Navigator Church Ministries Pastor's Lunch March 2023

Tom McElroy, who works with Disciplemakers for Life, Navigator Church Ministries (NCM) in the Chicagoland area, filled us in on an NCM lunch event held this past March. Tom is the NCM Upper Midwest Regional leader and serves Chicagoland from his home in northwest Indiana. Please see his responses to our questions below as he tells us more about this event, as well as NMC!

Could you briefly describe the event?

On March 20th, six pastors from five Chicagoland churches gathered for lunch to meet Nav City and NCM leaders and to fellowship around the topic of disciplemaking.

They walked away from the lunch with a clear understanding of how NCM partners with churches to Grow Intentional Disciplemaking Cultures. They even began to evaluate their churches in terms of disciplemaking using a phenomenal Navigator Church Ministries assessment tool.

Why do you think an event like this is important for the city of Chicago?

I am so grateful for you who invited pastors to this event. Thank you!  Chicago needs hundreds of centers of multiplying disciplemaking.  Churches can be some of those centers! Events like these:

1). Create fellowship among pastors around the topic of disciplemaking and their common desire to see kingdom advancement in Chicago;

2). Expose concepts of Life-to-life discipleship to pastors;

3). Help pastors begin to evaluate the potency or weakness in their church’s disciplemaking culture and;

4). Set the table for an ongoing cohort of pastors seeking to grow disciplemaking cultures in their churches, and;

5). Lay the groundwork for an eventual Chicago area network of churches dedicated to multiplying disciplemakers in their churches and to spreading this passion and conviction to other churches!

How can people outside of Chicago join the Chicago Navigators in prayer?  What are some things that they could be praying for?

People can pray for more NCM laborers in this vast city, as well as for the formation of a cohort of pastors who gather regularly to learn about, discuss, and encourage each other in intentional, relational, generational disciplemaking.

Lastly, you can pray for follow-up meetings and partnerships which are resulting from the lunch. “. . . The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree. . .”  Matthew 13:31-32.

Chicago Navigators "Great Commissioning" Service | February 2023

This past February, Navigators staff and friends gathered at Vineyard Christian Church to celebrate and commission James and Sunita Puleo as the new Chicago Navigators city co-directors. This was our opportunity to empower and to celebrate, not only James and Sunita, but to recommission and to unite ourselves as Chicago Navigators, and to our shared Navigator Core, Vision, Values, and Calling.

This commissioning service was, indeed, a time of great celebration as staff fellowshipped and connected over dinner. There was also a time for worship and prayer as staff and friends oriented themselves towards the Lord.

A chance to gather together is precious in the context of our large city and sprawling suburbs. More precious even is the chance to gather for the purpose of commissioning, which realigns us to God’s agenda for the advancement of the Gospel in our ministries, our city, and world.

As part of this realignment, the Chicago Navigators are embracing a season of seeking God’s will through prayer. Meeting and praying together help us to establish unity, direct our gaze towards Jesus, and experience ongoing commissioning from God; the one who directs us.

Everyday Chicago Disciplemakers Connect, Create, and Celebrate

Here is how we in Chicago walk with Christ and live the life of an everyday disciplemaker. Let’s connect with Chicago disciplemaker Cotorey Seals. Then, you’re invited to watch and listen to him create. And finally, we’ll celebrate by learning more about “The Garden.” Come along as we connect, create, and celebrate Chicago-style.


By leading from his own vulnerability, Cotorey deeply connects with others. He hasn’t done this alone. By partnering with men and women in Collegiate, Disciplemakers for Life–I:58 Mission, Navigators Chicago, and the local church, he has been transformed and continues to be transformed into the image of Christ while helping others do the same.

Cotorey is passionate about his relationship with God, self, and others. He says, “It has been a journey of trading in my self-preservation and self-protection for God’s protection. I had to renounce the pride that lied and told me that it would protect me. My walls were filled with pride and insecurities because of the hurt I had experienced.”

Cotorey continues, “But what I see the Lord doing in me, in you, is stripping back the ways we thought masculinity and protection were supposed to be—the lie of society that says, ‘I must be big and present myself,’ and oftentimes pride is just a mask for my hurt. And I feel like God is asking me to trade in the false protection of my pride and ego for a humble and contrite heart.”

