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

Advertisements
Family Discipleship — part 1 (by Sam Horowitz)

Going Places for the Kingdom with NAMS! (Interview with Isaac Lasky).

In this special interview, we speak to Isaac Lasky, who is the global coordinator of the new NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP). Having interned for 2 years at our NAMS base community in Bangkok from 2014-2016, Isaac has taken on the challenge of developing and managing a one – two years apprenticeship program for young people who want to learn to be disciple-making leaders at one of our NAMS bases. This will be a wonderful opportunity to get equipped and experienced in becoming a missionary disciple of Jesus. Please help us get the word out!

Isaac and Pat
Isaac and his fiancé, Pat

NAMS: Tell us a little about your background and journey to faith in Christ?

Isaac: I grew up in a Christian family in Colchester, England. I was part of a number of vibrant churches. My favorite memories from those times are of mission trips. I was baptized when I was 14 years old. I had some rough times when I was 16/17 years of age but came out of that season with a deeper ownership of my Christian faith. A big part of that was joining NAMS European partner church, DNA Networks, in Colchester.

When I was 18 I did a six month trip to Mumbai, India and that cemented in my heart a sense of call to the nations. I then gained a BTh Mission from Formission College through Reign Ministries, whilst I serve as a youth worker for DNA Networks for three years. It was soon after that I met Manik Corea and Jon Shuler and they invited me to be a NAMS apprentice in Bangkok for two years!

NAMS: What was the experience like serving as a NAMS apprentice/intern in Bangkok those 2 years? What was most difficult? What grew you the most? What did you enjoy? Please tell all the juicy bits!.

Isaac: It felt like a massive step of faith. Moving the other side of the world to work in a new country, culture and language was a big adjustment but through it I learnt to have a greater dependence on God and so many other things with it.

I would say that being away from friends and family was the most difficult part. But I have learnt that the Lord puts the lonely in families. Through this experience I have gained friends that have become like family and a fiancée that will! I really treasure those relationships.

In terms of growth I would say the amount of opportunities I was given was the key. I had a period of acclimation but I was quickly given opportunities to lead and develop new work. I didn’t always succeed, but the team supported me every step of the way and I have learnt so much about leading pioneering work, especially in a cross-cultural context.

I also really enjoyed supporting and teaching at NAMS conferences in Bangkok, Myanmar, Nepal and India. It was an opportunity to be part of what God is doing in different parts of the world, to learn from Christians in other cultures and to see that we are part of something much bigger!

NAMS: You are now the NAMS Global GAP coordinator. Tell us in a few words what it stands for, and what its main purpose is?

Isaac: The main purpose of NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program or GAP is to train and equip the next generation of pioneering disciple making church planters. We currently looking to have Global Apprentices at NAMS base communities in Thailand, Nepal, USA and Chile.

NAMS: What kind of people are we looking for to join NAMS GAP?

Isaac: We are looking for people who are teachable, adventurous, pioneering, have a heart for mission and are committed to following and obeying Jesus. This may be ideal for young people looking to do a gap year or for people in their 20s/30s (or older) who want to get their feet wet in global mission. If they want to become NAMS companions, this will be ideal preparation too.

NAMS: What will they receive from being an apprentice on this programme?

Isaac: Apprentices will hopefully attain the following things: they will be equipped and trained to be a disciple making leader anywhere in the world; they will receive hands on training and mentoring from established disciple making leaders; there will be opportunities to lead and pioneer new works; they will get to participate in NAMS projects, missions trips, conferences and retreats; and finally, they will experience serving Jesus in a cross-cultural or missional context.

NAMS: On the thorny issue of funding, how much is needed to join this programme? Will GAP participants have to raise their own support?

Isaac: The cost of the program is dependent of the location of the apprenticeship. An applicant needs to contact us to get a country-specific price. Apprentices will need to raise a certain percentage of support with the rest coming from NAMS Global and the hosting base community but that is tailored according to an applicant’s background and circumstances. There will always be a need for an apprentice to raise their own support. It’s an important step of faith, one that has greatly benefitted me personally.

NAMS: Whom should they contact or what should they do if they want to find out more or wish to apply?

Isaac: The first thing for them probably to do is visit our website at www.namsgap.com and register your interest! I can then answer your questions and give more information over email or Skype.

Going Places for the Kingdom with NAMS! (Interview with Isaac Lasky).

How to Pray for NAMS — part 3, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

Finally, dear friends, after sharing with you about sweet Audrey and talking a bit about why prayer is so transformative—for the pray-er and the circumstance—we come to the call for intercession.

