Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 2, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

Last week, I began to share about ‘Life at the Seams’. The seam is a line along which two pieces of fabric are sewn together in a garment or article of clothing. It can also be a metaphor for the spaces in our life whe0re plans, dreams, ideas and reality meet or are brought together, with either new forms emerging or the potential for tear and damage to occur.

Before I left South Africa with my family as a missionary for nearly 6 years, I had coffee at my favourite coffee place in Stellenbosch. There a significant conversation took place with my Bishop, Rt Revd Josel Obetia from Uganda. Last week, I shared the first two of seven important words that he shared with me. Today, I share the rest with you.

The numbered lines are what he said, with my italicized sentences as commentary.

  1. Some will be called to pastoral ministry.

The goal of new, visionary Kingdom work is to build the church. Therefore, some will be called out of communities that are at the edges of the Kingdom where new forms are being explored and innovated, and into settled pastoral ministry. We must support and encourage the move from the edge back to the center for those called to this work. At the same time there are some called to remain in the bridging places, innovating new pathways that do not yet fit into the existing structures and teaching and equipping people to cross back over the bridge spanning what will be to what is. In the body we must see, provide space for and encourage both those called to casting vision for new things and those called to shepherd God’s people where they are. Pioneering leaders must make space for settled leadership to emerge.

  1. Our place is to be the cutting edge.

While some are called to settled work, I am part of a community of pioneering Companions made to live and work on the cutting edge of the Kingdom where the future of the church is being forged in places that are often misunderstood and will not necessarily gain the traction we hope for in our lifetime. But we must take heart, because we are in good company of the many saints who have lived in these spaces in the centuries before us.

  1. Most of the work is done on your knees.

We must be leaders who understand that our deep connection to Christ through prayer is our primary and most productive task. The natural gifts of leadership often come with a bent and temptation to busyness. We must resist these carnal desires to do before we become.

We must first be leaders who find our identity and significance in Christ alone so that we enter our work envisioned and empowered by the only one who truly knows the future. We must also enter each day with the solemn awareness that we are hunted by evil. There are real forces of spiritual darkness who plan our demise and work intelligently and persistently to destroy us. Our power to resist such evil originates in the depth and constancy of our prayer life.

  1. As long as people live the Gospel.

The good news of the Gospel, the true story of the world is the first and the last thing. All of our ministry and our lives must be focused on remembering, living out and sharing the Gospel in thought, word and deed. We are free to innovate new forms and methodologies for ministry but we are never, ever to break the word of God. Jesus wants Gospel-centred disciples made.

  1. The Church is God’s instrument to reach a dying world.

As we go about the cutting edge, visionary, apostolic work we are made for and called to, we must never forget that the Church is the Bride of Christ. The Church is God’s beloved and therefore we must love her even as we co-labor with God to renew and reform her for His glory.

In this “seam season” I am grateful for a band of companions to journey with who love the Lord Jesus, one another and the Church.

Will you pray for us in NAMS – that we will remain faithful to this worthy but difficult calling? Thank you.

— Revd Gabriel Smith
NAMS Global Operations

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Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 2, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 1, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

All Companions of the missionary order we call NAMS are called to life at the seams.

As an ex-Army officer, one of the most important leadership lessons I learned was to “pay attention to the seams.” The line where two pieces of fabric come together is where the garment takes its form. But it’s also where the stitches are most likely to give way and tear apart.

Similarly, the spaces between life circumstances where plans and operations come together and either align or fall apart, have the potential to shape future reality but also are the most vulnerable to chaos. Leaders must pay attention to these places in both their personal and organizational life.

I am living in a seam at the moment. One month ago our family transitioned from South Africa to South Carolina after nearly six years as missionaries with an intentional Christian community we helped found.

In the weeks before we left I had a significant conversation with my Bishop, Rt Rev Joel Obetia of Uganda. I articulated to him in an uncertain, rambling fashion, my dream for building new communities of faith that would perhaps never really fit into the traditional Christian (Anglican) system.

As Bishop Joel listened patiently but with intense focus as only the way a man unencumbered by technology or the urgency of next things can, he told me seven things that I share with you in this two-part blog, that I hope may inspire and provide fuel for conversations among NAMS Companions and those who support and love us, as we seek to work together in years to come.

The numbered lines are from Bishop Joel. The italicized sentences are my commentary.

