Community

Communities of Grace

By Mutua Mahiaini

First published in January 2014

Hug Jhon David.jpg

Before Stephanie and I moved from Kenya to Colorado Springs in 2012, I had the privilege of experiencing the transforming power of a God-centered small group of friends. The group of Navigator leaders decided to go beyond our work responsibilities and to meet regularly in Nairobi. Our goal was to help one another grow in Christ.

We did indeed grow. What made this group so important in my life was the spirit of humility and vulnerability that grew in our hearts. We confessed to each other, sought to understand each person’s deepest needs, and prayed fervently. We inspired one another onward in our work and encouraged each other through God’s Spirit working in us. This was indeed a community of grace.

This cherished group of friends illustrates an important biblical principle: Although we each have a personal relationship with Jesus, we need a small community of believers to fully mature into the likeness of Christ. Spiritual growth does not occur in isolation. The New Testament speaks approximately 60 times about the “one another” dynamics of spiritual life. Clearly, strong relationships are at the heart of God’s will for us. In Ephesians 4:2-3, Paul writes:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Paul speaks here of keeping something that we already have. And he calls us to “make every effort” to protect that unity. Our relationships really matter to God.

Community is essential for sustained encouragement, love, and service. The wife of one member in our group inspired us as she went through a prolonged illness that caused extreme fatigue. Just making breakfast left her exhausted. But despite her physical struggle, she continued her outreach work in God’s strength. She saw every relationship in her circle as an opening to share the life of Christ. Today the Gospel continues to spread through those relational networks.

Seeing our friend remain passionate for ministry even during a debilitating illness rebuked us (in a healthy way). She demonstrated that we should not focus on our limitations, but on God’s power. She invigorated our hearts and reminded us that God can use simple acts of service to have a lasting impact.

In this way, a community of grace demonstrates what Hebrews 10:24-25 says. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We also need a community of grace to be victorious over sin. Notice the counsel that Paul gave young Timothy. “Flee the evil desires of youth, he said, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Because we are all sinful, falling short of God’s holy nature, the tendency is for us to isolate ourselves. Isolation is a way of coping with shame and guilt. But hiding is the opposite of what’s needed for healing and growth. That’s why the grace of God is so important. It gives us the freedom to come out of hiding. Grace is the foundation for a safe community in which we can grow and be healed.

Communities of grace, like the one I experienced in Nairobi, are foundational to everything we do in the Navigator work. The International Executive Team and our Regional Directors have embarked on a long-term, in-depth study of community life in the New Testament. May God lead us together so that we can serve our Worldwide Partnership according to His Word.

Please pray that our Navigator communities around the world will be known as Christ-centered, safe places where people find healing, growth and unity. And may Jesus be revealed through these communities among the lost.

Missional Communities in Malaysia

By Alan Ch'ng

Photo Courtesy Alex Block

Photo Courtesy Alex Block

Choo was a typical, hardworking, Malaysian engineer who was nominally Buddhist and highly self-reliant. Living in the populous metropolitan area of Kuala Lumpur, Choo worked with Shiau Yi, a Navigator woman. Over time, Shiau Yi invited Choo to meet her husband, David. Before long, Choo had been embraced by an entire community of Navigators who, like him, were 30-something working professionals.

Choo’s life would never be the same.

The group Choo encountered is a “missional community,” a Christ-centered group of friends that seeks to advance the kingdom of God through relational networks. They are intentional about working together to advance the Gospel among the lost. Although they hold down jobs and raise young children, all of them are focused on serving as local Navigator leaders. They are helping non-believers know Jesus, and equipping young believers to do the same.

Choo first accepted invitations to join the group for dinners and other social gatherings. He sincerely enjoyed the friendships. But for some time he resisted the group’s invitations to join them for Bible discussions.

Eventually, he agreed to look at the Gospel of John with the group. He enjoyed the conversations because they were relevant to his life. The Holy Spirit and God’s Word captured his heart. After two years of thoughtful study, Choo entrusted his life to Christ. Not long after, his wife joined him in that decision.

Choo says his decision was influenced by the hope-filled lives of his Navigator friends. He experienced the genuine love and grace of the group, and he saw first-hand the quality of their relationships. He witnessed the difference Christ made in their marriages.

Living in God’s grace was not easy at first. Choo thought that he would be required to fulfill “good works” in order to be accepted by God. For example, at a conference, leaders spoke on the Navigator Calling, Values and Vision statements. Hearing this for the first time, Choo became worried that he would have to fulfill everything in those statements in order to be accepted by God and the group!

Thankfully, he shared this struggle with a friend in the Navigator group. The friend showed Choo what Jesus said in John 8:32: If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Choo realized that Jesus’ acceptance of him was not based on keeping rules or performance; yes, he was called to live fully for Christ. But the truth of God’s grace had set him free.

Choo’s Navigator friends have continued to help him grow as one equipped to handle the Word of God and to share his faith with others. Today, Choo and his wife, Yoke Chien, are active participants in the “missional community.” He is investing his life with many young adults and youth, and sharing the Gospel with his close friends from college and work.

In a beautiful display of God’s work through spiritual generations, Choo and Yoke Chien have led his college friend, Yew Lee and his wife, Lay Mee, to Christ. Choo and Yoke Chien are now discipling them and helping them to reach out to their own network of friends.

This missional community in Malaysia is advancing the kingdom of God through relational networks as a body, not just as individuals. As non-believers come into their midst, they become connected to a whole community of Christ-followers. Within this rich relational context, the multifaceted gifting of the Body of Christ is more fully expressed. The entire community plays a role in helping new believers grow.

The local leaders in this Malaysian work are also committed to their own personal growth as leaders. Most have committed to participating in a leader development effort.

