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The Scriptural Roots of Our Ministry

Summary: The development of the Scriptural Roots of Ministry (SRM) in the late 1980s came ten years after the development of the Fundamentals of our Ministry, in a shift which illustrated an increasing sensitivity to contexts and a renewed commitment to discerning what the Spirit was calling us to be and to do. The SRM was a biblical research program that became a process, reminding us to ground our ministries more securely in the Scriptures. This article describes the evolution of what became the SRM.

We value the truth and sufficiency of the Scriptures for the whole of life.
The Core, Value 2

Article Contents

SRM: The Beginnings
SRM: Contextualization, and Decentralization
Four Common Questions about the SRM
SRM Task Forces One and Two
Work of the SRM Consultation, 1989–1990
Factors that Made the SRM Effective Globally, 1992–1993
SRM Assessment, 1993–1994
Formation of Eight Common Themes, 1997

SRM: The Beginnings

The first International Council that Jerry White chaired as general director took place in February 1987 in West Germany.1 There were twenty-five participants of nine nationalities. The declared objectives were spiritual, as befitted a time when much was changing: to deepen our fellowship, provide mutual spiritual encouragement, equip one another better for our responsibilities and stimulate informed prayer for one another.

The only other objective was quite generic: to make progress in the development and direction of our global ministries. This was in line with the first of the expectations that the council had expressed for Jerry as our new general director. It was, simply, that he exercise spiritual leadership by:

  • Reinforcing commitment to our Calling
  • Focusing on our spiritual dynamics
  • Setting a visible and motivating example

In August 1986, White had instigated a revision of the Fundamentals of the Navigator Ministry (FOM) in order to “go deeper together in our study of the Word . . . of the basic foundations underlying our work.”2

In harmony with the need to enhance the development and direction of our global ministries, Jim Petersen suggested a guiding committee for revising the FOM should: “Provide The Navigators with an updated statement of our sphere of mission that would give us a clear sense of common identity and serve as the reference point for our national ministries.”

A guiding committee for the revised FOM had been formed and met first at the end of 1986.3 Jim put forward a process that would draw many of us into extensive research, numerous interviews, and analyses of how our contexts had changed since the birth of the original FOM in 1975. During the ensuing decade, cultural, structural and philosophical developments suggested a need for fresh work in the Scriptures. The committee proposed to meet four times between the end of the council and early 1988. Clearly, this was to be much more than a simple revision.

Just before the council assembled, in early 1987, we held an International Forum for Established Countries in the same location, Dorfweil in West Germany. Jim observed later that this Forum gave us a sense of where our principal countries were, philosophically . . . and then the council served to evaluate FOM 24 and instructed us in the general direction that revisions should take.

Discussion at this council was intense. After all, what was in view was a season of changes to our foundational guidelines for ministry. This was of sufficient importance to merit quoting from the relevant minutes, compressed, of the council:

7.2 An extensive and animated discussion ensued on the nature and usefulness of the FOM . . . and on the general scope of any revision. We spoke of the tensions inherent in global documents, of the need to guard and teach our distinctives, of the function and dangers of limits, of the varying levels of relevance of our current FOM, of the consciously organizational mindset of our current FOM, of the essentiality of a common sense of identity and calling . . . and of many related matters.

7.3 In our perspectives, we ranged from those who routinely use and uphold the FOM 2 document to those who have largely set it aside as having, in part, a negative or irrelevant function. In celebrating our diversity, we recognized that we must not go to either extreme: imposing a new document on those who profit from the existing one or holding on to the existing document beyond its useful life.

7.4 Several of us expressed the continuing need for a document, shorter and majoring on our vision and values. Others expressed a need for several distinct documents: for example, one on our Calling and one on what we are beginning to learn about Movement. Others, again, warned us to put little faith in documents: what counted was that we sought to be Spirit-led teachers and leaders.

7.7 Some of the more influential strands of opinion that emerged include:

  • We need carefully to study and develop our ecclesiology
  • We have to be wiser and deeper in our hermeneutics
  • We need to hear afresh God’s calling
  • We should discuss the extent to which our past should determine our future
  • It is vital to root our identity at a deep and enduring level

At the end of these sessions, Jerry pointed out that we had merely identified ideas and concerns. It was very important that we see ourselves as only at the beginning of the process. He would begin to stimulate a climate that encouraged field staff around the world to contribute their own thinking. Meanwhile, he affirmed that the consensus of the council was to proceed with the project.

Sentiment at this 1987 council expected much. The revision should liberate, clarify, anticipate and be movement-oriented. As Jim listened, the core issue seemed to be ecclesiology.

Leaders of several countries (Norway, Germany, Canada, USA) noted that the FOM had lost traction in the early 1980s and Taylor observed that we had locked onto forms which served us well during the years of blessing in the 1970s but were now limiting. On the other hand, leaders from South Korea and Singapore still found FOM 2 foundationally vital.5 Africa, it seemed, was somewhere in the middle of this spectrum of relevance.

