Expounding on the 12 Principals #7:  The Principle of Biblical Authority (by Jon Shuler​​​)

This principle, some will surely say, should be placed first. They may indeed be right, but for this series I have chosen to place it here because so many in the historic churches have experienced the progression to this principle by steps of faith, and not as a beginning foundation. I have frequently stated that trust in the authority of Holy Scripture is a presupposition that must come to be believed if there is any hope of true reformation, and I will stand by that as an essential building block of what it means to be a church founded on the preaching of “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Without the Holy Scripture, today, we would have no apostolic testimony that could save. So why here?

First of all, most people meet the Risen Lord Jesus long before they understand the biblical testimony to the truth of the gospel. They have heard the gospel preached, or explained, in a way that reaches their heart. They know themselves to be lost. They have realized they must repent, acknowledge Jesus as Savior, and have then yielded their lives to the living Lord. Their experience is that he has received them as his own, and he has taken up residence in their hearts. As a dear brother said to me recently, “Now I don’t just believe in him, I know him.” The Incarnate Word is the first word they believe and receive.

Secondly, the testimony of other true believers is the most frequent way a new believer comes to faith. The living Lord Jesus in another person shines forth to them. They believe because they “see Jesus,” whether they can explain it or not. The witness, verbal and non verbal, of a true believer is the catalyst of true faith in others. The word seen and heard in the body of Christ, the church, is the milk they next receive.

This is perhaps the reason that belief in the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God was not a part of the creedal faith of the early church, or so I believe. It was a universal conviction of the faithful community. It was the air they breathed. It is in that sense, that the teaching authority of the believing church did indeed come before the authority of the Holy Scriptures was ever articulated, as some critics of classic Christianity sometimes remind us. But it was assumed that they were the authority over every other.  It was impossible for them to imagine that any other authority was, or could ever be, primary. To suggest so was to be in grievous error.

Step by step the first communities accepted the writings of the apostles as having the same authority they had when in person. After the death of the apostles, and the ever widening knowledge of the writings they or their companions left behind was received, the church universal embraced and canonized the New Testament as the equivalent of “the apostle’s teaching” that had been the center of the church’s life from the beginning.

It is now time to reassert as a principle that without devotion to the teaching of the Holy Scripture, to the “whole counsel of God” in Christ Jesus, their is no faithful church.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Next Week: The Principle of Worship

Expounding on the 12 Principals #7:  The Principle of Biblical Authority (by Jon Shuler​​​)

Expounding the 12 Principles #6: The Principle of Lordship (by Jon Shuler)

The church of Jesus Christ submits to Christ, and to no other. She has only one Lord, and he must reign in, among, and over all who believe in him and have been reborn in him. Anything less is either a church that has lost its first love and must repent, or no church at all.

Of course when we speak like this we are using the word “church” in the way it is always used in the New Testament. We mean the community of the faithful. The living, breathing men and women who have “put on Christ.” The heart of this community is the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. It is the fellowship of those reborn by water and the Spirit. It is a band of believers “devoted…to the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” It is a community that knows one another well, and cares for one another well, and is no stranger to the lives and homes of other believers. It is not a gathering of polite Sunday worshippers who smile at others whose names they do not know, and then return to lives lived outside the will of Christ.

But, some will say to me, ‘What you describe is so different from what we experience in the local congregation that we attend, how can this be normal?’ My answer must be, the “normal” in most congregations today is gravely “abnormal” when compared to the life Jesus commanded his followers to live if they were to be his disciples. The crowds paid attention to Jesus, of course, and a smaller group followed him from time to time, but the ones who truly attended to his words and were committed to walk in his way were an even smaller number. As we know all to well, there were very few at what seemed like the end as Jesus hung on the cross. Perhaps only three. Even in the days before Pentecost there were only 120 left in Jerusalem, and that after a three year public ministry of the Lord. These were the ones who would soon be accused of turning the world upside down, and that did not happen because they were casual Christians.

Centuries of tradition have come to adhere to the life of most of the historic and long established churches, and like too many barnacles on a ship, they often impede the purpose for which she was made. More attention is sometimes paid to the traditions of men, than to obedience to the Word of God. All too frequently much more attention than to the clear word of Jesus. He is spoken of as Lord by many, but is he obeyed as Lord? If he is not obeyed as Lord has he really been received as Savior? This is the crux of the principle of Lordship.

