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?

Change the world this year! (By Revd Manik Corea, NAMS Global Executive).

‘Everyone wants to change the world. No one wants to change themselves.’ Wrote the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.

But real change in our world cannot be effected without the transformation first of individuals by God’s redemption at the cross of Christ. That’s why Christians are called to be and make disciples first, and not simply engage in doing good works.

This means in practice more that than simply Sunday attendance, loving our neighbors, giving to the poor or worthy causes, singing songs of praise to Him, praying for each other or even reciting the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed with faith at Sunday services. We should do all that, of course, in His name and for His glory. But He calls us to more.

Discipleship involves surrender to His Lordship, letting Christ change and align us to His will and purpose for our lives. It means choosing daily, and then following with perseverance, in his power and in concert with each other, to be disciples reaching the world, helping others know and follow him as we do, doing the works he did as he said we would (Luke 9:23; John 14:12).

Disciples are the fruit that God the divine gardener desires. In fact, all the ministry we do as Christians must produce disciples or they are deemed fruitless and worthless to God (as a Scriptures like John 15:1-8 emphasize).

If we put being and making disciples at the heart of our personal and collective lives in our churches and ministries, then at least 3 things will be true:

1) It will be all about Jesus. Who He is and what He wants will then take centre stage – not simply our visions, models or strategies. Indeed, ‘he must increase, I must decrease’ – we would cry with the Baptist (John 3:30).

2) Relationships will be central. As we seek to please and obey Jesus, we would be committed to the community of believers (John 13:34, 35), as well as be invested in relationships with non-believers, all as modeled by our Lord. Faith would be more than a personal or private matter. We would seek to disciple a few and help them reach out to others by being and bringing good news to the world where they live, play and work.

3) We will start small. We live in cultures that elevate the rich, the powerful, the beautiful and the well-known. The standard of success in America and the West, if not globally, is predominantly the big, the loud, the impressive and the popular. This has infected our standards for success in the church and in our Christian lives. We think that only those who can gather large crowds, have spectacular ministries or be well-known are ‘successful’ Christians.

Against this, the true disciples seeking to please Jesus will pursue His focus on the few so that others can in time be reached. ‘Jesus spoke to the crowds, but the engine of his ministry was his purposeful gathering and shaping of the twelve.’[1] Consequently, we will ask, ‘Why do we focus on the crowds when Jesus focused on the twelve?’[2]

In fact, this was part of Jesus’ deliberate strategy. He taught in his parables that the Kingdom of God grows from small beginnings. As the late Eugene Peterson wrote, ‘The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry are frequently images of the single, the small and the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven and seed.” [3]

We begin where we are, with who we can reach, by being obedient disciples and faithfully using our gifts.

Start small – but start somewhere. Ask others to help you do it. Be a disciple and make at least one other disciple. When you do so, Jesus promises He will be with you (Matthew 28:20).

And that will change the world – for at least one other person this year!

For help in becoming a disciple who makes other disciples, contact us at info@namsnetwork.com

 


[1] Woodward, JR & White, Dan, The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities. (Illinois:IVP, 2016), pg 89.

[2] Ibid., pg 90.

[3] Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor. (Grand Rapids:Eermands, 1993), pg 25.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a sea-change from the way I used to view church-planting. In the old church paradigm of thinking about church-planting that I was first taught, new churches were the ‘products’ we were to become experts at building. These new churches which were essentially models of the old institutional churches we were raised in or converted to. In many senses, it was nothing more that institutional church-cloning.

In order to subvert this ‘false’ picture and theology of the purpose and method of church-planting, we have to ask what kind of church Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18) and then seek to join in (2 Corinthians 3:6-9).

 

and its correlation with Jesus’ final command to us to make disciples of all people (Matthew 28:18-20).

 

In taking God’s divine prescription for global transformation (as Jesus articulated it in Matthew 28:18-20) seriously to heart, letting it inform and shape our vision and practice.

 

A right ecclesiology therefore follows from a missiology shaped and derived from the Christological work, vision and design. His kingdom coming constitutes our going into the world – our ‘sent-ness’ (John 20:21).

 

As we make disciples after Jesus, he will build His church by multiplying it.

 

 

[1] Woodward, JR & White, Dan, The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities. (Illinois:IVP, 2016), pg 89.

[2] Ibid., pg 90.

