Tag Archives: Navigators

The Turning Point In My Life

I sat waiting at the Illini Orange Canteen. The smell of fall was in the air at the University of Illinois. I had squeezed 4 years into 4 ½, and now the time had come to go out into the “real world.” I would be graduating in December.

I spent many hours at the Illini Orange – the bustling location where I had picked up mail during my college days was also a prime spot for late night greasy pizza – but now it was serving more noble purposes. Bill Tell, the director of Navigators for the state of Illinois, had asked me to get together, and I was pumped about what I supposed was his agenda. Up to this point, my plans after graduation were unclear, but it wasn’t for lack of trying – my interviewing had begun in earnest.

The School of Commerce and Business Administration at the U of I had a good reputation, and I was finishing with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Business Administration, but my heart had never quite been in it. In truth, I had “majored” in the Navigators, learning to share my faith, lead Bible studies, and disciple men. But here I was…trying to put my business degree to work. That meant interviewing.

I remember the set up. Companies would ensconce their recruiter in a business school classroom, or various rooms at the Illini Union hotel, and upon the prospective hour, you would show up in the uniform: dark suit, white shirt and red tie with little paisleys on it, a style in vogue at the end of the 1980s.

Of course, the idea was eventually to get a job offer, but the second interview was the immediate goal, usually meaning an invite and all-expenses-paid trip to the company’s headquarters. I had lots of interviews on campus, but only two big trips that I remember: Frito Lay had brought me to Dallas, and Dow Chemical had flown me to Michigan, but no offers of employment had followed. All in all, this meant lots of rejection letters, with which, following custom, I dutifully papered my dorm room door.

And now Bill Tell was recruiting, but it wasn’t really an interview: Bill had come to offer me a job.

I had looked up to him for a long time. In the tradition of the Navigators, he was a great student of Scripture with a quiet, strong manner, a crooked smile with a twinkle in his eye that made you feel he was on your side. In the Nav hierarchy, Bill was high on the food chain, and yet, much more than that, seemed to know God.

I remember his testimony. He had come to Christ during his college days through another student who, after leading him to Christ and briefly discipling him, dropped dead of a brain aneurism…the kind of experience that would tend to put eternity on your heart.

So as graduation was approaching and my plans were yet unsure, I knew that I wouldn’t be spending too many more hours at the Illini Orange. But I was looking forward to this one.

After pleasantries that afternoon, Bill spoke up: “Rog, we’d like you to consider coming on State Staff with the Navs.”

“State Staff” was a new hybrid position with the organization. It involved raising support to work part time for the Navigators and getting some sort of job for 20 or so hours the rest of the week. I would be doing ministry, and getting paid for it. It was really what I had always wanted, and I told Bill I would pray.

In some ways I had been heading this way since West Point. Even back then I had told Bob Maruna that I wanted to be a pastor, but my father had directed me away from my interest in Moody Bible Institute with a telling word: “I had always wanted you to go to a real college.”

So now I was finishing a degree from this real college and considering doing some unreal ministry work. Dad was a Christian now, and I knew he would be supportive, but what did God want?

I decided to talk it over with my dear friends Jim and Sharon Cooper.

Jim was the full-time Navigator staff member over the area of campus with a half dozen look-alike dorms known as the 6 pack. He and Sharon had been second parents to me ever since they had come to Champaign before my junior year. Not only did they disciple me in the faith, but they had me over to eat constantly, talked me through girl troubles, loaned me money ($500, a debt I think they forgave), and all in all treated me like a son. They were models of life-on-life discipleship.

And yet, to this day, I’ll never forget the advice Jim gave me: “Rog, before you go into ministry, first prove yourself in the marketplace.”

Jim had been an engineer and Sharon an accountant at Caterpillar in Peoria before coming on staff with the Navigators, and so I suppose they had lived their own advice, and it was natural to pass it on to me.

Prove yourself in the marketplace.

Jim’s advice was not a principle from Scripture, but it made sense. So, with Jim’s 5 words ringing in my ears, I turned Bill’s offer down and took a sales job with a automotive aftermarket company called Premier Autoware out of Cleveland, Ohio. It was for Premier that I would begin the task…of proving myself.

