Navigators Neighbors equips believers to engage like Jesus would
Would Jesus have known His neighbors? Not just their names or their mailbox number, but really known them?
Though Scripture exhorts believers to love their neighbor repeatedly and without reserve, few Christians in today’s individualistic U.S. culture seem to bridge the gap between loving from afar and knowing up close.
Jesus saw into hearts, He knew people supernaturally. How can His followers, far from omniscient, know our neighborhoods as He would?
For those involved in The Navigators new Navigators Neighbors ministry, the answer is much simpler than most people make it.
When Skip and Linda Asjes started being intentional with their Des Moines, Iowa area neighbors eight years ago, it was all about no-pressure engagement and no-strings love.
“Ten men in our cul-de-sac of 34 houses have met every other Wednesday for the last eight years to read through the accounts of Jesus’ life and discuss the Scriptures,” Skip says. “When we started, only two of us were believers. Now, all are in the Kingdom, and growing together. The group ranges in age from 36 to 72, is split evenly politically, some are Catholics, some Protestant, and some with no religious heritage. Our rule is to always work out any differences if an offense arises. We rely on asking questions rather than telling. I regularly pray for the Spirit of God to supernaturally lead us.”
That kind of commitment and involvement in one’s neighborhood isn’t easy. For Mike and Mary Jo Beasley serving with Nav Neighbors in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, loving and knowing your neighbor puts one face-to-face with one’s selfishness.
“Our family lives in a densely populated suburban townhome community with no garages, so we have less ability to hide,” Mike says. “While this can upset our modern preference for privacy, it’s a rich environment for the Gospel. If it’s true that reconciling the world to Himself through Christ is a priority to God, shouldn’t it also be for His followers? And when we follow His heart into our neighborhoods, excitement and joy are tangible rewards.”
One of the most important and beautiful parts of Nav Neighbors’ vision is their focus on following God into the practical places of everyday life.
“Our aim is to create safe environments where people feel the freedom to be open, honest, transparent, and vulnerable,” says Don Bartel, former interim Mission director of Nav Neighbors.
Current Mission Director Al Engler loves the Mission’s focus on community. “We believe in the importance of people and of place,” Al says. “Our Calling is not carried out by individuals alone, but by people living in community. We want to join God in His work in this context.”
For more than 12 months, the Beasleys have developed a relationship with Eli, a twice-divorced Jewish attorney neighbor. Earlier this year, after their dogs had been playing together for several months, worldview and spiritual topics were delicately approached.
“Our dogs now play together several times a week, so we talk—about everything from movies to Jesus,” Mike says. “The open and safe environment we have with Eli has allowed us to share the Gospel with him naturally. When I gave him The Case for Christ, he smiled and said I must be trying to convert him. With a smile, I replied, ‘I am not, but Jesus might be.’”
Genuine community involvement and social interaction have opened more doors for Skip and Linda than they ever thought possible.
“In our larger neighborhood, I have been invited into a group of regulars at a vegan coffee shop that is a frequent meeting place for the LGBT community,” Skip says. “Mutual trust has been developed because I recognize our common interest and value of beauty and truth. Over the last seven or eight years, my conversations about life, the Scriptures, families, and Jesus have increased at a steady rate. The stories that have come from this community about Jesus intervening in lives are amazing, personal, shocking, and powerful.”
At the end of the day, these are the places Jesus would be. He’d know the lives and the struggles of those the Father placed in His path. He’d be involved. For Skip, ministry on his cul-de-sac isn’t contrived. It flows naturally from friendship and deep love.
“We are good friends and neighbors,” Skip says. “We help each other, pray for each other, weep with each other, and care for each other.”
Just like Jesus.