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Mission and Evangelization

God calls us to resistance and solidarity.The language of proclamation runs crossway to the language of time. The world exists in the light of grace. The eyes of the world must be opened to its possibilities As the moon has no light of its own, the church does not exist for itself.

By Eberhard Juengel

[This address at the November 1999 EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany) synod in Leipzig is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.ekd.de/print.php?file=/synode99/referate_juengel.html.]

Dear Synod, Sisters and Brothers!

The theme "mission and evangelization" is a constitutive element of the Christian church. But what is simplest is complex - provoking misunderstanding and giving offense although the feet of those who evangelize should be beautiful feet according to Isa 53,1 and Rom 10,15. A pastoral meditation could do justice to the topic, not an academic lecture. I ask you to meditate with me on the mission and evangelization charged to Christendom. Meditation in the Reformation sense certainly does not mean closing one's eyes and entering in oneself. Rather meditation means looking more closely than usual and becoming more reflective.

Eight steps are involved. First, an embarrassing gap in the teaching of the church should be underlined (I). A misunderstood praxis is then sketched (II). The fact that the world already exists in the light of grace - note well the whole world and not only the church - should be seen as the presupposition of mission and evangelization (III). Terminological problems will be tackled (IV). Opening the eyes of the world to the goal of evangelization and mission is the fifth step (v). Engaging the world in the theological culture of affirmation is the challenge (VI). The addressant of all evangelization and mission is the person and more than the person (VII). Finally, an indire4ct and yet engaging testimony of the gospel should be emphasized alongside the primary direct and immediate evangelization (VIII).


If the church had a beating heart, evangelization and mission would mark the rhythm of its heart and deficits in its missionary activity. Deficiencies would immediately lead to serious irregular heartbeats. The circulation of church life would be hyponic. Therefore whoever is interested in a healthy circulation of church life must also be interested in mission and evangelization. Explicitly missionary work has largely become the specialty of a very concrete style of piety. Nothing against the groups engaged on this field in the past, nothing against real charismatic preachers! Howeve4r something is not right with the heartbeat of the church if mission and evangelization are not the cause of the whole church.

If Christendom could breathe, take in air and breathe out deeply, it would discover that breathing involves two kinds of grace. Both having to breathe in and the ability to breathe out would be experienced as grace without which it could not live. Inhaling the church enters in itself. Exhaling it goers out of itself. The Bible often speaks of God's spirit as the wind or breath of air that can be breathed in and by which the church must be filled to live spiritually. The church must go in itself with this spiritual breath to constantly rebuild itself as church. It does this in its liturgical church services. There it is gathered around God's word and around the table of the Lord and is concentrated in itself. If believers gathered in church service where the gospel is preached purely and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel (CA VII) and if Christians assembled as community only wanted God's spirit imparted by God's word and sacraments (CA V) for themselves, they would suffocate in God's gift. Two kinds of grace exist in breathing. To stay alive, the church must exhale. It must go beyond itself if it wants to remain the church of Jesus Christ. The church cannot exist as the church moved by the spirit of Jesus Christ if it is not also a missionizing and evangelizing church.

Mission and evangelization are indispensable for the Christian church. Where only two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ, these two or three must be intensively and passionately resolved that four or five and more and more persons may soon gather in the name of Jesus Christ. The incredible event from which we originate and which makes us Christians goes beyond us. The greatest modern event is in truth the one who died for all humanity and rose again for humanity's justification. "This incredible event is still underway." [1] A Christian is distinguished from all other persons and from the world in that the Crucified and Resurrected is still underway. This event turning the history of the world must be proclaimed in the entire world.

When something tremendous and exceedingly important occurs in the world that is not at all expected, something that substantially changes the world - so it threatens to fall out of joint - all the world speaks of this, even in our media society. The city and the whole world were witnesses when the supposedly socialist world threatened to fall out of joint ten years ago in Leipzig and the wall fell as a result of these events. Even in the most remote corners of America where I traveled at that time, all the talk was of Leipzig and Berlin. What was a bold dream became true. That was an hour of truth, the truth that makes us free, although new grand delusions immediately appeared. The whole world spoke about this. What is our situation today ten years later?

