19 Feb 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
Edmund Chan, Founder of the Intentional Disciple-Making Church (IDMC) Global Alliance and speaker of the disciple-making conference at Wesley Methodist Church Kuala Lumpur, talked about the critical need for discipleship on 13th of February.
God wants to have a relationship with you!
We have not only an almighty and powerful God but also a God who desires to have a love relationship with us.
Let us look at the time when Peter walked on water towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he began to fear. So, he started sinking. The question is why did the Master of the Universe, Jesus Christ, stretched out His hands. If we knew who Jesus is, all He needed to do is to speak. He did not need to walk towards Peter but He could say, “Lake freeze.” Jesus could order Peter to fly or doves to come pick him up. But Jesus “immediately reached out His hand and caught him.” We see a picture of a God who values a loving and intimate relationship with you.
Discipleship begins from a relationship with God
Such is the relationship of Peter with Jesus! He personally knew who Jesus is, not only know about Jesus. This is because Jesus and him had a trusted and close relationship. They spent time together—eating, drinking, and ministering. Jesus not only spoke the Word, He lived the Word! But that is what churches today are lacking today—discipleship—and unfortunately, this had been lacking for many decades.
World leaders such as Luis Bush (who introduced the 10/40 window), Pr Peter Tsukahira, Bill Hybels, Bill Hull, and Ravi Zacharias all recognized the need to disciple people.
Dr Ravi Zacharias on Discipleship
The disciple-making pastor Bill Hull said:
“All the formulas, strategic planning, mission statements and visionary sermons are not making disciples… We were stuck in the same rut that so many find themselves in—religious activity without transformation…
Could it be that like me you left something out?
I felt like an ice skater gliding over the ice, and beneath the surface I could see transformation, I just couldn’t get to it.
That icy barrier was church infrastructure, customs and traditions… an institutional community held together by roles and hierarchy, rather than a relational community based on the relationships of trust.”
In other words, there is no point holding more programs and more events, if we are not building disciples. If we are not teaching people how to seek God themselves, it is zeal without knowledge and foundation. We can win the battle today but we will lose the war tomorrow.
Hence, discipleship for the next generation is a critical need! It’s not optional but a commission by Jesus. To disciple people, we need to be the disciple of Christ first. We cannot pass on what we do not have. If we neglect our relationship with God this generation, our next generation will lose a relationship with God.
There is no professional disciple maker
Edmund shared that his points for discipleship are to be adapted, and not adopted wholesale. All churches have their own respective heritage. So, there’s no need to exemplify everything.
There are a total of five misconceptions for discipleship including it can only happen with a perfect church, the perfect pastor, with a perfect ministry, with a perfect strategy, with a perfect condition.
However, no one and nothing in this world is perfect.
The question is not whether your church has a discipleship program, but whether your church is building disciples. Does your church have disciples? We need to be humble to depend on God for discipleship—the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, praying, and reading the Word. There is no magic push buttons and formulas.
Also, there is no perfect condition to start discipleship. The early church was thrown into a set of unfavorable conditions—heresy, division, strife, persecution, and immature character—similar with what we have today. Yet, we know that these men had spent time with Jesus Christ. They had built a strong foundation and because of that, their lives are transformed because of a continuous relationship with Jesus. The key of discipleship is not finding a perfect “something” but to be with Christ.
Symptoms of a dying church
Without discipleship, we would see many symptoms arising including tired workers, lack of leaders, lack of growth by conversion, stagnant and struggling cell groups, struggling marriages, broken relationships, and living in sin.
Why are there dying churches? We blame the devil’s scheme for deceiving, dividing, discouraging, and defiling the church. But this is not the underlying problem! The true underlying problem is that Christians do not disciple.
Misconceptions about discipleship
People misconceived that discipleship happens organically without intention, it automatically takes place when people gather in church program, it is only for new Christians, it is only for the spiritual elites like missionaries and pastors, and it is a program.
But while it’s easy to learn about discipleship, it’s another thing practicing this in church. There are typically five cries of the church in disciple making, including too many programs, too few volunteers, unclear leadership direction, lack of unity among leaders, and lack of discipleship among members.
Edmund visited one of the largest Chinese congregations in Europe with over one thousand people in seven congregations. Because of the independent administration of each congregation, they had the problem of silo effect, which was visible in their staff meeting. But after their conviction with discipleship, all the churches align their resources and agenda to discipleship. And the alignment of the church leadership towards one mission is powerful.
The idea is not only meeting church needs and making people happy, but it is to produce discipleship that results in inner joy. If you focus on building the church, you often do not get disciples. But if you focus on discipleship, you will get the church.
Edmund shared how a young wife shook his hand in gratitude for discipleship amongst the men in church; one of them was her husband. Traveling abroad, the husband’s client prepared for him a young prostitute who waited in his hotel room. But her husband saw that it was a divine appointment. He shared Christ with her. She had become a prostitute to buy luxurious goods to fill the void in her heart. Her mother was a Christian too. With tears in her eyes, she asked him. “Do you think Jesus would accept someone like me?” She accepted Christ that night and returned to her mother.
Why discipleship is neglected
So, if discipleship is so important, why is it so neglected? People often give lack of time as a reason. But discipleship is the best way to invest our time. Eighty percent of Edmund’s time is used outside the church in discipleship.
The second reason of neglect is lack of interest; no one is interested to be a disciple.
The third reason of neglect is that leaders lack confidence in discipleship. But even though Edmund started his discipleship in 1979, he is still learning about discipleship due to the different audience. From mentoring those older than him to those between 35 to 45 years old, he is now building disciples amongst the millennial generation.
The fourth reason of neglect is the lack of disciples. But to make disciples first, we need to be the disciple that God calls us to be. And that is very simple: it is to be with Jesus every day like how the 12 disciples did. We cannot give what we do not have. We can only reproduce after our kind.
And lastly, it is the lack of conviction. What gives Edmund the deepest fulfillment is not the speaking engagements, publishing books, or writing ministries, but the few good people that God has given him the privilege to disciple.
Perhaps, the question to conclude is not, “Are you ready to disciple?” But it is, “Are you rooted in God? Do you know Him? Do you have a day-to-day relationship with Him?”
We can only make disciples when we are disciples of Christ, by simply being with Him. With discipleship, we can make a difference to our children in the next ten years.
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Disclaimer: This article is written to report the content by the speaker as much as possible, according to the recording by the author. It is not comprehensive and not vetted by Wesley Methodist Church KL.