Sunday, December 19, 2010


I still remember the day when my wife and I moved here in January 1991 from Perth. Our church started the following month. Time sure flies. We have already served for almost 20 years and I have served 15 years of that time on our staff team.

Then it has been almost two years that Dinah and I have spent seeking God. Our attitude is to be open to what God is saying, including through those around and those over me in the Lord.

The Lord has been faithful. Here is a recent encounter. Dinah and I just visited our Silicon Valley care group. There we spent time with Tom Lam. Among other things, we asked about how he coped with relocation and transition. He shared that a sermon "In Between Times" spoke to him whilst he was in Singapore.

Curious, I came back and discovered that this was a 2003 sermon based on Acts 18:18-23. The definition alone was quite encouraging. "In between moments are: a) Irregular times when we are caught unawares, b) After endings and before new beginnings and when c) Life is on hold." That sermon in its entirety spoke to me too. Thanks Tom : )

One of several questions that I have been asked a lot during this season is: "What have you been up to?". Well, in the year 2010 I have focused on three main areas. Let me share them in turn here...

1. Regional Ministry
Dinah and I are responsible for HIM region of North America and we make regular ministry trips to our churches there. We are thankful that our twins are understanding of ministry travel and Dinah's sister has been available to take care of them whilst we are away. And there's Simon who has been so helpful with trip logistics.
We are also very glad to be involved with the Canada missions and US missions teams in Hope Singapore.

2. Seminary Studies
Currently I am working on the final Masters subject which is a thesis. Jiadai from our uni service has been a big help with borrowing reference books.
I am so glad that the lectures, assignments and exams phase is over. Pastor Jo has been a big help as exam invigilator. Cara, Kam and James has helped too while Dinah has helped with vetting assignments.

3. Strategic Planning
Dinah and I are part of the HIM Strategic Planning Team. Our team of six is charged with developing the first-ever global master-plan for HIM. With our movement now in 41 countries, guiding this process has been quite exciting. I am thankful to Adeline for her help when we first started out. You can get updates on this 2011-2015 strategic plan at

In closing, this season has been quite a journey. This has been one of the longest transitions for me and my family. Being neither here nor there has been very unsettling. We thank God for the precious friends He provides in our lives who support us as we face the stress and psychological adjustments that uncertainty brings. But I know in my heart that this season will prepare us for what is ahead.

In this season, let me also wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Looked like the Danube

Like many guys who have reached shaving-age, I've cut myself shaving on more occasion than I would like to admit. Today I topped that. I cut myself showering... during my regular morning shower.
Today was not unlike other days. I was showering. I was squeezing the bottle of liquid soap. After a few squeezes, the soap bottle somehow flew out of my hand and into my face. Boing!!
Like a man, I continued lathering after keeping the bottle. The water felt good. Then I began to smell fresh blood. Perhaps I scratched my scalp, I thought.
My lathering continued. The smell of blood persisted. I had to look from the corner of my eye into my face. It was then that I saw redness flowing down my face. It looked like a mini-version of the Danube images I've seen on the news. In an instant I jumped out of the shower to inspect the mirror. My nose was bleeding. I looked closer and saw it... a gash on the ridge of my nose.
No choice. Had to dry myself, leave the bathroom and get a plaster to put over the wound. This should do! This I did this and then continued showering.
Just as I finished showering, I was sure there was someone at the door. There was. I open the door and there was our new part-time cleaner. She sees me in a towel with a plaster across my nose. I welcome her in hoping she will not choke. Then I call Dinah.
Today is also my beloved's birthday. So far, the day is turning out to be quite a day : )

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Our Tentmaking Approach
Love Singapore Missions Summit
Benjamin Lee on Thursday, 10th May 2007

As a church we practice church planting through tentmaking. My wife worked in Public Relations and I worked as an external auditor when our church here started.

As a new church plant we started to plant churches. Let me share five lessons on how we turned the corner from a church with missions into a missions-driven church. This journey began in 1997.

First is vision. We articulated the vision to turn the unchurched into church-planters.

Our goal was to be a missionary church rather than a church with missions. Missions would be the main thing rather than the side show.

We kept talking about the church's 'S' capacity. This is not seating, speaking, singing capacity but sending capacity.

Second is infrastructure. We set up a high-level, cross-functional leadership task force. We put up a budget and recruited two missions staff.

We mobilised our small groups to pioneer care groups in the city and mid-size groups (100 people up) to pioneer in an overseas city. Mid-size groups would prayerfully select cities with our missions staff.

I was encouraged that our students also began to do missions through overseas education.

Third is outreach. Our mid-size groups started clubs such as Friends of South Africa and Friends of Peru.

