This article argues that “missional ecclesiology” in the last decades became a
new mission paradigm for churches in South Africa, especially after the demise of
apartheid. After an overview of the development of a “missio Dei” theology, the
article examines texts from various South African churches in which this terminology
is used. The article concludes with a section which underlines the importance of
missional ecclesiology in the context of the local congregation. Congregations are seen
as “missional”, challenged to be present in local communities as a living witness to
God’s love. Missional ecclesiology has its theological foundation in the “missio Dei”.
In missional ecclesiology, mission is understood as part of the nature of God as well
as the nature of the church. Without mission there is no church. Mission is not a
project, it is existential. However, there are diverse interpretations of “missio Dei”,
“missional ecclesiology” and “mission” itself. As a result, many congregations find it
difficult to identify with missional ecclesiology and enter a process of transformation.
The historical analysis presented here contributes to a better understanding of the
terminology as well as the challenges facing churches in the 21st century.