In this last of 3 introductory episodes we sit down with Paul Mac who along with his wife Linda worked among the Ata people in Papua New Guinea (See the Ata Story). We ask the question:
In the process of church planting, how do you go about building a ministry team that will replicate and disciple others to see that the work is passed on?
Simon: Hello and welcome back to Lessons from the Field. Lesson from the Field is a podcast where myself, Simon and Brad over there.
Brad: Hi Simon.
Simon: Hey Brad. We talk about cross-cultural missions. We interview people from the field as the name implies, people who have worked in a cross-cultural context. We also have contacts with church planting consultants, language learning consultants, et cetera.
Brad: Bible translators.
Simon: Bible translators, that’s a good one. And so if you have any tough questions that you want to ask, please by all means, you can visit our website, @lessonsfromthefield.org and you’ll find a little contact page there. You can send us a question, we will send out feelers, we’ll see who will be the best contacts to answer that question for you and we’ll get them on and we’ll answer that question for you. So please send in the questions.
Simon: Now, this is episode three. We’ve been talking in the previous two episodes about laying a foundation for our values and our principles and our goals in longterm missions. We’ve talked about unreached people groups, the greatest resources that are needed. How we just really need people to invest.
Brad: Yeah. We want people.
Simon: Yeah. We need people to invest their lives in seeing churches planted around the world. And we’ve talked about how we need to have a longterm view and that we have to have a picture of God’s goals, otherwise we won’t see any results. If we don’t have any goals, we don’t have principles, we don’t have a strategy, then we’re not going to see anything really happen.
Simon: And so in this episode, we’re going to continue with that theme of laying the foundation of the things we believe. We’ve got Paul [inaudible 00:02:19]. Paul was a cross-cultural worker in Papua New Guinea with his wife for many years and is now a church planting consultant. They travel all over the world. And so we asked him the question, in the process of church planting, how do you go about building a ministry team that will replicate and disciple others to see that the work is passed on?
Paul: From our own experience, my own experience of working with a group in Papua New Guinea, I think we went convinced from the beginning that we weren’t there to be … Even the term missionary has connotations to it. The idea of being there and perhaps a model from the past of we’re going to do everything for people and we’re going to be here indefinitely doing things rather than that to be convinced that what we need to be as a catalyst for doing certain things, getting certain things in place, offering opportunities to people and then seeing them come in. And we used to say this right from the beginning, before they were believers in that place, we told them, we’re not here to become the missionaries for you in the sense of what their view of, they’d seen, in the past, going back further, what missionaries do for people.
Paul: We said, “That’s not our role. We’re simply here to, we’ll teach you God’s word and we’ll help you in other practical areas. We’ll teach your literacy skills, any number of things, but it’s not so that you can sit back and think we’re doing it for you. If this is going to go on, if it’s going to actually be solid and do anything of value, you all going to have to take it on.”
Paul: And we demonstrated that in practical ways right from the beginning in that community. And I could give examples whether that was … Learning to use our radio so they could organize things when we were out, trusting them with money to be paying others, helping them set up a community store that was not ours but theirs, medical work, bringing them in as much as possible. Soon as there was a literacy class we taught … My wife Linda taught them to be the teachers of the literacy program. As soon as we taught God’s word, even before they were believers, some of them became responsible to share that with recordings. And then of course when they were believers to spend a lot of time working with a handful of guys, of families, couples. And they became the core then of the work. And we gradually began to extract ourselves from the upfront involvement. We moved with a team to another community. We worked alongside them, saw them take it on, and then that was shared on with others.
Paul: But I think that was a growing realization for us. And I became aware as time went by that I’d gone still with this view that people who maybe didn’t have the same education or the same background would be limited in what they could take on. And it was a real lesson, sometimes a shock and a growing understanding that when people are properly taught and equipped with the resources of God’s word and discipled as to how to apply that in daily ways, saying and absolutely being convinced that they could do everything in terms of God’s work and in other areas that we could and eventually surpass us because they were from that place and they could relate to their own culture and their own people in ways we never could.
Paul: And we saw that happen in the people group where we worked and saw them take it on to the point where they could say to us, “We hate to see you go, but we’re ready now for you to go because we’re here with God, with His Word, with His Spirit, and we’re actually ready to take it on.” And we’ve seen that last over the last 15 or more years since we were there.
Simon: Wow. Bradwell, I could listen to that story every morning and be inspired by it. And that was just a few minutes. Paul was talking about a lot of things there. What were some of your big takeaways?
Brad: Well, the first thing was like, yeah, I mean, as I was listening to Paul speak and I’ve spoken to Paul quite a few times, but it just came through again, this humility and this heart of Jesus that quickly moving from always doing something for and quickly moving to doing things with. And Paul quickly did that when him and Linda were church planning where they were because they didn’t have any other co-workers with them. Well, and I guess that was the first kind of thought, but then they very quickly realized that their co-coworkers were right there, that it was the people that they were initially reaching out to.
Brad: And I just love the humility there of even now when Paul thinks about that church and the people in that church that he talks about many of those people of having surpassed him and that he sees them really and I think very quickly his peers. They’re just brothers and sisters in Jesus and together our co-workers in God building a community of believers and growing to maturity together and yeah, really tremendous and I really picked that up and love that heart. And knowing Paul and Linda, it’s not surprising that the church grew to maturity because you really do transfer who you are. Right? And so the first thing when thinking about developing anybody, right, seeing anything grow to maturity is first of all, where are you at?
