Family Discipleship — part 1 (by Sam Horowitz)

We love our specialists and experts. When we have a problem, or something needs to be done, we turn to the experts. Over the last several decades, unfortunately, most American churches have taken this to an extreme when it comes to making disciples.

Several years ago, I asked a team of leaders what they would do if their neighbor knocked on their door one morning and shared that they had just become a Christian. After an uncomfortably long period of silence, one tentatively offered up that they would bring this new convert to church — so that they could begin to hear my preaching. Of course attending worship is an important part of being a disciple, but it was clear to me that the men and women in the room — all of whom had been following Jesus for twenty years or more — believed that disciple-making was best left to the experts.

This trend is even clearer when it comes to making disciples of young people. A recent survey of Christian parents revealed that the majority did not feel comfortable or capable of instructing their own children in the faith. That finding was often true, by the way, even among “core” church members and Children’s Sunday School teachers!

When the people of Israel were preparing to enter into the Promised Land, and God was instructing them on the fundamental ways of living that would enable them to keep the covenant they had entered into with him, he told them:

These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

If faithful parents want to raise faithful children, we must have the same attitude. There are no shortcuts. First, the hearts and minds of moms and dads must be on Jesus and his teaching. We must be spending time with him and his words daily, and not only on Sundays. We must learn to look at, process, and interact with the world through the lens of the Bible’s story.

And then, we must be continually teaching our children the Gospel and living the Good News out by faith. The pairs “when you sit/when you walk” and “when you lie down/when you rise” are not particular opportunities to be teaching, but are Hebraisms meant to include everything in between two opposites. For most of the church history, this was the way new generations of disciples were raised. Parents shared their lives of faith with their children. The idea that we could outsource this to experts, though pervasive today, is in the grand scheme of things a novelty.

This is not to say that youth and children’s ministry “specialists” have no place in the church, or are unimportant. I write to you today as one with many years of “professional” experience in children’s and youth ministry. But these ministries must be added to daily family patterns of discipleship, in the same way that most people live healthy lives by adding occasional visits to medical professionals to daily healthy practices.

Are you sharing your life with your children (or grandchildren, or the young people of your faith community) in a way that demonstrates the effect of the Gospel in daily living? Are you taking advantage of the opportunities life presents in “all you do” to be “diligently” teaching the ways of Jesus to the young people entrusted to you?

Next week: Practical suggestions for family discipleship

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Family Discipleship — part 1 (by Sam Horowitz)

WHAT DO YOU MEASURE?

I was taught many years ago that we measure what we value. What do you measure?

Shortly after I was made Rector (Senior Pastor) of a large American congregation years ago, the senior lay leader came by my office on a Tuesday morning. He asked me what the attendance was on Sunday and I did not know. He was shocked, and asked what I did measure from the weekend. I had measured nothing, but was basking in the memory of what seemed to me a wonderful morning of worship and teaching. He was not pleased, and told me that if he was the senior leader he would want the staff to place on his desk on Monday morning three numbers: How many people attended; How much money was placed in the offering; and how many visitors were present? From that week, we measured all three.

The congregation grew during all the years I was the leader, and I came in time to believe part of the reason for our growth was that we measured what was happening. When attendance fell we asked why? And made adjustments if we could discern a reason. Similarly when giving was down we asked the same questions. So also with those who were coming to visit for the first time, so we could follow up quickly and invite them to return.

What do you measure?

After being a senior leader in that congregation for some years, I decided on a new set of measurements to add to the first three. I began to ask how many people were participating in a small intentional discipling group? I began to also track those learning to lead such groups, and especially tried to find a way to measure those who were actively discipling other people to be followers of Jesus. And we began to also measure the number of congregants that were actively bringing others into the life of the church. These measurements helped us to pay close attention to what our Lord Jesus clearly expects of the community of faith. Who is coming to faith? Who is being discipled? Who is stepping up to the leadership tasks that ensure that “names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20)? How many are learning to “catch men” (Luke 5:10)?

What do you measure?

Near the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry he told his closest disciples that he expected them to bear much fruit (John 15:8). He was not talking about their interior character, but about those men and women who were being added to the kingdom of God because they were cooperating with the Shepherd who yearns for his lost ones to come home. A good shepherd keeps track of his sheep. A leader in the church of the Lord should measure what matters to the Lord of the church.

What do you measure?

