October 2013

Knowing Jesus by Crossing Cultures

By IET Communications

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Many of us in The Navigators have lived in cross-cultural contexts relating to people very different than ourselves. We routinely relate with people from every cultural and religious context under the sun.
 
But for most of us, life certainly didn’t start out this way. We were just plain folk, raised within our distinct cultures. After some years of study and trying new ways of sharing Christ, we have learned to talk about Jesus as the eternal king reigning over His eternal kingdom. This often makes sense to people in a way that a discussion about religion often does not. It is not combative or offensive.
 
To our surprise, cross-cultural experience has helped us to know Jesus in a new dimension, and to understand ourselves in light of that same reality.
 
The apostle Paul had a similar experience as he struggled to understand Jesus the Messiah and how to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. He spent years studying and meditating. He even had special revelations from the Lord. Eventually, Paul came to know Jesus not merely as the Jewish Messiah, but as the Lord of all creation for all eternity. This new understanding completely changed how he thought about himself.
 
For Paul, a deeper knowledge of Jesus led him toward deep personal change. We see this in Philippians 3. In this passage, Paul describes his religious and cultural heritage, those things that had previously shaped him. He had once taken pride in these things. But in verse 8 he says, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
 
Yes, the Lord designed each of us with a certain cultural heritage. But relating to people unlike ourselves has changed us. It has deepened our knowledge and experience of Jesus. And it continues to expand our understanding of the Gospel.
 
Even if you never live overseas in a cross-cultural situation, God will probably give you opportunities to know Him better by getting to know and love people who are very different than you. Are you willing to die to yourself and follow Him there?

Unveiling the Real Jesus in Asia

By Alan Ch’ng

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Pioneering Navigators in Asia seek to advance the Gospel among Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and ethnic mainstream cultures within the hardest nations to reach. These are men and women of faith, courage, and sacrifice: faith, because they believe God and His promises; courage, because the people and governments they live among are hostile to their faith; sacrifice, because life in these places is difficult and dangerous.
 
Recently, 38 of these pioneers from 12 Asian countries came together to address the common challenges they face as they advance the Gospel. We discussed one of the most problematic barriers, which is that many Asians have misconceptions of what biblical Christian faith is all about. They reject what they think is the Gospel, when in fact they haven’t ever had a chance to see it clearly.
 
For example, many Asians blend their notions of Christianity with Western pop culture. In many parts of Asia, movies produced in the West, such as Rambo, are referred to as Christian movies. Likewise, Asians of the major religious groups perceive Christian worship meetings on Sundays and buildings with steeples as just Western culture.
 
In Nepal, a Navigator laborer (we’ll call him Joseph to protect his identity) had struggled to take the Gospel to his parents and relatives because they were confused by Joseph’s church traditions. Joseph had come to Christ in a Western-style church. In that context he grew as a strong and devout follower of Christ. But he struggled to communicate the Gospel to his family. They simply couldn’t understand or accept Joseph’s Christian traditions. It all seemed so foreign.
 
After studying carefully how the Gospel spread through the New Testament church across many ethnic and cultural boundaries, Joseph realized that the only way to help his family see Jesus clearly and accurately was to offer the Gospel independently of his traditions.
 
Last year Joseph traveled back to his home village during a major Hindu festival and holiday. During the time with his family, he asked them to focus on Jesus alone, not on the Western expressions of Christian faith. His parents agreed to do that, and soon they accepted Jesus as Lord, as did some of the villagers. Since then, a number of others in the village have also decided to follow Christ. The Gospel is spreading!
 
During our gathering, we found great encouragement from Acts 19. We read that Paul first preached to the Jews. Then he also taught the Gentiles for two years in the hall of Tyrannus—a completely different audience. This is where the Ephesian church came into being. Forty years later, the whole of Asia had heard the Gospel.
 
Stories like that, and like Joseph’s in Nepal, became an inspiration and a testimony to the amazing work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to Peter: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18).
 
This is what Navigators in Asia and around the world long to see: movements of the Gospel starting from where they live and work, flowing out through natural relationships, and being reproduced generationally. I believe these men and women in Asia represent the seeds of such movements.

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April. They have three grown sons.

Shaping Christlike Leaders in the Middle East

By Mike Shamy

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News headlines are dominated by the escalating Syrian and Egyptian crises. Leaders such as Morsi, Mubarak, and Assad attract strong loyalty or generate fierce opposition. Millions of ordinary people are affected by the decisions they make. From a human perspective, things look bleak.
 
