Listen to people with scars. That’s become a motto of mine. Brad Buser has scars. In processing some old files recently, I came across one of his handouts from a class on Cross-Cultural Church Planting at The Master’s College around 2004. I never took the course, but Brad and his teaching were so well received by the students who took the course that I sat in on several sessions during my time on staff. The handout was entitled “Ministry Team Startup Talk,” a title that completely understates the priceless value of what Brad had to say. Brad’s teaching is rich in experience, incomparably honest, and fiercely missional (before missional was cool). The outline contains 20 points, and I’ll be sharing five at a time in coming days.
Oh, and by the way, Brad and his family spent twenty years among the utterly unreached Iteri people in Papua New Guinea. After five years, they were able to start slowly teaching through the Bible. After thirteen years, trained indigenous elders were in place. After twenty years, they left, with their pioneering missionary task complete. Brad gets it, because Brad has lived it, and lived it well.
“Every one of these principles represents a couple that didn’t make it on the field.” — Brad Buser
1. Your goal is not merely to “open an area” or “live in the bush,” but to see a church planted and NT [translation] completed and to leave behind something that will stand the test of time. It is an immense job. Keep that in mind in all you do. Don’t be fascinated with being the first person to see or live among a people group. That’s not your goal! Die to everything you have to, even things no one else has to sacrifice. Deny.
2. Our appetites for glory are unfulfillable. Die to them now. Be careful how you set yourself up even in your prayer letters. You’re part of a team. Are you willing to have your ministry partner be the one everyone thinks of when they think of the _____ Team? Are you willing to have yourself be considered a side issue? After 6 or 12 years, the same? Know that this will be an issue! Everyone’s gotta be involved! Don’t assume that the person who says “I don’t care” or who remains silent is going along with you. Make people talk! Silence is almost always misread. Preempt the problem.
3. Today you’re ready to sacrifice anything; but as these “sacrifices” become normal parts of life, He will ask other ones of you. The less glorious sacrifices may trip you up more than the dramatic ones. A “life of sacrifice” in little areas will probably more describe your years here more than a couple huge sacrifices. Most missionaries go downhill in their ability and willingness to sacrifice and suffer inconveniences. You will probably lose your warrior mentality. Don’t be ignorant and naive. What happens when you can’t go out and buy anything? The less glorious sacrifices will weigh on you. Stay sacrificial.
4. Value your teammates now. Even when their gifts aren’t easily seen and aren’t on display. It may be years before _____’s gift comes into the spotlight; maybe never. But remember that the people you open the tribe with are extremely valuable. The tribe will never look at any who come after you like they look at those of you who showed up first. Show your appreciation. Silence is death. Affirm! Affirm your partners to other missionaries. The first missionaries into a people group are given incredible respect. This is why missionary turnover is so deadly. Your team is so important!
5. What do you see as things about you that will be hard for your partner to live with? Men, husbands, women, wives: What steps are you taking now to be more endurable for others to be around? If not, what are you waiting on?