Oct29ThuReflecting on integrated mission on the 130th anniversary of In Darkest England, and the Way Out. October 29, 2020 by Colonel Debbie Graves
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In the early days of The Salvation Army, people told William Booth, “We can do with your social operations, but we can’t do with your religion; we don’t want it.” Booth responded, “If you want my social work, you have got to have my religion; they are joined together like the Siamese twins, to divide them is to slay them.” This has been the Army’s mission since the beginning, to hold together word and deed, proclamation and demonstration, evangelism and social action. Today, it is known as integrated mission.
The topic of integrated mission has been around for a long time. We have tried to understand it, define it and label it. Internationally, and in some territories, it has become a strategic priority, and yet it continues to lack a clear definition.
General William Booth gave us the motto, “Heart to God and Hand to Man,” General John Gowans (Rtd) gave us “Save Souls, Grow Saints and Serve Suffering Humanity” and General Linda Bond (Rtd) gave us “One Army, One Mission, One Message.” All three clearly outline the importance of integrated mission.
So, what is it and what does it have to do with the “In Darkest England” scheme? The Salvation Army is known for sharing the love of God through practical ministry, reaching out to a needy world with love in action. We seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus, caring for the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost.
This has been the Army’s mission since the beginning, to hold together word and deed, proclamation and demonstration, evangelism and social action. Today, it is known as integrated mission.
In Booth’s day as today, integrated mission is not about programs or once-a-year barbecues in the corps parking lot. It’s about being an engaged presence in the community.
John’s Gospel helps us understand how Jesus lived out integrated mission. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14 The Message). Jesus lived, walked, ate and prayed with the people he met. He had no comfortable building or programs to invite people to, and yet lives were transformed. The Apostles, including Paul, were followers of Christ, not because he was popular or rich or well-educated, but because of the relationship that Jesus built with them. For people who spent every day with him and those who only met him once, an encounter with Jesus was transformative.
Integrated mission works the same way today. If we live every day in the presence of the one who created us, loves us and calls us to be his hands, his feet and his voice, then we will live integrated mission. It’s not enough to write “everyone is welcome” on a sign outside the corps building. We need to build relationships in the name of Christ by going where the people are and not always expecting them to come to us.
God changes the hearts of people through relationships. It is about journeying with people. We need to be preaching from our pulpits the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to be preaching “integral mission,” which emphasizes the need to be a missional church. It is integral to who we are as Christ’s disciples to help build the body of believers. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The missional church empowers its people to be the church in the community. The missional church challenges its people to live out the good news in their community. The missional church recognizes that every believer embodies the life of the church in their neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces, each one telling God’s story in the context of compassionate, authentic relationships.
Integrated mission has no boundaries. It is not corps ministry here and social ministry over there. It is a collaborative ministry. It is simply the expression of love, care, compassion, respect and dignity given in the name of Christ wherever we find ourselves. In Called to be God’s People, Commissioner Robert Street quotes Warren Johnson: “Service is a practical ministry. It is not only a reaching into the body of believers with the heart of a servant; it is also a reaching out into a desperate and dying world with love in action.” He adds: “A giant leap forward for the new believer is to comprehend the essence of God’s call to men and women to serve and minister to those who cross our paths every day of the week. God wants to use us in the lives of other people.” It is about being there at the centre of crisis to help the most vulnerable. In the midst of fire and flood, tsunami and earthquake, hunger and homelessness, the Army serves with no hesitation or discrimination.
Integrated mission is also about helping to build the capacity of people while sharing the love of God. In the late 1880s, William Booth started workshops that allowed men to work an honest job and earn a wage to contribute to their food and lodging in a Salvation Army shelter. One of these workshops was located at Hadleigh Farm in the county of Essex, England, where the focus was on the dignity and respect of others.
Today, Hadleigh Farm is still operating, with a focus on providing assistance to people between 16 and 55 with their personal development, by helping them realize their potential in mainstream education, training and employment. Strawberry Field, located in Liverpool, England, originally a Salvation Army-run orphanage, now some 70 years later provides young people a step onto the employment ladder. “Employment Plus” offers tailored support with employability skills, focusing on people’s strengths, so that all people can contribute to community and, in doing so, helps to build self-respect and confidence.
In other territories, the Pathway of Hope initiative is breaking the cycle of poverty by supporting families in achieving stability through strength-based case management. And parent and child resource centres are assisting pregnant and young parents with health care, counselling, child development, education and employment resources, as well as healthy food programs. All of these services listed above, plus hundreds more, are wrapped around with spiritual care and mentoring by dedicated officers/chaplains, who give of themselves every day to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and continue the journey with people that William Booth started so many years before.
Integrated mission is about building bridges between The Salvation Army and the greater community: churches, local businesses, schools and other organizations. It is about collaborative ministry, building bridges between corps and social services to better facilitate mission in community.
Integrated mission is a lifestyle. In Community in Mission, Commissioner Phil Needham writes: “It is to say that the church takes its stand alongside the Word who ‘became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). The incarnational basis of the gospel cannot be denied. God in Christ entered human existence, redeemed us in the world and made sanctification possible. In Christ, the common becomes holy, and through the power of the Spirit the church is called to holy living in the world. It is God’s intention that his people live in the world as transformed people who see the transformation of life in all aspects. The church is called into the world to celebrate God’s redemptive presence in common life and to be a transforming fellowship through which he can demonstrate the power of God unto salvation.”
“When we take pride in being part of The Salvation Army and the wonderful works we do, but lack the driving passion to win the world for Jesus, there’s a disconnect because we’re only delivering half of the mission,” says General André Cox (Rtd), international leader of The Salvation Army between 2013 and 2018. “Jesus calls us to have a heart of compassion and reach out to a needy world. While we care for those who are sick, we should also be concerned for those who are dying in sin. Being a wonderfully run institution is not enough to meet all the physical, emotional and spiritual needs in our communities.” I believe this is a challenge for all of us to make integrated mission a way of life.
So, what is integrated mission? “We show our solidarity by identifying with those to whom we minister,” says Lt-Colonel Ray Moulton. “We cannot be on the outside pushing solutions at others. Rather, we are called to participate in the conversation, share our gifts, validate the assets that others contribute and celebrate the transformation of communities over time.”
Whether we call it integrated mission, incarnational ministry, pioneering, holistic transformation or community capacity development, the plain and simple truth is that “we are the lives in which Jesus is incarnated every day and everywhere we go,” writes Alan Burns in Founding Vision for a Future Army. “As disciples, we are called to live out the principle of laying down our lives daily, so that others can pick up theirs.”
This article is an excerpt from In Darkest England: 130 Years On, published by the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland and available at www.sps-shop.com or in Kindle through Amazon.ca.
Colonel Debbie Graves is the territorial secretary for leader development in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland. She will take up a new appointment as IHQ chaplain and City of London liaison officer, International Headquarters, with the rank of commissioner, on November 4, 2020.