Seven Paradigm Shifts in Twenty-First Century Discipling (3 of 3)

by Edmund Chan

A widely influential Singaporean pastor and author, in 1995 Edmund launched the Intentional Disciple-Making Church (IDMC) Conference. Started as a seminar with 320 participants, it has become a sold-out conference teaching disciple-making to 2,500 participants from 20 countries.


5. From Superficial Conformity to Value–Change

The focus must shift from looking for change in outward behavior to a fundamental change in one’s core values. Unless the core values are changed, nothing is really changed!

It is so easy for someone to slip back into “life as usual” once a discipling program is finished. It is so easy to stop memorising Scriptures once there is no discipling accountability for it. That’s conformity without value change.

The bane of contemporary discipleship is the superficial conformity to Christian norms rather than inner transformation through a radical value change. The focus must be on the being, not just the doing. A decisive adoption of biblical values, because of a definitive biblical world-view, promotes biblical discipling. This results in a radical discipleship that is counter-cultural!


6. From Theological Content to Theological Contemplation

Most discipleship programs are based primarily on the Know WHAT and the Know HOW. Too few focus on the Know WHY. We need to move from the Know WHAT to the Know WHY – so that we can meaningfully apply the Know HOW!

Broadly speaking, the Know WHY must be grounded theologically. There is a lack of theological integration in many discipleship programs today. More often than not, theology is dismissed as irrelevant. Or it is taught simply as content – as something to know and believe. There is little effort to teach theological contemplation – to help the disciples sort out their thinking about God. In our post-modern world, there is a need for the emergence of critical thinking. We need to reclaim the intellectual and theological landscape of the Church. There is a critical need to develop thinking Christians!


7. From Ministry Management to Life Management

In twenty-first century discipling, there must be a renewed call from ministry-management to life-management. Urban disciples are busy disciples. They cannot manage their ministry if they have not learnt to manage their time. And they cannot manage their time effectively if they don’t know how to manage their lives. There is a need for the emergence of personal leadership!

Many discipling programs today are merely centred upon ministry-skills and skill-development. The primary focus is on the ministry. Even Bible study skills are taught in order to facilitate ministry as a Bible study leader. But the art of soul care, a vital agenda to modern discipling today, is largely missing!

A major paradigm shift in modern discipling is to focus on life management, not just ministry management. People are to be ministered to and mentored, not just managed. A thinking disciple is one who has been taught to live deliberately. They are tutored to take stock of life, to take charge of their life and to take care of their life!


Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. Nonetheless, it is meant to be provocative. I offer this list of paradigm shifts needed in twenty-first century discipling to stimulate critical thinking, as well as to help us evaluate how we should go about the task of making disciples in the post-modern world we live in.

The principles are the same, but the process must be re-examined and adapted for discipling to be effective. In the words of an old Youth For Christ slogan, we must be “geared to the times, anchored to the rock”. We must adapt for effectiveness.

We must no longer be losing ground. Let’s go make disciples!

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