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)

Disciples who make disciples – a NAMS story

“Do you ever meet with guys to talk about God?”

The question was joy to this disciple-maker’s heart. “Of course I do. When can we meet?”

I began to meet with two young men, Rion and Jamie, in September of 2015. We set a pattern of meeting on Tuesdays for a sack lunch, bibles in our laps, for an hour and a quarter.

I began to share with them the central things God has taught me about making disciples who make disciples. I required these things of them:

  • You spend quality time in the Word of God every day.
  • You memorize twelve scripture passages.*
  • You meet with me every week for six months.
  • We re-evaluate at the end of that time.

We always started and ended with prayer—usually me to start and one of them to end. We discussed whatever had come up in the preceding week, relating it always to Scripture (with particular focus on Jesus’ teaching about discipleship). Are you abiding in the word of Jesus?

After six months, they wanted to continue. I invited them to a men’s retreat focused on disciple-making, and they came. After a year I challenged them to begin to multiply. They formed a small men’s group, with unbelievers and believers. They began to re-evaluate their other commitments and use of time. They are becoming fruitful.

We continue to meet most Tuesdays. They have both grown in their walk with the Lord. Rion is now Senior Warden of his parish, and Jamie oversees the Youth Ministry in his parish. Both have interiorized the principles of being disciple-making men. Both are seriously engaging with other men about being disciple-making men. Both are re-prioritizing their use of time, seeking God’s will for them in a new way.

As we have grown together as disciple-making friends they have also come to understand NAMS’ ministry to the nations, and to pray with and for us. They are learning about their part in Jesus’ Final Command. Finally, both of them have become familiar with the NAMS Centurion Project, and have signed up as Centurions.

This is an example of elementary disciple-making, as I have learned to live it.

* Matthew 4:19, 6:33, 28:19; Luke 14:26,27,33; John 8:31-32, 13:34-35, 15:7-8

— Rev. Jon C. Shuler
NAMS Servant General

Disciples who make disciples – a NAMS story

Church Planting in France

Those true Christians who have ever traveled in Europe will know that the evidence of past Christian faith is everywhere. Place names, existing buildings, and ruins—once symbolic of a lived faith, and used in direct support of that faith—are scattered all over the continent, but the living communities that built and named them are gone.

Here in France, about 1% of the population will attend a Christian service this Sunday, and only God know what percentage of that small number are truly his. To rekindle the faith in this land is a daunting challenge.

To this challenge, Matt & Katie Riley have given themselves. They are living, and raising their four children, in one of the most difficult places on the face of the earth to be boldly follow and serve Christ Jesus. Why?

The short answer is simple: they believe God has called them to do it. They would serve him wherever they lived, but they believe their Lord wants and needs them in France. He has work there for them to walk in. After nearly six years, they are well integrated into French life, are very fluent in the language, and have just taken possession of a new home in their assigned village. How do they do their work?

First, they build relationships with their neighbors. They are constantly open to the possibility that the next person may be a “person of peace.” They are building webs of relational connectivity – at the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store, and on the playground.

Second, they make opportunities to break bread with those they meet. Tomorrow night there is a concert in the square behind their home, and they are cooking out with a few of their newest acquaintances. They are trying to honestly and lovingly get to know them as people.

Third, they have established a simple entry path for those interested in exploring the Christian faith. They call it Discovery Bible Study. What does the bible really teach about God, about human beings, about the purpose and meaning of life? No one has to believe to participate, but the prayer of the Rileys is that—in time—some will.

Fourth, Katie has specifically begun to meet with other young mothers, to share the joys and challenges of motherhood. She is the gospel leaven in the lump.

To this date Matt has not begun regular public Sunday worship in Pontivy. That will be added when the time is right. But there is daily prayer that the kingdom will come in Pontivy, as it is in heaven.

Will you join them as intercessors for the arrival of that glorious day?

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

 

Church Planting in France

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

This is part 5 of a series on basic habits every disciple must be taught to live and practice, based on the Acronym PROMISE. Last week, we looked at the ‘M’ which stands for Meet with one another. Today, we will consider the ‘I’ which stands for Invest or giving to the work of the Kingdom.

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendor, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you,
and of your own do we give you.”

This wonderful prayer was said in the Anglican church of my childhood Sunday after Sunday, when the offering was brought to the Lord’s Table. It echoes words by King David in 1 Chronicles 29:14 and was a constant reminder that we give back to God what is rightfully His in the first place!

Martin Luther said, ‘every Christian needs a conversion of the head, of the heart and of the wallet!’ The new disciple in Jesus must soon adopt a new attitude in Christ towards the things we have, own or want. From this, the practice of the giving of our money, resource and time to God must be taught not merely as a matter of duty or due.