Our staff organised Missions Conferences, Missions Week and Missions Month. We featured regular live tent-maker testimonies during worship services.

Fourth is preparations. We focused on equipping, exposing and engaging.
For example we held mission classes and children mission lessons, language classes in Spanish and business workshops. We encouraged Teaching English as Second Language and even driving lessons.

Our staff held monthly briefings with potential and to-be tentmakers and with mid-size group leaders.

Our mid-size groups also started home missions. We began reaching and discipling internationals so they in turn touch their nation. We currently have Nepalese, Filipino and Vietnamese groups.

Fifth is communication. Missions work is far away and so easily falls to the bottom of the agenda.

So we ensured all communication avenues emphasise missions. There needed to be a constant stream of missions news and tools. Bulletins, website, brochures, book store, camps, banners keep missions at the forefront.

We also challenged each member to give more of their lives to international missions every year. We constantly looked to provide diverse church planting opportunities for members constantly. For example we started Weekend Missions. We started three church plants in South Malaysia. We promoted Holidays for Jesus for further away cities so we published annual brochures with airfares and holiday ideas. Now we have various Short-term missions (a week) in Thailand, East Malaysia and Indonesia.

Let me conclude. The next phase for us is organic church planting. This is based on the belief that living things grow naturally. Kingdom things are organic things. They start small and reproduce.

Organic church-planters don’t think about planting a church. They think like the apostle Paul – to church an entire region.

Friday, August 27, 2010

World Missions Church

How to Build a World Missions Church

Our church started with 5 people in 1991. We started planting churches in 1992. Initially we planted within Asia and Oceania. From 1998 onwards we started planting in all continents of the world. We started as a local church, then we became a regional church and now we are becoming a global church.

Before we go into how to build a world missions church, allow me to debunk common misconceptions about world missions.

First, it is simply not true that some churches have a call for missions but others don’t. God calls all of us to make disciples of all nations. When you read the Bible, you get a clear sense that God loves the whole world. That He thinks globally and He redeems globally. Jesus was and is pre-occupied with the world.

There is only one instance in the Bible the church is told not to do missions. It was in Acts 1:8, where Christ told the disciples not to go out into the world until they had received the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told all of us to “go”. Some churches miss the word “go”. Jesus told us to start at Jerusalem then go to Judea, Samaria and outer parts of the world. Some churches get stuck in Jerusalem.

Some Christians resist missions actively ("I'm already meeting many needs here") or passively (applauding church planting enthusiastically with minimal personal response). What is the risk of being inward looking? When a river has no outlet, it becomes a dead sea. It is important to personalise Jesus’ heart for the nations.

Second, it is not true that only larger churches can plant churches. Every 100-person group in our church targets to plant a church in an overseas city every 3 years. A small church can partner with another small or medium church to plant churches.

Third, it is said that “we can’t possibly go to all the 238 countries and territories”. No one said to go to the whole world at once. I will answer this in the next section.

Now allow me to share some key elements to build a world missions church.

A world missions church has missions-hearted leadership. The top leadership has got to be convinced we have a responsibility beyond our home shores. Our leadership, teaching and modeling is what makes this work. That’s why it is said “as the leader does, so goes the church”.

“There is only one among the twelve apostles who did not become a missionary. He became a traitor” Adam Brown.

Here are four practical tips. Plan the annual church calendar around missions. Missions work is far away and easily falls to the bottom of the agenda. Always set missions goals first since local issues will always get prioritised. Ensure every local ministry and church department has a global vision so every one becomes a global outfit. Start every management and leadership meeting with a global missions review. Ensure there is a constant stream of missions news in your website and church bulletin and missions testimonies in your worship services.

A world missions church has a world missions strategy. Most churches just do Short Term Missions (STM). People come back excited. The question is always ‘so what next’? How do we move them to the next level? Here are three pointers. Prayerfully adopt a city for church planting. Make a commitment that we are going to do whatever it takes to see this people coming to Christ, and being discipled and churches planted that will lead to other churches being planted. Develop strategy with your Regional Missions Coordinator. Form a team.

A world missions church is sacrificially funding missions. We thought we were doing quite well in world missions. Then we realised that another local church in Singapore spends 50% of its annual budget every year on world missions. That blew my mind. Here is the lesson - Don’t use God’s blessings for ourselves. Give your best leaders for missions. If you take care of the world, God will take care of your church.

A world missions church cares holistically for church planters and churches. Be willing to take the responsibility of mothering. Giving birth is hard but mothering is harder. It is also for life.

A world missions church is thoroughly preparing church planters. Offer introductory missions courses in Word for Life, special seminars and specialised training for language acquisition.

