The missio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae (Bosch 1991:370)

June 22, 2008

Probably the worst title for a post that I’ve ever chosen. It’s from David Bosch’s magnus opumTransforming Mission. This is the largest synchroblog I’ve ever taken part in. The topic: missional. There is some fine names on the list of people who will contribute today, you can find them at the bottom. I believe you will find some good definitions on the term, so I’ll leave that to others. The question I would rather like to ask is: “Why the missional church?”.

The missio Deihas become an ever more popular topic over the past years. Also in emerging circles, which interest me very much, it’s very popular. Sometimes I find that Bosch seem to be credited for this concept. I’m not exactly sure why. Alan Hirsch called it Bosch’s greatest gift to us, and Nelus Nimandt in a recent article said that emerging churches has learned greatly from Bosch’s thoughts on the missio Dei. I might not be the Bosch expert, so maybe I’m missing something, but as far as I can see Bosch is simply giving an overview of how the concept has developed since 1932 onwards. At a few points one do however find some comments…

First, let me give an overview of the missio Dei.The classical view of the missio Dei says that God is a sending God. God the Father sends the Son, and God the Father and the Son sends the Holy Spirit. This become important for mission when to this is added another “movement”: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sends the church into the world. The church then change form being on a mission, to being an instrument in God’s mission. And from this our title: The missio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae. The sending God is the motivation for the missionary activities of the church. To use the words of the synchroblog: The missional church is not the church that send other on a mission, but it is the church that was sent by God.

We could have stopped the post here, but some questions remain, and Bosch doesn’t stop his exposition here. The missio Deithen developed to embrace both church and world. The world become the focus of God’s mission and the church is privileged to participate. A radicalized version of this started suggesting that the missio Dei actually excluded the church.

Well, Bosch so make some comments. And these help us to understand his own views. Apparently Bosch also thought that maybe the missio Deihas lost it’s usefulness because it has become so wide that it can be used by people who subscribe to mutually exclusive theological positions. But still he found the value of this in that it helps us to remember that neither church nor human is the author of mission. In his own words: “God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission.

In our denomination I have heard people talking about participation in God’s mission a lot lately. This is a phrase which Bosch used in his writing about the missio Dei. However, it has found a strange pragmatized meaning which I’m a bit uncomfortable with, and also which I don’t find in Bosch (I’m open for correction on this one, but I’m pretty sure). When talking about participating with God where God is working in the world, people are then told that we should go and search where God is already at work in our community, and participate. There might be some good intentions, and also theological truth in recognizing that God is working wider than the church, but it leave us with some questions:

  • Is God then not working at some places?
  • How would we know when we have found God where God is working?
  • Isn’t it possible that God might be working exactly when we start doing something?

This pragmatic understanding of the mission Dei seem to remind me of what Bosch wrote about a radicalized understanding, where the missio Dei exclude the church’s involvement, where we should be very glad if ever we are allowed to participate.

OK, I haven’t done so much metaphysical speculation in a very long time, Trinity, the character of God… not at all my style. So let me make some final remarks… but first, a last quote from Bosch:

“During the past half century of so there has been a subtle but nevertheless decisive shift towards understanding mission as God‘s mission. During preceding centuries mission was understood in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was interpreted primarily in soteriological terms: as saving individuals from eternal damnation. Or it was understood in cultural terms: as introducing people from the East and South to the blessings and privileges of the Christian West. Often it was perceived in ecclesiastical categories: as the expansion of the church (or of a specific denomination). Sometimes is was defined salvation historically: as the process by which the world – evolutionary or by means of a cataclysmic event – would be transformed into the kingdom of God”

The missio Dei remind us of why we talk about missional.

And now Bosch is quite and Cobus is talking. Although answering the why question obviously influence the whatpart, the missio Dei do not provide the blueprint of what I should do tomorrow. I get highly uncomfortable when some claim to be part of God’s mission in contrast to others. I get highly uncomfortable when what we say imply that we might forget about some people who suffer, because we haven’t found God working there yet.

Themissio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae. This is why we are missional. Here we are, we cannot with a clear conscience do anything else…

I’ll be walking with lions, literally, the next few days. So feel free to comment, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be having signal, so might only join in again after Thursday. If you’ve read through all this… thank you!

Other synchrobloggers on the missional topic today:

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Arnau van Wyngaard
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
DoSi
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Grace
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner 

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14 Responses to “The missio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae (Bosch 1991:370)”


  1. […] Kinnon Brad Brisco Brad Grinnen Brad Sargent Brother Maynard Bryan Riley Chad Brooks Chris Wignall Cobus Van Wyngaard Dave DeVries David Best David Fitch David Wierzbicki DoSi Doug Jones Duncan McFadzean Erika Haub […]

  2. Brett Marko Says:

    I sometimes wonder if by our using the word “missional” if we are just attempting to categorize the role of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. I think to Rick Warren’s runaway classic, “The Purpose Driven Life”. He boiled down Christianity to five basic purposes. I do not discount this work as it was pivotal in my own spiritual growth in helping understand how God was working in my life at the time. But in the book he mentions that “ministry” is how we serve the corporate body of the church and that “mission” is how we serve the world around us.

