Integral Mission

Integral Mission is a phrase developed in Latin America around thirty years ago, but it does not describe anything new.  It is the way of life that Jesus exemplified and called us to follow.

At its most basic Integral Mission simply means ‘having it all’.  We want to worship and pray and preach and witness and serve and care.  God put these things together and we should never have let them become separated. 

In contrast to how we often break up ‘mission’ into different categories like evangelism and social action, and then assign them different priorities, the mission of Jesus has an unusual breadth and wholeness. This is evident in his life and also in his death and resurrection. We are told that he died not just for the forgiveness of sins, but for the redeeming of the entire creation, to reconcile all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, and bring all things under him. The work of Christ on the cross has far reaching social and cosmic consequences (Romans 8:19-22, Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:9-10).

When Jesus sent out his disciples, their task had both verbal and non-verbal dimensions:

“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

They were to announce verbally the good news of God’s reign being near, and then they were to authenticate its presence by demonstrating its powers. The proclamation that the king has come, that he has disarmed the enemy and now rules over all of humankind, is to be accompanied by visible signs of the presence of the kingdom: health for the sick, life for the dead, cleansing for those declared ritually unclean, light to those who sit in the shadows, and deliverance from oppression and spiritual torment.

In this light, there is no controversy between those who preach the gospel and those who heal and do works of mercy. Word and works are meant to be together – although we do not always do everything at the same time. For our words to make sense, they need a caring community and a social context in which they take flesh and are made visible. Likewise our acts of mercy and compassion need articulating within the frame of the gospel if they are to be bearers of the meaning of the kingdom and not just another instance of competent social work.

On the whole, our mission involves being, doing and saying what we are called to be, to do and to say as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  It should not be narrowly understood as having to do merely with evangelism or social action, but with all of what it means to bear witness to the reign of Jesus in every dimension of life.

When the church is committed to integral mission it understands that its goal is not to become large numerically, nor to be rich materially, nor powerful politically.  Its purpose is to incarnate the values of the Kingdom of God and to witness to the love and the justice revealed in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, for the transformation of human life in all its dimensions, both on the individual level and on the community level. It involves every individual and seeks the transformation of every dimension of life.

Adapted from the Micah Network website.  Click here to read the full Micah Declaration on Integral Mission.

About the Author

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.