A world missions church grows global Christians. Challenge members to give more of their lives to world missions every year. Ask members to stop and think about how their purpose in life fits into God’s purpose of making Him known, praised and enjoyed among all people of the earth.

The current global era now upon us is a new kairos. In the final analysis, what brings radical change and transformation in a city is two feet walking into a city.

“What are churches for but to make missionaries” Augustus Strong.

First published in the August 2007 issue of the H.I.M. Advance newsletter.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Living in Overdrive
By Ben KC Lee
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009

What is living in overdrive? Perhaps this may give a clue - the average office worker is interrupted 202 times a day. Then Ecclesiastes 2 talks about anxious striving.

In the past, most people took two weeks off work, went back to work and were okay for a year. An Israeli study on burnout I read some time back showed that people take two weeks off a year, return to work and after three weeks in the job, they are on baseline burnout.

Living in overdrive is like overloading an electrical outlet and blowing a fuse. It happens when anxiety grows for fear of being unable to accomplish all the tasks at one's usually high standards. As anxiety grows, a sense of hopelessness sets in. Insomnia, especially awakening in the middle of the night and worrying about the uncompleted tasks, leaves one exhausted the next morning. Many are exhausted but do not drop activities because they want to avoid the stigma of being a quitter.

Watch Out For

The symptoms are insomnia, depression, anxiety, and chest pain. For some it is migraine headaches, withdrawal, irritability and work dread.

The thing is we have got threshold line called a 24-hour day. Health problems are nature's way of saying, "slow down". God designed our bodies to be very adaptable. He also invented the stress mechanism. Low or no stress can be very boring. Hyper-stress can make a person very sick.

When we are going too fast, we cross a line of dysfunction called hurry. This hurry sickness is the new epidemic in urban society. When we are going at the speed of light, there isn't time to think, reflect and pray.

Some times it is the schedule. Sometimes it is an internal workaholic compulsion. Overload takes the spiritual vitality out of us. When God taps us on the shoulder, and we give him the busy signal. We don't have any more emotional fuel to give to family or friends.

Usually the hardworking, previously optimistic people are most prone. They are most often asked to take on extra roles. Know any one like that?

Defusing the Overloaded Life

That Israeli study shows we can't store up all our needs for holidays. We got to learn the secret of renewal on an ongoing basis. Here are three ways to restore emotional, physical, spiritual and time reserves to overloaded lives.

01. Come to Christ

He offers solutions to those whose lives are out of control.

Jesus: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Jesus offers resources to make our lives worth living. He says, "Come to me." When you feel depleted and wonder how you will face another day; tell Jesus how you feel. Recover some green pastures and still waters where He restores your soul.

The habit of quiet keeps balance in a frantic world. Schedule conversation times where you offload stresses unto the shoulders of Jesus and leave them there. Prayer times can be therapeutic. Enjoy time with Jesus.

02. Learn from Christ

Jesus: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29

Trusting Jesus is learned behaviour. And learning takes time. There is no quick fix for a life out of control. Jesus constantly withdrew from the frantic pace of ministry to a lonely place where he would recharge.

If we are angry, grumpy most of the time and dream of escape, these are the cries of our soul, reminding us of our limits. No one can continue running on empty and not suffer the consequences. Perhaps it's time to start learning the life of Jesus.

03. Rest like Christ

Jesus: "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Mathew 11:30

Schedule times for rest and for relationships. Jesus spent time in a safe house with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Friends save us from sinking under overload. Schedule times to be with family. This is our natural support system.

Hebrews 4:10 remind us that we need God's rest inside my soul and we also need physical rest. It's wise to rest like Christ.

In closing, we all live in overload from time to time. The point is not to live there all the time. This does not mean avoiding additional challenges when they can be managed adequately.

This means to ask God for an awareness of our priorities.

Have you noticed that ministry, for Jesus, was the person in front of him? He did not heal every sick person. He healed the person in front of him. He loved the person. Similarly God wants us to love this person in front of us. In the end, it's about love.

"This is all that I have learned: God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated." Ecclesiastes 7:29 (Good News)

First published in The Christian Post Singapore. Online:

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Singapore missions movement

Reflections on the Singapore Missions Movement
by Ben KC Lee
Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

Like most Singaporean Christians over the years, I have been to my share of mission conferences. We have all heard the prophecies that Singapore is "the Antioch of Asia". It is also likely we have discussed what this means for the Singapore missions movement.

Recently I thought about this again and began penning down reflections. I noted the positives and then some challenges. Here I share them with the hope that it can stir us all towards greater participation to fulfill our role as “Antioch”.

The first positive is relief work. I notice that Singaporeans readily give towards natural disaster funds. We even send medical mission teams. Second, many churches set aside ten or more percent of giving towards missions. This is positive. Third, more churches are doing more outreach among internationals living and working in Singapore. My friend Chris Cheah tells me the Methodists call this “Reverse Missions”. After all, two thirds of the people in Singapore (me included) were not born here.