 

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

 

WHAT DO YOU MEASURE?

‘Follow Me’ (By Manik Corea)

It was my first time in Paris. Emerging from a railway station, I struggled to find my bearings with a map. A Frenchman offered to help me get where I needed to go. Unfortunately, I spoke no French—nor he any English. So, we communicated by sign and he gestured in grunts and hand signs where I needed to go. I tried to follow his instructions, but got lost a couple of times further along the way.

This contrasted with my first time in Chicago, where a stranger offered not only to help me find my way to a particular Metro station, but to accompany me on the journey. His ‘follow me’ was much preferable to simply being pointed in the right direction.

Discipleship is first and foremost an invitation to journey with and after Jesus.

Where you get to and what you become in life depends fundamentally on who you’re following and which road you take. Jesus once described life starkly in terms of two roads, one broad that leads many to destruction, and one narrow – on which only a few find life.

We must trust Jesus through His Holy Spirit to be our surest guide on the narrow way to God the Father, because in Jesus, God has come to us. He knows the way because He is the way. It is no accident that the earliest followers of the Christian faith were known as followers of ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2; 11:26; 22:4).

It is no surprise then that the first and most common phrase Jesus used on prospective disciples was simply ‘Follow me.’[i] It is not clear in the original Greek whether this is a command or a request – perhaps both. But the implications in many of the contexts where Jesus used the phrase is clear – he was calling with some intended force and expectation that those he called would give him their unqualified attention and an obedient response.

It was a call first and foremost to himself.

On the other hand, the Jewish rabbis and the Greek philosophers of His day expected disciples to commit themselves to a specific philosophy or a definite cause – i.e. to their teaching rather than the teacher. The call of Jesus was wholly personal – his disciples were to follow him, to be with him, and to commit themselves wholeheartedly to him.

Likewise, we as disciples are called to make Him the singular focus of our lives; to a way of life that is entirely in keeping with His character, saving work, and kingly reign. We are called to an all-consuming love for Him. In that sense, Christian discipleship is predicated on the claim of total devotion by Christ.

‘Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.’ (Matthew 10:38; cf Luke 14:27, Matthew 16:24-28; John 10:27; 12:25-26).

In fact, he can brook neither rivals nor competition, nor accept even reasonable requests for deference or delay (Matthew 19:21-22, Luke 9:57-62).

Discipleship is the all-life response we are called to make to God’s gracious free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus. This demand, as John Stott said, is as total as the offer is free.

We either follow Him with our all, or we are not following him at all.

Are you truly following Him today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] See for example Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 19:21; John 1:43; 1:44; 21:19; 21:22.

‘Follow Me’ (By Manik Corea)

Planting Disciple-Making Churches

Cynthia and I set out to plant a new church in Charlotte, North Carolina, by faith. We asked for the Rector of All Saints, Pawleys Island, South Carolina to pray for us and commission us as we left. It was August 6th, 2000.

We believed God had guided us to Charlotte and this work, but we knew almost no one there. We planned that I would continue to lead NAMS from Charlotte, but church planting would be my “tent-making” job.

I had been teaching others about church planting for six years with NAMS. I had planted a church in 1980, and I imagined that I knew what to do. I soon found that the culture of my country had changed dramatically in those twenty years, and I had to learn many new lessons in the large growing city of Charlotte. We prayed much and did the best with what we knew.

What we did know was the power of God and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We knew we had to trust God and live the Scriptures. We believed the NAMS vision for new church planting in North America was from God. We trusted the Holy Spirit to lead us.

On the very day we were sent out, God introduced us to two couples, who were visiting All Saints from Charlotte, who said they wanted to help. One of them gave us a key to their guest room over the garage, and that was our first “home.” Those two couples were foundational to all that came after. They were our first “households of peace.”

Cynthia and I prayed and read the scriptures together every morning, and I went out to meet strangers every day. That prayer time undergirded everything. It was the primary cell. We called the church King of Kings. I told everyone I met we were starting a new church and invited them to join us. I built an email list. I set in motion a ten-week training time for rising leaders on Saturday mornings. I shared the NAMS Vision for planting a new Great Commission Church. When the ten weeks ended, we found a place to meet for worship and began to hold Sunday afternoon services. There were thirteen of us on the first Sunday.