What a blessing it is to be able to communicate with our God and to know that at any moment we can share with Him the concerns of our own lives. Even so, intercessory prayer is different. It is praying specifically for the concerns of others, pleading on their behalf.

The truth is, sometimes I find it difficult to pray for others with genuine fervency; I imagine this may be the case for many of us not yet accustomed to doing so. Recently I read a passage by Richard Foster in The Celebration of Discipline which struck me. He writes, “Usually, the courage actually to go and pray for a person is a sign of sufficient faith. Frequently our lack is not faith but compassion.” Those lines convicted me deeply: often it’s my lack of compassion for others that limits my prayers.

Faced with my own limitations, I cry out: How can anyone ever be compassionate “enough?” Seriously, with the news and internet at my fingertips and constant connectedness with family, friends, and acquaintances via technology and social media, there is no shortage of prayer needs. How is one ever to respond to all of them genuinely, and to pray for our leaders and the poor and fatherless as Scripture directs us? I’m overwhelmed from the get-go.

But, dear believers, ours is not the role to respond to all needs; only God can do that. Rather, our responsibility is to respond to where God calls us by putting compassion on our hearts. Foster goes on to remind the Christian that as God gives us compassion, we are moved to pray; and that for which we are not stirred to genuine compassion, we trust that God is moving another believer’s heart in such a way. Yet, as we are faithful by responding in prayer where He prompts us, He is in the work of transforming our hearts to be more sensitive to the needs of those whom we do not yet have eyes to see.

Here at NAMS the Lord has put a specific call on our hearts: to engage in pioneering global ministry to share the Gospel and build up communities of disciple-making disciples. Every global need is in fact someone’s local need, but when a local community does not know the message of hope found in Jesus Christ, we must pray for God to raise up men and women from other parts of the globe to go share that life-changing, community-changing, and world-changing news.

Prayer is such a vital step in this process that we cannot do it alone. When Jesus sent out seventy disciples two-by-two into the mission field, he told them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). We need more laborers to be part of bringing in the harvest. These laborers indeed include missionaries in the field, but they also include an arsenal of prayer support from across the globe.

For this reason, NAMS is working to expand its intercessory prayer efforts worldwide. To achieve this, we will be sending out monthly prayer updates as well as resources and strategies to help prayer groups and communities grow in prayer and connectedness with other communities around the world. To sign up for this newsletter and be part of this team, you can write to mary.garrison@namsnetwork.com.

To those who do not yet feel a burden to pray for the nations, we ask God to give a genuine compassion for the lost peoples. Then, we simply start to pray, trusting in His faithfulness to respond to that prayer which delights His heart.

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 3, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 2, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

Last week I introduced you to my friend Audrey and her great reminder of the value of time spent with the Lord in intercessory prayer. But, deeper to the heart of the matter, why must we pray?

As faithful Christians, we seek to follow God’s will, and we know He is sovereign. Yet, in this so often we can be tempted to think: God’s plan will be done whether I pray for it or not. “I don’t really need to pray.” Or, perhaps we know “the churchy answer,” which is that, of course, we are supposed to pray, and so we will close our eyes and think good thoughts toward a person or some issue for a few minutes (or should I say seconds), and them we move on, patting ourselves on the back for sacrificing our time and energy to remember others.

Please don’t let my tone fool you; I write in incrimination of myself first and foremost. This is how I have thought and prayed for much of my life. The reality is that my prayer life modeled my spiritual life: immature on both accounts. But God can and will open our hearts and minds to grow and mature in these areas.

Does prayer “do anything”? I will write here unequivocally yes, but… Though there are countless testimonies of prayerful believers who can share their experiences of God’s answers to prayer, our faith to believe such accounts without our own personal experience is too often skeptical. Rather, let’s look back at the foundation of our beliefs in Scripture and build from there.

Prayer is communion with God, a time we share our hearts with him. (Remember Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his arrest.) But our sinful hearts are tricky and so often confusing; our desires and emotions change from one moment to the next. Yet the Holy Spirit is our constant companion, and in times of prayer, we quiet ourselves to listen to His divine direction. Indeed, Romans 8:26-27 states, “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now [God] who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because [the Spirit] makes intercession for [believers] according to the will of God.”

Intercession is pleading in favor of others, and in the first place, the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers to God the Father. It’s while we are under the Holy Spirit’s divine direction that the desires of our hearts slowly but surely become transformed to God’s own desires. So, indeed, the first point of transformation with prayer is that of the pray-er, but, the transformation does not stop there.