Fourth, churches are sending more missionaries as compared to mission agencies. These are mainly medium or larger churches. Fifth, a 2007 SCEM (now SCGM) survey discovered that over thirty percent of churches here have missions-dedicated personnel. This means that these churches already have missions staff or a missions board. Sixth, tentmaking missions is a huge opportunity. Singapore must rank as one of the best places to explore tentmaking – great access to job markets, a well regarded workforce and English speaking people. My home church is actively involved in church planting through tentmakers.

Challenges also exist. The first is vicarious missions. We can be tempted to send money or train others rather than do the strategic things like sending qualified people long enough to learn the language and make an impact. The second risk is missions by proxy. We can be tempted to put up money to pay a person from the two-thirds world to go to Africa or South America in our place. Third, life is good in Singapore. This creates inertia making us reluctant to rough it out overseas.

Fourth is the emphasis on short-term missions. Our Antioch Call is not a 2-week in a year calling. When I was at Urbana ‘06 in St Louis, short-term mission is defined at up to two years on the field. Fifth is the expansion and multiplication focus. Many churches naturally focus on church growth and expansion. Church planting or multiplication may not always be on our radar. Sixth, pastors are so busy. Missions seem distant compared to the ‘real’ pressures of weekly worship services, problem-solving or fund raising for new facilities.

Overall, things are looking up because the positive factors are growing. There is an acceptance of our call to be an Antioch nation. From GoForth NMC, I also see a great resolve among the Singapore missions fraternity. Several reports show that Singapore is sending many overseas missionaries per capita of Christians.

I thank God for the many pastors and leaders with the Antioch DNA. I encourage all pastors to intentionally put missions on the fore-front of church life and ministry. We can expect great things to happen through our church. My home church started planting churches eighteen years ago, just one year after we started. We have never looked back. I also encourage all Singaporean Christians to invest more of our lives for missions every year. Get behind your pastor, church missions board and missions pastor for world missions. Together with God, we can anticipate a very bright future for the Singapore missions movement.

First published in The Christian Post Singapore. Online:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Personalising missions

Missions and Me
by Ben KC Lee
Saturday, Jul. 18, 2009

Strangely, the word 'missions' does not appear in Scriptures though the whole idea pervades the Bible. From the Old Testament God sends His messengers to call His people out of sin back to a right relationship with Him following to the New Testament the Bible's symphonic theme of mission. Jesus was a missionary from heaven coming to earth.

Christianity is defined as a missionary religion according to a popular encyclopedia. In other words, Christianity is missions. Missions is Christianity. In this article you will notice that I mean church-planting when I say missions. A church was always planted when Paul did missions. Missions is church planting because wherever evangelism produces converts, churches are planted.

The church is to cross all barriers to reach out to all ethnic groups, clans, tribe, social classes, and cultures. The great message of salvation is to be shared with all people everywhere. Since the Great Commission is a mandate, the church is expected to be obedient.

How does world missions specifically relate to the Singaporean Christian? Consider seven areas.

The first and foremost reason is simply that there are over four billion people in the world yet to know Christ (Rev. 7:9). People need Christ. This is our business. If it is not our business, we need to make this our business. We need to stand and be counted.

Second, Singapore presents us with a reach of 4.5 million people. 15% of Singaporeans consider themselves Christian. This is good considering that there are negligible number of churches in large cities and countries (Gen. 1:28). With over 560 churches in our city alone, you could say that there are already many players here.

Third, we cannot concentrate on national missions and downplay world missions. We cannot because there are no states or provinces here. Singapore is a city state.

Fourth, the emphasis on a bilingual school curriculum has benefits. Many folks here are bilingual. A related benefit is the development of bicultural people and therefore bicultural Christians. We are comfortable or at least sensitive to multi-lingual and multi-cultural environments. We are people ready to go into new cultures.

Fifth, is the high level investment in education and training of its people. Human resource here is highly educated, highly skilled and highly motivated. Such human potential when humble and harnessed well can be a potent missionary force (Eph. 2:10).

Sixth, is the strategic location of Singapore as a platform for launching church-planting teams. We reside in a nation that has excellent infrastructure, telecommunications and is a financial hub. We have every reason to build powerful missions churches in a country where everything works.

Seventh, is the spiritual growth from missions. Our personal experiences in the starting of our home church and starting churches in Asia would have taught invaluable spiritual lessons. The process of directly participating in missions has brought the Bible alive. Now, we know Biblical truths intimately because we have seen it come to life. We can speak with a great deal of conviction because I have come to know and trust the Lord much more. Now we can go beyond the region to go global.

