As the church moves towards its 21st century of existence, it is confronted by challenges it has never known before. Globalization, the rise of different socio-political orders and a growing tendency towards a post-modern understanding of the world are but some of the issues. This changing world demands self-reflection from the church. It has to consider its place, identity and function, thereby giving rise to the exploration of its mission.
In this book, the ecclesiology of Karl Barth is explored. By considering Barth’s understanding of the church’s relationship with different parties such as God, other religions, those outside the Christian faith, the State and its own inner dynamics, the church will be reminded of its missionary function in the world. The church’s relationships are important for they direct the way in which it fits into the world. When it considers that it exists purely because of God’s self-revelation, and that its own existence is an act of faith in response to this divine self-disclosure, it becomes aware of defined parameters within which the church can operate under the banner of mission.
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“I believe Dr Bentley’s book makes a significant and necessary contribution as he brings a fresh and lively perspective to the theology and practise of mission in and through the Church in the pages of this volume. What is particularly useful is the manner in which he has made the complex theology of Professor Karl Barth accessible and vital for the contemporary Church. There has been a recent resurgence of interest in Karl Barth’s theology. This interest has stemmed from many quarters. Among the more notable proponents of Barth’s ecclesiology are Stanley Hauerwas, and there are even traces of Barth’s missiology and ecclesiology in the work more avant-garde Christian thinkers, such as Brian Mclaren. This interest is not surprising when one considers Barth’s critical and significant insights into the relationship between the Church and prevailing culture, the relationship between the Church and the State, and of course the Church and the churches. The importance of these issues seems to be a timeless concern for Christians across the globe.I discovered a wealth of theological and practical insight in the pages of Dr Bentley’s book that has helped me to reflect critically upon my own theology and practise of mission (and ministry in general), as well as the theology and methodology of others. The scholarship that informs the insights in these pages is meticulous, thorough and challenging. I have little doubt that this book will be a significant resource for mission and ministry in and through the Church.”—Rev Dr Dion Forster, Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation (Theology Working Group), Research Associate, Department of New Testament, University of Pretoria, Adjunct Faculty, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.“ Barth’s context could hardly have been more daunting – twentieth century Europe in the iron grip of a godless power that threatened the lives of millions and invaded the very soul of the church itself. Barth was one of the few to stand against the Nazi power. It must never be forgotten that his famous Church Dogmatics is not only a massive, epoch making theological statement, but is a major declaration of the church’s struggle for its identity and mission in that deadly context.Wessel Bentley, as an emerging scholar of Karl Barth’s work, clearly sees the relevance of Barth for our own time and place. Barth’s struggle informs our struggle and strengthens us in the conflict today. For Bentley as for Barth, the church is not a static institution but a dynamic event. Church happens as mission is engaged and faith is generated. There could hardly be a more important message for our time. Our context of conflicting cultures and confusing ideologies urgently needs such a church and such a mission.Dr Bentley is to be highly commended for the diligence and insight of his work. This is an important book for all who take the Christian gospel seriously in this day and age, and who yearn for a church that truly seeks to partner God in God’s mission to our suffering world.”—Rev Dr Neville Richardson, (Chaplain and
Rev. Dr. Wessel Bentley is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He is a part-time lecturer in the Department Systematic Theology and Theological Ethics at the University of South Africa. He is co-editor of several books on Methodism and authored 28 Days of Prayer during Financial Crisis.