During our first six months in Papua New Guinea, I have learned many things about God, the Church, and myself. I have taken some time to reflect on these things and now I will share some of these lessons with all of you.
God’s faithfulness has been prevalent to me throughout my Christian life, but during our first 6 months in PNG, this characteristic of our Father really came to life for us. As Christians, we often view God’s faithfulness in how He is faithful to give us what we want. But in our case, he was truly faithful to give us what we need. You see, God has set us on the journey to be tribal church planters, and in order for us to do this; we NEED to be pruned and spurred on towards righteousness. God faithfully provided us with faithful leaders to guide us and, at times, correct us when we needed it. It is never easy to be corrected, but God is a faithful father who strives to discipline his children and set them on the right path, not out of anger or retribution, but out of love to see us thrive in the work He has prepared in advance for us to do. Often times, He uses the Body of Christ to accomplish this.
Speaking of the Body of Christ, there was much we learned about the Church while we were orienting to our host country. One primary area that stuck out was the identity of the Church. This hits close to home. In PNG we saw many churches whose identity was rested in not appearing like the rest of the country. This usually meant you don’t drink, cuss, or chew, or go with girls who do. The drinking and cussing is the same as America, but chewing is in reference to buai (boo-eye), which is a kind of nut that is chewed with a plant and lime powder and turns your mouth bright red. Now there is NOTHING wrong with refraining from these three areas of PNG life, however, if that is the identity of the Church, something has gone wrong. Sometimes, I can see this in the identity in the Church in America. We find our identity in what we stand for and, often times, what we stand against. The problem with this is that God has made it clear in that which we are to have our identity, Christ alone. If the Church finds its identity in anything other than Christ and his completed work, then it falls short of what God had in mind.
In regards to myself, I have learned some hard things. Notably, I have learned that I am insufficient. I am insufficient to be a good husband, a good father, a good disciple, a good language learner, a good coworker, a good church planter… in my own strength. There are no areas in our lives where we can handle things independently of God and be Christ honoring in doing so. We constantly need to be humbling ourselves before the Lord and recognizing that our judgment, absent Him, is nothing short of pride as it exalts ourselves over the Creator of the entire universe.
In light of these lessons, I have come to some conclusions. First, I need to trust God’s faithfulness to conform me into the image of Christ continuously throughout the remainder of my life, and this process is not usually comfortable, but it is good. Secondly, in both my ministry and my life, I need to look at the heart of the matter rather than the outward appearances. God has a design for the Church, and simply looking the part isn’t enough. Lastly, I need to humble myself and trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of my life. Without doing so, I am robbing God of his desire to be glorified through my life. There is no room on the throne for me; it belongs to Christ, and Him alone.
I hope that my gleanings from our time in PNG are encouraging and challenging to you. If you want to discuss these topics further or want to hear more about our experiences so far, please contact us, we would love to talk.