Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

The voice of a prophet

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Durban, where I’m attending the 4th South African AIDS Conference. Today has been the opening day and we’ve been promised 95 sessions over the next few days that we will be able to choose from to attend.
Today we had the chance to listen to Dr John Hargrove who made a case for much greater availability of ARVs and sooner than at present, where ARVs are only prescribed when a person’s CD4 count is below 200. He also argued that HIV testing should be compulsory.
The next speaker was Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This is the first time that I had had the privilege to hear him speak in person, but it is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. (I was able to get his signature, through a contact, in a book about the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of which he was the chairperson and which was established after Apartheid came to a fall in South Africa.)
I remember that, somewhere in the eighties, I had a conversation with a professor in missiology who was a member of the, then forbidden, African National Congress (ANC). This professor was obviously extremely critical of the National Party which was still ruling South Africa at that time. At one point I asked him whether he would be equally critical of the ANC when they get to take over the government in South Africa. He didn’t really answer me and sadly, I’ve never heard him speak out against the wrongs which the ANC is doing in South Africa.
During the Apartheid years Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out strongly against the National Party, against Apartheid and against all the unrighteousness of the government. What made many people respect him, was that he, with the same voice with which he had criticised the National Party, continued to criticise the ANC government if he felt that they were wrong. And in my understanding, this makes him a true modern day prophet.
I experienced the same feeling today. A week or so ago the South African government refused to issue the Dalai Lama with a visa to visit South Africa with a visa to attend a peace conference. Their excuse is that it would take the focus away from the 2010 world football series which will be hosted in South Africa. (OK, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s what they say!) And today I heard Archbishop Tutu speak to South Africa’s vice-president, who was also present, in which he told her that the government was wrong. Many people will be willing to criticise their country’s leaders. But how many people have the integrity that they can stand up, in front of an audience and reprimand the leaders in their faces? I was deeply touched by this.
Professor David Bosch had been a true modern day prophet. I consider Desmond Tutu to be one as well. But, as with all prophets, the people who need to listen may very well close their ears until it’s too late.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Posted by | AIDS, David Bosch, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Meetings, Mission, Social issues | 1 Comment

Transforming Mission – Chapter 2

The discussion group on David Bosch’s book, Transforming Mission, met earlier this week to discuss chapter 2 of the book. This chapter has as its title Matthew: Mission as Disciple-Making.
About eighteen months ago I posted two articles which I wrote on how I believe we should understand the great commission in Matthew 28: The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (1) and The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (2). What I wrote there was essentially how Bosch explains the Great Commission.
What I would like to concentrate on, after reading chapter 2 of Transforming Mission again, is Bosch’s understanding of discipleship, as it appears in Matthew. Matthew’s understanding of disciple is not the same as Mark and Luke’s understanding of the term. In their case, disciple refers mainly to the twelve followers of Christ, the Apostles. Matthew has a much broader view on what a disciple is. As he describes it, a disciple is any follower of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s time, therefore, there were many more than only twelve disciples. And as history progresses, so the number of disciples kept on growing. The Twelve had modeled their lives unto the life of their Master and when they receive the command to make disciples of other people, the implication is that they have to model to others what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus.
A very interesting phenomenon is Matthew’s use of the word Lord (kurios in Greek.) The only people who address Jesus as Lord, in the Gospel of Matthew, are the disciples and those who suffer and come to Jesus for help. Jesus’ opponents constantly address Him as Teacher or Rabbi. The only time when one of the disciples address Jesus as Rabbi is in the case of Judas Iscariot during the betrayal of Jesus.
In the context of Matthew’s understanding of discipleship, where the Twelve became the prototypes of the disciples who came after them, a disciple would be someone who has accepted that Jesus is Lord and who lives out the teachings of Jesus. Mission, at least as Matthew understands it, can never mean merely accepting Jesus as Saviour. Obviously it means this as well, but disciples are saved for a purpose: not only to go to heaven one day, but to demonstrate the love of God and of Christ in the world in which they live. Becoming a disciple, means, as Bosch puts it (p 82) “… a decisive and irrevocable turning to both God and neighbour” – clearly illustrated in Matthew’s rendering of the Great Commandment.

