Summary: This article is the second in a triad of articles: Nationalizing, Internationalizing, and Contextualizing. Having raised up staff to serve as nationals in their own countries, to what extent would they join in reaching and discipling those of other nations? This was our urgent hope as we worked towards what we called “sending countries.” Navigators of many nations, we prayed, would acquire the same impulse to join in discipling the nations. This article provides an overview of how and to what extent this occurred.
Seeking Indigenous Navigators, 1960s
Outcomes in the 1970s and 1980s
Our Global Society and Unity in Christ
“For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”
The process by which The Navigators lengthened and strengthened their cords, from a small American ministry to a diverse agency with seventy nationalities of staff, was lengthy and complex.
Even the words often used to highlight such a process are long and heavy: indigenization, contextualization, internationalization, multiculturalism. Churches and agencies inject a range of meanings into such terms, according to their perspectives. Thus, it seems good to begin with the sense in which we will use “internationalizing” in this article.1 It is as follows:
To internationalize is to move toward an interdependent and trans-cultural community in which contributory influence and authority are shared in ways that respect giftedness and yet reflect the diversity of the nations, and in which many peoples share in advancing the Gospel into the nations.
Care is also needed because, in English, the word “international” has four distinct meanings, all of which Navigators have used. It is a slippery word.2 For example:
- Worldwide: e.g. International Executive Team
- Outside the USA or one’s home country: e.g. international travel
- From one country to another: e.g. international missions
- Of several nationalities: e.g. International Working Group
Using the general New Testament distinction, Jewish believers in the early church might have said that nationalizing is about bringing the Gospel to Gentile believers, whereas internationalizing is about some of these Gentile believers reaching out as missionaries cross-culturally to other peoples. For example, nationalizing is about nurturing a ministry in Kenya by Kenyans, whereas internationalizing is when Kenyans such as Mutua Mahiaini take responsibility for Côte d’Ivoire and then for leading our Worldwide Partnership of many nationalities.
Internationalizing points to an ethnic chain in the transmission of the Gospel, in similar fashion to the ways in which generations describe an age-related chain. Ideally, nationalizing leads to internationalizing which in turn leads to fresh nationalizing within a new people or country, and so on.
Seeking Indigenous Navigators, 1960s
The Overseas Policy Conference (OPC) which opened the 1960s for our leaders determined that our objective would be “contributing to the fulfillment of the Great Commission by producing reproducers in every nation.” This became our foundational commitment. It shaped our planning. It prompted a vital question: Where then should we concentrate, geographically? We could no longer proceed based on random invitations or personal preferences or cultural similarity. Instead, we would have to identify those countries with the greatest potential to demonstrate the outworking of our vision, which would in turn push us to concentrate our resources in certain strategic areas.
We were keenly aware of the need to raise up indigenous laborers. This was the process of nationalizing examined in the article by that title. Indeed, as Waldron Scott stated during the OPC, “We cannot continue to expand into all the countries of the world from Glen Eyrie . . . we will have to produce reproducers in other nations to carry on this job. The cultural aspect is a heavy factor to consider . . . ten years from now we will have to emphasize nationals . . .” He is pointing out that not only did we need reproducers of many nationalities but we wanted many of them in turn to become missionaries themselves.
It is fair to say that, while our American leaders recognized the general trajectory that we would have to follow, if we were to separate Jesus Christ from Western cultures and see Him incarnated in a vast range of national contexts, there was only a dawning recognition that a profoundly international community of leaders would probably take at least a generation to assume large responsibilities and function fluently.
Meanwhile, we could celebrate America’s continued optimism which galvanized its initiatives in taking the Gospel to the nations.