Today we have long accustomed ourselves to what was once an incredible theme. That revolution has become a foregone conclusion. Only the problematic consequences of that hour of liberating truth still concern us. Nothing is more deadly for a great living truth than adaptation. Has there been a rapid adaptation to the rediscovered gospel, to the pure preaching of the gospel and the celebration of the sacraments according to the gospel? What seduced the classical protestant teaching of the church in Reformation time and afterwards to drawn an inviolable line between the church and the world and define the church so that the existence of the church and its members seemed to be the ultimate goal of God's way? [2] If the New Testament were taken seriously, how could the constitutive gospel of the church and the entire world be ignored? The church existing as the creature of the gospel cannot be an end in itself but must go into the world to proclaim God to the world. Was it adaptation or what it a holy egoism that prompted the church to formulate its self-image under permanent disregard of the world as though "the whole salvation event happening in Jesus Christ and the church formed a self-contained circle, a perfect world for itself mid the very imperfect world"? [3] The self-image of the church fading out the positive relation to the world has something to do with the unfriendliness and unwillingness to mission characterizing the older protestant church, as Karl Barth rightly underscored. [4]

This changed in praxis with the theologically reviled "modern age" after pietism and the Enlightenment prompted Christians to be missionary and evangelizing again. In the teaching of the church, this gap is closing in our day that yawned so glaringly in traditional ecclesiology. The sixth Barmen thesis that the church ought to bring the message of God's free grace to all people still waits for its ecclesiological reception. Perhaps it is this ecclesiological deficiency that threatens to stifle the missionary zeal within the church that breaks out in modern times. Without an analogous theological self-correction, praxis also runs the risk again and again of running aground in the inadequate self-image of the church. This danger always threatens and threatens today. The terms mission and evangelization come under suspicion despite the passionate missionary engagements of modern Christendom and considerable evangelistic activities. Why are they so suspicious - at least in the formerly Christian West? Obviously there is a theological contradiction in missionary praxis, not only a theoretical deficiency in the teaching of the church.


What do mission and evangelization mean? Save yourself, whoever can! The two terms are distorted in a schematicism that promises to transform children of the variegated world into children of light but identifies them as children of darkness, a darkness that is so obscure that the desired transformation of fallen persons into children of light cannot master the broad way to pure light but ends somewhere in the middle between the two extremes in a miserable standardization. This standardization is only seemingly pious. Both terms mission and evangelization are criticized by many non-Christians and by Christians as slogans behind which is a praxis amounting to religious uniformity. Every missionized person has nothing different to say than every other missionized person. Every evangelized person is the same as every other evangelized person as one egg is the same as any other. In the same formulated idioms of the converted person, evangelization and indoctrination threaten to converge and mission for the transformation of the rich individuality of the human self mutates into a stereotyped it. An "it" should come out of the self. A pious but gray it or a grey but pious it should come from a colorful worldly self. Many who only associate something cliché with the words mission and evangelization exclaim the counter-slogan - save yourself, if you can - instead of letting themselves be saved when they scent something like mission and evangelization even only from a distance.

No one can save him- or herself. Deliverance in the Christian sense of the word is human rescue and liberation from God's distance of one's own doing and from the accompanying grand delusions - to a successful life with God, a life that deserves to be called true life. But liberation to true life and human deliverance is an exclusively divine work. Who can save himself? God alone can save. "Nothing is done with our strength. We will soon be lost."

Many regard Christian mission and evangelization as a very problematic affair. I do not know what experiences caused your misgivings. On my side, I have met evang3elizing Christians who are removed from the cliché. Occasionally I cooperated theologically with missionizing and evangelizing and look back on these encounters with great reverence.

But I have also encountered persons who lose their colorfulness in identifying others as children of a dreadful darkness to then transpose them in the rescuing light.

This is the opposite of what was originally intended with the two words mission and evangelization and what was originally meant with these Christian activities. "Every word echoes its origin," Goethe once said. This is also true for the terms mission and evangelization. With the help of biblical texts, we could win back the original meaning and function of the two words. When this succeeds, no uniformity or grey in grey is produced through rightly understood mission and rightly understood evangelization. On the contrary, that glorious play of color arises in which God's grace is reflected. God's grace is varied according to 1 Petr 4,10.

