Thursday 10 May 2012


A supernatural encounter turned the predictable life of this plastic surgeon upside down. He realised that God had called him to initiate a movement to build authentic disciples.

Dr Charles Lee led a comfortable life as a plastic surgeon running his own clinic in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. As a church member, he ticked all the right boxes his faith in God expected of him. He could recite the Nicene creed and had a head knowledge of God.
But his beliefs had hardly impacted his character. He was still hot-tempered. But unknown to him, his mother had been praying earnestly for him.


                                                             Dr Charles Lee 


That was the old Lee until that memorable day — February 11, 1995. At 530 am on that day, he had a dramatic vision from God. He broke down and wept. His whole body was shaking in fear but he had the reassuring comfort of God’s presence. “Why did You choose me, God?” he asked. It was not that he was seeking Him earnestly. Deep inside he knew he was a sinner. Later, he realised that this personal supernatural visitation was probably the only way to make a sinner like him seek God.

He’s alive!

A few months later, a father brought a child with severe burns to his clinic. Immediately he assessed the child and told the father that the child was in a serious condition and surgery was not possible. After asking permission from the father, he prayed for the child’s recovery.
Miraculously the child recovered over a period of ten days without surgical intervention. Deep down, Lee knew that it was impossible, medically-speaking, for the child to recover — her burns were severe and septicaemia (secondary bacterial infection of the blood stream through the broken skin surface) had already set in. 

Jesus is alive! That was what reverberated within him after that incident. He was in jubilant spirits wherever he went. “I just wanted to declare to the whole world that Jesus is alive,” said Lee. “I was totally sold out for God.”

What was God trying to tell him? On hindsight, Lee shares that God was teaching him something very significant: “My son, I want you to know that there are some things which you cannot do, even with all your knowledge and training.”


The following year, Lee developed a deep spiritual hunger to know as much as he could about the historical Jesus of Nazareth. He studied about Hebrew culture and religious practices during the time when Jesus walked on this earth. “A renewed understanding of the Hebraic roots of Christ enables me to follow my Hebrew Lord more closely,” Lee shares with a sparkle of enlightenment in his eyes.

One day, when Lee chided his son for watching too much TV, the latter retorted, “What the TV has done to me is nothing compared to what you have done to me.” To his son, the evils of watching TV pale in comparison to his father’s influence on his life. This was a wake-up call for Lee which spurred him to control his temper. He realised he had to walk the talk both inside and outside his home. His character had to be transformed into Christ-likeness.

Back to basics

God showed him that the vision of a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1) was a sign that God’s end time judgment of His people has come, and they must repent and seek His face. Furthermore, there is great urgency to go back to the basics — even to the Hebraic roots of God’s Word. This is because of an impending ‘famine of hearing God’s Word’ (Amos 8:11).
Lee believes God’s truth must once again burn in our hearts as it did in that of the believers as Christ expounded to them the scriptures while they were walking on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). A superficial understanding of the Word will not do. We need to reexamine many things we often take for granted as the truth:

  • How many believe that “followership” is needed before leadership? (If leaders do not make following Jesus their priority, how can they be effective leaders?). 
  • Often we are exhorted to have faith even before we repent. (Actually we need to repent first).
  • Church activities often replace in-depth study of the Bible. (That should not be so).

Birth of a Vision

In 1997, he had the opportunity to attend the Haggai Institute in Maui, Hawaii. There he met Dr John Haggai who issued him an unforgettable challenge: “Attempt something so great for God that it is doomed to fail unless God is in it.”

After the Maui conference, Lee was all fired up to discover how to be an authentic disciple of Jesus and how to be a disciple-maker. He had a pulsating vision to see believers bearing fruit for God’s glory through Christ — out of changed hearts and renewed minds.

Inspired by Haggai, he wrote down a vision of what he perceived to be God’s strategy of building disciples. This vision was foundational in the birth of the Asia Pacific Consultation on Discipleship (APCOD).  Every three years, he would organise an APCOD conference where prominent Christian leaders from all over the world will be invited to speak on various topics touching on building authentic disciples.

APCOD serves as a strategic platform to build kingdom-minded disciples for Jesus in the Asia Pacific region. Incorporating both Hebraic and Christian perspectives, it shows believers how to live a Bible-based, Christ-centred life in the real world.

The first APCOD conference in 2001 saw more than 650 Christian leaders from 28 nations meeting in Kota Kinabalu to ‘Bring the Light of the Word of Life into the 21st Century’. Since then similar conferences were held in Colombo(2003), Auckland(2006) and Chennai (2010). The next APCOD conference will be held in May 2012 in Kota Kinabalu.

Over the past 10 years, APCOD has had the privilege to refresh, challenge, and equip more than 2000 leaders from the clergy and laity, including businessmen, professionals, academia and para-church ministry workers. Many participants have testified that their walk with Jesus has become more meaningful, that APCOD has enriched their faith beyond measure.

Into the deep

Just as the discouraged fisherman Peter was told by Jesus to “launch out into the deep, and let down your nets” (Luke 5:4) for a haul of fish, we too must not remain mired in shallow waters. “How deep we go spiritually is much dependant on how far we would allow God to take us,” shares Lee.

“Discipleship will remain a distant ideal to those who want to have spiritual blessing without paying the price,” emphasises Lee. “Jesus wasn’t looking for disciples among the masses who merely wanted miracles and healing from Him. He is looking for disciples among those who dare to ask, What can I do for You, Lord?”

“If you really mean business with God, if you want a transformed life and impact the community, you’ll need to rediscover what it means to be an authentic disciple of Jesus,” adds Lee. “And APCOD is one of the strategic vehicles to help you do that.”

The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, October 2011, issue 43.5.

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