Nevertheless, we would by now agree with the Scottish historian of missions Andrew Walls: “It is a delightful paradox that the more Christ is translated into the various thought forms and life systems which form our various national identities, the richer all of us will be in our common Christian identity.”3
Discarding one’s assumptions—either cultural or those we have copied— is harder than one might think. Historian Mark Noll points to the rampant “Americanization” of non-Western Christianity. Thus:
In recent decades the world Christian movement, especially Protestant and independent movements, has come increasingly to take on some of the characteristics of American Christianity. Yet the primary reason for that development is not the direct influence of American Christians themselves. It is rather that social circumstances in many places of the world are being transformed in patterns that resemble in crucial ways what North American believers had earlier experienced in the history of the United States. Without discounting the importance of direct American involvement around the world, the appearance of Christianities similar to forms of American Christianity highlights parallel development rather than direct influence.4
The implication for us is that, as non-Americans took up the baton, they might well do so carrying a relatively strong American approach to the nations. If so, this would harm our drive to internationalize our work by planting non-American missionaries in new countries.
The American Navigators worked hard and fruitfully in raising up and sending American missionaries during the 1960s. We were thus poised in 1970, when our divisional directors met, to identify and pursue what we called “sending countries” whose nationals would join us in sharing the responsibility for carrying the Gospel to other nations. This was a profoundly strategic decision. It would affect our planning and our priorities in many ways. Notably, it was the focus that drove the “Strategy for the 70s” that Waldron Scott presented to our directors at the end of 1972.5 As he wrote:
American Navigators do not have the resources to expand into all . . . countries simultaneously. Nor would it necessarily be a good idea . . . Navigators from other countries must join in pioneering new ministries around the globe. It was in recognition of this that in 1970 we decided that the chief organizational goal of The Navigators during the 1970s would be to develop new sending countries.
From these sending countries, working together in the 1980s and 1990s, we will multiply disciples in every nation.
But which countries will be sending? Choices must be made . . . the next step is to select the sending countries, perhaps twenty-five or thirty. These will then be responsible for reaching the remaining 120 or 125 countries . . .
Scotty then listed eleven key principles6 for developing such sending countries whose citizens would in turn join us in internationalizing our progress into the nations:
- Our long-range goal is every nation, every person.
- The key to reaching all nations is the development of a limited number of “sending” countries.
- Nav teams must be constituted so as to cope with the various ethnic groups, cultures and political orders throughout the world.
- Develop at least one sending country in each strategic zone of the world, both for logistical reasons and for racial balance.
- Universities are our primary ministry targets and manpower pools.
- Work from a position of strength; expand from strong, established bases.
- Strong financial support is an integral part of the sending countries concept.
- Finances to fulfill the sending mission of a country need not come exclusively from that country.
- The size of the Nav constituency in any country is a key factor in its success as a sending country.
- Our work will move ahead most quickly in areas of cultural affinity; also, where the religious and political climate is favorable.
- The existence of an already-established Nav work in a country gives us a significant head start.
Scotty’s strategy continues through ninety pages to assess and categorize and develop options for selecting sending countries. He anticipated that countries would move through three stages: developing, sending, impact.7 Regarding our topic of internationalizing, the vital paragraphs are:
[A sending country] . . . is expected to contribute a high percentage of its men to the international work with a view to establishing a worldwide staff . . .
For the first time in history, a single world community exists, bound together by modern means of communication and with Christians scattered as leaven throughout the whole. Sound strategy today requires not one, but many centers of evangelical outreach . . . not one, but many “home bases” for world mission. This is one of the chief reasons we have given priority to establishing a worldwide network of Navigators.
On page 47, the strategy lists the fifteen variables by which Scotty scored countries according to their capacity to become sending countries. Such scoring was then used to identify those countries in which we should invest most strongly.
During the next two years, through 1974, our leaders discussed the viability and impact of the concept of a sending country. Several profiles of such a country were generated. To give some sense of what was envisioned, here is the profile of such a country as discussed in December 1973. It should minimally have:
- A national as country leader
- One national representative having been sent abroad
- Four national representatives serving within the country
- Five or six men serving in their contact points
- Twenty-five or thirty disciple-makers
- Between 100-150 disciples
- A national board of directors
- A constituency able to provide a financial base
The overall definition was that it would be a country which had a Nav ministry sufficiently developed to supply Nav representatives and related personnel for other countries, and that it would then maintain a sending ratio of at least one out of every three representatives raised up after the first three.8
The above account goes into some detail because it sheds light on the means by which our push to internationalize was activated during the early 1970s.
