Category Archives: integral mission

Resilience and the Expanding Kingdom

It has been a slam-bang beginning. This early, we have seen the ravages of wounded nature fighting back. Bushfires raging without letup in the wild outback of Australia. Taal volcano erupting, spewing a black plume of cloud-like ash falling on miles and miles of towns and cities. The novel corona virus killing hundreds in Wuhan and spreading silently and quickly its deadly menace across the globe. 
All these, plus the never-ending wrongs inflicted by corrupt governments in rogue states and the dying of democracy in this country (Philippines) — the oldest republic in Asia — and elsewhere.

In times like this it is easy to bury our heads in the sand and make what some call ‘a separate peace.’ In the face of despotic governance, many take to the high seas like our sea-faring ancestors who fled from the rule of the fabled Madjapahit empire. We do not revolt; we just migrate to other climes.

Church people see in all these signs of the ‘end times.’ Some see no reason for re-arranging social reality; it is a dying world, it is said, let us just evangelise and save as many as we can from this sinking ship.

This line of thinking misunderstands the nature of our good news. The gospel is not just about securing a ticket to heaven. It is about making this earth a bit more like heaven.

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, he told them to bring this message to the lost sheep of Israel: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ The longed-for restoration of the Davidic kingdom, the best in their memory of what a good government is like, has come in the person of the Messiah Jesus.

The good news is that a new social order is coming into being, this time backed up by supernatural signs and wonders: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10.7-8) With the coming of Jesus, the powers of heaven have descended. A new reign of justice and righteousness has begun.  

This new order inaugurated by Jesus is here now, though in many ways hidden. It becomes visible when the people of God behave like true people of the Kingdom – fighting injustice, treating with kindness and compassion those in the margins, and walking with God in such a way that we ourselves are transformed. (Micah 6.8)

At the end of the day, the story that God is weaving through the travails of our time is our own re-making as a grand ‘poem’ – a ‘workmanship,’ created and crafted by the Lord Jesus for the good work he has prepared for us beforehand. (Ephesians 2.10)

This ‘good work’ is not just the bits and pieces we do as good disciples in our lives and professions, but no less than the making of “a new heaven and a new earth.” We have been saved, not just to sit around and wait for the rapture or some such thing, but to storm the gates of hell in this sad earth. The church is not just a hospital for the walking wounded, but an army, tasked with reclaiming, inch-by-inch, territory already won by Jesus on the cross. We are to be at the center of the fray, battling against principalities and powers that are entrenched in our systems and institutions. For this reason we need to be spiritually resilient, strengthened by the Spirit and wielding the Word as a mighty sword that pierces through all sorts of fake news.

The end of this story, we are told, is that we shall be like a spotless Bride coming down from heaven, inhabiting a new Jerusalem set in a new earth that we shall inherit.  (Rev.21.1-7)

The Bible tells us that we are not really going anywhere, but here. In Jesus, heaven has come down, and the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdom of our God. (Rev.11.15)

Melba Padilla Maggay
President, Micah Global 

New Wine – New Wineskins: Luke 5:36-39

By Sheryl Haw

Every generation needs to routinely take time to research, enquire and envision on how the Gospel is impacting the church and the world today.

Looking back through recent history we owe a great deal to those who inspired such spaces for reflection and obediently initiated the change that was needed. Responding to a perceived deficit or gap often requires an intentional focus on the missing need, at times to the expense of or the forfeiting of other important aspects. Hence the constant need to humbly walk together before God seeking his direction and focus remains the anchor we need to adhere to.

We are grateful for those who initiated “rethinking” processes. Rethinking mission, rethinking church, rethinking discipleship, rethinking …… We recognise the importance of movements that have stimulated the process of change and transformation, both within global and national contexts. We earnestly encourage the ongoing reflections and courage for change that will always be needed until Christ returns.

And what of today? What disquiet and unease is God’s Spirit prompting us to address? What structures and traditions, and ways of doing things do we need to lay down in order for the new to be released?

In a world so hungry for:

  • individual success, at the expense of family, community, morality, humanity and environment well being
  • love, of anything or anyone that addictively and temporarily fills this need
  • status and position, a constant need to be affirmed, praised, sort after, wanted, admired, envied.
  • charismatic, larger than life leaders who will sell a lie so convincingly that even the church signs up for it.

What is our response?

For me the teaching and practice of integral mission has and continues to be a catalyst that prompts us to continually seek God and his transforming Spirit to help us discern what next steps we need to take.

I am convinced that the Gospel is the power to transform all things in heaven and earth in Christ.

  • To end wars and to reconcile people – only the Gospel has the power to heal the pain, restore all the years the locusts have eaten, and to bring those who were once enemies together as family
  • To redeem and restore the devastating impact of climate change – heal the land, turn back the droughts and enable the land, flora and fauna, to flourish
  • To fill the hungry with good food
  • To bring justice and mercy to all, especially those who have been oppressed and exploited and abused
  • To bring hope and joy to life, especially to those who have robbed of this
  • To bring community and fellowship to those who have been isolated, marginalised and alone
  • To bring healing and wholeness to all those who our broken hearted and diseased
  • To bring life is all its fullness – Shalom
  • To know our God personally and corporately and to walk with Him in the cool of the day

The unease I believe the Spirit of God is prompting us to act on is our unbelief in the Gospel. We have either:

  • Preferred to imagine an escape plan from all the troubles in the world
    • Immediate: churches becoming “safe” zones from the world
    • Future: Jesus’ return will take us all elsewhere for a new start
    • Spiritualised: the signs of the world end has to come before Christ returns…
  • Preferred to imagine we can make things good by doing good alone
    • Immediate: aid delivery gives a temporary reprieve and has a feel-good factor
    • Future: Jesus’ return will complete what we have started,
    • Spiritualised: Mobilise all to do good so that when Christ returns, we will be rewarded
  • Prefer not to imagine and comfortable to just live for today and do enough to ease our guilt.

