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

Author> CHAN Nim Chung, Board Member of CEDAR Fund

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.


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