Brad: Where are you at? What are you going to multiply? We multiply the thing that’s been entrusted to us and has been developed in our own life. And when we’re discipling, it’s like, what are you transferring? And I think that’s really important in that we really allow ourselves to being developed, to being discipled or being around the right people. People who are going to, like we talked in our last episode about getting that momentum towards the goal that God wants to achieve wherever we are. And yeah, co-workers with people who will be developed, will be multiplied as the Lord gives you increase. Right?
Simon: Yeah. Paul was talking at the start there about a lot of things that he was not. He was telling the people in Papua New Guinea, “We’re not here to be the missionaries for you forever. We’re not here to lead your church until we die. We’re not here to take over the leadership roles in your community. We’re here to be a catalyst for God to change you.”
Simon: Yeah. And so that’s an important principle of goal that they had in their longterm approach there.
Brad: And I’ll think when we look at a maturing church or a growing community of believers, I like the model that God’s given us in the family. So, I’ve got two young boys. I’ve got a 19 year old boy and a 23 year old boy. I’ve left time and let’s do disciple with my boys.
Brad: But it’s staged, right. And I now see these things happening in my 23 year old boy that I’m very hands off now. And he’s raising his own family and I’m not in there in the midst organizing his own family for him, giving him daily advice on his own family. He’s been raised up, his grown in maturity, he’s now a young married man, he’s discipling his own family now and I’m-
Simon: You’ve taught him to take on the responsibilities.
Brad: Right. And we do that in whatever community. So this is a micro community, right?
Brad: And in the larger community, it’s the same. And I love the pattern of the family that God’s given us and I translate so much of that. Marriage obviously is a beautiful analogy of the church and Jesus, His relationship to the church, but the family and discipleship and sadly there is probably not enough discipleship going on in our families. We’re first people we should disciple, but when we do them right, there’s so much that can be transferred over into discipleship within a community of believers.
Brad: And that’s been really helpful for me.
Simon: One other point I wanted to make, which could be confusing for some people in what Paul said there, if they weren’t listening close enough, he listed a whole bunch of activities that they did, but I wanted to point out that he said, “These are examples of how we implemented these values.” He was not saying that when you go to be a missionary, you have a radio and you teach the locals how to use it, you start up a community store, you start a medical clinic and you train them how to do that. None of that was prescriptive. That was just the things that he needed to do in that context. And they were examples of how he handed the responsibility over to them from the get go. And he was talking about how Linda, when she was teaching literacy, would immediately as soon as possible, get the locals to start, who were good at it, to start teaching the others. And yeah, just wanted to point out that that’s not a list of things missionaries should do.
Brad: But it is a good example of modeling, right?
Brad: So, in these needs that need to be met in living daily life in community with other people, there were these opportunities to model. And as mature Christians who had gone into this community, they were just modeling, they were transferring who they are, that the new creations that Jesus had developed them to be, then they’re modeling that. So whether that’s raising up a medical clinic, whether that’s teaching literacy, whether that’s getting a certain people with certain aptitudes to develop as new literacy teachers, what they were doing is they were modeling how to do things that were then building deeper relationships with people and in that building of relationship, modeling Jesus. And so you have these examples, but they can be great opportunities for modeling our understanding of Christ and what He’s done in our own life and the principles of God’s word that He’s planted in our own life. And we just get to model that right.
Simon: Yeah. And that’s one of the benefits of long-term work, isn’t it?
Simon: These people, they know you, they see your life, you don’t flit in and flit out and they don’t see how you really are. You’re living with them, you’re deeply embedded in their community in a lot of ways and they see how you live. They see how you’re different to them and of course that’s something you have to be careful about, which is something I’m sure we’ll get questions about or we will discuss with other ministry workers about. And yeah, they see a lot of things about you, don’t they?
Brad: And where all the good stuff is that happens in our own lives and it’s no different to any other community of believers. It’s all born out of relationship, right?
Brad: It’s all born out of relationship and deeper communication and deeper trust and deeper love. And when that relationship is there, so much can happen then, right? So much can happen and it takes a long time to get there, especially cross-culturally. Right.
Brad: It takes a long time to get there to that level of relationship. And if we’re playing the long game, it’s a goal to move towards.
Simon: Yeah. Alrighty. Well that’s it for our first three topics, the needs, the goals and a little bit of the outworking of it. How to get the work to like, what am I saying?
Brad: The development of it.
Simon: The development of it. The self replication. The bit where you can stand back and say, “These guys have the gospel, they have the Holy Spirit and they have mature leaders and God can now continue His work in that place.”
Brad: Yeah. There’s this great need.
Brad: I think a lot of us will agree to that, right? There’s this great need, we get that, but then how do we meet the need. It’s going to take a long intentional investment on our behalf of our lives, multiple years. And then we’ve got to, in the process of that longterm commitment, there’s a development that’s going to happen if we are invested properly, if we’re putting principles in place that are properly, there’s going to be this multiplication and this discipleship and development, which we want to see grow into a community of believers that are maturing in Christ, right?
Simon: Yeah. Alrighty. Well, I think that’s it for today. We’ll be continuing this series, so please subscribe at Spotify or iTunes or just check our website regularly. Also, Access Truth has an Instagram page a Facebook page and we’ll be posting the episodes on there as well.
Brad: Yeah, and they can check at Crossfuze too. They got good presence [inaudible 00:17:52].
Simon: Do they? Oh, beautiful. Okay.
Brad: Give us some like.
Simon: Sure. Alrighty. Well, as always, thank you so much for listening. If you have any questions that you’d like us to get answered by some experts in the field, please go to our website, lessonsfromthefield.org and fill in that contact form and let us know. God bless you guys more.
Brad: [inaudible 00:18:11].
Simon: Talk next time.