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

 

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WHAT DO YOU MEASURE?

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

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

Why Do We Disobey God?

Why Do We Disobey God?

“But I do not”, you might be saying. But I dare to challenge you.

As I write, Cynthia and I are just settling in to a small farmhouse in the Brittany peninsula of France. We have come for two months to help Matt & Katie Riley with their new work church planting in Pontivy. I will be directly working with Matt, and Cynthia will be painting – of course. We will also have a most needed and wonderful respite from the pace of life in the USA. Already, after only two days in France we are slowing down. There is a sublime quiet here, near the little town of Bannalec, which is intoxicating to us. We are anticipating daily times of silence with the Lord, regular bible study, regular sabbath, and the rhythm of occasional retreat. By God’s grace we hope to reclaim this pattern so we can reintroduce it to our life in the States. In the last year it has slipped away from us a bit.

I have often pondered the Sabbath command, and wondered at its beauty. From sundown on Friday till sundown on Saturday. Twenty-four hours with no work. And then, the evening of Saturday and another night’s rest. If we stopped work at 6:00 pm on Friday we would have 36 straight hours of rest and time with the Lord. If we subtract sleeping hours, 20 hours of undistracted time for God, our family, and our community of faith, as well as our own physical rest. How many of us are setting that much time apart in any given week? Why is it so easy for us to break the Sabbath? Is it different than the other nine commandments?

The early church clearly believed that the Sabbath command could now be moved to Sunday, because of the Resurrection. In the centuries of faith, the Christian community honored the Lord of the Sabbath with serious purpose and obedience. When and how did we decide that we were exempt in the 21st century? Is it alright to murder? To steal? To commit adultery? God forbid!

As an ordained clergyman, I know how easily the work of the church can become a seven-day tyranny. It ought not to be so. If we model breaking the commands of God, why should our people be any different?

The Sabbath was also to be given to those who labored for the People of God. All were to observe the day. Have you ever felt a twinge of guilt going out to eat after services on Sunday, and seeing all those who must work on the Lord’s Day so you can be served?

Might it be time for all of us to reconsider how we came to be caught up in a 24/7 cycle of life and work? How we have allowed the cares and concerns of this world to choke out of us time needed for the fruit bearing call of Jesus to be deeply planted in our hearts and lives?

Are we disobeying God?

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

Why Do We Disobey God?

NAMS Novena 2017 Report – ‘If you say go…’

It was the launch of a new chapter for NAMS; a glorious deepening of bonds between global companions old, new and unfamiliar; a new exciting phase in the global work that God has called us to; a time that will live long in our memories….

NAMS Novena

There are many ways we can describe the NAMS Novena that took place from 19-26 April 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. What is certain was that it was a significant moment in our collective history, marked by laughter, joy and anointed times of worship, sharing, testimony and fellowship around tables and the Table of the Lord.

We were active participants, along with the congregation that met at Khlong Toey Church on 21st April evening, to the passing of the baton from founder/Servant General Jon Shuler to Manik Corea, the new NAMS Global Executive, and his team.

With one voice, 25 Companions and Spousal Companions, including 2 serving bishops, committed as to live and hold each other accountable to the NAMS Rule and Order, to work to fulfill Jesus’ final command (Matthew 28:19-20) by making disciples who make disciples, raising disciple-making leaders and planting disciple-making churches.

The retreat on the weekend of 22nd April, attended by 28 of us, was an exciting time of clarifying and agreeing to a revised Rule and Order, which outlines the principles governing our global order and their practical outworking around the world. We also had wonderful times of prayer, worship and fellowship over delicious Thai food. We were blessed by the serenity and beauty of the Garden of Gospel Peace, run by Franciscan Friars who looked after us with great care. Surrounded as we were by idyllic rice fields and fish ponds, we felt the sure presence of God’s Spirit calling us to venture further on to greater exploits, working with His faithful Church, till the earth is covered with the knowledge of the glory of God (Habakkuk 2:14) .

All in all, 13 different nations represented by NAMS companions, spousal companions, 3 bishops, aspirants and friends as far afield as Chile, Congo DRC, Egypt, India, Taiwan and England were present. A number of our other companions and spousal companions were not able to be there and we dearly felt their absence. Still we look forward to the next one in 4 years or so.

We were grateful most of all for the prayers of our Global Prayer/Intercessory Team led by Mary Garisson-Ruiz, and by many of you reading this who thought and prayed for us during those days. We certainly felt their and your prayers.

If there was one song that captured the thrust of the Novena, it was the song ‘If you say go’ – taught to us by our worship leaders – companion Pete Matthews and our new NAMS friend, Susheel John (Manik’s cousin from Singapore). There words are an apt summary of what we pray God will help us do following this Novena:

‘If You say go, we will go.
If You say wait, we will wait.
If You say step out on the water,
And they say it can’t be done;

NAMS Novena sessions

NAMS Novena 2017 Report – ‘If you say go…’

NAMS Novena 2017

As many of you will be aware, from April 19th – April 26th 2017, we will be having a global gathering of NAMS companions, spousal companions, aspirants and bishop advocates in Bangkok, Thailand.

As you read this, about 32 companions and guests, including 3 serving Anglican bishops, are in or on their way to Bangkok. They will be coming from countries as far afield as Chile, USA, South Africa, Egypt, UAE, India and Singapore.

Since it’s founding in 1994 as the North American Missionary Society, NAMS has grown under God’s gracious hand, to become a global missionary community of global pioneering church planters and disciple-makers.

We are a band of brothers (and sisters), accountable to each other under the word of God and working to extend God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. We are called to work in unity with God’s global and faithful Church and to help her be obedient to Jesus’ final command (Matthew 29:19).

The Novena is a once-every-4-year gathering. We will be missing quite a few other companions and supporters who cannot make it for one reason or another. Still, we expect this to be a significant moment in the history of NAMS as a missionary order in this Novena. (Note: ‘novena’ is simply the Latin word for the number 9, and we want the 9 days we spend together, including a day for travel, to be time well spent praying together, worshiping, sharing, encouraging and strategizing for the next season of our work).

During this Novena, we will also be having a special Commissioning service where NAMS Companions will commit under God to a common rule and a common work, globally dispersed.

Our acting Global Executive Officer (GEO) Revd. Manik Corea, will also officially be commissioned into the role of leading the day-to-day running of our work under our overall leader and Servant General, Canon Revd. Dr. Jon Shuler.

The general outline of the event will look like this:

Wednesday 19th April evening Arrive in Bangkok for dinner at SCC Guest House
Thursday 20th April

All- day

NAMS Open Day @ Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) Building: including worship and testimonies.
Friday 21st April Evening – Service of Commissioning of NAMS Global Executive and all new Companions (Khlong Toey Church, Bangkok).
Saturday 22nd April – Sunday 23rd April NAMS Companions/Spousal Companions/Bishop Advocates Retreat at Fransciscan Foundation of Thailand
Monday 24th April After breakfast, morning departure from retreat to onward journeys.

NAMS Global Executive Team NAMS Servant General. NAMS Board meets in the evening.

Wednesday 26th April Remaining executive team and companions depart Bangkok

We so covet your prayers for us during this time. If you would like to be an intercessor for us during the Novena, please will you send an e-mail to our NAMS Global Prayer Co-ordinator Mary at: maryalicegarrison@gmail.com

Thank you for your continued support.

 

NAMS Novena 2017