SYMPOSIUM: Response 4: Saying, Doing, and Being: Complete Integration
Rose DowsettAmen! This truly is a bad question, one which should never have been posed. Authentic mission and discipleship demands complete integration between what we say (proclamation and word), what we do (actions), and who we are (character), individually and in community. Why? Here are four reasons.
First, it is embedded in the most fundamental statement about human beings: that we are made in the image of the Triune God. Our calling is to reflect him as Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and Savior, being visual images so that people can say, “So this is what God is like!” This cannot be words alone, for the Word was made flesh, not dropped to earth as a manuscript. Mission must include words, of course, but demands more than that. God demonstrates total integration of word, deed, and character. So must we.
Second, it is the pattern Jesus set throughout his ministry, and commanded us to follow. See Luke 4:16-21, and its fulfillment throughout the four Gospels. Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission, cannot be separated from the Great Commandment of Matthew 22: 37-39. Commandment and Commission are not in antithesis, but belong together. Loving God and our neighbor is more than words.
Third, it is the example and the teaching of the apostles. They healed as well as taught. The Epistles teach not only what to believe in order “to be saved,” but also how to live, and how that transformed way of living as well as articulating the gospel in words changes communities.
Fourth, it is the testimony of church history, from the profound missionary impact of early Christians as they cared for plague victims, through the holistic witness and service of the monastic orders, to the modern missionary movement with its outreach through education, medicine, agriculture, and ameliorating the effects of poverty and injustice. The message of love has been given credibility through care and compassion in very visible and practical ways.
Yes, we need words. If we don’t, then we have little more than humanist kindness. But we also need actions to give wings to our words, and to be transformed so as to demonstrate what it means to be reconciled with one another as well as with God. This is the DNA of God’s people as they engage in mission. So, as the marriage service puts it, what God has joined together, let no one put asunder.
Rose Dowsett is a retired career missionary with OMF International, having served with her husband in the Philippines, the U.K., and internationally as a speaker, trainer, and author. She served as vice chair of the WEA Mission Commission, and also worked on the Lausanne Cape Town Commitment team.
EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 270-271. Copyright © 2012 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.