Book Summary: On Being the Antioch of Asia (W M Syn)

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Singapore has been labelled by Billy Graham as the Antioch of Asia. Have we lived up to our calling? Syn analyses how local churches and mission agencies can be properly related to each other for greater effectiveness. The recent trend is for Singapore local churches to directly send missionaries to the field and bypass the agencies. Why? Churches nowadays are well-informed about missions and have the funding to carry out work themselves. But is this the best option? Syn interviews many church and agency leaders to get their opinion. It must be stated that he is a director of a mission agency so there is conflict of interest. Since the book contains unnecessarily long-winded interviews, I shall highlight key findings that struck me.

Two key trends in missions:

1. Decrease in the availability of people for long-term missions service.

2. Direct sending by local churches.

…leads to two Symptoms:

1. Singapore missions system lacks cultural intelligence.

2. Missionaries and missions programmes are not venturing to the hard places (Unreached People Groups).

Local churches need to recognise that agencies are specialists in certain mission fields. For example, agencies have cultural intelligence, networks and crisis preparations to assist missionaries on the ground. However, many churches see agencies as competing for their own missionaries. This should not be the case as most pioneer mission work (even in Singapore) were started by agencies first. Think of the London Missionary Society (LMS) that started many Methodist schools in Singapore. The mission agency usually sends missionaries to plant churches in a new place. How can we overcome this break in relationship?

Syn proposes that mission agencies must adapt their roles drastically in order to partner with churches. There are two possible models:

1. Code Sharing Model

Code sharing has been used by the airline industry with great effectiveness. It is a model that finds ways for churches and agencies to share and collaborate without losing their own identity. He highlights the 25 Elements Model as a framework to delegate the responsibilities of a church or agency. The responsibilities are not split in an either-or fashion (church or agency) but differing degrees of responsibility.  This allows the local church to remain engaged on many levels.

2. Consultancy Model

The agency has specialised information that the church could tap on: crisis training etc. There is a need for formal consulting service by agency staff much like a consultant in the corporate world. Churches would pay the agency for the cost of their service. Normally, we think that ministry should be freely given but in many parts of the church, there is already fee-for-service! For example, training programmes, Chrsitian entertainers or Christian speakers. Why not missions consulting services.

Syn lists several characteristics of a mission consultant:

  • Facilitation skills and the ability to help the church develop their missions vision and programme.
  • Some preaching and teaching skills to inspire and impart knowledge.
  • An understanding of the needs and workings of the local church.
  • Some good missiology and theology of missions to help lay foundations.
  • Some strategic thinking skills to help missions committees think through their plans.
  • First-hand field experience which would be an advantage to share as a practitioner.

Agencies need a dedicated strategy to priorities consultancy service to churches.

Overall, this book provides a good overview of missions in Singapore and how we as a nation can truly fulfill our calling to be the Antioch of Asia by working together.

Book Review: A Sense of God and A Feeling of Heaven (Robert Kee)

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Robert Kee’s book is an inspiration for all Christians. He’s a normal regular joe but God put it in his heart to do something to help the poor and the orphans. Thus, in this book, he documents his journey of how God called him from being a workaholic to find greater meaning in life. He has started orphanages in Cambodia under Operation Hope Foundation.

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The key purpose of this book is to:

“bridge the gap between Sunday sermons and what happens on Monday.”

Robert challenges us to do more than be a “good” church member who attends Bible study, ushers, attends prayer meetings or sings in choir. A more “chim” (difficult) phrase would be:

Orthodoxy must lead to orthopraxy. 

Or in normal English, Joseph Prince says:

Right believing leads to right living.

The Bible truths must lead us to truly love our neighbour when we hit the real world. There must be congruence between what we know and what we actually do. If we say we love God, we must love others. Many say they love God but don’t love others. Just look at number who go for mission trips versus nice holidays in your church. Can they be considered true disciples of Jesus? Are you willing to live out what you believe and to help the poor? How else would they know the love of God?

“If it is true that Scotland has no more sons, I will pack up tomorrow and be off to the shores of Ganges and let the people of India know that there is one poor old Scotchman who is ready to die for them! ”

Dr. Alexander Duff

One of the lessons I learnt was, “What is a call”? Robert defined it as “a persistent thought that would not go away. A thought that is Christ-centered and nudging one to go on an unknown quest to obey and serve his purpose.” Throughout the day, his mind would be roiling with thoughts of how to help the poor through projects and other ideas.

Does your heart get warmed by a certain group of people? Does it cause you mental and emotional distress if nothing is done for them? Do certain ideas keep bubbling in your mind? Maybe God is purposely and gently persuading you to make a decision.

Helping the poor is not always about giving money. Sometimes, money can be an excuse from doing anything that could cost you physically, mentally or emotionally. Give yourself first! Allow me to conclude with a beautiful quote by Mother Theresa on loving others:

“Let us not be satisfied just by giving money. Money is not everything. Money is something you can get. The poor need the work of our hands, the love of our hearts. Love, an abundant love is the expression of our Christian religion.”

Missions: Going Glocal

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Ever heard of Glocal missions? Glocal was coined by Dr. David Kim as a fusion of the words “global” and “local”.

Global + Local = Glocal

He bases it on:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8

He highlights the word “and” to mean a simultaneous spread of the gospel. This is in contrast to the common belief that the spread of the gospel is geographically sequential. Therefore, while the church participates in global missions, they should not forget local missions concurrently. It is not an either/or scenario but a both/and. In fact, we can go a step further for glocal missions to become more effective.

Let’s suppose your mission team is visits a Thai orphanage once a year. The impact on participants is minimal. How can we adapt the mission to be glocal and engage your trippers more? We can look at three areas.

