A Heart for the Whole Person

Our Vision Statement begins with the beautiful idea of a gospel movement: “We see a movement of the gospel.” It continues with a key question: “What characterizes this movement?” The first characteristic of the movement we envision is this: “A heart for the whole person.”
A few years ago, my wife, Iris, and I received training through an organization that connects caring groups with people suffering from HIV/AIDS. This is not a Christian organization, although the work they do is in harmony with the teachings of Christ about love. At the beginning of the training, our group was told that if it was our goal to “convert people,” we should leave immediately.
Instead of leaving, I shot up a prayer. Could the gospel advance in an environment like this? Later in the same meeting, my mouth hung open as I heard a young HIV-positive, former prostitute tell her story. She told of a powerful supernatural encounter with Jesus, and she was now living a life of wholeness. Later I heard from a group of elderly women who made up the team that reached out to this young woman. It was clear that what God had used was simply the unconditional love of these women and the environment of grace they created. The love of God is a powerful force of healing. 
“It is not the survival of the fittest,” Navigator founder Dawson Trotman once said, “it’s the little one being his best for God.” This takes on new meaning in our fragmented society, where people are deeply hurting and broken. People suffer from broken relationships, dreams, and expectations. Our challenge today is to disciple people like this—to see God change them from the inside out (Isaiah 61:1-4). How can this happen?
If people sense that they are accepted and loved, they are much more likely to want to know Jesus. We can’t just look at people as Bible study attenders or consumers of our discipleship program. A. W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God, “God wants the whole person and He will not rest till He gets us in entirety. No part of the man will do.” Our ministry must engage with the whole person, and we must create an environment where people can be real and vulnerable. That is where true spiritual transformation takes place.
Navigators know this. It is why we focus on life-to-life discipleship. We want to help people in all of life. As Romans 12:1-2 is rendered in The Message,

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
David Kinnaman in his instructive work You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith, puts it this way, "Few young Christians can coherently connect their faith with their gifts, abilities, and passions. In other words, the Christianity they received does not give them a sense of calling. How can the church nurture a deep, holistic faith in Christ that encompasses every area of life?”
Are we nurturing such a faith in the people we help? I see many things that give me hope. Among them, the Lilly Vocation Project has brought a practical and Kingdom view of work that should make a real difference in the lives of “workers for the Kingdom” as they pursue their God-given contribution to our society. 
Also, Navigator Lonnie Berger designed Every Man a Warrior to help men with the battles they face every day. It teaches men how to apply the truths found in Scripture to money, marriage, raising children, sex, work, hard times, and making life count. Lonnie’s team is now piloting a similar book focused on issues that women face.
Finally, our focus on neighborhoods as the place of life and ministry naturally leads to a holistic approach to discipleship. It removes following Christ from the realm of disconnected religious activity and anchors it in the place of our natural relationships.
Our Navigator vision, this wonderful movement of the gospel, begins when we get a heart for the whole person and when we prayerfully invest in him or her with the love of Jesus.
For Your Consideration:
  • List five to ten areas of life such as work, relationships, money, and so forth. Think about how your faith affects each of these areas.
  • Now think about someone you are discipling or would like to disciple. Which of the areas above might he or she need help with?
  • Choose one of these. What first steps could you take to help your friend follow Jesus in this area?

Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or 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 "Creating Climates of Grace."