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?

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)

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)

Coming to Christ (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

From time to time we wrestle with the question, how to people come to Christ? Every disciple and preacher asks this question. My Grandpa preached on this topic in 1966. He addressed it from the grace of and drawing power of God. When you are regularly sharing or preaching the gospel you tend to want people to come to Christ more than they do.  Your heart aches for them.

This desire can cause you to question the person yourself or even God. Why don’t they get it? Was I not clear enough? Argh! Has that happened to you? It will if you are engaged in regular gospel conversations. When it does happen, I turn to the Scriptures and talk to Jesus. In John 3, a man named Nicodemus inquires of Jesus. He is being stirred by the things he has seen and the teachings that he has heard.

Jesus tells him that you are not going to get this unless you are born again. Unless the Spirit does a work in you, belief is impossible. When you hear the gospel and the spirit turns the light on in you then belief happens. It is the mystery of faith. Jesus speaks of this again in John 6, as the drawing power of God.

A difficult saying, no man may come to me unless the Father draws him. God prepares the heart to receive the truth. He also prepares the meeting. For Satan tries to veil our spiritual eyes from this truth. God clears the way. Often the Holy Spirit uses us like John the Baptist, by preparing the way for Jesus’ coming into someone’s life. The message itself is perfect in converting the soul says the psalmist. (19:7) Paul reiterates that the law acts as a tutor to bring us to Christ. (Gal.3:24)

The gospel addresses the reality of our need of a savior. Jesus states in the the sermon on the mount that we are blessed when our spirit is brought low and we mourn over our sin. (Mat.5:3-4) We are called Blessed because our hearts are now prepared to receive. We have only to turn and put our trust in him for what he has done on our behalf. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are His forever.

When you share your faith and become frustrated talk to God about it. Read the Scriptures. Be at peace that God desires for people to come into a saving relationship with him. Then pray for those that you are sharing with. Be patient. Watch and see God do the miraculous.

Coming to Christ (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

How can you tell a true disciple of Jesus from a mere professing one? Watch what they do, not just what they say. Obedience in our lives is the ultimate proof of our love for God. Jesus said as much in John 14:15. It is at last, the action and direction of our lives that will show the depth of our love for Christ.

In John’s powerful heart-felt letter of 1st John, he gives 3 test for the genuineness of Christian faith.

The first is a ‘moral test’ (1 John 2:3-4) i.e. are we obeying what God has commanded?

The second is a ‘social test’ (1 John 2:9) i.e. are we truly loving each other?

The third is a ‘truth test’ (1 John 4:2) i.e. are we proclaiming all that the Scriptures reveal to us of Jesus and the Gospel?

Together, these tests will show in the way we talk and walk after Christ and our proclamation of the Gospel.

D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was once accosted on a Chicago street by a drunk who exclaimed, “Aren’t you Mr. Moody? Why, I’m one of your converts.” Said Moody in reply, “That must be true, for you definitely aren’t one of God’s converts!” If you are truly saved, it will show. Not only will you receive forgiveness, but you will live differently.

And it will take commitment and determination on our part to keep in step with Him.

In 1 John 2:5, John says that if we keep God’s word, God’s love is perfected in him. The word ‘keep’ is the Greek word ‘tēreō’. It was used of guards standing watch at their post, shepherds watching over their sheep and bankers watching over their money. It means to keep a careful watch.

This is no casual obedience – but a watchful care given to make sure we stay true to the words and will of God in our lives.

John goes on in the next verse to say, ‘…whoever says he abides in him (Jesus) ought to walk in the same way Jesus walked.’ We must follow in his footsteps!

Paul often used the same metaphor of ‘walking’ for the Christian life (see Ephesians 2:10, 4:1,17, 5:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Walking is not as fast as running or as spectacular as flying, but is steady, consistent movement in one direction. It takes time to progress bit by bit to a goal. It is made up of many steps, one foot placed after another for a distance, not simply a quick dash.

So, like Jesus, we will walk constantly towards God, in ways that please God.

Jesus said in John 5:19: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

The point and goal of discipleship is that in every way, we become like our Master and Lord Jesus. As Jesus did all His Father desired, we will begin to do and live the same. John Stott argues, ‘We cannot claim to abide in Him unless we are like Him.’[1]

Disciples need to be getting somewhere with Christ. We are all a work in progress, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else yet. Therefore forgive and seek forgiveness often. But do expect progress and change.

Let there be no confusion: abiding in Christ will lead to genuine obedience in our lives – reflected in our words, works and way.

 


[1] John Stott, The Letters of John TNTC Vol 19, (IVP), pg. 97

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

A Harvest Amidst Difficulties (By Rev. Andres Casanueva)

Last year in September, just before I was due to board my flight to Cuba on a visit to the brothers there, the airline suddenly cancelled its flight. Hurricane Irma was due to hit the island. It eventually destroyed much of the island’s fragile infrastructure. The very next month, I was finally able to visit the country. It was an important visit.

At the end of 2017, we had planned to hold a NAMS Latin America-wide retreat in Chile. We invited 9 church-planters and leaders to attend from Cuba, but encountered great difficulty in securing visas for them to travel. However, once more, the Lord intervened, in answer to our prayers. Only 4 days before the Retreat, everyone was granted visas to travel!

After they begged us to come over to help them, we planned a follow-up retreat in Cuba for 2018. However, 3 times, we had to change our planned dates because of various difficulties. Finally, I traveled alone to the island in October to make a final attempt to coordinate one, which will now take take place in December of this year.

During this trip, I was able to visit our NAMS connections in Havana – and to meet many new brothers and sisters there for the first time. I also connected with the leaders we knew in Cienfuegos.

And although we still face many difficulties (lack of resources, visa requirements, lack of places to meet, etc.), we believe that with our brothers and sisters, a new pioneering community has been birthed under NAMS in Cuba for the glory of God.

All this reminds me of the longing of the apostle Paul, writing his letter to the Romans 1:13, where Paul expresses his strong desire to see them soon. Paul planned his trips, but there were difficulties that were beyond his control. And still, the work went on. And finally Paul managed to visit them and encourage them in their faith.

Twenty centuries later, we also continue to trust that the many difficulties we face will not stop the work of God, and we can be sure that our plans will be fulfilled in the perfect time. We have no doubt that the Lord will provide the visas for the 3 brothers on the NAMS team travelling from Chile, as well as every dollar that is required for transportation, lodging and food for the Cuban brothers to host us and others.

We believe this retreat will greatly strengthen the faith of our Cuban brothers and that we will receive into full communion with us, the community gathered in Ciefuegos. Please pray and partner with us in this great adventure of faith into Cuba in the midst of a great challenges.

 

Revd. Andrés Cananueva is our NAMS Regional Team Leader for Latin America. He leads our NAMS Base Community in Temuco, Chile.

A Harvest Amidst Difficulties (By Rev. Andres Casanueva)