February 17, 2016
Series: Lessons from the field
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?
From our own experience, my own experience, of working with a group in Papua New Guinea. We went convinced from the beginning that we went 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 is 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 write from the beginning before there 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.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 you 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’re going to have to take it on.” We demonstrated that in practical ways right from the beginning in that community and I can give examples whether that was, you know.Learning to use our radios 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.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. There 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. 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.Seeing 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. They could relate to their own culture and their own people in ways we never could. 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.” We’ve seen that last over the last 15 or more years since we were there.
Paul and his wife, Linda, spent 11 years in Papua New Guinea involved in pioneering church planting in an isolated people group. They were privileged to see God plant a number of churches in that area that continue to thrive today. During the time there, they headed up a translation team that produced a New Testament in the local language. After leaving PNG, Paul and Linda worked for 12 years in leadership and consultative roles with an international mission agency. Today they continue to provide church planting guidance for a number of different teams engaged in some of the world’s most challenging contexts. They are passionate about seeing churches planted that are well equipped to carry on for future generations.
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