When Pastor Melvin Acevedo, of Ebenezer World Ministries in Huntington Park, California, was looking for resources in building discipleship into his church, he remembered his positive experience with The Navigators in college, many decades earlier. He emailed the U.S. headquarters for help and his query was sent to Alex Mata, Navigators Church Ministries (NCM). Alex and several other Hispanic Navigators in the Los Angeles area met with Pastor Melvin to listen and understand how they could come alongside him in his ministry.
Coming Alongside Church Leaders
In his role with NCM, Alex serves pastors in several different ways. First, he can encourage a pastor in his personal life, as a coach who helps with vision clarity, affirmation, and personal goals. Often pastors feel isolated in their personal challenges, as it is hard to share them openly with church leaders. Also, Alex serves as a ministry partner, coming alongside pastors to help implement next steps in their churches, to move congregations toward a disciplemaking culture.
After more than a year of coaching Pastor Melvin on core values, calling, vision, and mission, Alex was invited to speak to a leadership retreat and cast vision for discipleship to leaders in the church. Since then, the church has embraced growing an intentional disciplemaking culture that multiplies disciplemakers. Currently 70 leaders from Ebenezer World Ministries are working together in triads to practice coming alongside others to help them grow in their relationship with Christ and help others to do the same—they follow the alongsider principles (from the NavPress book The Ways of the Alongsider).
Pastor Melvin reflects on the process, “I appreciate how Alex presented The Navigators discipleship tools and helped our leaders brainstorm how to best apply them in our own church setting. This kind of discipleship isn’t a program but a relational emphasis. It has unified us around discipleship because we used to have several different types of small group programs. I also want to share this disciplemaking process with the 30 mission churches that we resource in Mexico.”
Speaking Into Heart Languages
The next step will be for each of the trained leaders to implement this way of life in small groups. Ebenezer World Ministries has implemented this disciplemaking culture in both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking groups, to serve the heart languages of those in their congregation.
“The heart languages are important, both linguistically and culturally,” shares Alex. “As a Hispanic myself, I find doors open to ministry with pastors serving this community. It is helpful to have discipleship materials available in both Spanish and English, as some congregations have mixed languages. Being able to offer both languages helps us avoid splitting communities, as second and third generation immigrants may be more comfortable in English than Spanish. I myself had to work on my Spanish language when I went to Latin America as a missionary with The Navigators more than 20 years ago. Now I benefit from fluency in both languages, along with cultural insight.”
Along with resourcing pastors and churches in southern California, Alex connects through online meetings and periodic visits to pastors in other areas. Pastor Omar Millan from Calvary Fellowship Temple, in Tempe, Arizona, is committed to disciplemaking in his congregation and uses The 2:7 Series® in Spanish to grow disciples in his church.
Pastor Melvin, Pastor Omar, and other pastors that Alex equips are attending the 2:7 Jubilee in Dallas, celebrating 50 years of disciplemaking through The 2:7 Series. They are hosting a workshop on ethnic diversity and will also bring the Jubilee message back to Spanish 2:7 Jubilee conferences in Los Angeles and Phoenix this spring.
Alex is grateful for the opportunity to come alongside pastors and equip churches to multiply through disciplemaking. God used The Navigators as a foundation for his own Christian walk starting in 1981 when he enlisted with the Air Force, then through ministry in Latin America, in his career in the aviation industry, and now equipping pastors with NCM.
“This is my calling and my legacy,” says Alex. “It is a privilege to equip pastors to fulfill their ministry calling. These relationships have also become life-giving friendships as we serve together to grow generations of disciples.”