Over time, we begin to see God’s will for others in the Spirit-led promptings of our own hearts. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:9 that we are “co-laborers” with God. All glory and power and sovereignty is His, but He gives us work to do—in prayer and response—to bring about His will. Is this because God could not do it himself? Of course not! But because He loves us, He invites us to be part of the process, because it is in the process of co-working with God that we see so clearly what He is capable of and learn to depend on him even more.

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, we can also intercede for others, trusting in the promise of John 15:7-8, which says, “If you remain in me and my works remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be disciples.” At NAMS we talk often about the marks of a disciple. Our conclusion is simply that a disciple is one who is dedicated to making other disciples. Praying and interceding on behalf of others is the work of a disciple-making disciple.

Prayer changes us and it can even change circumstances, according to God’s will. Next week I will talk more about how to intercede for others and how God is calling NAMS to grow through the establishment of an intercessory prayer teams. Might you grow with us in this process?

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 2, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 1, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

I want to share with you about a very special friend of mine named Audrey. I met “Aud” when I was living in Temuco, Chile, from 2014-2016 while serving in a NAMS Base Community. A native of Manchester, England, Aud came to Chol-Chol, Chile, as a 29-year-old missionary and 50+ years later, she was still there. In Audrey, I saw a joy for spending time with the Lord and meditating on Scripture like I had never seen before. The Holy Spirit drew me to want to spend more and more time with her, to listen to her speak and pray with deep passion, and to learn from her as much as I could.

When Audrey arrived in Chol-chol in the early 1960s, the town was like a scene from an old Hollywood Western film—horseback riding, cantinas, gunfights, and all. Listening to Audrey’s stories of running a school and boarding house for indigenous children without any funding, or fording a river on horseback during a raging storm to arrive at a prayer meeting, or navigating any number of social mores of the Chilean countryside were always greatly entertaining.

When I arrived in Chile, I was trying to figure out this whole “missionary thing” in an unfamiliar culture, and had all this time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. One day Aud—whose deteriorating health had by now made it nearly impossible for her to travel from her countryside home into the city, and who now spent most of her time alone—phoned to give me a bit of encouragement. “Mary,” she said, “any time you spend simply with the Lord in prayer is not time wasted.”

It’s so simple but so profound, so let me say it again: Any time spent simply with the Lord in prayer is not time wasted. These words were coming to me from a woman with such exciting life-stories to tell about how she surely had made such valuable use of her time and ministry, and in fact it was the authority of that experience which spoke to me. It still speaks to me now. From the sitting room where she is spending her twilight years, Audrey is deepening her understanding of the value of time and ministry to the Lord, through intercessory prayer.

We can fill our time with a million things to do, but if we are not engaged in what that the Lord has called us to do, and spending time with Him in that calling, we are wasting our time. What has the Lord called every one of us to do as Christians? For a start, we have all been called to pray. Over the course of the past three years, I made it a point to spent as much time with Audrey as possible, learning from her how to spend time with the Lord—not “doing for” God but simply being with Him in prayer. Over time, I learned how to talk with God and enter into communion with him. It’s only from that place of spiritual communion and humility that we can attempt to serve Him in any meaningful way.

At NAMS, our mission is to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in any part of the globe where God opens a door, and to plant communities of disciple-making disciples. To carry out this mission, we have a ministry model with action steps, executed by a Global Ministry Team consisting of Regional Team Leaders, led by our Servant General, and under him, a Global Executive and his various officers.

We have Base Communities, a Global Apprenticeship Program, supporting churches, friends of NAMS and the NAMS Centurion Project as well as global and regional training events and vision retreats. The list could go on, and for each of these aspects of the ministry of NAMS, I give thanks to God. But Audrey’s simple truth rings true within our operations as well: it’s time spent with the Lord in prayer that will make all the “goings on” of NAMS eternally valuable.

We as a NAMS community are establishing an intercessory prayer team so that we can grow in this area. Over the next few weeks, I will share more about this prayer team. My hope is that those reading this blog will be encouraged in their own prayer lives, and that some will decide to join us in making a commitment to pray regularly for the eternal value of NAMS’ ministry. I know Audrey will be praying for us from Chol-chol, Chile, and I pray you will too.

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

 

How to Pray for NAMS — part 1, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

GLOBAL STORIES — “To Egypt, with love…”

My name is *Hadmed, and I am married to *Berenice, and together we have two marvelous children.