In Chicago, a model for Navigators like Cotorey has been our embrace of bi-vocational disciplemakers. We encourage everyday disciplemakers to consider joining part-time staff, volunteering, and using their life and business training as a missional enterprise.


As a trained biblical counselor, Cotorey has created a healing ministry, a vocation, and a compelling life story as a disciplemaker. This is God’s gift to Cotorey through his pain, his brokenness, along with his healing and his joy.

Creating relationships, creating trust, creating space for others to be present, creating invitations and opportunities for others, and creating beauty and art—this is what Cotorey values as he stands before the listeners at Chicago Soul Café. Watch and listen now as Cotorey shares his “Spoken Word” at “The Garden,” one of his original open mic events (click HERE to watch on YouTube).


About celebration, Cotorey shares, “I wanna give what’s been given to me. I wanna celebrate yours and my life because of what God has already done. That’s what the open mics—and my sharing a Spoken Word—is about.”

Chicago Collegiate Director and friend James Crumb shares, “Before the pandemic, Cotorey created and hosted an open mic night for others to come and express themselves. That night was special, and he saw it as a ministry to people who want to create and use their talent for the glory of God. Cotorey is excited to see how God will use these open mics and is already planning ahead.”

For Cotorey and Navigators Chicago, our hope is that from “The Garden,” generations of disciplemakers will glorify the Lord and bear much spiritual fruit by Connecting, Creating, and Celebrating as everyday Chicago disciplemakers.



By Jim Conner, Chicago Navigators, D4L/20s Leader

Photos by Brianna Russell

Chicago Navigators Summer Gathering | 2022

On Saturday, August 20th, Chicago Navigators staff and friends gathered in the house of James and Sunita Puleo, who are taking on the role of the new Chicago Navigators city Co-directors. This Gathering was a chance to welcome the Puleo family, enjoy fellowship with one another, and hear updates from staff across the city!

The gathering started as people began to arrive and connect with each other over lunch. It was a blessing to have staff and friends from many different ministries in attendance, including Nations Within, Collegiate, International Student Ministry, Military, and Disciplemakers for Life. It was also fun to have a strong showing of students from the Collegiate and International Student ministry who were back in the city to start classes on the following Monday.

After a time of fellowship and food, the new Chicago Navigators Co-directors, James and Sunita Puleo, were officially welcomed along with their four children. There were also introductions and updates given by all in attendance, which was a great chance to meet others across different city contexts.

Gatherings like these are important for the Chicago Navigators because there are so many things happening in the city of Chicago! When being a part of any ministry, it can be easy to have one’s vision narrowed to the scope of that ministry. Gathering all-together, however, is a great opportunity to meet people from other ministries, hear stories, and connect as a unified gospel movement in the Chicagoland area. We believe that taking the time to connect as a city actually makes individual ministries stronger!

If you, or someone who you know is interested in meeting with Navigators staff and friends from various ministries across the city, consider looking into one of our regional discipling communities! These communities meet throughout the year to practice encouragement, accountability, and training as it pertains to mission and discipleship in Chicago.

The Chicago Navigators: Missional Enterprise Event Summary

Director of Navigators Missional Enterprise, Ken Christie, spent three days with us here in Chicago, June 1st-3rd.

Inspired by other Navigator city ministries and their examples of successful Missional Enterprise, we here in Chicago invited Ken to share with us in-person. Ken also visited with our Chicago Navigators in their unique contexts, listening and encouraging us towards fruitful disciple-making within a business context.

Ken visited Chicago Navigators, Dr Mica Battle and Michael Abbott, as they begin their own missional enterprise. In July/August, Dr Mica and Michael are opening a for-profit coffee shop and café in Woodlawn between the University of Chicago and the upcoming Obama Center and Presidential Library, currently under construction. Furthermore, Ken connected with other staff and Navigator friends, who are either actively doing business-as-missions or who hope to begin a missional business here in Chicago.

The highlight of our time with Ken were two evenings of sharing and discussing the essentials of Missional Enterprise, especially as it relates to our city culture. Ken shared Missional Enterprise principles and paradigms: The Triple Bottom Line and A Paradigm for Starting a Missional Business (see images below).

