Missiology is the study of mission. A plainer term for it is “mission studies”. It uses all the disciplines of theology (such as biblical studies, history and systematic theology) as well as the social sciences (such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics and economics). Missiology is mission in its more reflective mode, although the two terms overlap a great deal.
Why is the Christian church still on about mission? Isn’t it a bad word?
The church has engaged in mission in many inappropriate ways, and the term “mission” carries a lot of negative baggage, for which the church needs to repent. But Christian faith is intrinsically missionary in that it is based on what it considers to be good news for the world—the news that Jesus Christ has revealed a loving and forgiving God who desires a transformed world of liberation, love, justice and peace. To abandon mission would be to accept the world as it is. Mission, however it is practised, seeks to co-operate with the mission of God for God’s ways to be freely accepted by the world.
Wasn’t mission responsible for countless evils against the Australian indigenous people?
The Australian churches have come to see that they were complicit in invading this continent, dispossessing indigenous people from their land, robbing them of their culture, imposing a rigid Western version of the gospel, denying human rights to indigenous people and removing indigenous children from their parents. Although there were some who spoke out against these things, and although at times the churches offered protection from the worst of the Western invasion, they have by and large repented of mission conducted other than in the way of Jesus Christ. Part of our mission now is to recognise the truth of the past, call for justice, work to overcome deep disadvantage, build partnerships and empower indigenous people to grasp their own future. We still have a great deal to learn from the indigenous people, not least from the way many of them follow Jesus.
How does mission relate to dialogue with other faiths?
Dialogue is respectful, open conversation about things that matter to all partners in the dialogue. So it requires tolerance as well as conviction, openness to being changed as well as willingness to share. Christians differ about how dialogue relates to mission, evangelism and conversion. But most would agree that dialogue is mission in its gentler mode and that, following the way of Jesus, all mission ought to be “dialogical” in the broad sense of the term.