What’s in a Word?

‘Disciple’ is the word most commonly used for a follower and believer in the risen Jesus in the book of Acts.[1] Jesus instructed us in his final command of Matthew 28:18-20 to ‘make disciples’ as the overarching focus and mission of his post-resurrection church, as told to his appointed pioneers of that universal church. And we know from Acts and the rapid spread of the Gospel in the Roman world in the first few centuries that this was certainly their practice.

Yet, being a disciple today may mean something entirely different. How often it is in churches around the world as I’ve traveled, that I have found discipleship to be reduced and redacted to something less than it should be. It is often seen only as a short-term follow-up course or program for new believers or a description for adult Sunday school classed or bible studies for serious believers. At worse, it is seen as synonymous with other popular words like mentoring and coaching. John Ortberg, Christian pastor and teacher comments thus:

“Words pick up baggage, so disciple, a great New Testament word, has come to mean a time-limited process that you can finish. Growing up, I’d hear people say, “I’m discipling him.” They meant, we’ll meet for a while and then we’ll finish and he’ll be discipled. That usually involved getting together at Denny’s at 6:30 in the morning and working through some kind of curriculum. The New Testament never uses disciple in that way. To be a disciple of Jesus was something all followers did in community, and did their whole lives long.”[2]

He is of course right – Discipleship that is not life-long and reproducing is neither biblical nor Jesus-pleasing. God has taught us at NAMS that we must call the Church of Jesus Christ back to an understanding of discipleship as Jesus and his apostles taught and lived it.

The good news is that we are living in days when the word ‘disciple’ and the work of ‘disciple-making’ is being recovered and reclaimed through the sovereign work of God’s Spirit around the world by missionaries, pastors and leaders as never before.

There is a greater realization today that being and making disciples is a fundamental call and work for all obedient followers of Jesus. We live in days when disciple-making movements around the world are paving the way for new church-planting and Gospel transformation in previously unreached people groups.

In the same vein, NAMS as a missionary society was founded in 1994 to model, train and call the church and all Christians to obedience to Jesus’ final command to make disciples of all peoples. We do this by making disciples who make disciples, raising disciple-making leaders and seeking to plant disciple-making churches.

In this new year, it is our prayer and hope that together, we can be growing and reproducing disciples of Jesus, so that his Kingdom may come on earth and His Gospel reach the ends of the earth.


[1] See for example Acts 6:1-2, Acts 6:1-2,6:7; Acts 9:1, Acts 9:1,9:10, Acts 9:10,9:19, Acts 9:19, 9:26, Acts 9:26, 9:38; Acts 11:26, Acts 11:26. Butler, Trent C. Editor. From entry for ‘Disciples’. Holman Bible Dictionary. Accessed at http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/d/disciples.html. 1991.

[2] John Ortberg in ‘Holy Tension’ – interview with Leadership Magazine. Accessed at http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2004/winter/1.22.html


If you would like to learn how to be a disciple-making disciple, you can find the following resources on our website that can help you be obedient to Jesus’ final command:

www.namsnetwork.com/assets/dmdsteps.pdf  An e-book clearly outlining a 7-step process to become a disciple who makes disciples by Canon Revd Dr Jon Shuler, NAMS Servant General.

Praxis is a 4-week small group training course on how to be a disciple-making disciple. The workbook for this course can be found at:
www.namsnetwork.com/assets/praxi-course-workbook_v2.pdf
with a facilitators/leaders guide at:
www.namsnetwork.com/assets/praxi-course-leader-guide.pdf

You can also watch our 7-part YouTube video series on being and making disciples: go to www.youtube.com and type ‘NAMS Disciple Making Discipleship Course’ in the search bar.

This resource is an offering to the Church universal to begin to apprentice, learn and practice the ‘family business’ that is the vocation and inheritance of all true Christians.

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What’s in a Word?

For the Spread of the Kingdom of God (by Jon Shuler)

Dear Friends of NAMS,

Among those duties, as a Christian, I was taught by the catechism of my youth was that I should “work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.”