Friday, March 27, 2009 Posted by | Theology | 1 Comment

Eric Bryant: Peppermint-filled Piñatas (Audio book)

More than a year ago I wrote a review on Eric Bryant’s book: Peppermint-filled piñatas. You can read it here. And then I recently wrote how I’ve now discovered audio books which gives me the chance to listen to books while I’m driving, in this way getting to read a book during time that would otherwise have been wasted. I’ve been wanting to re-read Eric’s book for some time now, but with books almost waist-high next to my bed, all waiting to be read, I realised that this would not happen soon. That is, until I heard that Peppermint-filled piñatas is also available as an audio book which you can purchase and download online. I downloaded the mp3 files, copied them onto five CDs and had them ready in my car in preparation for a long trip I had to undertake this past weekend.
Eric, if you’re reading this: My wife and two of my children travelled with me, but we’ve had a hectic time the past few weeks and my wife asked me whether I would mind if they sleep while I drive. I agreed to that but asked them whether I could listen to this book while they sleep. And in the end, they all remained awake for the greater part of the journey. Not only that, on returning Monday morning, leaving Pretoria just after 4 am, they all complained when I said that I’m going to continue listening to the book while I’m driving, as they actually wanted to sleep and would miss out on the book! Consider this a compliment.
It surprised me how much of the book I could still remember after a year. I think the chapter that spoke the most to me on this round, was Chapter 7, The Untouchables. This is about compassion for the poor and the destitute. By far the majority of people that I know, have a feeling for the poor, but will never reach out to them to do something practical to help them, probably because they lack true compassion. For most of my life I’ve been surrounded by poor people, having grown up in South Africa with its harsh distinction between races. After moving to Swaziland in 1985, the reality of extreme poverty just became all that more clear to me. I definitely had a feeling for the poor and the destitute, but it still took me a long time to develop true compassion for The Untouchables. As I listened to this chapter, I realised how important it is for church leaders to expose their members to this part of reality. But this is not enough. Without a plan to get involved in other people’s lives, it will not be possible to develop true compassion. Without wanting to repeat what I wrote in my earlier review, I can say that this book should be read by church leaders looking for ways to break through their own feelings of prejudice in order to share their love with others different from themselves, so that they can lead their members into doing the same.

Thursday, March 26, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Church, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Vision | Leave a comment

Reaching the unreached: Mission vs Evangelism

Wendi dropped a comment on a recent post of mine, saying: “I’m taking a missions class called Perspectives. There was much discussion about how many (few) missionary efforts go toward clearly unreached people, and how much of our mission efforts and resources go to actually “reached” people, like the Swazi people.”
If our mission efforts should be primarily directed toward unreached people, why should any of us come to a country like Swaziland, 80% Christian already?”
You can read my reply to her here, but I thought the topic was important enough to open it up for more discussion.
I was listening to an international leader in mission, a former director of Operations Mobilisation in South Africa, last night. He mentioned that about 27% of the world still need to be reached and I can fully understand why people would say that our efforts should be directed to these countries rather than to those where Christianity is already strongly established, as is the case with Swaziland. The issue at stake here, as far as I can see, is what we define as “mission”. If mission only refers to “soul-saving”, then the statement would obviously be correct. But when one sees mission as something more than mere soul-saving, then it would be irresponsible to say that our efforts should be directed solely towards the unreached peoples of the world.
I’m unashamedly Evangelical. By that I mean that I believe that all people need to come into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. How it happens is of lesser importance to me. That the relationship exists, is of much greater importance. But this isn’t the Alpha and Omega of mission. David Bosch in his book, Transforming Mission, says on page 10-11: “Mission includes evangelism as one of its essential dimensions, Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in Christ to those who do not believe in him, calling them to repentance and conversion, announcing forgiveness of sins and inviting them to become living members of Christ’s earthly community and to begin a life of service to others in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
When defining “mission”, Bosch quotes P Schütz who described mission as “participation in God’s existence in the world.” He then continues to formulate the implication of this by saying: “In our time, God’s yes to the world reveals itself, to a large extent, in the church’s missionary engagement in respect of the realities of injustice, oppression, poverty, discrimination, and violence. We increasingly find ourselves in a truly apocalyptic situation where the rich get richer and the poor poorer, and where violence and oppression from both the right and the left are escalating. The church-in-mission cannot possibly close its eyes to these realities, since “the pattern of the church in the chaos of our time is political through and through”
When one is confronted by the extreme poverty, the injustice, oppression, the problems of HIV and AIDS, to name but a few, which occurs in countries all over the world, then one realises that those who propagate that the church should focus only, or at least primarily, on the unreached people (implicating that the missionaries should withdraw from the “reached” countries) still do not understand what mission really is.
Shortly after I had finished my theological studies, I was called as chaplain to the South African Defence Force for a compulsory two years of military service. The soldiers, fighting against terrorists entering – what is today known as Namibia – from Angola, used to count the bodies after every battle. (This, by the way, was absolutely gruesome and perhaps one of the reasons why I feel so strongly against war today.) I sometimes feel that many Christians also go into the spiritual battle with the aim of merely counting the souls after every campaign. But this is not what mission is all about. Mission is about proclaiming the kingdom of God (the “reign” of God) all over the world in every place. And wherever God’s kingdom is not being acknowledged, the church has the task to continue with its proclamation, be it in “reached” or “unreached” countries.
Does that make sense?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 Posted by | AIDS, Church, David Bosch, Evangelicals, Evangelism, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Swaziland, Theology, Vision | 17 Comments

