Sunday, November 23, 2008

Transforming Mission, by David Bosch

This is one of the most important books I have ever read, though it was several years ago (2001?). The title itself has a double meaning:
  • "mission" itself transforms people and things, and
  • we as the church need to transform our understanding of the word "mission"
Though bits and pieces will not do the book justice, here are some highlights to ponder nonetheless:

Until the 16th century, the term mission was used exclusively with reference to the doctrine of the Trinity, that is, of the sending of the Son by the Father, and of the Holy Spirit by the Father, and of the Holy Spirit by the Son.

It may . . . be more accurate to refer to the Bible as the Acts of God rather than call it the Word of God.

In the book of Matthew, mission means disciple-making
  • to all "ethne" -- nations.

In the books of Luke and Acts, mission means practicing forgiveness and solidarity with the poor
  • Luke 4:16-21 is the key test
  • to interpret the work of the church as the 'winning of souls' is to make conversion into a final product, which flatly contradicts Luke's understanding of the purpose of mission . . . salvation actually has six dimensions: 1) economic, 2) social, 3) political, 4) physical, 5) psychological, 6) spiritual.

In the writings of Paul, mission is an invitation to join the end times community

  • [The Good News] is the proclamation of a new state of affairs that God has initiated in Christ, one that concerns the nations and all of creation, and that climaxes in the celebration of God's final glory.
  • In Paul's writings, the 'righteousness of God' is to be interpreted as gift to the community, not to the individual, for the individual believer does not exist in isolation (this emerges in the 2 letters to the Corinthians).

Missio Dei (the mission of God):

  • . . . mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God . . . . There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God's love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.
  • Therefore, the church's purpose is service to the Missio Dei, representing God in and over against the world, pointing to God, holding up the God-child before the eyes of the world in a ceaseless celebration . . . .


  • often in the our culture the inculturation process has been so 'successful' that Christianity has become nothing more than the religious dimension of culture -- listening to the church, society hears only the sound of its own music. Our culture has often domesticated the gospel in its own culture while making it unnecessarily foreign to other cultures. In a very real sense, however, the gospel is foreign to every culture. It will always be a sign of contradiction.
  • There is a tendency in Protestantism to stress the vertical relationship between God and the individual in such a way that it is distinct from the horizontal relationship between people; however, the 'vertical line' is also a covenant line with the community.