What Is "Life-to-Life" Discipleship?

By David Lyons


Navigators are known for what we call “life-to-life” discipleship. This personal approach to helping people grow in Christ is not a program; rather, it involves long-term friendship—going through all of life together while keeping Jesus in the center. Even when tragedy strikes.

In Nigeria, a small group of Navigators had to withstand a wave of sudden family deaths. As Navigator leaders Jeremiah and Jenine discipled their close friends, Achi and Imara, Jenine’s mother died in a car crash. (The names in this story have been changed.)

Then, a week later, Achi’s father died.

A few months after that, Imara’s parents died in a car accident.

In the midst of this turmoil—as everyone struggled to understand, and as they mourned—Jeremiah and Jenine were able to bring comfort to Imara and Achi. They experienced what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

“My wife, having been through what she had been through [with the loss of her own mother], meant that there wasn’t a better person to comfort Imara,” Jeremiah says. “When Imara comes to the house, they talk, cry together and read scripture together. Because Jenine went through her mother’s death, she could help Imara go through her own pain. When Jenine says she understands what Imara is going through, she really does.”

In the same way, Jeremiah’s experience of losing his mother-in-law enabled him to comfort Achi when his dad died.

“Somehow, I was able to offer him comfort,” says Jeremiah. “It’s a tough, tough thing to do. . . . How we respond to what we go through informs how we can help people going through something similar.”

This is how Jeremiah sees discipleship. “It’s a relationship, but it’s also that I’m interested in you, not just interested in us having Bible studies. It’s you. And in the context of life, let’s seek Christ together.”

That is a great summary of life-to-life discipleship. It might not involve helping people through mourning and death, but it is always personal and transparent. I remember how my first mentor responded when I confessed my deepest sins to him. Despite my failures, he believed in me. He said, “David, God’s hand is on your life, and He has great things in mind for you.”

That touched me deeply. It taught me that influence happens when we love those we mentor. This may be Jesus’ most powerful leadership rule: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Life-to-life leader development is tailored to the specific needs of each person. It’s not a one-size-fits-all program. Disciple-makers understand the Scriptures and know how to help people move toward Christlikeness, but they are part of the story. They lead without being an overlord. They teach without being academic. They share their lives, not just their knowledge.

Matt, who is mentoring me now, tells me to crawl inside the skin of my friends, to get to know what they need. Other mentors say to me, “It’s not what you prepared that matters. It’s what they need when you are there.” Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”

Life-to-life leader development takes time. It’s costly. It’s not an efficient program. Sometimes it is hard to measure. But it’s powerful. It’s the way Jesus developed people.

My mentors chose to make a hand-crafted investment in me, and they’ve stuck with me despite my failures and flaws. I’m forever grateful. I want to pass that on. Don’t you?
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in 115 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.

Worshipful Leadership

By Mutua Mahiaini, International President

Photo Courtesy Ümit Bulut

Photo Courtesy Ümit Bulut

Leaders in most companies and organizations rely exclusively on worker productivity, management skills and technology to accomplish organizational goals and tasks. God is rarely part of the equation.

Although we push hard to fulfill our Navigator Calling and Vision, those of us who serve on the Navigators International Executive Team (IET) and as Regional Directors have sought to not follow the world’s patterns of leadership. We always have an intense agenda but we believe it is important to make time to seek God together, to integrate worship and leadership.

Our team and our Regional Directors are scattered around the world. So during our times together, every moment matters. Each long-anticipated conversation is treasured. The meetings are full of communal worship, personal sharing (at times requiring us to be quite vulnerable), and robust engagement around sticky leadership issues.

When we met at the end of August, each morning we had a different Regional Director lead us in seeking God together through the Word and prayer. It was as if we experienced Luke 24:32, which says, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

It is not easy to measure the value of time spent in the presence of the Lord, seeking to know Christ collectively as a team. It can feel risky to wait on God. Yet when it comes to accomplishing our ministry tasks, we have found time and time again that prayer saves time. The wisdom and guidance we gain from God’s Word spares us from untold problems. Our team’s unity is increased, which makes us more effective.

In Exodus 34:23-24, God addresses this issue directly: "Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God."

Please pray for all Navigator leaders with this thought from our Vision statement in mind: “The leaders of this movement, developed and empowered for God’s service, live out a growing commitment to Christlikeness. They are dependent on the Holy Spirit.”

As you serve God in the context of your daily life and work, we encourage you also to sustain a focus on worshiping God, staying deeply engaged with God’s Word, and devoting time to prayer. 
Mutua Mahiaini is the International 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.