I believe that a Christian misses our basis for existence when we do not participate in discipling the nations. I believe that our churches will plateau and face dryness when we do not enroll in God's plans for the whole world. When the river has no outlet, it becomes a dead sea.

Some may say, "I will send money". Others might say, "I will pray". God wants our heart. Let's pray, "Lord, please let me go". God is looking for people willing to obey His Commission. Pray for a vision for church planting. Missions is our life. 'M' does not just stand for 'missions' but it stands for 'me'.

First published in the Christian Post Singapore. Online:

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Engaging contemporary society

Christians Engaging Society
By Ben KC Lee
Monday, Jun. 8, 2009

Lobby groups promote their agenda in the public square. Some push whilst others are militant. The term "culture war" describes the clash of values and worldviews. We see this conflict between conservatives and liberals. For instance, "Don't judge" has become a slogan to avoid facing the issue of right and wrong and used to allow a tacit acceptance of a moral wrong like cloning or prostitution in modern culture.

It seems that each generation of Christians struggle with the relationship between their faith and culture. We try to make sense of what Jesus said, “Be in the world, but not of the world.” How do we tackle issues of the day in a civil society? Here are some ways we can effectively engage.

First, pray continually. Bless the city. Stand in the gap. Pray over the city together with other churches in the city. Prayer leads to action. God's Word also calls us to intercede for those in authority (I Tim. 2:1-2). Ask God to give wisdom to our leaders often besieged by pressure groups. We pray also because the issue of the day cannot be separated by the spiritual issue that accompanies it. Call out to God to intervene. Continuous fasting and intercession leads to community transformation (2 Chro. 7:14).

Engage with a compassionate attitude. Participate in nation building. Serve the poor and those who need help. Bring forth Christ's character in society (Rom. 12:21). This is different from promoting harsh attacks or quick judgments on the culture. This is to go beyond moralising. After all, we don't have a monopoly on values or on morality. We are called to make a difference in society and this will primarily come by example. The call to be salt and light is not a moral assault on society but a call to be distinctive. For example, one of the best weapons against open marriage or sexual perversion in society is a happy marriage.

Get trained to articulate a relevant and convincing apologetic in the public square (I Pet. 3:15). Churches need to equip members with the ethical tools, thinking skills and Biblical perspectives to address contemporary issues rather than dismissing cultural forms we dislike based on hearsay mentality.

Here are key Biblical perspectives to emphasise for those who equip others:
a) We can confuse doing good in the world with making the world good. We can’t make the world good with legislation. The world needs to encounter Christ.
b) Our enemies are principalities and powers in high places rather than flesh and blood. The enemy is not the anarchists, homosexual lobby or the licentious.
c) There is a balance between religious and secular values. Ours is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. If laws are based on one religion, it creates a problem with citizens of other faiths. Laws should accommodate diversity in culture, ethnicity and religion. The spirit of the law should respect pluralism and protect citizens from moral decadence. Ours is a secular democracy. Legally, religion is supposed to stay out politics. Biblical values can be present in all aspects of life without shifting to theocracy.

We have an obligation to speak prophetically about the issues of the day. Confront moral indifference. Here are some crucial issues. There are displaced people due to war and natural disasters. There are child labour, child prostitution and child soldiers. There is debt bondage where poor governments have to make large cash payments on foreign debt. There is lack of economic justice. There are sanctity of human life issues such as abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research. There is no religious freedom in many countries. Standing against injustice, exclusion and oppression requires courage but we do it (Mk. 9:50).

Finally, stress universal values which must find expression in national policies if society is to survive. Ask, "What is good for our community?" Express the view with concern about the health of people in our community and the kind of environment we desire to foster for fellow citizens (Mic. 6:8). We ought to have a community that represents a certain standard of dignity. This doesn't emphasise any partisan "morality". When speaking in the public square regarding cultural and social issues, start with the common good argument and then work from there. Come from the perspective of the public good. Engage culture with traditional virtues. Virtues always lead us to higher ground. One traditional virtue is that marriage has been between a man and a woman for all time, in all cultures, religions and civilisations. This is why we encourage natural, traditional marriage.

Engagement is clearly a Christian mandate (Jer. 29). We are empowered by the Spirit and released to live out our faith where we are. We certainly can’t engage without involvement. Society will feel the consequences if Christians sit out.

This article first appeared in The Christian Post Singapore. Online:

Friday, June 04, 2010

Loving People?

Living as Loving People
by Ben KC Lee
Thursday, May. 14, 2009

Jesus said, "By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love one another" (John 13:35). In other words church should be characterised by love. This is the number one characteristic of a Christ follower.

