​ Can A Church Be Reborn? (by Jon Shuler​​)

The time for New Year’s Resolutions has come, but the mature among us know that they will rarely last the year. Does that make them vain? I think not. Better a good intention tried than never begun. Better to set a high goal and reach some of it, than never to set a goal at all. A good man once taught me: “If you have no dreams do not set goals. But if you dream dreams and do not set goals, I promise you despair.” I dream dreams, and I hope all who read this do as well. If they are dreams that have been placed in our hearts by the living God, we must resolve to reach for them.

One of my dreams is to live to see revival again.

I came to a living and true faith in just such a time. A small Anglo Catholic parish, in an out of the way University town in England, entered into a remarkable season of years when the Spirit of God was being poured out upon us. Dozens and dozens of men and women came alive in Christ Jesus. The parish was changed, the town was changed, the whole of North East England was changed, for a season.

Of course the fires of revival always die down, and they did in Durham. But not before countless lives were made new, and not before many were scattered to the wider world to take the Good News of God’s love to others. Some day I pray to be allowed to know, in heaven, the extent of the impact of that time for the spread of the kingdom of God. The thought of it gives me joy.

What might I do beyond think and pray? Revival, if it is truly from the Lord, is not the product of man made manipulation or planning. We cannot set a goal for God. But we can know his heart for the world he created. “He sent his only begotten Son into the world that all who believe might not perish, but have everlasting life.” He has spoken through the prophets and a day will come when “the earth will be covered with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the seas.” And the reason this will happen is his great love wills it. And so too does his true church.

What then of a slumbering church? Can she have a part in that great day if she is asleep? Or worse, can she have a part in that day if she is filled with cultural Christians who are not themselves reborn? Dare we speak of a church that is not reborn?

No student of the Holy Scriptures can be ignorant of the answer. The church that is the church is only made up of the reborn. There is no such thing as a “fleshly, unborn, church.” There are such men, but not such churches. No other than those called and chosen of God will see his face, when the great church triumphant is gathered around the throne of the Lamb. That is the church.

But still, with the liberty of the modern English language may we dare say it? I think so. We need the organized, visible, historic church to be reborn. God wills it.

 

Used with permission, http://www.jonshuler.com, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

​ Can A Church Be Reborn? (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 #4:   (by ​​Jon Shuler​)

4) The Principle of Discipling

New believers must be formed quickly in the patterns of a healthy and practical way of Christian life, if they are to become life long followers of the Lord Jesus.  They must learn to be disciple-making disciples. Too long a delay, and they will become immature followers for a lifetime, at best, or unfruitful branches at worst. A new believer must hear and obey the call to be a disciple who can help another disciple to be formed.

Making this principle foundational is not accomplished by a program or a temporary training course. It has to be lived. It must become a pattern of behavior that shapes the DNA of the believer. The tree will be known by its fruit, and the fruit of a believer is another believing disciple. But how does this reproduction become normal? At least three things must be true for this to happen.

First, existing followers of Jesus must become convinced that living as a disciple-making disciple is for them, and they must pray for it to be so. When the Lord first sent out his disciples, they were told to “pray to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up laborers to go into that harvest.” Even as they went, they were to pray to be multiplied. Whatever their particular gift or ministry, they were to help others join them. Prayer to be faithful in helping to spread the kingdom, and doing so, was part of daily life as a follower of Jesus. Disciple-making was not an option.

Second, a follower of Jesus must first be discipled by another in order to learn the essential pattern of discipling for themselves. Walking alongside a faithful follower teaches them how to do the same. Within days of first following Jesus, those first disciples spent hours, every day, with their Master. They discovered that discipling is a relational, time consuming, and intentional lifestyle. They learned it from the Lord so they could  pass it on. Reproduction is the goal of discipling. To accomplish it requires intentionality. We learn to be disciples by walking with other disciples.

Thus it is that third, a discipled disciple – a made disciple – comes to have confidence to build discipling relationships for themselves. They begin to invite others to walk with them. They make time for meeting with those who want to learn. They develop a loving and open lifestyle, with enough margin always to help make a new disciple as the Lord leads. It is then only a matter of time until such a lifestyle becomes like breathing for them. If the Lord has need of them they will answer his summons.

When the principle of discipling is being lived there will be no day to busy to help disciple another. There will be no schedule too packed to prevent them from helping someone the Lord sends to walk the road of Christ with them. They will never refuse “to go”  to the one ready to follow. Discipling will be central to their life.

Next Week:  5) The Principle of Serving.

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

Expounding the 12 Principles #4:   (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​​​)

Expounding The 12 Principles; #2 (by Jon Shuler)

2) The Principle of Work.

The clear example of the Lord Jesus must always be our guide, along with his word. His life and teaching set us the example that we are to live, by the grace of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit. He shows us, and has told us, that his food was to do the Father’s will. He was sent to accomplish the Father’s work.

The same is meant to be true of us who are followers of Jesus. A disciple has work to do that no one else is called to do. Our work is particular and specific. God has prepared it for us.

The Apostle tells us that we were created for particular good works, prepared by God for us to walk in. This is not an idle claim, but one of the deepest truths of the outworking of the gospel. God has not made a mistake in creating us, nor in redeeming us, and it is part of that redemption that we enter into our life’s work as he purposes it for us. The ancient way of expressing it is that we are to give ourselves to “our vocation.” This is our calling, and we will all give an account for it at the judgment.

Because this is so, a believing and obedient disciple cannot long watch others in their service and ministry without entering in to their own. They must pray and struggle to clarify the particulars, with the help of others who love the Lord and love them, but the particular is what they must seek. ‘What is my calling Lord Jesus?’

