Hoekendijk, Johannes Christiaan (1912-1975)

Dutch missiologist

Johannes Christiaan HoekendijkHoekendijk was born and raised in western Java (Indonesia), where his parents were missionaries until 1925, when the family returned to the Netherlands. He prepared himself for a missionary career in Indonesia and studied theology at the State University of Utrecht. World War II both delayed his plans and had a lasting influence on his later thinking about mission as the confrontation of the kingdom of God and the secular world. Hoekendijk served as missionary consul in Indonesia for one year (1945-1946) and then had to return to the Netherlands because of health problems. He became secretary of the Netherlands Missionary Council (1947-1949) and of the Department of Evangelism of the World Council of Churches (WCC) (1949-1953). He taught at the State University of Utrecht as church professor in practical theology (1953-1959) and as state professor in church history of the twentieth century (1959-1965). In 1965 he was appointed to the chair of World Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he remained until his death. His contributions to the International Missionary Council and the WCC include especially his work on the world mission conference of Willingen (1952) and on the WCC study project “The Missionary Structures of the Congregation” (1961-1966).

Hoekendijk participated in the ecumenical discussions on mission with emphases that have often been labeled radical. Insisting that the church can be no more than a function of God’s work for worldly shalom, he criticized all tendencies toward ecclesiocentrism and toward the elevation of the categories of church and mission over categories of “people” and “nation.” There is a strong eschatological element in this position, and also an effort to take the secular world seriously as the arena where kerygma, koinonia, and diakonia appear as references to the coming kingdom. Although himself critical of emerging forms of liberation theology, Hoekendijk is rightly considered to have been a major influential figure behind post-1970 paradigm changes in missionary thinking.

Libertus A. Hoedemaker, “Hoekendijk, J(ohannes) C(hristiaan) (“Hans”),” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 297.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Hoekendijk, Johannes Christiaan. The Church Inside Out. Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1966. (a collection of earlier essays)

_____. Kerk en Volk in de Duitse Zendingswetenschap. Th.D. Thesis, University of Utrecht, 1948. (edited in German with an added appendix as Kirche und Volk in der Deutschen Missionswissenschaft. Munchen, Chr. Kaiser, 1967.)

_____. Planning for Mission. Edited by Thomas Wieser. New York: U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, 1966. (contributions to the WCC study project on the missionary structures)


Coffele, Gianfranco. Johannes Christiaan Hoekendijk: da una Teologia della Missione ad una Teologia Missionaria. Roma: Universita Gregoriana, 1976.

Hoedemaker, L. A. “The Legacy of J. C. Hoekendijk,” IBMR 19, no. 4 (1995): 166-170.

Van Gurp, Pieter. Kerk en Zending in de Theologie van Johannes Christiaan Hoekendijk. 1989. Haarlem, The Netherlands: AcaMedia, 1989.

A collection of documents related to Hoekendijk’s work is kept at the library of the State Univ. of Utrecht, Netherlands.


“Johannes Christiaan Hoekendijk Image,” Courtesy, Burke Library Archives, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY. All rights reserved.