Joining Hands

As we continue to consider “What characterizes our movement?” from The Navigators Vision Statement, we come to an additional characteristic: interdependence with others in the wider family of God.
Across our alley is the Japanese Presbyterian Church. Over the years, we’ve partnered with them in a variety of ways. They took over a neighborhood cleanup effort that we began. When we led the effort, it involved a few people with plastic bags. Now the church supplies extra workers, reflective vests, coordination with the city, water, and cookies. Although not many people from the church live in the neighborhood, they are considered good neighbors and they contribute to the well-being of our place.
This is just one example of our vision to partner with others in the wider family of God for the advance of the gospel. As we dive into the life of our neighborhoods, we discover that we are not alone—there are other Christ-followers who care about this community just as much as we do! We might call them “community champions,” already vitally engaged in the community.
First, like this Japanese congregation, there are churches around us. How can we partner with those church expressions, whether or not we use their buildings?
Also, we can also learn a lot from—and sometimes partner with—organizations that have had a faithful presence in neighborhoods over many years. We in Nav Neighbors have built significant, interdependent relationships with The Parish Collective, Thresholds, Forge, 3DM, Slow Church, Oak Hills Church, and many other traditional local churches in Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Colorado Springs. These brothers and sisters have served us, and we’ve attempted to benefit them with our own distinctives as well.
In addition, we run across professing believers with whom we can partner in a variety of ways. We may find prayer partners, Bible study cohosts, or even friends as we open our eyes to these possibilities. If our believing neighbors are not already involved in the grand objective of seeing the Kingdom break out where we live, we can think and act creatively to bring them into it.
All this calls to mind the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21, NLT). In The New Testament for Everyone commentary, N. T. Wright suggests an interesting application of this passage for twenty-first century believers:

Paul clearly has the life of the local congregation in mind. He wants every Christian in Corinth to value every other Christian, and to care for him or her, just like the hand comes to bandage the injured foot, or the foot hurries to take the injured head to hospital. That remains enormously important in every Christian fellowship, congregation and church the world over. But we in our age have been given, through instant electronic communication, a far more detailed picture of the worldwide church than any previous generation has ever had; and shall we restrict our sense of being members of the Messiah’s body simply to the people we see every week? Should we not also rejoice with, or grieve with, all Christians around the globe who celebrate or suffer?
We cannot do this alone, and God would not be pleased if we tried. We need to partner with believers who are working to serve neighborhoods and advance the gospel around the world. As we learn of needs through various media, we can pray and give to support their efforts.
We need one another. We need hands and feet and ears and eyes. In our neighborhoods, these dismembered parts of the body need to be “re-membered.” In our Navigator work, we gladly look for ways to partner in a spirit of interdependence.
Here’s the bottom line. We must be both rooted in our place and linked across places. We are connected to one another. This is especially true in our neighborhoods. Let’s live into this truth!
For Your Consideration:
  • Which church expressions gather in your neighborhood? How might you work together to care for the needs of people around you? Consider meeting with someone from the church staff to determine their interest and brainstorm possibilities.
  • As you think about creating a fabric of love and care in your neighborhood, who else do you need to connect with? Which individuals are potential partners in this effort? If you are not already partnering with them, what steps might you take to build such a relationship?
  • How can you stay informed about the needs of the broader body of Christ around the world? Websites and publications from Christianity Today, World, and Voice of the Martyrs, as well as from other ministries serving overseas, are a good place to start. What resources have your ministry partners found helpful? 

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 and continues with "Transformed Lives."