But there is another story concerning leaders in the Middle East. This story will not make the headlines, but it has the potential of helping unleash a movement of the Gospel of peace and hope throughout this troubled region.
 
Earlier this year, a group of men and women who provide leadership within our Navigator movement in the Middle East met to learn, pray, and encourage one another. Each of these leaders faces daunting challenges as well as tremendous opportunities as they serve families, businesses, neighborhoods, and communities of believers.
 
During our meetings, we discussed the following question: What factors influence your understanding and convictions concerning leadership? This is a crucial question because the way leaders answer it will reveal their motivation and shape their choices and actions. Without realizing it, leaders who sincerely follow Christ can easily lose their freedom and become captive to cultural models of leadership. Leaders can also become slaves to personal fears and the desire for human approval.
 
This is not a new issue. Thousands of years ago, another Middle Eastern leader, Paul, faced intense criticism from believers in Corinth because of his failure to conform to their expectations of effective leadership. Their notions of leadership were rooted in Roman and Greco culture, which linked leadership to a hierarchy of status and rank. The culture valued eloquent speech far more than the actual content of what a leader said. Good leaders walled themselves off to prevent others from knowing them well. They did this because people believed weaknesses and limitations undermined a leader’s credibility. Pleasing people, especially patrons, drove the words and actions of many leaders. Comparison and competition were rampant.
 
It is into this world that the Apostle Paul writes: "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task" (1 Corinthians 3:5). "So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1). Later in his letter to the Philippians, Paul begins with the salutation: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus . . ." (Philippians 1:1).
 
Paul is using the language of attachment. Just as a child feels secure when attached to a parent, so Paul sees himself held securely, firmly, and compassionately in a relationship with Christ. This is the foundation of his identity. In Christ, he is free from the demands and expectations of the culture. As he leads and influences others, gaining the approval of people is not important. Instead, he knows that he must ultimately answer to Christ. When asked by two of his disciples about leadership in the Kingdom, Jesus replied, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Mark 10:42-44).
 
Can you imagine what might happen all over the Middle East if leaders were shaped by this understanding of their identity and purpose?
 
During the recent leadership gathering in the Middle East, I was deeply encouraged by the way our Navigator leaders are being shaped by the Scriptures and the model of Jesus as they lead Gospel movements in a very troubled and difficult region. May God use these leaders to impact those they serve. May the next generation of Navigators also lead by imitating Jesus, not the culture. As a result, may God’s glory be revealed among the lost.

Mike Shamy was born in New Zealand. Mike and his wife, Audrey, joined Navigator staff in 1980. From 1989-96 Mike led and coached ministries in New Zealand. In 1999 he led the U.S. Metro Mission. In 2004, Mike joined the International Executive Team and provides support for Latin America. Mike is also a resource for developing the future international leadership community of The Navigators.

Missions Prayer Focus: Asia-Pacific

By IET Communications

Most of the world’s population lives in Asia—a huge area with many languages, ethnicities, and religions. Our Asia Pacific Leadership Team is prayerfully taking steps of faith to send teams to work among Asia’s unreached.
 
For the next three months, we ask you to partner with The Navigators in Asia by praying fervently for God to establish pioneering teams in three specific regions: Thailand, Northern India, and Pakistan.
 
In Thailand, most Christians are of Chinese or tribal descent. The ethnic Thai, who are usually Buddhists, are almost untouched by the Gospel. So in recent years, Navigator pioneers have made several exploratory forays into those regions where they live. These pioneers plan to start a student ministry in Bangkok. In the coming months, the Asia Pacific Leadership Team will hold a campus ministry conference in Thailand. They will spend time in focused prayer and trust that God will use the conference to call additional Asian laborers to join the Thailand team.
 
Northern India is home to approximately 600 million people, of whom 120 million are Muslim. God has been moving the hearts of Navigators in Asia to open this needy region. The Asia Pacific Team has made several trips which have helped them learn how and where to minister. Please ask God to raise up a pioneering team leader. Also pray that God would work powerfully to prepare the way for the Gospel.
 
Finally, pray for Pakistan, a nation that continues to suffer with strife. Navigators in Asia are asking God to open doors for a Gospel movement there.