Thoughts on René Padilla, Micah and our world today

Dr Melba Maggay, Micah President, writes for our Micah community on René Padilla's life and legacy.

Dr. René Padilla, my predecessor as President of Micah Global, has been honored by Christianity Today as the ‘father of Integral Mission.’ This is a sign that the evangelical world has begun to appreciate that the mission of the church is not just evangelism, but all the parts of what we mean by the ‘whole gospel.’ Now this phrase, ‘integral mission,’ was a matter of initial debate in the committee that drafted the Micah Network Declaration in 2001, hot on the heels of 9/11 -- the bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The drafters were Señor René, Dewi Hughes, Tim Chester and myself. I had wanted ‘wholistic mission,’ as this seems more immediately understandable to the non-English speaking world than the more abstract  ‘misión integral’ in Spanish. But Señor René insisted that in Spanish it means all that is essential or necessary for completeness, the making of something into a whole by bringing all the parts together.

Upon reflection, I could see why Señor René insisted on the word ‘integral.’ None of us sees the gospel as a ‘whole’ at first instance. We are like the seven blind men who thought that the part of the elephant each had managed to grasp is the entire elephant, when it was merely the tail or the leg or the tusk, or the body that felt like a wall. What we think of as the ‘whole gospel’ is really a work in progress. We all see through a glass darkly. It is only when the “manifold wisdom of God” is fully revealed through the churches in their many-coloured cultural lenses that we can get a full picture of this vast mosaic we call the ‘whole gospel.’

This coming into wholeness is a long journey. It has been half a century since Señor René and Samuel Escobar and others from what is now known as the ‘Majority World’ fought for the inclusion of this statement in the 1974 Lausanne Covenant as drafted by John Stott: “We affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both parts of our Christian duty. Evangelism and social responsibility, while distinct from one another, are integrally related in our proclamation of and obedience to the gospel.”

We note, however, that there is a lingering dualism, a hint of the sacred-and-secular divide, even in succeeding Lausanne declarations. We see this in the statement put out by the Consultation on the Relationship between Evangelism and Social Responsibility held in Grand Rapids in 1982: “Social action can precede, accompany and follow evangelism; but evangelism is priority for it relates to people’s eternal destiny, and in bringing them Good News of salvation Christians are doing what nobody else can do.” It seems to me that Jesus in the course of his life and ministry saw all that he was doing as eternally significant, whether he was healing the sick or casting out demons; he saw the giving of a cup of water as just as spiritual as confronting demoniacs. (Mark 9:38-41)

It is this divide between the natural and the supernatural that these words of the Micah Declaration was speaking to: “It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.”  Actions in the realm of the social or natural world, like Jesus healing the blind and dumb demoniac, advance the cause of the kingdom in ways that may be hidden to us. “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons,” he tells his adversaries, “then the kingdom has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:22-28) The kingdom’s presence is proclaimed whenever the church gains courage to storm the gates of hell.

This brings me to the other, yet unattended parts of this ‘whole gospel,’ as contained in the Micah Declaration: “Justice and justification by faith, worship and political action, the spiritual and the material, personal change and structural change, belong together. As in the life of Jesus, being, doing and saying are at the heart of the integral task.” The valiant battle for wholism waged by Señor René and his contemporaries was necessarily defined by the perceived tension between evangelism and social action, between what is deemed significant for this life only and what is important for the next one. He was fighting theologians who were inheritors of the Greek mental habit of separating the ‘essence,’ the timeless, incorporeal things like the ‘soul’,  from the mere ‘form’ or appearance, like our bodies. Hence, all the talk in the West about the ‘minimum irreducible core’ of the gospel, in contrast to those of us who see the Bible as a rich treasure trove of concrete narratives speaking contextually to specific peoples.

