Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 1, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

All Companions of the missionary order we call NAMS are called to life at the seams.

As an ex-Army officer, one of the most important leadership lessons I learned was to “pay attention to the seams.” The line where two pieces of fabric come together is where the garment takes its form. But it’s also where the stitches are most likely to give way and tear apart.

Similarly, the spaces between life circumstances where plans and operations come together and either align or fall apart, have the potential to shape future reality but also are the most vulnerable to chaos. Leaders must pay attention to these places in both their personal and organizational life.

I am living in a seam at the moment. One month ago our family transitioned from South Africa to South Carolina after nearly six years as missionaries with an intentional Christian community we helped found.

In the weeks before we left I had a significant conversation with my Bishop, Rt Rev Joel Obetia of Uganda. I articulated to him in an uncertain, rambling fashion, my dream for building new communities of faith that would perhaps never really fit into the traditional Christian (Anglican) system.

As Bishop Joel listened patiently but with intense focus as only the way a man unencumbered by technology or the urgency of next things can, he told me seven things that I share with you in this two-part blog, that I hope may inspire and provide fuel for conversations among NAMS Companions and those who support and love us, as we seek to work together in years to come.

The numbered lines are from Bishop Joel. The italicized sentences are my commentary.

  1. Operate as if there are no boxes.

Boxes are not inherently bad. People relate ideas to concepts that they already know. In this way we all have “boxes” that we put ideas into. The first cars were known as motor wagons because they were seen as strange new versions of the horse-drawn, wooden wagons people knew well. But when those of us called to create new things operate only in reference to models and forms that already exist we limit our creative capacity to dream and give power to things in the “box” to control and shape the future.

Those of us made to dream of, create, and live out new models of Christian community must not be confined by the boxes that hold the settled local church in our contexts. We must be free to dream of new structures and ways to engage people in this lost and dying world. In other words, pioneers must be free and freed to pioneer.

  1. A movement will be limited if it becomes the church.

The institution of the church is necessarily an ordered society, slow to change and normally resistant to new ideas. New movements led by the Spirit to renew the church must operate outside of those church structures, otherwise their impact will be limited by the formal and informal constraints of institutional Christianity.

This is not to say that people involved in the movement shouldn’t also be part of the institutional church – they should. Individual presbyters and lay leaders in missional movements should be connected in healthy relationships to others in the more settled body, but their vocational activity cannot be completely controlled by the systems and authority of the settled church, lest the new apostolic work that God has ordained be confined to what already is.

The tension between fluid movement and established structure is difficult to navigate but is necessary if either movement and church are to fulfill their God given purpose.

Part 2 next week will complete the list of 7 things my bishop spoke to me.

— Revd. Gabriel Smith
NAMS Global Operations

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Seeking New Life at the Seams – part 1, by Revd. Gabriel Smith

‘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.

 

 

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

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)

New Start, New Vision – The NAMS GAP Launch in Kathmandu, Nepal (By Isaac Lasky)

Legend has it that King Prithivi Narayan Shah stood upon Chandragiri Hills and first caught a glimpse of the beauty of Kathmandu valley and decided it would be the capital of a unified Nepal Kingdom. In that same spot around 300 years later the NAMS Nepal Global Apprenticeship Program team prayed that they would be used as disciple making leaders to plant disciple making churches for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Kathmandu valley

From 23rd-25th August 2017, Isaac Lasky (NAMS GAP Coordinator) was in Nepal for the orientation of three NAMS Global Apprentices working alongside our NAMS Regional Leader in Nepal, Tek Prasad Rijal. The days were packed full of learning, discussion, worship, prayer and fellowship and finished with a commissioning service for the Global Apprentices. Topics included ‘Knowing God’s will,’ ‘The NAMS Rule,’ ‘Steps to Becoming a Disciple-making Disciple,’ and ‘the Life Cycle of Discipleship.’ The apprentices gained a clear understanding of discipleship and practical ways to apply this to their life and ministry.

NAMS GAP Nepal

These Global Apprentices will be receiving hands-on training and guidance as they purse the passions God has given them. Currently, they are looking to start a new work with university students and children in Kathmandu using their musical, sport, and English language abilities as a tool to bless people and build new relationships, whilst also continuing to build on existing discipling relationships they already have. We are very excited to be investing into these three young leaders. We wait in expectation to see how the Lord will use them locally, nationally, and even internationally.

Please pray with us for them.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Global Apprentice, please visit www.namsgap.com for more information.

 

 

New Start, New Vision – The NAMS GAP Launch in Kathmandu, Nepal (By Isaac Lasky)

A Foretaste of Heaven! NAMS Africa Summit, Kenya 2017.

‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). That is an apt verse to describe our recently concluded Africa Summit meeting in Kenya over the weekend of 18 August 2017.

KenyaSunmmit

It was a much-anticipated event – the first ever NAMS Vision meeting taking place in East Africa. About 20 or so participants from African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Congo (DRC) gathered with 5 NAMS companions for a weekend of hearing the NAMS story and vision and being encouraged and equipped to make disciples the Jesus way commanded (Matthew 28:19-20) in order to plant new churches.

In the weeks preceding the event, Kenya had a largely peaceful General Election, and we thank God that we did not see the violence that marred previous elections and the aftermath, which would have made travel to Nairobi difficult for many. However, a few days before the event, our NAMS Sub-Saharan Africa leader Gabe Smith was struck down with a lung infection and was not able therefore to fly to the event as planned. As he was the main organizer, we had to do some last-minute reorganizing. We thank God not only that the event could continue without him, but that he is now fully recovered.

The Africa Summit was held in a Roman Catholic retreat center about 30km out of Nairobi. The temperature hovered around a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius for the most part of the days. The lovely setting of the grounds enhanced our time together, which was designed to be a mixture of prayer, worship, teaching, training, and free time for networking, rest, and retreat. We were also blessed by the great service and the food cooked up by the cheerful staff of the center.

Some of the participants made long journeys at their personal cost to come, including one Anglican pastor from Congo who had to make a three-day journey by bus each way. We were encouraged and humbled by their immense desire and willingness to sacrifice to meet with us for the sake of the Gospel.

Looking back on that weekend, we were richly blessed by our interaction with many wonderful leaders, pastors, and servants of God – a mixture of clergy and lay leaders, old and young, some working in church ministries and others in the marketplace.

We were able to share the NAMS story and vision that God has taught us: disciple-making disciples as the seeds of new churches. We heard stories from the lips of NAMS companions from places as diverse as North India, Egypt, Chile, and Thailand.

The rich, heavenly sounds of African voices in worship and dance was heard and seen between sessions, as well as inspiring testimony and teaching not only from NAMS Companions, but also from our friend Richard Mayabi of Church Army who gave a clarion call to the African Christians present to make disciple-making and mission a priority for the African church – or risk losing ground in Africa.

NAMS Companion Bishop Bahemuka William celebrated at Sunday Communion and preached a stirring message. In his sermon, he quoted his friend, retired American bishop Fitz Allison who said, ‘If you don’t give the Gospel away, you don’t get it!’ Indeed!

The outcome of this meetings is that there is a clear desire among participants representing different Anglican dioceses and other non-Anglican churches across East Africa for partnership with NAMS. We are now praying that in time, we can plant a NAMS base community in East Africa to facilitate the work God is clearly giving us to do there.

We thank all of you who prayed for us during this week and for the meetings. God heard your prayers and gave us a wonderful foretaste of heaven, Africa-style! To God be the glory!

 

A Foretaste of Heaven! NAMS Africa Summit, Kenya 2017.

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

GLOBAL STORIES — “To Egypt, with love…”

My name is *Hadmed, and I am married to *Berenice, and together we have two marvelous children.

I am Egyptian, and I have spent all of my life in the city of Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt and has a population of over 18 million inhabitants.  My family comes from the Coptic Christian tradition.  I grew in this belief system until I was in my 20s when I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.  Then I began to live a life of service for Him.

I have served through sports ministry as a soccer coach to children and adolescents for many years.  This is a strategy which God has given us to reach and connect with people in Cairo, the majority of whom are Muslim.  Additionally, a couple of years ago I began to serve as an assistant pastor in a small church located in an incredibly poor area of Cairo called “the Garbage City.” I currently serve there once a week with children and young people.

In 2016, I served for three months with a NAMS team that came to serve in this region of the world, and together we developed various workshops throughout the city of Cairo.  We directly impacted 30 people through these workshops, including South Sudanese refugees, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian Muslims.  This permitted us to connect with people and establish a network of contacts through which we plan to continue to serve in the areas of discipleship and church planting in the future.

After a process of discernment and training, my family and I have committed ourselves as NAMS Companions. Our vision for the future is to help make disciples of Jesus Christ in Egypt and to plant churches in Northern Africa.  This is not an easy area for ministry, but we trust that God is opening a door and has invited us to cooperate with Him in this work.

* Not their real names

Hadmed

Hadmed (identity obscured) with NAMS companions Ivan and Mary Ruiz in Egypt.

GLOBAL STORIES — “To Egypt, with love…”