By the Revd John Kafwanka
"In order to guarantee the survival of the Church of the next generation we need to teach our people how to evangelise and be able to articulate their faith in word and action. That requires training disciple makers to guarantee a multiplier effect", said the Rt Revd Moon Hing Ng, the Bishop of the Diocese of West Malaysia in his welcoming message to the delegates of the Discipleship Seminar in Kuala Lumpur.
Bishop Moon Hing further highlighted the three things that he believes matter for the Church's relevance and wellbeing. They are Evangelism, Church planting, and Discipleship. He said no church could survive and be healthy enough to carry out its mission without these three features.
From 1989 Bishop Moon Hing embarked on a vision to train and release lay people for ministry in the diocese, and since 2009 the diocese has partnered with the SaRang Community Church, a branch of the Presbyterian Church in South Korea, to train leaders in discipleship.
The current Discipleship Seminar - entitled Invest to Invite the Next Generation of Disciple Makers - taking place at the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), is for clergy and laity who have been selected to be pioneers as disciple makers. The group of about 30 includes is mostly from the ecumenical family within Malaysia, plus one delegate from Hong Kong.
Bishop Moon Hing, who is himself an experienced missioner and Church planter, wishes to leave a legacy of a Church full of Christians able to live out their faith in every sphere of life and influence as disciples of Jesus.
He pointed out that Christians who have not been taught and trained in understanding what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, see themselves as spectators instead of participants. "Because they have little to do", the Bishop said, "they make themselves busy by complaining, criticising, condemning and finding fault in everything."
Through discipleship training, Bishop Moon Hing expects to see mindset change among the people, pointing out that, "when everyone is in the field and are busy there is no time for complacency and complaining".
Bishop Moon Hing compared discipleship to a mango fruit, saying that "The fruit of a mango tree is not just a mango fruit, but another mango tree, and even better a plantation of mango trees". He reiterated that people enjoy a wonderful mango fruit but throw the seed and look for another wonderful mango fruit instead of planting the mango seed, whose fruit will multiply.
"A disciple", Bishop Moon Hing observed, "is one who does not just talk about 'how' they became a Christian but 'why they became a Christian'". The Bishop pointed out that "We have many Christians but part-time disciples, many business men and women but part-time disciples, many pastors but part-time disciples".
And presenting a keynote address on the theme 'Mobilising the Laity', Pastor Sam Ko from the SaRang Community Church in Korea, spoke of how the "Church is a sleeping giant." He said the SaRang model of training lay people (Discipleship Training) was aimed at turning consumers into contributors, spectators into participants, and members into ministers.
He acknowledged how the process required much investment of time, energy and other resources but observed that the SaRang Community Church is reaping the fruits of such long term investment as many members with varieties of professional gifts give themselves to serve God in variety of ways.
Pastor Sam attributed the apathy of participation in the ministry of the Church and the lack of effectiveness of Christian faith in society in general to lack of intentional training for the laity to understand why they are Christians and what it means to be disciples of Jesus.
He added that "the Church often attracts the best people but soon turns them into bureaucrats by putting them on committees, and not long after they begin complaining because they have nothing to do." "The Church needs people who are ready to serve", he added.
Pastor Sam also suggested that the core problem in the Church is the leadership, which often fails to cultivate the potential of gifting and service from among the laity.
The Discipleship Seminar ran from 4th to 7th August 2014. The seminar was enriched by a rhythm of worship and prayers, and a variety of rich presentations and case studies as well as workshops.