    Yet when I read your piece, other pieces on this and I look at the research I am doing on my book. Couldn’t we say that being missional boils down to one word: Relationship. That’s what grace really is. God extending his relationship to us. If our focus is on being in relationship then the natural focus must move from us to those we are in relationship with. You can serve yourself and others at the same time. If we ask who should we be in relationship to, Jesus gives us a significant examples of this in the Good Samaritan Parable and the Sheep and the Goats Parable. The thought of those asking “but when did we see you hungry?” and Jesus’ response shows us what people are trying to “define” by using the word missional.
    They are attempting to define is where and how we enter into relationship.

    If we are in true relationship to God, then we will naturally follow where his Spirit leads us regardless of where it leads. I like how Henri Nouwen says it in his book “Way of the Heart”. “we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgement because judgement creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.”

    So in the end, everything centers around being in relationship with God and with others. It that from which everything else if based (at least in my opinion).

    So living my life, I follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the Good News at all times, and if necessary use words.”

  3. Makeesha Says:

    I guess I don’t see where it’s an either-or. *I’m* finding where God is at work in *my* sphere. That doesn’t mean he’s not at work anywhere else. God is at work all over the place all around me in my town, but I am not to find every single thing he’s doing and do that too. I guess I’m not understanding where the conflict is


  4. […] Kinnon Brad Brisco Brad Grinnen Brad Sargent Brother Maynard Bryan Riley Chad Brooks Chris Wignall Cobus Van Wyngaard Dave DeVries David Best David Fitch David Wierzbicki DoSi Doug Jones Duncan McFadzean Erika Haub […]


  5. […] Cobus Van Wyngaard weighs in by invoking David Bosch’s Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission right in the post title. This is one of the keystone works for understanding missional, so it’s good that somebody brought it into the fray. Leaving the definition to others, he chose to explore the question, “Why the missional church?” Although often credited with the term missio Dei, he writes that “Bosch is simply giving an overview of how the concept has developed since 1932 onwards.” The classical view of the missio Dei says that God is a sending God. God the Father sends the Son, and God the Father and the Son sends the Holy Spirit. This become important for mission when to this is added another “movement”: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sends the church into the world. The church then change form being on a mission, to being an instrument in God’s mission. And from this our title: The missio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae. The sending God is the motivation for the missionary activities of the church. To use the words of the synchroblog: The missional church is not the church that send other on a mission, but it is the church that was sent by God. […]


  6. […] neither church nor human is the author of mission.  –  Cobus van Wyngaard […]

  7. cobus Says:

    Makeesha, what bothers me is when people also find where God is NOT working. Can we really pass by one need onto another giving as reason that we found God working at the other?

    Brett, I agree with the relationship thing. We seem to be in a constant balancing act between finding the one word onto which something boils down, and explaining things with complex words because some seem to misunderstand the way we use a word or concept (exactly what happened with Missio Dei).

    Thanx for everyone who wrote about what I wrote. Sorry, haven’t commented on anyone else’s post yet, only got back onto the internet right now after some camps.

  8. Makeesha Says:

    yes, I think we can. I can recognize that God is at work all over the place and then choose where he wants me to be. We can’t do it all. I can recognize that God is at work through the nuns at the homeless kitchen and choose to work with the volunteers at the HIV testing and education organization. I have never heard someone suggest that “God is at work here because i’m here but he’s not at work over there”

  9. Cobus Says:

    Makeesha
    I’ve been trying to find the voice of Bosch in this. If this pragmatized understanding of the Missio Dei is to be found in his work please let me know.
    As I understand his work, this is a theological concept, I can’t go around saying that ‘this’ is the Missio Dei and that is it not.
    In our context this seem to be used to motivate rather linking up with already existing (many time especially non-church) projects, since God is at work outside the church, and this is suposed to be the Missio Dei we are supposed to be part of. In Bosch I find a lot less of this, and rather find the theological motivation for missions i the church.
    Obviously God call us to different projects, but the specific project I’m called to cannot be traced to the Missio Dei, as if this is some list of things.

    I’m not against people choosing where they feel God call them, I’m just uncomfortable with a pragmatic interpretation of the Missio Dei. Help me where I’m not coming out clearly.


  10. […] knowing that God is in any case working in the world, whether we are doing something or not. Now, I have some thoughts on the Missio Dei, but decided not to take part. I have my doubts whether we can say this, when I read the gospels […]

  11. Kent Says:

    I thought you might be interested in a digital collection of books on missional theology from Paternoster. They’re currently avialable for pre-order from Logos Bible Software: Paternoster Missional Theology Collection (16 Vols.)


  12. […] Kinnon Brad Brisco Brad Grinnen Brad Sargent Brother Maynard Bryan Riley Chad Brooks Chris Wignall Cobus Van Wyngaard Dave DeVries David Best David Fitch David Wierzbicki DoSi Doug Jones Duncan McFadzean Erika Haub […]


  13. […] Missional Soup Chad Brooks: Being Missional in Central Ky Chris Wignall: What is Missional? Cobus Van Wyngaard: The missio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae (Bosch 1991:370) David Best: Missional Defination in Art and Scripture David Fitch: Can a Mega Church Be Missional? […]


  14. […] Missional Soup Chad Brooks: Being Missional in Central Ky Chris Wignall: What is Missional? Cobus Van Wyngaard: The missio Dei institutes the missiones ecclesiae (Bosch 1991:370) David Best: Missional Defination in Art and Scripture David Fitch: Can a Mega Church Be Missional? […]


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