Our son was officially ordained last night

I can still remember the day, when my oldest son was in Grade 11 and he came into my office and told me that he feels that God is calling him into full-time ministry. I had two reactions. My verbal reaction was to tell him that I’m happy for his decision, but that he still had a year and a half to finish school and that I wanted him to pray and ask God for absolute confirmation that he was doing the right thing. My unspoken reaction was that God must surely have spoken to him, because I couldn’t think that he would willingly choose the same direction that I had gone. I’m the first one to acknowledge that a mission’s ministry is not easy – especially for the family of the missionary. And this was all that my son had ever experienced.
The following year we were visiting my in-laws and while we were there he announced that he was now 100% sure that God was indeed calling him into full-time ministry. The year after he started the tough course necessary to get the required academic qualifications (a six-year course). Before he left for university I tried to think of something which I could say to him as a word of encouragement. And I told him not to make the same mistake I did. When I started my university training, I had mainly one vision in my mind, which was to finish the course so that I could begin my “real” ministry. Fortunately, I had an active student life, involved in many things and was extremely active in our church’s student ministry. But in spite of this, I was still focussed on the end result. And I told him to use his years at university to learn as much as possible, to use every opportunity that came his way to pick up experience, to attend discussions, to meet people from whom he could learn and to see his years at university not only as a means to reach the end result of going into full-time ministry, but to consider the things happening at university as an end in itself. I don’t know whether this made any difference, but I do know that, what I had wished for, came true for him. Much of his experiences was shared on his blog: My Contemplations
After starting work in a congregation in Pretoria during his fifth year as part-time youth pastor, he spent his final year (which is a practical year which needs to be done in one of a number of approved congregations) in the same congregation, working with two excellent colleagues. And then, at the beginning of this year, the church council decided to call him to become a fully ordained minister at their church. Not only that: The church council decided to call three “candidate-ministers” to their congregation: One focussing on youth (my son), one focussing on children at a children’s home and another focussing on women (the last two both being female). And last night these three were ordained as ministers.
It was a proud moment for us as parents. I know we always say that you don’t need to be in full-time ministry in order to do something for the Lord. But we can’t deny that it is wonderful when God does indeed call someone personally into full-time ministry. And when it is your own son or daughter – then it is a great feeling, both proud and humbling at the same time.

Monday, March 23, 2009 Posted by | Church, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland, Theology | 2 Comments

Inter-cultural Bible Reading

In 2006 a masters student, Adriaan van Klinken, from Amersfoort in the Netherlands spent some time with us in our home as well as with our AIDS ministry in Swaziland. His supervisor at the University of Utrecht and I know each other and when he started working on his MA-thesis with the title “Theologising Life, Even in the Face of Death – A Study on the Reflections of three African Women Theologians, namely B. Haddad, I.A. Phiri and F.L. Moyo, on HIV/AIDS and Gender and its Relationship”, she recommended that he visit us. And so a friendship developed and we still have regular contact through e-mail. What further developed was a relationship between his congregation and my congregation.
Some time ago he told me about a very interesting project done from time to time between different congregations, especially across cultural borders. The idea is that the two congregations come to an agreement on doing some form of Bible Study and then sharing their results with each other, to try and understand the differences in approach to certain parts of Scripture, due to the difference in culture. The request was whether we would consider doing something like this with them. The idea sounded interesting to me and when I asked the people at our church whether they would be interested in doing this, they immediately agreed.
Today the pastor of the congregation in Amersfoort sent me an e-mail to explain in greater depth what they have in mind. In fact, I then found out that there is a website devoted to this topic: http://www.bible4all.org Shortly, how it works is that the two congregations agree on a certain Bible story (rather than dogma) which is read and discussed in both groups. The group leader tries to determine how the group members understand the story in their lives by asking certain key questions, such as:

1. About the story and one’s own life experiences
• What thoughts, memories, and experiences from your own life does the text evoke?
2. About understanding the text
• Does the story contain aspects (positive/negative) you can relate to? If so, which ones?
• What is the story about?
• What does the story tell you?
3. Identifying with the text
• Which person in the story do you identify with?