Love is not a feeling. Agape love is active, not abstract or passive. It does not simply "feel patient." It is patient! It practices patience. It does not simply have kind feelings. It does kind things. Love is fully love only when it acts! It is Christ-like character in action. It is a lifestyle of selfless service.

The power of love is awesome. Imagine when we increase our love for God, for each other, and for those far from God. We will see some great and mighty things take place for God's honour. When Christians begin to really love each other the way God wants us to, the world will be won. Love is the foundation for our relationships, relationships with other believers, with pre-believers and with difficult people. The basis is love. All the spiritual gifts, all the works of service, our very life together as Christians, are governed and held together by the principle of agape love. Without love, everything is meaningless.

There is only one person whose name could be substituted for "love" in Scripture. His name is Jesus. His self-giving is what love is. Our purpose is to demonstrate this kind of love one to another.

People are looking for love. The question is how do I love? The real issue is not what does love mean but am I going to love?

We need to learn to love each other. It is the heart of discipleship, described as 'a long obedience in the same direction'. It is the job of the Christian community, the church, to form this character in you and me through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the proclamation of the Word, the work of the Spirit, and the devoted life in the body of Christ, you and I are shaped so that we can love one another like Christ.

Christian community is about how to grow a loving people. This is a lifelong process. In this life we start that journey with a commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to use the local church to bring us into conformity with the character of Christ. May God help us to be loving people and may our life be marked by love.

First published in the The Christian Post Singapore. Online:

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Urban Missions

Urban Missions: Lessons Learned
By Ben KC Lee
GoForth National Missions Conference 2008
Morning Plenary on Thursday, 17 July 08

Today more and more churches do missions in villages, typically in the two -thirds world that are often poverty stricken. It is common to run an orphanage. Cities may be seen as too comfortable for missionaries. It may be seen as having a good life. Truth is the city also has poor. There is spiritual bankruptcy in a city too.

In Genesis 4, Cain went out from God’s presence and built the first city. Cities became the habitat of fallen people and cities have become places where people seek significance outside of God’s presence.

Our new mission frontier today is not the tropical jungle of lions and safari hats but the urban jungle. Our cities are the stage of drama between the principalities and powers and the forces of good within the church. We ourselves live in a city called Singapore.

Our church started with planting churches in Asia. Since 1998 we started planting churches around the world. We focus on planting churches in cities. Let me highlight some lessons we have learnt from urban church planting.

1. The Singaporean is an urban dweller

I was born in a small town. Now I reside in Singapore, a city state. Most churches here can be considered as urban churches.
In fact Singaporeans are accustomed to a very clean city and where everything works.
Not many of us may thrive in the two-thirds world with laid back lifestyles, roundabout communication, red tape, slowness, time delays, inefficiency, nonprogressive attitudes and even corruption. Not many of us can live without air conditioners. Not many may enjoy showering in a river.
Singapore is a city-state. We are a city church. We are urban dwellers.

2. The international job market is growing with education as the single largest vocation

Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language is a viable vocation overseas. Our teams teach Conversational English and discover that the demand for Business English is growing.
Also, teaching Mandarin as Second Language is growing. One of our leaders is going to Peru next month. She has been studying at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for a Diploma in Chinese Teaching. She goes for 2 evening classes for 1 year.
Teaching mathematics is also a growing industry. The city of Bellevue near Seattle uses the Singapore math school curriculum. The Singapore brand is helpful.

3. The capital city may not always be the most spiritually responsive place to start missions work

We learnt this the hard way. We started planting churches with the administrative capitals in the country.
The administrative capital in a country can be different from the business or commercial capital. For example there is Pretoria and Johannesburg in South Africa and Guayaquil and Quito in Ecuador.
The business capital may be a better option for tent makers who are businessowners.
It is important we do the ‘Country and People Profiling’ as part of our missions strategy.
We must consider where people are responding to Christ.

4. The middle classes are an effective means of reaching the city

The middle classes often have greater mobility, both up and down the social spectrum. They usually speak English which is an advantage for our church planters.
Our team in Chile takes effort to rent a house near a subway station and in a neighbourhood that middle class will come. The Chile subway follows the Singapore subway system.

5. The bridging strategy is to start with an international service

One strategy is to start with English service pitching to internationals and bilingual locals. The second phase can be starting a local worship service in the local/native language. We experimented with this in Europe and South America.
The Assemblies of God US is one denomination that uses this approach across Europe.

6. The urban approach is a longer term & more comprehensive mission strategy

The city has a hinterland. It’s called the entire country. For instance university students come from towns and villages to cities for further education.
We got to reach the nations. We got to reach every nation.
We start with global cities, next to cities with regional influence then towns then villages or shires.
In our North America missions, we target regional or hub cities for church planting due to the population and immigrants.
Immigrants are responsive. Then there are 700,000 international students in the US.

