Lessons from the Field is a podcast where we ask field-experienced leaders and teachers the tough questions about cross-cultural ministry. In this first of 3 introductory episodes we interview Paul, who along with his wife Linda, worked among the Ata people in Papua New Guinea (See the Ata Story at AccessTruth.com). We ask the question:
What is the neediest area that we can contribute resources to in seeing unreached people groups reached with the Gospel?
Simon: Hello and welcome to Lessons from the Field. My name is Simon and I’m here with Brad. Say hello, Brad.
Brad: Good day, Simon.
Simon: Good to be here with you, mate. Now, Lessons From the Field is a brand new podcast and Brad’s going to tell us what it’s all about.
Brad: Well, this is really just birthed out of what you and I do in the offices most days at AccessTruth, who you work for, right?
Brad: I work for Crossview. We share the offices together. We talk about this stuff all the time. We’re always talking about missions, talking about the spirit of the gospel, sitting around the lunch room table talking about stuff. We thought, “Well, why not just do a podcast.” Right? So here we are.
Simon: Yeah. We’ve got all these contacts through AccessTruth and Crossview with missionaries and church planning consultants, and language consultants, people all over the world working in cross-cultural ministry, and we want to ask them some questions from their real experiences, because there’s a lot of unknowns I find amongst just regular church goers in western churches
Simon: There’s a lot of unknowns about missions and there’s a guy at my church who asks me all the time if I’m going to go anywhere dangerous or whether I think about the children, it’s unnerving. It’s like his goal is to make …
Brad: Kids always come up, right?
Simon: It’s like his goal is to make us not move overseas or something like that. Yeah. What are some other things we can discuss about cross-cultural ministry?
Brad: Yeah. There’ll be heaps of different things that’ll come up, and I think what will be unique with some of the things we’ll talk about, Simon is I think we have our own slant on things. We have a …
Simon: An Australian slant?
Brad: An Australian slant and …
Simon: Slant. I’d say slant.
Brad: Slant. Yeah. I’m from Adelaide, right? We talk with a bit of a plum in our mouth, right? So slant. All right. We’ll go with slant, but I think we have our own little perspective on things, which might be a little different from the normal conversation that you might hear. That’s what this is about, right? This is about listening to people … Many of the people that we’ll talk to and hear from are people that we know, or have heard about ourselves and what they’re doing with cross-cultural ministry themselves, and we’ll leverage off that and talk about it and I think we’ll flash out some pretty interesting stuff, mate.
Simon: Yeah. Sounds great. Now, this podcast is produced by AccessTruth. AccessTruth is an organization who create all sorts of resources to help individuals, teams, and churches engage in cross-cultural ministry, whether that’s at home or overseas, but they’ve got heaps of stuff, so you can head over to their website, accesstruth.com. They’ve got a missions training curriculum, and even steps down from that just little video series and inspiring things that you can learn about, either to engage in ministry in your own context or to just learn about what’s happening in the world.
Brad: That library of material, that catalog of stuff that AccessTruth is producing, is growing all the time.
Simon: Oh, yeah. There’s heaps of stuff.
Brad: And the body of work that is really accumulating really is pretty cool.
Simon: Yeah. It’s [inaudible 00:03:42].
Brad: I reckon a lot of it is unique and I can say this, because I don’t work for AccessTruth, right? But I reckon that the body of work is pretty unique in that there’s a lot of stuff that you won’t find out there even if you were to go into any large Christian bookstore, you won’t find a lot of stuff that you’d find in AccessTruth. It’s very specific. It’s really practical stuff about cross-cultural ministry here and overseas, and how you can communicate well.
Simon: Yeah. This is another point about our podcast. We’ve got some definitions to lay down, I suppose, in this first episode about what we’re really focusing on. Missions is such a huge topic.
Simon: But we have in this Lessons from the Field podcast, we have a specific focus, don’t we?
Brad: Yeah. I think so. The Lessons from the Field, so the people who we’re going to talk about are people who are practically doing a lot of things that we’re going to talk about, practically doing it where the rubber meets the road, out in the field. Yeah. I think with a certain set of values.
Brad: Yep. There are people doing great things all over the world, but we will talk about certain values that we hold dear. We’ll talk about those things, touch on those things and why we think they’re really important.
Simon: Yeah. That’s right and that’s what we’re going to do in this first episode. We’re going to lay the ground work. We’re going to be talking to a guy named Paul. We’ve recorded some interviews with Paul, and the first three questions that we’re going to have today for Paul are about these kinds of foundational values that we’re going to be discussing a lot here on the Lessons from the Field podcast. Let’s get into it. Basically, we’ve got these pre-recorded interviews. We’re going to listen to what Paul has to say, and then you and I, Brad will break it down.