Cynthia and I gladly give over 10% of our income to the work of NAMS because we know the men and women who share our global ministry are spreading that kingdom. They are at work every day finding the lost, and discipling the found.

We give beyond that tithe, gratefully, for the ministry of our local church as well.

We know that at year end many (especially in the West) are inundated with requests from all manner of worthy causes. But may we ask you to consider how much of your charitable giving is actually spreading the kingdom? Actually helping new lives to be formed in Christ Jesus? New communities of faith planted?

Will you partner with us? Will you become a supporting part of the NAMS Network?

NAMS needs regular, monthly, support to sustain its mission and ministry around the world. Will you help? Right now?

Can you make a year end gift? Donate here.

Can you become one of our faithful monthly givers? Donate here.

It is hard for many of our North American friends to realize what a monthly gift of $100.00 can do in much of the world. Many, many, of our NAMS Companions, and those we serve, live and raise families on less than that amount.

But even such a small amount, given regularly, can help make a difference right here in the USA. We are working to start churches, and training those who will start churches, right here at home. Can you join us in this wonderful work? Can you join us by giving for right where you live, or for the gospel to go the ends of the earth?

As this year closes will you join us as partners in the mission of obeying the Final Command of Jesus?

Your brother in the mission of Christ Jesus,

Jon Shuler

For the Spread of the Kingdom of God (by Jon Shuler)

Who Is A Christian? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

This is such a simple question, but so difficult for many to answer.

Churchmen will immediately answer: Someone who is baptized. But the fathers of the reformation would disagree. They preached (quoting the Apostle) that that person is a Christian who “professes with his lips that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believes with his heart that God raised him from the dead.” That man is a born again man. That man can enter the kingdom of God. That man should be baptized, but that does not make him a Christian. The Holy Spirit makes him a Christian, or he is not one. This was the doctrine for which men and women died in the Sixteenth Century. This was the doctrine that turned the whole of Western Europe upside down, just as it had turned the First Century upside down.

The fathers of the Reformation, when they had the God-given opportunity, rewrote the documents of the church of their day. They brought the teaching of the apostles to the fore. Especially the teaching of the apostle Paul. They rewrote hymns, prayers, liturgies, covenants, wills, and bibles to make a few things absolutely clear. They unseated kings and rulers. They removed teachers of theology and schoolmasters. They were absolutely persuaded that the good news of Jesus Christ had been obscured and must be brought again into the light. And as they did this work, many in the organized church of their day attacked them. The Reformers found that their fiercest enemies were men who called themselves Christians.

Students of the New Testament will point out to me, perhaps, that the name “Christian” was not given by Jesus. He called his followers his “disciples.” It was observers who called them “those people who follow Chrestus,” Christians, and it stuck for a hundred generations.

But what does it mean today? What does the average person think it means when someone says they are a Christian? At least in the West?

There is one way to find out. Ask some people you know or meet. See what answers you get.

If they are church people you will get a set of answers that almost always will be about religious behavior. If they are unbelievers, they will soon tell you that Christians are of all people the least attractive they know.

If you doubt this talk to the people who serve in restaurants at mid-day on Sunday.

Originally published October 23rd, 2018, on www.jonshuler.com

Who Is A Christian? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

A Good Idea or a God Idea? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

The power of an idea is strong in some of God’s servants. When an idea that appeals to their predispositions and personality comes into their mind, they are likely to want to embrace it for the kingdom of God. To take the idea captive, as the Apostle says. They will want to implement it immediately. But are all their ideas from the Lord?

Years ago, a former Archbishop of Canterbury told me a story. His dear wife said to him once: “You have a hundred good ideas every day, but only God knows if any of them came from him.” She clearly implied that her husband thought all of them were from God, and she did not. It was a humbling moment for a man entrusted with great national and global responsibility in submission to the Lord of the Church.

How do we know when an idea has come from the Lord? Several things will always be true, in my experience and conviction.