If the church in decline is to be rescued from its free fall, by the grace of God, the members of the local body can not continue to be allowed to imagine that their faith is secure if they disobey the Master. Even more critically, as we have repeated said, the church’s leadership cannot be allowed to lead disobediently. To do so makes a travesty of their profession of faith.

Either Jesus is Lord or he is not. There is no other sign of true faith.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Next Week: The Principle of Biblical Authority

Expounding the 12 Principles #6: The Principle of Lordship (by Jon Shuler)

Expounding the 12 Principles #5:   (by ​Jon Shuler​)

5) The Principle of Serving.

There is no part of the human body that was not created for a purpose. Each limb, each organ, every major system, indeed every cell has a purpose. It is possible to live after the loss of some, but each of the manifold parts was created to be supportive of the whole. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. As it is in the human body, so it is in the church. The constituent living cell is a believer, and every healthy cell in the body has a purpose.

The Apostle Paul writes of the church as the body of Christ, and the Apostle Peter gives us the image of a living temple. Whether we think organically of the body, or more structurally of the temple (though remember it is a “living” temple), each believer has a part to play. None are to be passive, even if hidden, because each is needed for the common good. To serve the Lord means not only to serve among his people, but also to serve his people.

We argued in an earlier post in this series that every believer is to find the work that the Lord has created them to do, that is their unique and particular ministry. As the journey of faith unfolds, this early work, or ministry, often becomes the primary calling of their life. But here we are describing a different element of the healthy church, not vocation. We are describing a willingness to be used, even outside of ones gifting. This serving is the readiness to do whatever needs to be done. This serving posture is for all.

To begin the journey of a Christian is to learn that we are to be stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Central to this is to begin to exercise the common grace of serving others. We discover that Sunday worship is vital and normal, but we also learn to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God. When we learn to tithe, that is to return a tenth of our financial resources to the Lord, we are serving the body. When we begin to take part in daily intercession for the mission and ministry of the local church, we are serving the body. If we agree to do some simple act of service for a member in need, we are serving the body. In such ways we learn not to hold back from the needs of the church. We offer ourselves to fill a gap. We serve the body of Christ.

And to what end? Why does it matter that all learn the principle of serving? Because the Lord who created us calls us to this. We are part of the family of God, and we share in the common life. We have received so we can give. We have been blessed so we can be a blessing. Our model for this way of life is Jesus Christ our Lord.The one who came down from heaven to save us, gave himself for us. We are servants of the servant Lord. The whole body of Christ is to grow up into the head, into Christ. It cannot do so unless every part is working together for the common good. All are called to be a serving disciples.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Expounding the 12 Principles #5:   (by ​Jon Shuler​)

Expounding The 12 Principles #3:  (by Jon Shuler​​​)

3) The Principle of Being Sent

Passive Christianity is not true Christianity. To always be learning, but never acting, is not faithful but faithless. To be watching what other believers do, but not moving out for oneself, is not to be a “follower of Jesus,” but a “watcher.” Rarely did the Lord ask for that response, except near his fateful hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then his desire was for their active prayer. From the earliest day of his public ministry, his invitation to those who drew near was “follow me.” And the purpose of that call was so that those following would learn to be a sent ones. They were to share in the ministry of spreading the kingdom of God.

Some who began to follow might fall away, but none who remained faithful would fail to arrive at a time to be sent. There was good news to share and healing to announce. To be sent was to be truly alive in Christ. Thus it always is when the church flourishes.

But is this for every Christian? The clear testimony of the Holy Scriptures, and the history of the church in every season of grace, declares it to be so. A true believer grows up into the ministry of the whole body. The church in any age will never be healthy when this is forgotten. The love of Christ demands it of all faithful followers. No community that “submits to Christ” can neglect this truth.

How then is this to be reclaimed in a day when the church is in disarray? How can this pattern of life be restored, when many of those called to lead avoid the challenge of speaking the truth to those who do not yet know it? When a willingness to be sent is rare, what is the true follower to do? Jesus must be the example. The Lord “came to seek and to save that which was lost.” This reality was at the heart of all that the first disciples witnessed him do. And to this day, when someone turns their heart toward Jesus, and begins to learn from him, it becomes clear that this is their ministry also.

