Our in-depth look at The Navigators vision brings us to this truth: The gospel spreads naturally and powerfully, as believers share Christ, life upon life, family to family.
A neighbor recently brought tomatoes from her garden to a dinner we hosted. Her tomatoes were so delicious they could have been served as the main course. Their taste bore almost no resemblance to that of the cardboard-flavored pink things available in our supermarkets. I don’t know much about natural, organic, local farming, but I do know that food grown in these ways tastes abundantly better than the mass-produced fare we’ve become accustomed to.
I believe the same is true of mass-produced evangelism. We’ve codified, commodified, processed, packaged, and sold gospel presentations and methodologies. We’ve taken seminars on becoming contagious and explosive. We’ve learned to share our personal testimonies in three minutes or 30 seconds. Yet when I contemplate the words of our vision, I feel we’ve exchanged the natural and delicious gospel for a flavorless and efficient one. Read these words again slowly and think about what this part of our vision might look like: The gospel spreads naturally and powerfully, as believers share Christ, life upon life, family to family.
As my friend John Pattison states in the book he co-authored, Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, “Efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control have crept into many of our churches, flattening out the flavor of our witness before the watching world.” To fully embrace our vision, we need to give up our modern need for efficiency and control.
This does not mean we should stop teaching people how to share a simple gospel presentation or to briefly tell their story. It does mean those skills are just first, foundational steps. We want to raise up people from whom the gospel spreads both “naturally” and “powerfully.”
Neither am I saying that student surveys and proclamation evangelism have no place in our Navigator ministries. On the contrary, our ministries must make apostolic efforts to plant the gospel if we are to survive and grow. As a bonus, these gospel conversations, even with strangers, can help people we disciple to develop skill, courage, and faith.
What I am saying is that these efforts are always preliminary. Larger-scale evangelism efforts are a means toward an end. Our goal is for God to raise up generations of laborers who are advancing the gospel among family and friends in natural, even organic ways.
I saw this truth in a recent prayer letter from Navigator staff Denny Williams of Detroit. He wrote,
This past weekend we spent a morning with an older couple who are becoming good friends, having breakfast and talking about what the Lord Jesus has done for us, especially His gift of eternal life. We heard some of their life stories, asked about their faith in God, and wove in our testimonies and truths from God’s Word (with stories that captured those truths) in a warm, conversational way. The morning affirmed to us how God uses the sharing of our personal testimonies and stories that illustrate the truths of the gospel in helping others come to faith in Christ.
Denny advocates developing a short testimony, not as an end, but as a means of growing in the ability to naturally converse about faith with friends. This is how we envision the gospel spreading: life to life, among family and friends.
The statement we are considering says that the gospel spreads not only naturally
, but powerfully
. Eddie Broussard, who serves with The Navigators' International Office, pointed us to Acts 1:8 at our recent international leaders’ gathering. He reminded us that Jesus told the original apostles that movements of the gospel will require power, and power comes from the Spirit of God. The power of the Spirit enables us to be Jesus’ witnesses.
It is possible for the gospel to spread in a way that is both natural and
powerful. It spreads naturally to family and friends because of our shared humanity, and it spreads powerfully because of the Spirit of the living God. This is the picture in our vision: life to life, family to family.
For Your Consideration:
What’s best, short or extended gospel presentations? When might you prefer one over the other?
How have you seen the gospel spread “naturally” in and through your life?
What is the Holy Spirit’s role in the advance of the gospel?
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.