Vincent Donovan on Mission

After starting from scratch in his attempt to bring the gospel to the Masai, Vincent Donovan arrived at the following understanding of what it means to be a missionary: “A missionary is a social martyr, cut off from his roots, his stock, his blood, his land, his background, his culture. He is destined to walk forever a stranger in a strange land. He must be stripped as naked as a human being can be, down to the texture of his being. St. Paul said Christ did not think being God was something to be clung to, but emptied himself taking the form of a slave. He was stripped to the fiber of his being, to the innermost part of his spirit. That is the truest meaning of poverty of spirit. This poverty of spirit is what is called for in a missionary, demanding that he divest himself of his very culture, so that he can be a naked instrument of the gospel to the cultures of the world.”[1]

Being a missionary would seem to be a rather lonely task of continuous self-emptying, yet for Donovan it is primarily the task of a community: “I believe that missionary work is that work undertaken by a gospel oriented community, of transcultural vision, with a special mandate, charism, and responsibility for spreading and carrying that gospel to the nations of the world, with a view of establishing the church of Christ.”[2]

[1] Vincent J. Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered: An Epistle from the Masai, 3rd ed (London: SMC Press, 2001), 158.

[2] Ibid.

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