Many will not come to this quickly after conversion, but some will. The sooner the better for the work of the kingdom. Remaining on the sidelines is inexcusable if delayed by lethargy and sloth, or by alibis and excuses. To be a disciple of Jesus requires a single hearted devotion to the Lord’s will and purpose for ‘me.’ Discipleship has a cost.

How then does this become true in my life? How do I find the work that I am to do? The church that submits to Christ is my helper, but the Lord alone must guide and clarify. He speaks to those who truly follow him. In the early days of ones discipleship there will be trial and error, almost always. And there will be times of discouragement and even significant error. But the mistaken or fallen one must get up. The way of repentance and faith is lifelong, yet the Lord will never “leave or forsake” those who love him.

In many Western churches the work of the body is done by only a few. The majority are expected ‘to attend, to give, and to go home.’ Rare today is a historic congregation with even 20% of its membership mobilized according God’s calling, and thus the effectiveness of the witness of these churches is often minimal.

True disciples cannot let this be so of them. They find their calling, and give themselves to the specific work the Lord Jesus has for them. Nothing less will do.

Next Week: The Principle of Being Sent.

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

Expounding The 12 Principles; #2 (by Jon Shuler)

Expounding The 12 Principles (by Jon Shuler)

1) The Principle of Conformity.

There never was a day when the church of Jesus Christ was pure. From the Day of Pentecost there were some who believed truly, wholeheartedly, and obediently. And there were some who seemed to have believed, but it proved to be for their own personal power or gain. Even among the apostolic twelve there was a “son of perdition.”

Yet the call of Jesus was not to the halfhearted or lukewarm, but to those who would follow where he leaded. This was understood by all the “devoted ones” on the day of Pentecost and after. Those who were following Jesus ahead of them, were their mentors and guides. They were discipling the newest believers, and showing them the nature of a life given up completely to God. The Apostle would later write; “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” but this was not an apostolic pattern, it was a Christian pattern.

To be willing to die for Christ, as Peter thought he was, would come slowly to all the first followers, but it would come. For some it would be literally. In the fullness of time the community of faith would recognize this as the pattern of being conformed to Christ Jesus, who modeled wanting only the “Father’s will” as his daily bread and as his incarnate life’s work. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” cried one of the great Apostles who followed him.

No one who has ever begun the journey of “following Jesus,” and who continued until the day of their new birth, has failed to be shown – in time – that they must truly die to be raised with Christ. These words come to express reality for them, not just a baptismal action or form of words. In times of persecution and martyrdom, these things are seen clearly even by new believers, but in periods of long doctrinal decline and moral decay the church fills with those who do not understand these things.

What then are the boundaries that make a church of sinners a church that the Lord Jesus Christ is building? Are there any?

It must be argued, as vigorously as possible, that a church without boundaries of right belief and morality is not such a church. The church that Jesus builds is a church that produces saints. Men and women come to be conformed to Christ with such consistency, that the standard of faith described in the New Testament is overwhelmingly normal. In such a church the standards of belonging and believing are high. There is no way station on the way to heaven. There is only a journey in this life to being more and more conformed to Christ. But it is a narrow way. And hard.

A believer learns about this from the beginning. A believer desires this to the end.

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

 

Next Week: The Principal of Work

Expounding The 12 Principles (by Jon Shuler)

Thinking Through The Four Observations: Observation #4

This series of blogs by NAMS Leader Revd Canon Jon Shuler list his observations on 4 factors that are true wherever the church is reformed newly by God for his purposes and glory….

Observation #4: The Church is organized to make disciples.

When whole towns and villages are changed, when the social and economic patterns
begin to be altered, when the governing structures begin to be rethought, the gospel of
Jesus Christ has come in reformation. The gospel spreads like a wild fire, and it is
unstoppable for a season of God’s choosing. So it was in the 6th, 12th, and 16th
century in Europe. So it was during the Great Awakening of the 18th century. And
always ordinary believers learn to live so that the gospel spreads easily. They learn to
be disciple-making disciples.
In all such eras believing people meet regularly in small enough groups that the true
nature of the church is experienced day by day. This is the hidden reality whenever the
church of the Lord Jesus is experiencing spontaneous expansion. Large worship
gatherings reveal something of this true nature, but it is in the small villages and homes
of believers, that the truth is daily confirmed and lives transformed. Not because of
these small gatherings, but because the very nature of the kingdom of God is
relationally transmitted. Mothers disciple their daughters. Fathers disciple their sons.
Brother disciples brother. Friends disciple friends. The life of the church is not the work
of a clerical and professional few, but the work of the whole body.
For the church of Christ Jesus in the West to see this occur again, by the grace of God,
reformation must come. The church and its leaders must be willing to rethink how she is
organized. Do her current structures assist the effective spread of the kingdom of God
or do they inhibit it? What must be reformed?
Of all that must undergo rethinking and reforming, nothing is so evident as this: the
social architecture of the local church must be redesigned so that every believer learns
to be a disciple-making disciple. Church structures that do not assist this, in a
reasonably effective and timely way, must be rethought. The current patterns that have
evolved over centuries in the West must be radically revisited. What do they achieve?
Are they producing what the Lord of the church desires?
The Final Command of the Risen Christ Jesus to his church was to “make disciples of
all nations.” This was a command that was about the way his people lived for him. It
was something that would occur as they lived ordinary lives, transformed by his grace.
How was it to be possible? It was possible because it was natural and simple.
The historian Glenn Hinson, after surveying the rise of the church in the first centuries
concluded that “the church of Jesus Christ out organized the Roman Empire, one
household at a time.” Small familial units of disciple-making disciples were the hidden
reality behind the spread of Christianity, and where this truth re-emerges and becomes
a normal way of life for Christians, another season of reformation begins.

Used with permission by joncshuler.wordpress.com

Next Week: Foundational Principles (Internal).

Thinking Through The Four Observations: Observation #4