At the end of the session(s) a report is compiled by someone who had been appointed to take notes during the discussion and this report is then sent to the other congregation. At a following session the congregations will then discuss the other group’s report in an attempt to understand how they see the passage. They will then write down their reactions, positive, negative, questions to try and get a better understanding, etc and send it back to the other congregation who will then discuss the reactions, write down their response and send it back again for further discussion.
I’m extremely excited to be part of this process. I’m used to Bible Study where one will sit down with commentaries, dictionaries, Bible translations ranging from Greek and Hebrew to the most modern English translations, all in an attempt to determine the true meaning of Scripture. This seems to be different. The idea is not, as I understand it, to spend so much time on the exegesis of the passage (although I would think that this will still play some role) but rather to look at the understanding of the group of the passage.
It is obviously always difficult for groups from different cultures to understand each other, but perhaps, by listening to each other through the Word of God, this may just lead to greater understanding of each other’s background, fears, joy and expectations.
I’m looking forward to this and I’ll keep you posted on how things work out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009 Posted by | Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Home-based Caring, Indigenous church, Inter-cultural Bible Reading, Mission, Partnership, Swaziland, Theology | 2 Comments

David Batstone: Not for Sale

While attending the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek in 2008, I had the privilege of listening to Gary Haugan, President and CEO of International Justice Mission. He inspired me to such an extent that, had I been a lawyer, I would probably have resigned from my regular job to join this group in fighting against modern slavery. His book, Just Courage, is a must-read. I wrote a review on this book which you can read here.
Although I love reading, I do find that my time is getting more and more restricted and a book that I would have read in a few days in the past is taking me weeks to finish. When I heard that David Batstone’s book, “Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It” was available in an audio format, I decided to venture on this new road of “reading”. I spend literally hours on the road every week and I decided that I might as well use this “dead” time to listen to someone else reading a book which I wanted to read. I downloaded the audio book from http://christianaudio.com, copied the MP3s to eight CDs and started listening to the book each time that I had to drive somewhere.
David Batstone’s book is not for the squeamish. On more than one occasion I didn’t know whether I wanted to cry or whether I wanted to vomit, when listening to real-life accounts of how people, mostly poor people, are being exploited in various ways. There’s stories of children being kidnapped and used as soldiers in Uganda. There’s stories of families, including four-year old children being used as slaves in rice mills in Asian countries. There’s stories of children abducted and used in the sex trade in various countries, such as Thailand and Cambodia. But there’s also stories of the very same things happening on our doorsteps, with examples from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC.
But there’s also stories of hope. Organisations such as Gary Haugan’s International Justice Mission are discussed at length as well as many individuals who had made it their life vocation, in spite of death threats, to expose the criminals and syndicates involved in human trafficking and to get organisations such as the UN involved in speaking out against it. I was challenged to sign a petition on World Vision’s website to end child soldier use. The challenge was to get 1 million signatures in order to move Congress in the USA to adopt laws prohibiting the use of children as soldiers. When I entered the website I was pleasantly surprised to read: “Good News! Congress has passed the Child Soldier Prevention Act!” Although my signature won’t make a difference in this regard, I did join the cause on Facebook: Not for Sale.
It is said that at least 27 million people worldwide are living in slavery today. It is encouraging to hear how individual Christians, churches and other Christian organisations are also becoming involved in the fight against this crime against humanity.
Batstone’s book is highly recommended – in either regular book form or in audio format. The reader, Lloyd James, by the way, is excellent. I assume that not all audio books would be of the same quality as this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it – in spite of the distressing contents.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Hope, Mission, Mission Sites, Missionary Organisations, Social issues, Theology | 2 Comments