The past 50 years has seen the churches moving towards serving poor communities. There has been a mushrooming of faith-based development initiatives, as indicated by the growth of the Micah community itself. This is all well and good. Experience shows, however, that the small gains we are able to achieve in grassroots communities get easily wiped out by disasters, both natural and political. Today, the global pandemic we are experiencing is in a way ‘apocalyptic,’ but not in the sense of doomsayers talking of the ‘end times,’ but in the sense of revealing to us, front and center, the systemic injustice more and  more uncovered by our broken health systems, and the wounds dealt creation which continue to be unaddressed.

India, Brazil and the Philippines are showing what happens when a disaster of this magnitude are presided over by demagogues posing as populists. Globally, there is a decided drift towards illiberal democracies, and a tightening of the noose on those captive to communist regimes. In the case of the Philippines, lockdown is used as a form of social control, an opportunity to red-tag all dissenters and clap them to jail or in many instances, kill them. Unfortunately, churches that are recipients of bad mission influences have yet to be decolonized theologically. Churches in much of the world continue to be demobilized by undue emphasis on securing a ticket to heaven, never mind the troubles of the world since it is anyway a sinking ship. I have been told again and again by well-meaning evangelical friends that we should just evangelize and not get too worked up about justice in society since we are in the last days.

This view of the ‘end times’ has been prevalent in these days of sickness and death. This is not new historically. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage during the outbreak of a plague that started in 249 AD and lasted for nearly 20 years, also felt that the end of the world was near. The plague at its height claimed the lives of 5,000 people a day in Rome and caused the death of  two emperors. This resulted in political instability as claimants to the throne jockeyed for position. Countryside populations were decimated as farmers fled to the cities and agricultural production stopped, resulting in famine. Lack of food weakened the Roman armies stationed in the frontlines. Political disorder and unstable leadership led to the eventual decline of the empire. In contrast, it is said that only the nascent Christian church benefitted from the chaos. Christians played an active role in caring for the sick, as well as in providing care in the burial of the dead. Cyprian was quoted as saying, as he saw the disintegration of the dying empire: “Let us stand upright amid the ruins of the world, and not lie on the ground as those who have no hope.”

This pandemic is showing up what we, as human beings and as Christians, are made of. In a liminal space such as this, when we can no longer go back to the ‘old normal,’ and what is ahead is volatile and uncertain, the temptation is to simply hang on to what is familiar and opt for more of the same. Instead of seeing this space as a gift given to us  so that we come face to face with what needs critiquing and changing, we may long to just fall back on social habits and old arrangements of reality that we think are normal because they have been routinized, even if shown to be bad or unjust. With all the restrictions, it may be that we are being invited to new ways of doing works of mercy. Where I sit, community pantries have sprung up all over the country, alongside the ubiquitous presence of the military. We are rediscovering each other as neighbor, the pull of compassion overcoming the fear of contamination, even of intimidation from abusive authorities.

At the same time, the narrowing of democratic space may also be an invitation for us as a global community to think of how to stand together for justice in places like Myanmar or even among the persecuted churches, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In times like this, I long for an older and wiser voice like that of our brother René Padilla who has blazed a trail for us through the thicket of tortuous theologies that have blurred our vision of each of our social realities and what can be done about them. I am also at a time in life when the range of where my energies can be deployed has been severely narrowed. However, the Lord himself tells us that when we are truly a confessing church, the Body of Christ witnessing to the historic presence of the risen Jesus on earth, we can have confidence that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.

Melba Padilla Maggay, Ph.D. President Micah Global

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Let’s Gather! September 2021

Every three years, Micah Global members from around the world gather for a consultation that is hosted in turn by one of our regions. This year, Africa is our host. The African organising team would like to invite you to gather on-line during the month of September 2021 for worship, conversation, learning and networking. The theme of the consultation is KUSHAMIRI, which is the beautiful Kiswahili word for ‘flourish’. We will gather to reflect on how we as individuals, organisations and congregations flourish so that we may be catalysts for the flourishing of the communities we serve. And to explore how this is a flourishing for all seasons, and in difficult situations.