  1. Operate as if there are no boxes.

Boxes are not inherently bad. People relate ideas to concepts that they already know. In this way we all have “boxes” that we put ideas into. The first cars were known as motor wagons because they were seen as strange new versions of the horse-drawn, wooden wagons people knew well. But when those of us called to create new things operate only in reference to models and forms that already exist we limit our creative capacity to dream and give power to things in the “box” to control and shape the future.

Those of us made to dream of, create, and live out new models of Christian community must not be confined by the boxes that hold the settled local church in our contexts. We must be free to dream of new structures and ways to engage people in this lost and dying world. In other words, pioneers must be free and freed to pioneer.

  1. A movement will be limited if it becomes the church.

The institution of the church is necessarily an ordered society, slow to change and normally resistant to new ideas. New movements led by the Spirit to renew the church must operate outside of those church structures, otherwise their impact will be limited by the formal and informal constraints of institutional Christianity.

This is not to say that people involved in the movement shouldn’t also be part of the institutional church – they should. Individual presbyters and lay leaders in missional movements should be connected in healthy relationships to others in the more settled body, but their vocational activity cannot be completely controlled by the systems and authority of the settled church, lest the new apostolic work that God has ordained be confined to what already is.

The tension between fluid movement and established structure is difficult to navigate but is necessary if either movement and church are to fulfill their God given purpose.

Part 2 next week will complete the list of 7 things my bishop spoke to me.

— Revd. Gabriel Smith
NAMS Global Operations

Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 1, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

‘Come and See’, ‘Follow me’ and ‘Go and Make’

‘By this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.’ (John 15:8)

At the recently concluded NAMS India Training meetings in Golpapur-on-sea, Orissa, India, the Scripture above, as well as other relevant passages were brought alive to us, as we discovered afresh the primary calling of all disciples to both abide consistently in the word of Jesus, to love the community of disciples and to bear abundant fruit in discipling others, as a result.

30 pastors, church-planters and leaders, both men and women, attended the NAMS meetings led by Pranab Kumar, NAMS South Asia Regional Team leader. He was supported by Manik Corea, NAMS GE and Joel Regmi, a pastor from Nepal associated with our work there.

Throughout the 3 days together from October 17-19, 2017, there was a renewed sense of call and equipping to continue in the mission of Jesus, to be and become disciple-making leaders seeking to plant and multiply new communities to bring transformation to their communities.

ComeSeeFollow1-oct31.17

We were blessed to have met at an economically-priced St. Vincent Roman Catholic Retreat centre in Golpapur-on-sea, which was a short 10 minute stroll to the Bay of Bengal. The facilities were simple but clean and adequate, with ample food and beverages, complete with requisite spice and curries, feeding us well for the 3 days.

Each of the three mornings began with a time of worship and a devotional sharing. We worshipped and prayed in Oriya, an Indo-aryan spoken by the majority people in the State. The talks were mostly translated from English.

The focus of our time together was squarely on how Jesus wants us to fulfill His final command that disciples be made of all nations, in the context of their work in state of Orissa. Sessions focused on the process of making disciples, planting churches and raising disciple-making leaders and how this applied to various aspects of personal, family and communal life.

For example Manik led a session on the pathway of true discipleship that can be divided into three distinct phases, each characterized by different phrases – 1) ‘come and see’ (John 1:39) is the invitational welcoming phase of sharing and communicating the Gospel to not-yet-believers, 2) ‘follow me’ (John 1:43) denotes the call to intentional discipleship, nurture and growth after Jesus as the focus and goal of all our life and 3) ‘go and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19) – the multiplying effect of our lives on others where we help them to find and follow Jesus as new disciples.

Joel’s session on 8 principles that distinguished a biblically faithful church from a disobedient, unfruitful one was particularly well received. Citing his experience in Nepal, he showed that healthy faithful churches had a consistent emphasis on disciple-making, moved from classroom training to life training, were outward-focused and were characterized by God-dependency rather that self-sufficiency. He said, ‘we are not the manufacturers of God’s blessings but are called to be distributors of His favor to our communities.’

Each evening ended with opportunity for reflection, feedback and prayer over what God has been speaking to them during the teaching sessions.