Already, one could hear the voices advocating not so much a document as a vehicle to support self-discovery.6 The FOM was seen as primarily organizational, which lessened its value in the midst of ministries that were tending towards movement. Mike Treneer suggested that we think of ourselves as a “centered set,”7 like the solar system; therefore, we needed to define those things (aim, vision, distinctives) around which we revolve. Terms such as “equipping” and “fruit” are broad and life-oriented in the NT, but we do not use them that way.

A concern that would recur in the years ahead was a tendency to imitate New Testament structures rather than processes. How authoritative was the “model” of Gospel expansion seen in the New Testament? As Sparks put it, we might be assigning normative status to New Testament examples.8

SRM: Contextualization and Decentralization

Looking back on his own reasons for pursuing what became the SRM, after five years of coaching diverse countries in contextualization, Jim crystallized six reasons:9

  1. Absence of an integrated philosophy of ministry. Operating in an eclectic fashion. Failing to lay solid foundations.
  2. Tradition, both ecclesiastical and Navigator, had a paralyzing effect. We stopped short of completing our task or service to people.
  3. Ministries burdened by westernization and non-contextual origins. Scruples, authoritarianism, institutionalism.
  4. Signs that the vision for the third generation had become second-hand; convictions waning along with commitment.
  5. The pressures of modernity, pragmatism, relativism, etc., were obviously upon us and we were falling victim to them. Confidence in the ability of the Scriptures to speak to us in relevant ways was declining. Instead, we were listening to therapists, marketing experts, sociologists and other misleading voices.
  6. Our Global Society10 pushed initiatives out to the regions and countries. There was a need for a corresponding synergizing influence that would keep us tracking together.

In 2016, in response to an inquiry,11 Jim articulated what we faced in 1987 as follows:

. . . both the FOM and the SRM serve as foundations for the Navigator vision. Vision is seeing. As we move along, the landscape changes and one’s vision needs to adapt accordingly to remain relevant. I was aware of this need even as the FOM first came out. It wasn’t going to serve our people in some parts of the world. It is very hard to write anything that is truly transcultural . . . the Bible succeeds! . . . How do we as Navigators relate to the Body? . . . What’s happening with the Gospel in the Muslim world today is one example, where even the Western model of organized congregations is not an option. Yet, in such places there are, of course, essential functions that must still be met for the church to exist. What are these? The purpose of the SRM was to provide a biblical framework that is broad enough to serve laborers in unusual places without imposing ill-fitting forms on them. This is challenging and puts more responsibility on the laborer in his or her location . . .

Jim and his team went to work during 1987, wrestling with how diverse expectations might be implanted in the existing design of the FOM. By the end of the year, they had come up with more than twenty areas for study, and they had invited close to one hundred Navigators of eighteen nationalities to contribute one or more research papers12 on these areas, which were sorted into four broad clusters:

The Scope of God’s Workings
Understanding God’s Vineyard or Harvest Field
The Essentials
Historical Ecclesiology

As expected, more papers were requested on ecclesiology than on any other area. The purpose and nature of the New Testament Church was to be investigated through fourteen papers, with another eleven papers on the functions and outworkings of the Church.13

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 received more than one thousand pages of original material.

But this was not all. After the rich haul of studies had been assimilated, the team proposed to reflect on the particular contributions of The Navigators, with deference to local discernment as to the best mix in our various cultural contexts.

However, the more the team tried to revise FOM 2, with papers flowing in, the more they found it to be too narrow a framework. Therefore, as Jim told the council at the beginning of 1988, “We have moved away from thinking in terms of producing a definitive international document or seminar toward 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.”

This was highly significant. We changed course. We moved from a heroic attempt to design a source book that offered transcultural applications of the Scriptures to a supple framework that would foster creative grassroots solutions. The process would take longer and guidance as to the “correct” applications would no longer be offered from the center. In short, countries would write their own “FOMs.”

An illustration of the differing perspectives within even a single country may be taken from Terry Taylor’s letter to his staff in early 1988. He is describing the recent strategy consultation for our US leaders. Although his report is upbeat and broadly encouraging, it includes the following:

I believe our steadfast refusal to force conclusions contributed to much greater openness in the discussions and allowed us to freely explore different sides of each issue before us. Obvious tensions did not prevent open-ended discussion. For example, some staff feel that our vision and aim are one and the same, Others feel that our vision is much broader than our aim. Some feel that our aim is the end. Others feel our aim is a means to an end. Some feel that our aim and the 3E process is our vision. Others feel that the Great Commission is our vision and the aim is our means. We approached the topic of vision with such fundamental questions as:

  • Should our primary focus be on Matthew 28:19–20 (our vision to win the lost) or on 2 Timothy 2:2 (our aim to produce laborers)?
  • How does an emphasis on one or the other affect our thinking?
  • How has our focus on spiritual reproduction helped us? How has it hurt us?

For pragmatic Americans, it was hard to resist the urge to ‘conclude’ or to ‘decide what we are going to do about it.’ However, our discussions revealed we have much biblical rethinking to do about each of these issues: beginning with our understanding of the Gospel itself, then on to laborers, equippers and leaders.

