Seeding The Faith

Will you who are reading this make a regular contribution to the spread of the kingdom of God, right now, through NAMS? Right now, will you help us as we seek to seed the faith among the nations of the world?

NAMS needs to raise $75,000 by year end, in order to remain in the black and continue the good work it is doing among the nations. Our Companions are serving the gospel with passion and zeal for the Lord and his church on every continent, but we need more praying and giving supporters.

Can you make a generous one time gift? Could you become a regular giver?

DONATE NOW!

 

I have been trying to raise support for global mission for nearly forty years. I do not know why it is so hard for Christians in North America to understand this need, but at the heart of it is a failure to understand the depth of the love of God for the lost, or so it seems to me.

This morning in my time with the Lord I read II Corinthians 9. I was struck again by the Apostle’s absolute conviction that giving must be without compulsion, and must come from the free willingness of the giver. I also noticed for the first time two things: 1) not all were “stirred up” to give, only “most” (v. 2); and 2) Paul was clear that those who gave to the needs of the saints were giving a gift that was going to “overflow” to “others” (v.13).

Raising funds for concrete needs after disasters is never difficult. Good people are moved by the suffering of others, and they are often quite generous. They help rebuild a burned house, they send blankets and food, they help to house the homeless after an earthquake. All these are wonderful signs of compassion and care.

But what about the overflow?

When unbelievers are helped, God is pleased. But when those who were lost are found, God is glorified. Gifts that glorify God produce an overflow to others. The spread of the kingdom of God is not an afterthought for true believers. It is at the heart of their desire.

When financial gifts are channeled to those who are spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is an overflow of grace that lasts for eternity.

If those reading this blog would help NAMS with a small financial gift every month, the overflow will be to the nations. The prisoners in Thailand, the orphans in Nepal, the poor in Myanmar, the despised in the slums of Egypt, the persecuted in India, the poor in the Congo, the illiterate in Peru, the widows in Chile, the prisoners in Cuba, to mention only a few.

Will you click on the donate button now? Will you give $100/month for the mission of Jesus to all people? $50/month? $25/month? Some other amount? If you do, I am sure it will “glorify God” because it will be “flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ” (II Cor 9:13).

To those of you who respond, my heartfelt thanks goes to you and up to God.

DONATE NOW!

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

 

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Seeding The Faith

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

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?

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

The First Call and the Final Command (by Manik Corea)

At the end of our global Novena gathering in April, a few of NAMS’ executive leaders debriefed in an air-conditioned room in Bangkok. We reflected on the all-encompassing nature of global mission given to Christians everywhere, for which NAMS as a missionary order was founded to serve and work towards.

At that point, reference was made to Genesis 12:1-3 – God’s purpose and promise made known to his servant, then still called Abram. We saw that morning that within the ‘first call’ to Abraham were already clear indications of God’s desire for the spread of his tent to cover all ‘families of the earth’.

God called Abraham to a walk of faith that would involve loss of family, and journey to a new unfamiliar land of both opportunity and challenge – some would curse him. Ultimately, God was going to bless him greatly, and that blessing was going to be contagious.

The blessing on the obedience of Abraham would be earth-sized – all families of the earth, all peoples – would be touched by his personal journey and obedience.

We see this in the strategic location of the promised land God gave to him in Canaan, which lies at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa, a narrow but fertile land bridge between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by arid desert. The nations would certainly pass through! And so the Israelites, the physical descendants of Abraham, were called to be a ‘kingdom of priests’ so that God might ultimately be known among the nations (Exodus 19:6; 2 Chronicles 6:32, 33; Psalm 22:27; Habakkuk 2:14, etc.)

In many ways, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 – what we at NAMS call the ‘Final Command’ – mirrors the same themes of God’s desire for obedience in His people and for global blessing through them. Only now, in the full revelation of God in Christ, it requires a response of repentance and faith to the Gospel of Jesus and the being and making of faithful disciples.

Then, as now, it was meant to go from there to everywhere.

Therefore, of all peoples, Christians cannot afford to be ethno-centric in our thinking and focus – or worse, in our prejudices. We must see as God sees, so that we do as He wants.

Indeed, in the words of the late John Stott, ‘we must be global Christians with a global vision because we serve a global God.’ God’s desire from the start was that his family would be made up of people from all families of the earth. The Apostle John saw this in his end-time heavenly vision (Revelation 7:9). He saw a truly global worship service at the foot of God’s throne, for which – surely – all our other worship times on earth ought to be dress-rehearsals for.

Therefore, NAMS Companions are called not only to work and make disciples wherever God places them, but also to pray, work and give towards the global work of NAMS and other ministries as God blesses them. This should be true, too, of all true Christians.

After all, God told Israel through the prophet Isaiah that it was too small a thing that he should only restore Israel, since his desire was that they would be a light to the Gentiles (all other peoples) that ‘my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’ (Isaiah 49:6).

We live in days when God’s promise to Abraham is being fulfilled like never before in world history. It is too small a thing then that we should not likewise be passionately concerned to pray, give and work for the same?

— Rev. Manik Corea
NAMS Global Executive Officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Call and the Final Command (by Manik Corea)

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