For the next few months I followed up on every new relationship that beckoned, and started a number of small house groups. A seminary student agreed to be a Church Planting Intern, and joined us with his family. We grew to about fifty-two people, when we encouraged the formation of a second church and seventeen people left to plant in another town, with the intern providing their leadership. For the following year we only added one new member. It was a time of testing for us.

With financial assistance of the AMiA we were able to hire a Youth Worker in our third year, and later a tent-making family moved from Florida to help us. We equipped our volunteers to serve wherever possible, and an old friend living in Charlotte agreed to be our worship leader. Another seminarian became a part-time member of the leadership team. We met in three different locations before settling at the local YMCA. That location helped us grow, as did moving our service to Sunday morning.

I established an early version of the NAMS Church Planting Pyramid as the structural framework of the new church: every member in a small disciple-making cell, all leaders growing as part of a leadership community, and Sunday worship. We began a weekly prayer meeting.

For the first two and one-half years, most of my support came through my work with NAMS. But, by the fourth year the church was providing about 80% of my support.

We helped cast vision for many new churches, and were able to help thirteen congregations to begin. By the end of our sixth year we were averaging about one hundred and fifty people at our Sunday Eucharist. It was a wonderful season of ministry, by the Grace of God. It showed us that one congregation, even a small one, with visionary leadership and biblical passion, could start a movement of church planting. It proved to us, again, that God provides for what he calls for.

In February of 2007 we were called away, and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. God had a new assignment for us. Leaving was hard, but God took King of Kings forward as they trusted Jesus. He was, and remains, the leader they needed.

— Rev. Jon C. Shuler
NAMS Servant General

Planting Disciple-Making Churches

Raising Disciple-Making leaders – A NAMS story (by Manik Corea)

Seemingly serendipitous meetings in the midst of daily living can become the setting for life-altering divine appointments by God’s grand design, and the Scriptures provide many illustrations. An unsuspecting shepherd sees a burning bush, a tax-collector sitting at his booth hears the words ‘follow me,’ fishermen are met and called by Jesus at the edge of the waters, an Ethiopian in a chariot on a desert road is met by running courier on divine duty.

I first met Isaac at the edge of a barbecue grill in England as he cooked a picnic for the members of his church.

He was barely 19 years old and was telling me about the six months he had spent in India on a short-term mission internship working with destitute young adults and children. I sensed immediately a heart for lost people and, perhaps, a calling to somewhere other than his home country.

That brief meeting culminated two and a half years later in an invitation from Jon Shuler and me to Isaac to join NAMS as an intern in Bangkok. He arrived in October 2014.

NAMS Companions are united under Christ for the work of (1) making disciples that make disciples, (2) raising up disciple-making leaders, and (3) helping start disciple-making communities or churches. Isaac is an example of the kind of disciple-making leadership that we seek to raise up through our work.

He came to us with a strong foundation of faith through the godly influence of his own family and DNA Networks, his sending church. But, in the time we have spent together these last 2+ years I have seen him grow and develop into a more confident, faithful, and faith-filled pioneering leader who now is not only a full-fledged NAMS Companion, but who has been given increasing leadership responsibilities in our global work.

How did it all happen?

When Isaac joined All Nations (our NAMS community in Bangkok) as an intern, I began to meet with him weekly for discipleship. We prayed, read Scripture, shared vision, and planned together for the work of the Kingdom. We also met one other morning with another leader, to strategize for our work and pray for NAMS Companions globally—and for those we were seeking to reach and disciple locally.

Isaac also accompanied and assisted me in two small groups I led at that time, one of which was a Great Commission Cell meeting in my home.

The other group was our ‘Questions’ group: five young Western expatriates, none of whom were believers. We explored big questions of life, like ‘Does God really exist?’, the problem of evil and suffering, and other religious worldviews. Isaac grew adept at listening and then answering such questions with wisdom, and there were clear opportunities to present the Gospel as well. This outreach group gave Isaac an opportunity to watch and learn how to do pioneering outreach in a cross-cultural setting.

Within a year as an intern, I encouraged Isaac to find his own avenues for mission. With our Thai partner church, he launched and led an English Club to teach and practice conversational English and play games on a Friday night. He began to intentionally reach out to try and disciple a few young guys, including two Pakistani asylum-seekers who were part of our community. We continued praying for people that he was building relationships through playing football and other social activities (including a young migrant worker and his family, and another young Thai man).

