Towards Intentional Disciple Making

Report on the African Church Leaders Discipleship Congress
Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, 27-28 February 2015

By Rev. Jacob Haasnoot, Kajo-Keji, South Sudan

In this report I want to share with you what I learned and observed at the Disciple Conference I attended in Addis Abeba. After some general impressions, I will share the main points of the teaching at the conference.

General Impressions
It was in many ways a good conference. The teaching and fellowship were good and there was also time for worship (in a typical lively Ethiopian style). I was impressed with the main speaker: his experience, the content of his teaching but also his humility and spiritual focus. I had some good conversations with brothers and sisters from Sierra Leone, Uganda, Madagascar, Kenya, Egypt, Lebanon(!) and of course from Ethiopia. I met several people I knew from the time that I lived in Ethiopia myself.
It was a large conference with 2,500 people attending. The venue of the conference was very special. We met in the plenary (Nelson Mandela) meeting hall of the African Union building. We were sitting in the chairs of Silva Kir, Mugabe, Bashir, Uhuru Kenyatta and other African leaders!
The conference was organized by the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (founded by SIM) and sponsored by churches in Singapore, South Korea and the US.

African Union Plenary meeting room

African Union Conference Centre, Plenary Hall

I was disappointed about two things. First, the conference attendants were not really representing the Church in Africa. There were 2,200 Ethiopians and 300 people from outside Ethiopia, mostly Africans. Of the international delegates the majority was Kenyan. There were hardly any Nigerians, which is strange. I discovered only two Anglicans! Many denominations were not represented. Also almost all of the Ethiopians were from the organizing Kale Heywet church. There were no people from the other big protestant Mekane Yesus Church in Ethiopia and from other denominations, which is very awkward.
The other things is that there were no group discussions at the conference or the chance to ask questions. Of course that is very difficult with so many participants but it meant that we left with a number unanswered questions.

Towards Intentional Disciple Making
The main speaker was pastor Edmund Chan from Singapore. He set up an organization to envision churches all over the world in the area of Intentional Disciple making.

Chan started with the spiritual foundation for leaders who want to focus on disciple making. From Gal. 2:20 we learn 2 things:
1. Being committed as a leader is not enough. Paul talks about being crucified, which means total surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
2. Our focus needs to be on God: not what we can do for Him but what He is doing for us!

Our relationship with Christ is more important than the discipleship programs we are running.
Definition of Discipleship according to Chan:
“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 process in others also”.

Four main topics were discussed:
1. See the critical need
2. Understand the Biblical strategy
3. Determine the End product
4. Accomplish the Mission

1. See the critical need: Returning the Church to its disciplemaking Roots
A. What is the situation now in many churches? Five Cries of the Church:
1. There are too many programs.
2. There are too few volunteers.
3. The leadership direction is not clear.
4. Leaders are not united.
5. Members are not discipled.

B. What symptoms of our problem do we see in churches?
1. Workers are tired.
2. There is a lack of leaders.
3. There is a lack of growth by conversion.
4. Cell groups are struggling.
5. Marriages are struggling.
6. We see broken relationships.
7. We see church members living in sin.

C. Satan’s scheme in attacking the Church: deception, division, discouragement, defilement.

The underlying problem is that Christians don’t Disciple!
D. Five misconceptions of Discipleship:
1. Discipleship just happens.
2. Discipleship takes place when people attend church programs.
3. Discipleship is only for new Christians.
4. Discipleship is for spiritual people only.
5. Discipleship is a program.

E. If discipleship is so important, why is it so neglected?
1. A lack of time.
2. A lack of interest.
3. A lack of confidence. You can not pass on what you don’t have.
4. A lack of disciples. People don’t want to be discipled.
5. A lack of conviction.

2. Understand the Biblical strategy: Authentic Discipleship and Intentional Disciplemaking
A. Seven misconceptions of the Great Commission (Matth. 28:18-20)
1. Missing the main Focus: It is about us but about Christ who has the power!
2. Missing the main Essence: It it not a message to broadcast but a ‘life to live’.
3. Missing the main Agent: Not ‘some missionaries’ but all members!
4. Missing the main Product: Not ‘making converts’ but: making disciples!
5. Missing the main Emphasis: You must go and make disciples! It is not about the manner but about the mission.
6. Missing the main Yardstick: Not the numbers but obedience!
7. Missing the main Concern: Not just ‘disciple’ but ‘disciple the Nations’! Do we have a vision for the world?