We have a lot to learn from our Malaysian brothers and sisters. Their model shows us that any person can be actively engaged in advancing the Gospel as part of a local community. As you pray for the Navigator work in Malaysia, consider ways to apply what our Malaysian friends are learning in your own context.   

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.

Communities of Grace

By Mutua Mahiaini

Photo Courtesy Rosie Frasier

Photo Courtesy Rosie Frasier

Before Stephanie and I moved from Kenya to Colorado Springs in 2012, I had the privilege of experiencing the transforming power of a God-centered small group of friends. The group of Navigator leaders decided to go beyond our work responsibilities and to meet regularly in Nairobi. Our goal was to help one another grow in Christ.
 
We did indeed grow. What made this group so important in my life was the spirit of humility and vulnerability that grew in our hearts. We confessed to each other, sought to understand each person’s deepest needs, and prayed fervently. We inspired one another onward in our work, and encouraged each other through God’s Spirit working in us. This was indeed a community of grace.
 
This cherished group of friends illustrates an important biblical principle: Although we each have a personal relationship with Jesus, we need a small community of believers to fully mature into the likeness of Christ. Spiritual growth does not occur in isolation.
 
The New Testament speaks approximately 60 times about the “one another” dynamics of spiritual life. Clearly, strong relationships are at the heart of God’s will for us. In Ephesians 4:2-3, Paul writes: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Paul speaks here of keeping something that we already have. And he calls us to “make every effort” to protect that unity. Our relationships really matter to God.
 
Community is essential for sustained encouragement, love, and service. The wife of one member in our group inspired us as she went through a prolonged illness that caused extreme fatigue. Just making breakfast left her exhausted. But despite her physical struggle, she continued her outreach work in God’s strength. She saw every relationship in her circle as an opening to share the life of Christ. Today the Gospel continues to spread through those relational networks.
 
Seeing our friend remain passionate for ministry even during a debilitating illness rebuked us (in a healthy way). She demonstrated that we should not focus on our limitations, but on God’s power. She invigorated our hearts and reminded us that God can use simple acts of service to have a lasting impact.
 
In this way, a community of grace demonstrates what Hebrews 10:24-25 says. "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
 
We also need a community of grace to be victorious over sin. Notice the counsel that Paul gave young Timothy. "Flee the evil desires of youth, he said, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).
 
Because we are all sinful, falling short of God’s holy nature, the tendency is for us to isolate ourselves. Isolation is a way of coping with shame and guilt. But hiding is the opposite of what’s needed for healing and growth. That’s why the grace of God is so important. It gives us the freedom to come out of hiding. Grace is the foundation for a safe community in which we can grow and be healed.
 
Communities of grace, like the one I experienced in Nairobi, are foundational to everything we do in the Navigator work. The International Executive Team and our Regional Directors have embarked on a long-term, in-depth study of community life in the New Testament. May God lead us together so that we can serve our Worldwide Partnership according to His Word.
 
Please pray that our Navigator communities around the world will be known as Christ-centered, safe places where people find healing, growth, and unity. And may Jesus be revealed through these communities among the lost.

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

"I've Got Your Back"

By IET Communications

Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

In the fray of daily life and work, Karl and Michelle Wang come alongside their friends to listen, to share burdens, to study the Bible, and to point them to Christ. They don’t have seminary degrees or counseling training, but they are true pastors, people who lay down their lives for a few friends.

Karl, a graphic designer, and Michelle, an elementary school teacher, were discipled by Ken Chi in a Navigator ministry among Asians in southern California. They realized that they couldn’t just sit on the treasure they had received, so they began to pray about how they could serve. Karl realized that within his church there were many people who needed personal attention. He invited some of them to study the Bible and pray together. Since then, Karl and Michelle have personally helped many of their friends work through the substrata of doubts, pain, and sin that so easily stifle spiritual growth and personal joy.

Karl says his heart is drawn to people who attend church, but who aren’t too involved. Based on his experience, these people often don’t get the personal attention they need.

“There aren’t many people today who have the Navigator mentality,” Karl said, referring to the life-on-life personal attention that is so central to our Navigator Calling. “Many Christians today don’t really know how to care for people.”

The need for individual soul care in American culture is acute. Some research shows that 40 percent of Americans feel chronically lonely. Friendship is reduced to virtual realms like Facebook. Many have no one to talk to, nowhere to turn, no direction, no love.

What people need is not just warm-and-fuzzy emotion; they need someone to show them “I’ve-got-your-back love.” They need someone to stand with them through the trials.

The lack of “I-got-your-back love” is not new. As Jesus went through towns and villages to teach and heal, He felt deep compassion for the crowds. He compared the people to “sheep without a shepherd.” They, like many people today, lacked someone who would come alongside them to share their burdens and give them truth. Perhaps, like many people today, they were surrounded by superficial friendships while needing guidance and loving friendship.

The word “shepherd,” in languages like Spanish and Portuguese, is “pastor.” This fits with the biblical idea of a pastor—someone who cares for his or her “sheep.” Jesus said in John 10 that good pastors (shepherds) love people so much that they lay down their lives for them. In other words, the good pastor says “I’ve got your back” and then proves it with sacrificial action. Jesus was, of course, the consummate pastor, having laid down His life for us.

Local leaders in our Navigator movement, people like Karl and Michelle, play a crucial role in sustaining the advance of the Gospel. They stand firm with those God gives them to shepherd. They keep “feeding their sheep” from the Word, encouraging them through life’s hardships. They lay down their lives.

“I don’t think there is an end to this,” Karl said about his and Michelle’s ongoing involvement with people. “All we can do is walk with them. Walking together is the point, so that we can encourage each other to keep going, to keep walking, to not give up, to finish the race."