It was the winter of 2003 in London.
I was on my study sabbatical as a visiting scholar at what was then called the London Bible College. I was seeking the Lord for clear directions in my life. I wanted to know God’s leading for my ministry after my sabbatical.
It was then, in answer to prayer, that I received five specific assignments from the Lord. They were so clear that I could list them in my journal. And they came with a specific time-line. I was to accomplish all these five things in my ministry by 2008.
First and foremost, I was to mentor key leaders.
Mentoring has been one of my chief passions. Before my sabbatical, I had already been mentoring for over two decades. But now the Lord said to me, “I want you to mentor some of the top leaders of Christian organisations, churches and the marketplace.”
I said, “Lord, I'll do it, but You must bring them to me.” And the Lord did. Each by divine appointment!
So from a small beginning of mentoring two senior pastors, this leadership-mentoring ministry grew to such a size that we needed two groups for more intentional interactions.
These two groups include senior pastors, national or regional directors of para-church organisations and mission agencies, theological educators as well as CEOs and key marketplace leaders. It has been my unmerited and joyous privilege to serve as a humble mentor to these outstanding leaders from Singapore and beyond.
The second task was to unite the Body of Christ in Singapore.
And so I said to the Lord the same thing: “Lord, if You want me to unite the Body, I am willing to serve You — but You bring the invitation to do so to me. It would not be appropriate for me to go out looking for leadership platforms upon my return from my sabbatical.”
And it came to pass that some of the senior leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore (EFOS) came to me and said, “Edmund, as we sought the Lord on the Global Day of Prayer (GDOP) He led us to you. We would like you to give leadership to the GDOP.”
As I sought the Lord, He reminded me that uniting the Body was a call from Him. I decided that we should have it at the National Stadium. Any other venue would be too small.
But I had a mere three-month runway to lead towards a National Stadium-sized event. Because of the short runway, I had to exercise strong and decisive leadership as the co-chairman of the GDOP. There was a lot of leg-work to be done. Together with key leaders of the GDOP committee, we visited pastors and church leaders.
Many leaders rallied behind this urgent call to prayer. GDOP was the largest prayer gathering in the history of Singapore. It was a distinct privilege to unite the Body thus!
That prayer event gave birth to the Singapore churches uniting in a 24-hour prayer chain for a full year. And by God’s grace, it still continues today!
I was also asked to lead the National Prayer Alliance, presently a non-formal leadership group which seeks to unite the leaders of the city-wide prayer movements in Singapore with a united prayer agenda. Prayer is the key to unity. And united, fervent prayer is the key to revival!
The third task was to build a new 2,000-seater church building.
The cost was about US$20 million. That wasn’t the challenge. The challenge was that the Lord had specifically laid upon my heart to do this without drawing down on a bank loan. And to enter the new facilities completely debt-free by 2008!
On the last Sunday before we began worshipping in the new facilities, we had to raise about S$430,000. The church members had already been giving most sacrificially. The last lap is often the hardest.
By faith, I declared that this was the LAST building fund we would collect. I believed the Lord’s promise that we would enter the facilities the next Sunday completely debt-free. That Sunday, with a need of over S$430,000, we collected over S$600,000 in a single day! And it thus came to pass. Just as the Lord had promised.
The fourth thing the Lord asked me to do was to establish an Advanced Leadership Retreat Centre.
But how was I to do it by 2008 and be debt-free? I was already leading in a US$20 million church building project to be completed debt-free that same year! Even if I could raise another US$10 million, there are inherent challenges in operating a retreat centre. There are catering, staffing and maintenance concerns, just to name a few. It is a full-time job!
In December 2007, I prayed, “Lord, I am waiting for You to provide. You said to do it by 2008. It’s now end 2007. Show me the way, Lord! I will not move until You move!” And God did.
In January 2008 a Christian businessman, whom I have the joyous privilege of mentoring, took me up to one of the most beautiful mountain resorts in South East Asia. He offered it to me for the Advanced Leadership Retreat Centre. Complete with catering and maintenance staff. Free of charge, he said, for the next 20 years! God is faithful!
The fifth thing the Lord told me to do was to launch a global alliance of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches (IDMC) by 2008.
