Missio Dei and the Missio Ecclesiae

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:16-20)

David Bosch was a leading figure in the studies of missions. Bosch was a South African minister and missionary. Bosch planted churches, taught theology, mentored missionaries, and shaped the theological vision of many of South Africa’s ministers and theologians. Although he once approved of apartheid, he became a staunch opponent after getting to know black students during his teaching career. His heart and mind were transformed, and he began speaking out against the apartheid system. He even resigning from a university that refused to admit black students. For Bosch, this was an affront to the Gospel and to the very mission of God. Reconciliation was meant for the whole world, not just for whites of Afrikaans speakers.

He is one of the first to discuss the missio Dei, or mission of God. He emphasized that God was at work, and that God chose the church to be his active participants in reconciling the world to himself. Bosch wrote, “Mission is, quite simply, the participation of Christians in the liberating mission of Jesus, wagering on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie. It is the good news of God’s love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world.”

I, Daniel, love Bosch’s quote here. He emphasizes “liberation”: that Jesus came to free us from the far-reaching effects of sin. He calls us to a vision: although our experience tells us that the world seems broken and hopeless, there is hope found in Christ. And it reminds us that it is about God’s love that is revealed in and through us as the church. We are participants in God’s work. We are the incarnation of God’s love. We who are being shaped into the image of Christ are called to share that love in so many ways with the world around us.

Bosch’s words are a wonderful reminder of Paul’s calling for the Corinthians: “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…” It is a wonderful reminder that we are called to be participants in the mission of God. God empowers us to accomplish that mission, and we share the love of God for the sake of the world.

May God continue to guide us and lead us as we seek to participate in his mission of reconciliation.