Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

The Church and Its Vocation

Lesslie Newbigin's Missionary Ecclesiology

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase

More Options


Lesslie Newbigin, one of the twentieth century's most important church leaders, offered insights on the church in a pluralistic world that are arguably more relevant now than when first written. This volume presents his ecclesiology to a new generation. Michael Goheen clearly articulates Newbigin's missionary understanding of the church and places it in the context of Newbigin's core theological convictions. Suitable for students as well as church leaders, this book offers readers a better understanding of the mission of the church in the world today. Foreword by N. T. Wright.

Foreword N. T. Wright
1. The Biblical Story as Universal History
2. The Good News of the Kingdom and the Missionary Church
3. The Missionary Church and Its Vocation in the World
4. The Missionary Church and Its Life Together
5. A Missionary Encounter with Culture
6. A Missionary Encounter with Western Culture
7. Lesslie Newbigin's Legacy for Today


"In The Church and Its Vocation Goheen has written a rich and engaging introduction to Newbigin's missionary ecclesiology. He's done so in a way that demonstrates his context and perspective as a missional theologian in his own right. Goheen has soaked in Newbigin's ideas for decades. This book gives us the opportunity to benefit from that long study and to discover the wisdom of Newbigin, a magisterial spiritual visionary of enduring relevance."

Scot Sherman, executive director, Newbigin House of Studies, San Francisco

"Once again, Newbigin is a prophetic voice during a turning point in the history of the church. Newbigin's vision for the church brings fresh direction, vision, and purpose for the church in our increasingly secular world. Newbigin's work is profoundly relevant and an essential read for all who want to regain their passion for the church's mission in the world. Goheen's book masterfully and thoughtfully brings Newbigin's ecclesiology to life for 'such a time as this.' Many books pick up parts of it, missio Dei, public theology, emerging church, etc., but this book places each of these discussions into the context of the whole of Newbigin's vision for the church. Goheen brings together the flow of Newbigin's ecclesiology from several sources, starting in the biblical narrative and rooted in Christology, to highlight the missional purpose of the church for restoration and shalom. Goheen's thorough treatment of key themes enriches current discussions on the direction and purpose of the church in the world. This is a must-read for anyone who wants a fresh, relevant, challenging vision for the church today. The most exciting and thought-provoking book I have read all year!"

A. Sue Russell, professor of mission and contextual studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

"In this important book, Goheen channels his love and deep knowledge of Newbigin into a clear and compelling systematic reflection on the church as missionary. This is a must-read for every missiologist and ecclesiologist and for anyone who has been captivated by Newbigin's generous spirit and powerful intellect. Today's church and the church of the future must be missionary--the gospel demands it, and the world needs it. Leading us through Newbigin's many works, Goheen shows how it is possible."

Steve Bevans, SVD, Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD Professor of Mission and Culture, Catholic Theological Union

"Goheen effectively captures Newbigin as a passionate thinker, communicator, and leader. The fact that Newbigin continues to be read and discussed two decades after his death testifies to the continuing force of his vision, ideas, and convictions. Goheen mines Newbigin's voluminous writings and presents the major themes that comprise his dynamic ecclesiology, which is rooted in his vision of God's mission to the world. The biblical narrative--the election of Israel, the incarnation, Christ's death and resurrection, the commissioning of the disciples to follow Jesus Christ in his mission to the world, living toward the eschaton--invites the participation of all disciples. In each generation the church must discover its vocation, under the Lordship of Christ, as witnesses sent into the world. The many years Goheen has invested in thorough study of the Newbigin literary oeuvre yields rich insights in this book."

Wilbert R. Shenk, senior professor of mission history and contemporary culture, Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies

"Michael Goheen is a superb interpreter of Newbigin. In this inspiring and highly readable book, Goheen invites us to rediscover Newbigin's missional ecclesiology for this generation. This book makes a convincing case that Newbigin's responses to crucial questions--What is the gospel? What must we be as God's people? How should the church encounter Western culture?--speak to the church today more than ever. I appeal to pastors, students, teachers, and local church leaders: read this book! It will shape your understanding of the church's missional vocation in the world."

Dean Flemming, professor of New Testament and mission, MidAmerica Nazarene University

"Goheen's introduction Newbigin's missionary ecclesiology is the resource ministers and churches today need. It is all here: the Bible for the people of God, the gospel in a pluralist society, healthy church structure, biblical church leadership, differentiating mission from missions, the shape of real ministry, and the future hope of the church. A towering theological light in the twentieth century, Newbigin casts a rich theological vision of the church that is biblically rooted, centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, deep, reflective, and immensely practical. Goheen has spent a lifetime learning from Newbigin, and this fruit of his labor is for the good of the church."

Heath A. Thomas, dean, Herschel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry, professor of Old Testament, associate vice president for Church Relations, Oklahoma Baptist University

"There is no theological voice more necessary to today's world than Lesslie Newbigin's. And I can think of no one more able to represent Newbigin to the twenty-first century than Mike Goheen."

Tyler Johnson, leadership team, Redemption Church, Arizona

The Author

  1. Michael W. Goheen

    Michael W. Goheen

    Michael W. Goheen (PhD, University of Utrecht) is professor of missional theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. He is also professor of missional theology and director of theological education at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix. Goheen is...

    Continue reading about Michael W. Goheen


"It is certainly possible to cite more imposing theological figures in the twentieth century than Lesslie Newbigin. However, think it is fair to say that Newbigin deserves a place alongside such diverse names as Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone, all of whom set the agenda for contemporary theology in significant ways. Michael Goheen agrees, and he offers a picture of the breadth and depth of Newbigin's theological vision that supports this claim. . . . Goheen has a remarkable command of Newbigin's published and unpublished work, which allows him to draw out both the explicit and the implicit ecclesiological focus in Newbigin's work. . . . I started reading Newbigin when I was in seminary nearly a decade ago. Since then, I have continued to read and benefit from his writings. Even given this familiarity, Goheen manages to sketch a coherent vision from the themes and tensions in Newbigin's work that sends me back to his book with a fresh set of eyes. Newbigin may have been one of the most influential theological figures of the twentieth century, but it could take the rest of the twenty-first century to fully come to grips with the heritage he has left to the church. Thankfully, we have Michael Goheen to help carry on the task."

Andrew Stout,

Englewood Review of Books