The second round of conversation on Transforming Mission happened yesterday, and I’m getting more and more impressed (or maybe uncomfortable) with level of conversation happening. Not because it’s intellectually the most challenging conversation imaginable, although it’s definitely inttlectually challenging, not because you have around the table the most knowledge on the theology of David Bosch, or even on Missiology… but because a group of people are being deadly honest about their own journey’s of being Christian in South Africa today, are working with an brilliant and challenging text (Transforming Mission, as well the the books of the Bible being discussed), and are applying it to their own lives first and foremost, before anything else.

Chapter 2 was under discussion, on the Matthean sub-paradigm of early Christian mission. Matthew is known as the discipleship book, known for the sermon on the mount, and the Great Commision. All of this was discussed. I made some comments on Matthew 28 two days ago, and wrote about Bosch’s interpretation of this passage in my dissertation last year:

“In this article Bosch expounds his exegesis of The Gospel According to Matthew, especially chapter 28:18-20, to counter an interpretation which says that this text talks about leading non-Christians to a first commitment to Christ (make disciples), which only then must be followed by a stage of “perfecting” (teaching them to observe) (Bosch 1984:19). As Bosch explains, the teaching is not something which follows making disciples, but qualifies the main verb “make disciples” (Bosch 1984:24). The content of the teaching Bosch summarizes using two words: justice and love (Bosch 1984:26). “In summary then: Jesus has commanded the fulfilling of the Law which is the practice of justice-love. To love the other person means to have compassion for him or her to see that justice is done. Love of neighbour and enemy manifests itself in justice” (Bosch 1984:27). He endorses the words of Waldron Scott who wrote: “One must understand discipleship in order to make disciples, and discipleship is not fully biblical apart from a commitment to social justice…. To be a disciple is to be committed to the King and his Kingdom of just relationships” (Scott in Bosch 1984:28). Of the narrow evangelistic interpretation against which Bosch is writing in this article he then says: “They falsely teach that if individuals have a personal experience of Christ in traditional pietistic terms they will automatically become involved in the changing of society” (Bosch 1984:29).”

From Chapter 4 of David Bosch as Public Theologian

In conclusion: The way we live was of absolute importance to Bosch. We don’t evangelize people into heaven, and then disciple them into a way of life. We live the way of Jesus, the way of love, and make disciples, others who join us in living this way of love.

Others who blogged on chapter 2 of Transforming Mission:

Tom Smith

Joe Reed

Arnau van Wyngaard

Chris Kamalski

Tom Smith 2

Feel free to blog your own thoughts on this chapter, and send me the link. Even if you’re not joining us in conversation.


When the infant Jesus was presented to God in the Jerusalem temple, so Luke tells us, the aged Simeon blessed him and said to Mary, “This child is set … for a sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34). So even the signs that he did erect and the sign that he himself was were ambigious and disputed. It was not possible to convince everybody of the authenticity of Jesus. He ministered in weakness, under a shadow, as it were.  This is, however, how authentic mission always present itself –  in weakness. As Paul says, in defiance of all logic: “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

Bosch (1991:49)

It’s been two years since I told Roger that one thing that I belief the South African emerging conversation can give the world is to really engage the work of David Bosch. This morning we started discussing Transforming Mission. Tom,  ArthurJoeChris, Marina and Annemie joined the discussion. The feel under us was that this discussion was neccesary to root our theology in South Africa again (both for the South Africans and the Americans).

What stood out? First I think was the quote above. Mission in our churches seem to be discussed using battle terminology and metaphors, looking like political rallies, and always in a triumphant tone. Our consumer culture require from us that we use this kind of talk, that we share the amazing success stories. But for Jesus is was grounded in weakness, it ended in the cross. It’s difficult to translate this into our world though… Annemie shared a story of someone from a communist country that they knew that became a Christian, and went to a local Charismatic church years ago, and then reporting that this looked exacty like a communist pollitical rally.

It remains impossible, however, to fit Jesus into a clearly circumscribable framework. Schweizer rightly calls him “the man who fits no formula”

Bosch (1991:47)

This was the other thing that stood out for me. Jesus pointed to a “different way”, we however struggle to interpret this for our day and age. The honesty within the group really stood out here, how we struggle to know what to do within our context.

So, lot’s of questions after this discussion. But it really was a brilliant discussion! Even without the triumphant answers you get the feeling that their is something real in this discussion, a willingness to be challenged on what it really means to live in the way of Jesus in South Africa today.