Given such uncertainties, it was clear that the emerging process, internationally, should elevate the place of the Scriptures in our work, as given us to obey. As Mike Treneer later urged, we should beware of abstract studies: “The Scriptures are like a map . . . only useful if you know where you are on the map.” Every generation needs to be a “first generation” with convictions rooted in their own prayerful investigation of the Scriptures.

It was no surprise, therefore, that the working title FOM 3 had become misleading. Instead the emerging vehicle would be called the Scriptural Roots of Our Ministry.14

It proved useful, in the light of some misunderstandings, to explain what the SRM was not, namely:

  • A new statement of our ministry philosophy, a new FOM
  • A new Bible study series, an updated Design for Discipleship, but more oriented toward ministry leadership
  • A new ministry direction for The Navigators

It was, on the other hand, an attempt to reduce the distance between truth and application, to fuse biblical research with ministry practices through an extended process of study and interaction with other laborers in similar situations. As such, it would be a process of refreshing our ministry through the Scriptures.

As Petersen explained:15

Applications will have to be worked out nation by nation, as every nation is different. Each faces different opportunities and obstacles. Cultures differ. Gifts and abilities of the missionaries and national teams differ from nation to nation.

Because of variables such as these, every national work should be an original. If this doesn’t happen, the work will be perceived as being foreign and the nationals will not claim it as their own. And any ministry that is not embraced and owned by those who receive it will be short-lived and superficial.

For these reasons this third part, application, is going to take time. It will mean ongoing interaction with our missionaries and national leaders over these next few years.

By June 1988, the SRM committee consisted of Stacy Rinehart, Jeff Jernigan, Paul Williams, Dick Fischer, Bill Swan, and Jim Petersen. Their first task was to read, correlate, and synthesize the research papers that were flowing in. The most intense period of this work was during August and September 1988. On their behalf, Bill Swan asked for prayer, “that there would be a global renewal through the searching of the Scriptures that would result in an unleashing of the Gospel and a sharpening of the focus of our entire ministry.”16

Four Common Questions about the SRM

By now, questions were beginning to swirl around the project. Four common ones emerged.

Question 1: Was this a paternalistic initiative from the center to enhance the pursuit of our Aim? No, because many field staff were signaling the need for a major revision . . . to refine not only what we do but how we think. Pressure points included hermeneutics, ecclesiology, interaction with our history and a fresh understanding of laborers and laboring.

Question 2: Was this to be dominated by the rising global influence that was accorded to Jim Petersen? No. His shaping of the process was seminal, but the outcomes were left open. Furthermore, the “project” was aggressively designed to secure and digest a wide range of inputs. For example:

  • The first SRM Task Force of September 1988 included fourteen Navigator leaders17 from around the world
  • Twenty-three key topics were generated for study
  • Almost one hundred researchers of many nationalities were asked to contribute; eighty-eight did
  • Thirty-three external reviewers were then to be invited to comment

The proposed reviewers were all recognized teachers and theologians from outside The Navigators. Collectively, they were a “wish list.” Eventually, as the process concluded, we had approached fewer than half of them and received written counsel from six.18 However, the mere idea of soliciting external critiques was a significant advance.

Question 3: Did the SRM have a deliberate bias? This question surfaced persistently, often with an implicit suspicion that the process was tilted towards pioneering or “apostolic” ministries in the frontiers.19 It’s hard to answer, in the sense that all formative initiatives carry at least some imprint of their origins. However, a careful review of the questions that eventually formed the skeleton of the biblical research does not reveal a predetermined bias.

Petersen, looking back, wrote20 as follows:

One primary goal in writing these six modules was to avoid ‘spin.’ That is, including one person’s or another’s personal bias, or a theological or organizational bias. This is very difficult to accomplish, but we tried to write each section using questions that did not assume some predetermined answer. Our trust was in the integrity of the Scriptures and the teaching by the Holy Spirit.

The operational design of the SRM certainly had a strong bias towards the ways in which Navigators had always sought to determine God’s will for our movement. Here is how Dick Fischer put it in a paper on Why do The Navigators Need the SRM?:21

Providentially, throughout our history, one of our most solid foundation stones has been the Word of God. Navigators are, and have always been, men and women steeped in the Scriptures. We memorize, study, read, quote, and pray the Bible.

So now, in the midst of deep ministry questions, changing societies and struggles for new directions—while at the same time facing unparalleled opportunities—we sense that God is calling us back again to the Scriptures for His Word to us. We know he has answers for us, and his Spirit will speak to us, if we tune our hearts and intellects to hear and understand. God’s Word will affirm us when we are in his path, correct us when in error, and provide the guideposts we will need to move forward into the unknown. This is the heartbeat of the SRM.

Question 4: Was the SRM merely a new and elaborate philosophy of ministry? No, nor did it signal a new ministry direction. Instead, it was to be a process for refreshing our ministries in the light of the grand themes of the Scriptures, so that our confidence in God’s leading might be strengthened.22 Personal study and collaborative conclusions would be fused.