Sharing your faith with an atheist

I’ve just been watching a TV program on the topic of life after death. It’s actually a conservation program on South African TV (50/50 for the South African readers of this blog) and as far as I am concerned, it was pathetic! Three people took part in the debate, one a fairly conservative Christian, the second a professor in natural sciences who is also a confessing atheist and thirdly a theologian from a secular university in South Africa and quite honestly, if I had been ready to be convinced either way tonight, I would have left being even more confused. The first Christian wasn’t convincing in what he said, focussing mainly on the fact, as he understands it, that we fall into a deep sleep after death where we will remain until the second coming of Jesus. The second person, the atheist, maintained that there is no scientific proof for life after death and therefore, when you die, you’re dead! The third person, the theologian, lost me. He said that we have to leave behind archaic terms found in the Bible (words such as “soul”) and we need to look at what the Bible says about life after death in a more modern way. But I’m still not sure how he wants to look at this topic.
What I did wonder about is how one brings the message of salvation through Christ to an atheist. More than fifteen years ago I was in a conversation with an atheist (as I found out later.) The conversation took place in a fairly good spirit, but I realised after more than an hour that we were getting nowhere. Eventually I asked the person if we could try and find some point on which we agree. I suggested that we try and find some point of agreement in the Bible, hoping that, whatever we could agree upon, could lead to a more fruitful discussion on our beliefs. The man responded by saying: “I reject every word of the Bible as lies, from Genesis 1:1 to the last verse in Revelation!” The only thing we could agree upon that evening is that his wife made good coffee.
Thinking back to that evening, I wonder how I would approach such a conversation today. What I realise is that one cannot convince anybody about the advantage of being a Christian, because faith, as I see it, is all about a relationship with God. How do I convince a happily married man that my wife is better than his wife? Being happily married, after all, is all about a relationship. To convince someone that my faith is better than his faith (or lack of it) means that I have to convince him that the relationship within which I find myself is more meaningful than his relationship (or lack of it!) And that’s not easy, unless if that person is already feeling that he’s caught up in a meaningless relationship and looking for something better.
The reality is that I cannot convince an unbeliever that the Bible is the truth. If a person accepts the Bible as truth, I will probably be able to prove to that person that Jesus is the only road to salvation. But what do you do if the person does not accept the Bible? I have become convinced that God called us to be his witnesses, and a witness is someone who speaks about what he or she has personally experienced. If I can witness that Jesus, to me, is a living reality, that I have experienced what it means to know that I am no longer condemned and that I have received everlasting life, to name just a few, then nobody can call me a liar. I am witnessing about my personal relationship with God. And someone may accept this or reject it, but at the very least they will have to admit that, for me, this is the truth. They may consider me stupid or naive, but they cannot claim that what I have personally experienced in my relationship with God is untrue. But to try and convince an atheist that the Bible is the truth, is downright impossible, unless if a miracle happens.
Just as an afterthought: It still beats me how, of all professions, someone who is doing research in natural sciences could be an atheist.

Monday, March 16, 2009 Posted by | Evangelism, Mission | 3 Comments

Collective guilt and Collective salvation

I was preaching in Swaziland today on Romans 5:18: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”
This concept is not easy for people from a Western background to understand. We tend to think much more individualistically about matters. The question which many Westerners struggle with, is how Adam’s single deed of disobedience could influence our lives today. This would seem to be very unfair. We reason that Adam made a choice and had to bear the consequences of his choice. We, however, had nothing to do with Adam’s choice and therefore we cannot bear the consequences of his choice.
Within the Swazi culture (and this is probably true for all indigenous African cultures and I would guess for many cultures in places like South America and Asia as well) this concept makes absolute sense. (And these cultures, by the way, are much closer to the Judean-Greek cultures of Biblical times than our Western, individualistic culture.) In the traditional Swazi culture, one person’s conduct within a clan or a village can indeed influence the lives of every other person within the group. As people are moving away from their rural villages to cities and towns, the feeling of collective responsibility is definitely becoming smaller. But I get the feeling that, when these people return to the rural village where they originate from, even after a long time, that they are immediately seen once again as being part of the group with certain responsibilities which they cannot turn away from.
In these days with the high number of funerals taking place, we often find that someone in a homestead dies. A coffin needs to be bought and food needs to be bought for the people attending the funeral. So a message will be sent to one of the people of the homestead or the village, working somewhere in a city, to bring money in order to pay for the funeral. In our Western way of thinking this makes little sense. It is first and foremost the responsibility of the immediate family to pay for the funeral. But not so in Africa. There everyone is linked to each other and have to take responsibility for each other on a collective basis. And should that person refuse to help, then he or she (but mostly a male) would bring shame upon the family and on the other people within the homestead. And this fear of shame would normally be enough to convince the person to give the money he was asked for.
Seen against this background, it is not so difficult then to explain that we are all linked to Adam and that through his single deed of disobedience, we have all fallen under the curse of sin. But then again, it is also clear that one Person’s good deed could bring blessing to all.
Why then is it still so difficult for people in Africa to accept Christ as Saviour? I’m still struggling with this question. But it might be because a decision to follow Christ as Lord, has certain consequences in a person’s life. Not, in the first place, things like going to church, reading the Bible and praying. But certain moral implications, such as forgiving someone who has wronged you, turning the other cheek, and perhaps most difficult of all, making decisions that may go against the wishes of the clan or the village or the traditional leaders and which may even have the effect that such a person become an outcast – merely because God has a greater authority over the Christian’s life than the local leaders. And although I’m speculating about this, I believe that this has a great influence on people in Africa when they decide whether they will accept Christ as Saviour or not.
Easy to understand the concept. Much more difficult to accept the consequences!