Other bloggers on Transforming Mission, Chapter 1:

Tom Smith

Chris Kamalski

Joe Reed

Arnau van Wyngaard

(list would probably still grow)

Later today our Transforming Mission reading group will get together for the first discussion. This book heavily infuenced people like Brian Mclaren and Alan Hirsch, among others.

You can find info on today’s reading here. I will be blogging in this later, and some others have indicated that they might blog this as well. If you join us in blogging on the first chapter of Transforming Mission let me know so I can get a list up. There has also been an idea to use a wikispace for commenting on Transforming Mission, creating a kind of shared commentary on Transforming Mission or something… we might just do that as well, will keep you posted.

reading Transforming Mission

February 25, 2009

Arthur asked whether I’d create a space where Transforming Mission, te well-known book by David Bosch, can be discussed, and starting in a few weeks, this will happen. The group will be joined by myself, and maybe one or two other young pastors from our denomination, some friends from TGIF, some friends from Nieucomminuties, and Annemie Bosch, the wife of David Bosch.

Hopefully we’ll start in the week of 9-13 March, although we still need to find a day that would fit everyone, and then get together every second or third week. I’ll be blogging on this as the discussion go on, and invite all who cannot physically join us, to join us in blogging about Transforming Mission. I’ll blog about some updates on what we’ll be reading, and sometimes some info that might be important when reading as well. So here is the first mail I sent out last night:

OK, so now that everyone is back in SA, it might be time to get digging into Transforming Mission.

I suggest we get together during the day, morning or afternoon, rather than evenings. Let me suggest Wednesday mornings, starting on March 11. Let me know if this won’t work for you. I’m happy with doing a weekly thing if everybody is up for it, but maybe getting together every second or third week might be better for those who are already highly committed at other places (which is everyone).

Lesslie Newbigin described Transforming Mission as a Summa Missiologica.

“It has been said that “any missiology can only be done as a footnote to the work of David Bosch” (Bevans & Schroeder 2005:69), making it analogous to the words of Albert the Great which were spoken at the funeral of Thomas Aquinas, that theology after Aquinas will be only a footnote to his work After the death of Bosch, König (1993) described him as probably the greatest theologian ever to come out of South Africa, particularly where scientific theology is concerned.”

I believe that at least three academic fields/qualities come together within Transforming Mission. Bosch as historian, Biblical scholar, and missiologist. It was the combination of these three (at least) that made the writing of this work possible.

For the first discussion, read the Introduction and Chapter 1. The significance of starting in this way shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s not neccesarily obvious. Looking at Jesus and the early church before describing three different “missiologies” from within the New Testament open some windows into the approach Bosch used at other times as well. Of special significance in understanding Bosch (although you might well differ from me in my highlighting of this one aspect above the rest) might be the long quote from Schweizer on page 47. His own words after this quote was: “In all our discussions about Jesus’ mission we should keep this perspective in mind”. Read the chapter, let’s discuss the significance of this.

To attempt and get a grip on the work, I’d suggest you take a look at the three short chapters: Five, Eleven and Thirteen.

The subtitle of the book “Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission”, might have more than one meaning, but one of them would be the fact that Bosch works with paradigm theory, consider a paradigm shift to be under way, and attempts to point a way forward for mission within this emerging paradigm (used long before the emerging church got it’s name). Chapters 5 and 11 comes before and after the description of the different paradigms from the time of Jesus onwards. And would give a picture of underlies the writing of the book.

Proffesor Piet Meiring always talk about chapter 13 as “vintage Bosch”. The student of Bosch become almost frustrated at times, because you struggle to find the voice of Bosch within Transforming Mission. This summary of mission up to the end of the 80’s, foundation for the 90’s onwards, sometimes seem to hide the voice of the author. Chapter 13 provides the reader with a glimpse into Bosch’s vision of what this might mean, captured in only a few pages.

I pray that the reading of this would be much more than a mere intellectual exercise, but that it would be a spiritual journey of discovering the life with Christ which calls us to be part of the mission of God and the church within this world.

Some questions you might consider is to try and see the tensions and similarities between Transforming Mission and your own tradition and thoughts.
The implication for the church of what we are reading.
How this relate to our current context in South Africa.
And make notes where something seem unclear. This is not the easiest book you will ever read.

Looking forward to reading this with you.


