Needs & Movements in Singapore Churches: Reflection from Love-Singapore Summit 2020

January 26, 2020

Love Never Fails.

The recent Summit, the twenty-fifth iteration, is testament to this Love. Imagine, 25 years and counting! Friendships, camaraderie, candour, and conviction were thick. Dinner conversations invariably included the question: “how many Summits have you attended?”

We started being a part of this experience as young pastors. It was a powerful thing to be part of something larger, Kingdom-sized. To think that twenty-five years later, with slips and starts, hurts handed and healed, the Summit persists. There is no one who doubts this is a gift and grace of God.

For most of us who have attended the Summits, it never fails to be a life-picture of unity in action.

This year, 657 from 86 churches and 53 organizations gathered to worship, listen to each other, pray, and renew our commitment. The energy is palpable, the joy manifest, the fellowship sweet.

Without external preachers or speakers, we heard from the LoveSingapore leaders who had been there from the beginning and who are now beginning, the old guard and the new – and it was a wondrous and daresay glorious thing to behold: the hearts of fathers and sons turning towards each other, working towards perpetuity and seeking continuity, for our God is the God of generations.

We shared joys as we heard how God reconciled pastors and churches that had been hurt through past conflicts. We stretched and imagined as we heard stories and testimonies. .We grappled with our social realities. We prayed over several issues and converts, including the increasingly liberal tertiary landscape.

Through the presentations and interactions, we want to highlight some pertinent movements that may well represent the needs of pastors and churches in Singapore:

1. A call / return to evangelism as partners and spiritual friends in a community.

A church building is a great asset, but what is more powerful, are our lives.

After two decades of mega church-growth, the reality of land-scarce Singapore, and cultural assaults on orthodoxy, the urgency to disciple well and deep is evident to all. This means becoming real, being in community, seeking the seekers, and serving the needs of our community.

It is so good to have our imaginations stretched and begin to dream afresh for our nation. Every church is situated in a geographical and community context. What does our presence there mean? A church building is a great asset, but what is more powerful, are our lives.

The needs in an affluent city are not always evident, but they are there. How can churches become partners to band together to serve the geographical area they are a part of? Life gets real when we get rooted and invested. Relationship builds over time. Trust develops with involvement. Discipleship – following Christ – can happen as we live out how we do it. The ones we touch may even begin to follow along before they experience a conversion moment.

These realities were reinforced as we heard from Ps. Lawrence Chua (Living Sanctuary Brethren Church) and Ps. Guna Raman (Previous SP of Agape Baptist) on the strategies and impact of Community Penetration after decades of life-work, and from Ps. Jeffrey Chong (Hope Church) who showcased his ministry in reaching people block-by-block.

Thus on one evening, we were seated according to our geographical locations, to allow us to begin gathering as GeoCircles, forming friends amongst ministries / churches in the same geographical location. It is time to synergise towards the goal to establish cells in every block.

To make our churches more relevant, to reach the city block-by-block is not possible if we go ‘business as usual’. We have to synergise. We have to present a more unified picture of the church. We have to go deeper into the theology and praxis of being salt and light. The witness of our lives is what must stand behind the evangelism efforts and strategies.

Our being shapes our doing and in fact, the latter is an overflow of the former.

A deep, steadfast, and robust sense of identity and purpose in Christ is given to us, and we are required to cherish and cultivate it. Without which, it is easy to run dry, get distracted, or even burn out. This cannot be done by remaining in our silos.

Indeed, one of our initiatives in ChurchLife this year will be to focus on strengthening the shepherds of the city.

2. A commitment to not let the age-generations drift apart, but to hold fast and hold on, together.

With rapid social change, a generation now spans give years, when it used to be thirty.

Jokes and stereotypes abound regarding the generations. But as Kingdom people, can we perceive and act differently? Ps. Daniel Wee, Ps Daniel Khong, and Joseph Chean curated a special session for an Inter-Gen dialogue. Those below thirty-eight, the “Wows” sat on one side of the room from the “Pows”. Funnily, one of them highlighted how the Pows had a fighting demeanor about them, so perhaps we are “Prisoners of War”, in which case, we need to learn to let go.

