For the Sake of the Laborer

I was sipping coffee and complaining to my friend Chuck, who was part of The Navigators Military Leadership Team at the time. The team had decided to change their structure from one based on geography to one organized by service branch (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines).

Personally, I hadn’t liked the change because it made my job as a cross-missional leader more difficult. Instead of one military staff person representing the Pacific Northwest, I would now need to connect with multiple staff in the various service branches.

Chuck patiently listened to me, took a sip of his latte, and agreed that my job had indeed become a bit more challenging. Then he said something that has marked me ever since: “But, we’ve got to organize for the sake of the laborer.”

I realized immediately that Chuck was right. The point of our organization was not to make my job easier; the point was to serve generations of disciplemakers so that they might live and serve among those without Christ. We exist for their sake. It is good to remind myself of that truth on occasion.

This is the final article in our series “Should I Stay, or Should I Go?”, which began here, I encourage us to filter our thoughts about staying or going through the lens of the needs of our Mission and movement. Since we seek to “advance the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of laborers” who live and disciple among the lost, it is those very laborers we ought to be thinking about when we decide to root in a place for the long haul or to be mobile and available for service to the broader work.

As I’ve written before, four types of contributions are essential to carry out our shared Calling. I’ve listed them below with what I believe is a key objective for this contribution in our Mission at this time:

Local Laborers. Key: Learning to partner
Local Leaders. Key: Learning to connect local laborers across a given geographical area
Mobile Alongsiders. Key: Regional traveling teams that encourage, equip, and empower others to live a fully integrated Kingdom life
Pioneering Teams. Key: Planting the gospel in new places

Local laborers make a difference in the lives of their neighbors, friends, and family by pointing them to Jesus and helping them get to know Him as Lord. They are disciplemakers who also can pull together and lead people in community. They are the ones who care for, lead, and build connections among laborers in a local context.

I’m convinced that for people to make significant, generational headway in the ways we imagine, they must be committed long-term to their places and their relational networks. They must commit to stay unless God makes it clear otherwise.

When Navigator Rusty Stephens returned to the United States a few years ago, he asked me a series of questions about the state of the work and what was needed. One of his questions was this: “What do you think it will take for the gospel to advance through families and relational networks with freedom and energy?”

After some consideration, I gave him my answer—that it would take committed communities that are rooted and linked. They would need resourcing through mobile alongsiders and other methods of affirmation. Our great efforts should be to serve these localized expressions. Our initiatives are focused toward that result. This will require people committed to be local for the sake of the gospel and mobile for the sake of the laborer and for the Lord of the harvest.

Let me close with the apostle Paul’s fitting words and enduring challenge: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Al Engler is the director of Navigators Neighbors and Navigators Workplace. To contact him or to learn more about his ministry, click here.