The Holy Spirit and Missions: God’s Work or Ours?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”
(Acts 1: 8 NIV)

Several years ago, I assisted author and missionary Paul Hoff to translate some writings about on the most significant movements in church history. In researching those movements, I discovered the nature of genuine visitations of the Holy Spirit that have led to true awakenings or revivals. I found that the following characteristics are always present in such movements, and that none of them can be considered in isolation from the others:

Prayer – A church in which the Spirit of God is active always awakens to genuine prayer. It begins to feel the need for constant intimacy with God, even as it strives to align itself with the plans and purposes of its Lord. Accordingly, such a church intercedes passionately for a world that is lost and for new workers to join them in the cause. Prayer, both individual and collective, leads to a permanent habit of worship and praise, with clear results and changes in their lives.

The Word of God – The Holy Spirit, whenever He visits His church – the people of God, with power, will kindle a fire in their hearts, leading them to love the Word of God more – to meditate on it, to submit to it and to continually delve into the Scriptures for more. The Word of God is not ambiguous, and God’s people will learn to look to it for daily guidance, so that they can join the work that God Himself is already accomplishing in their midst and in the world at large.

Social action – A church that is moved by the Holy Spirit will not be complacent about the prevailing social conditions around it. It will empathize and respond to human needs out of mercy and love. Such an action will be an expression of God’s love within and through the church itself. It will involve seeking to transform society for good and to work for the justice that God wants to see established among all people.

Evangelism – When the Spirit of God visits a human community, He sees and is moved by the lost. He seeks the hearts of those who genuinely seek Him. Consequently, God’s children will be motivated by Him to share the good news of His love to those who would be lost forever without the Gospel. The believer’s passion for sharing the Good News dynamically comes alive. Everyone who comes to into their new identity as heirs of the love and mercy of our Father in Heaven is called to invite others in.

Mission – As soon as the Holy Spirit begins to move within a community, its impact will not be contained within the confines of the church or even its own community. It will start to transcend all and any barrier – geographic, social, cultural and economic. The church cannot help but send her members out to fulfill the Final Command (Matthew 28:19-20), as instructed by Jesus. They do this because they know that the Spirit Himself prays and intercedes through them, that the Presence of the Son compels them every day and to the ends of the earth, and that their obedience is pleasing to God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.

In the history of the Christian Church, every time a group of God’s children, somewhere in the world, has received a special visitation of the Holy Spirit, the effect has been strong and clear, bringing change within the church and beyond, starting with growth in the church itself.

A case in point is the Lun Bawang people of East Malaysia. They were originally head-hunters in Bornea. When such activity was banned under James Brook and British rule in the 19th Century, the Lun Bawang turn to alcohol en-mass. It was said that people of all ages in their villages were under the influence of drink at least 100 days in a year. The colonial authorities refused missionaries permission to work with them, hoping that the tribe would die out. But eventually, through missionaries from Australia, the Gospel was shared and social transformation took place through prayer and perseverance.

Today, the Lun Bawang peoples are key pillars in the Bornea Evangelical Church, the largest Protestant Church in Malaysia. Many of them are contributing to society through influential positions in business, government and the arts. The Holy Spirit brought once more, total social transformation. [1]

We can say without reservation that the Holy Spirit brought about these changes, and but also that the saints of God were used as the mediating instruments of God’s grace.

— By Revd Andres Casanueva,
Regional Team Leader NAMS Latin America

 

 

[1] Shirley Lees, Drunk Before Dawn (Sevenoaks, Kent: OMF, 1979).

 

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The Holy Spirit and Missions: God’s Work or Ours?

‘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)

WHAT DO YOU MEASURE?

I was taught many years ago that we measure what we value. What do you measure?

Shortly after I was made Rector (Senior Pastor) of a large American congregation years ago, the senior lay leader came by my office on a Tuesday morning. He asked me what the attendance was on Sunday and I did not know. He was shocked, and asked what I did measure from the weekend. I had measured nothing, but was basking in the memory of what seemed to me a wonderful morning of worship and teaching. He was not pleased, and told me that if he was the senior leader he would want the staff to place on his desk on Monday morning three numbers: How many people attended; How much money was placed in the offering; and how many visitors were present? From that week, we measured all three.

The congregation grew during all the years I was the leader, and I came in time to believe part of the reason for our growth was that we measured what was happening. When attendance fell we asked why? And made adjustments if we could discern a reason. Similarly when giving was down we asked the same questions. So also with those who were coming to visit for the first time, so we could follow up quickly and invite them to return.

What do you measure?