In the fertile transitional months of 1987–1988, the question arose of how the emerging SRM would interface with the parallel work on our Global Society.23 While the latter is traced in detail in the article Our Enabling Global Society, our perspective at the beginning of 1988 was that the SRM would answer again what we seek to accomplish, under God, and why, whereas the emergent Global Society would address how and who and where this would be accomplished.24

SRM Task Forces One and Two

It will be helpful at this point to summarize the focus of the SRM Task Force. After a phase of extensive biblical research, interviews, and issue letters, it convened:

Task Force 1: September 1988
  • Assessed, integrated, summarized the biblical research
  • Assigned more research from the field in shallow areas
  • Drafted written summaries of each of six sections
  • Prepared studies on sphere, functions, values

Exploratory presentations were then made to US field directors and to our Navigator elders.25

Task Force 2: January 1989

This was a dry run through the proposed SRM Process: drawing out observations and implications, describing our ethos, integrating our biblical research with our perceived ethos, identifying our primary contribution, functions, values.

The SRM team intended to take the International Council through a similar but radically simplified process, in order that the council could form an accurate understanding as a basis for evaluating how the material would be useful to our Worldwide Partnership.

During 1988, the Spirit was at work in guiding our task force as it shaped the framework of the SRM. This was settling down into a motivating pattern: The Kingdom of God, The Purposes of God, The People of God, God’s Pursuit of the Nations. Out of these foundations, the two final segments flowed naturally: Essentials of Ministry and History of the Church.

As Jerry White wrote to our staff after participating in the task force, “More than discussing papers and concepts, we dug into the Bible and let the Word excite us anew about the Great Commission.”26 Nevertheless, the eighty-eight completed papers at the end of 1988 comprised around one thousand pages, with authors of thirteen nationalities. Out of this research, six study guides were distilled.

It was gratifying to see how seriously the task force studied God’s overall purpose. As Dick Fischer wrote in setting out parameters for this:

One of our most persistent errors has been to try to understand God’s will with ourselves as the starting point, as though our welfare or role is the center point in God’s plan . . . We must have an understanding of the whole . . . We need to have a feel for what God is in fact doing on this planet and why. To what end is He leading us? How far along this line of history are we now? And what does cooperation with his plan imply?27

When the International Council28 met in February 1989, the emerging SRM process took up most of their time.29 By now, the proposed sections were:

God and His Kingdom
God and His Purposes
God and His People
God’s Pursuit of the Nations
Nature of Spiritual Ministry
History and the Church

It is encouraging to observe how this focus first upon what God is doing in his world parallels the way in which the first few sessions of our first Overseas Policy Conference in 1961 examined God’s overall plan before moving to consider what part The Navigators might play in it.

Considerable debate swirled around what the task force called the “apostolic function.” Not only so, but Task Force 2, which had twelve participants, had proposed that The Navigators are “a society in God’s kingdom committed to the apostolic function with a focus on the lost among the nations.”

TF 2 also laid before the council six undergirding values which are notable for the rising emphasis placed on the Spirit and on grace. Thus:

  • Our highest value is to know Jesus Christ and to recognize the centrality of the cross in human history.
  • We prize a dynamic involvement with the Scriptures, seeing them a God’s authoritative revelation, leading us into truth and wisdom.
  • We value and desperately need the ministry of the Holy Spirit among us – empowering, gifting, and helping us fit in with God’s purposes.
  • We esteem God’s grace which delivers us from conformity and bondage to performance, freeing us to offer the pure Gospel to the lost.
  • We value the individual and recognize his potential as good seed reproducing the life and character of Christ in others.
  • We recognize the essentiality of believers “in community” characterized by love and unity, where leadership is exercised and gifts are affirmed.

As evidence of our continuity of commitment through a turbulent period in the1990s, we shall see in the article titled “The Approach to The Core” how closely these foreshadow the values which crystallized early in the next century in The Core.

Task Force 2, in a later session, generated and explored forty-four elements that were put forward as comprising our ethos.30 To distill these down to a digestible (but still expansive) set of our core elements, we used a process that yielded those that at least six members of Task Force 2 placed among their top twenty-two. These were:

  1. Knowledge of the Scriptures
  2. Concern for the lost
  3. Focus on the individual
  4. Laymen can do it
  5. Disciplined, objective, rational
  6. Reproduction
  7. Legacy of the basics
  8. Emphasis on character
  9. Network of people loyalties
  10. Thirst for the cutting edge
  11. Desire to please God
  12. Practical – get on with it
  13. Performance orientation
  14. Servanthood
  15. Life upon life
  16. Make your life count
  17. Apostolic mentality
  18. Low view of local churches
  19. Strong, global vision
  20. Individual application of the Word
  21. Orientation to the promises
  22. Educated middle class

We were trying to recognize our reality.31 Bear in mind that our quest at this stage was to identify and assess the influences which had generally shaped our past and to identify those which should shape our future.