Simon: And expand on it a little bit, okay?
Brad: Yeah. Cool.
Simon: All right. Here’s the first one. And the first question is what is the neediest area that we can contribute resources to in seeing unreached people groups reached with the gospel?
Paul: In terms of the greatest resource that is needed for reaching the unreached, obviously we need God’s undertaking but in terms of humanly speaking the biggest resources is people. People who are willing to commit to the task, commit to what’s needed in the long term to actually see a community, to become part of a community first of all and then to be willing to invest themselves into that situation, to actually get to know the community, understand and really invest their lives into seeing a church planted in that area. In short, the biggest need is for people, and that’s a challenge because there’s so many other things that people can be involved in, and good things that they’re told, “This is what a responsible person does.” But the great commission and the needs of people who are dying without knowing Christ and going into eternity without Him, it really supersedes those things, so we really need people. Yeah.
Simon: Okay. Brad, I think there’s a couple things we need to define in there. Paul was talking about unreached people groups. What’s an unreached people group?
Brad: An unreached people group is a people group where they’re, I think statistically … This can be different but I think generally, they would say less than 2% of that population have any access to the gospel. Being exposed to or any access to the gospel.
Simon: Okay. No translations of the Bible in any form, in their language, no churches?
Brad: That’s right.
Simon: No Christians, that kind of thing?
Simon: There’s quite a large percentage of the world’s population in that category, isn’t there?
Brad: That’s right. I think the numbers are well up over two and a half billion people are considered to be unreached.
Simon: Yeah, which is just staggering. I have some really good friends who are committed Christians and really involved in church work and really well-read guys, smart guys and I gave them those numbers one day and they didn’t believe me. Flat out disbelieved that there were that many people in the world with no access to the gospel.
Brad: Right. I think for us, living here in Australia, living in Sydney, you need to leave to feel the impact of that. You need to go to some of these places either in Asia or wherever it might be, but leave your local context and soon, you feel the impact of really how lost, and how dark some of these cultures and communities are. We just got back from Thailand and we went to a relatively tourist area. We were quite comfortable there, but it was a time of festival for their community around Buddhist temples so we actually engaged in that and went to these festivals and had a look.
Simon: Yeah. Okay.
Brad: I really was left there quite impacted with how the lostness and the darkness, so you really got to expose yourself to some stuff, I think which often people have never done. Maybe your mates who you were talking to, have never done. They’re just used to their local context and that’s all they know.
Simon: Paul was also talking in that interview about the greatest resource that’s needed around the world and it’s people, and we can see that when you say those numbers like two-point what billion? Huge.
Brad: Well, yeah. It varies depending on whose giving you the statistic, but it’s over two and a half billion. Right.
Simon: Right. It’s huge number of people. I think the stats on the number of missionaries, any type of cross-cultural worker sent out by a church around the world is only in the few millions for the entire Christian population of the whole world. I think it’s 3% or 1%, something around there. Some very, very, very low number of those goes to unreached people groups. You’ve got like a couple of hundred thousand people trying to work with two-point something billion. It’s not a comparison. When Paul says that people is the greatest resource needed, he’s not overstating that at all, is he?
Brad: He’s not, and it seems to me to be, maybe the effort from the church in the wider sense is inefficient. It seems that the push isn’t to where the greatest need is. That’s because where the greatest need is, is obviously difficult to get areas, hard to work in areas, this is where the people are, this is where the people are. Shining a light on the unreached where the gospel isn’t, where it needs to be. Yeah. We’re certainly going to shine the light, try to advocate for that here on this podcast, is talking about unreached and people who are totally unengaged with the gospel.
Simon: Yeah. Yeah. Anything else you want to talk about?
Brad: I thought it was great. Obviously, Paul started with obviously God is our greatest resource, and then he talked about people, but I was thinking when Paul was saying that, that it’s a certain type of person.
Brad: That he talked about a willing person to commit long term, I think he said, and that’s right. Not everybody’s going to put their hand up for this kind of work.
Simon: No. That’s true.
Brad: We’ve seen that, haven’t we, mate?
Simon: Oh, yeah.
Brad: Even people dropping out of training program, where the focus tends to sharpen a little bit.
Simon: When the scales fall from their eyes.
Brad: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. You realize, or they realize, “Wow. This is a big effort that’s required. This is a long term commitment,” and I think that’s the type of person that we’re talking about, the type of person who is this great resource is this person behaves and engages with the great commission and goes, “Okay. Okay. I’m going to step up to the plate and give God what I’ve got, what little I’ve got and let Him use it.” Someone whose asking the right questions too. Sometimes I find that interesting, Simon, is you’ll talk about somebody who might be engaging with these thoughts, and they’ll start asking questions that might be the wrong kind of questions and you’re thinking … You wonder at what level they’re really engaging with? Because they might be asking fearful questions.
