By David Lyons
Navigators who pioneer Gospel movements around the world are a special breed. They see things the rest of us don’t see. They blaze new trails. They are not held back by fears that would restrain most people. And they persevere when others would give up. They remind me of a slogan that describes those who pioneered the state of Nebraska in the 1800s. It says, “The cowards never came. The weak died along the way. Only the strong arrived.”
Navigator pioneers are unique because they are called to advance the Gospel of Jesus and His kingdom through spiritual generations of laborers who live and disciple among the lost. The success of Navigator pioneers is not measured by where they go or what they start, but by what they leave behind. A Navigator pioneering venture is not finished until there is a foundational generation of disciples, laborers, and leaders to carry the movement onward. Sometimes that comes quickly. Sometimes it takes decades. Sometimes God gives us many foundational people. Sometimes He gives us just one or two, like Abraham and Sarah.
My wife and I were inspired recently when we met with Navigators in the Middle East who are pioneering new Gospel movements in that troubled part of the world. These pioneers refuse to be restrained by dangers and active opposition. They are prudent. They pay attention to wise counsel about dangers. But they keep pursuing those who don’t know Jesus. That’s what pioneers do.
So I asked them, “Who are the foundational people who will sustain these movements of the Gospel?” I was hoping for two or three names. I rejoiced as they described how the Gospel is on the move through 23 foundational people. Most of them are from Muslim backgrounds. They are hungry for the Word. They are full of fresh zeal and love. Although religious leaders oppose them, they will not be stopped.
Then I asked our friends, “What do these foundational people need in order to be ready to sustain the movement?” Again I rejoiced as they identified the following needs: the simplicity of the pure Gospel, depth in the Word, courageous faith and obedience, and a heart and vision for the spiritual generations already growing up around them. It will take that and more. But these pioneers have their unwavering eyes on the goal.
Within The Navigators we talk about four kinds of leaders who are needed to start and sustain movements of the Gospel: pioneers, local laborers, local leaders, and mobile alongsiders. These are all vital links in a living chain. Without pioneers the Gospel will not advance among new people groups. Without local laborers and leaders, new movements of the Gospel will die. Without the encouragement that mobile alongsiders bring, pioneers, local laborers and local leaders will lose heart and perspective. All four are needed. But after my recent meetings with Syrian Navigators, I am thanking God for the fierce, persevering pioneers among us.
Please pray with us in the coming months for our work in Syria, and for the many pioneering teams around the world who serve in the Navigator international work.
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He oversees international initiatives, communications, and networking of 5000 staff in 115 countries. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.