So, if you want to blog on the Introduction and Chapter 1 within the next few weeks, that will be a great way of taking part in the conversation. If you do, let me know, and I’ll link to all the posts as we go along.

I was visiting Annemie Bosch, the wife of David Bosch, yesterday to attempt to get some answers to questions I have. It was a deeply spiritual experience, in that it brought to life the theology with which I’ve been struggling for the past few weeks. Although I’ve been gripped by the writings of David Bosch for at least a year now, the conversation with her in a way deepened a personal commitment, a spiritual commitment, to that which I have been thinking about intellectually.

One story really stood out: While she and David Bosch attending a colloquem by Karl Barth, Barth said that “if I was on guard in the war, and my best friend was part of the enemy, and came walking over the bridge, I would shoot him”, to which a young man responded out loud: “No you would not”. Bosch wispered into the ear of Annemie “that man is a Mennonite”… that man was John Howard Yoder.

Bosch became good friends with Yoder, ever since the 1970’s if I remember correctly, and the theology of Yoder made a very deep impression on Bosch. It was not the only impression, and Bosch cannot be called a pure Anabaptist. From the beginning Bosch also had a very deep appreciation of Reformed theology, and found his own ecclesiology somewhere between the two, saying that that the Reformed tradition drew too direct a line between church and world, and the Anabaptists too sharp a distinction.

That was the value of Bosch though, the amazing way in which he could keep the creative tension between different perspective. All through his life the Anabaptist influence remainded, although it is not clearly visible to the reader of Transforming Mission not aware of this, since he later-on stopped using the ‘alternative community’ concept which he borrowed from the Anabaptist tradition. But if aware of this, you will find it in Transforming Mission, and even more clearly in Believing in the Future, where he reacts very positively towards Stanley Hauerwas.

Bosch’s is an approach in creative tension. His vision was that of a distinct community (the concept he used in the place of alternative community when writing Transforming Mission), but without rejecting the insights of Reformed ecclesiology, or even (in his later writings), liberation theology! Bosch could truely be considered a third-way theologian. This is clear in the way in which both Apartheid and Stuggle theologians was highly uncomfortable with him, but also had the greatest respect for him. It is especially clear in the way he interprets Jesus all through his career.

Some of this came from the research on my dissertaion. Will hopefully have  a first draft ready within 24 hours, and then upload it here. I need to print in by middle next week somewhere, but would appreciate any feedback, would obviously appreciate feedback afterwards as well, but I can consider it before printing that would be especially nice:-)

With Scot McKnight, Dan Kimball, and others starting their new network based on the Lausanne Covenent, it might be a good time to again reflect on the thoughts of David Bosch on the Lausanne Covenent. This was written in 1974, so Bosch knew about it, and wrote about it quite a lot. Regarding the current conversation about the term emerging, let’s just say that I don’t think the term is dead, and others are starting to say similar things, and that coming from different sides of the conversation.

I’m not gonna put references into the post, but you can follow his argument by reading Witness to the World and Transforming Mission, and checking the index to see where he is talking about Lausanne, and then his article titled The Scope of Mission publiched in the International Review of Mission, January 1984 (page 17-32). I’ll be spending some time on this in chapter three of my dissertation, which will be published on the wikispace I created for it next week, better references can be found there.

Time and again Bosch critiques the Lausanne Covenant for making evangelism primary and service secondary. This critique will be found from the late 70’s, right through the 80’s into the early 90’s, when Bosch died. Although Bosch admits the advantage of the “evangelism plus social responsibility” approach, he rejects it in the end. Now, on many occasions Bosch took the time to recognize points of Lausanne that he agreed with, but differed when it came to the primacy of evangelism part, which seem to be what is important in the current conversation, since so much of it concerns evangelism.

Interesting is that Bosch, even after knowing that Luke 4, rather than Matthew 28, was becoming the primary mission text, still seem to opt for the Matthew text. But he then points out that Matthew should not be understood within this view of evangelism being primary, but rather within the framework of teaching people justice-love. For Bosch the ultimate mission is the establishment of justice, and he doesn’t believe that if individuals have a personal experience of Chris in traditional pietistic terms they will automatically become involved in the changing of society.

Bosch wasn’t against evangelism. He wrote about it frequently and passionately. But Bosch helps us to put evangelism within a balanced perspective. Maybe all of us, no matter from which side of the emerging conversation we come from, need to again sit down and read what this great thinker of mission have written.

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
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
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