Part 1: Relief and Development
Part 2: Incarnational Mission | Word and Deed | Responsibility and Sovereignty

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.

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In my first post, I shared how Jesus demonstrated integral mission by balancing and affirming relief and development in His earthly ministry. Drawing from the same text (Luke 9:1-17), I want to continue with more observations for integral mission from the life and ministry of Jesus.

INCARNATIONAL MISSION

God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. God also sent His Son to dwell among us (John 1:14) so that we could see His glory. In Luke 9, we find Jesus in a desolate place among scores of people with all kinds of needs. While it may be easy to overlook this, let us not play it down. Jesus made Himself accessible to everyone in society, especially those on the margins. He was accessible and approachable, even for those who could not walk (the lame) and those who could not be touched (the lepers). Even those in the grave were not beyond the scope of Jesus’ reach!

Jesus had a plan. It was to pour into His disciples. Yet the multitudes pressed in on Him. What would He do? Would he tell them to get in a line and schedule an appointment with one of His disciples? According to Luke 9:11, Jesus welcomed them. He welcomed them because He was with them. He was with them because He was for them.

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As many of you know, I lead The Haiti Collective, an organization focused on bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere by empowering indigenous churches to make disciples, train leaders, plant churches, and care for orphans in their midst. The needs are massive, even four years after the devastating earthquake. It can be argued (rather easily, I might add) that the needs are even greater now, after attempts of intervention have hurt the economic stability of an already fragile world. Needless to say, careful thinking about unintended consequences when doing relief and development work is critical to any long term success.

I am grateful for books like When Help Hurts and The Poverty of Nations that have come out from a biblical worldview of helping the poor. However, there is still a lot of tension when it comes to relief and development. Those I know who take When Helping Hurts seriously are so concerned about the possibility of hurting that they don’t attempt to help much at all. So the question comes – what hurts the people more? Not doing anything at all in fear of possibly hurting them by what you do, or making substantive, strategic efforts to make a big impact, knowing that you will likely hurt in ways you could not fully prevent?

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I’ve been slowly working through the Gospel of Luke, reading, and rereading chapters and focusing on various sections at a time. This morning, I focused on Luke 9:28-36, the passage on the transfiguration of Jesus. As I reflected on this text, I realized that what was happening was a heavenly form of gospel community, with God the Father, God the Son, Moses, Elijah, and Peter, James, and John.

What I found particularly impacting to me in this text was the topic of the community discussion. Verse 30 says that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus, and the centerpiece of that discussion was “his departure” or exodus through the cross. Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the Prophets) are figureheads of redemptive history up until the time of Jesus, and much like all of the Scriptures, they made the conversation about Jesus and His work on the cross.

Gospel communities can learn much from this conversation. We can learn from Moses and Elijah that all of Scripture testifies about Jesus (Luke 24:27). Moses and Elijah knew this. They were not interested in talking about types and shadows; they were interested in what those types and shadows pointed to–Jesus. This in no way diminishes Old Testament Scripture or the role Moses and Elijah played in redemptive history. In fact, it heightens it, knowing their stories are interwoven in the bigger story of God’s redemptive purposes in history culminating in Christ.

But not only does it culminate in Christ, it climaxes in Christ. When the cloud overtook the disciples, and God chose to speak, the Father declared that it is all about His beloved Son. And when God spoke, Jesus was all alone–alone because there is no one else like Him. Alone because Jesus has supremacy over all things and superior to all prophets, kings, and priests. Alone because Jesus is preeminent and holds a place in history that demands our unconditional loyalty and submission as Lord and King.

Moses spoke about Jesus. Elijah spoke about Jesus. The Father spoke about Jesus and gave a heavenly charge to everyone else to listen to Jesus. At no other point in the earthly life of Jesus was there a more heavenly moment, and it is evident to everyone that this community was all about Jesus. In fact, when Peter wanted to make tents for Elijah and Moses was when they disappeared, leaving them with no one but Jesus.

As simple as it may sound, what we can learn from the Transfiguration is this: Christian community that pleases the Father and honors His Word is all about Jesus–who He is, what He has done, and what that matters. Christian community is preoccupied with Jesus because heaven is preoccupied with Jesus. We don’t get over Jesus. We are never bored with Jesus. We don’t keep silent about Jesus. We don’t change the channel or turn it down. Instead, we rediscover again and again by the Spirit’s work in our lives more and more the beauty and brilliance of our Savior. To the degree that our conversations center on Jesus, we can say we functionally have a gospel community. To the degree that we adore and treasure Jesus, we can keep our community from lesser lovers and broken cisterns.

If we could have a conversation today with the greatest figures in the history of redemption, they would be talking about Jesus–His life, death, and resurrection. But if people could have a conversation today with you and me, what would we what we want to talk about?

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You know you are living in gospel community when . . .

  • believers practice confession instead of trying to make an impression
  • people are defined by a lifestyle of repenting rather than pretending
  • you embrace truth at all costs, not agreeing for each others approval
  • light exposes & wounds and love covers & heals – both/and not either/or
  • people are happy to be holy not content to be comfortable
  • you own your mess because of His mercy instead of hiding them because of your shame
  • functional saviors & heart idolatry are lovingly confronted & challenged by Christ’s reign & rule
  • unbelieving sinners & believing sinners together look away from themselves & look to Jesus
  • the pleasure of God in Christ to save you liberates you to passionately serve others
  • hospitality is given to those on the margins & those not like you are welcome in your world
  • individual preferences take a back seat to community purposes of loving God and neighbor

[these were some personal reflections posted on twitter last week]

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