Bingham Attends IHQ Ministries Conference
by Gordon Bingham –
I spent two days in London with 60 officers of International Headquarters, including General Paul A. Rader and Commissioner Kay F. Rader, at the Upper Norwood Corps, at the “Integrated Mission Workshop.”
The leadership were members of the IHQ Technical Consultation team led by Captain (Dr.) Ian Campbell. I was invited to take part because of past associations with this team, including the AIDS education project in Majuro, Marshall Islands.
The term, “Integrated Mission,” has largely replaced the earlier term, “balanced ministry” as a way of characterizing and thinking about what we do and how we do it.
The content of these two days included reports from countries where integrated mission has been realized to some degree. This was not a conference of “experts” conveying new skills to “learners,” but a shared time of reflection on our vision (beliefs) and our practices. Among the beliefs identified were “caring,” meaning “coming alongside,” being with people in their suffering and in their triumphs; “community,” as the best medium for caring and change; “transformation,” as central to God’s character and to the work he has given us. These are lived out in practices such as “inclusion,” participation that affirms the value of each person; “teamwork,” empowering each person to find his/her place and contribution; “influence and facilitation,” rather than power and imposition as the hallmarks of leadership.
Mission integration in this context had less to do with linking otherwise disjointed efforts (e.g. evangelism and social services) than with living out our mission, holistically, in everything we do, whatever our position or appointment. Thus, officers and staff at IHQ were asked to consider how they might model these concepts in their daily life and work. Meeting in departmental clusters, IHQ officers sought to identify what common mission concepts mean in how they understand and go about doing their work. One high-ranking officer succinctly summarized the challenge: “If we cannot live out ‘caring’ and ‘community’ in our daily work, we are frauds.”
I left the workshop encouraged to consider the application of mission concepts in my place at THQ and with a sharper vision of mission integration and the conviction that the current “welfare reform” here in the U. S. offers the potential for a paradigm of mission integration: We are challenged to move away from the quick fix (e.g. a grocery basket or clothing voucher) as the end product of our basic social services.
These may be entry points into the lives of people facing what will be for many a difficult and fearsome journey of change, which will not end at the moment they are off welfare. Can we find ways to enter in and walk alongside them in this journey? Is it possible that corps members and board members might become friends and mentors; that Home League or other small groups might become a vital base of support and mutual encouragement; that youth activities and child care might ease the burdens of parenthood; that worship that meets people where they are rather than insisting they first become like us might open the doorway to spiritual transformation?
That’s the sort of integrated ministry we would all like to see!