Why is missiology significant?

“Missiology … what is that?”

A reaction I have not infrequently experienced when telling people about what I have been or am studying. My Dad, for some time after I graduated with my Master’s, regularly needed reminding “What is that degree again?” (Eventually, I answered by giving him a framed copy of my diploma). Somehow “Intercultural Studies” doesn’t communicate or stay well in the memory and “Missiology” doesn’t fare much better.

So what are they all about and why might they be significant or relevant to life today? Here’s Ten Reasons why I believe missiology is significant in the twenty-first century.

  1. Faith is big in the world today and won’t be going away any time soon (read: ever).
  2. We need to understand faith, not ignore it, nor imagine it can be eradicated.
  3. The discipline of Missiology involves a continual, critical reflection upon the practical realities of faith, religion and human culture.
  4. Missiology brings practical allegiance combined with critical thinking to bear upon the practises and theory of Christian mission, with a view to constructive improvement – i.e. greater faithfulness – rather than detached theorising or destructive criticism.
  5. Missiology is principally concerned with praxis – how faith is practised – and is interested in theory only in as much as it directly informs praxis.
  6. Missiology is informed by biblical and systematic theology but not subordinated to it. Dry, academic, sterile theology is rejected by missiology as irrelevant.
  7. Missiology insists that all people and peoples are important to the One who created them. Consequently, missiology promotes respect and appreciation for ethnic cultures, whilst also refusing to idolize any particular culture or cultural practise.
  8. Having emerged as a discipline during the period following the rejection and overturning of Western Colonialism, missiology refutes any innate superiority assumed or ascribed to Western culture.
  9. Missiology is located firmly within the Christian tradition, yet is a promoter of critical reflection upon action, rather than a defender of denominational doctrinal formulations.
  10. For these reasons, and this latter one in particular, missiology seeks to present both a critical plumb-line of faithfulness-in-practice and a vibrant hope-filled encouragement-towards-engagement with a world in great need of messianic faith, hope and love.

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