The Chicago Navigators: August 2022 - David and Liz Hamlett

In February 2021, Chicago Nav Neighbors Staff, David and Liz Hamlett, joined Navigator staff. David is helping lead the Chicago Navigators Southside Network from his home in South Shore. However, because of COVID, few of us have met David and Liz and their active church, neighborhood, and street ministry. This brief question and answer section was created to help us all, “Meet New Chicago Navigators, David and Liz Hamlett”

David, why did you choose to join Navigator staff?

“I was introduced to the Chicago Navigators through James Kang, then a Chicago Nav administrator. He had already introduced me to Dr. Mica (Battle) Abbot and her Bridge to Freedom ministry, where I then led anger management Bible studies. Liz and I went through some interviews and found ourselves resonating with Navigator principles, and especially with the emphasis on relationships. Building relationships in the community with the goal of evangelism and discipleship was already my main effort in the neighborhood of our current church, Chicagoland Bible Fellowship. A discipleship emphasis is important because one can participate in church activities without being a daily disciple of Jesus Christ. Being a true disciple by following Christ daily is where the abundant, fruitful life is. God gave some answers to prayer to confirm the Navigator direction and helped me along the way with the assistance of James Kang, Jay Neuharth, and Jim Conner. The Navigators also encouraged Liz and I’s marriage relationship, which was a pleasant surprise to us as well as a foundational need. Liz did not join staff with me, but really appreciated Navigator attention to her needs and welfare. The Navigators as an organization and the Navigator people have been a strong encouragement and enabling force for the work of the gospel as I believe God has directed me.”

Why did you choose to remain in your city neighborhood and in your church while both were transitioning from mostly white culture to black culture?

“Starting in my kindergarten year, in the space of a dozen years or so, the all-white neighborhood changed to nearly all Black. My parents were part of a core of Bellevue (Baptist Church) people that decided to keep the church where it was and minister to the new neighbors. I was one of two whites left in my high school graduating class. My Mom told us, “We like our new neighbors.” There were several incidents, but generally speaking we were treated with respect for staying. I would find out later from a high school friend that “We looked out for Dave.” (Some years later), I ended up as a home missionary at Liz’s church, South Shore Baptist. Once we knew we were accepted in the position, we bought a home God brought to our attention several blocks from the church. Although the short-term assignment (at South Shore Baptist) ended after two years and eight months, we have continued to live in the same house and keep up some kind of ministry on the side as we raised our family.”

Why is disciple-making in your context so important?

It’s a key. We’re supposed to make disciples. One can be active in church and not be a disciple. You can be an active church member and not follow through with daily abiding in Christ. Sadly, it can be something of a norm, and it has been true in my life. Daily following Christ with all of my heart is where I engage with Christ and his overwhelming love for me. The norm should be loving God with all our hearts, and after studying the phrase “all your heart” in scripture, this became my philosophy of ministry and led me to being a daily disciple of Christ….”with all my heart.” Liz stated, “Making disciples is important because it strengthens the spiritual life of each of us. The disciple benefits by growing in Christ… and having a nourished faith, the church benefits by having strong believers, and the world benefits as more hear about the new life Jesus offers.”

Ambition to Contentment: Learning a More Excellent Way

Perhaps he could become a musician, he thought, as he poured himself out on the keys. Or, as he looked out the car window at his rapidly developing hometown, Maybe an architect? He would marry the girl, settle down, have a few kids, maybe write a book? Even in his wildest imaginings he never would have visualized the life he leads now. God had different plans.

Philemon Hayibor was born in Ghana, West Africa. His parents, both first-generation believers, were heavily involved in the ministry of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade). His father quickly rose in leadership and became the national director for Cru in Ghana. At home, they regularly hosted students and volunteers from down the street and all over the world. He went on wild bush adventures and watched VeggieTales.

His family had devotions every day and some of his earliest memories are of sitting in the back seat of the family car and praying for hours during their many road trips. He would sit with God and talk to Him as he would to a best friend. It’s that relationship that has been the only constant in his life.

