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Paradigm Shifts of Church History Essay

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As described by Bosch in his foreword he talks about the title as ambiguous. “Transforming” can be an adjective used to describe “mission”. Mission can be understood as not the enterprise that transforms reality, but something that is itself being transformed. Let’s now look at the first paradigm shift. 1. Primitive Christianity …. go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

“[2] The great commission has to be taken into account with the rest of Matthew’s gospel where we see the “road” of mission to the gentiles is open. The Mission of Jesus was to breakdown boundaries and to include all, even those who were seen as enemies. God invites all and it is those who respond that are accepted. Early Christian mission was focused only on the Jews. Mission to the gentiles came as a spin-off mission.

Early Christian mission involved the person of Jesus and it was political and revolutionary. The revolutionary aspect was seen in the new relationships it brought among Jews, Greek, free, slave, rich, poor, women etc. The early church had to seal their witness (martyria) with their blood; “Martyrdom and Mission” says Hans von Campenhaussen “belonged together”. [3] 2. The Patristic Period (The Eastern Church) Mission in the Patristic (first fathers) period is thoroughly church centered which means that the church is the aim; the fulfillment of the Gospel, rather than the instrument or means of mission[4].

In Orthodox thinking, mission is the place of liturgy (public worship). A witnessing community is a community of worshippers. Also Orthodox mission is founded on the love of God as seen in John 3:16. The church began to progress too, the apostles and itinerant preachers were replaced by bishops and deacons and later too was the monastic movement (which was the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one’s self to spiritual work). Mission to the non-Roman Asia spread mainly by the Nestorian monastic orders (who emphasized the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus).

In 1054 the great schism took place between the Eastern and Western church. This was the beginning of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Constantine moved the headquarters of the Empire from Rome to Constantinople and the church began to compromise with the state politically. The church became secularised and Salvation was a gradual progress that leads to the divine. 3. The Medieval Roman Catholic Period “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. [5] Where the early church took its missionary text from John 3:16 talking about the love of God, the Roman Catholic Church had the focus of ‘compelling them to come in’. They argued that there was no salvation outside the formal membership of the RC Church. The Roman Empire had become linked to the RC Church. The Catholic Church became extremely influential over the State and loyalty to the state meant being loyal to the church. Islam became increasingly popular in the East leading to the capture of Constantinople in 1453. Pope Alexander VI divided the colonized world into two for mission purposes.

One was under the King of Spain and the other under the King of Portugal. The mission of the church was linked to the mission of the state. They sent Missionaries to the colonized territories. Europe was broadly seen as Christian and therefore no real need for evangelism. The monastic movement may have been the reason was so much authentic Christianity evolved in Europe’s ‘dark ages’. Reformation Period (the Protestant Paradigm) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 6] Martin Luther had a realization that God’s righteousness did not mean God’s punishment and wrath, but his gift of grace and mercy in which anyone could be saved. Bosch noted that the Protestant missionary paradigm tended to vary from various extremes. Bosch shows that although the idea of mission was there among the Protestants, their involvement was limited. This was due to; (a) their primary task was to reform the church; (b) contact with non-Christians was little (c) they were struggling to survive; (d) denial of the monastic orders meant they denied themselves access to important services and (e) their own internal struggles.

Luther’s reformation made little sense of this world, Calvinism in Holland (developed Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith) and Puritanism in England (the Protestant church regarded the Reformation of the Church of England as incomplete and sought to simplify and regulate forms of worship) did. Bosch then refers to Gisbertus Voetius’s threefold model of the theology of mission. He sees these dimensions as; (a) conversion of the Gentiles (b) planting of the church and (c) the glory and manifestation of divine grace (he saw the churches of old and new standing as equal)[7].

Enlightenment Period Mission during this period was diverse and multifaceted than ever before. The change from medieval to enlightenment thinking made the supernatural redundant and the natural attracted more attention. God, the church and the nobles were no longer revered, but nature was. This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [8] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 9] Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. “[10] During this period as you can see from the scriptures above, the main sense of mission was the urgency of the coming of the new millennium.

The modern missionary enterprise has been greatly influenced by the enlightenment’s concept of ecclesiastical and cultural expansion. These were in the church and state. Colonisation and Christianisation went together, and were two sides of the same coin. Later, during the enlightenment the two went onto separate paths, forces of renewal and the second awakening. 6. Ecumenical Period The church turned from being an institution to being the body of Christ with its outlook on mission being revitalized and seen afresh.

Missionary conferences began to emerge as Bosch referring to Gunther; “ecclesiological reflections of missionary conferences from Edinburgh 1910 to Mexico City in 1963”[11]. The ‘Missio Dei” concept first surfaced in 1952 at the Willingen Conference[12]. The idea of God as a missionary God[13]. Mission as stated by Bosch is as follows; meditating salvation; the quest for justice; evangelism; contextualization, liberation, inculturation; common witness; ministry by the holy people of God, witness to people of other living faiths; and as action in hope. Bosch looks at the life of Jesus with what we can learn for mission today.

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