Sunday, March 15, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Evangelism, Mission, Swaziland, Theology | 5 Comments

Transforming Mission – Chapter 1

My oldest son, Cobus, together with some friends, have started a discussion group on David Bosch’s magnum opus, Transforming Mission. To top it, they are extremely privileged to have David’s wife, Annemie, as part of this discussion group. They are meeting from time to time to discuss a specific chapter from the book and then they blog about their findings. You can read more about this exciting venture here. I’ve asked Cobus to allow me (and I assume others would also be welcome) who do not have the privilege to meet with this group but who want to read the book on their own, to take part in this discussion by way of our blogs. So here goes:
Perhaps some personal background may be of interest. The first time I read Transforming Mission was before it was published. I was busy with my doctorate in Missiology and although Prof Bosch was not my promoter, I regularly visited him, sometimes at his office and sometimes at his home, to discuss certain issues with him. He had also done research on the topic of Mission and Eschatology (the theme of my thesis) and often told me about his own findings about this topic as he was busy writing his book. And each time I was there he would print out a few chapters of the manuscript so that I could use it for my own research. (I just find it incredible that he was so unselfish with his academic knowledge!)
Chapter 1 has as its title: Reflections on the New Testament and in this chapter Bosch touches on a number of issues, each of which one can blog about. I’ve decided to concentrate on two paragraphs, from page 28-31, where he writes about the all-inclusiveness of Jesus’ mission as well as His attitude towards the gentiles. I consider this important, mostly because a topic like this can lead to great misunderstanding. In 1988 I was part of a synod where the Bible Study was led by David Bosch and where I, for the first time, heard him speak about this topic. I actually urge you to read more about this remarkable time here.
When speaking about the all-inclusiveness of Jesus’ mission, it may be easy to think that this would mean that anyone, regardless of their faith or relationship with God, is automatically “saved”. This, however, is not what I heard him saying nor how he writes about the topic. Although, what Bosch is saying when he discusses the topic, could be considered as a universal truth, I think it is also important to understand the time-frame within which it was written (although, I am convinced that, had he been alive today, he would still have maintained virtually the same viewpoint.) In 1988, when he discussed the topic in the Bible Study mentioned above, and in the years leading up to the publishing of the book in 1991, South Africa was virtually caught up in a civil war. A state of emergency had been announced in 1985. The effects of the political turmoil was felt even in the church. In the same year the Kairos Document was published, which challenged the church in one paragraph to “demand that the oppressed stand up for their rights and wage a struggle against their oppressors.” In 1986 the Belhar Confession was accepted by a church consisting predominantly of coloured members in which it was stated, amongst other, “that God is on the side of those who suffer physically, those who are poor and those who have had injustice done to them.”
The situation in 1988 was thus one of great tension between the different race groups in South Africa. The Whites had previously considered themselves almost to be “God’s chosen people” (I know I’m generalizing when I say this) and the Blacks and coloured people who had been the victims of great oppression in the past, now started seeing themselves as being on the side of God (while God had obviously chosen against the White people who were seen as the oppressors.)
It was within this situation that David Bosch stood up and announced that God’s love is all-inclusive. Jesus did not only love one group of people, but specifically chose disciples from a variety of groups. And this is how I understand it when Bosch says that Jesus’ mission is all-inclusive. Jesus came for the rich and the poor, for Black and White (and whatever other race group there may be), for tax-collectors and other sinners. No group has the right to claim that Jesus only loves them. Because His love is all-inclusive, anybody who accepts the sacrificial death of Jesus unto salvation, will be saved – even the gentiles, as Bosch explains in the paragraph on pages 29-31.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Book Review, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, David Bosch, Eschatology, Grace, Meetings, Mission, Social issues, Theology | 1 Comment