The flourishing we are seeking is described in the invitation and the promise of Jesus Christ to his followers: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is this active abiding, us in Christ and Christ in us, that we will consider during the consultation. We will also reflect on the fruit which such abiding produces, in our lives and in the communities where we are located. Considering flourishing from a biblical perspective, we are reminded also of the text in Revelation 22:2 where the tree of life has twelve kinds of fruit and produces fruit every month. And the leaves of this tree are for the healing of the nations. As the Body of Christ, participating in God’s mission of holistic redemption, we are the instrument of current flourishing and the foretaste of future flourishing through our abiding and fruitfulness in Christ.

Here are a few details about the consultation, so you can begin to pray, think, discuss and plan. Registration will be open from 1 June 2021 and is open to members of Micah Global and non-members. The consultation will take place during the month of September 2021 and will consist of two elements. Firstly, KUSHAMIRI BROADCAST – a live, time-specific programme running online from 5 - 10 September. Secondly, KUSHAMIRI COMMUNITY – an online interaction space that will run from 1 - 30 September, where attendees engage in their own time. We welcome contributions from all Micah Global members for the KUSHAMIRI COMMUNITY space.

May this word KUSHAMIRI | FLOURISH take root in our hearts and minds as we hear the invitation and the promise from the Lord to flourish and be agents of flourishing in our communities. And may we be inspired to bring our experiences of flourishing to the consultation, to share with each other.

 

Christine MacMillan - Chairperson of Micah Global Board and Deborah Hancox - International Coordinator 

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Connecting Beyond Borders

I live in the desert. The high beautiful rugged Chihuahuan desert covering north central Mexico and the southwestern United States. My city lies on the shores of the Rio Grande river, or the Rio Bravo, depending which side you are on, a river meandering over 3,000 kilometers from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. As the river passes through our region, the sister cities of El Paso and Ciudad Júarez, it abruptly becomes the dividing line between the United States and Mexico, and remains the dividing line for the rest of its journey, snaking another 2,000 kilometers to the south and east.

The river, a source of sustenance and beauty and rest and life in the desert, has been transformed into a wall of division. A wall defining specific boundaries and separating those who are in from those who are out and those who are out from those who are in. Until about 60 years ago the river would still meander when it flooded, changing its pathway, as if to defy efforts to control the line. Yet in more recent years it has become increasingly channelized and fortified.

Like so many places in the world, our region has been affected by waves of colonization. First the Spaniards swept through in the late 1500’s, subjugating the many native tribes in the area. Then it became part of the newly formed nation of Mexico after independence from Spain. The United States wrested control of the area from Mexico in 1848 as part of its effort to expand westward in order to span from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. It is not uncommon to hear someone in these parts say “I didn’t cross the border. The border crossed me.” What once was connected is now divided. And the dividing wall keeps being built higher in an effort to emphasize this division.

And yet the twin cities of El Paso in the United States and Ciudad Júarez in Mexico are so intricately intertwined. There is a shared heritage, a mix of culture, of language, of music, of food, of commerce, of humor. Family members live on both sides of the border, sometimes crossing daily for work or for school, or to visit their grandparents and shop. Many children in my neighborhood spend their weekends on the other side of town, which happens to be in another country. We are so interconnected. And yet there is a wall dividing us, and the contrasts are stark.

The El Paso-Juarez metropolis represents a microcosm of so many of the issues facing our world today, and the issues facing so many of us as members of Micah Global. A world increasingly divided between those who have so much and those who have very little. A world where political, military, economic, and often religious interests combine to move forward in ways that make sense for the powerful, but have dire consequences for the vulnerable. How do we respond to larger issues of power, injustice, religiously-sanctioned oppression, stark income inequality, nationalism, racial tensions, historical trauma, current trauma, and, in some instances, the marriage of Christianity and empire?

In our context, we struggle daily with what it means to live and walk in the way of Jesus in the midst of these forces. How do we act justly? How do we love mercy? How do we walk humbly with our God? How do we speak truth and bring to light that which is hidden? How do we love our neighbors? How do we embody a wholistic, integrated Gospel?