Giving is always seen in Scripture as a joyful act of worship where we get to participate in the life and service of God and his mission in the world. Indeed, we are called not just to give from our leftovers, but of our first-fruits, to God.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were taught by Moses to give a tenth of everything they owned back to God, because it belonged to Him (see Leviticus 27:30). That tithe was to be in support of the ministry to the Levites who served in the temple (Numbers 18:21) and for the poor, the sojourner, orphans and widows among them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

When we come to the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the Apostles gave any command with regards to the tithe.

However, some Christians, including the leaders of NAMS, believe that the 10% tithe of our income (and offerings on top of that) should be the minimum amount we give to the Lord. This we seek to both model and teach to others. It is not a law we are duty-bound to follow but a call to establish healthy habits and standards of giving.

In fact, when we become disciples of Jesus, we gain a new perspective towards money. Jesus certainly challenged us to a new Kingdom-minded attitude towards our possessions and wealth. About 60% of his parables dealt with questions of possessions and money and our attitude towards it.

He often warned and challenged individuals to be wary of the hold of material possessions and money. In Luke 16:13, he said: “you cannot serve both God and money.” In Luke 12:15 (NLT), he warned: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

He watched a rich, young ruler walk away from discipleship because of his slavery to his wealth (Matthew 19:16-30, though note that Jesus was not saying it was ‘impossible’ for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, but that it was hard. Many are blessed with riches who, seeking God’s kingdom first, have used their wealth for godly ends).

Perhaps the most important Apostolic teaching on giving towards the work of the kingdom and our local churches can be found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In his earlier letter in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs Christians to set aside money on the first day of the week, according to how much they had or prospered, and to collect it together ready for Paul to take to needy believers in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Note that in this context of raising funds to support of other Christians, he taught that their giving should be

1) regular – on the first day of every week (or in today’s context when you get your salary),

2) church-wide – each of them and so all of them were called to it,

3) planned – the money needed to be set aside, and

4) proportionate – according to what you earn.

At the end of the day, it is our attitude in giving that matters to God – how we give than how much we give (Luke 21:1-4).

But we are called, and so we must teach all, to give regularly as a holy habit, out of joy and in faith. ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

Global Stories: A Fugitive No More – Shaun’s story

‘I have to leave. Please look after my family.’ Tears rolled down his face as Shaun* told me his decision to run away. Agents from his country were after him. They had twice tried to kidnap him.

As a refugee in Bangkok, Thailand, Shaun was ostensibly under the protection of the United Nations, but they could afford him little help. So he turned to us for help – to All Nations, the NAMS base in Bangkok that he was a part of. He entrusted the well-being of his family to the only community he could trust.

Persecuted because he belonged to a minority people group in a country where a bloody civil war had raged, Shaun once spent 21 months in jail where he was regularly interrogated in what was tantamount to torture. Though the courts cleared him of any wrongdoing and he was finally released, he faced continued harassments and threats. In 2011, he escaped to Bangkok with his family.

He had become a believer in prison through reading a Bible his father had given to him. Shaun subsequently joined us and became a key leader working among asylum seekers and refugees from his nation, seeking to help them become disciples of Jesus, as he had.

But now, the threat of forced repatriation to his country had put all of this in jeopardy. We wondered how his family would cope if he left them, and so we pleaded with him to re-consider while looking desperately for another way out for them. But a week later, Shaun was gone.

I would hear from him sporadically through short e-mails and even once through a Skype call with him from an internet café in an unknown city. We prayed desperately and provided as best we could for his terrified family over seemingly endless months.

Finally, in 2016, after a long journey involving cross-continental travel and people smuggling, I heard afresh from him. By God’s grace, Shaun had been received as a bona fide refugee into a country in Europe.

With the help of All Nations, his family was soon accepted by the same country and reunited with him, where they are now happily settled and thriving. I keep in touch with him and have been encouraging him to continue on as a disciple of Jesus to do all he learned from us.

This is the on-going work of all base communities, companions, and frankly, faithful Christians everywhere. To seek to bless, help and support those in and outside our communities who are lost, hopeless and helpless without our Saviour and Lord Jesus, so that the Kingdom of God may come in their lives. Through it all, we seek to make disciples made who can likewise make disciples themselves, as Shaun is doing.

* Shaun is not his real name.

Shaun - fugutive no more
Shaun (extreme right – face obscured) with NAMS Companions Manik Corea and Isaac Lasky in Bangkok in 2013.