The restoration of the broken and mistreated, the deliverance of the oppressed and the healing of the sick and the blind, must be proclaimed. And when these blessings come, they come that those touched may yield to his gracious rule. First his sovereign rule in this life, and then his glorious rule to all eternity. No one who belongs to him is to miss this calling. They are to hear the Lord saying: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” And when they hear they prove to be his by saying: “Here am I, send me.”

This readiness to be sent is a state of being, an attitude of the heart, not an act of going to a specific place. The specific assignments will be given, and for the majority they will be very local. Most will be sent to their own spouse, their own children, their own town. Their obedience will not be a long distance affair.  And to know to whom they are sent will not be difficult: “The daily round, the common task, will furnish all they need to ask.” The willingness to be sent, moment by moment, is not optional. It is to be a Christian.

Next Week: 4) The Principle of Discipling.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Expounding The 12 Principles #3:  (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)

‘My name shall be great among the nations’ – NAMS Global Leaders Meeting

Last week was special! 13 NAMS Regional Team Leaders, Global office holders and other Companions met in Little Rock, Arkansas for a wonderful three days of fellowship, worship, prayer and discussion from Tuesday 13 November – Thursday 15 November.

Each day, we began with a devotional teaching by NAMS Servant General Canon Jon Shuler, from the New Testament letter to the Philippians. He drew lessons from it and encouraged us to be faithful to walk in the apostolic pattern of mission and Christ-centred ministry, based around the 4-fold NAMS charge of ‘preaching Christ and Him crucified, planting churches wherever God opened doors, always obeying the Holy Spirit and never breaking God’s word.’

The first day was full of reports from our work in our 6 global regions where we have Companions. Here are a few highlights from what we heard:

  1. Pranab Kumar, our NAMS Regional Team Leader (RTL) for South Asia gave a report on the recent training for thirty would-be disciple-making ladies last month in Orissa, India. Companions Prince Thomas and his wife Gigi were present to share and train the ladies out of their experience of leading a discipling-movement in the North of India. There was also additional teaching from a friend of NAMS, Revd Takri. The women were enthused and equipped by biblical principles for reaching and making disciples of their non-believing friends and relatives, and together pledged, by God’s help, to make 2,000 disciples in the next year!
  2. RTL for the Horn of Africa Ivan Ruiz shared a report of the visit that he and his wife Mary made, with our Egyptian Companion T*, to Kenya in July. There, they were hosted by Timothy Mazimpaka, our NAMS contact and rising leader for East Africa. With Timothy, they were able to visit various linked ministries and leaders in Nairobi and Mumbasa. T*, who is involved with sport ministry in his native country, has now been invited later this month back to Kenya to train others to use sports ministry as a disciple-making tool. It was also announced that we are planning NAMS Vision meetings in Kampala, Uganda in April.
  3. In Nepal, RTL for the Himalayan/Tibetan Peoples, Tek Rijal, shared about the impact that the NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP) has had on our work in Nepal. three young Global Apprentice, all Nepali, have been initiating ministry through music, sports and small group disciple-making groups in and around Kathmandu. They are growing in faith, understanding and effectiveness. Just two weeks ago, two of them organised an event to reach and envision 300 Christian youth in the Western region of Nepal. Tek also expressed our prayerful desire to seek open doors for new work into Bhutan and the Tibetan regions.
  4. God is on the move in Latin America! NAMS RTL Andrés Casanueva spoke on the new doors that have opened up for us in Cuba – where a Cuban couple who came to faith through our NAMS Base in Chile, are now leading a small community of Christians in the capital. Also, one of the Cuban pastors and ministry leaders who attended our NAMS Latin American retreat last December and who is involved with using football (soccer) to reach thousands of young people, is preparing to go as missionaries with his family to the Dominican Republic. He is hoping NAMS will send him.

The second day of our meetings (on Wednesday) was given to planning and strategizing for our growing work.

We finished our Global Gathering on the Thursday with 2 open presentations of our work and testimonies to members from St Andrew’s Church (our gracious hosts) and others churches, where some of us shared about our growing work.

Together with His faithful Church everywhere, may Jesus be pleased to use us to bring divine transformation around the world, one disciple made at a time.

PS: We are always seeking and praying for partners and friends of NAMS who will pray, give or join us for global and Kingdom mission. Might you be one of them?