Shaping Christlike Leaders in the Middle East

By Mike Shamy


News headlines are dominated by the escalating Syrian and Egyptian crises. Leaders such as Morsi, Mubarak, and Assad attract strong loyalty or generate fierce opposition. Millions of ordinary people are affected by the decisions they make. From a human perspective, things look bleak.
But there is another story concerning leaders in the Middle East. This story will not make the headlines, but it has the potential of helping unleash a movement of the Gospel of peace and hope throughout this troubled region.
Earlier this year, a group of men and women who provide leadership within our Navigator movement in the Middle East met to learn, pray, and encourage one another. Each of these leaders faces daunting challenges as well as tremendous opportunities as they serve families, businesses, neighborhoods, and communities of believers.
During our meetings, we discussed the following question: What factors influence your understanding and convictions concerning leadership? This is a crucial question because the way leaders answer it will reveal their motivation and shape their choices and actions. Without realizing it, leaders who sincerely follow Christ can easily lose their freedom and become captive to cultural models of leadership. Leaders can also become slaves to personal fears and the desire for human approval.
This is not a new issue. Thousands of years ago, another Middle Eastern leader, Paul, faced intense criticism from believers in Corinth because of his failure to conform to their expectations of effective leadership. Their notions of leadership were rooted in Roman and Greco culture, which linked leadership to a hierarchy of status and rank. The culture valued eloquent speech far more than the actual content of what a leader said. Good leaders walled themselves off to prevent others from knowing them well. They did this because people believed weaknesses and limitations undermined a leader’s credibility. Pleasing people, especially patrons, drove the words and actions of many leaders. Comparison and competition were rampant.
It is into this world that the Apostle Paul writes: "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task" (1 Corinthians 3:5). "So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1). Later in his letter to the Philippians, Paul begins with the salutation: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus . . ." (Philippians 1:1).
Paul is using the language of attachment. Just as a child feels secure when attached to a parent, so Paul sees himself held securely, firmly, and compassionately in a relationship with Christ. This is the foundation of his identity. In Christ, he is free from the demands and expectations of the culture. As he leads and influences others, gaining the approval of people is not important. Instead, he knows that he must ultimately answer to Christ. When asked by two of his disciples about leadership in the Kingdom, Jesus replied, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Mark 10:42-44).
Can you imagine what might happen all over the Middle East if leaders were shaped by this understanding of their identity and purpose?
During the recent leadership gathering in the Middle East, I was deeply encouraged by the way our Navigator leaders are being shaped by the Scriptures and the model of Jesus as they lead Gospel movements in a very troubled and difficult region. May God use these leaders to impact those they serve. May the next generation of Navigators also lead by imitating Jesus, not the culture. As a result, may God’s glory be revealed among the lost.

Mike Shamy was born in New Zealand. Mike and his wife, Audrey, joined Navigator staff in 1980. From 1989-96 Mike led and coached ministries in New Zealand. In 1999 he led the U.S. Metro Mission. In 2004, Mike joined the International Executive Team and provides support for Latin America. Mike is also a resource for developing the future international leadership community of The Navigators.

Reflections on International Leadership

By Bernie Dodd

Bernie and Jo Dodd

Bernie and Jo Dodd

Lorne Sanny, a former Navigator president, gave a quick but powerful presentation about leadership at a small conference many years ago. He stood and quoted Lamentations 3:22-23: "It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is Thy faithfulness" (KJV). Everyone expected him to expound on the verse; however, without further comment, he sat down!

Lorne’s words pretty much sum up the basis of biblical leadership: Leaders don’t have a chance of succeeding without God’s mercies. But as I look back on the 25 years I spent as leader of our Navigator work in French-speaking Africa and Europe, I would like to add a few thoughts about leadership for the emerging generation.

It’s a Long Journey, so Rely on God and His Promises
When God spoke to Jacob at Bethel, He renewed His promise to bless all the nations, a promise He first gave to Abraham. But God didn’t just give Jacob a promise; he also trained him for at least twenty difficult years. Upon Jacob’s return to Bethel, he renamed it El-Bethel. Without delving into a Hebrew lesson, this act demonstrated that his focus was now on the God of the promise, rather than on the promise alone (see Genesis 35:7).

Why did God take Jacob through such an arduous journey? His primary goal was to deepen Jacob’s dependence on God and His promises rather than on Jacob’s own schemes.

Be a Servant-Leader: There’s Always Room for One More Servant!
Biblical leadership is primarily influence through service. Acts 7:35 says, This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God Himself. I have sought to imitate leaders who have delivered others and who have influenced and empowered me with mercy and love. By contrast, I’ve avoided imitating those who lead by dominating others in order to accomplish their ministry goals.

We Can’t Finish the Race Alone, so Team Up with Others
When I was selected in 2004 to be Regional Director of Europe, several friends shared Micah 6:8 with me. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." One friend wrote a note saying, “That is all we ask!” So my goal was to team up and be with people, to listen and understand, to give feedback, to pray for and with them, to be in the Word together. In other words, I wanted to be an “alongsider” who helped people become the best they can be, much as Barnabas helped Mark become useful to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).

Understand the Context, so that the Gospel Can Flow Freely
Jethro counseled Moses to select godly men to share leadership with him (Exodus 18). These 70 men, centuries later, became the Sanhedrin—a stalwart religious form that had lost its original purpose. What was first established to meet a need had become a rigid form that killed the Giver of Life! A good idea might become irrelevant—or something worse.

After David became king of Israel, the Philistines attacked him. He prayed for guidance and defeated them. Later, he used a different tactic to ambush and defeat the enemy (2 Samuel 5:17-25). This illustrates the need to continue asking what God wants us to do in different contexts. Some methods will continue to be useful but others will need to change.

These are some important lessons to consider as we serve. But we should always remember, as Lorne Sanny made so clear, that we have this ministry only because His compassions fail not. Great is His faithfulness.   

Bernie and Jo Dodd became Navigator staff in 1973, being involved first in campus ministry. They served as missionaries in Africa for 26 years and then 10 years in Europe. In 2012, Bernie concluded his role as Europe Regional Director. He and Jo are now on sabbatical in the UK. They have two grown daughters.