No matter how much we teach and act with an integral mission perspective, unless we believe that the Gospel is the power to change lives and situations we will remain in the tension of the above.

The compulsion to proclaim the Gospel that we read about in the Bible comes from the experienced belief in its power to liberate, redeem, restore and reconcile.

The compulsion to do good works we read about in the Bible comes from experiencing the Good News and loving as Christ loves us.

I believe we need to ask God to fan into flame our first love, be prepared to face opposition, commit to lives of integrity and holiness, to stand against injustice in all its forms, to stop all forms of spiritual hypocrisy – be authentic and obedient to Christ, to take time to strengthen ourselves in God’s Word, and to repent and act today in keeping with all that God has called us to as the Body of Christ.

I believe this needs to happen to every believer, every church, every organisation and college. We need to fall in love again. Then, God will show us the new wineskins he has prepared for us for today.

Caring for creation

The earth is so beautiful! For a time in my life, I used BBC’s Planet Earth as part of my quiet time with God – I was so blown away by the magnificence of creation, from the underground crystal caves that are indescribably beautiful in Mexico, to the massive expanse of red sand dunes of Namibia.

Earlier on in my Christian faith journey I left my natural inclination towards caring for creation and conservation of nature at the proverbial door, as it felt like evangelism and a focus on human suffering was of greater importance. Over the years I have learned more about a biblical understanding of integral mission and see that you don’t have to make a choice between the two. It is not a toss-up between ‘care about people’ and ‘care about the earth’. I have learned that they impact on one another in significant ways and caring for one is good for the other, and vice versa.

We have been given the mandate to care for this planet we call home. Throughout the Bible we are reminded that this is God’s creation and it is good! Psalms 24:1 tells us that “The earth is God’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” Some see the stewardship call from God in Genesis as an excuse to abuse the earth, but caring for this planet we have been given to live on and seeing the worth of all of creation, is good for us all and brings God glory. Revelation 11:18 reminds us that those who destroy the earth, will not go unpunished. And there is a lot more Biblical evidence that points to the truth that the planet is ours to steward well, not to abuse and plunder.

It is also a fact that it is the most vulnerable who feel the greatest impact of climate change. Martin Kapenda, from Micah Zambia, said in this clip recently, “Let us unite together to fight the forces of climate change and put up solutions that will work well for the people living in poverty, especially those mostly affected by climate change. It affects the poor most, and the poor are the ones who pollute the least, and that is the injustice of climate change. So, let us work together to change this scenario.”

Caring for creation is part of our mandate as Jesus followers on earth. Don’t be discouraged by those who have not understood this. Keep praying and acting and setting an example. Make ongoing changes in your life that will impact on the size of your environmental footprint. Challenge your political leaders to take this seriously. Pray for the Church to be an example by stewarding creation in ways that bring life and well-being to all living creatures. Pray for wisdom to raise children who see this as a part of our Christian discipleship. And pray that we leave a good legacy and life-giving earth for those children to steward in the future.

Let us pray … renew our hearts, God, and renew our world.

Linda Martindale
Micah Global

Why Micah Global and the Consultation?

Roshan Mendis, Chief Executive Officer, LEADS (Lanka Evangelical Alliance Development Service), a National NGO in Sri Lanka. He also served as Micah Asia chair and on the Micah International Board

Micah 6:8 – What does the Lord require from us? To do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

My life’s passion from when I first felt called by God to serve has been to those under served, vulnerable and on the fringes of society. So, rather than continuing in the line of family business, I chose rural missions. With no formal awareness or training it was simply an underlying drive that I perceived as the emphasis of Biblical mission. It formed the basis of my thinking as I researched my post-graduate studies. However, it was not until that first meeting in Oxford way back in 2001 when I had the opportunity of being part of the beginnings of Micah that I felt a keen resonance and connection as I was able to hear the articulation of Integral Mission. From that point on I knew this was what I believed and sought to fulfil in my service.

From that first opportunity to participate at a Micah consultation up till today, I have found every single Micah gathering a great opportunity for learning. This happens both in shared contexts as a community of practice and as direct capacity strengthening; a valuable means of developing both my theological understanding and practical skills for the humanitarian work I engage in. Since then, I have participated in Micah Global Consultations and numerous Micah Conversations, which has helped me deepen my understanding of Integral Mission and grapple with what it means in different national contexts, as well as provided me with humanitarian skill development, organisational development, best practices and governance, to name a few. The uniqueness about the knowledge I received by being involved in the Micah Global network was not limited to learnings, but also strengthened my personal call as a Christian called to engage in the marketplace with distinctiveness and a prophetic voice.

The gatherings have provided me the amazing privilege of befriending, networked and getting acquainted with a diverse array of Christians from across the globe, that live and work among the multitude of issues that are present in the world and in their nations, the wars, the corruption, the exploitation, the injustices, the poverty, the lack of resources, environmental degradation, climate change, and disease. I have been encouraged to fellowship with a community of practice, with Micah, that does not simply throw up their arms in helplessness and hide behind a spirituality that removes itself from the realities around them, but actually engages with the injustice and issues as a Biblical and Kingdom mandate. Micah has also modelled a framework of partnership, that challenges established donor/implementer models, and is one I promote in whatever context partnership is discussed. The platform that Micah created for contributing our perspectives, bringing to the table our concerns and even fashioning practice and systems like, reporting templates, gender, governance etc., has been unique in its scope.

