Life-on-Life Church Discipleship

By Mutua Mahiaini

Many people around the world go to church religiously without accepting Christ as Lord or without knowing how to follow Him in every area of life. Church leaders often struggle to build a culture of biblical, life-on-life discipleship within their churches. All this makes the challenge of reaching the lost in the community even more difficult.

Seeing these needs, Navigators are effectively equipping church leaders to disciple men and women in their churches. Many pastors appreciate this strong partnership with The Navigators, which has resulted in many coming to Christ, as well as more laborers who are better equipped to serve in local church ministries.

In May, Navigator leaders who work in local church contexts gathered in Colorado Springs. They came from Korea, Norway, Madagascar, Indonesia, England, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tonga, the Philippines, the United States, and Singapore. I heard beautiful stories of how God is expanding his kingdom within the context of church communities.

Two examples of our international church discipleship ministries can be found in England and Kenya.

For the past five years, British Navigator Martin Cooper has been mentoring a pastor in southern England. This pastor, John, came to Christ through a Navigator student ministry in the early 1980s. At that time, Martin helped John grow in his faith. After John graduated, he married, raised three sons, and worked as a businessman for 20 years. He also served as a lay leader in a thriving church during those years. Because of his service, gifting, and character, the church leaders invited him to become the lead pastor.

However, John realized that he needed a personal mentor. John didn’t only want to preach and teach; he had a strong desire to build a disciple-making congregation. So he asked Martin to provide support and guidance.

John faced a challenge: The vision for life-on-life discipleship had not been a prominent element in the church’s culture. With Martin’s ongoing help, John began working to instill a biblically grounded, personal, and generational vision for discipleship within his church.

Today, John continues to foster this vision, which is central to the Navigator calling. He trains them to carry the Gospel into their own relational networks. The results are encouraging! Many are growing in Christ and beginning to disciple others in their own circles of influence.

This is also happening in Kenya. Navigator leader Stan Mukolwe has worked with a young pastor named Billy at a Baptist church in a low-income neighborhood of Nairobi. Billy was eager to see more personal discipleship happening in his church, so he asked Stan to start meeting one-on-one with church members. Stan, however, felt it would be more fruitful to train Billy to do that work himself.

Over the next few years, Stan equipped Billy to disciple others, and to help them learn how to disciple their own friends. Billy worked with a first-year college student named Elijah. Over time, Elijah became firmly grounded in the Scriptures and learned to follow Christ in all areas of life. Elijah developed a godly passion for people and the Gospel. While attending his university, he led many friends to Christ and helped them grow.

Stan’s personal investment continues to multiply. Today Billy is a Navigator staff member in Kenya, and serves many people. Elijah is now part of a Navigator staff training program. Both have many more years of fruitful discipleship ministry ahead of them.

At about the same time that Stan started working with Billy, he also trained a lay leader named Geoffrey at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. Geoffrey began applying what he learned from Stan within the context of his church and began working one-on-one with leaders.

Geoffrey’s effort is multiplying within the church and beyond. People at the All Saints church are doing outreach and discipleship at the Kenya Polytechnic University. Geoffrey is now the Church Discipleship Ministries leader for The Navigators in Kenya. At the time of this writing, he had just returned from an arduous journey through the Democratic Republic of Congo where he taught about Jesus to many non-believers and helped them learn how to share the Gospel with others.

In these beautiful stories, we see God working to help churches around the world capture the power of life-on-life discipleship. Navigators like Martin Cooper and Stan Mukolwe play a crucial role in developing kingdom laborers who can multiply the Gospel across the generations.

Mutua Mahiaini is an International Vice President of The Navigators. Mutua and his wife, Stephanie, led our work in Kenya, then in Côte d’Ivoire, and then as Regional Director for Africa for 13 years. Mutua and Stephanie now live in Colorado Springs. They have four adult children.