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: http://sg.christianpost.com/dbase/editorial/624/section/1.htm