Many questions remain, and yet, along with the global family of Micah, we know that inspired ways forward emerge as we fall to our knees, develop friendships, listen deeply to our neighbors, draw close to the margins, elevate voices of the hurting, cry out in agony with those who suffer, leverage what we have, and open up opportunities for learning and encounters. And somewhere along the journey we regain a sense of our interconnectedness despite the barriers separating us.

Sami DiPasquale Micah Global Board Member, Executive Director of Abara El Paso, Texas, USA
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Our Missional Calling

Do you remember a time when you felt God calling you to a specific type of work or ministry? I do! It happened about 20 years ago and, whilst that calling has expanded and developed over time, it has not fundamentally changed. At the start of 2021, I feel it would be good for all of us, as individuals and organisations, to revisit the calling that we feel we are pursuing into the new year. And with this in mind, I would like to share some thoughts on calling. When thinking about calling as a Christian, I like to think in terms of missional calling, that is, the calling on all Christians to be active participants in God’s holistic mission.  Chris Wright, in his books The Mission of God (2006) and The Mission of God’s People (2010) helps us to understand our missional calling in three ways.

Firstly, missional calling is about being called to be the people of God. In the Old Testament, this call was given to Israel, for them to be set apart from the other nations, witnessing to the nature of God, in a loving, worship-full relationship and living according to God’s commands. In the New Testament, where there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28), the call to be the people of God is given to the Church, the ekklesia, the called out or summoned ones:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The people of God are those who have experienced God’s grace and are “called to live in response to that grace, with lives that represent God to the world and that show the difference between the holinessof the living God, seen especially in the face of Jesus Christ, and the degraded ugliness and impotence of the false gods that surround us” (Wright, 2010:127).

Secondly, missional calling is a calling to ethical living by walking in the way of the Lord. God told Abraham that he and his descendants should “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen 18:19) and this theme, of an ethical and compassionate calling given to the people of God, is a major theme in the Old Testament and continues centrally in the New Testament in the ministry and teachings of Jesus and the writings of the apostles. It is the way of compassion, righteousness and justice arising from God’s love for the world and refers to both the imitation of God (seeking to be holy as he is holy) and following him as guide and example, obeying instructions given by him. The way of the Lord that we follow is worked out in relationship between God and God’s people, worked out in the direct experiences of life. Walking in the way of the Lord is the active following of Christ. It is about seeking to live out of an ethic of a kingdom which has a king. It is a call to obediently follow the God who is at once King and Father.

Thirdly, missional calling is a calling to be a blessing to all people. Chris Wright suggests that Christian calling is well expressed by the word blessing. He describes blessing as a “richly life-affirming word” (2010: 68) present throughout the Bible. Being the people of God and walking in his ways, so that God’s mission of extending his blessing to all people takes place, summarises the missional calling on all Christians. Indeed, as Wright observes, the very motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is to bless the nations, thus, making mission and ethics inseparable.

Within this threefold understanding of our general missional calling, we also often receive a specific calling that fits with who God created each one of us to be, and the contexts and places in which we find ourselves to be living. I pray for each one of you that as you take time individually and organisationally to consider both the general and specific calling you have received, that you will again hear the Lord saying, with great love and excitement, “Come! Follow me!”

Deborah Hancox International Coordinator, Micah Global
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How do you read it?

How do you read it?

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
(Luke 10: 25-26)

As a rabbi, Jesus answered the law expert's question with another one. In fact, with two other questions. The first was easy to answer. The expert knew what was written in the Law and quoted the text perfectly. The second one was more demanding. It touched the way he understood it. And it is this question that I invite you to think about. How have we been reading the Scriptures?

Some time ago I heard a Brazilian Christian leader, whom I greatly admire, answering the question: ‘What is the problem with Brazilian evangelical Christians?” The question had been asked in response to the clear division and antagonistic positions of evangelicals and evangelical leaders in the public environment, among other issues. He was straightforward: "The Bible". It took me a few minutes to understand his response in depth. And I understood it by remembering that conversation between Jesus and the expert in the law.

