The Diocese of West Malaysia in the Province of South East Asia has been implementing a special focus on discipleship, or Christian living, for the past six years and has now held a seminar for faith leaders to look back on and share good practice.
The focus on discipleship was adopted by the diocese as a response to some of the challenges faced by Anglicans in South East Asia today; such as lack of commitment to practice personal faith and Christian ethics in all spheres of life.
“There are many full-time Christians but part-time disciples; many full-time pastors but part-time disciples,” the Bishop of West Malaysia and Archbishop-Elect of South East Asia, the Rt Revd Ng Moon Hing, said.
The seminar on “The Real Life Disciple” was held at St George’s Church Penang, the oldest church in the Province of South East Asia. Discipleship training, which began in 2009, is now carried out in five of the major languages spoken in the diocese: English, Chinese, Tamil, Malay and Iban.
In the midst of religious extremism and secularism in a self-centered world, Archbishop Moon Hing believes that discipleship training is the way forward for the church in this century. “The final product of the church should be disciples of Christ, and not programmes and activities or church membership,” he said.
The archbishop said that a disciple was somebody “who can articulate the Gospel of Christ clearly; can feed himself spiritually with the word of God; one who prays earnestly and hears from God; one who worships and serves God in season and out of season irrespective of name, position, title, privileges, or monetary gain; one who goes for mission to communities which are less comfortable than his own.”
The seminar included workshops and sessions on ministry philosophy, ecclesiology, ministry strategy, training the laity, Bible study and the practical issues of discipleship training. The Revd Isak You, from SaRang Church in Seoul Korea, led two open evening sessions looking at issues arising from changing the focus on discipleship and ways of encouraging the members of congregation to active discipleship.
Seminar participants highlighted the outcomes that some congregations had achieved as a result of the focus on discipleship, including a tripling of church funding after one year of engagement in discipleship training; and a large number of people involved in full time ministry. One congregation of 70 people has 70 per cent of its members actively serving the church in various capacities, including mission and outreach works.
“We should seriously consider and do disciple-making as our legacy for coming generations,” Archbishop Moon Hing said in his final charge to the seminar participants. “Like in the early church and throughout the past centuries, Christianity survived only through the real disciples of Christ. Today we do not need to re-invent the wheel.
“The success of discipleship training is not in the programme, course work, materials used or certification. It is measured with what happens outside the small group training or church – the life and character of the Disciple,” he concluded.
- Archbishop Ng Moon Hing is the chair of a core group of theAnglican Witness, a communion wide initiative bringing together mission leaders and practitioners, to equip believers to live out personal faith in their communities. It aims at mobilising Christians and gathering good practice stories from dioceses and parishes where emphasis on discipleship is already being implemented in various contexts.Anglican Witness is inviting Anglicans willing to share their own stories and resources to get in touch.