The New Testament itself distinguishes sharply between believers as children of light and non-believers as children of darkness (cf. 1 Thess 5,5; Joh 8,12; 12,36.40; Lk 16,80). Still getting to the bottom of the biblical light imagery is rewarding.


If one goes to the root of biblical light imagery, the razor-sharp opposition between light and darkness appears in a new and strange light. Believers are "children of light" because they are "children of day." Paul intentionally uses both terms as parallel (1 Thess 5,5). He assumes night is fading because a new day, an unending day is coming (cf. Rom 13,12). This day not followed by any night is irrevocably at hand because (as the Gospel of John formulates) "the light of the world" (Joh 8,12; 9,5) comes to us (John 1,9; 12,46): the true light (Joh 1,9), the light that promises to produce life.

This light is now at hand. It makes night fade without human collaboration - as the day ends the night without our cooperation as in the natural rhythm of the world. When the sun rises on the evil and the good, it rises on everyone (cf. Matt 5,45). Jesus Christ is the light shining on all humanity, not only believers according to the testimony of the Gospel of John in strict analogy to the sun rising on all persons, "the true light that enlightens every man" (Joh 1,9).

The sovereign indicative of the gospel is that the whole world exists in the light of God's grace. The not yet "missionized" and "evangelized" is already illumined by the light of life. This light is already there. If the day dawns, it dawns for everyone. The apostle (Rom 10,20) quotes the prophet Isaiah (65,14) to emphasize this sovereign indicative. Yahweh declares: "I have been found by those who do not seek me. I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." ["But of Israel he says, all day have I held out by hands to a disobedient and contrary people" (Rom 10,21)] In Jesus Christ, God speaks to all people, the whole world, even to the so-called "children of darkness." The light of life is there for everyone3. Our evangelizing activity does not first produce the light of life. This activity only points to the light already shining. Certain practices are obviously prohibited to the addressants of evangelization. A missionary hammer is an absurdity. As a petitioner, the apostle Paul turns to the world and appeals to the world in the indicative of the gospel. Whoever pleas does not hammer. Much worldly and spiritual tact is necessary for successful mission.

The imperatives are understandable from this sovereign indicative of the gospel identified with the history of Jesus Christ. These imperatives summon believers to live and be active "as children of light" (Eph 5,8; cf. Rom 13,12; 1 Thess 5,5f). A link brings together this ethical imperative and the sovereign indicative. What deserves to be called mission and evangelization has its theological "Sitz im Leben" in this "link" between that sovereign indicative of the gospel and imperatives challenging our activity.

Believers should simply shine as lights (Phil 2,15). They are "the light of the world" (Matt 5,14). What they are called to proclaim to others is already experienced in their Christian existence. On the other hand, they are claimed by God and stand under his command his imperative. They should expressly proclaim what believers already attest indicatively through their mere existence as believers. According to 1 Petr 2,8, God has made you a "chosen race," a "royal priesthood" and a "holy nation" to "declare the glorious works of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Whoever closes his eyes to this light although directed to it with words abides in darkness, in the darkness of his own making. He remains in darkness only because he wants to remain in it.

Why must what already causes a worldwide sensation be expressly announced? Why must the Christian world be active in a missionary and evangelizing way?

Before answering this question, the terminological problems with the terms mission and evangelization should be addressed.


Both terms mission and evangelization have a biblical origin. Missio means sending. Evangelizing means proclaiming the gospel. Missio happens for the sake of evangelizzesthai. In Greek, the ambassador is called the apostle. The original ambassador, the one sent by God in the world, is Jesus Christ who is also explicitly called apostolos in the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebr 3,10. He did not speak and act in his own name but was sent by God into the world when the time was fulfilled (Gal 4,4). This is strongly emphasized in the Gospel of John (cf. Joh 3,17; 5,38f; 6,29.57; 8,28f and elsewhere). Sent by God, Jesus Christ sends his own in the world (Joh 17,18; 20,21). As the resurrected from the dead, he has original authentic envoys, the apostles. As envoys, they refer back to the one who sent them and represent him with a message. As envoys, they are ambassadors of the gospel.

