Pastoral Perspectives

Missions and the Church

In his book “When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can reach the World”, David Homer writes, ‘Teaching and understanding what the Bible says about God’s heart and plan for the nations cannot be just an occasional tip of the hat to missions. It must be an integral part of the big picture of the church. When the church approaches ministry from a principle-based perspective, the biblical principles lead to no other conclusion but that we have been blessed by the grace of Christ to be called His people. But that calling is never isolated from the eternal design of the Lord to reach all nations with the hope of new life in Christ. From the covenant with Abraham, one of the most basic principles upon which our identity as His people is founded is that we have been blessed in order that we may be a blessing: “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing … and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3)

In the book of Acts we see missions as an integral part of the local church. Acts 9:30 records the local church at Jerusalem sending Paul, a newly converted believer who was bold but still young in the faith, to a safe place in Tarsus to allow him to grow his faith and learn from the Lord. Paul spent about eight years in Tarsus, and though little is mentioned in the Bible about this period (the so-called silent years of Paul[1]), this season of preparation is probably critical in getting him ready for his later ministries, especially for his missionary journeys. Then in Acts 11:25-26 we see Barnabas bringing Paul from Tarsus to Antioch, where together they served in a local church for about two to three years, primarily teaching God’s words to others. In Acts 13, during an occasion when the local church at Antioch was worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit called upon the church to set apart Barnabas and Paul as missionaries to the Gentiles. The church then laid hands and prayed over Barnabas and Paul, commissioned and sent them out. As Paul embarked on his missionary journeys, twice he returned to the church in Antioch to report on what had happened and to seek prayers and likely to solicit continual support (Acts 14:26-27; 18:22). During his third missionary journey, Paul also wrote a letter to another local church, at Rome, to ask for their support in helping him get to Spain (Romans 15:24). Spain is at the western edge of territories of Roman empire at that time, so having gone to the eastern parts of the Roman empire in his earlier missionary journeys, Paul’s intention then is to literally carry the gospel to the other end of the earth. From these New Testament accounts, we see local churches in action in various stages in missions. It begins with the equipping of the believers, which sometimes we gloss over as there is a human tendency to focus too much on the latter sending and going parts of missions. However, without the local church first exercising faithfulness in discipleship — growing Christian character, encouraging general fruitfulness, teaching sound biblical doctrines, providing training in ministry – we would not be able to raise up continuous streams of faithful and effective labourers for the Lord of harvest. With the saints equipped, in the subsequent passages from Acts 13 onwards we see the local churches sending out the mission workers and continuing to provide support to them.

Similarly in our church, missions begins first at home in Singapore with the constant inculcation in every worshipper of the importance to love God and to make disciples. Then as a natural consequence of the obedience to God, we engage in the spreading of gospel to other countries, with different people in the church playing different roles. Some are involved in the planning and administration aspects through serving in the missions committee or in project-based teams, and others served by going to the missions field, either in short-term trips or to be permanently based in the field.

We highlight here our missions effort to the SQ as our focus is on reaching the unreached people group, in North Asia. In year 2000 our church adopted the SQ people, and since then short-term mission teams have been going there yearly. In the early years, the common types of activities carried out in the trips were prayer walks in the villages, and when opportunities arose, the gospel was shared with the locals. In more recent years, the short-term trips have taken on the form of conducting of training for the locals, such as conducting English camps for children, camps for youths, or camps for university students. The conducting of the training provides more avenues for the team members to show the tangible love of Christ to the participants and to share with them the gospel. Equally important in our missions strategy for SQ is the support of full-time local Christian workers we partner with. These local workers are far more adapt at reaching the SQ people than someone sent from outside and they carry out various form of evangelism work among the SQ people. All our SQ efforts are overseen by our non-resident missionary to SQ. He travels to SQ regularly to meet the local Christian workers and partner churches and to conduct training workshops for them.

Thailand is another other country where we have much missions effort in. Short-term mission trips to Thailand began in 1996 with a mission exposure trip to Chiang Mai. Following the establishment of the Thai congregation in our church in 1998, missions to Thailand has gradually been given more emphasis over the years. In the past few years, there are yearly recurring mission trips to areas in southern Thailand and northern Thailand by combined teams consisting of worshippers from both the Thai service and English congregation. One unique characteristic of the Southern Thailand mission trips is that majority of the participants are from the YZ, and it has been an effective vehicle in providing the youths with exposure to overseas missions. In 2015, Sister Pannee Chia from the Thai service in became our first full-time missionary to be sent to Thailand, and she started a home church in the house of her parents in a village in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand. She leads Sunday worship services in the home church, disciples the believers in the home church, organises activities to bless the local community such as conducting guitar classes for youths, and makes home visitations to the sick and the poor. Slowly but steadily, a number of locals have come to faith in the Lord, win over by the love of Christ that they have experienced through Sister Pannee.

Only a small proportion of us will be involved in the ‘going’ part of missions, with the majority of us in the equipping, sending and supporting roles. As we commit to support missions,  let  us be mindful that our support and giving needs to be serious and when necessary sacrificial, so that the workers are appropriately supplied to carry out God’s work. Regardless of our good intentions and best efforts, our financial support will still be limited. A more significant form of support that we must always endeavor to give, which is unlimited, is to regularly pray corporately and individually for the missions efforts and missions workers. Let us be never tired in going on our knees to the Lord of the harvest.

[1] St. Paul’s Silent Years, Robert E. Osborne, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 84, No. 1 (Mar 1965), pp. 59-65

Daniel Lim (Chairman, Missions Committee)

September 16, 2018