a community has the power to make a great impact. God’s truth and His Spirit can impact the hearts of those it touches even though not everyone would immediately come to faith in the Lord. Indeed this is something we can neither control nor plan. All we can do is being thankful.

God’s demand is crystal clear— to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.[4] It is one thing to recite these words but quite a challenge to demonstrate true humility in deeds since each of us is self-righteous (Christians are worse at times). Walking with God may merely be the desire to have God fulfil one’s own will in disguise. Learning to practise Integral Mission requires us to humble ourselves and pre-conception and follow the will of God diligently.

(The original Chinese version of this article was published in Christian Times on 19 June 2011)

1 http://www.lausanne.org/documents/CapeTownCommitment.pdf  “10. c”
2 http://www.micahnetwork.org/sites/default/files/doc/page/mn_integral_mission_declaration_en.pdf
3 http://www.micahnetwork.org/pt-br/projects/review-micah-declaration-integral-mission
4 Micah 6 : 8

Exploring Integral Mission in Today’s World—Integral Gospel (1) │ Dr. CHAN Nim Chung

Author> CHAN Nim Chung, Chief Executive

There have been endless discussions, arguments and criticisms in the history of Christianity around evangelism and social concern.  Since World War II, there is a fresh wind of dialogue among different theological camps. We could see from documents coming out of the first Lausanne World Congress on Evangelism in 1974 that evangelical churches around the world affirmed the stance which upheld the importance of both evangelism and social concern. The proliferation and full realization of Integral Mission, however, is yet to be achieved. The Chinese churches, in particular, have yet a long way to go.

The term “Integral Mission” came from misión integral in Spanish, chosen by the Micah Network [1] in 2001 to communicate the concept in the Micah Declaration [2] for its capacity to express the ideas of integrity, comprehensiveness and indivisibility. This term has been widely used in Latin America for years, pointing at the inseparable nature between gospel proclamation and praxis where one influences the effectiveness of the other.

Those who are more action oriented are naturally filled with a sense of mission to change the world. Having been around for more than a few decades, there have been times when I asked myself, ‘What do I want to change?’ and ‘Is there a deeper level of meaning to Integral Mission?’ In three short instalments I would like to reflect on the three levels of being integral —Integral Gospel, Integral Mission and Integral Church.

First of all, whose mission and whose gospel are we talking about?

It is easy for us to set our own goal and mission, perhaps even device the best plan for church growth and social change on God’s behalf, either of which can easily go to the extremes—if forgiveness, going to Heaven and asking for blessings are the foci of the Gospel, then what we have is a individualistic and anthropocentric gospel; on the other hand, understanding the gospel as humanity’s method and system toward realizing utopia on earth is equally man-centred, forgetting God is the real subject of the Gospel. His will and His way is beyond human understanding.  The Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven is about seeing a dominion where God is King, repentance and transformation of individuals and societies as well as establishment of new values and social order. Missio Dei, a concept proposed back in the 1930s suggesting God as the Sender, has been attracting ample discussions in recent years. We usually think that we are working for God or label our work as something done “in God’s Name.” On the contrary, what we need to learn is humility to recognize God’s will and voice as well as observe His work in different areas—various races, cultures, religions and even among communities that are being marginalized and discriminated. God is disclosing Himself in every corner of the world, thus we must carefully heed other people’s stories.

Integral Gospel introduces us to the Sovereign of all in the Universe. He is not bound by anything human, nor can He be exhausted in a few volumes. Humanity’s aged-old problem is anthropocentrism. Integral Gospel calls us to know God in everything. The content and methods of God’s relating with humanity is limitless, much of which is beyond our comprehension. This is the basis for conceptualising Integral Mission.

http://micahnetwork.org/
http://micahnetwork.org/projects/review-micah-declaration-integral-mission

(The original Chinese version of this article was published in Christian Times on 12 June 2011)