There was also opportunity in the course of the meetings to address the growing concern about rising persecution by Hindu extremists in the land. We encouraged them to have faith and hope in the midst of the challenge of staying faithful to the witness and life of Christ in us.

From the feedback of participants, this was a wonderfully blessed and fruitful time of encouragement and equipping. Participants expressed thankfulness to NAMS Companions, friends and supporters who gave and prayed so we could be together.

May His Kingdom come in Orissa and all over the South Asia continent.

 

 

‘Come and See’, ‘Follow me’ and ‘Go and Make’

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

Family Discipleship — part 1 (by Sam Horowitz)

New Start, New Vision – The NAMS GAP Launch in Kathmandu, Nepal (By Isaac Lasky)

Legend has it that King Prithivi Narayan Shah stood upon Chandragiri Hills and first caught a glimpse of the beauty of Kathmandu valley and decided it would be the capital of a unified Nepal Kingdom. In that same spot around 300 years later the NAMS Nepal Global Apprenticeship Program team prayed that they would be used as disciple making leaders to plant disciple making churches for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Kathmandu valley

From 23rd-25th August 2017, Isaac Lasky (NAMS GAP Coordinator) was in Nepal for the orientation of three NAMS Global Apprentices working alongside our NAMS Regional Leader in Nepal, Tek Prasad Rijal. The days were packed full of learning, discussion, worship, prayer and fellowship and finished with a commissioning service for the Global Apprentices. Topics included ‘Knowing God’s will,’ ‘The NAMS Rule,’ ‘Steps to Becoming a Disciple-making Disciple,’ and ‘the Life Cycle of Discipleship.’ The apprentices gained a clear understanding of discipleship and practical ways to apply this to their life and ministry.

NAMS GAP Nepal

These Global Apprentices will be receiving hands-on training and guidance as they purse the passions God has given them. Currently, they are looking to start a new work with university students and children in Kathmandu using their musical, sport, and English language abilities as a tool to bless people and build new relationships, whilst also continuing to build on existing discipling relationships they already have. We are very excited to be investing into these three young leaders. We wait in expectation to see how the Lord will use them locally, nationally, and even internationally.

Please pray with us for them.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Global Apprentice, please visit www.namsgap.com for more information.

 

 

New Start, New Vision – The NAMS GAP Launch in Kathmandu, Nepal (By Isaac Lasky)

A Foretaste of Heaven! NAMS Africa Summit, Kenya 2017.

‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). That is an apt verse to describe our recently concluded Africa Summit meeting in Kenya over the weekend of 18 August 2017.

KenyaSunmmit

It was a much-anticipated event – the first ever NAMS Vision meeting taking place in East Africa. About 20 or so participants from African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Congo (DRC) gathered with 5 NAMS companions for a weekend of hearing the NAMS story and vision and being encouraged and equipped to make disciples the Jesus way commanded (Matthew 28:19-20) in order to plant new churches.

In the weeks preceding the event, Kenya had a largely peaceful General Election, and we thank God that we did not see the violence that marred previous elections and the aftermath, which would have made travel to Nairobi difficult for many. However, a few days before the event, our NAMS Sub-Saharan Africa leader Gabe Smith was struck down with a lung infection and was not able therefore to fly to the event as planned. As he was the main organizer, we had to do some last-minute reorganizing. We thank God not only that the event could continue without him, but that he is now fully recovered.

The Africa Summit was held in a Roman Catholic retreat center about 30km out of Nairobi. The temperature hovered around a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius for the most part of the days. The lovely setting of the grounds enhanced our time together, which was designed to be a mixture of prayer, worship, teaching, training, and free time for networking, rest, and retreat. We were also blessed by the great service and the food cooked up by the cheerful staff of the center.

Some of the participants made long journeys at their personal cost to come, including one Anglican pastor from Congo who had to make a three-day journey by bus each way. We were encouraged and humbled by their immense desire and willingness to sacrifice to meet with us for the sake of the Gospel.

Looking back on that weekend, we were richly blessed by our interaction with many wonderful leaders, pastors, and servants of God – a mixture of clergy and lay leaders, old and young, some working in church ministries and others in the marketplace.

We were able to share the NAMS story and vision that God has taught us: disciple-making disciples as the seeds of new churches. We heard stories from the lips of NAMS companions from places as diverse as North India, Egypt, Chile, and Thailand.

