In my earlier post, I shared some of my reflections and observations concerning the Intentional Disciple Making Conference hosted by Covenant Evangelical Free Church in Singapore. What I did in that post is to highlight some of observations that I perceive to be the strengths of the conference. In this promised follow-up post, I hope to offer some of my critique and reservations concerning some of the issues dealt with or highlighted in the conference.
First, it seems to me that most of what Rev Edmund Chan covered in his plenary sessions remained at conceptual level. For those who have done some theological studies or those who are informed readers of serious or academic theological books, this might not be much of an issue. But for most of the audience, having to grasp with the theology of God for the first time within 2-1/2 days might be a little bit daunting. How theology could be made simple in everyday life and how this can be lived out in everyday life remains rather sketchy. Although Rev Chan has made clear on several occasions during the conference that his purpose is to lay the foundation and to provoke thinking, I feel that for many who may be hearing such theological concepts for the first time may need further guidance in helping them navigate through many issues confronting them in their Christian journey. One of the participants remarked to me, "With all these high-sounding words and statements being made, I wonder if there is any substance to it." To be fair to Rev Chan, although he did attempt to bring all that he had covered together in the final plenary session, it would have been more beneficial if additional practical examples be given in each of the sessions.
Second, I find Rev Chan's plenary session on how theology should be done is "inadequate and truncated", to use the one of his most quoted phrase in the conference. Rev Chan listed 6 building blocks for what he perceived to be the fundamental necessities for the theological task. These are:
- 1) the necessity of theological vision
- 2) the necessity of theological foundation
- 3) the necessity of theological contemplation
- 4) the necessity of theological pedagogy
- 5) the necessity of theological holism
- 6) the necessity of theological humility.
On the other hand, I also believe that the theological task should not be merely an intellectual stimulating exercise that tickles the brain but does not bring about the needful transformation of the heart or move the heart with compassion to theological practice. One cannot do theology without talking about the transformation of the community, society and nation. While Rev Chan did mention in passing about the need for transformation, it seems to me that his focus is on spiritual transformation of individuals that leads to discipleship and evangelism, but not moving into the engagement of the public square. If my observation is correct, I believe the theological task promoted by Rev Chan may need some correction to include the necessity of theological practice.
Third, it seems to me that the quality of the various workshops is rather uneven. The workshops could have been a great opportunity to augment and strengthen the main theme of the conference, "Knowing God: Theology Made Relevant in Discipleship Today." As I have mentioned above, one of the shortcomings of the conference is that much of what Rev Chan expounded on remains at conceptual level, and the workshops could have been an excellent platform in bringing out the theme in practical, daily Christian living. One of the workshops I attended was disappointing, to say the least. In this workshop, we were asked to do a quick exercise to gauge our stress level by assigning different weightage to different issues in life. As a single, my immediate reaction based on this exercise is this: "I don't have any stress!" But is this a true picture? Immediately, I looked at the source of this exercise and it was dated back to 1967! I find this to be totally unacceptable. How can one use an exercise designed in 1967 to gauge the stress level today? This is by far the most disappointing aspect of the conference. I would like to believe that the speaker of the workshop would have done more homework, and to utilise a more updated statistics available for this kind of exercise.
Overall, as I have indicated in my previous post, I find this conference to be a very spiritually refreshing one for me as a professional NT scholar and theological educator who teaches the Scripture daily to my student. My criticisms in this post are not meant to detract us from what would otherwise be a great conference.
The success of the 2009 conference is clearly reflected in the overwhelming response to the 2010 Intentional Disciple Making Conference. All the 1,800 seats available for the live package have been snapped up! So what's left are the live-time video package.
So, are you persuaded to be a part of the 2010 IDMC? If so, better act fast, else you will be left behind!
For my earlier posts:
Part 1 - please click here
Part 2 - please click here