In episode 6 of Lessons from the Field we talk with Todd Gerst, a church planter and Bible translator who worked in Papua New Guinea (See the video His Gift to Gie). He and his wife Karen spent 15 years working in PNG and seeing several churches established, elders appointed, and the fruit of new birth apparent in countless lives. Todd is now Lead Pastor at Warsaw Community Church in Indiana, USA. We asked the question:
If you were 25 years old again would you still choose the same path for your life?
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Simon: Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Lessons From The Field Podcast. I’ve got Brad with me, as always.
Brad: Simon, how are you, mate?
Simon: Good thanks, Brad. And, it’s a beautiful day here in Western Sydney, 33 degrees Centigrade, Celsius, Kelvin, whatever you want to use. Whatever it is, it’s not Fahrenheit, because I’m pretty sure… What’s 33 in Fahrenheit, Brad?
Brad: Move on.
Simon: Okay. You’re the one who lived in Colorado three years or whatever it was.
Brad: I can’t do that. I can’t do that.
Brad: There is a formula, I forget it.
Simon: Yeah, yeah. Okay.
Brad: Let me go just grab a phone.
Simon: Yeah. All right. Today we’re here talking with Todd Gerst again. You might remember him from the last two episodes. Today we’ve got a bit of an interesting question. It’s one that comes up a lot, I think, Brad. It’s the sort of thing that we talk about just in our culture in general, in Western culture, we often talk about this, don’t we? We talk about reliving our lives from a certain point. People say, if only I was 21 again.
Brad: Right, go back and do it again.
Simon: Yeah. And in a mission context, a church planting context, especially because it’s such a learning process, isn’t it? There’s so many things you learn along the way. God sanctifies us, he teaches us things, and we look back and we go man, if only I’d listened to God earlier, if I’d done that sooner. There’s a lot of if onlys.
Brad: Yeah, yeah, either way. So even when you do something that you think is wholeheartedly the right thing to do, you can still doubt itself, right?
Simon: Yeah, yeah.
Brad: You can still look at other options you could have taken and still maybe even have regrets.
Simon: I think sometimes we can do that kind of pridefully, and we can also do that in a regret, because we’re realizing how much God is worth, hey? And with saying if we could go back and do it the way God wanted it to, it would have been so much better.
Simon: So today we’re asking Todd, if you were 25 years old again, would you still choose the same path for your life? Let’s hear what he has to say.
Todd: Yes. I would do it over in a heartbeat. In fact, I wish I was even 35 maybe even 41, might try it over again, yeah. The things that we have now seen God do, not just with the Maleu people, where we worked, and to see the opportunities that we’ve had to play a small role in what He’s done there. But, even for ourselves, what God has done for us, His faithfulness. The privilege it is to get to teach and to study in an attempt to be Christ to people, to learn to love people who you naturally wouldn’t, and to see God transform our own lives. We would do it over again, and wish we could.
Simon: Okay, so Brad, this is the kind of story, the kind of talking from missionaries that really inspired me as a teenager to commit my life to this type of work, especially amongst unreached people groups. Because what he’s saying there, the first thing that comes to my mind, is that he doesn’t regret anything. And that no matter what you think you’re giving up God is bigger, and more than that.
Brad: Excellent. So you heard that sort of thing, or thought about this, as a young guy?
Simon: Yeah. Yeah. From when I was a kid even, but more so into my teen years where I could really feel God calling me to this type of work, and yeah.
Simon: I get those feelings coming back every time I hear a story like that, it’s continually inspiring to me.
Brad: So when you hear Todd talking like that, and he’s further down his journey than you are Simon, and he’s going I don’t have regrets. In fact, I’d do it again. That’s an encouragement for you now that you’ve decided a course for your life that God’s got you on.
Simon: Big time. Definitely, yeah. So he’s saying if he could go back to the age Simon is now, I’d do it all again. And I’m doing the same kind of thing. I’m listening to that going all right, I’m not wasting my life here. I’ve got someone older, wiser, confirming that this is a good thing to spend your life on.
Brad: And I mean obviously, I haven’t met Todd, I will in January, but I’m thinking Todd, to some extent, he’s looking in the rear vision mirror, right?
