Thursday, October 11, 2012

Banana Missions Versus Mango Missions

 The “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18ff) is often referred to as the Missio Dei (Mission of God).   For over 200 years the church, principally from the West, has been a faithful instrument of Missio Dei primarily through, another good Latin phrase, missio ad gentes (mission to the nations).  If it were not for the focus on missio ad gentes countries like Korea, Philippines, much of Latin America and most of sub-saharan Africa would no doubt not have the Christian influence it has today.  In many parts of the world mission to the nations is still important, but increasingly, as the Christian population shift moves from north to the majority south, the emphasis of the Great Commission is missio inter gentes, missions among the nations.

I was reminded of the importance of missio inter gentes this past month working with my good friends at TENT India (  I have been partnering with this non-formal program for eight years.  This past month I met a group of Meitei Christians from Manipur.  Though the Gospel has had success among the tribal people in Manipur, the Meitie are the majority population of 1.4 million people.  Only 0.21% of the Meitie claim to be followers of Christ, the majority are Hindus.  As I visited with ten couples at TENT they told me that they believed that there were not more than 15,000 Christians among the Meitie. 

As I listened to the marvelous stories of their conversions, as each one of them are first generation Christians, I was blessed to know that one of my students is now a key leader among the Meitie.  Of course I know that my role in this people movement is extremely small, the faithfulness of this brother as well as the training and support he has received from others far outweighs my contribution.  However the Meitie story is a reinforcement of missio inter gentes.  In restricted access countries like India, China, Bhutan, Laos the old paradigm of missio ad gentes is not viable.  Training nationals to serve among their nation, their ethnic people group really is the future of Missio Dei. 

The contrast of these two approaches, “to” versus “among” is what one has described as the “banana missionary” to that of the “mango missionary.”  The banana is yellow outside but white inside, whereas the mango is yellow both inside and out.  Not sure of the comparative fruit that can be applied to India, the Nuba of South Sudan or to the Mari people of Russia, but the implications are the same.  The role of today’s western missionary is to equip the nationals for ministry among their nation.  Not to start a church.  Not just to equip them for pastoral ministry, but how to take the message of Christ cross-culturally that the Mission Dei is accomplished.