I am Egyptian, and I have spent all of my life in the city of Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt and has a population of over 18 million inhabitants.  My family comes from the Coptic Christian tradition.  I grew in this belief system until I was in my 20s when I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.  Then I began to live a life of service for Him.

I have served through sports ministry as a soccer coach to children and adolescents for many years.  This is a strategy which God has given us to reach and connect with people in Cairo, the majority of whom are Muslim.  Additionally, a couple of years ago I began to serve as an assistant pastor in a small church located in an incredibly poor area of Cairo called “the Garbage City.” I currently serve there once a week with children and young people.

In 2016, I served for three months with a NAMS team that came to serve in this region of the world, and together we developed various workshops throughout the city of Cairo.  We directly impacted 30 people through these workshops, including South Sudanese refugees, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian Muslims.  This permitted us to connect with people and establish a network of contacts through which we plan to continue to serve in the areas of discipleship and church planting in the future.

After a process of discernment and training, my family and I have committed ourselves as NAMS Companions. Our vision for the future is to help make disciples of Jesus Christ in Egypt and to plant churches in Northern Africa.  This is not an easy area for ministry, but we trust that God is opening a door and has invited us to cooperate with Him in this work.

* Not their real names

Hadmed

Hadmed (identity obscured) with NAMS companions Ivan and Mary Ruiz in Egypt.

GLOBAL STORIES — “To Egypt, with love…”

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

This is part 5 of a series on basic habits every disciple must be taught to live and practice, based on the Acronym PROMISE. Last week, we looked at the ‘M’ which stands for Meet with one another. Today, we will consider the ‘I’ which stands for Invest or giving to the work of the Kingdom.

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendor, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you,
and of your own do we give you.”

This wonderful prayer was said in the Anglican church of my childhood Sunday after Sunday, when the offering was brought to the Lord’s Table. It echoes words by King David in 1 Chronicles 29:14 and was a constant reminder that we give back to God what is rightfully His in the first place!

Martin Luther said, ‘every Christian needs a conversion of the head, of the heart and of the wallet!’ The new disciple in Jesus must soon adopt a new attitude in Christ towards the things we have, own or want. From this, the practice of the giving of our money, resource and time to God must be taught not merely as a matter of duty or due.

Giving is always seen in Scripture as a joyful act of worship where we get to participate in the life and service of God and his mission in the world. Indeed, we are called not just to give from our leftovers, but of our first-fruits, to God.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were taught by Moses to give a tenth of everything they owned back to God, because it belonged to Him (see Leviticus 27:30). That tithe was to be in support of the ministry to the Levites who served in the temple (Numbers 18:21) and for the poor, the sojourner, orphans and widows among them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

When we come to the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the Apostles gave any command with regards to the tithe.

However, some Christians, including the leaders of NAMS, believe that the 10% tithe of our income (and offerings on top of that) should be the minimum amount we give to the Lord. This we seek to both model and teach to others. It is not a law we are duty-bound to follow but a call to establish healthy habits and standards of giving.

In fact, when we become disciples of Jesus, we gain a new perspective towards money. Jesus certainly challenged us to a new Kingdom-minded attitude towards our possessions and wealth. About 60% of his parables dealt with questions of possessions and money and our attitude towards it.

He often warned and challenged individuals to be wary of the hold of material possessions and money. In Luke 16:13, he said: “you cannot serve both God and money.” In Luke 12:15 (NLT), he warned: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

He watched a rich, young ruler walk away from discipleship because of his slavery to his wealth (Matthew 19:16-30, though note that Jesus was not saying it was ‘impossible’ for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, but that it was hard. Many are blessed with riches who, seeking God’s kingdom first, have used their wealth for godly ends).

Perhaps the most important Apostolic teaching on giving towards the work of the kingdom and our local churches can be found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In his earlier letter in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs Christians to set aside money on the first day of the week, according to how much they had or prospered, and to collect it together ready for Paul to take to needy believers in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Note that in this context of raising funds to support of other Christians, he taught that their giving should be

1) regular – on the first day of every week (or in today’s context when you get your salary),

2) church-wide – each of them and so all of them were called to it,

3) planned – the money needed to be set aside, and

4) proportionate – according to what you earn.

At the end of the day, it is our attitude in giving that matters to God – how we give than how much we give (Luke 21:1-4).

But we are called, and so we must teach all, to give regularly as a holy habit, out of joy and in faith. ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)