B. Four convictions from Matthew 28:18-20
1. The source of the Great Commission: All authority…
2. The scope of the Great Commission: All nations…
3. The strategy of the Great Commission: Obey all things…
4. The season of the Great Commission: Always…

C. Eight marks (indicators) of a Disciplemaking Church
1. Purpose-driven: Disciplemaking is the core mission of the Church.
2. Responsible Evangelism: People are being led to Christ and followed-up.
3. Intentional Growth Strategies: People are being developed. There is something for everyone. Ministry according to spiritual gifts.
4. Leadership Commitment: Leaders are committed to model disciplemaking.
5. The Church has a clear disciplemaking Vision.
6. There are training programs for discipleship in place.
7. There is a small group infrastructure for intentional disciplemaking.
8. We see spiritual multiplication: People’s lives are transformed and multiplication is taking place.

3. Determine the End product: Reproduce Disciples of a certain kind
A. Question is: What kind of disciples does God call us to reproduce? It helps to distinguish between conventional church values and ‘intentional disciplemaking church values’.

# Conventional values versus Disciplemaking values
1 Making converts vs. Making disciples
2 Successful programs are valued vs. Spiritual maturity is valued
3 20% does 80% of the work vs. 20% equips 80% to minister
4 Laity-led, Clergy driven vs. Clergy-led, Laity driven
5 Disciples are maid within the church vs. Disciples are made in every sphere of life
6 Church dispenses information vs. Church transforms lives
7 Asks: How many attended church? vs. Asks: What kind attended church?
8 Looks for change in outward behaviour vs. Looks for change from inside out
9 Low expectations of Christians vs. Believes in the potential of one person and the power of multiplication

B. Philosophy of Disciplemaking
Disciplemaking is all about a certain kind of person who is radically committed to a certain kind of purpose, who thru a certain kind of process reproduces a certain kind of product.
1. A certain kind of person who is Abiding in Christ.
2. A certain kind of purpose: a Kingdom purpose.
3. A certain kind of process: Life investment in disciple making.
4. A certain kind of product: a Transformed life.

C. Discipling the inner life: focus should not be on the outward life but on transformation of the inner life.
# Focus on outward life versus Focus on inner life/transformation
1 Values accomplishments vs. Values authenticity
2 Values performance results vs. Values growth and learning
3 Competence (gifts) first vs. Character (fruits) first
4 Doing good as to be looking good vs. Doing good flows out of being good
5 Esteems status and stature vs. Esteems substance
6 Competitive and boastful vs. Genuinely celebrates others
7 Reacts to criticisms vs. Responds to criticisms
8 Cannot let go of control vs. Empowers others
9 Default way of the world vs. Discipleship way of God

4. Accomplish the Mission
Five steps towards building an Intentional Disciplemaking Church
1. Establish Biblical foundations
2. Champion the Disciplemaking vision (both top-down and bottom-up)
3. Launch a prototype (start a group)
4. Put structures into place
5. Establish the infrastructure

We were then presented with three models of an Intentional Disciplemaking Church. Those were of the Covenant Ev. Free Church in Singapore, the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church and ‘Christ is the Answer Ministries’ (Citam) from Kenya. To be honest, the presentations on these models were not very clear and/or practical. I am here only giving the 5 parts of the program that Citam is using:
1. Enter: come and know, God’s special family
2. Encounter: come and grow, rooted and built up
3. Embrace: come and bond, living in love
4. Enlist: come and serve, equipped for service
5. Engage, come and go, engaged witnesses

It was made clear that you need to develop you own contextualised model for intentional disciplemaking.

See also:  ‘Thinking about Discipleship in Changing Contexts: Perceptions of Church Leaders of an Episcopal Diocese in South Sudan‘, Cairo Journal of Theology, volume 2, 2015, p. 121-131.