In summary, these are some things we have learnt on urban missions.
Today over 4 billion people are still far from Christ. Many of them live in the city or will be moving into one.
We got to ask: ‘What is God up to in the world?’ Since God has been bringing people to cities for a century, obviously God is bringing people to where they can be reached.
We remember that the apostle Paul always had a base for churching an entire region. That base was called “the city”. From the base, from the city, the Gospel spread to the whole region. That was his church planting strategy.
The apostle Paul started from a city called Antioch. Singapore has been prophesied as, “The Antioch of Asia”.
Today it is clear that the church faces an urban future. It is clear we need to respond to God’s love for the city. It is clear we need to go forth with God as He continues to work through people in cities across the world.

First published by the Singapore Centre for Global Missions Catalyse newsletter 2008 vol. 3. Online:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Should I care?

Why Bother?
by Ben KC Lee
Sunday, Apr. 13, 2008

"Are we a complacent people?" That was the question that I was asked recently. I wondered about this question. I asked two of my co-workers. Firstly it seems that we have all we need in Singapore. That's probably why expatriates don't get "hardship allowances" when posted here. Then because times are good we always expect them to be always good. Good times can lull us into complacency. After all we are told "Everything works in Singapore." We are reminded how efficient the civil service is. We look around and we see that Touch Community Services does a great job in the community. Many other churches and agencies also do a great service. Personally we have more than enough problems of our own. The Christian may say, "I am already so busy". It is not difficult for anyone to be unintentionally complacent and go into the "why bother?" mode.

Scripture tells us there is a direct link between a Christ follower and being actively involved in living our faith in the community. We need to serve the most disadvantaged as part of our witness to God's inclusive love. Jeremiah 29 challenges God's people to involvement, to seek peace and pray for the welfare of the city. Our role is to engage culture as Jesus did. We can't engage without direct involvement.

Here are some specific reasons why we should bother.

1. Keeping Families Together

Parents are busy working to meet the physical needs of the family. Kids are busy studying. Families are just not just spending much time together. Very often emotional needs are not met.

Parents are so busy they can't afford to take annual leave to see the principal when their child misbehaves. Many feel helpless with teenage kids that are described as "out of control".

Marriages are at special risk in this fast-paced society. There are several young families including us who live on our level at our apartment. A third of couples on our level are divorced. I understand that this ratio is about the national average.

As a church we are seeing this growing trend as we minister in the community and we are also seeing this with new people coming into our church.

The family is the central unit of society and marriage is the glue that holds it together. We should care about families and marriages.

2. Engaging Youth at Risk

Many at-risk youth come from dysfunctional, single-parent families or wealthy but emotionally-deficient homes. Youth cannot cope with separating or divorcing parents. They just cannot handle it when their mom brings her boyfriend home. They do not want to go home and see a stranger there.

Others don't want to go home because there is no one at home. They say they lack parental direction and guidance. Others tell us they have poor parental models. Smoking is one habit they pick up from home.

Many cite peer influence as a big influence in their life. They hang out with peers. Sometimes out of sheer boredom, they do acts of vandalism or shoplifting.

As a church we work with Hope Centre (S) on compassion initiatives. In a recent survey Hope Centre (S) conducted among North East youths, gangs and bullying (including verbal bullying and name calling) were rated as top concerns. We realise many youths join gangs for a sense of family.

Our young should grow up with a sense of purpose. We should care about the future of society.

3. Helping Low-Income Households

My wife and I were ministering in the US and Canada recently. We remember this ad, "I work for gas." It would have been funny if it was not true. Recently the top five US oil companies admitted that high fuel costs are hurting people but added their $123B in 2007 profits were "in line with other industries". Where is economic justice when capitalism goes wrong?

Back home the gap between the rich and poor just continues to grow. First it was the housing and rental market in a state of irrational exuberance. Now it is the global rise of basic food prices. Already food riots have broken out in the Philippines, Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Senegal and Uzbekistan. The Haiti Prime Minister was just ousted due to soaring food prices.

Escalating costs are just increasing the already high tension in low-income and single-income families here. Two nights ago a brother and a sister came knocking at our flat. They were trying to sell us ice cream explaining they come from a low-income family. The brand of ice cream did not appeal much but we bought. This is the second time we have had school-going teens knocking on our door selling ice cream to supplement household income within a year.

Jesus' heart is with the stranger, homeless, poor, the sick and the prisoner. When we touch someone who is down and out we are touching Him. We should care about those struggling to cope.

In summary, I am still not sure if we are complacent. But I do know we should care.

