In this final part of my reflections of integral mission from the life of Jesus, I want to turn once more to Luke 9:1-17 for some further observations related to the church. We see from the feeding of the multitude that Jesus had a plan and a people. He had provision and power to do all that was needed to see that the people were cared for and utterly satisfied.
STRATEGIC & SUPERNATURAL
When Jesus went about feeding the multitude, it is interesting that before He performed the miracle, He instructed His disciples to have the people to sit down in groups of 50. Seems like an unnecessary detail Luke included, no? Well, actually I find it really beneficial for integral mission. Jesus could have feed 20,000 in an unhelpful sea of chaos and confusion, but instead He chose a method that would best serve the people and make the greatest impact. I don’t want to read too much into this observation, but I believe it is accurate to say that this represents a strategic plan. Following this strategy came the supernatural work of God.
There are some who might think that strategic thinking and planning is unspiritual. Some may argue that it leads to pragmatism or doing work without God. While that is possible, simply because it has led some to pragmatism does not necessarily mean that it causes it. In fact, those working in difficult situations must have a strategic plan in place or the work will fall apart on its own. Having said that, we should pray and believe God to do what only He can do. He puts us in desperate situations where, if He does not come through, we are sunk. If you are not in a place where you are desperate and dependent on the sovereign, supernatural work of God, then you are in the wrong place.
CHURCH & WORLD
The disciples, who were once on the sidelines looking to advise Jesus on how to get rid of the multitude, were commissioned by Jesus to get in the middle of the work and deliver the miracle to the people. Between Jesus and the world stood His disciples, and this is true today. The church, the community of disciples covenanted together to live under His lordship, is the hope for any community. The church is a people who make the gospel visible. We are not good news. Jesus is good news. We carry that good news with our lives in the same way the disciples did. The disciples did not perform miracle on their own, but rather they carried the miracle to the people.
Integral mission has the church at the center and the world around it as its target. It is not governments nor religious organizations who are recipients of the promises of God. It is the church. Jesus will build it. He’s the head of it. He will work to keep it and use it for His glory and the good of others. If we believe in integral mission, we will integrate the church in the community to deliver the gospel in word and deed. Simply put, the church is not plan B. It is God’s plan A without a plan B.
ORDINARY LIFE & EXTRAORDINARY LOVE
The miracle of feeding the 20,000 was miraculous not in what was produced (bread and fish) but how much was produced. The miracle did not come with glitz, glamour, or fanfare. There was something amazingly ordinary about it. People were hungry. Jesus provided bread and fish. I would assume that bread is something that we take for granted on a regular basis. The ordinariness of the miracle in some ways shrouded how extraordinary it was and yet demonstrated the practical, humble nature of Jesus’ work. It was not a 5 course meal, but it was more than enough. Jesus did not provide a “health and wealth” version of miracles. It was what everyone there needed, and that was enough.
But the climax of this story came as a result of extraordinary love. Think with me at the close of this day how many people were touched by Jesus. How many messes were there? How many seemingly impossible situations were overcome by the compassion, power, humility, and graciousness of Jesus? The needs were massive. The messes were everywhere. It was easy to think the problems are too severe, the situation too dire, and the needs to great to do anything. But Jesus had none of that. When people wanted to throw their hands up in despair, Jesus put His hands together in prayer and worked it out. He had extraordinary love that demonstrated His mercy was greater than all of their messes and His power was greater than all of their problems.
When we think about integral mission, we are entering ordinary life with extraordinary love. Our work is humbling, messy, and difficult. But, in it we see the miraculous hand of God at work through us as well as His extraordinary love at work in us to dig in and spend ourselves for the sake of the mission. It was a desolate place that day, but Jesus turned that desolate place of ordinariness into a banqueting table to feast for 20,000 people. This should be a great source of encouragement and we can be confident that God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s supply.
So as I wrap up my thoughts on integral mission from the life of Jesus, we should be reminded that we have a Master who modeled it for us and a Savior who is sufficient to meet us and others we meet with His mercy and majestic power. Let us look to Him with faith and look to the world with love.