Bosch’s Spirituality of the Road (p. 1)

Bosch’s Spirituality of the Road (p. 1)

In a mere ninety pages, the great missionary-theologian, David J. Bosch (1929-1992) was able to deliver one of the most powerful commentaries on Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, calling it, “…the best case study in missionary spirituality that has ever been published” (12)[1]. This book flowed from the sessions in the Mennonite Missionary Study Fellowship in the Spring of 1978, but is just as relevant, if not more, almost forty-years later. It was written to address the results of a survey that were given to missionaries about their greatest challenges. Of nine choices the one that came out on top was, “almost every missionary admitted having problems in pursuing a satisfactory devotional life” (10). Among further investigation it was revealed that the definition of spirituality needed to be addressed. There was an ongoing view that devotional life means to, “withdrawal from the world, charging my battery, and then going out into the world” (11). With this view it would seem that how much one is “run down” is in direct proportion to how much time one needs to spend “recharging” their spiritual battery. Bosch identifies the problem as the separation of these two segments of life. He writes, “spirituality…can never be something that can be isolated from the rest of our existence” (13). As one gets more involved in this world, especially that of cross-cultural missions, it should lead to a deepening of our relationship and a greater dependence upon God.

In the book Bosch is, “…hoping to lead away from false kind of spirituality which is content with inwardness alone at the expense of active discipleship lived in the here and now” (7). He develops this theme, addressing the message, character, and weakness of the missionary, revealing that, “Being spiritual means being in Christ, whether we pray or walk or work” (13).

Spirituality and The Message

For the believer actively living out their faith, rejection and opposition are absolutes. The gospel is offensive, but, “Too often the opposition we experience is in no way related to the gospel we purport to proclaim but simply to our own human selves” (27). The problem, says Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, is that, “we practice an “answer theology”” (31). The example given is from an evangelistic campaign in India, which put up posters saying, “Jesus is the answer!” On which, one of the posters a student wrote, “Yes, but what was the question?”

As missionaries, we often practice an “answer theology”. We know what is needed and are there to “solve the problem”. With regards to the spreading of the gospel everywhere, Paul writes in 2 Cor 2:16, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Bosch notes on this, “This is a rhetorical question to which the answer can only be: “Nobody.” Surprisingly, however, there are people who believe that they are worthy and capable of being Christ’s servants. Paul refers to them as “hawkers” (2:17), people “who handle God’s message as if it were cheap merchandise””(30). Are we “hawkers”? Are we selling the gospel as something cheap? Are we interested in our own agenda and not the needs of people? This is the mentality of a “hawker” and the sad case is, this is the mentality of many missionaries. But this may not completely be the missionary’s fault. There is often pressure from “supporters” for a numbers based result and the missionary is “feeling terribly embarrassed when we cannot report tangible results, when miracles do not happen, when the spectacular appears to be completely absent in our work and only the dreariness seems to be in evidence” (31).

The missionary’s responsibility is not in the results as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3, but faithfulness to the message. They are to, “praise the Lord Christ among the peoples of the earth, irrespective of the outcome, even in a situation…hopeless” (36).


[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from: Bosch, David J. A Spirituality of the Road. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001. Print.

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