Global Stories: A Fugitive No More – Shaun’s story

Developing Holy Habits – Meet (Part 4)

From the moment of regeneration into a newborn babe in Christ, the new disciple of Jesus needs to be helped to grow up to be dependent on Christ. In this series of blogs, I discuss the use of the acronym ‘PROMISE’ to denote and describe seven basic Christian disciplines that must become part of the on-going nurture, discipline and life-style of disciples. Today we are reflecting on ‘M’: the necessity of ‘meeting’ with other believers.[i]

‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ (Genesis 2:18). This was the first instance in the creation narrative that God said his creation was in any sense lacking. As Jon Bloom[ii] argues well, it was not just that Adam being alone was not good for him, it was in some, not good for God either. God knew Adam needed human companions to fully enjoy all the glory of God, and He was after not one but many companions who would live for and before Him. ‘One human would not enjoy God as much as many humans together.’[iii]

Therefore, when God intervened into the life of an Aramean from Ur of the Chaldeans and called him to become a pilgrim to a land God would show him, Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations. God started with one man who obeyed, so that he could ultimately have one people in worship (Genesis 12:1-3, Revelation 7:9). God was looking for a people for his own possession, a holy and peculiar nation manifold in language and culture but joined as one around His praise and purpose. From many, we become one through God’s Spirit in the perfect image of His Son, our Lord Jesus.

In this light, discipleship is the process of learning to be one in the midst of many by mirroring and seeking the unity in diversity of the Triune God we serve (John 17:21).

We who are born again are born into the family of God. We are related to one another even as we relate first and foremost to Christ. The Scripture never allows us to privatize our faith to the total exclusion of others. Therefore, meeting with one another must become part of the culture of discipleship.

From the moment a disciple repents of his/her sin and turns in faith to Christ, at least one other disciple must begin to regularly and intentionally help them hear, understand and obey—first the basic, then the full teachings of Christ.

We in NAMS have found that the process of discipleship begins when just two or three people meet regularly together to pray and read the Scriptures; with the intention and commitment to obey God’s word and bring others to know Him as well.

At the same time, discipleship is larger than the disciple-disciplee relationship or small group. We are part of a bigger church, indeed a world-wide Church, and so meeting with other believers in a larger setting must also be a priority, usually once a week on a Sunday.

Therefore, the early church consisted both of meeting together in small settings (i.e. homes) and in larger settings (i.e. public spaces) (Acts 2:46, Acts 20:20). Whether small or large, disciples constitute the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and the people of God. Though we are many, we are one body and we belong together (Romans 12:4-5).

Therefore the meeting together of the saints is not to be neglected, as the writer to the Hebrews extorts in 10:25. We learn, love, and grow best in community within the family of faith. Max Lucado[iv] waxes lyrical about this:

“Questions can make hermits out of us, driving us into hiding. Yet the cave has no answers. Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks.”

I need you as you need me, and together in our meeting, there Jesus will be.

 

[i] In previous weeks, we have looked at Prayer, Read and Obey.

[ii] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-we-shouldn-t-neglect-to-meet-together

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear (Thomas Nelson, 2009), p. 144

Developing Holy Habits – Meet (Part 4)

Last Thoughts: If I was starting over again.

I became deeply aware of the call to become a disciple-making man years after I was converted. That “second call” occurred on February 1st, 1988, and I have been trying to learn to walk in this disciple-making path since that day. When I first surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus in 1968 it was with the intention of never turning back, but there was so much I did not know. What do I wish that someone could have helped me to understand?

First and foremost, I wish that someone would have helped me understand the difference between participating in the ecclesia of God and in the organized Church. By that I mean the difference between sharing my life with those who imply they are the Lord’s by their participation in the institutional forms of church life, and those in whom the Spirit of Jesus is truly living and reigning. All the joy of my walk has come from my fellowship with the latter group of men and women. The ecclesia of God is not invisible.

The second thing I wish is that someone would have helped me focus day by day on the truth that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures alone. Somehow, largely unconsciously, I became convinced that I had to read other books, study other peoples’ ideas about the scriptures, and implement someone else’s idea about how to live the life of Christ Jesus. It is embarrassing to admit how many years I tried to follow Jesus without giving his written word priority in my daily life. Even more, how far from an intimate walk with him I was in those days—even after I began to read the Holy Scriptures day by day. I was focused on reading them, not meeting the Lord Jesus as I read. A true discipling friend would have spotted that. It is possible to be very religious and not a disciple of Jesus.

The third thing I wish is that someone would have helped me understand the nature of a truly Christian marriage. All the examples in my life suggested that the work of serving the organized Church took priority over the responsibility I had—given by the Lord!—of caring for and discipling my wife, and my children when they came along. The implicit message I had received was, “the ordained ministry of the Church comes first, the family comes second.” I now know what a damnable lie that is, but for many years I did not. The institutional Church, as I experienced it, brooked no rivals. It did not teach me that my marriage and family were central to my ministry rather than an afterthought. I believed I had a ministry and a marriage, but my marriage was in truth part of my divine calling to ministry.

My fourth desire would be that someone would have come alongside me when our children were young enough to still be shaped in the ways of the Lord. Someone who could have lovingly helped us see that our children were being discipled by the culture more than by their parents and faith community.

When I look at my own list of things I wish I had known sooner, one thing stands out above all else. I wish I had known a disciple-making elder when I was younger. I knew true believers, but I did not know a discipling Christian.

Till the day I die, this is what I want to help other believers to be: Disciple-makers.

Last Thoughts: If I was starting over again.