Observation #4: The Church is organized to make disciples.
When whole towns and villages are changed, when the social and economic patterns
begin to be altered, when the governing structures begin to be rethought, the gospel of
Jesus Christ has come in reformation. The gospel spreads like a wild fire, and it is
unstoppable for a season of God’s choosing. So it was in the 6th, 12th, and 16th
century in Europe. So it was during the Great Awakening of the 18th century. And
always ordinary believers learn to live so that the gospel spreads easily. They learn to
be disciple-making disciples.
In all such eras believing people meet regularly in small enough groups that the true
nature of the church is experienced day by day. This is the hidden reality whenever the
church of the Lord Jesus is experiencing spontaneous expansion. Large worship
gatherings reveal something of this true nature, but it is in the small villages and homes
of believers, that the truth is daily confirmed and lives transformed. Not because of
these small gatherings, but because the very nature of the kingdom of God is
relationally transmitted. Mothers disciple their daughters. Fathers disciple their sons.
Brother disciples brother. Friends disciple friends. The life of the church is not the work
of a clerical and professional few, but the work of the whole body.
For the church of Christ Jesus in the West to see this occur again, by the grace of God,
reformation must come. The church and its leaders must be willing to rethink how she is
organized. Do her current structures assist the effective spread of the kingdom of God
or do they inhibit it? What must be reformed?
Of all that must undergo rethinking and reforming, nothing is so evident as this: the
social architecture of the local church must be redesigned so that every believer learns
to be a disciple-making disciple. Church structures that do not assist this, in a
reasonably effective and timely way, must be rethought. The current patterns that have
evolved over centuries in the West must be radically revisited. What do they achieve?
Are they producing what the Lord of the church desires?
The Final Command of the Risen Christ Jesus to his church was to “make disciples of
all nations.” This was a command that was about the way his people lived for him. It
was something that would occur as they lived ordinary lives, transformed by his grace.
How was it to be possible? It was possible because it was natural and simple.
The historian Glenn Hinson, after surveying the rise of the church in the first centuries
concluded that “the church of Jesus Christ out organized the Roman Empire, one
household at a time.” Small familial units of disciple-making disciples were the hidden
reality behind the spread of Christianity, and where this truth re-emerges and becomes
a normal way of life for Christians, another season of reformation begins.
Used with permission by joncshuler.wordpress.com
Next Week: Foundational Principles (Internal).
Believing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people.
It is natural for men and women who first encounter the love of God in Christ Jesus, who repent and welcome him into their lives, to want to convey this Good News to their immediate friends and neighbors. It was this desire that led Andrew to go and find Peter, and Philip to go and find Nathaniel. This first instinct is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the fullness of God’s intention for the spread of the gospel is greater. He cares for all the peoples of the earth, and he desires that they know and walk in the liberty of the children of God. Whenever reformation comes this truth comes to the fore.
Today in the West many see all cultures and religious traditions as equally valuable and good. They should be left alone. But the love of God, as it has been revealed in Christ Jesus, is meant to be taken to every corner of the globe. This amazing news, manifest in the life and death of Christ, is Good News for every people and nation. No one is to be excepted.
The first outflowing of this grace will touch those near at hand, but it will soon spread to others from the nations. Strangers and sojourners who live in the lands of the new anointing will hear the truth, and the Spirit of God will awaken in some of them a desire to go back to their own people, to share the joyful news they have heard. New communities of faith will be formed in those places that have never before heard of Jesus the crucified Redeemer. And the faithful church, if there, will re-awaken to the unending command of the Lord Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Some will then be called to leave their own lands to take the blessing to others. To find men and women with receptive hearts and share with them a love that will never let them go, and never forsake them.The kingdom of God will break in among them.
Reformation can never come, however, to a church that will not embrace the Father’s heart for the lost. Failure to mobilize to carry that love beyond the walls of their own hearts, their own families and friends, or beyond their own buildings is a sin. When those to whom the gospel has come close their hearts to those who have not yet heard, it is only a matter of time before the forbearance of the Lord is exhausted. He will seek those who will worship and serve him in Spirit and in Truth.
Yet most of God’s people need not go far. The eyes of their hearts will be opened by God’s Spirit to see those they are called to serve right where they live. Their mission field is very near. But they must learn to see as God sees. There are people everywhere waiting to hear the Good News from someone who will share it in love. Someone who will be faithful to reach outside the boundaries of their community of faith. Someone who will not rest while any have not heard in their town or city. When this change occurs in a faithful few, and then a few more, reformation begins.
Used with permission by joncshuler.wordpress.com
Next Week: Observation #4: The Church is organized to make disciples.
