IDMC Conference 2018: Faith and fire, inside and out

Salt&Light // September 8, 2018, 11:25 am

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From humble beginnings of 160 more than 25 years ago, this year's IDMC conference drew 5,500 delegates.

You can bear fruit without pleasing God. You can be spiritually gifted and still be spiritually immature.

Is that really possible?

“Fruit-bearing is a grace, and work, and gift of God. It is God’s initiative; It does not depend on our labour!” said Reverend Edmund Chan at the Intentional Disciple-Making Churches (IDMC) Conference this year. “So, yes, it is possible that God, in His grace, has given the gift — even when we are not pleasing to Him.”

What is fearsome is that bearing fruit without pleasing God isn’t scary to most of us.

Speaking on the conference theme of “Faith and Fire: Living from the Inside Out”, Rev Chan observed: “We have become so messed up as a Church that we end up assuming that the ends justifies the means.”

Reverend Edmund Chan’s exhortation to IDMC Conference delegates: “Know God and please Him. That is the mandate of discipleship.”

Balancing the equation

Traditionally held on the weekend before the September school holidays, the IDMC Conference is an annual event helmed by Rev Chan and his wife, Pastor Ann Chan, who are the founders of the Global Alliance of Intentional Disciple-Making Churches.

It started off as a small discipling seminar more than 25 years ago, to equip the leaders of Rev Chan’s church, Covenant Evangelical Free Church (CEFC), but has since grown to a full-blown conference.

This year, 5,500 delegates from 20-plus nations gathered at the Singapore Expo over three days from Aug 30.

The conference is also held regularly elsewhere, from nearby Surabaya in Indonesia to countries as far-flung as Russia and Kenya.

Kingdom fruit: The IDMC Conference drew 5,500 delegates to the Singapore Expo this year.

Regardless of where it is held, the conference delivers a clarion call to authentic discipleship.

Rev Chan noted that the Church has emphasised the mission for God so much so that she has overlooked her mandate from God. 

The markers of success today are tangible “fruit” – church growth, new converts, more programmes, number of committed members, happy families, fulfilment at work – and our pilgrimage seems to have fallen by the wayside. 

“Stop worrying about your performance. Anchor your pilgrimage of discipleship.”

He exhorted: “We must reverse this! The mandate and mission are important, but the mandate precedes the mission: First, to please God in all respects. Then, to bear fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

“Stop worrying about your performance. Anchor your pilgrimage of discipleship. 

“God is not impressed by the outward appearances; He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We must focus on the inner life. The upward focus is on Jesus Christ, but within, it is the inner life anchored in Jesus, that matters.”

Importance of the inner life

Rev Chan put forward five representative terrains that can help define the “enigma” of the inner life: Man’s compulsions, convictions, conscience, compass and composure. After all, “we cannot develop what we fail to define”.

The conscience is a God-given faculty, said IDMC conference co-speaker Ps Ann Chan.

This breakdown was given in the course of a revelation by the Lord to Rev Chan in March 2015, when he was in Indonesia for the inaugural IDMC Conference in Surabaya.

After checking into his hotel, Rev Chan was standing by the hotel window, gazing at the sprawling landscape when the song “Shine Jesus Shine” by Graham Kendrick came to mind. He sang it softly, and found himself weeping for the lost souls of the city before him.

“Son, open your eyes.”

Rev Chan obeyed the Holy Spirit’s gentle prompting, and in his field of vision were two crosses situated on two opposite ends of the city. “This is My answer for the needs of the people,” He said.

“I told the Lord: If this is Your answer, then we are in serious trouble. The Church is divided, weak, carnal and broken – how can this be Your answer?”

“This is the answer for the needs of the world – it is the people of God. Renewed. Rooted. Released in Christ.” 

But in time, Rev Chan began to understand that the answer is not the institution of the Church; it is the disciples of Jesus Christ who follow Him and who point others to Him – because Christ is the answer.

And when Christ is alive in His people, the Church is unstoppable. Jesus Himself promised in Matthew 16:18: “I will build My church.”

Rev Chan said: “This is the answer for the needs of the world – it is the people of God. Renewed. Rooted. Released in Christ.” 

Dare to disciple

The key is discipleship, especially given the instant-gratification mentality with which we live. Rev Chan joked that we are used to pushing buttons to fix our problems. “And sometimes … they don’t work. Then we punch them!”

When nothing is working, we go to that big, red panic button which, for Christians, is the “God, help!” button.

“When discipleship comes into the life of the church and people are nurtured, and mature towards spiritual maturity, there is a growing faith. With a growing faith, there are exploits of faith, an obedience guided by the right heart of devotion.

“Then, the Church becomes the greatest spiritual agent for the greatest spiritual transformation of all time!”

In the closing session, Rev Chan gave a rallying call to all who were present: “We have sacrificed truth on the altar of pragmatism. The prevailing consideration of the day is not what is true, but what works — whether it is true or not.

“Come back to the pulse and heartbeat of the call of the Church. Abide in the King and be part of His redemptive plan for the world!”

Early bird registration is open for Singapore IDMC Conference 2019: Re-thinking discipleship – “Discipleship doesn’t work” and other myths. Sign up here.

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