The late David Jacobus Bosch (1932-1991) was a major voice for mission in the post-colonial world. His most famous work, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission (1991),01_8
was a ground-breaking book that still impacts all who read it. If you do not know David Bosch, or this particular book, you are missing out on learning deeply from one of the truly great voices of our time. Bosch, a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, was originally a supporter of apartheid but his involvement in mission transformed both his thinking and his heart. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident on April 15 1992, at the still productive age of 62. Those who have profited by his work have always wished there had been many years for him to write so much more.

Bosch studied under the famous Oscar Cullman at the University of Basel. There he was encourage to embrace a more open view toward ecumenism. In 1957 he began a decade of church planting for the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. In 1967 he became a professor of mission in the Dutch Reformed Theological school in Transkei, where he established warm ties with both Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders. Because he could no longer embrace apartheid he was isolated within his own faculty. For this reason in 1971 he went to teach at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. In time he was offered an elite chair in missions at Princeton Theological Seminary but turned it down to stay and fight against apartheid in his native country.

All of this lends immense credibility to Bosch's prolific written work, especially his last book. In Transforming Mission Bosch writes: "The gift of the Spirit is the gift of becoming involved in mission, for mission is the direct consequence of the outpouring of the Spirit."

When people experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the first evidence, at least in a community of Spirit-filled believers, is not noise or unusual signs but mission. Noise and signs have their place, but always to advance the mission of Christ. Bosch championed what I call missional-ecumenism in my forthcoming book, Your Church Is Too Small (early 2010). I owe David Bosch a great deal. His work has impacted my life very, very deeply. I urge you to read him too. You will find one insight after another in his deeply biblical theology.

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  1. Sean Nemecek February 2, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I read this book along with Charles VanEngen’s book “God’s Missionary People” for a missions class in seminary. Those too books made that class a paradigm shifting experience.

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