First, the idea will never conflict with the clear Word of God written, as that is supported by many evidences of Scripture. An idea from God will build on the truth revealed in his Son. Nothing the Holy Spirit wants done will lead in a way that is contrary to Jesus’ clear teaching.

Second, the idea will not conflict with the clear teaching of the apostles of Jesus, as that is revealed to us in the New Testament. The authority that the Risen Lord gave to them is now available for us in the writings of the New Testament. The Gospels and Epistles are, for a believer, the Word of God through his chosen servants. They convey Divine Authority.

Third, the idea will commend itself to the deepest wisdom that the Lord has given to his church. The tradition of men must never be allowed to overturn or to crush the clear Word of God written, that is true, but the holy people of God have been through many of the trials and temptations we are still prone to. Their guidance can usually be trusted to alert us to any grievous error or distortion of God’s revealed truth. We must not be ignorant of the church’s history.

Fourth, God has put all of his people in relationship with those who are over them in the Lord, that they may be rightly led in the ways of grace and truth. It is a rare when a thing is to be done without their support. It will happen in seasons of extraordinary reform, perhaps, but generally the concurrence of the local leadership of the church is to be expected if a thing is from the Lord. It is fundamental to the pastoral office that those so called help those committed to their charge rightly to discern the will of God.

Finally, I believe from a lifetime of walking with the Lord Jesus, that God has given husbands to wives, and wives to their husbands, so that they may walk together in unity of heart and spirit. If a thing is from God, the one closest to you in the Lord will know it too. Maybe not immediately, but certainly.

A Good Idea or a God Idea? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

Compelled…to share (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Have you ever been compelled to share an experience? A great game you saw? Trip you took? Concert? Play? New relationship? Problems? Struggle? Complaint? We all have stories that burn within us until we can let it out. We can’t stand to be quite.  Do you have one now?

Yesterday I was in Walmart. Look, I’m a father of seven that does the shopping. So I have lots of opportunities to hear stories. The lady in front of me had no issue in sharing a painful moment that is going on in her life. I was minding my own business.  This was unsolicited. You get where I’m coming from?

She was compelled to unload whether I was ready or willing. She was passionate. She needed to speak and to be heard. It is a feeling we can all relate to, no? What compels you to share? Think about it. Who do you tell?

While reading the psalms I kept seeing how the writer David shared his heart and passions. He was compelled to tell God all his problems, hurts, sins, and plans. He came before the throne of grace with boldness. He laid everything in raw form before the Lord’s feet. Note that he didn’t share a lot of this with others, but with God alone. He took it to the throne before he took it to the phone.

We tend to tell everyone else over coffee, phone or Facebook. Rarely do we take it to God. David would shift from on loading to praise. He would be compelled to worship. As his countenance went down, his praise would go up. Praise pulls you out of darkness and despair.

David would then swell up with passion to share with others. In his praise, he would remember all the things that God had done for him. What has God done for you? What have you seen him do? Prayers answered? Do you remember that he saved you? Look back six months or a year. Has your relationship with God grown deeper?

Like David we will be compelled to share the testimony of God in your life. People need to hear this. They need to see hope. Touch it. Receive it. So when you feel compelled to share about the big game, trip, or concert ask God to compel you to share about His impact on your life.

Compelled…to share (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

How can you tell a true disciple of Jesus from a mere professing one? Watch what they do, not just what they say. Obedience in our lives is the ultimate proof of our love for God. Jesus said as much in John 14:15. It is at last, the action and direction of our lives that will show the depth of our love for Christ.

In John’s powerful heart-felt letter of 1st John, he gives 3 test for the genuineness of Christian faith.

The first is a ‘moral test’ (1 John 2:3-4) i.e. are we obeying what God has commanded?

The second is a ‘social test’ (1 John 2:9) i.e. are we truly loving each other?

The third is a ‘truth test’ (1 John 4:2) i.e. are we proclaiming all that the Scriptures reveal to us of Jesus and the Gospel?