Simon: Right. Yeah. Yeah.
Brad: Yeah? What about this, or what about that?
Simon: Like that guy I mentioned earlier from our church. I’m really looking forward to … We’re new at this church, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know him and to hopefully have some conversations with him about missions because it’s clear that he just thinks missionaries go to these dangerous parts of the world. They put their families at risk, and it sounds like he thinks it’s irresponsible and I’d really like to have some discussions with him about it.
Brad: Yeah. You understand that, don’t you? You understand and I think …
Simon: Oh, yeah. Totally understand.
Brad: How somebody would think, “What are you doing?”
Brad: Right? At the same time, they don’t understand the compulsion.
Simon: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.
Brad: We feel this compulsion and we’re compelled. We don’t do this for a sense of adventure or something like that, right? It’s something deeper.
Simon: Yeah. That is something God calls you to as well, isn’t it?
Simon: Not everybody. Someone’s got to lead our churches back in Australia as well, but at the same time, we do need to recognize how big of a need this is and I think the church does need to have a better understanding of how big this need is.
Brad: Yeah, totally. Totally. I think always being willing to be thinking about if the gospel isn’t somewhere, should it remain that way? I think we’d all say no.
Brad: Of course, we’d all say no. Then, the next question is, so what should we do about it? Paul hit on it. It requires people, people who are willing to go long term.
Simon: He used the word invest a few times. Do you want to expand on that at all?
Brad: Yeah. I think the word invest, and I picked up on that too, it has a connotation of intentionality. Like if I’m going to invest my money, I think about where I’m going to put that money to get a return on my money. We all think of that when we think of investment, right? Paul used the word invest and so I’m considerate. I look at what’s in front of me and then I’ll invest. When it comes to something like unreached people group, it takes an intentionality and investment on your behalf to say, “Okay. I’m going to engage with these thoughts and maybe God has got a role for me in His global mission,” whatever that is, but it’s going to take a level of investment from you.
Simon: Yeah. I think the other side of the connotations that come with the word investment, is that when you invest money, this money is valuable and it actually means something to you and you’ve worked hard to get it, and when we’re talking about investing ourselves into a community and into people’s lives to see a church planted, we’re talking about giving something of our own, which is important to us and valuable and we’re giving it to these people in a Christian generosity sort of a way. We’re not investing money, so that we can have more money for ourselves. We’re actually in a generous way giving away our own comfort, our own comforts of home in a lot of context, giving away a lot of things, and a lot of time and emotional energy and giving it to these people to see the return of them of having a church planted of having them come into the kingdom of God.
Simon: I think, yeah, that’s one of the important part-
Brad: It’s that whole entrusting thing, isn’t it?
Simon: Yeah. Yeah.
Brad: It’s like if you had something valuable, which is what you were saying, Simon, we entrust that to somebody else, and each one of us at a level have been entrusted with the gospel.
Brad: If you’re listening to this podcast and you’re engaging with these thoughts we’re talking about, you would think that there’s been a level that you personally had been entrusted with the gospel that you’ve received, this mercy you’ve received and then it’s not a cul-de-sac.
Brad: The gospel’s a four lane freeway. It’s not a cul-de-sac, and we get on it and we’re to start moving in a direction that God wants us to move in. We can’t stay stationary, and we’ve got a saying here in Australia or a thing called a billabong, and a billabong is like this estuary that runs out of a river and into a place that doesn’t go anywhere and what happens is it ends up stinking, right?
Brad: We don’t want to be like that. We want to be this flowing river. We want to be this thing that God has got this momentum in our lives where we’ve been entrusted with the gospel and we’re moving with it. We’re doing something with it. What does that look like? Well, everyone’s got to ask that question for themselves and answer it for themselves.
Simon: All righty. Well, I think we’ll leave it there for today. We’ve got two other introductory topics to get through. This first one was about the greatest resource needed amongst unreached people groups and next time, we’ll be talking about things you need to keep in mind about long term work.
Brad: Yeah. Looking forward to it.
Simon: Great. You can visit us at our website, lessonsfromthefield.org., and there, you can find a contact form where you can ask questions of us which we will do our best to get answered by a professional in the field of whatever area you’re asking question, whether that’s Bible translation or church planting consultancy or just about what it’s like to be a missionary, you can ask questions in any format you like. Please get in contact, we’d love to hear from you. That’s all for today. We will see you next time on the Lessons from the Field podcast.