The evangelizing church continues the apostles' messenger activity. Wherever the gospel is properly proclaimed - wherever there is evangelizing according to scripture since the genesis of the New Testament canon ("pure docitur" - CA VII) - there and only there apostolic succession occurs. In the context of church life, the term mission points to the fact that the church acts as Jesus Christ's legation or embassy authorizing all believers to be active as his ambassadors. The church does not turn to the world in its own name and in its own authority when it makes known the gospel.

In the new usage, evangelization is understood as "the adjustment of the message in the concrete environment of the community" [5]. The evangelized turn to those already reached by the gospel but not yet or no longer convinced, to not yet or no longer believers. Evangelization turns to "non-Christian Christendom." It helps the "awakening" of the "sleeping church" [6]. On the other hand, mission in the new usage means the adjustment of the Christian message to the non-Christian unbelieving pagan world going beyond the more or less Christian environment. The term "inner mission" covers what is called evangelization in the modern usage. Given this vague usage, we should keep alive the original meaning of the term.

A special and very controversial question is whether the apostolate to the Jews clearly attested in the New Testament should be called mission. If one assumes the new usage, the term mission is a very problematic term for the message Christians may not withhold from Jews. The term "Jewish mission" is an unfortunate and useless term because it threatens to parallel the people of Israel with Gentile Christians. The term misunderstands that the God who sent his Son in the world is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The term misunderstands that salvation comes from the Jews (Joh 4,22), that Christians are called out of Gentile nations and that Israel's calling is "irrevocable" (Rom 11,28) and that Christians are grafted on the noble olive tree of Israel as wild offshoots (Rom 1,17f). Only as offshoots can they proclaim the message to Israel that Jesus of Nazareth born from David's lineage was installed as God's Son by his resurrection from the dead (Rom 1,3f). "Christ the Savior is there!" This truth may not be withheld from anyone and must also be announced to Israel. The church emerged out of the testimony of the gospel in Israel. The church would deny its own origin if it hid the gospel from Israel. The apostles recalled that the gospel is Israel's very own truth. The church cannot release itself from this obligation. This is something very different from the attempt by Christians "to obligate Jews to the Christian faith" [6]. The church can only fulfill its apostolic commission in that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11,26). A triumphant church is not the goal of all God's ways. The heavenly polis to which the wandering people of God of Christians are underway means Jerusalem, not Athens, Rome or even Wittenberg. In this polis, there will be neither a Jewish temple nor a Christian church.

We Germans were the worst conceivable ambassadors to Israel. When it was bitterly necessary to cry for the Jews, the church failed to address Israel in the name of Jesus Christ. For the same reason, the inability or incapacity of Christians and churches all over the world is suppressed. That we Germans have to be silent in no way means that the Christian ecumene has nothing to say. The German church only has something to say when it listens to God's word together with Israel.

All evangelization, the evangelizing and missionizing activities of Christians toward the Gentile world, is due to hearing God's word. We must now return to the question why listening must pass into speaking and acting. Why must Christendom be active in a missionary and evangelizing way?


The new reality must be expressly proclaimed because the irrevocably coming day is dawning and the night is fading. The proclamation should end the homemade incapacity of our own making in opening eyes. The pious hymn exaggerates something in saying "Not to see the light of day is the greatest plague." However the unbelieving world is still in love with the night despite the dawn of the day. The world's eyes must be opened for what is coming. Evangelizing means making seeing persons out of the non-seeing. "See what you hear." With this imperative largely forgotten in Protestantism, the earthly Jesus sharpened the worldly-minded for the spiritual sense of his mission. "Take heed what you hear!" (Mk 4,24). In his way, the resurrected Christ has given the same goal to all people. Their eyes should be opened for what happened in his history. To speak with Holderlin, "new clarity" starts from this history. Our ever-more inscrutable world will not simply become problem-free. "Everything is not clear" despite the simple advertising language. Certainly not! However panoramic views arise, unusual views that give orientation, orientation from above for life below. Opening eyes in an evangelizing way is vital for this orientation.

Eyes should be opened with the help of human words - as a mother says to her child: Behold how beautiful! Or look carefully! Or as the poet brings those addressed to contemplation: "Come to the park declared dead and behold... " Language helps the eyes. Therefore the Gospel of Matthew ends (28,19f) with the mission: the mission of the disciples is to open the eyes of all people thro9ugh their words and in this way make them disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those who are already disciples should teach the disciples to hold to everything that Christ commands: what we are to do and not only what God has already done. The eyes of humanity must be first opened . Remembering the Ten Commandments is also part of evangelization. What is commanded to be done is often the most obvious thing in the world. But we do not see or hardly or rarely see what really should go without saying.

