Highlights

Intent + content = disciple-making churches

Nov 2011    

Bishop’s Lunch Fellowship with Lay Leaders

HOW CAN OUR METHODIST CHURCHES become disciple-making churches? The answer simply is: ere must be intent (on our part) and we must have good content (to help us achieve our goal).

Stating this, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon said: “Unless we intentionally strive to be a disciple-making church, the church will not be alive. To help us, we need to have good material. And we do have good content like the DISCIPLE programme and other courses run by our DISCIPLE Agency.”

He was discussing the issue, “Making Disciples: Key to Evangelism and Church-planting” with Lay Leaders at a lunch fellowship at Methodist Centre on Oct 8.

The Bishop’s exhortation was readily accepted by the leaders who agreed that our churches must have the common intention to want to become disciple-making churches. A few added that the “pulpit should take the lead” and that “clergy and laity must have unity of vision” towards this goal.

Earlier, Bishop Dr Solomon had emphasised that Jesus’ Great Commission to His followers as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 exhorts them to make disciples, not merely converts. e Bishop defined a disciple as a “Spirit-filled, fruit-bearing follower of Jesus who seeks to love and obey God”. Christians are baptised into an eternal identity as a child of God, which should be remembered daily and demonstrated through their lives in day-to-day behaviour, inner lives (such as reactions when facing trial), and social presence through ministry to the community.

How did Jesus disciple His followers? e Bishop pointed out that He called His disciples to be different from the world, apprenticed His disciples by spending time with them, let them observe His life through close contact, revealed to them the majesty and greatness of God, taught them truths and to apply the Scripture to their lives, and sent them to do ministry, the practical part of Christian discipleship.

At this point, the Bishop asked those present for an informal survey of their gauge on what percentage of members in their local churches go out to serve. e numbers proffered ranged between 1 and 10 per cent. He then suggested that in churches filled with Christ’s disciples, the number should be closer to 100 per cent. us, he highlighted a need for local churches to grow from being groups of “consumers” into groups of “missioners”, stating: “If all we have in church is social, we will degenerate very quickly.”

The Bishop asked how the local Methodist churches are organised towards Christian nurture and disciple-making. He briefly detailed how Wesley had organised the Methodist society into smaller Classes and Bands, much like the modern small groups and accountability groups, in order that Methodists might examine their behaviour and intent for the purposes of correction and encouragement. Also available were groups for those seeking to go beyond basic discipleship, as well as for those who had fallen back into sin and were attempting to return to a life of discipleship.

The Bishop warned the leaders present of the danger of clinging on to old ways of doing things which may have been good initially, but could become a burden for the church, distracting it from its main purpose of making and growing disciples. He encouraged leaders to ask this question of various components in their church, giving as examples the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) meetings, Bible Study programmes and church outings: “In what way is this helping in Christian nurture and disciple-making?”

“We want to be more interested in making disciples, but why is disciple-making not happening? ere must be a meeting of minds and vision of the pastors and Lay Leaders. is is a prerequisite, and pastors must lead from the pulpit. Small group meetings are organised not just for fellowship but more importantly for making disciples. ere is no short-cut to mentoring. If we don’t lead by example, nothing will happen.”

Mr William Goh, LCEC Chairman of Trinity Methodist Church.

 

He closed by asking the leaders to consider and discuss how local churches can be more intentionally disciple-making churches. Following the Bishop’s address, the Lay Leaders organised themselves into various groups, each representing a variety of local conferences and churches. Lively discussions ensued in which leaders shared their churches’ initiatives in disciple-making, challenges they faced with regard to disciple-making in their church, and the role of the LCEC in this endeavour.

Mr Lee Han Khim, Lay Leader of Grace Methodist Church, said making disciples must be a church vision, adding that the pastor must take the lead from the pulpit.

He said: “ ere are many people who may attend church services, but not many are willing to serve. What our church did this past year was to identify 30 to 40 leaders and potential leaders and provide them with training to equip them to lead. ese are our BAGs – Basic Accountability Groups, and they are like John Wesley’s accountability groups.

“We then invite all church members to attend cell group meetings. So, this is intentional, and is a church-wide programme. We now have 40 BAGs and are seeing church growth.”

Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) Lay Leader, Mr R. Selvathurai, pointed out that in LCEC meetings, “sometimes we may focus too much on governance and forget our real mission” of making and nurturing disciples.

Ms Teo Suet Ehr, LCEC Chairman of Geylang Chinese Methodist Church, lamented that LCEC meetings never talked about disciple-making, but were focused on administrative and financial matters and church programmes.

“The Bishop has given us a very good message about disciple-making and perhaps we should redefine the role of the LCEC.”

This point was further taken up by Mr John Lim, LCEC Chairman of Christalite Methodist Chapel, who was summarising his group’s discussion. He disclosed that a church decided to alternate its monthly LCEC meeting with a ministry leaders’ meeting to enable it to look at the issue of disciple-making.

He said: “Disciple-making must be intentional. Our disciples or leaders are expected to train and develop other church members. But our leaders need to be properly equipped first. The process must be top-down.”

Added Mr William Goh, LCEC Chairman of Trinity Methodist Church: “We want to be more interested in making disciples, but why is disciple-making not happening?

“There must be a meeting of minds and vision of the pastors and Lay Leaders. is is a prerequisite, and pastors must lead from the pulpit. Small group meetings are organised not just for fellowship but more importantly for making disciples. ere is no short-cut to mentoring. If we don’t lead by example, nothing will happen.”

Mr Paul Prasad, Lay Leader of Telugu Methodist Church (Singapore), shared about his church holding weekly meetings to train members, consisting mainly of foreign labourers, for church-planting work when they return to their native India. “They also bring friends from their dormitories,” he said.

Peter Teo is the Editor and Grace Toh the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.

Story and pictures by Peter Teo and Grace Toh

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