Work of the SRM Consultation, 1989–1990

An SRM consultation in September 1989 was designed as an experience for those likely to be among the primary movers of the SRM. Present were: Alan Andrews, Paul Reynoso, Dick Fischer, Mike Shamy, Logan Keating, Jerry White, Donald McGilchrist, Paul Stanley, and Jim Petersen.

The content presented was shaped to equip those who would implement the SRM. It helped them understand the background and purpose, digest the study guides, and interact on the communication process.32

The “final” version of the SRM, described as a biblical research study guide, was dated January 1990. It offered an improved text containing:

  • Fewer verses, better connections
  • More on prayer, on God’s promises, on suffering
  • History and the Church absorbed into God and His Purposes
  • Insertion of section summaries
  • Provision of an index of scripture references

The structure of six sections was retained, but more space was given to the topic of the kingdom. The sections were now headed:

God and His Revelation
God and His Kingdom
God’s Purposes for His Creation
God and His People
God’s Pursuit of the Nations
The Nature of Ministry

During 1990, we conducted pilot models in the US, Great Britain, and India.

In order to implement the SRM successfully, three crucial roles were identified:

  1. Convener: Organizes, clarifies the process, builds anticipation for the forum.
  2. Teacher: Helps participants think their way through the forum, gets beyond their existing assumption, brings key principles into focus, teaches by asking questions.
  3. Facilitator: Helps the participants translate their observations and interpretations into application.

Detailed suggestions on how to facilitate were provided. Out of every forum, we expected that participants would together identify in their context a relevant statement of:

  • Sphere of ministry
  • Supportive functions
  • Undergirding values

. . . and our prayer33 was that such statements should:

  • Be specific enough to be definitive
  • Be broad enough for individual laborers and leaders with a variety of gifts to find their place and belong
  • Readily interface with statements of other affinity groups, and national statements, as well as our global aim.

Those who were chosen to facilitate34 as being well acquainted with the process were: David Bok, Esther Waruiru, Paul Williams, Dick Fischer, Stacy Rinehart, Pete Gerhard, Mike Shamy, John R., and Jim Petersen.

Factors that Made the SRM Effective Globally, 1992–1993

By the end of 1992, SRM Forums had taken place in eighteen countries with a further ten anticipated for 1993. It was time to take stock. The SRM was already giving our staff new freedoms, greater clarity, and new directions in ministry.

In early 1993, Jim Petersen synthesized the purpose of the SRM as follows:

The Scriptural Roots of Ministry is a means for developing laborers and leaders in the field. It takes them into the Scriptures for answers to the critical issues that confront them in their ministry situation, providing them with an undergirding of biblical principles, and bringing focus to their collective and individual efforts.

We envision the application of the SRM as being an ongoing interaction of life and ministry with biblical truth – to where it becomes our habit to seek God through the Scriptures for understanding in matters of ministry practice and strategy.

The design of the SRM had involved many (including outsiders) in much work. How useful did it turn out to be? Indisputably, it prepared the way for The Core by creating a context in which we could take a profound look at ourselves in light of God’s kingdom and purposes. It caused us to go deeper into the Scriptures and, especially in the forums, to work collaboratively; indeed, to become a hermeneutical community.35 In quite a few of the forty countries that eventually went through the process, it galvanized us for a stronger and more biblical obedience to the Lord.

In general, there was a correlation between the seriousness with which the process was pursued and the scale of benefits that resulted. Those who saw it as just another major Bible study usually profited little. It was offered, however, as an avenue for life-long discovery and learning, progressively narrowing the gap between God’s requirements and our responses.

Another cause for celebration was the close harmony among the sphere statements crafted at the forums in forty diverse countries of ministries, something we had certainly prayed for but could not take for granted.

A convenient way to access and review these sphere statements is in section 12 of the agenda papers for our December 1997 International Team. Seventy-one forums were known to have taken place in thirty-nine countries, and this section lays out forty statements plus the dates of every forum and the names of the facilitators. It also summarizes the gist of the statements in eight common themes that were visible in many countries.

In most cases, the SRM flourished when we had a skilled facilitator. Not a leader to tell us what to conclude, but a facilitator who was able to draw out from us what the Holy Spirit was saying to each one of us. Jim Petersen had a remarkable gift in this arena and was thus much in demand!

There were at least three places in which the SRM process was significantly adapted: India, USA, and Africa.

India: The leadership team crystalized their ethos as well as their sphere statement in 1990. During the following year, the extended group completed their SRM studies and a special briefing was arranged for the wives. The process was then applied progressively to three major topics: Work, Marriage & Family, Life. The process also led into the frequent use of “if-then” statements. Example: If God’s Word is accurate, reliable, authoritative and enlightening, then I must not neglect any form of intake that will make all this possible.

USA: Here, the main text was slightly simplified and the entire process from launch to forum was written into the material. Additionally, some visual clues36 were added, as well as some personal case studies.37 These changes made it possible for many natural laborers to participate in the SRM process. The changes were sufficient for the US text to be separately published as SRM version 2.1. Stacy Rinehart acted as the main editor, the final text being launched in September 1992. Version 2.1 was noteworthy for the additional suggestions and guidance inserted at various points, and for a helpful closing Section titled Where to from Here?”, which underlined the point that “we are not finished with the process until the truths that God has drawn to our attention, and the answers he has given to our questions and issues, are clearly established in our lifestyle, a lifestyle that will reflect the reality of the kingdom of God.”

