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In But Not Of (IBNO) 2014 Conference: Discipleship in a ‘topsy turvy’ world

In a world where good is called “evil” and evil is called “good” (Isaiah 5:20),
we need a group of disciples who will turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6)

As a student, I always had burning questions about human life and the postmodernist philosophy and culture, which often seem to stand directly opposed to the Biblical worldview. Thus, I was drawn to the In But Not Of (IBNO) 2014 Conference, which promised to address these difficult issues which many Christians youths like myself grapple with today.

The conference, held on February 22 at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church, was put together by a group of university undergraduates and recent graduates who are passionate about being salt and light in our society. Its aim was to examine the meaning of Christian discipleship in postmodern 21st-century Singapore.

I especially remember Professor Thio Li-ann’s talk on the call to discipleship. Dismissing notions of having a perfect and peaceful life on earth, Prof Thio emphatically spoke about true disciples setting themselves apart in purity, bearing the reproach of Christ on earth (Heb 13:12-13) and fellowshipping in His suffering (Phil 3:10). Will we belong to those who were called, chosen and faithful at the end?

Those verses struck a chord in me, having run away many times in the face of danger when I heard God’s prompting for his disciples to stand in the gap (Eze 22:30).

A Christian counsellor, Leo, shared from his experiences in dealing with common struggles faced by youths today, drawing also from scientific evidence such as how pornography affects the brain, increasing the addiction each time one succumbs to watching it.

When Leo challenged us to renounce our past addictions and hurts, to renew and reclaim God’s standards of purity, many youths stepped forth and cried out to the Lord. I also saw others gathering in their own groups to pray for each other instead of heading for the free lunch outside. Truly, I felt the presence of God manifest in the place! Chains were broken and wounds were healed. Hallelujah!

Mr Jason Wong, Chairman of Focus on the Family and the man behind the Dads for Life movement and the Yellow Ribbon Project, spoke about fatherlessness in our present generation. His sharing centred on Malachi 4:6, that God would “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (NKJV).

From his experience working with convicts, ex-convicts and families, he realised that the deeper roots of abuse, drugs, pornography and sexual brokenness stemmed from fatherlessness. It is sobering to know that generations of youth (even in church) are still left confused, their hearts crying out for affirmation and acceptance. Yet, we have the comforting assurance of the glorious liberty that comes from being a child of God.

Some young adult Christians also shared their testimonies. They gave full and frank accounts of their intense and often long-drawn struggles with sin, the desire to be in AND of the world, and sexual lusts and eating disorders, which many in the audience could identify with. We heard of the amazing work that God had done in their lives, and could see the restorative work and healing hand of Christ through them.

I also remember the heart-wrenching, yet truly amazing testimony of Mr Vaithilingam Mohan, a volunteer at a community service organisation, who shared about his personal encounter with the Lord as he made the challenging journey out of sexual brokenness.

One thing I took away from his sharing was that we, as the Body of Christ, can minister to the sexually broken with grace and compassion, but without compromising on the truth, by helping them rebuild their personhood and identity in Christ – something I realised all of us must seek to do for ourselves.

As the conference came to a close, we faced the sobering truth that to fulfil our call and destiny, we must not merely be casual converts but committed disciples of Christ.

We have to follow the lead of the early disciples, who “turned the world upside down” with their message of the gospel and through demonstration of signs and wonders through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, bringing healing and setting the captives free.

Will you answer the call to carry the cross in the 21st century?

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Valerie Ching is a 21-year-old student who worships at Church of Singapore (Marine Parade).