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: