By Stanley Mukolwe
Can ordinary people in regular employment make a difference in the advancement of the gospel? Must one be in “full-time ministry” to make disciples? Must one be ordained? When the church was persecuted “…they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” Acts 8:1. The laymen were scattered. The apostles remained in Jerusalem. As you read through the book of Acts, you get amazed at what the laymen did. Read the following excerpt from chapter 11:“So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” NASU.
It was the laymen that started the ministry in Antioch. Realizing that God was at work, the apostles went in and added value. Paul and Barnabas spent a whole year in Antioch teaching the word of God. There is a time when “professionals” need to encourage the laity. But there is also a time for the laity to encourage the “professionals”. God picked on a layman by the name of Ananias to encourage Saul soon after his conversion. Who was Ananias? He is described in Acts 9 as a “disciple in Damascus”. We know nothing else about him. He is certainly not the infamous Ananias associated with Sapphira. That one died in chapter 5. The partnership between the laymen and the professionals must be well synchronized for the gospel to advance.
One of my greatest joys in visiting our ministries around the country is when I find ordinary men and women in regular employment engaged in advancing the gospel. In 2012, the Njues invited Patience and I to go down to Eldoret to fan the flames of their budding couple’s ministry. We met a handful of serious couples and talked through the need for each person to have a vibrant walk with God. We taught on how the couples could disciple their own families and start reaching out to their relational networks. Some, however, confessed that they had never been discipled. We encouraged them to get started in discipleship relationships right away. You cannot pass on what you do not have.
The long, slow, and hard journey of discipleship started, spearheaded by the Njues. We have made two visits to Eldoret since and were delighted to make a third visit last October to speak on “Raising a Godly Family”. As I interacted with the couples, it was obvious that God was at work in their lives. They had grown spiritually and numerically. Some had had to make the tough choice of slowing down academic and material pursuit to save their marriages.
I gave five two-hour messages and returned to Nairobi, tired but fulfilled. The couple’s ministry in Eldoret had a slow start in 2012. But now you can’t stop it from growing, thanks to the leadership of Phillipson and Stella Njue. Phillipson is an accountant by profession and Stella a school teacher. Ordinary folk in regular employment making a huge difference.
The active participation of Dr. Mungai and his wife Anne has brought a new flavor to the work. The teamwork put in by the Simwas and the Kigos was visible. The overall leadership provided by Tom and Emma Owuor – staff couple in Eldoret – created the environment that enabled the Njues to flourish.
There will always be a need for full-time Navigator staff who will devote most of their time in the field ministry, working in the grassroots and giving leadership to the work. But the bulk of the work today, as in the days of the book of Acts, will be done by ordinary folk. But here is the twist: while some may consider Navigator staff as “professionals”, we see ourselves as laymen who have devoted a lot of our time to the study of the scriptures, to their practice and to their teaching. There is nothing “professional” about us. But neither was there about Peter or John.
Some of our staff have seminary degrees but a great majority do not. Most have academic degrees from various Universities while some do not. But this one thing is true of all of them: they are trained in what they do and have a great passion for it. They spend lots of time in the scriptures and obey what God asks them to do. That seems to be what God is looking for – ordinary folk who will devote time to advancing the gospel.
What initiatives are you taking to advance the gospel? How can Navigator staff walk alongside you? Or is God asking you to walk alongside a Navigator staff? When you think about the Eldoret couple’s ministry, please pray: 1) That the Lord will continue to guide Phillipson and Stella as they lead the couple’s ministry, 2) For depth in the word and for growth in character as the couples wrestle with obeying what they learn from the word of God and 3) For the couples to raise Godly families as they apply the principles they learnt in October 2013.