Last week we discussed two of the causes that led to some confusion about our mission in the early days of NAMS, and we noted that they contributed to our outcomes being quite different than we desired. We wanted to see multiplying congregations, and we were getting very settled ones. How was this so? We want to own that much of the difficulty was because of the gap in our missionary understanding and how we communicated it.
NAMS understood itself from its foundation as a part of something bigger. We believed that God was renewing his church. We believed that this included the Anglican Family, but it was really something much bigger. We also learned that when God begins such a renewing work, the depth of the renewing “need” is seen by him more clearly than by us. When NAMS began in 1994 we thought the Anglican Family would quickly hear the call to new missionary church planting, but we did not understand that even when they did hear that call, they usually had a different idea of the outcome to be desired than did NAMS. We were working to see the spontaneous expansion of the church, and they were (generally) wanting the advance of the existing Anglican Church. The two, we soon realized, were not always the same. But we did not know how to express it well.
The first three dioceses we sought to help were all in the USA. They agreed to work with us at least partly because we volunteered to put up one half of the money needed in the first three years. Not a bad deal for the diocese, but hard on NAMS, since we were totally depending on volunteer donations. Very soon, however, we discovered how far away from our vision of the mission reality was the typical bishop of the time. One, who insisted on visiting in Cope and Mitre, when the new congregation was still meeting in a dinner theater with a sawdust covered floor, will never be forgotten! This was a small thing, but the larger reality was this: we soon discovered that it was expected by all the bishops that the new work would quickly conform to all the other parishes of the diocese. But the other parishes were usually not growing and flourishing.
We next served in the UK, and were invited in to the diocese of Canterbury. We worked there from 1994 till 1997, and found that there was only one priest in the diocese interested in new church planting. Meanwhile, the diocese was consolidating and closing parishes regularly. We served faithfully as we were able, in a variety of training and teaching environments, but we overwhelmingly discovered that the “Mother Church” did not see what we saw. We led a fifteen day evangelistic mission called “Thank You Canterbury” in the Spring of 1997, and saw over one thousand people respond to the call for prayer and commitment to Christ. All but a few were foreign visitors.
That experience catapulted us into a global understanding we had not understood till then. The fields were ripe all over the world, if we would go. There was nowhere that was excepted. But we could not predict who would respond to our coming. Who would receive us as people sent by the Lord? (cf Mt 10, Mk 6, Lk 9 & 10)
— Jon Shuler
To find out more about NAMS go to www.namsnetwork.com