Expounding on the 12 Principals #8: The Principle of Worship (by Jon Shuler​​​​)

For many, if not most, the first contact they have with the church is when they attend a local gathering of the body of believers. Someone has invited them to “come and see.” When the Holy Spirit is manifestly present in the believing community, and the true word of God is preached, some who were strangers moments before come, almost immediately, to a place of faith. It is a wondrous thing to behold. Once it occurs, no matter how dimly understood, that person wants to be present when the church gathers to worship. To be present on the Lord’s Day begins to be their custom, just as it was the Lord Jesus’ custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath. Sunday by Sunday faithful attendance becomes their pattern of devotion, and they rarely miss “the assembling together.”

But if there is not clear biblical teaching they may come to a place of great peril. They begin to imagine that the Christian life is a pattern of church going, rather than a pattern of learning from, and obeying the Lord Jesus. They imagine that worship, as understood in the word of Truth, is church attendance alone. They may even confuse worship with songs of praise and hymns.

The principle of worship that must be understood, however, is that worship is the response of the whole person to the love of Christ Jesus that has come to them. They are indeed to adore and praise him with others weekly. They are to give thanks, to intercede for themselves and others, to make supplication, to cry out in penitence in the midst of God’s people gathered, to give him all their praise. But that is not the principle of worship fully lived if it is only on Sunday. What then is missing?

The worship God the Father seeks is that which comes from worshippers who “worship him in spirit and in truth.” This, at the very least, means when believers gather they are coming ready to be touched afresh by the truth of the gospel. They are not coming to have their ears “tickled” by smooth words, but are coming to hear the pure Word of God. They come wanting the Holy Spirit to awaken their cold and sluggish hearts. They come to be fed by the mystical gifts provided by their Lord Jesus, that only faith can receive. And they come knowing that the Sunday assembly is to lead them to a daily worship that is just as real, just as central, just as holy as that which they share with others on that day.

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship,’ the Apostle says. There is no part of your life that is not to be worship. Your rising and your going down, your waking and your sleeping, your work and your play. Seeking to live a holy life in all things is to be your worship.

And to discern what is the “good and perfect will of God” for you, is the heart of a true worshipper. To pray for the transformed mind that alone will lift the soul from earth to heaven. A daily desire, a daily yearning, a daily life chosen in Jesus.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Next Week: The Principle of Systematic Discipling

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Expounding on the 12 Principals #8: The Principle of Worship (by Jon Shuler​​​​)

Expounding on the 12 Principals #7:  The Principle of Biblical Authority (by Jon Shuler​​​)

This principle, some will surely say, should be placed first. They may indeed be right, but for this series I have chosen to place it here because so many in the historic churches have experienced the progression to this principle by steps of faith, and not as a beginning foundation. I have frequently stated that trust in the authority of Holy Scripture is a presupposition that must come to be believed if there is any hope of true reformation, and I will stand by that as an essential building block of what it means to be a church founded on the preaching of “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Without the Holy Scripture, today, we would have no apostolic testimony that could save. So why here?

First of all, most people meet the Risen Lord Jesus long before they understand the biblical testimony to the truth of the gospel. They have heard the gospel preached, or explained, in a way that reaches their heart. They know themselves to be lost. They have realized they must repent, acknowledge Jesus as Savior, and have then yielded their lives to the living Lord. Their experience is that he has received them as his own, and he has taken up residence in their hearts. As a dear brother said to me recently, “Now I don’t just believe in him, I know him.” The Incarnate Word is the first word they believe and receive.

Secondly, the testimony of other true believers is the most frequent way a new believer comes to faith. The living Lord Jesus in another person shines forth to them. They believe because they “see Jesus,” whether they can explain it or not. The witness, verbal and non verbal, of a true believer is the catalyst of true faith in others. The word seen and heard in the body of Christ, the church, is the milk they next receive.

This is perhaps the reason that belief in the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God was not a part of the creedal faith of the early church, or so I believe. It was a universal conviction of the faithful community. It was the air they breathed. It is in that sense, that the teaching authority of the believing church did indeed come before the authority of the Holy Scriptures was ever articulated, as some critics of classic Christianity sometimes remind us. But it was assumed that they were the authority over every other.  It was impossible for them to imagine that any other authority was, or could ever be, primary. To suggest so was to be in grievous error.

Step by step the first communities accepted the writings of the apostles as having the same authority they had when in person. After the death of the apostles, and the ever widening knowledge of the writings they or their companions left behind was received, the church universal embraced and canonized the New Testament as the equivalent of “the apostle’s teaching” that had been the center of the church’s life from the beginning.

It is now time to reassert as a principle that without devotion to the teaching of the Holy Scripture, to the “whole counsel of God” in Christ Jesus, their is no faithful church.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Next Week: The Principle of Worship

Expounding on the 12 Principals #7:  The Principle of Biblical Authority (by Jon Shuler​​​)

Expounding the 12 Principles #6: The Principle of Lordship (by Jon Shuler)

The church of Jesus Christ submits to Christ, and to no other. She has only one Lord, and he must reign in, among, and over all who believe in him and have been reborn in him. Anything less is either a church that has lost its first love and must repent, or no church at all.

Of course when we speak like this we are using the word “church” in the way it is always used in the New Testament. We mean the community of the faithful. The living, breathing men and women who have “put on Christ.” The heart of this community is the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. It is the fellowship of those reborn by water and the Spirit. It is a band of believers “devoted…to the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” It is a community that knows one another well, and cares for one another well, and is no stranger to the lives and homes of other believers. It is not a gathering of polite Sunday worshippers who smile at others whose names they do not know, and then return to lives lived outside the will of Christ.

But, some will say to me, ‘What you describe is so different from what we experience in the local congregation that we attend, how can this be normal?’ My answer must be, the “normal” in most congregations today is gravely “abnormal” when compared to the life Jesus commanded his followers to live if they were to be his disciples. The crowds paid attention to Jesus, of course, and a smaller group followed him from time to time, but the ones who truly attended to his words and were committed to walk in his way were an even smaller number. As we know all to well, there were very few at what seemed like the end as Jesus hung on the cross. Perhaps only three. Even in the days before Pentecost there were only 120 left in Jerusalem, and that after a three year public ministry of the Lord. These were the ones who would soon be accused of turning the world upside down, and that did not happen because they were casual Christians.

Centuries of tradition have come to adhere to the life of most of the historic and long established churches, and like too many barnacles on a ship, they often impede the purpose for which she was made. More attention is sometimes paid to the traditions of men, than to obedience to the Word of God. All too frequently much more attention than to the clear word of Jesus. He is spoken of as Lord by many, but is he obeyed as Lord? If he is not obeyed as Lord has he really been received as Savior? This is the crux of the principle of Lordship.

If the church in decline is to be rescued from its free fall, by the grace of God, the members of the local body can not continue to be allowed to imagine that their faith is secure if they disobey the Master. Even more critically, as we have repeated said, the church’s leadership cannot be allowed to lead disobediently. To do so makes a travesty of their profession of faith.

Either Jesus is Lord or he is not. There is no other sign of true faith.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Next Week: The Principle of Biblical Authority

Expounding the 12 Principles #6: The Principle of Lordship (by Jon Shuler)

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.

What’s in a Word?

An Advent Prayer (by Manik Corea)

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

An Advent Prayer (by Manik Corea)