My philosophy of ministry is to “Think Big, Start Small and Build Deep”. Nothing less than a global vision is worthy of a global God! And so, with a BIG vision and a humble beginning, the IDMC Global Alliance was launched in August 2008 at the IDMC Conference in Singapore. It was attended by over 2,000 delegates from 23 countries.
But I told the Lord, “Father, if it is to be a global alliance, I need strong, recognised disciplemaking churches to rally behind this.” Again, by divine appointment, the Lord led me.
I was preaching at a Transform World Conference in Bangkok. At the end of the session, Pastor David, the missions pastor of SaRang Community Church in Seoul, came to me and said that he had changed his flight just to get connected.
Subsequently, I visited John Oak the founding pastor of SaRang. This esteemed disciplemaking pastor graciously extended his blessings and support for the global alliance. John Oh, the current senior pastor of SaRang, also received me with his warm hospitality.
Likewise, I was led to Perimeter Church in Atlanta, USA. I read about this disciplemaking church through the book, The Prevailing Church by Randy Pope, their senior pastor. My attention was brought to it again when George Barna listed Perimeter Church as one of the key disciplemaking churches in the States. Moreover, some friends had told me that Randy and I should meet up as we have much in common.
When we eventually met, I found a kindred spirit. Randy said with his characteristic tongue-in-cheek humour, “Are we twins?” Our hearts were immediately knitted together by the Lord and Randy Pope expressed his strong support of the Global Alliance of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches. After this, other influential disciplemaking senior pastors rallied behind this young movement.
It all started when the Lord drew me to Himself. To create space in my soul to listen to God. By grace, He spoke and by faith, I believed. And everything the Lord had said to me back in the winter of 2003 in London had come to pass by the end of 2008. So what was next?
In 2009, the Lord laid upon my heart a fresh vision for 2020.
Over time, as other strong disciplemaking churches were invited to join the Global Alliance, a vision was cast for uniting key disciplemaking churches on a global front to establish 20,000 intentional disciplemaking churches by 2020, in 50 gateway cities.
Our vision is that together, as a network of intentional disciplemaking churches, we might equip 100,000 key disciplemaking leaders so as to mobilise ONE MILLION DISCIPLES who would multiply spiritually for world evangelisation.
This movement of intentional disciplemaking churches is rooted in four fundamental convictions:
- Jesus Christ is coming again. Soon!
- Because Christ is returning soon, the urgent task is world evangelisation.
- The strategic key to world evangelisation is intentional disciplemaking.
- The critical need in disciplemaking is authentic, radical, biblical discipleship!
As a platform to cast this compelling global vision, a Global Congress of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches will be held in Manila, Philippines in May 2013. The aim is to bring together a few thousand of disciplemakers from around the world. About 7400 participants from 61 nations, and 1500 volunteers, attended the Global Discipleship Congress. It was a God-blessed time.
The Global Discipleship Congress was a resounding success on many counts. A mega-church senior pastor appreciatively said that this was indeed a “top world-class Congress”.
Sam Hershey, senior leader of the Navigators, said in a recent email: "I have personally never attended a large event, or any church or organizational conference, that has been more refreshing in all my life."
We also heard from the Chief Justice of the Philippines and the President of the Philippines, as they shared their faith and aspirations respectively with the appreciative delegates. We had a wonderful time praying for these distinguished country leaders.
A total of US$192,000 was raised through the IDMC Global Alliance partners to support 250 third-world leaders to attend the conference.
A number of delegates have told me personally that it was a “life-changing” congress for them. Some benefitted from the challenge to walk closer to God; while others said that they would no longer look at church ministry the same ever again, and would put intentional disciplemaking as a core mission of the local church!
Faith without works is dead. I share both this testimony of what God has done and the vision of what I believe God will do in order to underline the point that faith must move beyond mere rhetoric or false triumphalism. It is simply rooted upon what the Lord has said and that which He has promised.
Faith is after all rooted upon the promises of God!
And the fundamental promise He has given to me is Isaiah 60:22, “The smallest shall become a clan; the least one, a mighty nation. I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”
I believe that God’s presence, provision and power will bring this IDMC 2020 Vision to pass, as He brought all five assignments to pass in 2008, for His glory.