Let me add a word on the theological distinctiveness of the mission command of the Resurrected. That the command to missionize is issued by the one who says of himself "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth" makes clear that the mission command is an incredible honor. The one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth is given is not dependent on our human collaboration. He can work immediately "vertically from above." Testifying to other people is a tremendous honor, a distinction of persons. We are recognized as God's co-workers (1 Cor 3,9). What the apostles claim for themselves is true for all Christians according to Luther. We may cooperate with God in attesting and proclaiming salvation although we contribute nothing to our own salvation and can do nothing for our being together with God. "So it pleased God," Luther wrote, "to give the spirit (bringing eternal life) through the word and not without the word. God makes us his co-workers through the word.

Evangelizing means allowing something to be seen with the help of the word, something that is temporally and eternally rewarding to see.

What does one see? The answer is of elementary significance: "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them" (Rev 21,3). God comes together with people and will be together and live together. Church arises where this divine will is carried out and fulfilled. When the church arises, all the world can see that God comes together with all people, is together and lives together. The church is "the place in the world where eyes are opened" [8]. Helping the world distinguished from the church so its eyes are opened about itself is the purpose, function and intention of mission and evangelization, helping the world understand that God wants to come together, be together and live together with the world.

What does one see?


What happens to a human person when that person comes together and lives together with another person?

Now and then it is enough to bring one's desire to another, a very special courting glance that is so deep it goes to the heart of another person. Then a light rises in the center of his or her existence.

Now and then a physical contact entices the confession from another person: "When I look in your eyes, all my sorrow and woe disappears. When I kiss your mouth, I will be completely well."

Often an invitation to bread and wine expresses this affirmation. Eating and drinking is an especially intensive way of living together. This is also true at the edge of "academic life." When life is festive, bread and wine enhance community and the shared life.

One writes a letter and hopes the words will go to the heart like a loving glance. An enticing oral word is often allied with the will and desire for being together and living together.

These worldly occurrences are also analogies for the spiritual events of mission and evangelization. In the New Testament, these occurrences stand for different possibilities with which God shows us his desire to come together, be together and live together in time and eternity with the whole human race and with every individual human person.

God wants this. Believing in Jesus Christ means believing in that person in whom God and the person meet once and for all. God shares our death and we share his life. That is the mystery of faith and as such the innermost part of the church. "The innermost presses irresistibly outwards" [9]. What is already true in the person of Jesus Christ for all persons can and should become reality in the life of every person and therefore must be brought near the whole world. Jesus himself attempted this with a glance though not always with success (as the story of the rich young man shows, cf. Mt 10,21).

However Jesus was more successful when he touched persons to heal them, liberate them from the demons dominating them and showing them through this approach that God's reign is near. Faith can be provoked through such healing contacts as the synoptic healing pericopes demonstrated. There were certainly limits for him in this regard. In his home Nazareth, "he could do no mighty work there" (Mk 6,4f).

Common eating and drinking was very important. Jesus showed God's will to be together with godless persons in an elementary way.

Apostolic letters were written after the Resurrection and Ascension. However the Apostle Paul did not only know letters written with ink. He also described the community missionized by him as a letter readable for all people (2 Cor 3,2f). If the community in its existence is already a letter readable for all people, their existence already has a missionary function.

According to the testimony of the New Testament, the engaging oral word makes a light arise in the human heart that brings the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4,6). This knowledge does not primarily appear through scholarly discourse. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the knowledge of a truth that strikes the conscience where I rediscover my conscience and myself in the conscience. This is always a twofold discovery.