Attempting to blend the worldviews of many nationalities leads to confusion and loss of energy, unless the process is infused with a strong sense of shared purpose. How? By constant reference to the only trans-cultural guide that we possess, the Scriptures, in the light of our Aim. Thus, internationalizing certainly influences structure, but flows more deeply from a bias to the nations. Indeed, the Spirit often prompts the intercultural ferment and energizing outreach that unites the “like” and the “unlike,” the insider and the foreigner, into the one great family of God. As F. F. Bruce wrote in his commentary on Romans:
There is no telling what may happen when people begin to read the Epistle to the Romans. What happened to Augustine, Luther, Wesley and Barth launched great spiritual movements which have left their mark on world history. But similar things have happened, much more frequently, to very ordinary people as the words of this Epistle came home to them with power.9
Jesus brought to his disciples fresh perspectives about God’s impartial dealing with all human cultures. The decisive impact of this new worldview was their experience at Pentecost (Acts 2:6-11) which was later reinforced by the breakthroughs into the nations that are described in the book of Acts (Acts 10:34-35).10
Outcomes in the 1970s and 1980s
So, how did we do?
New overall sending reached a peak in 1973—directly after our December 1972 strategy—when twenty-one Representatives were sent out.11
Because the 1970s launched our pursuit of sending countries and the 1980s carried this forward, let’s look at these two decades from several angles.
A quantitative and thus superficial measure of our progress in internationalizing is the annual trend in the number of our missionary Reps. During the 1970s:
- Non-American Reps sent out cross-culturally as missionaries rose from only one in 1969 to twenty-eight in 1979.
- During the same years (1969 to 1979), American Reps serving cross-culturally increased from forty-six to eighty-five.
- Thirteen countries sent out their first Rep during the 1970s.
Early in the decade, the use of the sending country Profile and such devices as celebratory Sending Banquets in the UK and Singapore focused attention on external sending by non-Americans.
We were moving into the stage of internationalizing. Just as Epaphroditus and Timothy in the New Testament were Greeks (Gentiles) sent out cross-culturally, so non-Americans such as Ian Munro (Briton) and John R. (Australian) were sent out to Iran and India respectively. It was an exciting development.
Our divisional directors agreed in 1975 to shift their primary stances when together from advocating for resources for their own divisions to thinking collectively as a global team, in support of Sanny. Of course, they had been both; they were not selfish leaders. Yet, their angle of approach to the issues of the day became distinctly more collaborative. While this is not strictly internationalizing, as understood in this article, it did foster this trend.
Another angle is to examine by decade12 the missionaries who opened new countries. How many countries were opened by non-Americans?
- 1970-1979: eight out of twenty-two
- 1980-1989: ten out of forty-three
- 1990-1999: twenty-two out of forty-two
It needs to be said that, as the years passed, we withdrew for various reasons from quite a few of these countries.
Another way to gauge our progress in internationalizing is to look, for select nationalities, at the number and percentage of their staff serving cross-culturally. Thus, for the year 2005:
- Americans | 391 people | 16 percent
- South Koreans | 120 people | 43 percent
- Britons | 38 people | 28 percent
- Canadians | 31 people | 22 percent
- Singaporeans | 21 people | 28 percent
- Kenyans | 22 people | 56 percent
- Malaysians | 21 people | 33 percent
- Nigerians | 18 people | 29 percent
This table13 does not include internal sending.
Pursuing Ethnic Balance among Our Regions
So far, we have evidenced internationalizing by the simplistic criterion of the nationalities of our staff and missionaries. Beneath the surface, however, traditional relational patterns can persist. Even when a Nav discussion had leaders from quite a few cultures around the table, this may be felt. For example, when our International Team met in April 2006, one topic was how our regions should be composed and represented. A lack of balance, it was suggested, appeared to have racial origins.14 Mike Treneer encouraged an open expression of perspectives. Some comments:
- Alan Ch’ng: When Australia and New Zealand reported directly to our president, this looked like racial bias.
- Alan Andrews: When I was Asia director, this was the first issue to come up, and it continued to do so.
- Badu S.: There is no peace on this. Is it a spiritual issue or merely an arrangement?
