Missional Resources for Church Leaders - Theology of Mission 

Christian Ministry Resources

Missional Foundations for Church Leaders - THEOLOGY OF MISSION


Part of the Ministry Resource Guide on Missional Church. It discusses perspectives that were important to the first edition of the site, and is now part of the site archive that is not updated past 2012.


Whether we speak of evangelism, social ministry, or overall ministry effectiveness, biblical foundations are important. These foundations should be articulated with the realities of our mission context in mind. In this respect, churches in Westernized cultures face special challenges. The minority status of Christianity has heightened our awareness that we must think of the church’s purpose in missionary terms. Also, the increasing ethnic and religious diversity in our communities forces more interaction between clashing world views and competing truth claims (e.g. Islam).

The recent missional/emergent conversations have brought these concerns to the forefront, using terms such as missional, missio Dei, etc. For those versed in traditional understandings of ministry, these terms are relatively new. But they have been used in the study of missions for decades.

For these and other reasons, it is helpful for ministers to become familiar with missiology, which includes the theology of mission. Missiology, sometimes called the “Mother of Theology” (Bosch, 16), acknowledges that theology, whether in the Old or New Testament, was never birthed in a secluded vacuum that allowed years of reflection. Instead, all teachings of scripture were gestated and delivered in missionary encounters with the world. The Apostle Paul, for example, was not an arm-chair theologian, but a missionary who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote theology to address the “emergency situations” (Bosch) in Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, etc. Christopher Wright expresses it well:

There should be no theology that does not relate to the mission of the church – either by being generated out of the church’s mission or by inspiring and shaping it. And there should be no mission of the church carried on without deep theological roots in the soil of the Bible. No theology without missional impact; no mission without theological foundations. (The Mission of God’s People, 20)

Missiology places us in the lineage of the apostle Paul, who adjusted his approach depending on whether he was speaking to the biblically predisposed Jews in the synagogues of Thessalonica or the philosophically skeptical philosophers in the Areopagus of Athens. It helps us understand how the location of one’s ministry affects the approach. It helps us translate the Christian message most effectively into a specific context.

Missiology usually begins with the theological task of defining mission, then moves to the sociological task of exegeting the culture in which the mission is engaged. This culminates in a plan to contextualize the message of the gospel in that setting so as to maximize the fruit of our efforts. A good discussion on the calling, challenges, and controversies of contextualization occurs in the blog series by Ed Stetzer.

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Theology of Mission – History and Overview - does not provide thorough exposure to missiology, but highlights the potential benefit from two types of missiological resources. First are the overviews of how the church has defined mission historically. A few of these are summarized below:

First Read:

Other Important Works:

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Theology of Mission – Proposals and Formulations - A second type of missiological resource sets forth definitive theologies of mission. While some of these contain historical sections, their greatest value is in articulating a coherent viewpoint of Christian mission. I have divided them according to theological orientation.

Proposals and Formulations - Missio Dei (see definition)

First Reads:

Other Important Works:

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Important Works by Lesslie Newbigin:

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Other Important Works (listed in recommended order):

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Proposals and Formulations – Missional/Resurgent Reformed (see definition)

First Read:

Other Helpful Volumes:

Proposals and Formulations – Missional/Convergent with Conventional (see definition)

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Proposals and Formulations – Missional/Convergent with Attractional (see definition)

Proposals and Formulations – Missionally Responsive/Evangelical (see definition)

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Localized Theologies / Contextualization (in suggested order)

Other Volumes on Missional Context

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Related Ministry Resources

Missional Perspectives for Christian Ministry:

Related Ministry Resources:

See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry:

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