I have always loved that part in Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions on which way to go. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ replied the cat. When Alice responds that she doesn’t much care where, the Cheshire Cat retorts wisely: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
Destination determines direction.
What is your mission in life? What is the ultimate direction your life is heading towards?
That is a life-defining question that we Christians seldom (or never) ponder. But as disciples of Jesus, it is beholden on us to know what on earth God has put us here for – i.e. our specific vocation and calling, and to be obedient and fulfilled in it for His glory.
But the word ‘mission’ itself can be a scary one for many Christians. For many, it conjures up images of being sent, often against our will, to far off lands to share to unresponsive or even hostile natives the good news of Jesus, perhaps ending up as someone’s supper!
We think it is a job for few special people or a committee of the church. Mission is for the super-committed Christian who is ready to give up the comforts of his everyday life for the privations of some higher calling.
Such a dichotomy is plainly unbiblical. To be a genuine Christian is to be a disciple of Christ (Luke 9:23). And to be a disciple involves becoming a participant in God’s great mission to reach the ends of the earth with the Gospels and to make disciples of all nations (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19). We are all called to cross the street where we live as disciples on mission. A few of us are called to also cross the seas. The question is whether we will obey or not.
In Scripture, ‘mission’ is a comprehensive descriptor of God’s desire and purpose to redeem a people for Himself, for whom He will be their sovereign God and they will be His devoted people. (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 31:33, 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27; 2 Corinthians 6:16 and principally Revelation 21:3).
At the same time, it also demarcates the whole scope of activities that God initiates engages in the world for His great end i.e. the spread of His kingdom rule to the ends of the earth through the victory and salvation wrought on the cross of the resurrected Christ.
As Christian Wright so eloquently in his book, ‘The Mission of God’s People’, ‘mission’ must by definition encompass not only the ‘sent-ness’ of Christ as God’s Messiah into the world, and His people with Him, but includes everything we are, do and say in relation to that purpose and mission of God’s renewal and rescue of a lost and dying world to himself. It must therefore involve all of our lives.
Against an increasingly intrusive global culture that breeds distraction, doubt, despair and narcissism and leads us in all the wrong directions, the Gospel is the only right way to go.
That God may be known by us and through us to others – for His great glory, that is the end. This is true mission, worth living and dying for.
 Christopher J. Wright, The Mission of God’s People (Michigan: Zondervan, 2010).
3 people traveled to Cuba recently from our NAMS Latin America base in Chile, including our NAMS Latin America Team Leader Andrés and companion Juan Tamayo.
They arrived in Havana accompanied by 4 bags full of donations from the NAMS community in Chile, which included medicines, food, clothing and items for the Retreat.
They spent one night at the home of R and M, who are our NAMS local leaders at Havana. The next day, we took an expensive 3-hour taxi to Cienfuegos.
On their arrival, they were greeted by Pastor R and his wife I, who are leaders of our NAMS partnership in Cienfuegos. From there, they ‘traveled’ to the retreat place on a special taxi (- see picture below).
It was a joy for them to meet with each of the families of church planters that our NAMS Base Community in Chile is supporting. They also met with many other people – the elderly, women, children, youth and adults who were involved in various ministries. A total of 60 people were part of the NAMS retreat. All are involved in discipleship and church planting, whether through sports ministries, children’s ministries, family ministries or direct church-planting, etc.
Our NAMS leaders were able to give training over 3 days on topics like Biblical Discipleship, the Great Commission and the Planting of Churches based on Acts 2:42. The training was for both those we have been supporting financially as well as others that we aren’t able to currently.
The last day was a special time because leaders of two communities of faith that we support presented to the Lord 7 new believers whom were baptized by the NAMS team along with pastor R, in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. They were like first-fruits of our partnership and work. The joy and emotion on the part of all the believers was manifest, and they gave glory to God with prayers, praises and songs with tears. After that, they said goodbye to each participant of the retreat.
They also managed to visit some of the church communities that had been planted, praying for the leaders and sharing with each of them their dreams and longings to serve the Lord on the Island. They opened their hearts to our NAMS team about their willingness to continue serving in the midst of difficulties. They also discovered that the 7 church planters received support from us were in fact sharing that support with others who were not yet officially receiving support from us. We believe that if our support is increased, there will be a wider and greater impact – we pray this will happen in time. Overall, our NAMS team witnessed the wonders that the Lord is doing on the island using these humble brothers in the faith.
We thank God with great joy for the opportunity to visit and partner with these precious brothers and sisters in Cuba for the Gospel.
* Names not given for security reasons
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
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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?