As an individual from the global south, Micah was one forum where I experienced an honest openness to hear from and be guided by the priorities of these nations. My engagement and involvement with Micah has provided me with many opportunities and has supported our efforts to speak out against injustice, defend the cause of the poor, hold accountable those in power and empower people to speak for themselves. I believe that mediating on behalf of those unable to voice their concerns should be the DNA running in our veins. Just as the Spirit groans for us and our needs – do we groan for those downtrodden, the despised, the marginalised, the vulnerable, those abused and discarded? Indeed, if the Spirit of the Lord is in my soul – I should not only be dancing as David danced but groaning as well!

As one whose life and ministry has been blessed by the ministry of Micah I would like to invite you to come and be challenged by participating in the Global Consultation in September 2018. The theme of the Consultation – Integral Mission and Resilient Communities, is apt given the current global scenario. Resilience and Justice, Resilience and Compassion, Resilience and Disasters and Resilience and Partnership will be discussed in groups through the plenary sessions. The inter-active sessions will also help you to sharpen your thinking and advocacy as part of our prophetic role.

Integral Mission and Resilience Part Two

David Boan

In this, the second of three articles on resilience, we ask if there is evidence for a connection between integral mission and resilience. As before, we focus on evidence from peer reviewed literature.

In the first post we asked “what is resilience?”. We presented research showing that the concept of resilience is growing beyond disaster and trauma research; that the concept is broadening and includes a variety of personal and community traits and resources, including faith. Given this evidence, does it follow that integral mission advances resilience? To answer this question, we will summarize the elements of integral mission. We then present a sample of research that suggests the elements of integral mission are also found in resilient communities.

What are the actions that are associated with Integral Mission? If we look to the Cape Town Commitment CTC) we will find the following (selected excerpts in italics):

We urge Church leaders and pastors to equip all believers with the courage and the tools to relate the truth with prophetic relevance to everyday public conversation, and so to engage every aspect of the culture we live in.

Believers are to be equipped to engage in society and culture, to be active participants in community life (public conversation) and engage the culture.

We encourage Christ-followers to be actively engaged in these spheres (government, business and academia), both in public service or private enterprise, in order to shape societal values and influence public debate.

Believers not only engage in discussion, they shape the public debate.

Corruption is condemned in the Bible. It undermines economic development, distorts fair decision-making and destroys social cohesion. No nation is free of corruption. We invite Christians in the workplace, especially young entrepreneurs, to think creatively about how they can best stand against this scourge.

This is a call for exercising prophetic voice. To speak prophetically is to speak out publicly on God’s behalf when the community, government or organisation is violating God’s plan. Here, it is specifically a call to confront corruption.

We urge church pastors and leaders to teach biblical truth on ethnic diversity. We must positively affirm the ethnic identity of all church members.

Here the Commitment calls for welcoming diversity and speaking out against racism and other forms of oppression and prejudice.

For the sake of the gospel, we lament, and call for repentance where Christians have participated in ethnic violence, injustice or oppression.

Continuing the theme of diversity, the CTC recognises Christians have also participated in racism and calls for repentance and correction.

Expose, resist, and take action against all abuse of children, including violence, exploitation, slavery, trafficking, prostitution, gender and ethnic discrimination, commercial targeting, and willful neglect.

Our final example is related to violence against children in all its forms. These are not the sum of the CTCs, but they are examples of specific actions that are part of Integral Mission, actions that include confronting violence, child abuse, and corruption, as well as valuing ethnic diversity and becoming active participation in the public sphere. We can now ask if there is evidence of a connection between these actions and resilience.

Starting with the example of engaging in the public sphere, we do not attempt to engage in the practical or philosophical questions of what the church should do, but only focus on the narrow question of effect. That is, what is the effect when a church engages in the community and is that effect consistent with the aims of integral mission.

Our first example comes from Pieterse who looked at ten church community projects in South Africa. Using in-depth interviews, he asked how these projects impacted the well being of the poor. He noted numerous benefits, from economic support to health to well-being, but central to them all was the sense among the recipients that these were provisions from God, which led to a sense of spiritual well-being. Pieterse summarises his findings from his interviews as:

The category of spiritual well-being of the poor now forms the central concept in this conceptual framework of the effects of congregational projects on the well-being of the poor. All the other categories [of church service] are related to this central concept … God’s love in action in the experience of well-being of the poor (emphasis added). (p.7)

Churches create social capital by bringing together people who share a common faith and values and building relationships among them. In the process, the people are informed about the content of their faith identity and how that identity relates to the larger world. This results in equipping people to become active in their communities and reach out beyond the walls of their church. Engaging with people across social boundaries and barriers is a key element of resilience.

There are studies looking at the impact of lowering boundaries between people, such as the integration of minorities and immigrants into society, and the resilience of the community. Lester and Ngyuen asked if US communities that assist immigrants to integrate across all sectors of the community (as opposed to relegating them to ethnic enclaves) fare better compared to those that do not. In this study, resilience was measured as changes in unemployment and income over a ten-year period that included the great recession. Employment diversity was used as a proxy for community support for immigrants and refugees. After studying twenty matched communities, they found evidence that communities that more broadly integrated immigrants across the economy fared better during the great recession than communities where immigrants were more compartmentalised. They see the difference as rooted in reducing social and economic barriers to the inclusion of immigrants and minorities, which leads to occupational diversity.

The connection between poverty and resilience is well established, but what about the ability of churches to reduce the number of people in poverty? As you may expect, this is not a simple yes or no question. Eliminating poverty is more than providing resources. It requires a more complex attention to policy, economic factors, and a host of factors that create opportunity for the poor. Kretzschmar provides an informative analysis from comparing the experience in Chile with that in South Africa. In Chile the Catholic Church was consistent in its support of the poor and standing against the corruption and flawed polices of the government, all of which is seen as an important factor in the reduction of poverty and economic disparity in Chile. In contrast, the role of the church in South Africa was more mixed, in some cases complicit with the apartheid government. Likewise, progress on poverty and disparity was mixed. Kretzschmar concludes …

“In the future, the impact of the church on the government’s policies and practices with respect to poverty alleviation will depend on its credibility within civil society. Such credibility will derive from the church’s own intellectual and practical involvement in social protection and poverty reduction, and its freedom from the materialism of our time.”

Finally, can the church reduce violence against children? The current campaign to end violence against children rests in part on an assumption that engaging faith communities is necessary for success. But is there evidence to support this assumption? This is another complex issue. Child abuse is often associated with certain church groups. For example, churches and individuals that see God as punitive and condemning are more likely to engage in abusive practices toward children. What these churches and communities with high rates of child abuse have in common is social isolation. When churches engage with their communities, including working with agencies such as social services, they become factors in the reduction of child maltreatment. We argue that community engagement is fundamental to integral mission, and that such engagement has broad community impact, including reduction of violence.

Obviously, these are not conclusive reviews of the evidence, but the evidence shown does suggest a pattern. We conclude that our sampling of evidence provides support that at least some of the elements of Integral Mission, as described in the Cape Town Commitment, are shown to be related to community resilience. It should also be obvious to the reader that not all faith groups embrace these actions. In fact, there are unfortunate examples of faith groups contributing to ethnic violence, corruption, and division within their communities. Thus, we cannot say that these actions occur automatically among people of faith. Hence, the call for trained leaders who properly teach and equip believers.

Since this is not a comprehensive review of the evidence, the reader should view this as a starting point for conversation and not a definitive answer to the question of integral mission and resilience.

This leads us to the third and final question for our discussion: Is there anything unique about the church’s contribution to resilience? Or, put another way, does the church, as the church (and not as an NGO), live in a way that results in greater resilience in the community?

David Boan
14th March 2018

Saved!

At a conference in Kenya recently I noticed that each speaker or participant introduced themselves by stating their name, where they come from and then that they were saved or born again.

Throughout the Bible we see God being described as Saviour and Redeemer, and in the New Testament Jesus is frequently given this title. God always seems to be taking the initiative to come and save us. “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the World” – 1 John 4:14.

As we celebrated Christmas we recognised Jesus as coming into the world as the Saviour. Indeed, his very name means God the Saviour (as it relates to the Hebrew root word for “rescuer, deliverer, healer”). The whole Bible is the story of God being Lord and Saviour. With so much evidence in the Bible about salvation and the Saviour, we must be sure that we understand what we mean when we talk about salvation or ‘being saved’.

When working for an aid project in Mozambique after the floods of 2000, rebuilding destroyed homes, our team were returning to Maputo after celebrating the opening of these houses. One of our team cars was involved in an accident when a man stepped into the road and was hit by their car. Tragically, he later died in hospital. The driver of the car was in a state of shock and her faith was shattered. She said to me “I thought God was my saviour. If he can’t save me from such an accident, and if he can’t heal the man injured, then I am unsafe, uncertain and confused.”

Many people were physically healed by Jesus and later, his disciples. We have many stories and testimonies of people being healed today. Similarly, we have stories of liberation, of communities lifted out of poverty, of environmental recovery and bumper harvests, of justice being gained, of peace and reconciliation attained. We rejoice, we celebrate and we give thanks, and naturally long for much more. The Bible describes these amazing occurrences as “signs of the kingdom.” Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he also later would face death again. The 5,000 who were fed by Jesus, had to find food the next day. The signs of the Kingdom point to the King and all that he has accomplished on the Cross and will finally accomplish forever when he returns. Then there will no longer be illness, hunger, homelessness, injustice or environmental degradation.

So salvation now does not mean we will never face hardship, financial insecurity, Illness, injustice and or death. Salvation is the Good News that Jesus has rescued us from slavery to darkness, rebellion and death. He has set us free. A freedom in which we now are joint heirs in Christ of all he has created. As we live out this truth we become signs of the Kingdom of God too. We manifest the “not yet in the now”. Signs of liberation, transformation, healing, and restoration should be present in and through all we do and say, but they are not the salvation, only Jesus is the Saviour.

Let’s look deeper at the example of the tragedy in Mozambique. Just after the accident a large angry crowd gathered around our team’s car and our team were afraid. A pickup truck suddenly stopped. Two people from Samaritan’s Purse got out and helped. They took the injured man to hospital (no ambulances were available). We arrived ten minutes later, walked into the crowd and were able to calm them down, reassuring them that we were going to act justly. We offered them to choose a few of the community to come with us as we went to the police and hospital. They did. We amazed them as we showed another way to respond in love and compassion.

We covered the costs of hospital for the man and then offered his bereaved family help to cover the funeral costs. We met the family and loved the best we could. When the court heard all we had done they were amazed and said no one had ever responded in such away and no fines were given as they felt we had extended support to the family more than would be required by law. The driver of the car was still fragile in faith and in shock, and so she went back to her home church for a number of months to be ministered to through this tough season. We worked with her pastor and when she was ready, she returned.

This too shows signs of the Kingdom. When the people of God respond in compassion, when they pursue justice and care for creation, we will see these signs and indeed, see transformation, but salvation is found only in Christ. This is why integral mission is so vitally important. We cannot just do good works, as much as they are amazing signs of the Kingdom, we must also share the hope we have in our Saviour, so that all who see the signs, who experience the love we share, will turn to Christ and be saved.

