Interestingly enough, when I sat down to write this column, I had just received the Lausanne Movement’s latest info graphic—this time on Integral Mission, which lays out the biblical mandate of holistic mission, showing (by deed) and sharing (by word).
This is not new. God’s people have always been called to hold these in tension and it has only been in recent generations that we have created a false dichotomy. (See Acts 2 and onward for the biblical model of the people of God.)
I have written before that I call myself an “integral prioritist,” meaning that I believe in integral mission but I understand that today we tend to lose the “word” part of the equation if we aren’t careful.
We have an entire institute at the Billy Graham Center focused on helping pastors see their churches grow through conversion. Yes, this involves deed. But it can never be done without word, and when we measure our personal evangelism temperature (Are we white hot on fire for sharing Jesus with others? Or are we lukewarm and find we are poor models of evangelism?), where do we each fall on the spectrum?
A vision for mission everywhere, at all times, in all ways is one that understands that there is no moment in our day when we aren’t on mission. There’s isn’t a place we aren’t called to be witnesses. There aren’t a limited number of ways to show and share the love of Jesus.
God is on a mission to redeem people and eventually to redeem all of creation that has been tainted by sin and make it into something new. God’s mission is to see a world renewed and changed for our good and his glory.
But we live in a world which pulls us off that mission. We have a thousand reasons for not faithfully taking part in God’s mission—we are busy, we are tired, we haven’t been trained, we don’t feel equipped. On and on the list goes. But what if we were to begin to see all of life as mission?
Indeed, the creativity of the Body of Christ is limitless when it comes to reaching our world with the love of Christ. I need only look at my little community of Wheaton, IL, to see the incredible variety of callings being implemented:
- Those who are homeless (yes both adults and children) are being fed, sheltered, cared for, and ministered to so they can transition into a stable living situation.
- Small groups are meeting throughout neighborhoods with the purpose of allowing people to explore what it means to be made in the image of God, for a purpose.
- Churches are partnering together from different ethnic and economic backgrounds for the purpose of unity and solidarity in Christ.
- Christ-followers are reaching out to those who are depressed and suicidal by discipling them that their lives do matter.
- Groups are caring for those who come from broken homes of domestic abuse so they realize freedom and healing.
- Men struggling with sexual addictions are finding community as they shed the shame and guilt over having lived for years in darkness.
Slain missionary to the Aucas Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there." We tend to live our lives as though the burden of gospel work falls on another. We tend to lull ourselves into the belief that tomorrow we can be really on fire for Jesus, tomorrow we will tell others about him, tomorrow we will be more intentional about our faith conversations.
Actually, though, Jesus bids us comes and die.
Scripture (Gal. 2:20) reminds us that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Queen Esther modeled for us what it means to be here “for such a time as this.”
Church leaders, if we are to lead our churches to live on mission for God at all times, in all places, in all ways, then we must begin with understanding how to “be all there” wherever God has placed us, and with whatever gift God has given us.
There is no way our world will be reached with the good news of the gospel (in both word and deed) without the full creativity of the people of God, living each moment as though it were our last, and counting everything as loss for the sake of Christ.
That’s what it means for us to be on mission. Let’s do it.
Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange team helped with this article.