Well I guess all of us can be complacent. That's why I remind myself that compassion is not an option. I remind myself that feeling sorry for the marginalised is not an act of compassion. And it goes deeper than giving a dollar to the beggar. We actually need to serve the underserved.

Christ followers share responsibility for the future of our society. Society will feel the consequences if we sit out. At the end of the day God is not asking us to live a heroic life or do miraculous deeds. The things Christ highlight is quite ordinary. He is asking for acts of kindness. Then He will take it from there.

First published in the Christian Post Singapore.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Ministering to Men

Manly Mondays
But Weren't The First Disciples All Men?
by Benjamin Lee

Monday night is Man’s Night in our home. Throughout the year 2006, seven groups of men, totalling 38 in all, would take turns to come to our home. While most were Singaporeans, we also had Filipinos, Malaysians and one from Hong Kong. My wife would prepare special treats and drinks and our twins would serve the guys.

It started in December 2005. On a plane trip back from Quito, God spoke to me about men. I thought we had already taught on manhood and our groups already had some men’s activities. But God seemed to say that I needed to make a more concerted effort. So I sat down with the church staff and planned for our first ever men’s conference in May 2006. Personally I would spend Monday nights with key men in church.

Let me start with my journey as a guy in church. I don't get the wedding picture. Ephesians 5 talks about the bride marrying Jesus. But I don’t want to marry a man. Besides, I wouldn't look nice in garters and lace. There is a song by HillSong which goes “Darling of heaven crucified…” It’s weird trying to relate to Jesus as “darling”!

Growing up in an Anglican church, I used to hear terms like “Ladies’ Fellowship” but don’t recall ever hearing about “Men’s Fellowship”. Many of my Sunday school teachers were female. Dedicated ladies gave us our earliest and deepest bonding with Bible stories. We learnt that Jesus was a nice boy, a polite boy, who always obeyed his mom, always brushed his teeth and always put the toilet seat down. I wondered why the priests wore frocks. This ‘feminised’ brand of Christianity was confusing.

So one of the first things I asked the 38 guys was, “Tell me some of the difficulties in discipling men.” Five themes came through:

Men like to apply. Sit-down singing and discussion seem to be more suited to women.
Men count the cost. They do this when deciding to serve. They think, “Ministry means less time to grow in other areas of life”. They feel their calling is their career. If there is a choice between a career-enhancing event and care group, or between getting 4 A’s and serving as care leader, the choice is simple. The career wins out every time.
Men are more practical. Everyone could be crying during worship but he does not feel much except out of place.
Men take time to bond. Many bonded with their mothers when they were boys. Dads were always busy with work. Those boys have grown up and they now say, “Only girls understand me.”
Men do ministry differently. They realise masculine submission and feminine submission to spiritual authority are different. Some rise up to serve but get discouraged - more than women do - when people don’t respond. They encounter guys who tell them, “I spend time at home so I am a godly example to kids,” which is not always helpful.

Then I asked about guys’ needs. The answers were fascinating. It was a combination of what they thought guys needed and what they felt they needed too. Four needs kept surfacing:
Men need spiritual victory. They need a God-thing personally and corporately. It is hearing God’s voice, receiving a prophetic word or healing.
Men need more mature men who are open to them. Then they learn to open up. We are inspired by role models. The church needs to make role models more evident. Guys need to see a man whom they respect, praying and taking Christianity seriously.
Men need to taste victory in ministry. Then they will want to do more for God. We are achievement-oriented.
Men need to taste close friendship. Most men change within the context of friendship.

The final thing I asked was the kind of guy-things that were effective. Sport is a big thing. Our guys do bowling, jogging, soccer, tennis and trekking. The younger guys do LAN gaming, PS2 and XBox. One group is into jamming. Many enjoy projects like helping people move house or planning a challenging event. One group scours the city for good eating places. One had an ‘Amazing Race’ with a rented bus to various locations for competitions that started at 10 pm and ended at 6 am. The one I liked was called ‘Ransom’. It was held on Pulau Ubin involving kidnappers, hostages and rescuers.

Here is the observation. God’s great outdoors often brings out the ‘man’ in us. There is something about corporate Singapore that can rob a man. He doesn’t get out in the fresh air. It’s more than sports and the fresh air. It's about getting outdoors, with people important to you. We need masculine places.

I have learnt a lot from Manly Mondays. More than ever, I believe men want to take Christianity more seriously. Men don’t want to play church. They want to be hot for Jesus. They want their hearts to pump with the things the heart of Jesus pumps with.

The Christian church started with men but currently there are more women in church. This can change. That’s my prayer.

This article first appeared in Impact magazine vol. 31 no. 4 (Aug/Sep 2007). Online: