Integral Mission: Rethinking the Great Commission
It was a privilege to hear Dr Vinoth Ramachandra speak about ‘Integral Mission’ during fellowship teaching on 22 January 2019. If I could capture the thrust of the message in one line, at least, to me, it would be for us to re-evaluate the cultural influences that threaten to blind us to our call as followers of Christ. This allows us, then, to adopt a more holistic perspective as a body of Christ’s followers. Thus, integral mission, is about the integrity of the church, or in other words, about asking whether the church has consistency in the many aspects where it manifests, i.e. public and private domains, in word and deed, or the spiritual and physical.
For starters, Dr Ramachandra made it clear, with reference to the Greek text, that the only command in the Great Commission was to make disciples. He urged us not to be too engaged in the romanticised idea of ‘missions’ as a pursuit best served by heading overseas, but instead to turn our attention to the needs right under our noses in Singapore. The notion of ‘going’, therefore, should be rooted in making disciples in our communities, while teaching and nurturing, in ourselves and others, obedience to God.
We then unpacked the Sermon on the Mount, because to be disciples, we should know what our master is teaching. Qualities of disciples of Christ thus include a dependence on God (‘poor in Spirit’), a passion for justice (‘hunger and thirst for justice’) and an initiative to enter situations of chaos to bring peace to communities (‘peacemakers’), among other traits. The call to be salt and light to the world was also highlighted as integral to discipleship. These words in Jesus’ early ministry were highlighted as central in carrying out integral mission, and we were thus encouraged to grow deeper in knowledge of and intimacy with the entirety of Jesus’ teachings through the gospels.
A Call to Shed Our Blindspots
A final highlight was an interesting exchange which emerged during the Q&A session (this was with respect to a question on how we relate to churches who hold a different view on certain contentious issues). The ensuing conversation between Dr Ramachandra and the questioner did seem to rouse the audience, notably due to Dr Ramachandra’s palpable frustration at the question (and to be clear, not the questioner). His qualm seemed to be centred on an observation that in general, the Christian community tends to focus on certain issues at the expense of other areas in more desperate need, yet not quite under the same limelight.
Here, the message he came to bring us came to life again. Ultimately, we had to acknowledge and work to cast light upon these blind spots we have, should we as a Christian body take a step closer to integral mission and fulfil our heavenly purpose. Personally, I appreciated the rebuke, and also urge all who were present to consider the value of this insight (even if the exchange seemed testy). Such ‘external’ perspectives and hard truths seem necessary, so we do not become insular as a church and miss the forest for the trees.
Wee Jong Xuan
NUS, Law Year 2