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?

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)

‘My name shall be great among the nations’ – NAMS Global Leaders Meeting

Last week was special! 13 NAMS Regional Team Leaders, Global office holders and other Companions met in Little Rock, Arkansas for a wonderful three days of fellowship, worship, prayer and discussion from Tuesday 13 November – Thursday 15 November.

Each day, we began with a devotional teaching by NAMS Servant General Canon Jon Shuler, from the New Testament letter to the Philippians. He drew lessons from it and encouraged us to be faithful to walk in the apostolic pattern of mission and Christ-centred ministry, based around the 4-fold NAMS charge of ‘preaching Christ and Him crucified, planting churches wherever God opened doors, always obeying the Holy Spirit and never breaking God’s word.’

The first day was full of reports from our work in our 6 global regions where we have Companions. Here are a few highlights from what we heard:

  1. Pranab Kumar, our NAMS Regional Team Leader (RTL) for South Asia gave a report on the recent training for thirty would-be disciple-making ladies last month in Orissa, India. Companions Prince Thomas and his wife Gigi were present to share and train the ladies out of their experience of leading a discipling-movement in the North of India. There was also additional teaching from a friend of NAMS, Revd Takri. The women were enthused and equipped by biblical principles for reaching and making disciples of their non-believing friends and relatives, and together pledged, by God’s help, to make 2,000 disciples in the next year!
  2. RTL for the Horn of Africa Ivan Ruiz shared a report of the visit that he and his wife Mary made, with our Egyptian Companion T*, to Kenya in July. There, they were hosted by Timothy Mazimpaka, our NAMS contact and rising leader for East Africa. With Timothy, they were able to visit various linked ministries and leaders in Nairobi and Mumbasa. T*, who is involved with sport ministry in his native country, has now been invited later this month back to Kenya to train others to use sports ministry as a disciple-making tool. It was also announced that we are planning NAMS Vision meetings in Kampala, Uganda in April.
  3. In Nepal, RTL for the Himalayan/Tibetan Peoples, Tek Rijal, shared about the impact that the NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP) has had on our work in Nepal. three young Global Apprentice, all Nepali, have been initiating ministry through music, sports and small group disciple-making groups in and around Kathmandu. They are growing in faith, understanding and effectiveness. Just two weeks ago, two of them organised an event to reach and envision 300 Christian youth in the Western region of Nepal. Tek also expressed our prayerful desire to seek open doors for new work into Bhutan and the Tibetan regions.
  4. God is on the move in Latin America! NAMS RTL Andrés Casanueva spoke on the new doors that have opened up for us in Cuba – where a Cuban couple who came to faith through our NAMS Base in Chile, are now leading a small community of Christians in the capital. Also, one of the Cuban pastors and ministry leaders who attended our NAMS Latin American retreat last December and who is involved with using football (soccer) to reach thousands of young people, is preparing to go as missionaries with his family to the Dominican Republic. He is hoping NAMS will send him.

The second day of our meetings (on Wednesday) was given to planning and strategizing for our growing work.

We finished our Global Gathering on the Thursday with 2 open presentations of our work and testimonies to members from St Andrew’s Church (our gracious hosts) and others churches, where some of us shared about our growing work.

Together with His faithful Church everywhere, may Jesus be pleased to use us to bring divine transformation around the world, one disciple made at a time.

PS: We are always seeking and praying for partners and friends of NAMS who will pray, give or join us for global and Kingdom mission. Might you be one of them?

 

‘My name shall be great among the nations’ – NAMS Global Leaders Meeting

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)

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once turned up unexpectedly to one of their early meetings. He was respectfully asked if he would share a word at the meeting. So at the appropriate time, William Booth stood up on the pulpit, looked at the congregation and said, ‘others’. And then he sat down.

One word…but what a word!

The church is called to be the most other-centered organization on earth. It exists solely for the glory and praise of her God (1 Peter 2:9-10) and for the mission of reaching people of every land and people with the only Gospel that saves (Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:12). In all this, we are called to place the interests of others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).

Jesus expected us to be marked apart to the world not only by our obedience and loyalty to Him but by how we treat each other (John 13:34,35).

And this kind of other-centeredness will be reflected most in the kind of leadership Jesus modeled and ultimately calls from those who lead His church (John 13:12-17; Matthew 20:24-28). Jesus gave explicit instructions to his disciples that those who lead must be servants of all (Mark 9:35 – Incidentally, this is why the principal leader of NAMS is called the ‘Servant-General’.)

This is in such contrast to the world, which casts leadership in terms of power, influence, status and control. Biblical leadership is not about getting on top and staying there, but sacrificing for and building others up so that they grow and mature in Christ themselves. It is leadership for the good of others.

The late Anglican Bishop of Sabah (in East Malaysia) Albert Vun had a profound effect in helping NAMS develop in Asia before his untimely death. I remember in the early days of beginning our NAMS base in Thailand, when Bishop Albert (who loved Thailand and would often visit to encourage the work they had begun there) took time out to visit with and encourage me. He told me once that he told all his priests/pastors that they must be ready to ‘wash toilets’ and ‘do the menial jobs’ as part of their ministry as leaders. It keeps us humble, he said.

One of the things NAMS Companions and Base Communities are called to do is raise up leaders who readily display such a self-effacing, humble attitude towards others and who walk with a Jesus-obeying fear and integrity towards God. When Christ calls us to leadership, he gives us not titles, but a towel.

The call to rise up and lead is really a call to bend down and serve. Leaders: how low will you go for Christ?

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)