Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 13 (2016)

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"Look at Us" (Acts 3:4): The Missionary Image and Its Implications

Jean Johnson


At three o’clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were walking to the temple to pray. Equipped with Jesus’s final commission and power from the Holy Spirit, they were walking with their mission in mind—to make disciples.


This particular afternoon, Peter and John encountered a man who had been crippled since birth at the temple gate called Beautiful. The beggar was as much a part of the scenery as the gate itself:


When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. (Acts 3:1–5, NIV)


When the beggar at the temple gate met Peter and John’s stare, he had only one thing on his mind—monetary help. Peter and John were apostles . . . or you could refer to them as missionaries. Their long-­‐ago scenario plays out all over the world today. Missionaries walk about in their host countries, districts, or villages. Residents look at them, expecting something. But what? How have their previous encounters with missionaries unfolded? What have they heard from others about missionaries? More importantly, what images do local people hold about missionaries and Christians from abroad, and what are the implications of those images?


The image on a person’s mind when face-­‐to-­‐face with missionaries and visiting Christians is important. That image, whether formed by Christians or non-­‐Christians, will have implications for better or for worse.


In this paper, I will share what I think the “missionary images for the worse” are these days. More specifically, I address the images that missionaries project and thus the images people hold about missionaries from three perspectives: 1) seekers in a cross-­‐cultural context, 2) resisters in a cross-­‐cultural context, and 3) millennials in the North American context,[1] who are the next generation of missionaries.


As I expound on these three perspectives, some of the key implications will become obvious. Finally, I will make some suggestions as to how we might recreate the missionary image to align more intentionally with Jesus and the disciples—for they were quite successful in their efforts to make obedient disciples.

[1] In the case of millennials, I will be writing strictly from my personal experience of direct interaction with millennials in North America. I cannot speak of millennials in places such as the UK. When I use the term millennials, I am referring to the younger generation who are preparing to serve overseas.