After being a senior leader in that congregation for some years, I decided on a new set of measurements to add to the first three. I began to ask how many people were participating in a small intentional discipling group? I began to also track those learning to lead such groups, and especially tried to find a way to measure those who were actively discipling other people to be followers of Jesus. And we began to also measure the number of congregants that were actively bringing others into the life of the church. These measurements helped us to pay close attention to what our Lord Jesus clearly expects of the community of faith. Who is coming to faith? Who is being discipled? Who is stepping up to the leadership tasks that ensure that “names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20)? How many are learning to “catch men” (Luke 5:10)?

What do you measure?

Near the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry he told his closest disciples that he expected them to bear much fruit (John 15:8). He was not talking about their interior character, but about those men and women who were being added to the kingdom of God because they were cooperating with the Shepherd who yearns for his lost ones to come home. A good shepherd keeps track of his sheep. A leader in the church of the Lord should measure what matters to the Lord of the church.

What do you measure?

 

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

 

WHAT DO YOU MEASURE?

‘Follow Me’ (By Manik Corea)

It was my first time in Paris. Emerging from a railway station, I struggled to find my bearings with a map. A Frenchman offered to help me get where I needed to go. Unfortunately, I spoke no French—nor he any English. So, we communicated by sign and he gestured in grunts and hand signs where I needed to go. I tried to follow his instructions, but got lost a couple of times further along the way.

This contrasted with my first time in Chicago, where a stranger offered not only to help me find my way to a particular Metro station, but to accompany me on the journey. His ‘follow me’ was much preferable to simply being pointed in the right direction.

Discipleship is first and foremost an invitation to journey with and after Jesus.

Where you get to and what you become in life depends fundamentally on who you’re following and which road you take. Jesus once described life starkly in terms of two roads, one broad that leads many to destruction, and one narrow – on which only a few find life.

We must trust Jesus through His Holy Spirit to be our surest guide on the narrow way to God the Father, because in Jesus, God has come to us. He knows the way because He is the way. It is no accident that the earliest followers of the Christian faith were known as followers of ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2; 11:26; 22:4).

It is no surprise then that the first and most common phrase Jesus used on prospective disciples was simply ‘Follow me.’[i] It is not clear in the original Greek whether this is a command or a request – perhaps both. But the implications in many of the contexts where Jesus used the phrase is clear – he was calling with some intended force and expectation that those he called would give him their unqualified attention and an obedient response.

It was a call first and foremost to himself.

On the other hand, the Jewish rabbis and the Greek philosophers of His day expected disciples to commit themselves to a specific philosophy or a definite cause – i.e. to their teaching rather than the teacher. The call of Jesus was wholly personal – his disciples were to follow him, to be with him, and to commit themselves wholeheartedly to him.

Likewise, we as disciples are called to make Him the singular focus of our lives; to a way of life that is entirely in keeping with His character, saving work, and kingly reign. We are called to an all-consuming love for Him. In that sense, Christian discipleship is predicated on the claim of total devotion by Christ.

‘Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.’ (Matthew 10:38; cf Luke 14:27, Matthew 16:24-28; John 10:27; 12:25-26).

In fact, he can brook neither rivals nor competition, nor accept even reasonable requests for deference or delay (Matthew 19:21-22, Luke 9:57-62).

Discipleship is the all-life response we are called to make to God’s gracious free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus. This demand, as John Stott said, is as total as the offer is free.

We either follow Him with our all, or we are not following him at all.

Are you truly following Him today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] See for example Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 19:21; John 1:43; 1:44; 21:19; 21:22.

‘Follow Me’ (By Manik Corea)

The Church – in Unity and Mission (By Manik Corea)

The picture that first comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘church’ reveals a great deal. If you thought of anything other than people, you were being decidedly un-biblical. The Church is not a place we go to, but a people we are.

‘Church’ in the New Testament always means the people of God. It refers to the assembly of ordinary people blessed and made holy in Christ. It refers to everyone who belongs to and participates as a disciple of Jesus in the life and mission of a local community of faith where Jesus is obeyed and God is glorified. At the same time, it includes all Christians everywhere in the world, at once both local and global.

NAMS as a missionary order of Christians seeks, as our Rule (point 7) states, ‘to work with, and be in unity with, the faithful church throughout the world,’ that is, the ‘church that submits to Christ.’ We see ourselves as relating, through the Anglican family of churches, to the ‘one holy catholic and apostolic church.’ What does this mean and why is this important?

The Apostles, taking after Jesus, taught the earliest Christians the oneness and unity of the Church existing in the local as well as catholic (i.e. universal) Church.[1]

They taught that each Christian was part of a much larger community, that the body of Christ they had been baptised into was established everywhere after the same pattern of faith and practice delivered once-for-all by the Apostles (see for example 1 Corinthians 4:17; 11:2,16; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Jude 3).

The historic Nicene Creed expresses the biblical belief that there exists only ‘one holy catholic and apostolic church’ — a Church that is indivisible, sanctified and universal, founded after the teachings and tradition of the Apostles.