Sheryl Haw
Director Micah Global

Liberation’s Option

By Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, Lead Co-oordinator for Integral Mission at Micah Philippines

Ever bought those nice finds in rummage shops for a cheaper price? But once you unpack it at home, you suddenly realize that it was already without the full package of the original? I myself once found a good pair of sneakers ‘on sale’ but minus the original shoestrings. Obviously, it made me think twice whether I should settle for the bargain and just live with what was lacking. In today’s marketplace of Christianity, one would also encounter similar versions of theological goodies on sale. The price tag may come appealing but what you might get is wanting upon closer inspection.

A case for example, do a careful re-reading of the Bible and it shall make today’s popular offer of salvation, i.e., “your soul’s chance of migrating to heaven,” look like no different from those rundown goods on a markdown sale.[1] This blunt comparison has to be made considering that God’s plan of redemption, that is, his mission of renewing all that He has made, includes the planet, its people, and their pattern of life. That is, today’s devastated creation, polluted rivers and corrupted human beings alike, including the deteriorating cultures and civilizations that thrive within it are all objects of God’s liberating mission. [2]

I came upon this observation upon realizing that the Bible speaks of salvation as the full restoration of all aspects of life in the world, exactly as God has sketched it from the very beginning.[3] A blueprint of this plan can be found in the initial pages of the book of Genesis.[4] In it, the writer presents a picture of a life wherein God and humanity were happily together, in a beautiful dwelling place, and with a pattern of relationship marked by trust, nurture, and joy. The Hebrews of old have a term for this particular way of life characterized by remarkable harmony – ‘shalom.’ Repeatedly, their prophets speak of a dream and a hope that is no less beautiful (see for example: Isaiah 65:17-25, Jeremiah 31, Micah 4).

Shalom is simply the Old Testament’s planetary vision for what in the New Testament was often referred to as God’s gift of ‘salvation.’ But make no mistake about it, the apostles Peter, John, and Paul have in mind a notion of redemption that is as equally comprehensive as that of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The Victory of Christ

For an instance, Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:20 speaks of how God, through Christ and by His work on the cross, is reconciling “all things” in heaven and on earth back to Himself.[5] In this verse, the apostle to the Gentiles was alerting his readers at the city of Colossae that until then all of these things have been snatched away from God. And indeed, for a time, the whole world was in the clutches of the Evil One who has sought to steal all that was in it, drain it of its life, and ultimately cause its destruction (John 10:10). But this is not because this fiendish being has proven to be stronger than God and has actually prevailed against Him. No! It is simply because he has effectively triumphed over creation’s designated ruler and steward -human beings. To put it in contemporary terms, the Evil One laid siege on God’s earth, held its human rulers and inhabitants hostage, and terrorized what he was able to capture with his flag firmly planted in their hearts and homeland.[6]

How such terrorism of God’s creation happened is a loop that repeats itself throughout human history. But Genesis 1-3 unlock to us the internal mechanism of how this subtle infiltration works out. It tells a story of how the Serpent tricked the newly weds Adam and Eve and managed to subdue them under his will. By listening to the Enemy’s lies, the couple threw away God’s wonderful plan for their lives which is to be the world’s rightful ruler and caretaker (Gen. 1:27-27, 2:15). In effect, they exchanged God’s royal image in them (as prince and princess) for a lowly status of a refugee and a vagabond. Thereafter, the Evil One and his minions presented themselves as ‘gods’ and ‘rulers’ of this world (II Cor. 4:4, John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2). Later on, the Evil One even got the nerve to bribe God’s own Son in the flesh with all of the world’s riches and glory (which he claims to be his) in exchange for an undivided allegiance to him (Matt. 4:8-10).

But God’s Son knew better. He knew that His Father is launching a take-over project. That he was sent with a messianic mission of reclaiming control of all that which his Father has created, away from the clutches of the Evil One, and restore it to its rightful rulers. As John understands it, God’s Son was sent for the specific purpose of destroying the devil’s work (I John 3:8). Apostle Paul in Colossians 2:15 talks of how God’s Son has disarmed the Evil One and his minions of their powers. In his letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:8-10), he added how God’s Messiah has so effectively triumphed over them and that he succeeded in giving back to human beings their royal identities (Eph. 2:6, Col. 3:4). By a swift execution of this covert operation, the power of the Evil One has been broken, or as CS Lewis puts it in his famous novel, the grim spell of dark magic casted by the Great White Witch has been undone, at Aslan’s slaying at the Stone Table, and thereafter, Narnia and the Narnians were free again.[7]

Liberating the Planet. Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that the natural environment “groans in pain” as its await its liberation from decay in as much as humanity struggles to be set free from whatever it is that enslaves it whether selfishness, sickness, or even death itself.[8] The outpouring of God’s Spirit in people’s hearts (Ezek. 36:25-27), and the remarkable personal and social transformation that comes with it, is the earth’s assurance that one day it shall also see its own light of day. That is, liberated from the curse of devastation, the earthly realm shall once again be in full bloom. Apostle Peter speaks of God’s purifying fire that shall render the old heavens and old earth no more to usher in a new world (II Peter 3:12-13). The final picture was painted with more vivid details by Apostle John in his apocalyptic book (aka the Revelation). In its final chapters, he wrote down his vision of a new city of Jerusalem coming down from the heavens into a new earth. And he saw God dwelling with human beings once more in a place where there shall be no more tears, or pain, or sickness (Rev. 21:1-4).

Liberating its People. It is with this planetary renewal that the New Testament also pictures the promise of our bodily resurrection.[9] God’s work of transforming human beings into a new creation (Col. 3:10) does not stop with a renewal of personal morality and social relationships (Col. 3:5-11), not even with the security of one’s soul (I Peter 1:9). It includes, perhaps, most importantly, a promise of gaining a physical body free from imperfections and decay and death itself, exactly as the one Christ himself carried with him when he rose from the grave. Paul explains that as citizens of an new eternal city, its inhabitants shall need a new body that would be as equally glorious (I Cor. 15:35-55). If anything, this belief in bodily resurrection sets the early church’s understanding of salvation as sharply opposed to that of their Greek culture they inhabit which thinks of salvation as the liberation of the soul from the body.