 

‘My name shall be great among the nations’ – NAMS Global Leaders Meeting

A Drop in the Ocean (By Manik Corea)

In a few days time, my family and I leave Bangkok, Thailand, where we’ve been for the last 10 years, to go on a 3-month sabbatical to the United States. Most of it will be spent in South Carolina, some of it we hope in rest, lazing on the warm beaches of the Atlantic. There will no doubt be time to reflect back on all that we have experienced and seen in the last decade.

As I look back over the years of our time here in Thailand, the last six of which have been as planter and team leader of All Nations, our NAMS Base Community in the city, I am sure there will be sadness and regret for how I often let my human weakness and sinfulness get in the way of being a faithful and fruitful disciple, husband, father and leader. I certainly wish we had been more urgent and passionate to reach the lost.

Sure, over the years, we at All Nations have reached a few peoples, discipled refugees and expats from many nations, even baptized a couple, shared the Gospel to many others including neighbors and friends, and generally tried to be a blessing to those we met. However, in real terms, the impact of All Nations in so big a city has been minimal, like a drop in the ocean.

Bangkok is home to some 12 million people, a million or so whom are undocumented. The majority of Thai people here are Buddhist who have never heard the name of Jesus or understand really what He is. There are people from countless nations, some bordering Thailand, who live and work in the city. Most may never meet a Christian.

However, one thing I can say with all confidence is that we are in a new season of the work here in Thailand.

About a year ago, the Lord began to open a door for work in a Christian university student center and hostel. All the students there are Thai, the majority are unbelievers. Our new leader of All Nations, Isaac, with his wife Pat, are now renting an apartment on the grounds of this center. We call it our Mission House. Already students are coming over to watch football (or soccer) matches and to cook and eat together. Or they play basketball with other students regularly now.

We believe God is calling us to reach, make disciples, raise up Christ-devoted leaders and, along with our on-going work with people of different nations, plant in time a worshiping community/service meeting on a different day to when we meet on Sunday, to reach many more. It is what all NAMS base-communities (and the churches we plant) are called to do.

Isaac and Pat have already started an English Club meeting every Friday. They have begun to meet with some of the Christians students one-on-one and in small group meetings to make disciples among them. We are hoping that John Gansalves from India can complete raising funds to join us as a Global Apprentice to help this work. Others are praying about coming to join our team as well, but we hope to be raising disciple-making leaders from those God has already brought to us.

It is a vital work. It is the work of a NAMS Companion. We have the privilege to be called by God to live, pray, reflect and study God’s Word, give towards our work globally and locally, and to make disciples of our families and of people around us, with the goal of helping to plant new communities of faithful men and women of God.

Thank God that He is ever faithful, even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). But His desire is that we will be truly faithful as salt and light in the world, to make a difference to those around us.

Please pray that All Nations in Bangkok will be found faithful in all God’s called us to be and do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Drop in the Ocean (By Manik Corea)

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Back to school is a hectic time of year for everyone, not the least of which are teachers like me – I’m now entering my 12th year in public education. But besides getting my classroom organized and lesson plans finalized, a still small voice inside of me is reminding me to get my heart right too because I’m preparing to go on the mission field.

I didn’t always feel this way. When I started my teaching career, I had a pretty clear sense of my profession.   I enjoyed my content area, was intrigued by the strategies involved in breaking down a concept, and rather quickly came to appreciate the relationships I formed with my students and colleagues. Teaching satisfied my professional ambitions, I thought that would be enough…but it wasn’t.

My Christian life has always been an important part of me, but without clearly realizing it at the time, I checked my faith at school doors each morning and picked it up again on my way out. This was not something I did intentionally, but that’s indeed the point: I wasn’t intentional at all. Apart from a few token gestures and general politeness, this huge part of me—my faith—was largely absent from my daily work. I become les satisfied, and after four or five years in, I started asking the Lord, “Is this all there is? Show me what it is I cannot see.”

And what He showed me changed me.

After his crucifixion and resurrection, just before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave his followers their marching orders: if you really believe all you have seen, and if you really have a transformed life, then “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). To me, these words were always either hypothetical or meant for another race of “Super-Christians,” like missionaries who would travel around the world or pastors who were paid to do this type of thing, not plain old “normal Christians” like me who work full-time secular jobs.

But the Lord opened my heart and mind to understand that every Christian shares in this missional calling to make disciples because we are all Christ’s followers. His final command wasn’t just for one group of men; it was for all men and women who would come to follow him. There were indeed disciple-making opportunities all around me, starting with my work—that place I spend 40+ hours a week.

