Generational Discipleship

As we continue to consider our Navigator vision, we come to this sentence: “As they become established in discipleship, some grow to be foundational for further generations.”
We sat in a circle in our living room with five blue-collar couples—neighbors, family, and friends. What they had in common was desperation. Each of them was on a second marriage—one was on a third—some were struggling in their current marriages. They all knew that they needed help. Their desperation was so great they were willing to look at the Bible to see if this ancient book might in some way give them the guidance they knew they needed.
We walked with these couples and their friends for about seven years. We even stayed connected after we moved more than 60 miles north into Seattle. Each person in this group has a unique story of coming to faith and of being established in discipleship. They led us into amazing ministry among truck drivers, recovering drug addicts, horse owners, and bikers. Those are stories for another day.
One of the couples, we’ll call them “Craig and Jane,” were particularly hungry to grow in their faith. Iris and I spent a lot of time with them. We helped them establish rhythms in prayer and the Scriptures. We supported them as they faced several crises. At one point their marriage was hanging by the thinnest of threads. We took them away for a time of relational healing. We walked with them through the rebellion of their oldest child. We prayed with them for their nonbelieving friends. In fact, except for our little group, all their friends were nonbelievers.
Eventually, our responsibilities in Seattle and the growing maturity of this group made it clear that our time of direct investment had come to an end. We stayed connected, but our weekly involvement stopped. We saw each other at a funeral, a wedding, a birthday, and each time we saw them, we marveled at Craig and Jane’s maturity and heart to see the gospel advance.
Once I had lunch with Craig and asked him what had been the key to the amazing turnaround in their marriage. I expected him to share that he had found an excellent marriage counselor or attended some special seminar. Instead, Craig told me that he just decided to take Jesus seriously, to submit to Him in obedience, and to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
“In other words,” Craig said, “I just started living all those things that you and Iris modeled and talked to us about.” A humbling statement. A tremendous encouragement.
Earlier this summer, Iris and I attended an engagement party for their oldest daughter. We were in awe of the influence Craig and Jane were having on a people group for whom traditional church attendance is about as likely as a trip to the moon. At the party, they introduced us to several couples they were investing their lives in. As Iris and I drove away, we were filled with joy as we realized this couple had become foundational to further generations.
In the last article we looked at the line in our vision that says, “around the world many are coming to faith.” The next phrase says, “some grow to be foundational for further generations.” Yes, we are to focus locally while connecting to a broader worldwide gospel movement. At the same time, we have the dual focus on “the many” and “the few.” We trust God that many will to come to faith and that some will be foundational for further generations. May it be so!
For Your Consideration:

  • What did Al and Iris do to help these couples grow as disciples?
  • What attitudes do you think contributed to their ability to have an impact on the next generation of disciples?
  • How does this encourage you all the more to “be there” for the people around you?

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

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction.