More is caught than taught (by Peter Matthews)

Little things can make for big lessons. When I was a teenager, I went riding one day with Troy in his 1968 Barracuda. I noticed a strange looking miniature wallet of sorts by his gear shift. Curious, I held it up and asked Troy, “What is this?” He told me it was his verse pack, which he explained helped him memorize and review Bible verses.

“Are you serious man?” I said. “You actually memorize Bible verses?”  “Yep,” he said. Then he explained to me why a disciple ought to memorize scripture. The next day I went to our local Christian bookstore, bought a verse pack and started memorizing Psalm 15.

That story is a picture of one of the central truths of fruitful disciple making: More is caught than is taught.

That day I learned about memorizing scripture and I started doing it. Why? Not because I went to a class, nor read a book. Not was it because it was the next session of my 12 week discipleship program. I did it because the man who was discipling me did it.

I was with him. I observed him. I imitated him. The result? A practice I started at 18 that still serves me at 53.
The heart of disciple-making is a relationship between a discipler and a disciple. Why? The main way a disciple is trained is through imitation. I often tell people that the Apostle Paul’s disciple-making program is summarized in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” That’s the heart of disciple making.

When I was a boy in the late 1960s, there was a popular T.V. commercial that involved a dad and his toddler son. Everything dad did, the son immediately imitated. If dad was painting, son painted. If dad was driving, son pretended to drive. After each instance the narrator repeated the phrase, “Like father, like son.” Finally the dad and son sit down at a tree and dad pulls out a pack of cigarettes, lights one, starts smoking and then sets the pack on the ground between he and the boy. The boy sees the cigarettes and picks them up. As he is doing so the narrator says, “Like father like son, think about it.”

The principle applies to good actions and to bad actions. But no matter what the setting, more is caught than is taught.

 

Revd Canon Peter Matthews is a NAMS Companion, and Rector of St Patrick’s Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Advertisements
More is caught than taught (by Peter Matthews)

What on Earth are You Doing? (By Manik Corea)

When Jesus gave his Final Command (Matthew 28:19-20) on a mountain top to eleven tired, partly-doubting deer-in-the-light disciples who were probably pinching themselves at His sight, Jesus enunciated their on-going work as that of ‘making disciples of all nations.’ This was to encompass all peoples and all times and so necessitated becoming the on-going task and focus of the Church called to walk on in the footsteps of those first Apostles.

The book of Acts, the sequel to the Gospel narratives, shows that the graduating class of disciples took Jesus’ final command seriously. They made the being and making of disciples the core concern, activity and thrust of their communal church life. Sure, they needed persecution to get them going on to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 8:1), but once those disciples of the original few got going, the Church became intentionally missionary for centuries. So much so that all twelve Apostles also left Jerusalem – church tradition has it that they all died outside of Israel.

How far have we come from those halcyon days when the world was turned upside down by missionary disciples of Jesus who shared the Gospel everywhere they went?

Tragically, in many places in the world, the witness of the church is placid, confused, compromised or dead. Cultural Christianity is the lethal order of the day. Sunday Christians whose behavior and desires on a Tuesday afternoon are no different from their un-believing colleagues at the office, or who don’t know and don’t care about their neighbors.

As Francis Chan laments, “(S)omehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. A “follower” who doesn’t follow. How does that make any sense?”

Agreeing, the late Dallas Willard wrote: “The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner  of human existence.”

Therefore, in NAMS, a crucial question we ask of people who want to join us is: ‘Are you in a Great Commission Cell?’ (i.e. are you already making disciples or earnestly desiring to do so?). If so, we would love to work with you.

For this, we are certain of, is THE primary business of the Church: to join God in His mission to transform people, their families and communities, one disciple made at a time.

Who will follow you as you follow Christ this year?

What on Earth are You Doing? (By Manik Corea)

Come and Join Us In 2018? (By Revd Jon Shuler, NAMS Servant General)

Why wouldn’t you want to join the community of NAMS in 2018? Seriously?

I find myself asking this question after experiencing the most wonderful retreat earlier
this month with eight of our global society who live in North America. We met in the
beauty of holiness at the Christian Retreat Center known as The Close, nestled in the
midst of the Daniel Boone National Forest in the state of Kentucky. Of all that we did,
just being together again as friends and fellow Companions of Jesus was central. We
laughed and sang, we worshipped and wept for joy, we ate and drank, we prayed
together and in silence, we brainstormed and planned for the New Year, but most of all we listened for the “still small voice” of the Lord together. And then we all headed
back to the “place of our assignment” to serve the Lord and his church.

The relational connection that comes to us in this community of gospel servants is a gift from God. So too is the encouragement and support we find as men and women who are obeying the command of the Lord Jesus to “make disciples of all nations.” Also a gift from God is the accountability that it places in our lives, to the Lord and his Word, and to the covenanted life we have promised to pursue together.

I for one would not know how to carry on without this band of brothers and sisters in
Christ that he has given me in the global family of NAMS. We are serving on every
continent. We are a hidden “clan” within the wider church of Jesus, bound together to
“work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God” in the particular calling of new church planting. It is a wonderful gift to belong to such a religious order.

Would it possibly be true that you who are reading this may be called to join us in some concrete way in 2018? Would you pray about this and seek the Lord for his will in the matter?

How can you join us? There are many ways, but here are five, in ascending order of
commitment:

1) Join us as regular contributing NAMS Partner. Even a starting gift of $25 per
month will help the gospel go to the nations. Go to ‘www.namsnetwork.com/be-involved.html’ to begin doing so.

2) Become a dedicated praying NAMS Intercessor. Set you phone to remind you
to pray for us at 10:02 am each day. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to raise up laborers to go into the harvest, as Jesus commanded in Luke 10:2.
Contact Mary Garrison at ‘mary.garrison@namsnetwork.com’, our NAMS Global Prayer/Intercessor Co-ordinator, to become a prayer partner with us

3) Become a NAMS Centurion. Be one of the men and women who are taking up
the call to help spread the gospel right where you live, in covenanted partnership with
NAMS. Sign up to be a NAMS Centurion. Go to ‘www.NAMScenturion.com’.

4) Volunteer to be a NAMS Global Apprentice. Give a year or two to the Lord to
serve in the mission field of his choosing for you. In North America, Nepal, or Norway. Wherever he needs you. Go to ‘www.namsgap.com’ for more information.

5) Decide to become a NAMS Companion. Begin the journey of discovery that
leads to a life under rule in our global missionary society. Write to us today at
info@namsnetwork.com.

Will you join us this coming year?

— Jon Shuler

Servant General (NAMS)

Come and Join Us In 2018? (By Revd Jon Shuler, NAMS Servant General)

The Holy Spirit and Missions: God’s Work or Ours?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”
(Acts 1: 8 NIV)

Several years ago, I assisted author and missionary Paul Hoff to translate some writings about on the most significant movements in church history. In researching those movements, I discovered the nature of genuine visitations of the Holy Spirit that have led to true awakenings or revivals. I found that the following characteristics are always present in such movements, and that none of them can be considered in isolation from the others:

Prayer – A church in which the Spirit of God is active always awakens to genuine prayer. It begins to feel the need for constant intimacy with God, even as it strives to align itself with the plans and purposes of its Lord. Accordingly, such a church intercedes passionately for a world that is lost and for new workers to join them in the cause. Prayer, both individual and collective, leads to a permanent habit of worship and praise, with clear results and changes in their lives.

The Word of God – The Holy Spirit, whenever He visits His church – the people of God, with power, will kindle a fire in their hearts, leading them to love the Word of God more – to meditate on it, to submit to it and to continually delve into the Scriptures for more. The Word of God is not ambiguous, and God’s people will learn to look to it for daily guidance, so that they can join the work that God Himself is already accomplishing in their midst and in the world at large.

Social action – A church that is moved by the Holy Spirit will not be complacent about the prevailing social conditions around it. It will empathize and respond to human needs out of mercy and love. Such an action will be an expression of God’s love within and through the church itself. It will involve seeking to transform society for good and to work for the justice that God wants to see established among all people.