While this hope of bodily redemption can easily be taken for granted by the average person, it is definitely good news for those who suffered from blindness and other physical ailments. That the lame can one day run and swim again, and that those born deaf can hear the most beautiful of Mozart’s musical composition shall be a most splendid news for those who went through life bereft of such simple joys. That this new body defies even the threat of death as well only means that the joys of life in the new heavens and new earth is something that human beings will enjoy with God not only for a limited moment but for eternity.

Liberating their Patterns of Life. As mentioned already, selfishness is part of what Christ has set human beings to be free of. This particular trait cuts across both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of human relationships. This is because what is commonly regarded as ‘sinful’ acts are basically manifestations of a disposition of the heart and attitude of the mind that have no regard for the will of God and the welfare of other people. The so called problem of sin, at its very core, is an issue of idolatry at one level and apathy on another.[10] That is, the relentless turning of one’s desire to godlike proportions and putting one’s personal interest to the disregard (and in many times, to the detriment) of another human being. All the horrors of humanity, corruption and injustice in government, abuses and oppression in society, etc. can be rooted in this twin habits of the human heart.

In its place, Christ left the world with a way of living that mashes-up one’s love for God and one’s love for neighbor as two inseparable sides of the same coin (Luke 10:25-37).[10] At the cross, he exemplified what it means to live a life of sacrificial love (John 15:14, I John 3:16).[12] All who are to be called his disciples are enjoined to follow in his footsteps and live a life of compassion, forgiveness, and humility.[13] Christ spelled out how this pattern of life works out in everyday life most specifically in what is now called as the “Sermon on the Mount.”[14] Simply stated, to live a life that is godly is to be a good neighbor to all people, especially those mostly in need. This pattern of Christlike living has not only confronted but also influenced cultures and civilizations on what it means to look after the less fortunate and how to look upon and treat those pushed at the margins of society.[15]

This brief sketch of a possible re-reading of key passages in the New Testament shows that at the heart of what God sought to accomplish in history may well be about the liberation of life for all of His creation -the bees, the birds, your neighborhood and its cultural practices, including the rivers and hills in which it is located (Acts 17:26). Perhaps, this musing can provide an alternative for those coming out shortchanged as they look for what salvation is all about in today’s shopping complex of Christian goodies.

-Rei Lemuel Crizaldo

NOTES:
[1] This soteriological notion is reflected in popular Gospel presentations such as Evangelism Explosion (EE), Simplified Bridge Illustration, the Roman Road, and even in what is called as “The Wordless Book.” By the way it formulates the Good News, it also necessarily reduces the concept of salvation as finding the solution to the problem of sin and its punishment (the fires of hell) by securing the destiny of one’s soul in heaven. But as Prof. John Stackhouse Jr. of Regent College reminds us, “An understanding of salvation that amounts to a sort of spiritual individualism is little better than Gnosticism.” This is why he thinks there is a need to “redouble our efforts to teach what the Bible teaches about salvation in all its glorious complexity and scope” and“prod evangelical theology toward a vision of salvation as large as God’s mission to the world He loves and redeems” (see the book he edited, “What Does it Mean to Be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation” published by Baker Academic in 2002). This blogpost is a humble contribution to such a clarion call.
[2] Unfortunately, the term ‘liberation’ has been so rigidly associated (or even, ‘hijacked’) in theological literature as referring to the movement called Liberation Theology developed in Latin America (cf., Gustavo Gutierrez). But the term itself is a rich word that captures a lot of what the Bible says about ‘redemption.’ I am of the opinion, that the word might as well be redeemed from the usual theological baggage associated with it and be given a fresh lease of life. Interestingly, the Micah Global has recently framed its missiological understanding along the lines of ‘liberation’: “Scripture has a ‘liberating’ theme running through it and the climax of the Good News message is one of redemption and restoration. God is our Liberator, not only of humanity, but of all creation… We are to be signposts, demonstrating God’s liberating agenda for his world, proclaiming and pointing to the ultimate liberation of all things in heaven and earth when Christ returns” (cf., Sheryl Haw, Micah Global Inform October 2017 – “God’s Liberating Agenda”).
[3] The works of Old Testament scholars such as Walter Brueggemann (“Theology of the Old Testament”) and Chris Wright (“The Mission of God”), including the works of New Testament theologian NT Wright (initially, his book, “Surprised by Hope”), as well as the numerous articles of Latino missiologist C. Rene Padilla became formative influences in my reflections.
[4] I previously run a series of blogposts on this topic. First post can be found here: http://xgenesisrei.tumblr.com/post/159811395065/lifes-perfect-playbook
[5] Elsewhere, in Ephesians 1:8-10, Paul said that this project of reconciling everything in the heavens and on earth to Christ is God’s “secret plan.”
[6] This led some thinkers such as Greg Boyd to develop an overtly negative picture of the world wherein it has been so-wretched by Satan’s works that God has totally lost control of it. According to him, the whole world has turned into a kingdom of darkness and doom in which God’s people are called by God to set themselves apart. See his book “The Myth of a Christian Nation.”
[7] This storyline is from CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. But the idea of liberating the world from the dominion of the Evil One is articulated in what is called as the “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement. In essence, this theory highlights the ultimate issue underlying all that is wrong and broken in the world -the cosmic conflict between good and evil in the universe. It focuses on the element that what Christ has accomplished in his earthly mission is to liberate the world from Satan and undo the havoc that he and his demons has wrought upon God’s good creation. Simply said, the problem of humanity is not simply a sin-problem but a more bigger problem of devilish dominion.
It is unfortunate that the individualism and secularism of the Western world, with its skepticism of the paranormal and supernatural beings such as angels and demons, have paved the way for the monopolization in soteriology (theology of salvation) of the atonement theory called as ‘penal-substitution.’ This particular theory teaches that what Christ came to do is to pay for the sins of humanity and serve as their substitute sacrificial offering to appease God’s wrath and let them off the hook of His judgment and punishment in the lake of fire. It fostered a rather narrowed-down idea of redemption as basically an issue of sin-management and at a very personal level.
But the surge of Pentecostalism recaptured the notion of spiritual warfare and the importance of being delivered from the activities of evil demonic spirits. It brought back into the table the neglected dimensions of soteriology that involves the need to free the world not only from penalty of sin but also from the power of Satan.
[8] Paul used in this verse the Greek word ‘eleutheroo’ which means to be set at liberty. Same word used by Paul in Galatians 5:1. ‘To be set free’ is the common translation in English but the picture suggested by the Greek is to possess liberty.
[9] Walter Brueggemann insists that people’s identity are closely tied up to the land they inhabit, even and most especially, the people of God (see his book “The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith”).
[10] Interestingly, Apostle Paul taught both the believers in Ephesus and at Colossae that greed is basically a case of idolatry (Col. 3:5 and Eph. 5:5).
[11] Elsewhere, Jesus called this two commands as the greatest of all (Matt 22:36-40 and Mark 12:28-34). John the Beloved vividly captured the fusion of the two commands by saying, “If people say, ‘I love God,’ but hate their brothers or sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen” (I John 4:20).
[12] It is by laying down this example of giving one’s life for another that Jesus left a new commandment to his disciples in John 13:33. Unlike what he regarded as the greatest of all the commandments in the Old Testament, his new command raises the bar of love for one’s neighbor -no longer just love for one’s self but Christ’s love for the world.
[13] Perhaps, the Old Testament counterpart to this kind of life is what prophet Micah enjoined the Israelites to do as the sum of what Yahweh expects from them: “This is what God requires of you: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
[14] See Matthew chapters 5-7.
[15] Works abound on how the ethical teachings of Jesus have left a deep impact in Western society that in time has embraced Christianity not only as a way of life but also a way of organizing society. See for example Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity” and Alvin Schmidt’s “Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization” and Glenn Sunshine’s “Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home.” On how the early church made such a deep impact to Roman society, see Helen Reese’s “Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation.”