The US experience was not among our best, partly because the ministry was going through a period of reorganization and partly because participation was made voluntary on an individual basis rather than on a country basis. As a result, only about one third of the staff participated. After around twenty-five forums throughout the US, the results were synthesized to reflect national spheres of ministry representing both staff38 and natural laborers.

Another significant “distraction” from the SRM was the US decision in April 1992 to join and recruit energetically for The CoMission.

Don Bartel recalls that the SRM process did not have a very significant impact on the national ethos or strategy until after The Core was established in 2002.

Africa: The Lord provided for SRM progress at a difficult time, because our facilitator Esther Waruiru needed to focus on her family needs.39 A few additions were made to the international text to deal with aspects such as spiritual warfare, and because participants were required to read two preparatory resources: Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle E. Cairns, and a brief summary of how Christianity had evolved in Africa, written by Esther. Some three hundred participants (from eleven out of our then fifteen countries in Africa) worked their way through the process, by no means all of them staff. Launched in early 1991, the Africa process typically took around eighteen months and each country had its own forum, after which it sent delegates to an Africa forum.

It broadened and deepened our ministry. The practical “if-then” approach worked well. For Africans in general, it clarified our vision, especially in the younger ministries. It introduced what was called the SR mindset, which has continued to be a profitable way of interacting with the Scriptures.

After the Africa forum in December 1993, participants requested that Africa undertake a similar Scriptural Roots of Leadership process, which they wanted Esther to lead. For several reasons, including her family affairs, this Scriptural Roots of Leadership was delayed but not forgotten; and, starting in 1996, Esther called together a task force of six leading Africans.40

Jerry White’s perspective, writing41 in 2010, was that:

In some countries, the SRM worked very well and gave greater ownership to the Navs in that country. The key is that it came directly out of Scripture, but discussed thoroughly by veteran Nav staff who knew the FOM well. Although there may have been some who felt the FOM was either outdated or not helpful in their context, that was not the intent. It was unfortunate that in some places there were those who referred to themselves as ‘FOM Navigators’ as opposed to what came out of the SRM Process . . . Some countries did the SRM as a Bible study with no significant interaction among the staff. In such cases, it made almost no impact. In other countries where it was a process of two years or more, it had a major effect and helped them form their country direction. Much depended on the facilitator as well as the preparation. Thus, the SRM had mixed results. It was groundbreaking in that it led us to deeper thinking on the kingdom as well as other significant biblical themes. In most cases, it did not address methods.

SRM Assessment, 1993–1994

An SRM assessment task force gathered in May 1993. It brought together thirty men and women of fifteen nationalities who already had extensive experience of guiding groups through the SRM process. By now, it was clear that the tool that we had in our hands was more than the SRM: it was a Scriptural Roots Process which could be and was indeed being applied more broadly. For example, in a Scriptural Roots of Life and in a Scriptural Roots of Commerce.

Internationally, from this point onward, Stanley and McGilchrist were to serve as the primary initiators within the IET, linking with our SR liaison group42 and those who were participating in this task force. Our desire was to sustain momentum as we actively pursued field-based research and innovation. Jim Petersen would now serve as a consultant.

The assessment task force also gave attention to the importance of hermeneutical communities which were understood to be:

Groups of spirit-led mature believers who are committed to go to the Scriptures for every aspect of their lives and to bring their experiences back under biblical scrutiny, prayerfully, so that they are shaped together by their collective history as they seek to live all of life according to the Scriptures.

The task force also gave attention to an exploration presented by McGilchrist entitled “The Real Issues Initiative.” This paralleled and promoted the idea of hermeneutical communities to embrace the resolution of issues, defined as “questions of strategic importance for which we need an answer.”43

Within the US, the process was being extended under the title of Scriptural Roots Ministries which was led by Don Bartel as the national SRM coordinator. Issue 7 of the communique44 from the US director team entitled Perspectives described this initiative, announcing that the Scriptural Roots of Life (SRL) was tentatively scheduled for publication in the fall of 1994.

This issue of Perspectives, dated February 1994, was devoted to explaining the benefits of the SR process and describing what had been accomplished so far in the US ministries. To date, some two thousand copies of version 2.1 of the SRM had been distributed and some 650 staff and lay people had participated in forty forums. After the SRM and SRL materials had been digested by our staff, the intent was to republish them in a more broadly accessible format under the title of Foundations for Christian Living.

