An Explosion of Joy!

David Westlake, Tearfund’s Director of Integral Mission, wrapped up the 2011 Consultation on Integral Mission by reflecting on, and responding to, where we’d been, where we were, and where we’re heading in a movement towards Integral Mission in South Africa.  He began by quoting Lesslie Newbigin:

[The Church] tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel.  If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy.  The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed.  It must be told.  Who could be silent about such a fact?  The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.

- Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (London: SPCK, 1989), 116.

David asked participants to think about some of the key issues that had been discussed during the Consultation, picking out some of the factors that he’d observed and that he felt were putting pressure on, and restricting, the churches ability to be that ‘expression of joy’.

1. Wealth

2. Poverty

3. The lack of intercultural communities

4. Mis-understanding / implementing of Jesus’ kenotic secret

David suggested that a move towards Integral Mission, i.e. greater involvement in God’s mission – with nothing left out, presents an incredible opportunity to address some, all, and more, of these pressures where they occur in South Africa.  David asked whether in order to do so there was a need for:

  • a community who are prepared to support, challenge and be accountable to one another – never being afraid to ask the tough questions – as together they work out what it means to follow God in more of the ways of Jesus
  • a theological framework for Integral Mission which helps us to understand and explain what we do
  • sources of inspiration which encourage us to continue to do what we do, and
  • examples of good practice which celebrate what we do and help to make us all better at it
  • a context which informs, and is impacted by, what God is already doing and the ways which we join in

David finished by asking those that had participated in the Consultation whether this was that community – through our discussions it had become very clear that we all had a past, which in many ways was unique to each of us, a present which, whether we liked it or not, we all shared and had in common, and therefore the potential for a future.  His question to the 2011 participants was whether this was a journey those of us that were in the room felt needed to happen together, along with a few others who weren’t represented. 

The session finished with worship, balloons and a celebration of what God was already doing through the leaders present, what He had done during our time together, and what might be - naturally there were a few explosions of joy in the room!

About admin

Phil Bowyer is one of the founders of Integral Mission and Soul Action South Africa. He creates space for people who are exploring how to respond to various forms of poverty to connect with one another and God's mission. He is the author of several books on Integral Mission, incl. A Different World, Express Community and The Whole Wide World.