 

From Communism to Christ

The testimony of my life, by Thir B. Koirala

I was born in a Hindu family in a remote village in east Nepal. During my childhood, my parents were involved in many religious activities and rituals in our home. When I was teenager I began to question who and where God was, but found no answers. At that time I met a communist man in my village who taught communism and Marxist and Leninist political agenda. It influenced my impressionable and curious mind, and I became a communist in high school. It was not easy to be a communist, as it was still an underground political movement in Nepal. I was a very aggressive and angry person at that time. My conversion to communism drove a wedge between me and my father, destroying our relationship. He hated me, as a result.

One day in 1992, I was walking the hour to school, when the postman called me over and handed me a stack of letters to give to my schoolmate. There were more than a dozen letters, total. One was a big, thick letter and I figured that there must be something important and valuable inside. I opened it and found a small booklet with “The Way to a Happy Life” printed on it. I read it and learned, for the first time, about Jesus and the Bible. As a teenage boy I was eager for knowledge and to learn about new things, so I started corresponding with this organisation in Kathmandu. Two months later, I received a new letter from Kathmandu and it was a second booklet and questionnaire. I read it and wrote my answers on the questionnaire and sent it back. I continued to correspond in this way for two years from my village. At the time I was a student leader of my school’s communist student union. My other communist friends suggested that I not read Biblical books and information about Jesus. They said, “This is only a western capitalistic agenda, and American expansionism want to spread their interests through this religion“, but I wanted to know more about Jesus and the Bible so I started to study more deeply.

After two years of corresponding, I received a new testament Bible. I finished reading it within three days. I had yet to meet any Christians personally, and I had never seen a church. Regardless, one morning I went to my room and accepted Jesus as my personal savior. The Holy Spirit worked in my heart and helped me to understand who Jesus is. Other comrades (communist party members) were not happy with me and my choice, but I decided to follow Jesus. I used to pray everyday, though I didn’t really know how to pray – I simply repeated the Lord’s Prayer each time. I desperately wanted to go church and to meet Christians personally, but there were none in my village at that time. When I finished my proficiency level study at the local campus, I began looking for a church.

My uncle was working as a high-level officer in the National Investigation Department in Kathmandu. He invited me to Kathmandu to join this department. It is very difficult to find a government job in Nepal, so my parents forced me to accept his offer. I came to Kathmandu in 1998 and joined the investigation department after receiving a letter of recruitment from the ministry of home affairs. Because of my uncle’s power, I was not required to apply for the job or go through an official process to get it. After a week on the job, a new government was formed, and cancelled all current political decisions implemented by the previous government. As a result, I resigned my position.

After life in the village, Kathmandu was big and unfamiliar to me. One day, when my uncle was at the office, I left the house alone and began walking without a destination. I ran into an old childhood friend on the streets, who I grew up with, we had attended the same primary school in the village. He invited me to his room and I accepted. We spent the day together, and I stayed for dinner. After dinner, I heard singing coming from the upstairs apartment. I have always loved music and sang lots of communist songs in my village as a teenager. I asked my friend about the music, and he told me that the landlord was Christian and that every day they sang Christian hymns.

