TOWARDS AN INTENTIONAL DISCIPLEMAKING CHURCH (IDMC)
by Rev Edmund Chan

Disciplemaking is the key to world evangelisation. It is evident in the Scriptures that God intends world missions and disciplemaking to be strategically joined together. After all, didn't our Lord Jesus intentionally join them together in His Great Commission: "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations." (Matt 28:18-20)? And what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Bill Hull, author of The Disciplemaking Church, wrote: "Unless the church makes making disciples its main agenda, world evangelism is a fantasy." It is impossible to win the world through mere spiritual addition. God intends the world to be won through the strategy of spiritual multiplication through intentional disciplemaking

If so, then disciplemaking is the core mission of the Church.

Every thinking pastor would readily concur that the Church must return to its disciplemaking roots. As such, many churches have "disciplemaking" in their mission statement (implied or otherwise). The problem is not that we deny the importance of disciplemaking. Rather, the prevailing problem is twofold: (1) "disciplemaking" means different things to different churches; and (2) many churches don't know how to go about it!

Definition of Disciplemaking

Disciplemaking is the process of bringing people into right relationship with God and developing them to full maturity in Christ, through intentional growth strategies, that they might multiply the entire process in others also.

There are four significant considerations this definition:

  • Bringing people into right relationship with God
    • Biblical disciplemaking starts with responsible evangelism, bringing people into right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The true disciple of Jesus must have world vision; exemplified by an eye for the harvest and a heart for the lost.
  • Developing them to full maturity in Christ
    • One of the key emphases of New Testament discipleship and disciplemaking is spiritual maturity (cf. Eph 4:12). Such intentional equipping also involves restoring the wounded and the hurting - not merely to bring comfort but to nurture maturity in them!
  • Through intentional growth strategies
    • New converts (and believers) are not to be left on their own to grow. There is to be an intentional follow-up of new converts and intentional growth strategies for the development of authentic discipleship in the lives of the believers. A Bible-based core curriculum must be developed for a multi-level discipling. In other words, there must be something for everyone - from the new converts to the spiritually advanced.
  • That they might multiply the entire process in others also
    • Disciplemaking is about maximising influence through multiplication. Thus spiritual multiplication is one of the core emphases of disciplemaking. Indeed, there is no disciplemaking without reproducing effective disciplers. If I want to see how well I am doing in disciplemaking, I must look for spiritual fruits, not just in the people whom I am helping, but also in the lives of those that they help in turn. That's spiritual multiplication!

A Certain Kind

Spiritual maturity precedes spiritual multiplication. However, we are no longer going deep in our walk with God. Our faith is often shallow. Our spiritual pilgrimage is often lacking in sacred commitment, mature tenacity and spiritual restedness. Our spirituality is often sacrificed at the altar of expediency. The result of that is that we have the largest Church in history but the shallowest!

The crisis of disciplemaking today is a crisis of depth.

We face the tragedy of the truncated Gospel. We tell people what God can do for them; then we tell them what they can do for God (so that God can do more for them!) In the spirit of fallen humanity, doing supercedes being. Accomplishment supercedes authenticity. Goals supercede growth. Ministry supercedes maturity.

But at the heart of the Gospel is the call to BE, not just to DO. It is a call to spiritual authenticity.The critical challenge confronting the 21st century Church is reproducing authentic disciples of Christ - disciples with depth - through intentional disciplemaking. That does not mean that we do away with goals, or accomplishments, or the 'doing' aspect of discipleship. Rather, it means that we must have a biblical grasp of authentic discipleship that has depth. I call this the discipleship of "a certain kind". It is discipleship with depth. Depth from the inside out!

Movement, or Monument?

I gave my life for a spiritual movement. Not a monument. By God's grace, He has called me to pastor a local church; and through it, to leave behind a worthwhile disciplemaking legacy in Singapore and beyond. And because I have only one life to live, I will settle for nothing less.

However, a movement can become a monument. It can become too institutionalized. The outward status quo can be respectably maintained but the vital growth-orientation may have already given way to a maintenance-mentality. A vision can die.

The first task of Christian leadership is to prayerfully determine a God-given vision. The rest of the way is to relentlessly pursue the dream.

And the dream that God has given is to establish Covenant EFC as an intentional disciplemaking church - "to build an IDMC Model so as to launch an IDMC Movement in order to catalyze a Multiplication of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches to fulfill the Great Commission Mandate!"

I have a dream. I dream of a healthy, vibrant, Intentional Disciplemaking Church. A biblically-functioning community that becomes a centre for a world-class mentoring internship and leadership development. I see Covenant EFC raised up by God as the spawning ground for thousands of Christian leaders all over the world. I see nations sending their pastors and lay-leaders to be equipped here. I see us complementing the seminaries in the training of pastors and leaders. I see us sending out ministry teams to equip leaders in diverse places.

I dream of a church that is empowered by the Spirit and grounded in the Word. A Word and Spirit Church. I feel called to build Covenant EFC as a dynamic model of the balance between charismatic and non-charismatic church-life and theology. Between the veracity of the Word and the reality of the fruit of the Spirit. A church that witnesses signs and wonders in the contemporary scene; yet a church that maintains a humble but firm biblical critique of the unsound excesses. I see a church with a worship service where an encounter with the Lord is a weekly expectation and reality. Yet a church with a solid pulpit ministry, that is ably complemented by vibrant worship and a creative arts ministry to reach a postmodern world.

I dream of effective life-transforming ministries. I see a church with excellent facilities, a competent and empowered staff, an effective cell infrastructure for laity mobilization, and a track-record of growth by conversion through a PDA lifestyle (of Personal revival, Divine appointment and Active obedience). I see weekly testimonies of people coming to the Lord, testimonies of lives that are touched by God and by the people of God. I see members tutored in prayer, discipled in Christian growth and equipped for effective ministries within and without the church.

I see families ministered to, both young and old, Christians or otherwise. I see excellent super-kids clubs for children. I see effective youth ministries reaching and discipling youths (and developing our next generation of leaders!). I see parents equipped and empowered to establish godly families as lights in the community. I see working adults equipped and empowered to cope with the pressures of working life, excitedly living out their faith and sharing Christ in the marketplace.

I dream of a missions church. Not a church with missions but a church in missions. I see our church budget significantly testifying to this priority. I see us increasing our missions giving as the Lord blesses us. I see a church fervent in prayer for world missions, with a passion to plant churches in the unreached people groups (UPGs) we have adopted. I see us sending missionaries and missions teams to these UPGs. Covenant EFC will be an outward-looking church, totally committed to the redemptive purposes of God for our church, our city and our world.

A dream will remain a dream unless it is acted on. And I want to realize this dream, this vision, for one primary reason: it is the call of the Lord upon my life to leave the legacy of a movement. A movement that will see the multiplication of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches to fulfill the Great Commission!

Conclusion

Disciplemaking is intended by God to have a missiological impetus. Making disciples is at the very heart of the Great Commission. It is God's primary agenda for the world-wide mission of the church.

As such, a commitment to disciplemaking is biblically and theologically sound. It obeys the command of Christ given in the Great Commission. It holds to the aim of spiritual maturity in the Master Plan of Evangelism. It is the key to church health and world evangelisation. So what are we waiting for? Let's take the Great Commission seriously.

Let's GO MAKE DISCIPLES!!