Thinking Through The Four Observations (by Jon Shuler)

Observation #1 – Leaders Are Rarely Seminary Trained.

When true reformation comes to the church of Jesus Christ, it always disrupts the ordinary way things have recently been done. It is part of the very nature of reformation that it only comes because many things have gone wrong. God is intervening because many of his people, and their leaders, have grown cold in the face of these errors. God intervenes to put things right. But in times like these God always has to raise up leaders who will turn their face toward him, and obey what he asks of them – whatever the consequences. This pattern has been seen in all of Church History.

Understanding this reality, goes a long way to helping us to understand the first observation from last week’s post. Reformation almost always begins through the leadership of men not sharing the currently accepted and “normal” way of being trained to lead. They are often outsiders, not thinking the way the majority think. They do not see the current situation the way those in authority see it.

This phenomena may manifest itself in one of two ways. The first of these, and most common, is God raises up leaders trained on a different path than those currently leading. An example from ancient history is the bishop of Rome known as Gregory the Great. Gregory was a Benedictine Monk, and a part of an order founded by St Benedict of Nursia, who died in AD 547. Benedict had established (we would say planted) thirteen small monasteries before he died, all of which were outside of the Catholic authority and leadership structures of their day. Yet in AD 590 one of his followers, Gregory, was made bishop of Rome, and inaugurated a season of lasting reform whose influence is still felt in 2019. He was trained outside the ordinary structures.

The second way this phenomena manifests itself is through a leader trained in the way common in his day, but who has experienced what he believes to be a direct intervention of God in his life. God has shown him a different way for the church to be guided and shaped. When truly God inspired, this leads him, and those who follow him, back to revealed truth already given to the church but neglected or obscured in his own lifetime. He leads in a way outside the “accepted norms,” but consistent with the Word of God. He is a reformer. Thomas Cranmer was such a man. So was John Wesley.

For at least the last 200 years, if not longer, the Western Seminary system has taught men to be men of the mind. To be scholars. It has neglected the formation of the whole man: heart, mind, soul, and strength, putting the Lord Jesus second after knowledge. This has separated many leaders from their people, and has communicated (often unintentionally) to the flock of God that they “do not know enough” to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. They must read more. They must study more. They must have more classes, more programs, more guidance. They must have “expert” instruction to be good Christians. It does not put obeying the Lord Jesus first. It screens out reformation.

Used with permission by jonshuler.wordpress.com

Next Week: Observation #2 – Believing that the Word of God is True.

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Thinking Through The Four Observations (by Jon Shuler)

Which way now? (By Revd Manik Corea).

I have always loved that part in Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions on which way to go. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ replied the cat. When Alice responds that she doesn’t much care where, the Cheshire Cat retorts wisely: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”

Destination determines direction.

What is your mission in life? What is the ultimate direction your life is heading towards?

That is a life-defining question that we Christians seldom (or never) ponder. But as disciples of Jesus, it is beholden on us to know what on earth God has put us here for – i.e. our specific vocation and calling, and to be obedient and fulfilled in it for His glory.

But the word ‘mission’ itself can be a scary one for many Christians. For many, it conjures up images of being sent, often against our will, to far off lands to share to unresponsive or even hostile natives the good news of Jesus, perhaps ending up as someone’s supper!

We think it is a job for few special people or a committee of the church. Mission is for the super-committed Christian who is ready to give up the comforts of his everyday life for the privations of some higher calling.

Such a dichotomy is plainly unbiblical. To be a genuine Christian is to be a disciple of Christ (Luke 9:23). And to be a disciple involves becoming a participant in God’s great mission to reach the ends of the earth with the Gospels and to make disciples of all nations (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19). We are all called to cross the street where we live as disciples on mission. A few of us are called to also cross the seas. The question is whether we will obey or not.

In Scripture, ‘mission’ is a comprehensive descriptor of God’s desire and purpose to redeem a people for Himself, for whom He will be their sovereign God and they will be His devoted people. (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:7;  Jeremiah 31:33, 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27;  2 Corinthians 6:16 and principally Revelation 21:3).

At the same time, it also demarcates the whole scope of activities that God initiates engages in the world for His great end i.e. the spread of His kingdom rule to the ends of the earth through the victory and salvation wrought on the cross of the resurrected Christ.