It was a helpful session to bridge the understanding and perception of the two generations. With rapid social change, a generation now spans give years, when it used to be thirty. With our almost insane pace of life, there is so little opportunity to really listen to each other’s stories and hearts. This was a precious session for hearts to turn towards each other, for us to transcend stereotypes and commit to unity.

As Ps. Daniel Khong (Faith Community Baptist Church) put it, perhaps we can aver from typical social classification and learn to see ourselves as one generation serving this season, together. This small mindset shift is powerful.

How marvelous if Singapore, as a conservative Asian society, can showcase that the fathers, mothers, and the children are not divided, but united. What a great Antioch impact this would be!

A clear need that surfaced from this is Mentoring Training. Learning to journey together does not come easily or naturally. The Pows need to learn how to mentor and the Wows need to learn how to be mentoree – such that both benefit and enjoy it.

The following day, we confronted some landscape realities.

Ps. Edric Sng (Bethesda-Bedok Tampines Church) presented a range of statistics of impact to help us see how well or poorly churches have been able to impact on the different age-phases, which clearly highlighted that we huddle mostly within a socio-economic stratum. The challenge is to make church more relevant and representative of the community. This requires us to discard our fears of the Other, to train ourselves to broaden our welcome and develop true Christian hospitality.

Ps Ian (3:16 Church) updated us on the ministry of “TrueLove.Is” in reaching out to minister and dialogue with the surrounding culture. It was incredible to see a young church partnering with others and making such impact. In our work, we can corroborate with the data that most Singapore churches occupy a similar SES (socio-economic strata) – the middle to upper-middle class. There is a huge harvest field right beyond what we are familiar and comfortable with. We have an urgency to seek God’s Love invade our beings, our homes, and our churches. His Love will touch, transform, and animate us to embrace those who are unlike us, far from us, removed from our usual experiences. Jesus is waiting among the poor, the prisoner, and the persecuted.

At an organizational level, a church needs to be healthy and well-set in order to grow in depth of character, scope of vision, and range of impact. Every church is loved and blessed with her range of gifts and graces to be a Kingdom outpost. But it is easy for weekly programming needs and pastoral concerns to overrun and tire many leaders.

There isn’t a day when we can have a clean slate. We have to work with spear and space – fighting battles and building – at the same time. But doing so skillfully, passionately, and in unity can require help from beyond.

Each Summit reminds us that the work we do is important for the Body of Christ.

Loving leaders, partnering them, and helping to build leaders and systems – all serve to restore and strengthen the local church towards her potential.

Our Glorious Ministry

Ps. Lawrence Khong began the first night with 2 Corinthians 4:

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”

The ministry is glorious, he boomed.

We may not feel this way – because we think of most things in emotional categories – and assume that if it’s glorious, it should feel great. But we know that ministry does not always feel great. Our emotions are valid and important, but glory is not an emotional category. Glory is a divine touch that transforms and reveals.

Glory lies in what God does: He always leads us in triumph, manifesting the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Judging from what Paul the apostle went through, we know that it is in our dying that Life arises. It is in our full commitment to our assignment as ambassadors that aromatic fragrance exudes. It is the mystery of God’s grace that true strength comes with our admission of weakness. And His Grace is always one step ahead.

Fellow leaders, let’s not settle for what we can handle or envision. Instead, sensing the times, let’s put our hands to the plough and look ahead to our Author and Finisher, and work together to experience and realize the power of the Gospel to save. Let’s beware, as Ps. Benny Ho warned, of the dangers of self-importance and self-interest undermining the Holy Spirit’s work. Let us not seek to imitate others who seem to be successful, but to incarnate – be that witness who brings Christ’s reality and presence into our relationships and leadership. Christ is more than our Example – He is our Enabler.

From what we witnessed at the Summit – young pastors rising up who are making distinctive contributions and shaping culture, older pastors who have modeled faithfulness and tenacity – we are poised for the next lap.

So let’s take heart, for we shall surely reap that which we sow.

Loving Singapore Together, Turning Singapore Godward.

Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!

Rev Jenni Ho-Huan is the Managing Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about writing and spiritual transformation through journaling.

ChurchLife Resources provides consultation and coaching pertaining to ministry issues pertaining to health and growth of the church. Write to [email protected] for a complimentary consultation.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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