I inevitably discover myself as an I entangled in guilt and grand delusions. "The conscience is always a bad conscience" (Luther). Nothing would be more perverted than giving a bad conscience to a godless person. That cannot be the task of evangelization and mission. Rather knowledge of Jesus Christ is central. That is the knowledge of a truth that makes free (Joh 8,32). When this liberating knowledge strikes the conscience, I discover myself as an I entangled in guild and grand delusions and as an I liberated from all guilt and grand delusions who can only be infinitely thankful for his liberation. Gratitude does not remain silent. If I hear God's loud Yes in the gospel as a very personal liberating yes, a thankful response and prayer occur. In prayer, freedom becomes so urgent and pressing that the I coming together with God and living together with God will also speak with God and say Yes to God. That may also be the point of all missionary and evangelizing activity: helping the addressed I to knowledge of that truth that makes one temporally and eternally free and teaches one to pray.

The liberated I can judge the extent and gravity of guilt entanglements and grand delusions very differently than the captive. In the light of truth, one can first judge the depth of the darkness to which one fell. As a person justified and affirmed by God, I recognize the whole severity of the divine No condemning my sin. Rightly understood, evangelization and mission accentuate this No on the ground of the divine Yes. They produce something like a culture of affirmation whose most elementary expression is prayer.


With the knowledge of truth striking the conscience, I emphasized that the evangelizing and missionizing church attesting the gospel to the world turns and addresses personally the human I so that the heart of every addressed person is cut - to speak with Acts 2,37. The evangelizing solidarity with people is usually exaggerated. Missionary activity cannot simply leap over the personal individual moment.

My thoughts would be totally misunderstood if they were interpreted as Christian individualism. An individualistic narrowing of evangelization and mission is not intended because the I rediscovered in his individual conscience is liberated to the community of believers and does not exist in splendid isolation. With view to the addressants of the Christian testimony to be won for the gospel, the evangelizing speech only takes seriously the individual I when the individual's social and cultural context is taken seriously. In this context, the individual I is usually an I alongside others and an I in a very definite socio-cultural milieu. The proclamation of the Acts of the Apostles that the apostolic speech "cut to the heart" of the addressed is true for a whole group of people whom Peter addressed as representatives of the whole house of Israel (Acts 2,38ff). To address the individual I, evangelization and mission always have a transcending or socio-cultural testimony function to people that is both direct and indirect. A secular dimension addressing the world as world always belongs to its personal dimension addressing persons as virtual Christians and designated members of the church.

This is manifest in the so-called outward mission. This mission also addresses the individual I as a member of his group, his clan, his tribe or his nation... Group-oriented mission has a holistic aspect. One's socio-cultural environment also doubtlessly is part of the wholeness of a person. Jesus' severe demand that one must hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters and even oneself to be his disciple (Lk 14,26) underlines that the gospel brings all plausibilities and past bonds into crisis. A person's relation to himself also comes into an elementary crisis. But crisis does not mean destruction. An I isolated from all social relations never emerges from such a crisis. Jesus' harsh saying corresponding to his rebuff of his own family (Mk 3,33-35) in no way annuls the command to honor father and mother that he often recalled (cf. Mk 7,10; 10,19). Evangelization has to take seriously the private sphere but always transcends that sphere. Evangelization happens in public as public speech that addresses and challenges the public by the gospel. Whoever missionizes has to take seriously that the addressed I exists in an ensemble of social, cultural and political conditions. The missionizing one has to respect the past religious context of the addressed person so a respectful farewell to his past religious context becomes possible. The guiding hermeneutical principle here for the arising problems may be the statement that Paul became a Jew to win Jews for the sake of the gospel and a Gentile to win Gentiles living without the law. "I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9,19-23).

The very commendable mission societies arising with the revival movement of the 19th century often expect people of those other world regions whom they want to missionize to become Europeans. European civilization and evangelization were often conceptually equated in mission work. The theological committee of the 1999 Arnoldshriner conference rightly established this. Criticism of missionary praxis has long been lodged all over the world and with broad negative generalizations threatens to minimize the undeniably positive worldly fruits of that spiritual work. This committee recalled that "the foundations for a modern educational- and health system" were laid in many non-European countries. Many statesmen from once missionized countries are still thankful to mission societies. The visit of high-ranking representatives of African states to East Berlin mission society was taken as a kind of state visit.

