From Our Neighborhoods to the Nations

A beautiful picture from the book of Revelation demonstrates what Jesus had in mind when He commissioned His followers to make disciples of all nations:
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”
—Revelation 7:9, NLT
We live in an amazing time in history. The nations are at our doorstep. We can literally touch the nations in our own neighborhoods!

We have been taking a look at the Vision Statement of The Navigators through the lens of Nav Neighbors. Thus far we have examined the following: “We see a vital movement of the gospel, fueled by prevailing prayer, flowing freely through relational networks. . . .” Now let’s consider the next portion of our vision: “and out into the nations.” How can our ministry extend beyond our neighborhoods?
Not long ago, I eagerly accepted the invitation from our next-door neighbor to serve on the board of an organization called Dream Jamaica, which she founded. They help underprivileged Jamaican youth to succeed in life.
At the annual fundraiser for this organization, my wife, Iris, and I were responsible to fill a table. We weren’t sure whom to invite, so we just invited our neighbors. Our next-door neighbors on the other side, whom I'll call Bob and and Eun, came and sat with us. Eun is a Korean immigrant and Bob’s parents are Korean and Japanese. At the dinner, they wanted to talk to us about our church affiliation. Instead, we talked about our Jesus affiliation.
At the same time, two Jamaicans who came to share their stories at the event stayed in our home. One was a high school student who experienced his first-ever flight to come to Seattle. He will begin studying at the University of the West Indies this fall. Our other guest started a nonprofit in Jamaica to help kids learn to use Internet technology. What a wonderful privilege it was to have these two new friends staying in our home for several days.
Earlier this year I visited the Navigator team in New York City. I sat in on their leadership team meeting and learned that every nation on Earth lives in the city, and more than 800 languages are spoken there. We watched a video of Navigator Church Ministries staff Ernie Scalabrin’s work in planting Bible clubs in the public school systems. The students in that video were a Revelation 7 mosaic of accents and skin hues. Later we sat in on a seminary course taught by NCM staff Steve Tice, where each student represented a different “ethnos.” Especially as I contemplate the potential of the Good News continuing to flow along relational lines, it was exciting to see the number of students Navigators are touching.
The Kingdom of God turns upside down our normal view of how things work. We believe that investing in our neighbors and following where the Spirit leads will bring us to the nations and hasten the day when the beautiful scene from Revelation 7 will become reality. It seems crazy, but if every one of our laborers simply loved their neighbors well, I believe we would see the gospel freely flow “into the nations.”
Yes, the gospel follows the rivers of relationship. And just as the rivers flow into the sea, the gospel will flow into the nations if we plant it in our relational networks. Sometimes I daydream about an eventual heavenly conversation with Jesus. He says, "Al, you lived on the Earth in a unique time and place. In the United States in the twenty-first century, I brought the nations to your doorstep. What did you do with that gift?"

For Your Consideration:

  • What is the next step you could take to initiate or build relationships with people from other countries who live in your neighborhood?
  • If you don’t know anyone from outside the United States, consider the following ways to reach out:
  1. Help with an English as a Second Language (ESL) class.
  2. Search out special activities for international students at your local college or university. Offer to volunteer.
  3. Get involved with a program or ministry that helps to resettle refugees.
Why not connect with other Christians to brainstorm additional ways to connect with internationals in your community?

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 "Next Door to Everyone."