Isaac continues to actively disciple young people. God has opened a door of discipling opportunity for him in a Christian student hostel for university students, 80% of whom are Buddhist.

Today, Isaac is the Global Coordinator of the NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP) through which he hopes NAMS can raise up other disciple-making leaders for our global three-fold work.

We can see that Isaac is a gifted leader God has given us for global mission. We thank God for bringing him to us, and for the role he gave us in preparing him for his ministry to the Kingdom.

 

Raising Disciple-Making leaders – A NAMS story (by Manik Corea)

Disciples who make disciples – a NAMS story

“Do you ever meet with guys to talk about God?”

The question was joy to this disciple-maker’s heart. “Of course I do. When can we meet?”

I began to meet with two young men, Rion and Jamie, in September of 2015. We set a pattern of meeting on Tuesdays for a sack lunch, bibles in our laps, for an hour and a quarter.

I began to share with them the central things God has taught me about making disciples who make disciples. I required these things of them:

  • You spend quality time in the Word of God every day.
  • You memorize twelve scripture passages.*
  • You meet with me every week for six months.
  • We re-evaluate at the end of that time.

We always started and ended with prayer—usually me to start and one of them to end. We discussed whatever had come up in the preceding week, relating it always to Scripture (with particular focus on Jesus’ teaching about discipleship). Are you abiding in the word of Jesus?

After six months, they wanted to continue. I invited them to a men’s retreat focused on disciple-making, and they came. After a year I challenged them to begin to multiply. They formed a small men’s group, with unbelievers and believers. They began to re-evaluate their other commitments and use of time. They are becoming fruitful.

We continue to meet most Tuesdays. They have both grown in their walk with the Lord. Rion is now Senior Warden of his parish, and Jamie oversees the Youth Ministry in his parish. Both have interiorized the principles of being disciple-making men. Both are seriously engaging with other men about being disciple-making men. Both are re-prioritizing their use of time, seeking God’s will for them in a new way.

As we have grown together as disciple-making friends they have also come to understand NAMS’ ministry to the nations, and to pray with and for us. They are learning about their part in Jesus’ Final Command. Finally, both of them have become familiar with the NAMS Centurion Project, and have signed up as Centurions.

This is an example of elementary disciple-making, as I have learned to live it.

* Matthew 4:19, 6:33, 28:19; Luke 14:26,27,33; John 8:31-32, 13:34-35, 15:7-8

— Rev. Jon C. Shuler
NAMS Servant General

Disciples who make disciples – a NAMS story

Church Planting in France

Those true Christians who have ever traveled in Europe will know that the evidence of past Christian faith is everywhere. Place names, existing buildings, and ruins—once symbolic of a lived faith, and used in direct support of that faith—are scattered all over the continent, but the living communities that built and named them are gone.

Here in France, about 1% of the population will attend a Christian service this Sunday, and only God know what percentage of that small number are truly his. To rekindle the faith in this land is a daunting challenge.

To this challenge, Matt & Katie Riley have given themselves. They are living, and raising their four children, in one of the most difficult places on the face of the earth to be boldly follow and serve Christ Jesus. Why?

The short answer is simple: they believe God has called them to do it. They would serve him wherever they lived, but they believe their Lord wants and needs them in France. He has work there for them to walk in. After nearly six years, they are well integrated into French life, are very fluent in the language, and have just taken possession of a new home in their assigned village. How do they do their work?

First, they build relationships with their neighbors. They are constantly open to the possibility that the next person may be a “person of peace.” They are building webs of relational connectivity – at the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store, and on the playground.

Second, they make opportunities to break bread with those they meet. Tomorrow night there is a concert in the square behind their home, and they are cooking out with a few of their newest acquaintances. They are trying to honestly and lovingly get to know them as people.

Third, they have established a simple entry path for those interested in exploring the Christian faith. They call it Discovery Bible Study. What does the bible really teach about God, about human beings, about the purpose and meaning of life? No one has to believe to participate, but the prayer of the Rileys is that—in time—some will.

Fourth, Katie has specifically begun to meet with other young mothers, to share the joys and challenges of motherhood. She is the gospel leaven in the lump.

To this date Matt has not begun regular public Sunday worship in Pontivy. That will be added when the time is right. But there is daily prayer that the kingdom will come in Pontivy, as it is in heaven.

Will you join them as intercessors for the arrival of that glorious day?

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

 

Church Planting in France