This complex problematic of outward mission makes clear what its goal cannot be. Outward mission cannot be spreading its own lifestyle and style of thinking, the church lifestyle and style of thinking or as a church surrogate for foreign policy interests. Church influence and expanding confessional power cannot be uppermost. The missionary call urges community with Jesus Christ. This will always be a concrete confessional church community. However this cannot be understood as a rival of other church communities begrudged of their missionary successes. If it understands itself this way, it is out of place in missionary work. The mission of the future must be economically-oriented or it will not exist any more. New communities arising through mission as missionary subjects in an ecumenical way should be liberated from all bonds making them dependent. In an exaggerated way, the purpose of mission is to make mission itself superfluous through the formation of new persons. [10]


At the end of our meditation on mission and evangelization - that God knows has not probed all dimensions - I would like to point to an undeniably effective indirect way of bringing the gospel to men, women and their children and at the same time of attesting the same gospel to the society in which they exist. This may appear unusual but should not be suppressed...

Indirect evangelization which the ancient church subsumed under the category of praeparatio evangeli should not be scorned.

God's praise belongs in the public world and not only in the church. Church spaces themselves must become part of the worldly public...

The evangelical academies exist in a certain neighborhood to Christian schools. Something like indirect evangelization happens in these academies without any missionary intention...

The first sentence of the German constitution is also an indirect but very impressive recollection of the gospel: "The dignity of the person is inviolable." The article of faith of the justification of the godless says every person, not only every Christian, is a person definitively acknowledged by God whose dignity is inviolable. Whoever violates that dignity attacks God himself. Whoever understands and experiences this dignity experiences something of the gospel even if he does not even know he needs the gospel.

Christian works, everything once described as diakonia, are oriented very differently. We should not really argue every Samaritan act is an indirect attestation of the gospel since helping the needy neighbor is its only intention. The gospel itself can be extremely selfless.

Sunday, the Christian variant of the Sabbath, the day that should recall the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is simply an indirect witness of the creative God justifying his godless creatures. Sunday interrupts the rhythm of our active life constantly intent on performance so we become humans out of performance, astonished humans who rejoice in the unheard-of fact that they live and have not perished. Sunday is the temporal form of the justification message of that gospel that insists we are more than the sum of our deeds and achievements - and obviously more than the sum of our atrocious deeds and sleeps. A church zealous for the protection of Sunday is an evangelizing church and should not be ashamed of this. If God needed the Sabbath to rest from his works, how much more does the world need Sunday!

Last but not least, as a professor of theology I point to the existence of the theological faculties within the university. When these academic institutions remain faithful to their cause, they will also have an indirect evangelizing effect that is engaging in its indirectness. The church academies in the former DDR (East Germany) had this function far more than the state-supported theological faculties. They were intellectual oases in an ideological desert and therefore were very attractive for atheists.

Let me conclude these statements with a remark about my present life context. At the moment I have the privilege of drudging away my theological research as a fellow of a Berlin college. The common meal is one of the obligations of fellows. The theologian sits at table and talks with colleagues of the most different faculties. However hardly a day passes when I am not addressed on my theological existence. My counterpart tells of events or problems that have a hidden or open relation to the truth that I gladly defend as a theologian. I am primarily claimed as a listener. I hardly have to say anything. I ask myself and you respected listeners whether there isn't something like an evangelization through attentive concentrated listening.

All this assumes a speaking church that is not ashamed of the gospel. All indirect evangelization lives from the fact that direct and immediate attestation of the gospel occurs - just as the moon only shines because the sun's light shines. References to indirect evangelization do not divert from the fact that "the true treasure of the church," "the most holy gospel," to quote from Luther's 95 Theses against Indulgences, "must be brought to the public by the church in every conceivable way." For the Evangelical Church in Germany, this means into the German religiously-starved public. The more spiritually poor it is, the more the world has a sacred right and an unconscious but unavoidable claim to the true treasure of the church. German Christendom faces a missionary challenge that can hardly be surpassed.

Accepting this challenge means being strained or overtaxed. Mission is strenuous. Missionary imaginativeness or resourcefulness is needed to open the eyes of the world. The more the church comes out of its own shell in an evangelizing and missionizing way, the better it comes to know itself. Docendo discimus - this is also true for speaking of God in a godless world. Every step in the worldly public makes the church more familiar with its own mystery. So the eyes of the evangelizing church are first opened about itself in the attempt to open the world's eyes. A church bringing its treasure among the people will discover with astonishment how rich it is in truth.

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