Through the ages, the centrality of the Gospel and Kingdom rule of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God the Father’s perfect will in the Scriptures (both Old and New) and the sustaining, purifying and guiding work of the Holy Spirit have been the common ground and centripetal forces of unity amongst many diverse parts and places of the Church.

Such a unity, a ‘unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,’ as Paul highlights in his letter to the Ephesians (4:3), is to be kept and pursued. We all are part of one body of Christ, we have all received one Holy Spirit, and we are all called to one common hope. We have only one Lord we obey, one saving faith to live by, and one baptism we have received (4:4-6).

On the other hand, one cannot truly love others while denying truth. Truth determines the tenor and common ground of our unity. Christian leaders must discipline false teaching and immorality within their churches, and distinguish themselves and their churches from those who have gone astray and are no longer faithful to Gospel truth.

We live in perilous times, when hostility towards and persecution of Christians, even in the once-Christian West, is on the rise. Even as the contagions of heresy, immorality, compromise, and open ridicule assault the faithful church in our world today, we cannot afford to neglect or abandon the mission to which God has called all His church: to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first, and to make disciples-making disciple by planting disciple-making churches.

This is our work – but it is also the work of all who belong to, pray, and work for the vitality and health of the ‘one, holy catholic and apostolic church.’ Since such a Church must of necessity follow in the Apostolic footsteps of those original ‘sent-out’ ones, we are sent too into a world lost and hopeless without Jesus and His Gospel.

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:12-14;Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:4; Colossians 1:18, 3:11; 1 Peter 2:5.

The Church – in Unity and Mission (By Manik Corea)

Planting Disciple-Making Churches

Cynthia and I set out to plant a new church in Charlotte, North Carolina, by faith. We asked for the Rector of All Saints, Pawleys Island, South Carolina to pray for us and commission us as we left. It was August 6th, 2000.

We believed God had guided us to Charlotte and this work, but we knew almost no one there. We planned that I would continue to lead NAMS from Charlotte, but church planting would be my “tent-making” job.

I had been teaching others about church planting for six years with NAMS. I had planted a church in 1980, and I imagined that I knew what to do. I soon found that the culture of my country had changed dramatically in those twenty years, and I had to learn many new lessons in the large growing city of Charlotte. We prayed much and did the best with what we knew.

What we did know was the power of God and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We knew we had to trust God and live the Scriptures. We believed the NAMS vision for new church planting in North America was from God. We trusted the Holy Spirit to lead us.

On the very day we were sent out, God introduced us to two couples, who were visiting All Saints from Charlotte, who said they wanted to help. One of them gave us a key to their guest room over the garage, and that was our first “home.” Those two couples were foundational to all that came after. They were our first “households of peace.”

Cynthia and I prayed and read the scriptures together every morning, and I went out to meet strangers every day. That prayer time undergirded everything. It was the primary cell. We called the church King of Kings. I told everyone I met we were starting a new church and invited them to join us. I built an email list. I set in motion a ten-week training time for rising leaders on Saturday mornings. I shared the NAMS Vision for planting a new Great Commission Church. When the ten weeks ended, we found a place to meet for worship and began to hold Sunday afternoon services. There were thirteen of us on the first Sunday.

For the next few months I followed up on every new relationship that beckoned, and started a number of small house groups. A seminary student agreed to be a Church Planting Intern, and joined us with his family. We grew to about fifty-two people, when we encouraged the formation of a second church and seventeen people left to plant in another town, with the intern providing their leadership. For the following year we only added one new member. It was a time of testing for us.

With financial assistance of the AMiA we were able to hire a Youth Worker in our third year, and later a tent-making family moved from Florida to help us. We equipped our volunteers to serve wherever possible, and an old friend living in Charlotte agreed to be our worship leader. Another seminarian became a part-time member of the leadership team. We met in three different locations before settling at the local YMCA. That location helped us grow, as did moving our service to Sunday morning.

I established an early version of the NAMS Church Planting Pyramid as the structural framework of the new church: every member in a small disciple-making cell, all leaders growing as part of a leadership community, and Sunday worship. We began a weekly prayer meeting.

For the first two and one-half years, most of my support came through my work with NAMS. But, by the fourth year the church was providing about 80% of my support.

We helped cast vision for many new churches, and were able to help thirteen congregations to begin. By the end of our sixth year we were averaging about one hundred and fifty people at our Sunday Eucharist. It was a wonderful season of ministry, by the Grace of God. It showed us that one congregation, even a small one, with visionary leadership and biblical passion, could start a movement of church planting. It proved to us, again, that God provides for what he calls for.

In February of 2007 we were called away, and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. God had a new assignment for us. Leaving was hard, but God took King of Kings forward as they trusted Jesus. He was, and remains, the leader they needed.

— Rev. Jon C. Shuler
NAMS Servant General

Planting Disciple-Making Churches