Evangelism – When the Spirit of God visits a human community, He sees and is moved by the lost. He seeks the hearts of those who genuinely seek Him. Consequently, God’s children will be motivated by Him to share the good news of His love to those who would be lost forever without the Gospel. The believer’s passion for sharing the Good News dynamically comes alive. Everyone who comes to into their new identity as heirs of the love and mercy of our Father in Heaven is called to invite others in.

Mission – As soon as the Holy Spirit begins to move within a community, its impact will not be contained within the confines of the church or even its own community. It will start to transcend all and any barrier – geographic, social, cultural and economic. The church cannot help but send her members out to fulfill the Final Command (Matthew 28:19-20), as instructed by Jesus. They do this because they know that the Spirit Himself prays and intercedes through them, that the Presence of the Son compels them every day and to the ends of the earth, and that their obedience is pleasing to God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.

In the history of the Christian Church, every time a group of God’s children, somewhere in the world, has received a special visitation of the Holy Spirit, the effect has been strong and clear, bringing change within the church and beyond, starting with growth in the church itself.

A case in point is the Lun Bawang people of East Malaysia. They were originally head-hunters in Bornea. When such activity was banned under James Brook and British rule in the 19th Century, the Lun Bawang turn to alcohol en-mass. It was said that people of all ages in their villages were under the influence of drink at least 100 days in a year. The colonial authorities refused missionaries permission to work with them, hoping that the tribe would die out. But eventually, through missionaries from Australia, the Gospel was shared and social transformation took place through prayer and perseverance.

Today, the Lun Bawang peoples are key pillars in the Bornea Evangelical Church, the largest Protestant Church in Malaysia. Many of them are contributing to society through influential positions in business, government and the arts. The Holy Spirit brought once more, total social transformation. [1]

We can say without reservation that the Holy Spirit brought about these changes, and but also that the saints of God were used as the mediating instruments of God’s grace.

— By Revd Andres Casanueva,
Regional Team Leader NAMS Latin America

 

 

[1] Shirley Lees, Drunk Before Dawn (Sevenoaks, Kent: OMF, 1979).

 

The Holy Spirit and Missions: God’s Work or Ours?

Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 2, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

Last week, I began to share about ‘Life at the Seams’. The seam is a line along which two pieces of fabric are sewn together in a garment or article of clothing. It can also be a metaphor for the spaces in our life whe0re plans, dreams, ideas and reality meet or are brought together, with either new forms emerging or the potential for tear and damage to occur.

Before I left South Africa with my family as a missionary for nearly 6 years, I had coffee at my favourite coffee place in Stellenbosch. There a significant conversation took place with my Bishop, Rt Revd Josel Obetia from Uganda. Last week, I shared the first two of seven important words that he shared with me. Today, I share the rest with you.

The numbered lines are what he said, with my italicized sentences as commentary.

  1. Some will be called to pastoral ministry.

The goal of new, visionary Kingdom work is to build the church. Therefore, some will be called out of communities that are at the edges of the Kingdom where new forms are being explored and innovated, and into settled pastoral ministry. We must support and encourage the move from the edge back to the center for those called to this work. At the same time there are some called to remain in the bridging places, innovating new pathways that do not yet fit into the existing structures and teaching and equipping people to cross back over the bridge spanning what will be to what is. In the body we must see, provide space for and encourage both those called to casting vision for new things and those called to shepherd God’s people where they are. Pioneering leaders must make space for settled leadership to emerge.

  1. Our place is to be the cutting edge.

While some are called to settled work, I am part of a community of pioneering Companions made to live and work on the cutting edge of the Kingdom where the future of the church is being forged in places that are often misunderstood and will not necessarily gain the traction we hope for in our lifetime. But we must take heart, because we are in good company of the many saints who have lived in these spaces in the centuries before us.

  1. Most of the work is done on your knees.

We must be leaders who understand that our deep connection to Christ through prayer is our primary and most productive task. The natural gifts of leadership often come with a bent and temptation to busyness. We must resist these carnal desires to do before we become.