To be continued…here

On Monday, June 1st, we’ll turn to consider 2 Corinthians 4.


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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


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We Must Devote Ourselves to Prayer and the Ministry of the Word

IMG_0388It was probably my senior year in college that I got the lucky job of being the host for the main speaker at a Navigator spring conference. My host duties included getting a fruit basket for his hotel room, walking with him to the venue, and even having meals with him. It was a great job and fit well into the Nav philosophy of discipleship – students were always encouraged to hang around these older guys who “got it”, who had been walking with God for a long time. And the speaker that spring was an old Navigator staff named Leroy Eims.  Leroy was a terrific up front communicator, an author (The bestselling Lost Art of Disciplemaking, among others) and a former Marine with a thrilling World War II testimony about a guy dying next to him on some South Pacific island beach asking him, “Mister, do you know how to pray?” Leroy didn’t, and when he got out of the Army, he decided to find out, eventually becoming a Christian.

Leroy may have been a great up-front communicator, but one on one, at least with me, was a different story.  I’ll never forget my dinner with him after he first arrived that Friday night: I could hardly pry words out of him. Now, in fairness, maybe he was tired, or maybe he was thinking about his message that night (as a speaker myself now, I can only imagine needing to go out to dinner with some nutty college student right before my opening keynote message at a conference).  Either way, it was awkward.  But then again, sometimes jewels come out of awkward meals with semi-famous author/speakers.

At one point over dinner, I began pouring out my heart to the guy, along the way asking him what he felt were the keys to really living the abundant Christian life.  It was a long question, as I remember, and as I spoke, Leroy was sort of staring out into space – I didn’t even know if he was listening. And then when I finished my question, I waited, and I’ll never forget – he stopped staring around, turned and looked directly at me, and said one word: “Basics.” And then he resumed his staring into space, just like that.

It was a strange moment, but I never forgot it. The “Basics” were one of the great keys to living the Christian life.

Nav wheel“Basics” was a term I had heard many times before in the Navigators. The Navs used the word to refer to the four essentials of living the Christian life: The Word, Prayer, Witnessing and Fellowship. Leroy was pointing me to the keys that the Navigators always pointed to, and with good reason.  They were essential parts of living the abundant Christian life. Witnessing and Fellowship were ways we related to other people, that is on the horizontal level of life. We witness to people outside of Christ and we fellowship with other believers. But Prayer and the Word were vertical – the way we related to God.  All of this was summarized in the Navigator Wheel illustration (see diagram).

Some Christians today point to many different ways to cultivate a relationship with God.  Usually they are referring to the various disciplines of the Christian life which include fasting, solitude and silence, among others. These are good, of course, and have biblical precedent; but in truth, they really should be conduits for the two primary ways God has given to us to know Him: His word and prayer. The Apostles knew the importance of these two vital aspects of the Christian life.  We see in Acts 6 that were being drawn away from primary things to administration, specifically caring for the Greek widows, an important duty, to be sure…just not their duty…

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:3-4 (ESV)

The Apostles needed to pray because they knew where true power in ministry came from.  But they also needed to be faithful in preparation and preaching of the Word of God. People didn’t carry around Bibles in that day – they needed the teaching of the Apostles in order to be “in the Word.”  In fact, this devotion to Apostolic truth was the crying need of the early church…and nothing is changed – it is the crying need of the church today.  Christians need Biblical truth if they want to be set free…they need instruction in the gospel…they need to be able to discern error. And all this comes through the “Basics” of the word, and that word must be preached, and that word must be read and meditated on. It is the primary way we abide in Christ, and “Apart from (Him), we can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

This truth is not profound, but it may be the great “secret” of the Christian life. In fact, I imagine that it’s rare to find a believer who is thriving in his Christian life and not regular in the word (Psalm 1).  And we know why: through prayer, we talk to God, but through the word, God talks to us. And when it comes to a strong and healthy spiritual life, there is nothing more important than Spirit-led deep and meaningful communication with our Heavenly Father.  Everything is different for the believer who is regular in God’s word.

The early church made this word a focus, and the world of Ancient Rome was transformed…

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7 (ESV)


Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 18th: Acts 6


Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


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