As Christian Wright so eloquently in his book, ‘The Mission of God’s People’[1], ‘mission’ must by definition encompass not only the ‘sent-ness’ of Christ as God’s Messiah into the world, and His people with Him, but includes everything we are, do and say in relation to that purpose and mission of God’s renewal and rescue of a lost and dying world to himself. It must therefore involve all of our lives.

Against an increasingly intrusive global culture that breeds distraction, doubt, despair and narcissism and leads us in all the wrong directions, the Gospel is the only right way to go.

That God may be known by us and through us to others – for His great glory, that is the end. This is true mission, worth living and dying for.


[1] Christopher J. Wright, The Mission of God’s People (Michigan: Zondervan, 2010).

Which way now? (By Revd Manik Corea).

What’s in a Word?

‘Disciple’ is the word most commonly used for a follower and believer in the risen Jesus in the book of Acts.[1] Jesus instructed us in his final command of Matthew 28:18-20 to ‘make disciples’ as the overarching focus and mission of his post-resurrection church, as told to his appointed pioneers of that universal church. And we know from Acts and the rapid spread of the Gospel in the Roman world in the first few centuries that this was certainly their practice.

Yet, being a disciple today may mean something entirely different. How often it is in churches around the world as I’ve traveled, that I have found discipleship to be reduced and redacted to something less than it should be. It is often seen only as a short-term follow-up course or program for new believers or a description for adult Sunday school classed or bible studies for serious believers. At worse, it is seen as synonymous with other popular words like mentoring and coaching. John Ortberg, Christian pastor and teacher comments thus:

“Words pick up baggage, so disciple, a great New Testament word, has come to mean a time-limited process that you can finish. Growing up, I’d hear people say, “I’m discipling him.” They meant, we’ll meet for a while and then we’ll finish and he’ll be discipled. That usually involved getting together at Denny’s at 6:30 in the morning and working through some kind of curriculum. The New Testament never uses disciple in that way. To be a disciple of Jesus was something all followers did in community, and did their whole lives long.”[2]

He is of course right – Discipleship that is not life-long and reproducing is neither biblical nor Jesus-pleasing. God has taught us at NAMS that we must call the Church of Jesus Christ back to an understanding of discipleship as Jesus and his apostles taught and lived it.

The good news is that we are living in days when the word ‘disciple’ and the work of ‘disciple-making’ is being recovered and reclaimed through the sovereign work of God’s Spirit around the world by missionaries, pastors and leaders as never before.

There is a greater realization today that being and making disciples is a fundamental call and work for all obedient followers of Jesus. We live in days when disciple-making movements around the world are paving the way for new church-planting and Gospel transformation in previously unreached people groups.

In the same vein, NAMS as a missionary society was founded in 1994 to model, train and call the church and all Christians to obedience to Jesus’ final command to make disciples of all peoples. We do this by making disciples who make disciples, raising disciple-making leaders and seeking to plant disciple-making churches.

In this new year, it is our prayer and hope that together, we can be growing and reproducing disciples of Jesus, so that his Kingdom may come on earth and His Gospel reach the ends of the earth.


[1] See for example Acts 6:1-2, Acts 6:1-2,6:7; Acts 9:1, Acts 9:1,9:10, Acts 9:10,9:19, Acts 9:19, 9:26, Acts 9:26, 9:38; Acts 11:26, Acts 11:26. Butler, Trent C. Editor. From entry for ‘Disciples’. Holman Bible Dictionary. Accessed at http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/d/disciples.html. 1991.

[2] John Ortberg in ‘Holy Tension’ – interview with Leadership Magazine. Accessed at http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2004/winter/1.22.html


If you would like to learn how to be a disciple-making disciple, you can find the following resources on our website that can help you be obedient to Jesus’ final command:

www.namsnetwork.com/assets/dmdsteps.pdf  An e-book clearly outlining a 7-step process to become a disciple who makes disciples by Canon Revd Dr Jon Shuler, NAMS Servant General.

Praxis is a 4-week small group training course on how to be a disciple-making disciple. The workbook for this course can be found at:
www.namsnetwork.com/assets/praxi-course-workbook_v2.pdf
with a facilitators/leaders guide at:
www.namsnetwork.com/assets/praxi-course-leader-guide.pdf

You can also watch our 7-part YouTube video series on being and making disciples: go to www.youtube.com and type ‘NAMS Disciple Making Discipleship Course’ in the search bar.

