Mission in African Cultures (MiAC)

Lusaka Justo Mwale Theological Seminary

August 2009

Africa needs to be defined- it is not homogenous at all. Since my experience is mainly from Southern Africa my comments should be read as from Southern Africa perspective or to be more specific South African.  Mission in African cultures should take in account the diversity of African cultures and the wisdom that can come out a group with such divers contexts and cultures.

Last year at the regional meeting in Stellenbosch the following challenges has been distinguished. I will site them but take the liberty to make some comments.

An African definition of Missional Theology should start with the questions/challenges from the African context and history- including the history of the missionary movements and colonization. Newbigin’s questions are important but should be enriched by questions from the African context and history.  Africa is asking questions that other contexts in the project dare not ask and the other way round.

It seems that we have excellent agreement on the level of methodology. In terms of philosophy we have different  (hi)stories.  This should not be an obstacle but an opportunity for us from Africa to tell our own story, in terms of the philosophical, theological and cultural development.


  • Ecclesial trap: The growth of the church in Africa could easily temp us to transform the missional vision of Newbigin and Bosch in an ecclesial growth strategy. We should be aware of our default as a church to be self-referential and self-interest rather than be vulnerable or self-less. (Michael Welker) Mission in African Cultures should be understood in a discerning style of theology that un-ashamingly starts with questions about the Triune God’s mission to the world. Bosch: Mission is not the task of the church but an attribute of God. We therefore needs to start with God every
  • We need to learn to cross boundaries – resent events in Southern Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa etc. around election results, xenophobia, including the Chinese “invasion” and political drama. Practically it means that we as the church need to learn how to follow the Holy Spirit in crossing the boundaries of culture, ethnic groups- the challenge of tribalism, nations, denominations-the ecumenical challenge  We need to understand how to create trust through hospitality.
  • Mission in African Cultures should be understood as a public witness.  It seems to us that the African church  still have a place in public discourse and that we should use and strengthen our witness as a public witness in vulnerability. 
  • Mission to African cultures should address the issues of HIV/Aids. This includes issues of gender, family, patriarchy, and people at risk- women and children.
  • Missional theology in Africa should connect with faith communities living in poverty.  Our hunch is that faith communities living in poverty can teach us a different vision on missional theology.
  • We need to design the research discerning process around the question: “How do we hear one another?”- not only across boundaries but also to faith communities in different local contexts. It should be doable and affordable given the resources available in Africa.
  • This project should enhance new Missional Leadership.  The question of theological training. Does our schools train en equip missional leaders or ministers to maintain the church? Have we neglect the question of missional training?  This is a question that have been with us for more than 20 years. Why can’t we change this. The struggle to be local and global and to keep up with developments internationally.
  • Reflection on the impact of modernity and globalization on Africa
  • Inculturation is an important part or avenue to an African missional thinking and the dominance of western culture imposed on African cultures. Should it not be the re-constructing of an African Theology? The issue of Inculturation is not past- we will always be busy with the issue of culture and gospel, but there are many voices that ask if we should not focus on constructing an African Theology that take in account the public issues of Africa.