Pastoral Perspectives

Is Missions For Me?

The word ‘missions’ invites responses of various kinds. Some feel uncomfortable at the mention of this word. They have not gone on any mission trip. They don’t think they have what it takes to pursue such an endeavour. They think that such trips are meant for the spiritual giants and they have a long way to go before they become one. Others may prefer to spend their money on a leisure holiday trip since there is a limit to the number of days of leave one is entitled to. On the other hand, there are those who have gone for mission trips so often that they are always looking forward to the next trip. Some have made it their yearly commitment to the Lord while others are seriously thinking of giving their lives to long term missions.

In the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations.’ (Matthew 28.19) There you are – ‘all nations’. How do we reach all nations unless we go to them, which would mean the need to cross national boundaries? Jesus is our very good model. He left his heavenly home and crossed the cosmos to enter into our world. He must rightfully be considered the first missionary. He wouldn’t command us to do something without first showing us how to do it. He is that kind of leader who leads by example, and that is powerful leadership. As his followers, we can therefore be inspired to walk in our Master’s footsteps. We go because he has first come!

Migration due to the search for work is a common modern phenomenon. Within the same country, people move from rural farmlands to urban cities. Similarly, people gravitate to countries where there are job opportunities and higher salaries. As a result, the nations of the world have been brought to our doorsteps. Some of these people come to us as blue collar workers; others are expatriates who are highly skilled. Some churches have specific ministries reaching out to these people. They are all around us. Some are our helpers; others are overseeing the cleanliness of the HDB blocks we live in; some others are the people whose stalls we patronise on a regular basis; then there are also those whom we work alongside as colleagues. If we come out of our comfort zone and walk across the room to reach out to them, we should be able to engage and evangelise the nations without traveling out of Singapore.

Still, going to another country for missions is a different encounter altogether. It requires us to undergo some form of incarnation – we become one of them even as we live with them and eat with them and play and work with them.  We learn to adapt to their living conditions and for some of us, this can be quite scary – the level of hygiene, the thought of creepy crawlies, or the unfamiliarity of the place where we lay our heads to rest can give us the jitters. We learn to adapt our palate to the food that our hosts prepare for us, some of which can be too oily or spicy for our tummies. We learn to communicate with the locals and often we find ourselves very handicapped. We are thankful for the use of gestures and facial expressions and the availability of onsite translators to help bridge the language barrier. When we are there, we get to see the whole works of how the locals live their lives, the religions they embrace, the kind of work they do and the recreational activities they engage in. In short, we enter their world and that’s incarnation. It provides good ground for the seed of the Gospel to be sown – they would question what makes us want to leave our families and the comforts of our homes to come to a foreign place. They would be curious. They might even be moved.

We may not be able to share the gospel when we go to these places because we don’t speak their language – Japanese, Thai, or even variants of Mandarin, etc. What we hope to do is to support the local workers or missionaries who are faithfully ploughing the ground even after we are long gone. We may be doing a lot of community work, trying to improve the welfare of the villagers, teaching them English, giving them medical attention. Never discount the impact of such tasks when they overflow from the relationship we have with Jesus who is love. Mother Theresa said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” We fulfil our call to be the light of the world when we let out light shine so that others may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5.16). Whenever we are attending to people, we are in fact attending to Jesus. Every act of kindness will never go unnoticed before God. We do not, however, need to remain ignorant of the language. If we are committed to going back to the same place to do missions (which is strongly encouraged), then there is every reason for us to learn the language so that we can eventually be conversant in sharing the gospel with them. That will bring us into a whole deeper level of incarnation!

It is true that we can reach the world on our knees and we must do so whether we stay or we go. There are just too many things outside our control. Even after detailed planning and faultless execution, the result may not turn out the way we want. We must acknowledge our dependence on the Spirit of God who is the one working in us as well as in those whom we are reaching out to. ‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts’ (Zechariah 4.6). As much as prayer is spiritual warfare, it is also communion and rest. If we have done our part including the part of bringing everything before the Lord in prayer, we should learnt to trust him, rest in his sovereignty and press on with full assurance of faith that he is still working out his good purposes in our situations regardless whether or not things are turning out according to our expectations. As we stand back or stand aside to watch, we will have the privilege to see how the Lord works in his marvellous and awesome ways.

I hope that during these two Sundays where we will be focusing on missions, you will keep your hearts and ears attuned to what the Lord may be saying to you. Do not write him off before he can even speak. Pray this prayer: ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears’ (1 Samuel 3.9). I want to thank the Missions Committee in inviting the speakers and organising Missions in the Millennium to help address the questions we have always wanted to ask concerning missions. As our awareness is raised, may our involvement rise in tandem so that as a church, we can be more and more involved in missions, locally and abroad, on our knees, in our pockets and using our hands and feet. “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.”(John Piper) We will therefore continue to do missions until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

September 3, 2017