Formation of Eight Common Themes, 1997

When our International Council met in May 1997, they reviewed the collected sphere statements that had emerged from seventy forums in some thirty-nine countries.45 The similarities among the statements were very encouraging. Common themes had been extracted and were laid before the council for confirmation. Thus:

  • Living among and reaching the lost
  • Disciple-making
  • Multiplying through the generations
  • Strengthening and equipping believers
  • Pioneering and going to the nations
  • Living out a Kingdom lifestyle for God’s glory
  • Exercising gifts in community
  • Empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit

Affirming this, the council moved into consideration of the Fundamentals of Navigator Missions. For this purpose, the common themes had been further distilled by the International Team into our focus, or core commitments, “designed to capture what God had been saying to us through the SRM” and, further condensed, to serve as “a centered-set description of the heart and core of our calling, consistent with the eight common themes.”46

These commitments were well received. A year later, after a couple of minor changes, they were affirmed by the International Team as follows:


  • under the authority of the Scriptures
  • dependent on God’s promises
  • led by the Holy Spirit
  • conformed to Christ
  • submitted to one another
  • servants for Christ’s sake


  • convinced of its power to transform
  • committed to the fullness of salvation
  • biased to the lost
  • obligated to disciple
  • living out the Gospel in community


  • apostolic pioneering
  • receiver-oriented
  • committed to contextualization
  • pushing into the frontiers
  • local communities in mission
  • partnering in teams


  • foundation-laying
  • maturity of every individual
  • committed to good seed
  • equipping laborers and leaders
  • vision for spiritual descendants
  • multiplying ministries that are sustainable

One can see already how fertile the SRM process had been, as it supported and informed the contours of the emergent Fundamentals of Navigator Missions.

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.”47

Indeed, this is a prominent illustration of the legacy of the SRM. What endured and was absorbed into our ways of exploring the Scriptures was the process rather than the specific contextual sphere statements which were, in any case, to be overtaken by The Core within a few years.

By Donald McGilchrist

7973 words

See also articles titled:

Overseas Policy Conference: 1961
Fundamentals of the Navigator Ministry
A History of our Calling
Ethos and Values
Global Planning: 1976
Our Enabling Global Society
The Kingdom of God
Apostolic Pioneering
The CoMission
Fundamentals of Nav Missions
The Approach to The Core


