Missiology – What is it?
Missiology is literally the study of missions. In Christian colleges, seminaries, and other formal contexts in which missionary work is studied, the term missiology is used as the title under which Christian cross-cultural activities are categorized. Though a relatively recent term, it is based on the biblical command to take the gospel message to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and remains an important part of the church's work today.
Three important aspects are included within the study of missiology. These include theology (the study of God as revealed in the Bible), anthropology (the study of humanity, including culture and religion), and history. The field of missiology works to effectively communicate biblical information in the context of other cultures through the study of these three areas.
Several key questions are often found in works of missiology. First, there is the important discussion of the destiny of those who have never heard the gospel. God commands believers to reach the unreached, offers the power of His Spirit to do so, offers the wisdom of God's Word, and works through people and situations to bring the gospel to new people. An important biblical example is found in the account of Cornelius (Acts 10), a Roman man who prayed to God and was given a vision to send messengers to have Peter come to his house. As a result, Cornelius and his family heard the gospel and were saved, leading to many new Christians in his area.
Another key area of missiology is the relationship between Christianity and other religions. Other religions offer both connecting points and contrasting points with which missionaries need familiarity and understanding to better communicate the gospel message. For example, polytheistic cultures accept the supernatural, yet believe in many gods and spirits. Muslim cultures believe in one God and highly revere many biblical characters such as Abraham, yet have very different beliefs in other areas. Knowing these differences is important in communicating the gospel.
A third area of importance in missiology is culture. Some cultures, for example, are very formal and include obtaining approval from a village or tribal leader before sharing new information with those in the community. Other areas have strict guidelines about communications between men and women that must be followed. These cultural cues are important to observe to obtain open doors to communicate Christ. In addition, past historical aspects of culture, such as past concerns related to Christian missionaries, are critical to understand.
These and other aspects of missiology offer a wealth of information to those who seek to communicate biblical truth in cross-cultural situations. The more study a person can obtain in this area, the more effective he or she can be in better articulating the good news of Christ to those in different cultural situations.
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