The way we read the Bible reveals deep roots, as well as life conceptions of the human being, of God, of ourselves. Therefore, not all of us read the same Bible, although it is the same book. And differences in our reading comprehension is not really the problem. The point is that we can read it in an antagonistic and irreconcilable way. There are poor readings that lead to poor spirituality!

Martin Luther King Jr. did not read the same Bible as the Ku Klux Klan. He also diverged in his reading from most evangelicals in the southern United States, in particular. Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not read the same Bible as the German church did. The German churches that were silent in the face of the Nazi horrors read the ‘same’ bible in a completely different way to the young theologian. Differences in reading and posture continue everywhere! What Bible have we read? Would our Lord read it as we do?

Returning to the dialogue between Jesus and the expert in the Law, we find ourselves facing the same current problem or challenge - the meaning we give to what we read and the implications that we admit for our lives when reading the bible. It was written, but how should it be lived? Challenged by the duty to love God and our fellow human, the expert in the Law was unsure about who this person should be. Interestingly, he had no doubts about the part about loving God with all his heart, soul, strength and understanding.

Sometimes I have the feeling that, like him, we have become experts in God. We know all about divinity. We know what God likes and dislikes, what God admits and what God doesn't, who has a chance with God and who doesn't. But, also as that expert in the Law, we are ignorant about others. We don't know who they are. We don't see it as our responsibility. We are quick to judge and slow to have mercy. And not every kind of fellow human is acceptable or a candidate for our love. Somehow, our love has some criteria that means some people have to deny themselves in order to meet it. We forget that this criterion belongs to Christ and not to his followers.

All of this leads me to consider whether two thousand years after Jesus and the Law expert talked, we understand the Gospel that Jesus lived out. We build temples, create liturgies, establish religions, write doctrines, systematise God. We organise movements, create networks, launch projects and write statements, as well. Still, instead of being stronger and more united, we are weaker and more divided. And we even antagonise ourselves! Jesus' second question is very relevant to us. The answer that emerges requires reflection, prayer and conversations. How have we been reading the Bible? With what eyes, heart and mind? With what perspectives, assumptions and prejudices? Our attitudes towards others reveal our reading. What we know about people is perhaps more important than what we claim to know about God as we read the Bible.

I don't think we can know God well if we don't know our fellow human. And a true knowledge of God will lead us to know our ‘neighbor’ better. Our neighbor is so important in our relationship with God that, in the perspective presented by Jesus in Matthew 25, the only one that shall serve God is the one who serves their neighbors.

You may not have read the entire Bible even once, from beginning to end. Consider reading more! You may have read it dozens of times, from beginning to end and even have a medal or certificate of honor for your laudable discipline. Keep reading! But let us not fail to evaluate ourselves as to our postures and attitudes towards life and people. The book of Acts calls our faith "The Way". The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus inaugurated a new and living way for us. If we are 'on the Way', we know that sometimes it is smooth, simple and flat. Yet, sometimes hard, complex and rough. It requires faith and courage. Courage to see, hear and understand. Courage to admit, repent and correct our errors. It requires learning to abandon the wrong paths, discover new ones, because grace is alive in its manifestation in history. It is the aroma of new wine that always calls for new wineskins. Our faith is a path of disciples and not of adherents.

What's written? How do we read? May we, assisted by the Holy Spirit, be able to read our Bibles in such a way that the Kingdom of God is manifested and that we are, each one of us, living signs of God's presence.

Usiel Souza Pastor/ Micah Global Board Member/ Brazil

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Our Anchor, Our Hope

By Sheryl Haw

Our anchor, strength and hope is in the wonderful truth revealed throughout Scripture and through the life of Christ; that affirms what we believe: we believe that there is one living God, who is the creator, owner and maintainer of the whole universe. Our God is accessible and personal; He is trustworthy and good (in him there is no darkness at all); He is loving and compassionate, merciful and just (not wanting one life to be lost – 2 Peter 3:9); He is all powerful and is sovereign over all the earth.

The question that will arise in many people’s hearts and minds is if that is true why has God allowed this virus outbreak? If he is all loving, all powerful, is against all evil and suffering, and can thus act to stop this crisis, why are we where we are at now?

