9 July 2019
At the heart of the Navigator calling is the concept of the labourer. We envision our special contribution to the advance of the gospel into the nations “through spiritual generations of labourers, living and discipling among the lost”.
Matthew 9:35-38 is an important motivational passage for us as Navigators because it highlights strongly the need for labourers. Matthew tells us, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 NIV). As Jesus interacted with people and saw their needs, he observed that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers (labourers) are few” (Matthew 9:37 NIV).
It is often only as we get close to people that we become aware of their pain and need. As we do so, we also become aware of the great need for labourers, for harvester-shepherds who can come alongside people and help them understand the love of God and experience his saving help in their lives.
I remember going to a tennis club in Accra with a Ghanaian businessman called Kwesi (not his real name), who had been discipled by one of the Navigator missionary team. Kwesi was a much stronger tennis player than me and quickly demolished me. I retired to the side of the court while he played someone else. I got talking with an elderly Ghanaian club member who was watching with me. Learning that I was a friend of Kwesi and shared Kwesi’s faith, he started to pour out his heart, describing how as a young man his addiction, first to sport and later to alcohol, had caused him to lose touch with God and had then destroyed his marriage and his relationship with his children, then his career and finally had threatened to destroy his life. Then he said something I will never forget. He said, “but Kwesi is helping me find my way back to God” and he described how Kwesi had been meeting with him early in the morning at the club to read the Bible and pray with him and how hope was returning to his life.
That was one of those times when it became very clear to me why God has raised up the Navigators and why I was in Africa. It is to see people like Kwesi next door to everywhere. I often prayed that the Lord would allow us as Navigators to contribute (both directly and by encouraging others in the Body of Christ) to seeing labourers in every community across that continent, so that no African young person would have to grow up beyond walking distance from someone who could help them find their way back to God.
What should we do to see more labourers in the harvest, to see more shepherds for the harassed and helpless? Jesus begins by exhorting his disciples to pray. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers (labourers) into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38 NIV). But he doesn’t stop there: he goes on to help them become an answer to their own prayers. Just a few verses later we read, “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…” (Matthew 10:5 NIV).
The Message paraphrases Jesus’s instructions like this: “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here” (Matthew 10:5-7 MSG).
If you are like me you often feel “harassed and helpless” yourself. So how do we go from being “harassed and helpless”, needy people ourselves to becoming labourers? How do we go from being part of the problem in this lost and aching world to being part of the solution for those around us?
I believe the answer is most clearly summarised in the promise of Jesus recorded in John 7:37-38 (NIV): “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
What an amazing promise! As we come and keep coming to Jesus, drinking in his love, his mercy, his strength, we become a source of his living water to the thirsty people around us. They can experience his love through us and, by a miracle of his grace, some of them in turn can become labourers too.
Most of the Navigators I know are thirsty people like this, learning to drink deeply of Christ so that his love can overflow to those around them. Our prayer is that as the “rivers of living water” flow out from us, this will result in successive generations of labourers living and discipling among the lost, the harassed, the helpless, the sheep without a shepherd, in every nation of the world.
Turner House, 54 The Avenue, Southampton, SO17 1XQ