We must first be leaders who find our identity and significance in Christ alone so that we enter our work envisioned and empowered by the only one who truly knows the future. We must also enter each day with the solemn awareness that we are hunted by evil. There are real forces of spiritual darkness who plan our demise and work intelligently and persistently to destroy us. Our power to resist such evil originates in the depth and constancy of our prayer life.

  1. As long as people live the Gospel.

The good news of the Gospel, the true story of the world is the first and the last thing. All of our ministry and our lives must be focused on remembering, living out and sharing the Gospel in thought, word and deed. We are free to innovate new forms and methodologies for ministry but we are never, ever to break the word of God. Jesus wants Gospel-centred disciples made.

  1. The Church is God’s instrument to reach a dying world.

As we go about the cutting edge, visionary, apostolic work we are made for and called to, we must never forget that the Church is the Bride of Christ. The Church is God’s beloved and therefore we must love her even as we co-labor with God to renew and reform her for His glory.

In this “seam season” I am grateful for a band of companions to journey with who love the Lord Jesus, one another and the Church.

Will you pray for us in NAMS – that we will remain faithful to this worthy but difficult calling? Thank you.

— Revd Gabriel Smith
NAMS Global Operations

Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 2, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 1, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

All Companions of the missionary order we call NAMS are called to life at the seams.

As an ex-Army officer, one of the most important leadership lessons I learned was to “pay attention to the seams.” The line where two pieces of fabric come together is where the garment takes its form. But it’s also where the stitches are most likely to give way and tear apart.

Similarly, the spaces between life circumstances where plans and operations come together and either align or fall apart, have the potential to shape future reality but also are the most vulnerable to chaos. Leaders must pay attention to these places in both their personal and organizational life.

I am living in a seam at the moment. One month ago our family transitioned from South Africa to South Carolina after nearly six years as missionaries with an intentional Christian community we helped found.

In the weeks before we left I had a significant conversation with my Bishop, Rt Rev Joel Obetia of Uganda. I articulated to him in an uncertain, rambling fashion, my dream for building new communities of faith that would perhaps never really fit into the traditional Christian (Anglican) system.

As Bishop Joel listened patiently but with intense focus as only the way a man unencumbered by technology or the urgency of next things can, he told me seven things that I share with you in this two-part blog, that I hope may inspire and provide fuel for conversations among NAMS Companions and those who support and love us, as we seek to work together in years to come.

The numbered lines are from Bishop Joel. The italicized sentences are my commentary.

  1. Operate as if there are no boxes.

Boxes are not inherently bad. People relate ideas to concepts that they already know. In this way we all have “boxes” that we put ideas into. The first cars were known as motor wagons because they were seen as strange new versions of the horse-drawn, wooden wagons people knew well. But when those of us called to create new things operate only in reference to models and forms that already exist we limit our creative capacity to dream and give power to things in the “box” to control and shape the future.

Those of us made to dream of, create, and live out new models of Christian community must not be confined by the boxes that hold the settled local church in our contexts. We must be free to dream of new structures and ways to engage people in this lost and dying world. In other words, pioneers must be free and freed to pioneer.

  1. A movement will be limited if it becomes the church.

The institution of the church is necessarily an ordered society, slow to change and normally resistant to new ideas. New movements led by the Spirit to renew the church must operate outside of those church structures, otherwise their impact will be limited by the formal and informal constraints of institutional Christianity.

This is not to say that people involved in the movement shouldn’t also be part of the institutional church – they should. Individual presbyters and lay leaders in missional movements should be connected in healthy relationships to others in the more settled body, but their vocational activity cannot be completely controlled by the systems and authority of the settled church, lest the new apostolic work that God has ordained be confined to what already is.

The tension between fluid movement and established structure is difficult to navigate but is necessary if either movement and church are to fulfill their God given purpose.

Part 2 next week will complete the list of 7 things my bishop spoke to me.

— Revd. Gabriel Smith
NAMS Global Operations

Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 1, by Revd. Gabriel Smith