It has been exactly 1 week since we arrived in Singapore. It has truly been an inspiring time as we meet insanely sacrificial people who have laid down their all to proclaim the gospel in East Asia. I never thought that I gave up much to follow Christ, but even if I did, it is minuscule compared to what my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ here have given up to obey God’s calling for their lives. I am just humbled.
As you may know we came to a 3-1/2 week training before we move on to our field in Taiwan. It is quite hot & humid here being close to the equator, and we’ve come to value our room fan very much. Although public transportation is well thought out & convenient, we do find ourselves walking a lot, which is a good thing. Our walk to a local church last Sunday for worship took about 40 minutes one way, but somehow that walk made my worship more meaningful.
For those who are not very familiar with Singapore, it is a very “fine” country. Residents are fined for many things like throwing out garbage on the street, smoking in undesignated areas, selling chewing gum (that was a new one we just learned) & so forth, which keeps the streets of Singapore litter free. I’ve never seen such a clean city. But the best part of Singapore is that there are 4 main languages spoken. They are English, Mandarin, Malay & Tamil (Indian language).
Therefore in many places, one will find signs written in these 4 languages, and the reason for this is simple, to recognize diversity, to establish respect for each other & bring harmony among its citizens. I think it’s working.
What I really want to talk about this week is part of OMF’s mission statement.
Our mission is:
Through God’s grace, we aim to see an
INDIGENOUS BIBLICAL CHURCH MOVEMENT
in each people group of East Asia, evangelizing their own people and reaching out in mission to other peoples.
4 words that are integral in understanding missions are:
We believe that our work of missions has to be indigenous meaning that we have to work with what is naturally present in the culture. We must be sensitive not to deny or undermine one’s identity or culture. The worst thing a missionary can do is to reproduce their own church culture or apply how they believe a church should look directly on the mission field without making any adjustments. We see a similar thing back home where churches try to implement one so called “successful model” in their own congregations despite difference in backgrounds, history, culture & people. It is not uncommon to see the same type of churches throughout U.S. with the same type of worship & even the same type of pastors. But what God calls us to reproduce is “Christ in us,” not Christian aesthetics or ministry formula.
But this doesn’t mean that we embrace & tolerate all aspects of culture because ultimately missions work has to be dictated by God’s truth. It has to be biblical. This sounds so obvious & yet, without intentionality & commitment to the Word, it’s easy to move away from the truth in a subjective world. But again this is a question that churches must ask at all times as we pursue ministry.
This is the tension that we Christians must wrestle with as we share Christ in our post modern world. This will require much discussion, prayers, but also growing in God’s truth, and learning & understanding the culture. How can we minister to a culture that we do not fully grasp? Or how can we share God’s Word that we haven’t learned & are not living? Our passion alone is not enough.
One confusion that many still have is how to define the word church, “What is a church?” But depending on our understanding, the way we go about planting it & bringing it to maturity will look drastically different. The way individual church understands what church is can easily be seen by how & where the resources both human & financial are used.
When we study the Book of Acts, it doesn’t take a lot to see how the early church grew like rapid fire. The early church was uncontrollable & uncontainable because:
- It was gospel & Word centered.
- Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- Nothing bound them to one locale meaning the Christians went wherever God led them.
- Their message was credible because genuine & loving relationships were first established where God’s truth is personified.
The power & the beauty of the church is that it is not bound by any walls or geography. It can go & be wherever there is a spiritual hunger & needs just as Christ came to where we are.
But ultimately, missions work has to be a movement. It has to be something much greater than ourselves, our giftedness, our plans & strategies, and the only explanation for it has to be the One who is in control of all things. I’ve mentioned many blogs ago that missions is something that God does whether we participate or not. He doesn’t need us. It would be like a huge wave that a surfer may ride. And when we are part of that wave, there will be exhilarating joy that we won’t experience anywhere else. I’m even tempted to say that if the focus is on man’s giftedness, his brilliance, his sacrifice & even his holiness, its origin cannot be God since the sole purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make Christ greater in our world.
I realize that I have only scratched the surface, but I hope this will prompt discussion, re-evaluation & reflection on how we can approach missions.