The impetus for setting up the site came from a number of factors.
1 I am passionate about ecumenical ventures and churches that are prepared to 'take risks for God'. 2 It's also because I have first-hand experience and knowledge of (and enthusiasm for) the Bolivian initiative (see later in this site), that I support the concept of Integral Church and Integral Mission in any way I can - because I believe it is from God. 3 In my local town in England three of the Reformed churches are exploring the possibility of coming together as one church. As part of this process they are going back to basics and asking themselves questions such as : ----What is church? ----How can we best serve this town and 'be Jesus' in the community? ----How can we be a more effective witness to the people of this community as one gathered church rather than three separate, similar churches?'
I believe that developments such as this are the way forward and incorporate into them many of the ideas brought together in this website about integrated mission - something which doesn't have to be in far-off lands, but equally apply to one's own backyard, the communities where we live in whatever country, third-world, first-world, westernised or not.
The circles at the top of this page represent different ways of thinking about relationships : --- the relationship between God and Man(which is which of the smaller circle and the larger outer one?) --- the relationship between church and community (ditto).
The term Integral Church has different meanings for different groups. Some see it as a transforming of Christ-consciousness, an internal process of growth. Others see it as a coming together of different strands of Christianity - or even different approaches to Spirituality (different faiths perhaps). Yet others see the term as meaning a 'bringing together in one place all that we offer'.
For some the term Integral Church has different meanings; this website focuses on the idea that a key expression of is that it is community-based work and witness.
That final sentence of the definition of Integral on the Home page resonates with some of St Paul's words in Romans 12:4-5:- "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function; so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others".
And in 1 Corinthians 12 v 12 - "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." (and see vv 13-27 as well).
The focus (as in Romans 12 and 1 Cor 12) is on all things working together; nothing is separate. If our vision of church follows this model, then all that we do in the name of Jesus will be, effectively, 'church', whether it is organising football for 10-year olds, befriending older folk, a listening ear for young mums - or operating a baby-sitting circle....it is all 'church'. It doesn't need a building (neither large nor small), but it will need some degree of structure and accountability to a leadership team. It would therefore be wise if that leadership team is also accountable to a church structure of some kind - though it has to be said that hierarchical, organised, institutionalised religion is for some rather less than positive.
"What on earth does it mean?" said the parish clerk. "'Integral church' is nothing but a mouthful of complicated-ness!" I know what he meant. But my own understanding has grown over the past few years through links to churches that are 'doing things differently'. So here goes - a definition to start; don't give up yet - it becomes alive once you get to know it.
a particular Christian organization with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines: the Church of England
the hierarchy of clergy within a particular Christian Church
[mass noun] institutionalized religion as a political or social force: the separation of church and state
Quite a variety there! For many people the main emphasis is on a building where people gather for worship. But a number of 21st century movements are taking this definition and perception further into new realms. Some of these are described (briefly) on the Integral Church - UK and Integral Church - World pages of this site.
The term Integral Church has different meanings for different groups. Some (e.g. The Progressive Christianity group USA) see it as a transforming of Christ-consciousness, an internal process of growth. Others see it as a coming together of different strands of Christianity - or even different approaches to Spirituality (different faiths perhaps). Yet others see the term as meaning a 'bringing together in one place all that we offer'.
The idea of Integral Mission was brought to the attention of people world-wide by the South American theogian Rene Padilla (see Integral Church) and there are now many examples of this 'integrated mission' approach throughout the world.
The following pages will offer some insight into the workings of groups of people in (sometimes very) different circumstances.
To finish - there is an example from Bolivia where a new church has been set up - within a community centre - serving the people of a deprived barrio in Cochabamba.
Integral Mission (and hence Integral Church) has to do with the church being integrated in a very clear and real way into the community it seeks to serve. It is an upside-down view of the world, which reflects very much Christ's way. There is a song by Patrick Appleford ('O Lord all the world belongs to you') of which the final line of each verse reveals that Jesus is '...turning the world upside down'. Seewww.integralmission.net
The way of God is an upside-down way, a going-against-the flow way; that's the way Jesus calls us to work, whether it is in mission abroad or mission in our own back yard. We are called to find new ways to touch the hearts of all - and the Sumumpaya project that this website describes is one model of this different approach to reaching people for God. It doesn't mean going up to a starving person and offering to read them 1 Corinthians 13; rather it means offering them a loaf of bread - and then showing the love of Jesus to them in ways that are right for them at that moment in their lives. There is a famous story about a missionary to a distant tribe who went to live amongst the people of that tribe. Only after eight years did he mention Jesus; he needed to win their trust first.
"Integral mission is being adopted today by churches around the world who not only proclaim the gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ but seek to integrate their witness with demonstration of the love and justice of God in every dimension of life". (www.kairos.org.ar)
Tearfund talk about Integral Misision here and go on to emphasise how to explain the term to those who are new to the concept; it involves :
Love in action
Human need and divine solution
Reaching out to the unreached
The key facets of this holistic approach to mission apply to churches too, for the extent to which they see an integrated aspect to their ministry as being important, gives an indication of their engagement in Integral Mission, which is 'the church speaking of and living out its faith in Jesus Christ in an individual way in every aspect of life'. Read the theological background to this view by the Integral Mission partnershiphere.
Communities Integral mission takes place when a church is planted into the communities to which people actually belong. ‘Church’ is of course not a building where people sing and pray together, but a living community of people who are committed to the Royal Road, the route to God. They can then become agents for change within their local culture
Just as God's Son entered our world to win us, so Christian missionaries need to enter the cultures they are trying to reach (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). This can be termed Incarnational mission - a movement which takes Christ right into the heart of the community, into the individual and collective lives of ‘the people’. Service in the name of Jesus can then happen through listening to the needs of the community and sharing their hopes and fears and dreams.