By David Lyons
It is one thing to start a movement of the Gospel. It is another to sustain it. And it is quite another to do so in a country where the mainstream religion actively opposes such movements. Yet, despite the dangers, that is what God is doing through Navigators who serve in hostile regions.
In one such country (which I won’t name in order to protect our friends), Navigators are fully committed to reaching the mainstream culture. They have even moved their families into dangerous neighborhoods. This commitment has required them to face their fears and overcome prejudices. They have worked hard to overcome cultural barriers, to convey the Gospel in a way that their neighbors can understand.
These efforts to love and serve people, even in the face of opposition, are producing fruit. As a result, national churches have sent people to Navigators in order to learn how to reach people in the mainstream religion. But it has been hard for those who have received training to apply what they’ve learned outside the Christian church culture. It is not easy to become a cross-cultural missionary in your own country.
To help with this struggle, local Navigator leaders have learned to more quickly give those in training specific ministry assignments within the mainstream context. These assignments have pushed them out of their comfort zone. In addition, Navigators have also brought the new ministry teams together every six months for fresh training, and every two months for fellowship and encouragement. These initiatives have produced a substantial number of men and women who are effectively reaching out to the religious mainstream. They are bearing fruit.
This growth has presented a new challenge: How will these new believers experience ekklesia (i.e. church) in such a hostile context? At first, Navigator leaders brought together people who didn’t know each other. However, in such a dangerous context, it was difficult for them to trust one another. So, they learned to build ekklesia among new believers in the natural context of their families and neighborhoods. The groups started smaller, but trust came more easily.
Now there are three growing groups that receive support and coaching from experienced Navigators. They work together. They play together. They marry one another. They learn from the Scriptures together. And they worship together in ways that fit the culture.
What does it take to sustain movements of the Gospel in such a country? It takes the courage and vision of pioneers. It takes the love and commitment of local laborers and leaders. It takes the wisdom and encouragement of coaches who provide guidance and support.
Now we are witnessing the grace of God at work in a new context, like Barnabas witnessed the grace of God among the pagans in Antioch. "The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord" (Acts 11:22-23 NASB 1995).
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He oversees international initiatives, communications, and networking of five thousand staff in more than one hundred countries. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.