The first thing we learn from Biblical examples of facing such suffering is that the question, the lament, the protest before God, is first and foremost not to ask why but to ask how long?, and to pursue God persistently for his intervention.

Chris Wright in his book, The God I don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, has some helpful thoughts on this and we highly recommend this book.

The why question is a tough one. We are always looking for a cause and effect rationale.

I remember the dilemma I experienced when working in South Sudan some years ago. A young teenage boy presented at the clinic with classic signs of Type 1 diabetes. We had the knowledge to treat him, but we had no access to an ongoing supply of insulin. He lived in a war zone, in poverty and oppression. I had a list of why questions. Why would the warring factions persist in their fighting? Why could we in other countries have access to great medical care and this young boy could not? Why could some people buy multiple houses and cars and this boy be destitute? It is not that people were not aware of poverty, war and oppression – information was constantly available. So why didn’t the world act? Who was to blame? Was it inequality and the selfishness of humanity? Was it the unjust colonial powers? Was it the rebel fighters? If someone said to me it was the boy who sinned – I would’ve been so angry as he was the one person in the setting that was not to blame for his poverty and illness! Of course, we could blame God. Why didn’t He save the boy? And then I reflected on in what way should He have saved the boy? Should He have reconciled the warring factions as a peace maker? Should He have pressured the rich to share their wealth and enable the country to flourish? Should He have sent the medical experts to have a hospital for the boy? What did we want God to do? Or had He not already done all of this?

Had Jesus not died on the cross to break the power of death? Had he not accepted to carry all our pain and sorrows? Had he not called a people out to be an example to the new humanity he has inaugurated, to be peace makers, reconcilers, to be healers and builders? Had he not sent us to this very boy to love, to serve and to care for him? Of course, the answer was, and is, yes, yes, yes.

So, though there is undeniably a mystery of evil (the death and loss this virus is bringing), exacerbated by the selfish, sinful actions and inactions amongst us all that increase the impact of such a virus (for example, the selfish hoarding and stock piling of items, the non-sensical violence and stigma against people of Chinese origin), I know with absolute certainty that God has acted, is acting and will act on our behalf to respond to this crisis and every other. And, he has called out a people, the Body of Christ, to be demonstrators of his love and care at such a time as this.

Jesus, thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do. Here we are – send us to live it out amongst every community today.

#LiveHope #Coronavirus #LoveYourNeighbour

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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 

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Protest and lament

by Sheryl Haw

It was a hot Sunday afternoon in Somalia, good for siesta after a busy week of work at the clinic. We had some sick children in our care, but all seemed on the mend. A tap on my door by one of the Somali nurses led me back to hospital. He had asked me to check on a 2-year-old patient who we were planning to discharge. To my horror on arrival I found the child had died. The mother was weeping, everyone was shocked at this unexpected loss. I was angry – confused and then determined. I took myself into another room and started to wrestle with God. I protested, lamented, grieved, ranted, debated and then decided this simply could not be God’s plan. Decision taken, I sought the rest of the team and explained that I felt we should pray for the child to be raised from the dead! The team looked on, wide eyed! They agreed to stand with me.

We set the scene as best we could “according to the Bible”! Placed everyone out of the room bar the mother and the translator. We explained we wanted to pray for the child and asked if they would give permission. They agreed. Before I could start, one of the team began a prayer which went like this “God, we would like you to restore this child, but if it is not your will please keep her safe with you”. This prayer frustrated me – why give God an out clause!? So, I jumped in and prayed “In the Name of Jesus rise up”. I had my eyes open as I did not want to miss the first breath. I repeated – but no breath came.

We all started to weep, not just for the child and the family’s loss, but now we also wept for ourselves and our faith in God. What followed were some of the most profound conversations we ever had as a team. One member shouted at me as he challenged me as to why I would test God. He then broke down and wept because his brother had died of leukemia and he had also prayed for healing and none had come. Some exploded in anger at the injustice and evil death represented. Others questioned whether we had sufficient faith, others lamented the helplessness we all felt.