More than a career, I realized that I have a calling – to go to school and share the light of Jesus Christ with every student, colleague, or administrator with whom I interact. Yes, I am a public school teacher, which of course does limit my words to a certain extent, but armed with an understanding of my higher calling, I am intentional now in an entirely new way. Like many teachers, I spend a great deal of time preparing my lesson plans and grading papers, but now my challenge each day is to spend time with the Lord to prepare my heart before I enter my workplace, i.e., the mission field. I’ve got to pray for my students and colleagues with a genuine heart for their salvation; I’ve got to seek wisdom for boldness to know when to speak and prudence for when to stay silent; I’ve got to ask for a caring heart to earn the right to be heard; I’ve got to pray for opportunities outside of the classroom to further deepen these relationships.

I am certainly not perfect in that daily preparation? Sometimes that sneaky alarm clock seems to snooze itself, but the Lord doesn’t usually let me get to far without reminding me of the need to be more intentional in preparation and prayer.

Dear believer, if you call yourself a follower of Christ, your calling is the same as mine, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do. How does your career empower you in that calling? Do you work construction? Are you working in an office or restaurant? Are you lawyer, doctor, merchant, or chef? The essential truth here has nothing to do with the career itself. The truth is that every Bible-believing Christian is a missionary wherever he or she goes, and I write today to encourage you to step into that calling, to ask the Lord to strengthen you in your resolve to be intentional in prayer and service to those you work with each day. So that today, or tomorrow, or the next day when a colleague or client may ask you about the hope you seem to have and that you would be prepared to give account of how the Lord has transformed your life.

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Mary Garrison is a NAMS Companion in Florida. She is also the NAMS Global Prayer/Intercessors Coordinator, as well as supporting her husband Ivan in giving supervision to the Horn of Africa region for NAMS.  

 

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Mission Field at the Y (by Revd Dave Kulchar )

With an increasingly post-Christian culture in North America even some of our expressly Christian organization have lost their focus. One example is the “Young Men Christian Association” or “YMCA”. In recent years it has grown to be seen as just another athletic club. In Indianapolis, USA, however, the Lord has raised up some leaders who want to reestablish it’s Christian mission to strengthen people in body, mind and spirit.

Early last year I am looking for a place that our new church might meet on Sundays. A friend suggested I look at the local YMCA. Recently the 15 area facilities have been entering into partnership with churches who use there multipurpose rooms on Sunday mornings for a worship gathering space. As I inquired about this partnership I learned of a volunteer chaplain program they have instituted. Area pastors can volunteer a minimum of 4 hours a week to “care, love and serve” staff and members at area YMCA facilities.

After a background check and training program by their Regional Director of Spiritual Emphasis, I started volunteering at the Pike YMCA a 15 minute drive from our home. My initial stage of work has been as a “Spiritual Greeter”. I welcome people to the Y in the front lobby simply making my presence know as a chaplain who desires to listen to peoples stories, make new friends, and talk about spiritual things if they show interest. Sometime I even pray with people over concerns that are on their hearts.

We live in a very diverse neighborhood. We have many international people who come through our doors from various faith backgrounds: Muslim, Hindu and non-religious.   Though there are many strong Christians at the YMCA, including many of the staff, there is also many opportunities to meet and befriend many pre-Christians.   I have had staff ask me to pray with them about their job, family and illness. I have had others share with me how they met Jesus, while others share why the have left the faith. One member and I are going to read a book on small group development called “Making Cell Groups Work”.

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I wear my clerical collar, tennis shoes and a name tag that makes it easy for others to identify me as a chaplain in a place where they do not usually expect a pastor.   I am strategically trying to visit the YMCA at different times of the day and days of the week in order to meet new people.

Last spring we hosted a prayer gathering on the National Day of Prayer where we prayed in a circle in the middle of the YMCA lobby. We have recently formed a Christian Emphasis Committee to organize a “Grief Recovery Class” and second offering called “Getting Through the Holidays”.

If discipleship is about helping move people closer to Jesus, I would suggest finding a place to be consistently present and available like a local YMCA sets one up nicely to be a disciple maker in a post-Christian world.

 

Dave Kulchar is a NAMS Companion, Canon for Church Planting in Diocese of the Great Lakes and All Souls Anglican Missionary Priest.

 

Mission Field at the Y (by Revd Dave Kulchar )