Together, these tests will show in the way we talk and walk after Christ and our proclamation of the Gospel.

D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was once accosted on a Chicago street by a drunk who exclaimed, “Aren’t you Mr. Moody? Why, I’m one of your converts.” Said Moody in reply, “That must be true, for you definitely aren’t one of God’s converts!” If you are truly saved, it will show. Not only will you receive forgiveness, but you will live differently.

And it will take commitment and determination on our part to keep in step with Him.

In 1 John 2:5, John says that if we keep God’s word, God’s love is perfected in him. The word ‘keep’ is the Greek word ‘tēreō’. It was used of guards standing watch at their post, shepherds watching over their sheep and bankers watching over their money. It means to keep a careful watch.

This is no casual obedience – but a watchful care given to make sure we stay true to the words and will of God in our lives.

John goes on in the next verse to say, ‘…whoever says he abides in him (Jesus) ought to walk in the same way Jesus walked.’ We must follow in his footsteps!

Paul often used the same metaphor of ‘walking’ for the Christian life (see Ephesians 2:10, 4:1,17, 5:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Walking is not as fast as running or as spectacular as flying, but is steady, consistent movement in one direction. It takes time to progress bit by bit to a goal. It is made up of many steps, one foot placed after another for a distance, not simply a quick dash.

So, like Jesus, we will walk constantly towards God, in ways that please God.

Jesus said in John 5:19: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

The point and goal of discipleship is that in every way, we become like our Master and Lord Jesus. As Jesus did all His Father desired, we will begin to do and live the same. John Stott argues, ‘We cannot claim to abide in Him unless we are like Him.’[1]

Disciples need to be getting somewhere with Christ. We are all a work in progress, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else yet. Therefore forgive and seek forgiveness often. But do expect progress and change.

Let there be no confusion: abiding in Christ will lead to genuine obedience in our lives – reflected in our words, works and way.

 


[1] John Stott, The Letters of John TNTC Vol 19, (IVP), pg. 97

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once turned up unexpectedly to one of their early meetings. He was respectfully asked if he would share a word at the meeting. So at the appropriate time, William Booth stood up on the pulpit, looked at the congregation and said, ‘others’. And then he sat down.

One word…but what a word!

The church is called to be the most other-centered organization on earth. It exists solely for the glory and praise of her God (1 Peter 2:9-10) and for the mission of reaching people of every land and people with the only Gospel that saves (Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:12). In all this, we are called to place the interests of others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).

Jesus expected us to be marked apart to the world not only by our obedience and loyalty to Him but by how we treat each other (John 13:34,35).

And this kind of other-centeredness will be reflected most in the kind of leadership Jesus modeled and ultimately calls from those who lead His church (John 13:12-17; Matthew 20:24-28). Jesus gave explicit instructions to his disciples that those who lead must be servants of all (Mark 9:35 – Incidentally, this is why the principal leader of NAMS is called the ‘Servant-General’.)

This is in such contrast to the world, which casts leadership in terms of power, influence, status and control. Biblical leadership is not about getting on top and staying there, but sacrificing for and building others up so that they grow and mature in Christ themselves. It is leadership for the good of others.

The late Anglican Bishop of Sabah (in East Malaysia) Albert Vun had a profound effect in helping NAMS develop in Asia before his untimely death. I remember in the early days of beginning our NAMS base in Thailand, when Bishop Albert (who loved Thailand and would often visit to encourage the work they had begun there) took time out to visit with and encourage me. He told me once that he told all his priests/pastors that they must be ready to ‘wash toilets’ and ‘do the menial jobs’ as part of their ministry as leaders. It keeps us humble, he said.

One of the things NAMS Companions and Base Communities are called to do is raise up leaders who readily display such a self-effacing, humble attitude towards others and who walk with a Jesus-obeying fear and integrity towards God. When Christ calls us to leadership, he gives us not titles, but a towel.

The call to rise up and lead is really a call to bend down and serve. Leaders: how low will you go for Christ?

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)