This resource is an offering to the Church universal to begin to apprentice, learn and practice the ‘family business’ that is the vocation and inheritance of all true Christians.

What’s in a Word?

Change the world this year! (By Revd Manik Corea, NAMS Global Executive).

‘Everyone wants to change the world. No one wants to change themselves.’ Wrote the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.

But real change in our world cannot be effected without the transformation first of individuals by God’s redemption at the cross of Christ. That’s why Christians are called to be and make disciples first, and not simply engage in doing good works.

This means in practice more that than simply Sunday attendance, loving our neighbors, giving to the poor or worthy causes, singing songs of praise to Him, praying for each other or even reciting the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed with faith at Sunday services. We should do all that, of course, in His name and for His glory. But He calls us to more.

Discipleship involves surrender to His Lordship, letting Christ change and align us to His will and purpose for our lives. It means choosing daily, and then following with perseverance, in his power and in concert with each other, to be disciples reaching the world, helping others know and follow him as we do, doing the works he did as he said we would (Luke 9:23; John 14:12).

Disciples are the fruit that God the divine gardener desires. In fact, all the ministry we do as Christians must produce disciples or they are deemed fruitless and worthless to God (as a Scriptures like John 15:1-8 emphasize).

If we put being and making disciples at the heart of our personal and collective lives in our churches and ministries, then at least 3 things will be true:

1) It will be all about Jesus. Who He is and what He wants will then take centre stage – not simply our visions, models or strategies. Indeed, ‘he must increase, I must decrease’ – we would cry with the Baptist (John 3:30).

2) Relationships will be central. As we seek to please and obey Jesus, we would be committed to the community of believers (John 13:34, 35), as well as be invested in relationships with non-believers, all as modeled by our Lord. Faith would be more than a personal or private matter. We would seek to disciple a few and help them reach out to others by being and bringing good news to the world where they live, play and work.

3) We will start small. We live in cultures that elevate the rich, the powerful, the beautiful and the well-known. The standard of success in America and the West, if not globally, is predominantly the big, the loud, the impressive and the popular. This has infected our standards for success in the church and in our Christian lives. We think that only those who can gather large crowds, have spectacular ministries or be well-known are ‘successful’ Christians.

Against this, the true disciples seeking to please Jesus will pursue His focus on the few so that others can in time be reached. ‘Jesus spoke to the crowds, but the engine of his ministry was his purposeful gathering and shaping of the twelve.’[1] Consequently, we will ask, ‘Why do we focus on the crowds when Jesus focused on the twelve?’[2]

In fact, this was part of Jesus’ deliberate strategy. He taught in his parables that the Kingdom of God grows from small beginnings. As the late Eugene Peterson wrote, ‘The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry are frequently images of the single, the small and the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven and seed.” [3]

We begin where we are, with who we can reach, by being obedient disciples and faithfully using our gifts.

Start small – but start somewhere. Ask others to help you do it. Be a disciple and make at least one other disciple. When you do so, Jesus promises He will be with you (Matthew 28:20).

And that will change the world – for at least one other person this year!

For help in becoming a disciple who makes other disciples, contact us at info@namsnetwork.com

 


[1] Woodward, JR & White, Dan, The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities. (Illinois:IVP, 2016), pg 89.

[2] Ibid., pg 90.

[3] Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor. (Grand Rapids:Eermands, 1993), pg 25.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a sea-change from the way I used to view church-planting. In the old church paradigm of thinking about church-planting that I was first taught, new churches were the ‘products’ we were to become experts at building. These new churches which were essentially models of the old institutional churches we were raised in or converted to. In many senses, it was nothing more that institutional church-cloning.

In order to subvert this ‘false’ picture and theology of the purpose and method of church-planting, we have to ask what kind of church Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18) and then seek to join in (2 Corinthians 3:6-9).

 

and its correlation with Jesus’ final command to us to make disciples of all people (Matthew 28:18-20).

 

In taking God’s divine prescription for global transformation (as Jesus articulated it in Matthew 28:18-20) seriously to heart, letting it inform and shape our vision and practice.

 

A right ecclesiology therefore follows from a missiology shaped and derived from the Christological work, vision and design. His kingdom coming constitutes our going into the world – our ‘sent-ness’ (John 20:21).

