Original Research

Mission-minded pastoral theology and the notion of God’s power: Maturity through vulnerability

Stéphan van der Watt
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 57, No 1 | a2924 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v57i1.2924 | © 2023 Stéphan van der Watt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 November 2022 | Published: 26 April 2023

About the author(s)

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


This article contributed to constructive missional theology by grappling with the issues of God’s power and Christian maturity. This is important, because we live in a wounded world fraught with injustice, violations of human dignity, and power abuse. Pastors and other caregivers are called to be involved with caring for people to promote more just societies where human dignity flourishes. Such caring practices form a crucial and practical part of the human embodiment of God’s loving mission in our wounded living spaces. The main research question that was addressed, is as follows: How can pastoral theology be directed by a missional understanding of the church so that it can become clear how caring practices embody the missio Dei? Considering this question, this article explicated what kind of theology is appropriate when mission-minded Christian caregivers want to interpret God’s power in a fractured world. The author indicated – through a careful and methodical literature study – that the recovery of a missional, trinitarian understanding of God, offers fresh resources for reconceptualising spiritual formation, focusing on mission as authentic discipleship. While unravelling this article’s main argument, it was deemed of paramount importance to harmonise our ideas about the power of God, because such notions (about God’s power) often dictate how we act within human relationships, which are also replete with power. It was concluded that preference needs to be given to viewing ‘power as love’ (vulnerability) rather than ‘power as force’ (control). Eventually the analysis of relevant literature resources indicated that pastoral care done in congregations, does not merely find its end goal in strengthening believers to grow into maturity in Christ, but also fosters our missional calling as sent disciples of the triune God. In addition, Christian faith maturity was found to be essential if pastoral theology and pastoral care practices – mostly performed by pastors or other caregivers in faith communities – aim to promote justice and human dignity as integral part of the missio Dei.

Contribution: The dearth of consideration for the vital issue of Christian maturity presents a challenge for the field of mission studies, when pastoral theology and care practices engage with views regarding God’s power. The rigorous literature study contributed constructive insights for missional churches that value God’s justice and dignity to all.


power; maturity; vulnerability; missional theology; spiritual formation; pastoral theology; pastoral care; justice

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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