1. Pre-Trip

The mission team, in addition to mission planning, can find a local community of Thais in your home country to build relationships with. Participants are to learn the Thai language and culture. What’s more, Thais in your country are likely to speak your native language. If you’re not reaching out to Thais in your own country, would you reach out anywhere else?

You could also use this engagement as a test-bed for your proposed mission trip activities (e.g. singing songs, games). This would allow the team to practice and correct anything that don’t work.

2. On-Trip

So you’ve tested your ideas before you left for the trip. Also, you have already engaged Thais and built confidence in relating to them. Pray hard that God will help you!

3. Post-Trip

After coming back, emotions are high for a while. Often, it wanes away and participants wait for another trip next year. This is where mission leaders must take the lead. Keep on engaging with the Thai community back home. Do what you did on the mission trip to bless them. Being global means you don’t stop missions wherever you are. If a Thai comes to know Christ and goes back to Thailand, it is also a method for spreading the gospel!

8-Day Mission Trip Devotional [Free PDF]

I wrote an 8-day mission trip devotional that I used with my youth group when we went for a mission trip to Thailand this year. Since they found it useful, I decided to share it for whoever would like to use it for their own trip. However, I would appreciate if you would kindly acknowledge my work.

It can be downloaded here: 8 Day Mission Trip Devotional.

God bless!

Mission Strategy: St. Patrick of Ireland

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In his youth, Patrick was kidnapped into Ireland and forced to work for 6 years as a shepherd before escaping back to Britain. However, God called Patrick to return to Ireland to spread the good news to his former captors. His ministry led to a large network of monasteries being setup to send out Irish missionary monks. It is fascinating to examine his mission strategy in Ireland:

1. Patrick went to places with no Christians.

This may sound really obvious today but it wasn’t at that time. Catholic churches stopped sending workers into places with no Christians and instead waited for Christian communities to invite their presence. Missions was pretty dead – till Patrick turned the tide of history. Instead of going to south Ireland which already had a Christian community, Patrick went to the north where no Christians had existed. Patrick’s boldness echoes Paul’s desire “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that [he] would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom 15:20)

Unfortunately, many missionaries today go to places where there already exists a Christian presence. It requires less tilling of the “heart” ground and removes the pressure of being the sole Christian person in a heathen community. Let’s face it! Some places are saturated to the brim with Christian missionaries, organisations and agencies. Why not go to areas as yet unpenetrated by the Gospel?

2. Patrick set up monasteries to teach Latin.

Going against the grain, Patrick didn’t translate the Bible into Celtic language for the Irish. Rather, he established monasteries for students to learn Latin and read the Latin Vulgate Bible.

This would be likened to setting up Christian-based schools to teach students English so they could read our Bible. This strategy has its strengths and weaknesses. It saves time and effort in translating the Celtic language and also educates the people in common Latin. However, it westernizes the Bible by not using the heart language of the people. Additionally, people normally revert to their mother tongue in terms of thought processes. I’m still iffy on this strategy.

3. Patrick set up a network of monasteries to send out missionaries.

After setting up monasteries to teach Latin in an area and making sure students were learning the Scriptures, Patrick then went on to found new monasteries. Once sufficient students had been trained, missionaries were sent out to plant more monasteries and help the community. Imagine what an exponential increase in workers it would have been! This monastic idea propagated to other parts of Europe, leading to widespread evangelisation.

A movement that somewhat replicates this model is “T4T” or “Training for Trainers“. T4T is a *free* church planting model that empowers home churches to train and send out trainers to plant more churches. No home church remains as a holy huddle but always keeps an outward focus.

Conclusion

I hope this short sharing on St. Patrick’s success in Ireland has given you more ideas on how to execute your mission strategy. One crucial lesson about Patrick is his willingness to return to Ireland, the land that captured him. Would you return to ISIS and give them the gospel after they had captured/tortured you for 6 years? Sheer madness you would say. But Patrick obeyed the call of God and went in faith. May God give us all the courage to do the same.

Missions: Why should we do it?

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Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The buzzwords for missions are ‘Go’ and ‘Make disciples’. In fact, some argue which buzzword is the main verb in the original Greek language to support their views.

I want to home in on a different word. It’s ‘therefore’. When you see the word ‘therefore’, you have to find out what it’s ‘there for’. The phrase before ‘Therefore’ tells us the reason why we should go and make disciples of all nations.

The reason is in verse 18: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Jesus has been given all authority. I missed that phrase for a long time and it never sank into my heart until recently when the Spirit opened my blind eyes.

When we go for missions to reclaim lost souls for God, we are backed by Jesus’ authority. This authority to win souls is because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. We are fighting from a victory, not for a victory. Jesus already won it at the cross for us, so now we proclaim it to the world.

The question remains: Are you exerting Jesus’ authority to claim the lost? Or are you going in your own authority? Even more convicting – are you even going to make disciples?

Imagine you are fighting a war against another country. Your commander listens to the radio intently and a smile brightens his face. He turns to you and yells, ‘We won the war! We are the victors.’ And he gives you a letter with the instructions. ‘Give this to enemy. The war is over.’

So you take the letter and what do you do? You keep the letter in a nice display cabinet and go watch television. It sounds absurd doesn’t it? The letter would do no good in the cabinet. The authority is there but it isn’t exercised.

Similarly, we have the victory over the enemy when Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross. But if we don’t tell anyone, it’s useless! We need to proclaim the message for it to take effect. After Jesus was with the Samaritan woman, he talked about reaping the harvest of lost souls:

John 4:35
Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

I refer to the harvest of souls, in another place:

Matthew 9:37-38
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Souls of men are ripe for harvest but there’s too few workers. We need more workers who believe that the victory is won. Ask the Lord to send out more harvesters.

The task is simple: Go harvest the souls from the enemy. The war is already won. Will you go?