- Eric Stolte: I agree. What affects peace is not merely spiritual, but also systemic. Why do we in Canada have a privileged place? I’ve told Brother Yoon (Korean) that it is awkward that I’m here and he is not.
- Bernie Dodd: Even in Africa, there was a sense that the Anglophones dominated.
The atmosphere was forgiving. The “small regions” were willing to forego their place on the team and the larger regions were ready for change. Mike Treneer subsequently organized The Navigators in seven rather than eleven regions, internationally, principally by adding Australia and New Zealand to Asia-Pacific and Canada to North America. The other “white” Anglophone country, the UK, joined Europe. South Korea was retained within Asia-Pacific.15
English has continued to be our “trade language,” but we have made some progress in conducting our international gatherings in a variety of ways that more clearly mirror cultural variety.
Nevertheless, as mentioned in my article on “Contextualizing,” it was only around the turn of the century that we fully realized the influence of the “power and status imbalances” that are so often built into our thinking and practice.
Our Global Society and Unity in Christ
When we moved in the 1980s toward gradually becoming an enabling Global Society, trinitarian reflections underlay our practical steps: The godhead gave us a new vocabulary as a model of loving community and of “interpenetration” without loss of identity, a step beyond interdependence. We looked forward to the interplay of many perspectives, as we sought to learn through cultural lenses other than our own. As the force of our nationalities and ethnicities and gender receded, we would join hands at the foot of the Cross. This, at any rate, was the concept.16
Internationalizing was not for us an ultimate goal, but more of a progress indicator toward a lasting obedience to the fullness of the Great Commission, set in the context of the Great Commandment.
It helped that, in the 1980s, we were also coming to comprehend more deeply the endless possibilities and power inherent in the kingdom of God.
The creative tension contained in the term “society,” namely voluntary association in pursuit of a common purpose,17 was not always recognized, though it had some currency from as early as Irenaeus through at least to G. K. Chesterton, as a way of speaking about the mystery of our Triune God. We realized that to speak of our Global Society, to put it crassly, was a mixture of the pompous (global) and the obscure (society), so that the phrase was intended as a kind of internal shorthand.
Another way of exploring the paradox wrapped up in the phrase “global society” is to note that the term global, in English, has overtones of triumphalism, of taking on the whole world. But any triumph is the triumph of the Son. The victory is not ours, nor is the triumph due to our social or structural systems. “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (Psalm 96:13).
By way of contrast the term “society,” in English, suggests vulnerability. A voluntary and fraternal grouping. A community of brothers and sisters who have chosen to be together and who, equally, could choose to separate again. There are no guarantees. It is a venture of faith. Neither structure nor policies nor hierarchy will hold it together. Indeed, it opens for us the potential of mission out of weakness, the paradox of the Cross.
However, after the birth of The Core, we upgraded the phrase “global society” to speak more warmly of our Worldwide Partnership.18 Mike Treneer has spoken19 often of such a partnership. For example:
The delivery point of our movement and the test of the value of our organizational arrangement is local. In the pressure from the possibilities of internationalization, we could lose the sharpness of that focus. Our vision opens with this picture of “seeing a vital movement of the Gospel, fueled by prevailing prayer, flowing through relational networks and out into the nations. Workers for the kingdom are next door to everywhere!”
This roots our vision locally. For us then as Navigators, internationalization is harnessing the benefits of linkage into a worldwide partnership with all that that provides: protection, encouragement, alongsider support, sense of connection, flow of resources, both tangible—people, money—and intangible—ideas, stories, skills, prayer. It is the harnessing of that so that the local receives benefits from being connected and linked.
In this article, therefore, we have moved from a focus on raising up non-Americans (nationalizing) to the stage at which many of these non-Americans are in turn active in cross-cultural ministry, which is the essence of internationalizing.
Thus, by the year 2008, our census20 reveals that 924 of our 4,647 staff were serving cross-culturally outside their own countries. Of these 924, 510 (or 55 percent) were Americans and 414 (or 45 percent) were of other nationalities. This is a measure of God’s enabling grace among us in the almost fifty years since our pioneer leaders began to plan for the nations at our first Overseas Policy Conference in 1961.
