Abiding Impact

Here is final phrase of the Navigator Vision“bringing long-term impact in generational ministry.” It suggests a key principle of abiding impact for the Kingdom.
A friend recently asked if I had a good Bible study tool that would “work” in a neighborhood. As we continued our discussion, I began to share about the long-term and critical work of building real and legitimate relationships with the people around us. My friend admitted that he didn’t know his neighbors very well. By the end our conversation, he began to realize that there was no magic Bible study that would result in the conversion of his neighbors. No, our impact only comes when we lead with tangible acts of humble presence and long-term commitment.
We must fight the cultural pull toward what Carl Honoré calls “the cult of speed.” In his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speedhe writes,

Fast and slow are not just rates of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections—with people, culture, work, food, everything.
We must take the long-term view as we bring the Kingdom to our neighborhoods. In giving the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus spoke about breadth (all nations, the ends of the earth) and depth (make disciples, teach them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you). Yet He did not talk about speed or efficiency. He did, however, talk about time when He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is the long-term view.
Our vision compels us to take a generational view of ministry, which by its very nature is long-term. We must evaluate what we do in ministry through the lens of spiritual generations. This means avoiding shortcuts and focusing on building deeply into the lives of people. I think most Navigators get this when it comes to discipling believers, but we can have a different lens when it comes to planting gospel seeds among the lost. Christian formation and leader development happen life on life in the context of community, and I believe the same is true for our efforts at helping our not-yet-believing friends get to know Jesus.
What I am talking about is discipling with generations in mind. When we connect with people, we must see the potential in them through a generational mindset. This is always by faith. I believe it is one reason that so many of God’s promises are generational in nature. We may not see immediate results, yet the long-term impact is indisputable.
At a recent neighborhood ministry training event we conducted in Baltimore, a young man named Jibu shared some exciting things that God was doing through him and his family in their neighborhood. He and his wife displayed an unusually mature understanding of what it takes to plant seeds of the gospel among seemingly disinterested people in suburbia. I was impressed.
After the event, I asked Jibu how he had learned the principles that he and his family are living out. I expected him to talk about a book or seminar. Instead, he said that they were just living the way that Paul and Susan Watson had discipled them to live. I then learned that several of the participants involved in neighborhood ministry training had been discipled by Paul and Susan, who have always made disciples in a neighborhood setting. The day-to-day ministry of the Watsons will have an abiding impact for generations to come.
Before I close, let me mention five practices we hope to see manifested in people when we think of Kingdom laborers:
  1. We want them to walk with God. That means they know, love, and are becoming like Jesus. They know how to be nourished through the Word and prayer.
  2. We want them to know how to be light and salt among people who do not follow Christ. We want people who are fruitfully advancing the gospel among people around them.
  3. We want people not only to know the Scriptures, but to live them out in their daily lives.
  4. We want people who disciple with generations in mind. That is, they don’t see discipling individuals as an end, but as the beginning of process that will keep the gospel moving into the world.
  5. Finally, we want them to live like this in committed community.
To be sure, these are not practices that can be learned in a weekend seminar. They must be modeled as well as taught, developed as disciples let the Scriptures sink into their lives and experience the joys and challenges of living.
So, we come to the end of the slow journey through our Navigator Vision. This vision is compelling and achievable, yet it will take patience to see it through. Might we resist the siren call of the quick and short-term, and might God use us to bring long-term impact in generational ministry.
For Your Consideration:
  • What do you think it means to introduce people to Jesus “life on life in the context of community”? How might you involve the believers around you as you share Christ with your neighbors?
  • How is discipling with generations in mind different from just discipling? As you spend time life-on-life with a young believer, how might you pass on this mindset?
  • If you are not already part of a committed community, how might you find one or begin to build one?

Al Engler is the director of Navigators 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.