This was the first time that I had heard a Christian song. I went upstairs, but the door was closed, so I sat in the hallway and enjoyed the music. In the morning, I woke up early and went, for the first time in my life, to meet Christian people. I met the landlord’s wife first, and told her that I wanted to go to church. I asked her to show me where it was, but she told me that I needed to wait for a few days because church was held on Saturday and it was only Wednesday morning. It felt like eternity before I finally had the chance to attend my first church service. It was such an amazing experience. Never in my life had I enjoyed something as much as I enjoyed my first time in church. I still remember all of the songs we sang that day.

I was faithful to learn God’s word and to study the Bible. After two years, I became a youth leader in the church, which was very fundamentalist. Christians were not allowed to watch television, listen to the radio and read the newspaper. I obeyed my church’s rules and regulation, and separated from all world communication.

My church asked me to be a full-time missionary and go outside city to start a new church. After a month I moved to a small village in the northern side of Nepal to share the gospel in an unreached community. Unfortunately, I was badly persecuted by local people and was forced to leave after two months. After six months I went to east Nepal as a full time pastor to start new church.

In spite of being told to be totally separate from the world, I had many questions in my mind. Why should I not read the newspaper? What is wrong with television and radio? Why should we ignore the rest of the world? I prayed and God gave me my answer: there is nothing wrong with materials or any other things in this world but the problem is in the human mentality around these issues. I started to study journalism. After that, many newspapers published my articles about Christian faith and Biblical values. I presented Biblical values and social responsibilities on several radio stations and also telecasted TV programs from national television. It was one of my turning points in my life. I am still working as a freelancer journalist.

I found huge gap between church and community in my country. My church taught me that we are heavenly citizens who should not be involved in social activities in this world, that is not good to work in the secular spaces and communicate with secular people. We were even not allowed to fellowship with Christians from other denominations. You can imagine, a communist young boy separating himself from the world around him? I lived like that for almost 5 years.

In 2005, I was pastoring a new church in east Nepal. A Bible trainer presented a power point presentation about The Good Samaritan from the Bible. All of sudden, I started to cry – I asked God, “Who is my neighbor?” I discovered I was like the priest and the Levite who had walked past the wounded man. God opened my eyes and I  decided to serve outside the four walls of the church where the large community was living in darkness. People are facing lot of problems and difficulties. After consulting other church leaders we established a local NGO called New Life Society in east Nepal. We worked with HIV positive people and disaster relief and responses to crises.

From that day onwards, I understood the Bible in a different way. I recognised my neighbors, and I got clear vision from God. Today I am serving God as an Integral Mission promoter or social activist in different ways, and still serving my same almighty God, reading the same Bible, and following in the footsteps of the same Jesus. I believed that God has sent me to serve my community and my nation to glorify his name and kingdom here. As a national coordinator of Micah Nepal I am actively working with organisations, churches, communities and governments.

Church and State, Religion and Politics

In our discussions on integral mission we need to reflect on the division between Church and State, religion and politics. The media in Europe picks up on fears that the influx of refugees could threaten the “Christian Values” that many of the European nations have been founded on. This is a somewhat interesting remark when simultaneously there is a demand for a secularisation of society, requiring the expression of faith to be separated from the public square and from politics, and to remain a private affair.

It is important to not confuse the separation of Church and State (and for that matter Synagogue and State, Mosque and State, or Temple and State) with religion and politics.

Every nation is made of up of citizens who will have different beliefs and adhere to faiths or no faiths. Each person will express their concerns regarding public life, community issues, social services, economics and political decisions through the lens of their beliefs (yes, even those who claim to have no belief have a framework – e.g. humanism – through which they consider issues and concerns of life in community). The expression of each opinion is important, it is indeed a right (Articles 18 and 19 UN Human Rights Declaration).

Every person of faith or no faith has the right of expression and as Christians we should stand for the justice and equality of this freedom of expression. Therefore, religion and politics cannot be separated because what one believes affects what one stands for and works towards. Our Micah vision is to see communities living life in all its fullness, free from poverty, injustice and conflict. This vision is grounded in Scripture and Micah 6:8 calls us to what God requires of us. My faith and obedience to Scripture directly affects my politics.

Building on this, we are called to disciple nations. We need to therefore be speaking truth in the public square, speaking truth to power and to one another, so as to positively influence decisions for our nation that move us together towards Shalom. The problem with one specific faith being linked to power – the State – is that it will swing the balance towards one faith often to the exclusion of others. Further still it could lead to authoritarian treatment of others, persecution and marginalisation.

Seeking the Common Good for our nations will include upholding the right of expression of all faiths or none in the public square, and ensuring our own voice is there. We need to find a way to discuss, debate and settle our deliberations in public life (in the public square) through reasoned persuasion, free of coercion, fear, force, intimidation, manipulation. Able to make decisions based on access to information, to truth, to unbiased research. Jesus spoke in the public square. He challenged political and religious leaders, he defended the poor and marginalised, healed the sick and delivered the possessed. His faith totally affected his politics and he lived this publicly.

His legacy is the Church (ecclesia) – a people called out to take responsibility. So how do we engage?

1) Changed perspective: we need to ask God to help us to love all of our community, our nation – each person. To love with a love in humility with compassion, mercy and justice.

2) Dare to dream and to hope: we need to have the audacity, the conviction and the belief that the Gospel is the power to bring liberation, restoration, redemption, transformation and wholeness to each person and to our nation.

3) Courage to live out what we believe: loving because we are loved, serving because we are set free, building because we are ambassadors of the King, speaking truth because what we have is too good to keep for just ourselves – it is life for all.

Micah represents a community that seeks to do this together in the public square. We call on all believers to be what God has called us out to be. Lord hear our prayer – send us.

By Sheryl Haw