Brad: He’s looking behind him and you’re looking forwards. I liked some of those things that Todd said. He said I’ve been able to see what God can do. And I think Simon, the trajectory you’re on is one where you’ve chosen influence over what the world would probably describe as success. So you might see some of your peers, and some of your buddies, even generally just people in your demographic, who are chasing success. They want a certain thing in their life. They’re not maybe as concerned about what God might be doing in the world, and what part each of us have got to play in that. But Todd mentioned a couple of things that are really about influence. He talked about learning to love people better. I mean people don’t normally talk about those kinds of things, right?
Brad: And that’s what this is. When we’re reaching out to people and wanting Lord, we want to be a coworker with you. What are you doing in the world? How do you want to use me in seeing a transformation in people’s lives? And, being an influencer, rather than just chasing this nebulous thing that everyone’s on, this self-determined road to success, whatever success is. It’s easy to compare though.
Simon: Very, yeah.
Brad: Easy to compare and get caught up in comparison. I do all the time.
Simon: Especially because in cross-cultural church planting your life is so different from nearly everyone else’s that you know. I think we constantly are thinking about that. I know that I think about it fairly often, think about all my friends, everyone I grew up with, is doing a completely different thing. They’re all doing the same sort of thing, and it’s completely different from what I’m planning on doing with my life. So there’s kind of that natural questioning of yourself and constantly working through that.
Simon: And yeah, you’re right, there is that comparison. But, there’s kind of a spectrum of that comparison because I can find in myself that in the same couple of hours I can go from maybe a jealousy kind of comparison, where I’m thinking oh, is this worth everything, all the worldly luxuries, or whatever that you’re giving up? The comfort of home and family and that kind of thing. Then within a couple of hours I can swing the other way. I can talk myself out of that and then swing way over the other side to the superiority, where suddenly I’m thinking that I’m a better Christian because I’m doing this. I think just as humans-
Brad: That’s not healthy, is it?
Simon: No, not healthy at all. And just as humans, it’s hard to keep that middle road, that balance. Isn’t it?
Brad: Yeah. And it comes out of a thankful heart, I think. We’ve got to just be saying, Lord, thank you. Thank you for leading me this way in my life where I could, yeah sure, count the cost, and live in that. It’s not always easy, but play the long game. Look at the end game and know that yeah okay, I get caught up in these comparisons sometimes. I sometimes think about what I might’ve left on the table compared to my peers and some of my buddies who are doing certain things in their life.
Brad: I’m reminded of that passage in one Corinthians, chapter three. I think we talked about a couple episodes ago about being a master builder. Paul’s talking about some will build with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble. Then depending on how we live our lives, and we’re laying these foundations in our lives, and we’re building and we’re coworkers. And actually talks about, I think verse nine, talks about being coworkers with God and what we’re actually doing with our life. It talks about, at the end, I think around verse 15, about entering then into your reward, and a worker gets a reward.
Brad: So, we leave this legacy of like Todd was talking about. He looks back into his rear vision mirror, and he looks at I’ll do this in a heartbeat again because of what God has been able to do. And you see Lord, you’ve used me as a coworker with you, and these tremendous things that happen. What about your eternal legacy for yourself? What are you going to enter into when this is all said and done? And what have you done with your life? I think Todd’s on sound footing, right? I think it’s on sound footing. It probably keeps him motivated. I hope so. But, what is he going to do with the rest of his life as he’s a coworker with Jesus.
Simon: It’s tough.
Simon: All right. A very short answer from Todd there, but we can really stretch it out, can’t we? I mean, we’re getting good at it. I mean, this is episode six. We’re really, really learning to stretch these out too.
Brad: Yeah, and initially I thought, listening to Todd, I thought well, it’s pretty short and sweet. But, there’s a lot to think about. There’s a lot to chew over there about how we live our life, and would we do it again. It’s also an opportunity. If you’re listening to this episode, you might have regrets. The good thing is is that God can fill the gaps. He could fill the gaps and what we perceive as being either slow progress in our life, or missteps in our life, or a wrong path taken, God is about new beginnings, and he’s about you starting from where you’re at. There’s no time like today to start serving Jesus, and just get about what he’s doing in the world.
Simon: Yeah, Amen.
Brad: And serve him, right?
Simon: Awesome. Good stuff. Thanks Brad. And a good big thank you to Todd Gerst as well for the last three episodes. Thank you for your insight. We really appreciate it.
Brad: That was good, yeah.
Simon: Everyone, thank you for listening. As always I’ve been Simon.
Brad: Hey, see you next time, Simon.
Simon: And that’s Brad over there, and we will talk to you next time. Bye.