[3] Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor. (Grand Rapids:Eermands, 1993), pg 25.

Change the world this year! (By Revd Manik Corea, NAMS Global Executive).

A Partnership in the Gospel – NAMS Cuba Retreat, December 2018

3 people traveled to Cuba recently from our NAMS Latin America base in Chile, including our NAMS Latin America Team Leader Andrés and companion Juan Tamayo.

Cuban scene

They arrived in Havana accompanied by 4 bags full of donations from the NAMS community in Chile, which included medicines, food, clothing and items for the Retreat.

They spent one night at the home of R and M, who are our NAMS local leaders at Havana. The next day, we took an expensive 3-hour taxi to Cienfuegos.

On their arrival, they were greeted by Pastor R and his wife I, who are leaders of our NAMS partnership in Cienfuegos. From there, they ‘traveled’ to the retreat place on a special taxi (- see picture below).

Cuban taxi

It was a joy for them to meet with each of the families of church planters that our NAMS Base Community in Chile is supporting. They also met with many other people – the elderly, women, children, youth and adults who were involved in various ministries. A total of 60 people were part of the NAMS retreat. All are involved in discipleship and church planting, whether through sports ministries, children’s ministries, family ministries or direct church-planting, etc.

Our NAMS leaders were able to give training over 3 days on topics like Biblical Discipleship, the Great Commission and the Planting of Churches based on Acts 2:42. The training was for both those we have been supporting financially as well as others that we aren’t able to currently.

The last day was a special time because leaders of two communities of faith that we support presented to the Lord 7 new believers whom were baptized by the NAMS team along with pastor R, in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. They were like first-fruits of our partnership and work. The joy and emotion on the part of all the believers was manifest, and they gave glory to God with prayers, praises and songs with tears. After that, they said goodbye to each participant of the retreat.

They also managed to visit some of the church communities that had been planted, praying for the leaders and sharing with each of them their dreams and longings to serve the Lord on the Island. They opened their hearts to our NAMS team about their willingness to continue serving in the midst of difficulties. They also discovered that the 7 church planters received support from us were in fact sharing that support with others who were not yet officially receiving support from us. We believe that if our support is increased, there will be a wider and greater impact – we pray this will happen in time. Overall, our NAMS team witnessed the wonders that the Lord is doing on the island using these humble brothers in the faith.

We thank God with great joy for the opportunity to visit and partner with these precious brothers and sisters in Cuba for the Gospel.

* Names not given for security reasons

in Cienfugos

A Partnership in the Gospel – NAMS Cuba Retreat, December 2018

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)

An Advent Prayer (by Manik Corea)

Advent is a season of celebration and preparation. It calls us to look back with gratitude for the incarnation of our Lord, and to godly repentance and active readiness for his second coming. It is the yearly reminder to the people of God of the ultimate destiny we are called into, a kingdom we must all seek, work for and proclaim, as we await its consummation in the return of Christ.

Against the three-fold enemy of God’s people – sin, the world and the devil, it calls us against despair and doubt, to renewed hope and faith in His plans, purposes and power to bring about His transformative purposes in our world.

The following words from poet Roger Spiller is a prayer for us to seek to partner and participate with God in His mission and advent hope for our world today. May it be your prayer and mine today….

Lord, you call us to be story-tellers:
planting your explosive news into our defended lives;
locating us in the script of your human history.

You call us to be trailblazers:
living in your future that we receive only as gift;
subverting the fixed, fated world of low horizons.

You call us to be weavers: tracing, stretching, connecting the knotted threads;
gathering up unravelling, disconnected lives.

You call us to be fools – for Christ’s sake:
bearing life’s absurdities and incongruities;
puncturing our seriousness and grandiosity.

You call us to be hosts:
welcomers of the sacred, intimate, transfiguring;
lavish celebrants of our communities and homecomings.

You call us to be poets: artists and illuminators of inner space; naming, invoking, heralding your ineffable presence.

You call us to be gardeners: sowers, cultivators, nurturers of fragile lives;
benefactors of your gratuitous harvest.

You call us to be conductors celebrating polyphony, coaxing symphony; orchestrating the praise of your inhabited creation;

Lord, you lavish gifts on all whom you call. Strengthen and sustain us and all ministers of your church, that in the range and diversity of our vocation, we may be catalysts of your kingdom in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

An Advent Prayer (by Manik Corea)

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)