‘Disciple’ is the word most commonly used for a follower and believer in the risen Jesus in the book of Acts. 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.”
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.
 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.
 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:
with a facilitators/leaders guide at:
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.
Advent is a season of celebration and preparation. It calls us to look back with gratitude for the incarnation of our Lord, and to godly repentance and active readiness for his second coming. It is the yearly reminder to the people of God of the ultimate destiny we are called into, a kingdom we must all seek, work for and proclaim, as we await its consummation in the return of Christ.
Against the three-fold enemy of God’s people – sin, the world and the devil, it calls us against despair and doubt, to renewed hope and faith in His plans, purposes and power to bring about His transformative purposes in our world.
The following words from poet Roger Spiller is a prayer for us to seek to partner and participate with God in His mission and advent hope for our world today. May it be your prayer and mine today….
Lord, you call us to be story-tellers:
planting your explosive news into our defended lives;
locating us in the script of your human history.
You call us to be trailblazers:
living in your future that we receive only as gift;
subverting the fixed, fated world of low horizons.
You call us to be weavers: tracing, stretching, connecting the knotted threads;
gathering up unravelling, disconnected lives.
You call us to be fools – for Christ’s sake:
bearing life’s absurdities and incongruities;
puncturing our seriousness and grandiosity.
You call us to be hosts:
welcomers of the sacred, intimate, transfiguring;
lavish celebrants of our communities and homecomings.
You call us to be poets: artists and illuminators of inner space; naming, invoking, heralding your ineffable presence.
You call us to be gardeners: sowers, cultivators, nurturers of fragile lives;
benefactors of your gratuitous harvest.
You call us to be conductors celebrating polyphony, coaxing symphony; orchestrating the praise of your inhabited creation;
Lord, you lavish gifts on all whom you call. Strengthen and sustain us and all ministers of your church, that in the range and diversity of our vocation, we may be catalysts of your kingdom in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
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?
Have you ever been compelled to share an experience? A great game you saw? Trip you took? Concert? Play? New relationship? Problems? Struggle? Complaint? We all have stories that burn within us until we can let it out. We can’t stand to be quite. Do you have one now?
Yesterday I was in Walmart. Look, I’m a father of seven that does the shopping. So I have lots of opportunities to hear stories. The lady in front of me had no issue in sharing a painful moment that is going on in her life. I was minding my own business. This was unsolicited. You get where I’m coming from?
She was compelled to unload whether I was ready or willing. She was passionate. She needed to speak and to be heard. It is a feeling we can all relate to, no? What compels you to share? Think about it. Who do you tell?
While reading the psalms I kept seeing how the writer David shared his heart and passions. He was compelled to tell God all his problems, hurts, sins, and plans. He came before the throne of grace with boldness. He laid everything in raw form before the Lord’s feet. Note that he didn’t share a lot of this with others, but with God alone. He took it to the throne before he took it to the phone.
We tend to tell everyone else over coffee, phone or Facebook. Rarely do we take it to God. David would shift from on loading to praise. He would be compelled to worship. As his countenance went down, his praise would go up. Praise pulls you out of darkness and despair.
David would then swell up with passion to share with others. In his praise, he would remember all the things that God had done for him. What has God done for you? What have you seen him do? Prayers answered? Do you remember that he saved you? Look back six months or a year. Has your relationship with God grown deeper?
Like David we will be compelled to share the testimony of God in your life. People need to hear this. They need to see hope. Touch it. Receive it. So when you feel compelled to share about the big game, trip, or concert ask God to compel you to share about His impact on your life.
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.
Back to school is a hectic time of year for everyone, not the least of which are teachers like me – I’m now entering my 12th year in public education. But besides getting my classroom organized and lesson plans finalized, a still small voice inside of me is reminding me to get my heart right too because I’m preparing to go on the mission field.
I didn’t always feel this way. When I started my teaching career, I had a pretty clear sense of my profession. I enjoyed my content area, was intrigued by the strategies involved in breaking down a concept, and rather quickly came to appreciate the relationships I formed with my students and colleagues. Teaching satisfied my professional ambitions, I thought that would be enough…but it wasn’t.
My Christian life has always been an important part of me, but without clearly realizing it at the time, I checked my faith at school doors each morning and picked it up again on my way out. This was not something I did intentionally, but that’s indeed the point: I wasn’t intentional at all. Apart from a few token gestures and general politeness, this huge part of me—my faith—was largely absent from my daily work. I become les satisfied, and after four or five years in, I started asking the Lord, “Is this all there is? Show me what it is I cannot see.”
And what He showed me changed me.
After his crucifixion and resurrection, just before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave his followers their marching orders: if you really believe all you have seen, and if you really have a transformed life, then “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). To me, these words were always either hypothetical or meant for another race of “Super-Christians,” like missionaries who would travel around the world or pastors who were paid to do this type of thing, not plain old “normal Christians” like me who work full-time secular jobs.
But the Lord opened my heart and mind to understand that every Christian shares in this missional calling to make disciples because we are all Christ’s followers. His final command wasn’t just for one group of men; it was for all men and women who would come to follow him. There were indeed disciple-making opportunities all around me, starting with my work—that place I spend 40+ hours a week.
More than a career, I realized that I have a calling – to go to school and share the light of Jesus Christ with every student, colleague, or administrator with whom I interact. Yes, I am a public school teacher, which of course does limit my words to a certain extent, but armed with an understanding of my higher calling, I am intentional now in an entirely new way. Like many teachers, I spend a great deal of time preparing my lesson plans and grading papers, but now my challenge each day is to spend time with the Lord to prepare my heart before I enter my workplace, i.e., the mission field. I’ve got to pray for my students and colleagues with a genuine heart for their salvation; I’ve got to seek wisdom for boldness to know when to speak and prudence for when to stay silent; I’ve got to ask for a caring heart to earn the right to be heard; I’ve got to pray for opportunities outside of the classroom to further deepen these relationships.
I am certainly not perfect in that daily preparation? Sometimes that sneaky alarm clock seems to snooze itself, but the Lord doesn’t usually let me get to far without reminding me of the need to be more intentional in preparation and prayer.
Dear believer, if you call yourself a follower of Christ, your calling is the same as mine, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do. How does your career empower you in that calling? Do you work construction? Are you working in an office or restaurant? Are you lawyer, doctor, merchant, or chef? The essential truth here has nothing to do with the career itself. The truth is that every Bible-believing Christian is a missionary wherever he or she goes, and I write today to encourage you to step into that calling, to ask the Lord to strengthen you in your resolve to be intentional in prayer and service to those you work with each day. So that today, or tomorrow, or the next day when a colleague or client may ask you about the hope you seem to have and that you would be prepared to give account of how the Lord has transformed your life.
Mary Garrison is a NAMS Companion in Florida. She is also the NAMS Global Prayer/Intercessors Coordinator, as well as supporting her husband Ivan in giving supervision to the Horn of Africa region for NAMS.