The rich, heavenly sounds of African voices in worship and dance was heard and seen between sessions, as well as inspiring testimony and teaching not only from NAMS Companions, but also from our friend Richard Mayabi of Church Army who gave a clarion call to the African Christians present to make disciple-making and mission a priority for the African church – or risk losing ground in Africa.

NAMS Companion Bishop Bahemuka William celebrated at Sunday Communion and preached a stirring message. In his sermon, he quoted his friend, retired American bishop Fitz Allison who said, ‘If you don’t give the Gospel away, you don’t get it!’ Indeed!

The outcome of this meetings is that there is a clear desire among participants representing different Anglican dioceses and other non-Anglican churches across East Africa for partnership with NAMS. We are now praying that in time, we can plant a NAMS base community in East Africa to facilitate the work God is clearly giving us to do there.

We thank all of you who prayed for us during this week and for the meetings. God heard your prayers and gave us a wonderful foretaste of heaven, Africa-style! To God be the glory!

 

A Foretaste of Heaven! NAMS Africa Summit, Kenya 2017.

Raising Disciple-Making leaders – A NAMS story (by Manik Corea)

Seemingly serendipitous meetings in the midst of daily living can become the setting for life-altering divine appointments by God’s grand design, and the Scriptures provide many illustrations. An unsuspecting shepherd sees a burning bush, a tax-collector sitting at his booth hears the words ‘follow me,’ fishermen are met and called by Jesus at the edge of the waters, an Ethiopian in a chariot on a desert road is met by running courier on divine duty.

I first met Isaac at the edge of a barbecue grill in England as he cooked a picnic for the members of his church.

He was barely 19 years old and was telling me about the six months he had spent in India on a short-term mission internship working with destitute young adults and children. I sensed immediately a heart for lost people and, perhaps, a calling to somewhere other than his home country.

That brief meeting culminated two and a half years later in an invitation from Jon Shuler and me to Isaac to join NAMS as an intern in Bangkok. He arrived in October 2014.

NAMS Companions are united under Christ for the work of (1) making disciples that make disciples, (2) raising up disciple-making leaders, and (3) helping start disciple-making communities or churches. Isaac is an example of the kind of disciple-making leadership that we seek to raise up through our work.

He came to us with a strong foundation of faith through the godly influence of his own family and DNA Networks, his sending church. But, in the time we have spent together these last 2+ years I have seen him grow and develop into a more confident, faithful, and faith-filled pioneering leader who now is not only a full-fledged NAMS Companion, but who has been given increasing leadership responsibilities in our global work.

How did it all happen?

When Isaac joined All Nations (our NAMS community in Bangkok) as an intern, I began to meet with him weekly for discipleship. We prayed, read Scripture, shared vision, and planned together for the work of the Kingdom. We also met one other morning with another leader, to strategize for our work and pray for NAMS Companions globally—and for those we were seeking to reach and disciple locally.

Isaac also accompanied and assisted me in two small groups I led at that time, one of which was a Great Commission Cell meeting in my home.

The other group was our ‘Questions’ group: five young Western expatriates, none of whom were believers. We explored big questions of life, like ‘Does God really exist?’, the problem of evil and suffering, and other religious worldviews. Isaac grew adept at listening and then answering such questions with wisdom, and there were clear opportunities to present the Gospel as well. This outreach group gave Isaac an opportunity to watch and learn how to do pioneering outreach in a cross-cultural setting.

Within a year as an intern, I encouraged Isaac to find his own avenues for mission. With our Thai partner church, he launched and led an English Club to teach and practice conversational English and play games on a Friday night. He began to intentionally reach out to try and disciple a few young guys, including two Pakistani asylum-seekers who were part of our community. We continued praying for people that he was building relationships through playing football and other social activities (including a young migrant worker and his family, and another young Thai man).

Isaac continues to actively disciple young people. God has opened a door of discipling opportunity for him in a Christian student hostel for university students, 80% of whom are Buddhist.

Today, Isaac is the Global Coordinator of the NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP) through which he hopes NAMS can raise up other disciple-making leaders for our global three-fold work.

We can see that Isaac is a gifted leader God has given us for global mission. We thank God for bringing him to us, and for the role he gave us in preparing him for his ministry to the Kingdom.

 

Raising Disciple-Making leaders – A NAMS story (by Manik Corea)