That same year however Bosch began studying teaching at the University of Pretoria, where he joined the Student Christian Association and was more exposed to black members of the community. This began a lifelong involvement in Christian mission and he was soon questioning the apartheid system.
What is the end goal of mission with such a motivation? Is it to maintain the white people in South Africa--or is it the foundation of the church of Christ...? Is it to serve South Africa--or to serve God? Is it to hear together the sentimental voice of our own blood--or to hear together the last command of Christ? Have we, by this missionary motive, created a sheep in wolf's clothes--or is it perhaps a wolf in sheep's clothes?1
Isolated from the majority in the Dutch Reformed Church who supported apartheid, Bosch left his college in 1971 to become Professor of Missiology at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, which at the time was South Africa's only interracial university. There he edited its journal "Theologia Evangelica" and continued to write.
He was offered the Chair of Mission and Ecumenics at the elite Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, USA but chose to remain working against apartheid from within South Africa and the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1979 he helped coordinate a gathering of more than 5000 African Christians from every background as a demonstration of the church as an alternative community embodying the Kingdom of God. In 1982 he promoted an open letter to the Dutch Reformed Church, signed by more than 100 pastors and theologians, publicly condemning apartheid and calling on the church to unite with black churches.
Bosch also bridged evangelical and ecumenical divisions in the global church, participating in both the Lausanne Congress and World Evangelical Alliance events, while also serving the World Council of Churches.
He was fluent in Xhosa, Afrikaans, Dutch, German and English, and lectured widely in Europe, Britain, and North America.
He died in an automobile accident on April 15, 1992 in South Africa at the age of 62. His contribution and influence in mission studies globally was immense.
Wilbert R. Shenk writes the following of Bosch in the Foreword to Believing in the Future (pp. ix-x):
David Bosch's tragic death in an automobile accident April 15, 1992, has left all of us who have known him as a friend, colleague, outstanding mission theologian, and church statesman with a sense of inseparable loss. He combined in his life and ministry first-rate scholarship and devoted Christian discipleship. His loyalty to his native land, South Africa, seemed to be intensified precisely by a personal integrity that required that he live out what he understood the gospel to entail. David Bosch knew existentially, and to a degree most of us never reach, what it means to live and work against the stream of culture--to be countercultural. He was the prophet among us. Along with his vast knowledge of the field of biblical studies, theology, church history, and missiology, David Bosch had the rare ability to distill the insight and wisdom to meet the demands of the day. His broad sympathies with all parts of the Christian family and his gifts of communication made him a trusted and respected friend wherever he went.
Bosch wrote more than 150 journal articles and six books, including his magnum opus "Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission" (1991), which was jointly published by the American Society of Missiology and the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America's Orbis Books.
The book was praised as groundbreaking by Hans Küng who called it the first book on mission to implement paradigm theory. Lesslie Newbigin nominated it a new standard calling it "a kind of Summa Missiologica" in reference to Thomas Aquinas' foundational thirteenth century work "Summa Theologiae". It was selected as one of the "Fifteen Outstanding Books of 1991" by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research.
The book surveys paradigms of mission both in the New Testament (reflecting Bosch's careful use of New Testament criticism to trace how mission dynamics shaped scriptural forms and transformations) and through Church history (highlighting that mission has always been shaped for good or ill by its context). He then explores in detail what he sees as an emerging post-modern or post-colonial missionary practice, including one that is ecumenical, evangelical, and a quest for justice and liberation.
Mission is, quite simply, the participation of Christians in the liberating mission of Jesus, wagering on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie. It is good news of God's love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world.2
Our mission has not life of its own: only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission. Not least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone.3
Protestants, in particular, are challenged...with respect to their overly pragmatic mission structures, their tendency to portray mission almost exclusively in verbalist categories, and the absence of missionary spirituality in their churches, which often drastically impoverishes all their commendable efforts in the area of social justice (212).
2Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (1991)
3Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 390.