When Philemon was 13, his family moved from Ghana to the suburbs of Chicago so his dad could get his PhD. These were sometimes beautiful, sometimes dark days for Philemon as he struggled his way through navigating a new culture, making new friends, the challenges of adolescence, and an ever-distancing relationship with his Heavenly Father. At age16 he rededicated his life to Christ, promising a life of ministry in His name. When 18 rolled around he was ready to find a liberal arts school somewhere far from home to learn how to make as much money as possible and pursue his own ambitions. But he could not afford any of those schools, and his parents urged him to apply to Moody Bible Institute.

Miraculously, he was accepted, and begrudgingly he went. At Moody Philemon discovered a love for theology and the Word of God. He was confronted with the grace of God and surrendered his heart and his ambitions to the Lord once more. He became involved in a small Bible-believing, truth-teaching church. And he met his wife, Janelle.

While he was working on his Master of Divinity degree, God brought along another unexpected turn in the road: he was offered a part-time position as a counselor at Pacific Garden Mission in downtown Chicago. God was actively working to dismantle his ambitions and redirecting him. Philemon had no desire to minister to the homeless, but life in the city with a wife and school bills doesn’t leave you with many options, so he took the job. He was hired full time just before the birth of his first son, and four years later he is now the manager of the men’s program.

Three and a half years ago, Philemon was given the opportunity to begin working part time for The Navigators Chicago city director, Jay Neuharth. Even here, God has been stretching Philemon’s plans beyond his expectations. He began in an administrative position but is now the associate director of operations for The Navigators in Chicago.

During his time with The Navigators, Philemon has been humbled and amazed by the leaders’ generosity and care towards him. He says, “The Navigators have taken the initiative to develop me as a leader, and provided me with many opportunities for learning and growth.” Through his work with The Navigators, he’s been able to travel, attend vision casting meetings, and rub shoulders with and learn from many leaders from diverse backgrounds from all around the country. He has added a wide range of skills and experience to his toolbelt along the way.

Not only has he had many avenues for development through his work, The Navigators has gone above and beyond to give him resources outside the normal scope of his job description. Most recently, Philemon has had the opportunity to be a part of the Leadership Development Initiative. Over about a year and a half, LDI participants attend seminars, work through assignments, reflect personally and in small groups, and work one-on-one with mentors. The goal is to grow in their ability to lead in a healthy, God-honoring way wherever God places them.

Philemon is still going through the program, and he has already gleaned many lessons that are helping him in all the areas of his life. He says, “Every leader needs to make space for rest and loving union with the Father. It helps the leader lead well. It’s in those times the Lord shows the leader his or her true self, where he or she can heal and learn to shepherd the people God has put in his or her care.”

As Philemon continues to serve with The Navigators, he remains thankful for their ministry in his own life. The boy who wanted to design incredible buildings and play beautiful music is now an associate pastor, a program manager, an associate director, a husband, and a father. The lessons and resources he’s been given through The Navigators and the Leadership Development Initiative have trickled down and blessed every part of his life from family, to church, to work.

Is life everything he dreamed it would become? No. It’s better!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
—Proverbs 19:21 ESV

Story: Janelle L. Hayibor

Navigators Chicago | March 2021 Update

Navigators Chicago | March 2021 Update

Discipleship in Unprecedented Times

Saturday, March 13th, 2021 // 9:00am – 11:30am CST


Registration is live for our annual Minneapolis-St. Paul Navigators Discipleship (virtual) Conference and you’re invited! Join us online on Saturday, March 13th from 9-11:30 AM for a gathering of believers discussing what it means to be and make disciples of Jesus in these times. Listen and learn from our speaker Pastor Robert Daniels, and choose from over a dozen breakout sessions on topics ranging from mental health to discipling kids to loving your neighbors well during lockdown.

For more information on each breakout session click on the registration button above to see full bios and descriptions. Want to see videos from our breakout leaders and speakers? Check out our Facebook page (@MSPnavigators) and Instagram (msp_navigators)!

Be one of the first 50 registrants and you will be entered into a drawing for a $75 gift card for the Minnesota Twins MLB store!
Questions? Contact our conference director, Chad Selje ()


Our 2021 Life-to-Life Discipleship Conference speaker, Pastor Robert Daniels, is originally from Dallas, TX. After coming to faith in college, Robert served as a missionary with The Navigators in Bowie, Maryland. He then felt called to plant a church leading him to get training at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is now Lead Pastor of Christ Freedom Church in Lewisville, TX.