There is one more consideration we want to discuss in this final blog in the series. What happens to the churches NAMS helps plant? Where do they fit in the larger body of Christ? It is an important question, but it awakens in me a concern.
Frequently I have struggled with the common description of a local church as belonging to the minister in charge. This is a custom that is contrary to the clear teaching of the New Testament. To say “my parish” or “my congregation” is to betray a blind spot. They belong to the Lord. Most Christian leaders would agree, if challenged, but the habit does not change. Why?
At least one reason is that the person doing the most “ministry” in a typical local church is the one man responsible for shepherding it. People see this, and identify the work by the man’s name. This is not the way the Church’s first leaders spoke.
Look at the apostle Peter. When he addresses the leaders under his care he says they are to “shepherd the flock of God” (I Peter 5:2). He does not say, “Shepherd your flock.” Their charge is the flock of God.
NAMS wants the new congregations we help start to be “submitted to Christ” as their first priority. He is their Savior, and he is their Lord. His will and his Word trump all other authorities. He is their good and great Shepherd. This is what we pray and work for.
NAMS does not have a congregational understanding of the church, but a connectional one. We believe that being accountable to others who also serve Christ is central to authentic Christianity. The way that was expressed in the early church, from the first century onwards, was that the local congregation had a bishop overseeing them. We believe that the continuation of that pattern is right in the sight of God, and we seek always to adhere to it. We believe that the purpose of that oversight is not to impose a system of man’s devising, but to ensure fidelity to the lordship of Christ Jesus. It is not to suppress faithful (multiplying) discipleship, but to increase it.
Whenever we have begun new work with the blessing and partnership of the local bishop, that work has ended up under his jurisdictional oversight. It is our intention from the beginning that it should be so, and that it should be so for the well being of the whole church.
But will all of our new work be wanted by the Anglican Family? If it is wanted it will belong. It is a godly and ancient tribe, and a global one. But if that new work is faithful to the DNA that NAMS has sought to implant from the beginning, new Great Commission DNA, then it will be Christian first. Missionary second. Anglican third. That is our mission. It has not changed.
— Jon Shuler
to learn more about NAMS, go to www.NAMSnetwork.com