  1. Our International Council met annually, starting in 1981.
  2. SRM Progress Report of September 1989.
  3. Committee formed as Petersen, Jernigan, Rinehart; Ridgway and Swan added by October 1987; Williams by March 1988.
  4. FOM 2 was the most recent Edition of the FOM, published in April 1982.
  5. Even in some countries where the FOM had not been contextually productive, it had stimulated the idea of writing a philosophy of ministry. Mario Nitsche noted that this had been true in Brazil, where a Brazilian FOM had been written. The SRM process was voluntary: a country could choose to opt out. South Korea, for example, chose to continue with the FOM which they still found to be remarkably effective.
  6. These snapshots largely taken from the twenty-three pages of notes of discussion by John Boyd. See McG SRM 1 File. Self-discovery comments by Broad, Doornenbal, Prensner, Taylor.
  7. A more common use of centered set (as opposed to bounded set) soon emerged, following a formative paper (October 1989) by McGilchrist entitled “Leadership in a Centered Set Model.” This was an application of seminal work by missiologist Paul Hiebert.
  8. This tendency perhaps reflects a lack of trained theologians among us. Many years later, we were still being faulted theologically by what a critic rather heavily called our “methodological emulation.” See letter of April 30, 2012 by Dr. David Garner.
  9. Section 2 of May 1993 SRM assessment task force . . . distilled from Jim’s personal assumptions about ministry dated August 1987. For our progress in contextualization, see article by that title.
  10. See article on “Our Enabling Global Society” which was formally adopted by the Council early in 1988.
  11. What follows quoted from Petersen to Kritzer in September 2016. John Kritzer had expressed confusion as to why we as an organization needed the SRM or began to leave the FOM . . . and added the chastening comment that “many people within our work have not heard, neglected or even rejected the ideas and practices found (in the FOM), such as partnership with the wider Body of Christ, the concept of being a specialized function of the Body, drawing distinctions between what we will and won’t do as Navigators.” John serves in our military mission in the State of Georgia.
  12. See Petersen’s letter of December 29, 1987 to the FOM 3 research team in which he encouraged those invited to give contributions to take “20-200 hours or more.” Researchers were asked to supply their research plans during January 1988.This letter contains the research format, the proposed twenty-three studies, a list of researchers for each study.
  13. Studies 5 and 6. In addition, papers on relationships and gifts and headship within the church were requested.
  14. This change, announced in the Dear Staff Letter of March 18, 1988, recognized that the work in progress was different from and broader than FOM 2 and that “there’s no point in appearing to supersede FOM 2 where it is still functional.”
  15. In his prayer letter of February 23, 1988. He also requested prayer along the lines of James 1:5.
  16. Swan’s letter to researchers of June 28, 1988. He noted that “at this stage, we are leaning toward a deductive Bible study format with special attention given to hermeneutics.
  17. Consisting of the SRM committee with the addition of Jerry White, Donald McGilchrist, Alan Andrews, Goro Ogawa, Fernando Gonzales, Jake Barnett, John R.
  18. These were Don Carson, Gene Getz, John Hannah, Peter Kuzmic, J. I. Packer, Waldron Scott.
  19. At INC 7, in February 1988, Minute 4.5 records, “We debated whether there was some “bias” in the project, as for example towards the Frontiers. Jim Petersen maintained, to our satisfaction, that the process of the project would widen our perspective so as to see afresh that our sphere of ministry can be broad and varied: to the churched, the unchurched, the unreached.”
  20. Petersen to Fairservice, June 18, 2010.
  21. Prepared in February 1990 for International Council 2.
  22. Drawing from Dick Fischer’s draft letter to our staff of August 21, 1989. Earlier, at IC 1 in February 1989, the SRM was characterized as “a leadership development exercise . . . to help one another deepen our engagement with the word of God” (minute 4.4).
  23. Our Global Society Task Force met in November 1987 and INC 7 affirmed our path towards becoming an enabling Global Society from January 1988 onwards.
  24. Source: FOM 3 presentation to INC, January 1988.
  25. We recognized that every SRM group (or country) would need a convener, a facilitator and a concluding forum lasting several days. New Zealand, probably, had the highest ratio of non-staff to staff participants.
  26. DSL of October 14, 1988.
  27. Dick Fischer. Extract from SRM research format on God’s purposes, undated.
  28. Seven International Navigator Councils had taken place. Starting with this council, in February 1989, the superfluous word “Navigator” was dropped and the council adopted a new purpose: “To strengthen our unity of spirit and direction.” This was an outflow of discussions on our Global Society.
  29. Twenty additional research studies came in from the field between TF 1 and TF 2. See SRM January 1989 workbook, tab New Research.
  30. This is a flexible term. It covers, for example, such ideas as our collective personality, spirit, tone, heartbeat, atmosphere. It speaks to who we are, rather than to what we do.
  31. Note the conspicuous absence of “love” or “loving.” Stacy Rinehart had earlier extracted our values, assumptions, philosophies by reading sets of our IET and USNLT Minutes. Care was needed, because what appears in minutes often does not catch the spirit of a gathering. We also consulted the strengths and weaknesses that Oswald Sanders (OMF) observed and mentioned at our January 1982 Pacific Staff Conference. See article on “Ethos and Values.”
  32. See September 1989 consultation notebook, page 1.
  33. November 1989 SRM consultation notebook, page 30. This notebook also contains, after page 33, an outline of the specific plan for US implementation, using two pilot forums and a US implementation committee.
  34. Petersen to Fairservice of June 18, 2010.
  35. An understanding of the value of such communities was spreading within The Navigators, partly as protection against an individualistic approach to God’s requirements. Paul Hiebert (1999) states: “Critical realists argue that community investigation is an essential part of the hermeneutical process of searching for truth, and that far from undermining the process, it is a powerful corrective against the subjective biases of individual scholars.”
  36. By “visual” clues it is meant a series of symbols indicating whether to reflect or meditate or gauge the impact of a question on one’s heart attitude.
  37. In the US, the first pilot model was in April 1989 in Washington, DC, and the first forum took place in California in January 1989. Fifty-four US leaders were introduced to the SRM at a strategy consultation in November 1989, after which a US committee adjusted the text.
  38. Natural laborers, in our US jargon of that period, meant those who were not organizationally attached as Nav staff.
  39. In December 1993, at the same time as the Africa Forum, Esther was deeply grieving the loss of three of her close family members. So, Mike Treneer and Jim Petersen led the forum.
  40. Mutua Mahiaini, Bulus Bossan, Okorie Kalu, Nick Wanyoike, Mike Treneer, and herself. The emerging SRL addressed such issues as the character of a leader, his or her authority, essential functions in leadership, profiles of biblical leadership. As Esther later put it, “We were not doing this lightly. We intended to discover the treasures of the Kingdom.” The SRL itself also spawned for Africa a “Guide to Staff Training” and a “Guide to Leader Development.”
  41. White to Fairservice, June 26, 2010.
  42. Liaison group: Baljeu, Bartel, Bok, Fischer, Gerhard, Neil G., Rains, Ridgway, Shamy, Wong, Waruiru, White, Williams.
  43. See presentation of April 12, 1993 including the concept of hermeneutical spirals. This initiative was different from the SRM in that it had purposed a broader context, a narrower focus, and a wider orbit.
  44. The lead article in issue 7 was entitled “Conspiring to Transform Society.” Giving credence to such a broad intent disturbed Sanny; “To me, it is an unbiblical, an impossible and, therefore, a frustrating aim.” He added that Bill Bright used to advertise “come help change the world” and commented that, if this included America, then his generation, and Campus Crusade, had failed.
  45. Ideally, sphere statements should be read alongside the functions and values that accompanied them. However, this would have been more laborious than the council could conveniently handle. On this occasion, there were fifty-one participants of twenty nationalities.
  46. May 1997 IT notes 7.8 & 9. Note the use of “core” which looks forward to the birth of The Core five years later.
  47. Petersen to White, June 29, 2010. For more on the development of the SRM, see McGilchrist archives boxes 23 and 116.
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