Towards a Disciplemaking Church


Edmund Chan

Covenant Evangelical Free Church, 2001 

ISBN 981-04-4587-0   Printed in Singapore

ChaBuil 03-02-21


Edmund Chan is senior pastor of Covenant Evangelical Free Church.  The book describes the church’s vision or blueprint for disciplemaking. It is heavily laced with Navigators’ influence.  With a diagram and outline format, the book is easy to read and understand.


Definition:  “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 entire process in others also.”  (10)


Vision.  “I have a dream of a disciplemaking church characterized by these five essential distinctives: (16-19)

  1. World class Internship – a center for leadership development
  2. Word and Spirit Church – empowered by the Spirit and grounded in the Word – a balance
  3. Life-Transforming Ministries – five pillars: prayer, worship, cells, equipping, and outreach
  4. Holistic Disciplemaking – to help God’s people master life’s transitions
  5. An Unreached Peoples’ Advocate – an outward looking church - planting churches in UPGs we have adopted – sending missionaries and mission teams to them


Eight major characteristics: (22-27)

  1. Purpose-Driven – intentional disciplemaking is the core mission.
  2. Responsible Evangelism – leading people to Christ and conscientiously following up
  3. Intentional Growth Strategies – developing people
  4. Leadership Commitment – committed to model disciplemaking
  5. Vision-Casting – The pastor champions and models disciplemaking
  6. Vision-Concretizing – vehicles established to facilitate disciplemaking
  7. Small-Group Infrastructure – small groups are intentional disciplemaking units
  8. Spiritual Multiplication – lives are transformed and spiritual multiplication occurs


Why must disciplemaking be the key agenda of the church?  A biblical and theological foundation is summarized.  Along with many others, Chan cites Mt 28:18-20 and claims “Making disciples is at the very heart of the Great Commission.” (31)  [I would argue that making discipled nations is a better interpretation.]  “The call of the Great Commission is to not merely make converts to make disciples.”  “The ultimate aim is for spiritual maturity.”  (31)  “I am convinced that mentoring of disciples is the key to the critical need for leadership emergence.”  (34)


Four aspects to the definition of disciplemaking (38-41)

  1. Bringing people into right relationship with God
  2. Developing them to full maturity in Christ.
  3. Through intentional growth strategies
  4. To multiply the entire process in others


Chan includes a chapter on “Misconceptions of the Great Commission.” 

  1. The focus of the Great Commission is on Christ, not the Church. 
  2. The essence is “a way of life to live,” vs. a message to broadcast
  3. The main impetus is for the whole church, not just missionaries
  4. The main command is “make disciples,” not “go.”
  5. The main product is “disciples,” not “converts.”
  6. The main yardstick is obedience, not baptisms.
  7. The main concern is cooperation vs., competition.  (43-46)


Chan’s four convictions about the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20)

  1. Disciplemaking is at the heart of local church ministry.
  2. God intends disciplemaking to be global.
  3. God intends discipling to be for every believer.
  4. God intends disciplemaking to be for all times.  (46-47)


“In our evangelical smugness, we have failed to recognize the alarming extent to which the world has influenced the modern church.”  (48)  [This is not an incidental line from the author.  He devotes a whole page to this single quote.]


The Crisis of Modernity:

  1. The crisis of identity in an age of narcissism – fulfillment dominates our private agendas.
  2. The crisis of truth in an age of pragmatism – a profound lack of reflection on truth.  Whatever works is true.  “It is a generation that thinks it thinks.”
  3. The crisis of authority in an age of consumerism – the customer is boss.  Does the church meet my needs?
  4. The crisis of spirituality in an age of fatigue – “We live unexamined lives at a frantic pace.”  “We become spiritually dry and lethargic.”  (50-52)


Paradigm Shifts in 21st Century Discipling.  “We must meaningfully exegete our world and adjust our approach to be relevant and effective.”  (53)

  1. From spiritual exhortation to spiritual direction – Provide more than ‘what to do.’  Provide instruction on ‘how to do.’  More counseling is needed.
  2. From single-level discipling to multi-level discipling – Churches are not homogenous.  Many methods and structures are needed on different levels.
  3. From program-oriented to person-oriented discipling – We have to being with “who are you?” rather than “what is to be covered?”
  4. From classroom-discipling to real-world discipling – Application is more challenging.  Things taught must be integrated into all arenas of life.
  5. From superficial conformity to value-change – “There must be an emergence of a counter-cultural worldview – real value change.  Unless our core values are transformed by God in light of the Scriptures, nothing is really changed.”  “We must know and apply basic life principles.” (58) 
  6. From theological content to theological contemplation – We have to learn how to think critically.
  7. From ministry management to life management


Chan’s Core Curriculum for Disciplemaking is fundamental, progressive, diagnostic, and prescriptive.  The topics are

  1. Theology (Who is God?),
  2. Allegiance (Who is my master?),
  3. Identity (Who am I?),
  4. Purpose (What am I called to do?),
  5. Values (What is of ultimate importance in my life?),
  6. Priorities (What are the things I must put first?),
  7. Empowering (How can I be empowered?),
  8. Foundation (What should I anchor my life upon?)  (62-71)


Philosophy:  “Disciplemaking is all about a certain kind of person who is radically committed to a certain kind of purpose, who through a certain kind of process, reproduces a certain kind of product.”  (73)


God uses committed disciples, sold out on disciplemaking, making a life investment to reproduce in others (according to 2 Tim 2:2) the biblical design for a disciple. 


The practical outworking in the church requires a philosophy of three parts: “

Chan represents these as three points on a triangle.  The vision consists of the five distinctive characteristics and the core vehicles are the five pillars of ministry above.  The five core values are truth, community, stewardship, balance, and brokenness. (87-92)


Principles for Mentoring: (93-97)


Chan includes brief appendices on the importance of covenant groups, nourishing your soul, the fruit of the Spirit, why mentoring is important, obstacles we face, and mastering life’s transitions.