Then we had a knock on the door – the translator came to see us. He was deeply moved that we had cared so much as foreigners for this little Somali girl. He was amazed that we had demonstrated love to her family through prayer and comfort and tears of solidarity. We sat in stunned silence. Is that what they had seen?

Of course, we could argue the theology and practice around our approach to deciding to pray – yes, we had a lot to learn. But what I had not anticipated was the witness we gave of love, through lament and protest, through solidarity of grief and the presence we gave to stand in the gap for this child and family.

I have seen God heal miraculously. I have held people as they died. I have not understood why some are healed and some are not. Why some die and some live? The Bible is full of protests, lament, anger, grief and questions. The struggle with God over this is based on the tension of knowing that God is a good, compassionate, just God and a giver of life. The Cross was His demonstrate of his desire to see redemption, healing, restoration, liberation and reconciliation for all. Therefore, we protest when we see pain, suffering, injustice and death.

The Cross is also our hope. It is at the Cross we see the ultimate assurance of God’s love. It is the Cross that carries the pain, the lament, the protest, for it exposes the worst of evil and reveals the breadth of grace, mercy and love. Knowing full well every terrible thing, every painful reality, every agonising thing we face or go through, Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. He would remove the sting of death, wipe away every tear and set things right. It is done!

And so until he returns, we protest – “How long O Lord” – we lament and grieve – “Lord, the pain is great“.

God receives our cries, he weeps with us, he carries our pain and he reveals his plan. Behold God will make all things new: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4).

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

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.

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God’s Footprint in the Mess

By Christine MacMillan, World Evangelical Alliance

John 4:9 “The woman was surprised for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Woman of Samaria?”

As I Chair the World Evangelical Task Force on Human Trafficking, I find myself asking the question: what is human about trafficking?  And then it resonates – for trafficking is very much human. It conscripts humans regardless of race, lifestyle, age and gender.  It is full of surprises when its victims and those becoming aware of its horror unravel personal stories when given the opportunity.  Jesus was not afraid to find his footsteps on messy ground. He risks his reputation by engaging with a woman from Samaria perceived known for her questionable relationship history.  He was interested in her story only silenced by living on the margins.

The nature of relationships covers a vast realm of considerations. You are reaching out in one moment and then becoming aware of your vulnerability in the next. Is Jesus at risk? Is the woman at risk? Human trafficking goes beyond statistics of victims. It goes beyond a headline that reads: “Children sold like cabbages”. As cabbages once devoured are finished. Victims of human trafficking viewed as profitable commodities can be devoured again and again and their story is never ending.

Captivity is rarely under question by users.  And yet, a surprise question from Jesus: “Can you give me a drink”?  Interest from Jesus starts from a point of what another can give.   

The scene of Jesus and the woman is inching closer with respect.  Not the usual judgment call or pointed finger.  It causes a woman from Samaria to ask why someone different from her would ask her for a drink.

Integral mission is not limited to one sided giving.  It has the integrity to see value from both sides. When the question in Micah is posed: “What does the Lord require of you?”, can we be asking that of ourselves and the “other” at the same time.  Our giving is reciprocated when we leave ourselves open to receive from unexpected sources. 

The nature of organizational relationships can often be tempted to be on the lookout for its own unlimited resources. If resources are limited, we sense our mission is under threat. We become concerned about our own survival and do everything under our control to attract resources to our particular ministry only. We brand our cups of water as success stories of our own accomplishments.

Coming back to the question what is human about trafficking poses a deep search. Trafficking victims are relegated to a one -sided giving of themselves that holds little surprises in their endless activities of being used. The water they drink is polluted. They are trafficked in streams of dead water.

Resources found in the practice of integral mission are purified gifts that respect with integrity our need to both give and receive.  In the midst of pollution Jesus loves to tread in the mess of contamination. He stops to hear our story with the intention there is more for us to give.  We who are in the Micah movement are learning to adopt listening patterns of mutuality on what the Lord requires. It is then there is enough water to go around.         

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