‘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.

 

 

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‘Come and See’, ‘Follow me’ and ‘Go and Make’

Family Discipleship — part 2 (by Sam Horowitz)

Last week we were reminded of the biblical mandate of carrying out the discipleship process within our households. But many who would agree on the necessity of doing so do not feel empowered or equipped to do it. I thought it might help to give some practical suggestions.

First, we must be continually repenting and believing the Good News of Jesus Christ, taking up his cross daily and following him. Obviously, we cannot help another strive toward Jesus if we are not doing it ourselves. But with such daily repentance we must also reconsider the kind of person we want the child or children in our lives to grow up into. What will they be like if we have been successful? Are we thinking first about their education or career? Or do we envision them becoming strong and faithful men and women of God? Having the right picture in hearts is an important first step.

Next, consider what may be some patterns (or rhythms or rituals) that may be able to help. For example, one purpose the Church has in gathering once a week for worship is to empower her members to be worshiping and living as disciples throughout the week. In the same way, it may be helpful to establish a set regular time for a family to gather and hear from the Lord and apply what they have heard to their life together. This time can be the bedrock for carrying discipleship through to the “in-between times” of life — walks to school, shopping trips, preparing meals, or even working on schoolwork. Daily prayer before school can help a child to remember Paul’s instruction to “pray always.” A weekly memory verse can help to teach a child the importance of taking the words of our Lord into our hearts. Find the patterns that work for your family.

Finally, here are some approaches that can help when you develop these practices.

  • Story: My own son is in a “tell me a story” phrase. He asks probably a dozen times a day for me to tell him a story, and most children do indeed love stories. May we not allow the entertainment companies to be the only ones taking advantage! This is an invitation to be teaching God’s overarching “Great Story” of redeeming the world as well as Jesus’ parables and other biblical stories. Take care not to turn these stories into fairy tales. When telling an Old Testament story especially, try to set that story within the context of the Gospel (we must help our children understand how David & Goliath is a Christian story, not simply a fable with an empowering the-weak-defeat-the-strong message). Parents will have to wrestle with the tensions of being honest about these stories while keeping them age-appropriate! Still, story is powerful.
  • Concreteness: Children much more readily latch onto things that can be directly sensed. Our family went through a season where at one dinner a week we would talk about a bible story and how our own family had experienced that same story. We would begin our meal by lighting a candle as I read from John 1 about the light coming into the world. That candle-lighting reinforced the identity of Jesus, and it marked out this meal and what we were doing as something special. Our young son much more easily grasps the biblical images that describe eternal life as feasts and celebrations than he does some vague abstraction of “going to heaven.” He has been to a family feast!
  • Jesus commands our faith be child-like (Matt 18:3). Do not patronize your children, but honestly consider what they contribute to these conversations. Allow their faith to inspire your own!

Many more words could be written, and there are many good resources available to parents who want to take the charge of Deuteronomy 6 more seriously. But remember that for thousands of years, parents have passed on the faith without off-the-shelf products!

Family Discipleship — part 2 (by Sam Horowitz)

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?

NAMS Blog – How deep is your love? (by Manik Corea)

My wife knows first hand what an earthquake can do. She was in bed at home when the massive Taiwan earthquake of 1999 struck her city!

Many buildings collapsed as the cheap, inferior building materials and fast-track construction of the 1990s building boom were quickly and tragically exposed. Their foundations could not hold.

Foundations are as necessary in life as they are in architecture since, under heaven, everything that stands, stands on something else.

And what you build on and how you build determines the strength of your superstructure.

Jesus made this same point in a well-known parable (Matthew 7:24-27). A building stands or falls in storm or flood on the basis of its foundation.

For some of us, stuck in the groove of memorable Sunday-school songs and lessons around this passage, familiarity breeds contempt. We think we already know the lesson: if you don’t build your life on Jesus, your house will be in danger when the next storm (or earthquake) strikes. But this story illustrates more than just procuring natural disaster protection from Jesus for times of testing and trouble.

As I reflected afresh on this parable, it seemed to me that Jesus’ expectation is a consistent, daily walk in obedient acts that follow from keen reception and trust in Him. That is what Jesus means when he speaks of building on the rock – ‘And everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man …’ (vs 24).

Setting foundations is not a static thing. It requires effort and perseverance. The deeper you dig, the higher you can go – hence, Luke’s version has the words ‘dug down deep’ in describing the act of laying the right foundation.

But this story of Jesus also calls us to two other outcomes:

  1. Knowledge of the Father’s will.

The story is linked by the conjunction ‘then’ to the previous section in Jesus’ Sermon on the mount where, in verse 21, he makes the point that calling him ‘Lord’ is not the same as doing what He wants. The question is not ‘do you know Jesus?’ but ‘does he know you?’ This is surely the point of verses 22 and 23.

Recognition by Jesus is not based on the mere performance of even spectacular ‘religious acts’ but intimacy born of our keen desire to know and do the Father’s will. Which raises the question: ‘Do we know what the Father’s will is?’

  1. Obedient response

Jesus spoke of hearing His words and them doing them. Are we allowing Him to dictate the form and content of every part of our lives and community? Scripture is clear — there can be no other foundation to our lives and their living.

In Ephesians 2:20, Paul himself points out that Jesus Christ in the ”chief cornerstone” (cf Isaiah 28:16) — the key foundational stone in the superstructure of ancient buildings. John Gill, the 18th Century Baptist pastor commented thus on this verse:

“Jesus Christ … cements and knits together angels and men, Jews and Gentiles, Old and New Testament saints, saints above, and saints below, saints on earth, in all ages and places, and of every denomination … (he is) is the beauty and glory, as well as the strength of the building, which keeps all together.”

In him, all things hold together and apart from Him, we are and can do nothing (Colossians 1:18, John 15:5). The firm foundation of every true disciple must be and remain the hearing and practice of all He commands. On such alone, the houses of our lives will ultimately stand or fall by.

Which words of Jesus have we heard and not done? Who truly calls the shots in your life and mine?

 

 

 

 

NAMS Blog – How deep is your love? (by Manik Corea)

‘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)