Original Research

Calvin, Bucer and missionary opportunities in times of crises

Stéphan van der Watt
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 55, No 1 | a2761 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v55i1.2761 | © 2021 Stéphan van der Watt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 April 2021 | Published: 27 August 2021

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Stéphan van der Watt, Department of Practical and Missional Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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In this article it is argued that insights gleaned from John Calvin’s and Martin Bucer’s missionary passion and vision are relevant to contemporary missional churches in times of crises. First, Calvin’s manifold personal crises in the 16th-century context were explored historically. Subsequently, modern missiologists and historians’ views were critically engaged to ascertain how we could properly interpret the Reformers’ missionary vision without drawing oversimplified and anachronistic conclusions. The widespread misrepresentations that often downplay the Reformers’ resilient missionary vision were invalidated by explicating their lucid mission-mindedness during their time. It is indicated that much can be learned from their identity and practices as missionary pastors expanding the mission through pastoral care. The current COVID-19 pandemic and its deep impact present the global church with an opportunity to recommit itself to its essential missionary calling. Although Calvin or his colleagues did not create a complete theology of mission, the conclusion was made (through a thorough literature study and primary sources investigation) that their whole theology and Christian life had a missionary core. This challenges churches from a Reformed background today to critically reclaim their tradition and to mould their future missional identity from the roots up, crises and all.

Contribution: The lack of attention to John Calvin and his company of pastors’ mission-minded theology and practice presents a contemporary challenge to the field of mission studies. This article expounded the often overlooked significance of the Reformers’ essentially missionary theology and practice. This was done through a historical investigation, which eventually contributes relevant, contemporary insights from the 16th century to mission studies and missional churches today.


John Calvin; Martin Bucer; crisis; missionary; COVID-19; reformed; missional; doors of opportunity.


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