Nevertheless, numbers are an imperfect reflection of how God has led us. It is true that we could have moved faster by merely replicating our traditional forms and accountabilities in country after country, and expected such countries to pass on similar arrangements. Yet, that would have been disastrous. Local energies would have been quashed, shepherds would have become hirelings, franchising agreements would have ousted partnership, our ethos as expressed in The Core would have evaporated. Instead, we are committed to the vitality that comes with the contextualizing of local ministries around the world.
This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace.
St. Augustine, City of God
By Donald McGilchrist
See also articles on:
Navigators Among the People of God
Overseas Policy Conference: 1961
Global Planning: 1966 – 75
Global Planning: 1976 –
The Approach to The Core
- Contextualizing, the process of cultural adaptation, is explored in a separate article. It usually relates, unlike internationalizing, to the incarnation of the Gospel in a specific culture or society.
- Perhaps we should be warned by C.S. Lewis in his book Studies in Words: “Language is an instrument for communication. The language which can with the greatest ease make the finest and most numerous distinctions of meaning is the best.”
- Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith, Orbis, 1996, p. 54.
- The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith, Mark Noll, IVP, 2009, p. 109. He is suggesting that American religious development in the nineteenth century and contemporary conditions in non-Western societies impacted by globalization have produced similar features, resulting in an “American template.” Noll argues not for American manipulative dominance, but rather that the global South has voluntarily chosen, utilized and mingled past American experience into their indigenous responses, because conditions are similar.
- In the 1970s, when some of our “nationals” began to go out as missionaries from their own countries, we tended to shift to the term “non-Americans.” As a matter of definition, of course, a national is any person living in his or her own country, including Americans! Later, as we trace our move toward an intercultural partnership, describing people by what they are not (“non-Americans”) gradually lost favor. This is why we spoke in the 1970s of financing foreigners rather than non-Americans or nationals. It is interesting to note that our house magazine became the International Navigator Log in 1973.
- Extracted from Chapter 1 of “A Strategy for the 70s.” Scotty veered between the use of countries and nations; for clarity, I have used countries except where the ultimate goal is in view. Notice how principles 3 and 8 foreshadow emphases important to Scotty which are not relevant to the flow of this article. More detail may be found in my article on “Global Planning: 1966–1975.”
- In other contexts, these are identified as In – From – To. For the quotations that follow, see his page 12.
- Proposed revision of sending country, December 1973 CPC, “Global Strategy,” p. 9.
- Source: F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, TNTC, 1963, p. 60, quoted by Andrew Walls.
- As Paul Satari brings out in his essay on The Missional Approach of Lamin Sanneh, the experiences described in the book of Acts “powerfully echo the blessing of cultural diversity portrayed in Genesis 10.” That is why Sanneh asserted throughout Translating the Message that translatability is both an essential and an inevitable characteristic of Christianity.” From ed. Hunsberger & Van Gelder, The Church Between Gospel and Culture, Eerdmans, 1996, p. 277.
- Source: “Ministry Performance,” McGilchrist, Section on Actuals in 70s, report for the ILC dated April 14, 1980.
- Source: “Launching of Ministries,” McGilchrist, January 2008. In “The Nations,” 2010.
- Source: October 2008 worldwide staff census, table D. Shows only countries with ten or more such missionaries. Numbers are higher than those officially commissioned and sent, because they include those who moved into another country for such reasons as marriage or employment.
- The International Team, when previously led by Jerry White, had also been a place for developing certain leaders. Source: Notes by Lyons of regional leaders meeting of April 26-29, 2006, p. 30-32.
- The Asia-Pacific region was the old PAN region.
- This paragraph touches on what the Cappadocian Greek fathers called perichoresis, the mutual mingling in love of Father, Son, and Spirit.
- As defined by Webster’s Dictionary.
- This phrase first appears in the December 2005 IET notes in discussing how we might bring enabling leadership to our Worldwide Partnership.
- Mike Treneer, interview by McGilchrist, September 13, 2011, p. 6.
- Worldwide staff census, by name, at at December 31, 2008, McGilchrist.