How missionaries reflect Christ
- The Apostle Paul said we should "have the same mindset as
- Missionaries must embrace Paul's words about us
"being tranformed into [Christ's] image."
- That image should includes compassion, forgiveness, humility, discernment, intentionality, a
desire to empower others, and servanthood.
Definition of Christlikeness: What qualities in missionaries reflect Jesus Christ so well that
they can be called Christlike?
Gina Pottenger, editor of Engage magazine, asked me to write a series of brief
essays on the characteristics of Christ's earthly ministry that should be reflected in the way we do
world evangelism. Some would say "We can never be like Jesus. He was perfect in every way;
we are not" However, there is that call of Paul in Philippians 2:5, "Have the same mindset as
Christ Jesus." Colossians 1:27 also has that wonderful phrase "Chrst in you."
My wife Barbara, who is a mental health counselor, likes to talk to her clients about God's
declaration in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness." It is a thought
that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where he says we "are being transformed into His
image." It was this concept that led John Allan Knight in 1976 to write a book titled In His
Likeness: God's Plan for a Holy People
So, the question then is, what of God's image should shine through in cross-
cultural missionary activity? What image of God should people see in a missionary fro another
country who has come to serve them? If people are to be missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ, what would that look like? Shouldn't those qualities include compassion, humility,
merciful and forgiving, discernment, servanthood, being proactive and intentional, vision casting,
holistic ministry, a desire to empower others, and a primary focus on transformation?
- Compassion -- Jesus Christ is the greatest example of
someone who lived and ministered with heartfelt compassion.
- Humility -- Jesus's example of humility needs to shape
those involved in cross-cultural missionary ministry.
- Radical transformation -- Jesus kept a focus on the radical
transformation of people's hearts while also meeting other human needs.
- Discernment -- Those in cross-cultural ministry need the gift of
discernment so evident in Jesus' life and offered to believers by the Holy Spirit
- Strategic team builder -- Missionaries should follow the pattern
of both Jesus and Paul of forming discipleship and church-planting teams to carry forward the
work long after expatriate missionaries have been re-deployed elsewhere.
- Holistic in ministry -- If missionaries today want to do ministry
in the name of Jesus Christ, they must approach it in the holistic fashion of our Lord and Savior
by meeting human needs at the same time they are trying to save souls.
- Merciful and forgiving -- Though Jesus is described as our
"judge," He is also pictured as being merciful and forgiving. Missionaries must reflect that side
of our Lord.
- He lived among us -- Cross-cultural missionaries must "move in to
the neighborhood" in the ways that John 1 indicates that Jesus did.
- Casting a vision -- Missionaries would do well to follow Jesus'
example of casting vision.
- Proactive and intentional -- Missionaries, like Jesus,
need to act intentionally so that daily activities contribute to purposefully following a pattern that
fulfills the call of God on their lives.
- The upside-down kingdom: Servants as leaders -- Missionaries
who follow Jesus' model of servant-leadership will foster Christ-ward movements in which Jesus
doers truly reign as Lord and King.
- Empowering others -- Missionaries who follow Christ's model
of leadership will empower people in the same way as Jesus did.
-- Howard Culbertson,
With thanks to my friend Brendon Weaver whose questioning led me to come up with the
list of characteristics that evolved into this series of mini-essays.
In terms of the Kingdom, Jesus set a model pattern: Go, proclaiming the
Kingdom. That's what Matthew said that Jesus himself did (Matthew 4:23 and 9:35). It's
also what Jesus said in Matthew 10:7: "As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of
heaven has come near.'"
These mini-essays on Christlike attitudes and actions that need to be present in
cross-cultural missionary service were published in Engage, a monthly online
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