 

As we make disciples after Jesus, he will build His church by multiplying it.

 

 

[1] Woodward, JR & White, Dan, The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities. (Illinois:IVP, 2016), pg 89.

[2] Ibid., pg 90.

[3] Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor. (Grand Rapids:Eermands, 1993), pg 25.

Change the world this year! (By Revd Manik Corea, NAMS Global Executive).

A Partnership in the Gospel – NAMS Cuba Retreat, December 2018

3 people traveled to Cuba recently from our NAMS Latin America base in Chile, including our NAMS Latin America Team Leader Andrés and companion Juan Tamayo.

Cuban scene

They arrived in Havana accompanied by 4 bags full of donations from the NAMS community in Chile, which included medicines, food, clothing and items for the Retreat.

They spent one night at the home of R and M, who are our NAMS local leaders at Havana. The next day, we took an expensive 3-hour taxi to Cienfuegos.

On their arrival, they were greeted by Pastor R and his wife I, who are leaders of our NAMS partnership in Cienfuegos. From there, they ‘traveled’ to the retreat place on a special taxi (- see picture below).

Cuban taxi

It was a joy for them to meet with each of the families of church planters that our NAMS Base Community in Chile is supporting. They also met with many other people – the elderly, women, children, youth and adults who were involved in various ministries. A total of 60 people were part of the NAMS retreat. All are involved in discipleship and church planting, whether through sports ministries, children’s ministries, family ministries or direct church-planting, etc.

Our NAMS leaders were able to give training over 3 days on topics like Biblical Discipleship, the Great Commission and the Planting of Churches based on Acts 2:42. The training was for both those we have been supporting financially as well as others that we aren’t able to currently.

The last day was a special time because leaders of two communities of faith that we support presented to the Lord 7 new believers whom were baptized by the NAMS team along with pastor R, in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. They were like first-fruits of our partnership and work. The joy and emotion on the part of all the believers was manifest, and they gave glory to God with prayers, praises and songs with tears. After that, they said goodbye to each participant of the retreat.

They also managed to visit some of the church communities that had been planted, praying for the leaders and sharing with each of them their dreams and longings to serve the Lord on the Island. They opened their hearts to our NAMS team about their willingness to continue serving in the midst of difficulties. They also discovered that the 7 church planters received support from us were in fact sharing that support with others who were not yet officially receiving support from us. We believe that if our support is increased, there will be a wider and greater impact – we pray this will happen in time. Overall, our NAMS team witnessed the wonders that the Lord is doing on the island using these humble brothers in the faith.

We thank God with great joy for the opportunity to visit and partner with these precious brothers and sisters in Cuba for the Gospel.

* Names not given for security reasons

in Cienfugos

A Partnership in the Gospel – NAMS Cuba Retreat, December 2018

For the Spread of the Kingdom of God (by Jon Shuler)

Dear Friends of NAMS,

Among those duties, as a Christian, I was taught by the catechism of my youth was that I should “work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.”

Cynthia and I gladly give over 10% of our income to the work of NAMS because we know the men and women who share our global ministry are spreading that kingdom. They are at work every day finding the lost, and discipling the found.

We give beyond that tithe, gratefully, for the ministry of our local church as well.

We know that at year end many (especially in the West) are inundated with requests from all manner of worthy causes. But may we ask you to consider how much of your charitable giving is actually spreading the kingdom? Actually helping new lives to be formed in Christ Jesus? New communities of faith planted?

Will you partner with us? Will you become a supporting part of the NAMS Network?

NAMS needs regular, monthly, support to sustain its mission and ministry around the world. Will you help? Right now?

Can you make a year end gift? Donate here.

Can you become one of our faithful monthly givers? Donate here.

It is hard for many of our North American friends to realize what a monthly gift of $100.00 can do in much of the world. Many, many, of our NAMS Companions, and those we serve, live and raise families on less than that amount.

But even such a small amount, given regularly, can help make a difference right here in the USA. We are working to start churches, and training those who will start churches, right here at home. Can you join us in this wonderful work? Can you join us by giving for right where you live, or for the gospel to go the ends of the earth?

As this year closes will you join us as partners in the mission of obeying the Final Command of Jesus?

Your brother in the mission of Christ Jesus,

Jon Shuler

For the Spread of the Kingdom of God (by Jon Shuler)