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How the Bible Mobilized Cross-Cultural Navigator Ministry

Over a long process in the 1980s and 1990s, The Navigators conducted a study of the Scriptures that involved Navigators from around the world. It had an immense impact on our work, and reaffirmed the foundational importance of following the Bible, as opposed to popular trends. The study also helped us arrive at the biblical foundations for Navigator ministry.

Known as the Scriptural Roots of Our Ministry (SRM), this study gave leaders in our global work the opportunity to engage deeply with the Word, share common foundational truths, and find the freedom to mobilize the Gospel in each cultural context. Having numerous Navigator leaders from around the world studying the Bible together about crucial themes related to advancing the Gospel and biblical community was remarkable.

Jim Petersen helped lead this effort. He recollects that the Navigators at the time needed to address some critical issues through the lens of the Scriptures. These included:

  • How to develop an integrated philosophy of ministry.
  • How to prevent traditions from paralyzing our work in cross-cultural contexts
  • How to overcome the pressures of modernity, pragmatism, relativism, etc., that were removing our confidence in the Scriptures to speak in relevant ways. We were in danger of listening to therapists, marketing experts, sociologists, and other misleading voices. Yet the Bible contains the truth for every aspect of our lives.

Jim and his team went to work in 1987. By the end of the year, they had come up with more than twenty areas for study. They had invited close to one hundred Navigators of eighteen nationalities to contribute one or more research papers. If all those invited had indeed supplied what was requested of them, the team would have received more than 150 papers! In the event, the team gathered more than one thousand pages of original material.

The group began to see they had produced a tremendous resource, one that would be foundational for the Navigator Core (Values, Vision, and Calling statements). Not only that, Jim understood that the Bible gave Navigators a common bond, but also liberty to express the Gospel in ways that fit with each culture and region.

He said at the beginning of 1988, “We have moved away from thinking in terms of producing a definitive international document, or seminar, towards providing a broad, biblical framework out of which a brief, agreed-upon statement of calling, values and ministry essentials will emerge. The application of this framework and statement will be worked out nation by nation.”

Years later, Petersen wrote that one of the enduring effects of the SRM was that “it gave us freedom as an organization to innovate and change. The human tendency is to remain bound to status quo in the name of faithfulness and thus resist change. But when our staff saw what the Scriptures had to say on missional issues, they felt free to follow them. I see a connection between the SRM and the innovative work our people in new situations have done over the past two decades.”

This was highly significant. This heroic and transcultural study of the Scriptures led to a supple framework that would foster creative grassroots solutions, unleashing the Gospel.

By Donald McGilchrist

Adapted from the article titled “The Scriptural Roots of Our Ministry”

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