Jesus proclaimed that the Good News was that the Kingdom of God has come. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). And later, “And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14). For Paul the Gospel was justification by faith (Rom. 3:27-28; cf. Rom. 4:2, 5-6; 5:11; 9:30-32; 10:4-6; 1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 12:9). For him the Gospel was all about Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. He writes in Rom. 1:1-4, “the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”.
So the Good News, the Gospel, was both a message to be proclaimed and the reality of the reign of God to be experienced and demonstrated to others. They are not two activities or experiences that are independent of each other. John Stott and Rene Padilla coined the term integral mission to try and describe both dimensions of the Gospel and their relationship to each other. This is articulated in the Micah Declaration,
“Our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If we ignore the world we betray the Word of God, which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the Word of God, we have nothing to bring to the world.”
So in a world of competing messages and images, the only way the Good News about the living God will be heard is if the verbal message is complemented by demonstrating the love and compassion of Christ. Our vision as the Baptist community in Lebanon and the Middle East is that the local church is able to cross religious, tribal and ethnic boundaries and address the physical and social needs of those who are hurting so that they would understand in a very real way that there is a God who cares and as a result be willing to hear about him.
The Relief and Development Program at LSESD was born out of emergency relief that the various ministries provided to internally displaced persons (IDPs) during the 2006 War. That experience highlighted the opportunity for LSESD to engage in development projects in the country, as was requested by former IDPs after they returned to their communities. The program was created and has since undergone rapid expansion back into the relief realm, responding to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Syria.
Rupen Das, LSESD’s Director for Relief & Community Development