Integral mission is “foundational” to the church’s response to some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, said the head of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe.
Addressing the Christian Management Australia conference at Bondi Beach last week, Tunnicliffe said that a clash of world views, increasing secularism and post-modernism were just some of the “major” challenges to global stability.
He acknowledged that evangelicalism had for many people around the world become synonymous with a narrow social agenda and in some cases U.S. foreign policy, while faith communities in some western countries were being “pushed to the edge” of society by the torchbearers of radical secularism.
Other challenges, he noted, were the impact of climate change and the current food crisis, changes in immigration trends, the HIV and AIDS pandemic across large parts of Africa and India, and the growing number of children at risk, particularly from human trafficking for labor or sexual purposes.
“It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other, but rather it's that through integral mission our proclamation of the Gospel has social consequences as we call people to repent in all areas of life,” he explained. “Our social involvement has evangelistic consequences in that we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.”
Tunnicliffe said that leaders modeled on Christian world changers like William Wilberforce, who spearheaded the abolition of the slave trade, were key to fulfilling such a vision of integral and transformational mission.
“Here is the model of a Christian and a powerful demonstration of how a Christian engaged in culture,” he said. “I think we can actually use some of the principles of William Wilberforce to guide societies around the world.”
Breaking down those principles, the WEA leader highlighted that transforming societies had to begin with a broken heart.
“Wilberforce’s heart was broken by the slave trade. What breaks our heart today?” he asked. “I think as we look at the needs of the world, that’s where we have to start.”
Tunnicliffe encouraged Christians not to become discouraged by the enormity of some of the challenges, but instead be inspired by Wilberforce’s stand against the social norms of his day.
“The reality is that as Christians in society, sometimes we feel that we are a small minority,” he said. “But I believe that there are resources within our community that can transform the world.”